The 19th of November 2011 has been consolidated as a memorable date for the Egyptian revolution.
That day the first broad clash between the impoverished youth who had overthrown Mubarak’s government and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took place. The military junta led by Marshal Tantawi had usurped that huge conquest and ruled between February 2011 and June 2012. On that day, thousands of protesters demonstrated in downtown Cairoto demand the transfer of power to a “civil authority” and protest against the privileges the Army leadership wanted to assume in the Constitution that was being discussed.
Youth organizations took the iconic Tahrir Square and marched through Mohamed Mahmoud Street, heading to the Interior Ministry, where hundreds of troops and police were waiting. The march failed to reach it, as was met with machine-gun fire that left approximately 50 dead.
In 2012, when the first anniversary of the “Mohamed Mahmoud clashes” took place, another protest was organized. Again repression fell down on demonstrators. However, at that time, the orders to attack the people emanated from Morsi’s administration and the Muslim Brotherhood.
That day became an important milestone andthe demonstrations on its second anniversary were developed amid the situation opened by the fall of Morsi and the installation of Mansur Adli’s government, puppet of the General al-Sisi and the high military command. There were clashes, repression, two dead and dozens injured.
Several rallies and marches happened. The military government, following its policy of usurpation of the revolution, called on its supporters in Tahrir, where they gathered carrying banners with the slogan “Sisi is my president” and pictures of the current “strong man” of the country. The government declared a national holiday and on November 18, the Prime Minister Beblawi had inaugurated a monument in honor of the “martyrs of the revolution.”
Meanwhile, the Brotherhood also mobilized its followers, not to demand punishment for the murderers of the youths at Mohamed Mahmud Street, but, as they have been doing systematically, they took to the streets to demand the return of Morsi to power.
The movement Tamarod, increasingly identified with the military government, announced it was canceling its participation in the commemorations of Mohamed Mahmoud.
So far, the journey had repeated the same scenario since Morsi was ousted: A “polarization” between the interim government and followers of the Brotherhood.
However, for the first time since July, a sector “against both the military and the Brotherhood” appeared. In the previous months they were outlining their political and organizational boundaries: they started by calling themselves the “third square” but then they were defined as the “Revolutionary Front” (RF). This platform is composed of several individuals and organizations, including the 6 April Youth Movement and the Revolutionary Socialists.
“The government and the Interior Ministry would have us believe the Muslim Brotherhood was responsible for those deaths. And the Brotherhood wants to abuse the day of remembrance to return to power. Even though on that day last year, when the Islamists were in power, protesters were killed,” said an activist criticizing the hypocrisy of the government as well as the Brotherhood.
“Against al-Sisi, against the Muslim Brotherhood, long live the revolution!”
The RF staged a demonstration of several thousand, who marched in the vicinity of Tahrir, carrying cardboard coffins with the names of their comrades killed two years ago and demanding “punishment” for senior military and the Brotherhood.
In addition to honoring the dead, protesters demanded “trials for those responsible for the deaths of the 2011 and 2012 protests” as said Mohamed Adel, a spokesman for the 6 April Movement.
Young people also held RF banners that showed three fingers held up, representing the three demands raised from the beginning of the revolution: bread, freedom and social justice.
The protests had begun the night before, when hundreds of youth activists had torn down the plaque and daubed the monument with graffiti. “Down with the traitors to the revolution: Islamists, Mubarak loyalists and the army,” they wrote in blood-red letters.”We do not want to kill anyone, we do not want bloodshed. All we want is justice for the martyrs and punishment for anyone who has damaged the country and the revolution”, an activist shouted through a megaphone. The theme of the event was “less monuments and more justice.”
The march was composed by RF as well as students of humanities, law, pharmacy, arts, medicine, commerce and planning, all chanting: “Down with military rule,” “Against Al Sisi, against the Muslim Brotherhood, long live the revolution!”
Arriving to Mohamed Mahmoud Street, the RF column closed the access to it showing banners that said “Entry prohibited to military leadership, remnants of the Hosni Mubarak regime, and the Muslim Brotherhood.” In Alexandria, another RF demonstration raised a huge banner with the inscription: “Death to Morsi, Sisi, Tantawi and Mubarak.”
In Cairo, it was not long before the physical clash between RF protesters and supporters of al-Sisi and the current military government occurred. The clashes took place in Tharir Square and Al Sisi supporters, in smaller numbers, were pursued towards Abdel Moneim Riad Square, where all were dispersed by tear gas thrown by police. Two persons were killed and over 40 injured.
The polarization in the student movement
These protests and the emergence of a third sector, distinct from the military and the Brotherhood, happen in the context of boiling struggles and increased polarization in the leading universities in Egypt.
Prior to Mohamed Mahmoud, students belonging to the Revolutionary Front protested against what they called “military rule and the treason of the Muslim Brotherhood.” The protest started from the Faculty of Economics and Political Science, toured the university then headed to Abdeen metro station where it met marches belonging to the same group from other universities including Helwan and Ain Shams.
One of the coordinators of the RF at Cairo University, Mustafa Haggag, said that “the student march headed to Talaat Harb Square to join the main protest organized by the Front.”
The FR also organized similar student protests at the University of Banha and other activities were convened in Tanta, Helwan and Ain Shams. Marches and demonstrations were set to take place in Alexandria, Beni Suef, Dakhalia and Port Said.
This occurs during the most violent week in universities since January 25, 2011, where several demonstrations have happened. They are being repressed by the entrance of the police on campuses, in addition to a series of suspensions of student leaders. These protests and physical shocks occurred in many universities, including Cairo, Ain Shams, al-Azhar, Alexandria, Zagazig, Mansoura, Tanta, Beni Suef, Minya, Asyut, Sohag, Aswan and Suez Canal universities.
Strengthening an independent “third way”
In the current situation of the Egyptian revolution, it is essential to face all the crackdown by the military government. At the same time, fighting the government cannot be confused with support for the demonstrations of the Brotherhood pursuing reinstalling Morsi in power, being that he was overthrown by the people precisely because he ruled at the service of the rich, military and imperialism, besides having promoted a dictatorial and theocratic ultra-reactionary project.
Therefore, as we have said, the main task is to continue the fight against government actions, defend the freedom for workers organizations and take to the streets with the policy: “Down with the military regime! Neither military nor Muslim Brotherhood!”
That is why the formation and actions of RF are extremely progressive. Although their programmatic constraints and the heterogeneity of the group, their political identity of opposition to the military as well as the Brotherhood is essential and point to a correct path to current and future struggles.
Despite the reactionary and repressive government measures is obvious that the Egyptian people are not defeated. After the general confusion caused by the military coup, the movement begins to raise its head. On October 26, the first non-Islamist protest occurred against the law limiting the right to protest and strike. On November 16, the young revolutionary activist, Ahmed Harara (who lost an eye in February 2011 and the other in November 2012, because of repression), was probably the first non-Islamist to dare to attack army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi publicly, accusing him of being responsible for the massacres in Mohamed Mahmoud street. “The military council that killed these people must be held to account. Al-Sisi, who now holds the reins, was then already a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces,” said Harara.
All this happens in the context of an increasingly oppressive economic situation, where the October inflation climbed to 11.5 %, unemployment is estimated at 30 % and 40 % of the population surviving on a dollar a day. It is possible that these confrontations presage major battles.