By ANDREW POLLACK
The regime headed by President Mohamed Morsi shot down dozens in protests in Egypt at the end of January. All the while it continued to meet with International Monetary Fund officials to dicker over the terms of a promised loan, terms that it knows can only be enforced if militancy in the streets and workplaces is crushed.
The bourgeois opposition gathered in the National Salvation Front (NSF) reacted to the new wave of repression in its typical schizophrenic way: at first endorsing protests against the regime’s undemocratic legal and constitutional moves, then quickly agreeing to talks seeking a compromise with the regime and denouncing the “violence” of youth in the streets, the better to secure acceptance of its compromise offer.
The NSF is composed of several secular liberal parties and the April 6 Youth Movement, as well as former Mubarak regime figures. NSF leaders trotted out the myth of the “nonviolence” of the uprising against Mubarak, hoping episodes like the heroic “Battle of the Bridge,” when the youth forced back regime soldiers and cops, will be forgotten.
As has been the case at each crucial turning point of the revolution, the youth turned out in huge numbers around the country during the anniversary days. Particularly notable was the turnout in the Suez Canal cities of Port Said, Suez, and Ismailia. Port Said even announced its independence from the Morsi regime. Protests there were particularly fierce because of the regime’s failure to convict any of the cops or thugs who murdered soccer fans in the city a year ago, instead issuing death sentences to fans supposedly involved.
The importance of these cities rests in the ability of their workers to shut down commerce traveling through the Canal, and in so doing potentially sparking strike action elsewhere in the country. Morsi declared a state of emergency and curfew in the Canal cities, but was forced to backpedal after mass demonstrations openly defied the curfew.
Thousands in Alexandria blocked several main roads as well as public transport. And protesters in Qena, in Upper Egypt, demanded that the Suez Canal not be given up “to any entity,” reflecting fears that the regime would give up control of the Canal to Israel, the U.S. and/or Qatar, fears which are understandable given the regime’s continued acquiescence in imperialist-run “free-trade zones.”
Meanwhile, a new force has appeared on the scene, the so-called “Black Bloc” of anarchists. They have appointed themselves “protectors” of the masses in the streets—ignoring the organized self-marshaling of every mass protest in the last two years. And this offer of “protection” is a slur on the amazingly efficient and democratic self-organizing that the youth, women, workers, and hundreds of thousands of unaffiliated individuals participated in while providing food, shelter, and health care, as well as space for democratic decision-making about rally and march logistics and tactics.
The self-appointed and unaccountable Black Bloc has also offered to protect women who are facing unprecedented levels of regime-organized assault and rape. This “offer” is a slap in the face to the amazing defense squads organized by groups such as the Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment team, which have done a heroic and thoughtful job of combining defense, rescue, counseling, shelter, and health care for victims of such attacks.
What’s more, unlike the Black Bloc, these self-organized masses have deep roots in the country’s workplaces, neighborhoods, campuses, women’s groups, etc. These roots in turn provide the potential for more structured forms of organization—i.e. committees representing each workplace, school, residential block, etc.—which can potentially unite on a national level, providing essential venues for the masses to discuss and decide on their demands and strategy, all as a prelude to an eventual challenge for power.
Photo: Protesters chant anti-government slogans during Feb. 1 rally in Tahrir Square, Cairo. By Khalil Hamra / AP.