Egypt – repression deepens

The military repression directed at the Muslim Brotherhood has intensified since the 3 July 2013 coup and is now being directed at working class struggles in Egypt. On 14 August state forces attacked two Muslim Brotherhood protest camps that were demanding the reinstatement of former President Morsi. At least 1,000 people were killed as the police opened fire with machine guns on crowds. The official death toll was over 600. On 21 September the military attacked the towns of Kersala and Dalga, both sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood. Estimates of the numbers killed since 3 July exceed 1,600 people, with 20,000 people detained. The leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood is in gaol and Morsi himself will be tried for inciting deadly violence against protesters. The release of former President Mubarak from prison on 22 August symbolised the continuing power of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in Egypt.

The interim government has arrested striking workers at Suez Steel and Scimitar Petroleum, accusing them of being influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood. Haitham Mohamadeen, a human rights lawyer and leading member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party was arrested in early September. He had represented Suez Steel workers and was on his way to meet workers in Suez who were seeking his advice. Mohamadeen was charged with ‘attempting to change the form of government by terrorist means’ and with supporting the rule of one class over another. Workers’ organisers and journalists have been arrested.

Draft constitutional amendments maintain autonomy for the army and provide that any proposed defence minister be approved by top military commanders. The judiciary will also continue free of democratic accountability as it did under Mubarak’s rule. Future parliamentary elections are to be contested by individuals and not by political parties, an arrangement that favours the wealthy who dominated political institutions under Mubarak.

The US provides the Egyptian armed forces with $1.3bn a year, a fifth of Egypt’s military budget. For the US, the maintenance of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel is paramount. General Sisi, the head of SCAF, has operated closely with the commanders of the Israeli Defence Force for years. Hamas, which governs in Gaza, has its origins in the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian military accuses Hamas of aiding attacks on the Egyptian police and army in Sinai. Since 3 July, 90% of the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza have been closed by the Egyptian military. Businesses in Gaza have consequently shut. The Egyptian army has been bulldozing and blowing up houses on its side of the border near Rafah, to create a buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza. In September, two Egyptian tanks entered Gaza and Egyptian naval forces opened fire on Palestinian fishermen in the sea off Rafah. The SCAF will attempt to build opposition to Hamas in Gaza.

The escalating repression meted out by the military in Egypt is a response to the turbulence and mobilisation of the Egyptian masses. The Egyptian military leadership is part of Egypt’s capitalist class and cannot solve the worsening social conditions of Egypt’s 83 million people. According to the Egyptian Centre for Social Rights there were 2,400 social and economic protests in the first quarter of 2013 and at least half of these involved workers. Mass mobilisations have ousted two presidents since the start of 2011. The Egyptian people are waking up to their own strength and they will return to deal with the SCAF.           

Trevor Rayne

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013


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