Mon Dec 11, 2023
December 11, 2023

The Egyptian Revolution and the tasks of the left

The Egyptian revolution route, especially after Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood’s fall and the seizing of a new military government, in July 2013, is a controversial topic among the international left.

And it could not be otherwise, since it is one of the most important revolutionary processes in the world today, decisive for the development of the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East.

Moreover, the Egyptian revolution inserts a huge complexity and contradictions that defy the very schemes of “common sense” and that can only be understood on the basis of Marxism and only if we deeply understand the meaning of the dramatic crisis of revolutionary leadership in this country and worldwide.

The main questions are: what was the meaning of Morsi-MB’s overthrow? Was his fall determined by the massive popular mobilization of June 30th or just by the military coup of July 3rd? In this direction, was it a victory or a defeat of the masses? Did the military coup lead to the “return to power of the military” or to a “historic defeat” that stamped out the revolution? Starting from this definition, what is the meaning of the mobilizations that MB has been pushing since July? Must we support them or, at least, would it be correct to boost a united action with the MB “against the dictatorship”?

In short, what is the path to go ahead with the revolution until its ultimate victory, a revolution that not only crushes the military dictatorship but also puts a stop to starvation, unemployment, lack of education and health, promotes the land reform and release the country from the foreign powers oppression, fully emancipating all the exploited and oppressed in Egypt?

Some assumptions

When analyzing the Egyptian revolutionary process, we start from a fundamental definition: Mubarak’s downfall in February 2011 did not represent the military regime destruction, in force since 1952.

In Egyptit remains until today a dictatorial regime, whose main institution is the Armed Forces which continue controlling 40% of the economy and receives direct funding from imperialism, mainly the US.

But despite that, Mubarak downfall represented a heavy blow against the military dictatorship which, due to the strength of the masses revolutionary action, was forced to relocate itself and to make a number of democratic concessions (starting with “sacrificing” Mubarak himself, calling elections etc…). The generals’ choice was that it would be “better lose the saddle than the horse”, in order to safeguard the regime essence. This relocation characterizes the activities of the Army ruling staff throughout the process.

Simultaneously, Mubarak’s downfall has given rise toa whole extended period of open confrontation among the classes, with moments of forward or reverses for both the revolution and the counterrevolution, but characterized by this first revolutionary victory of the beginning of 2011.

As the military regime has remained, even crippled, we must conclude that the Morsi government was not only part, but also support of such dictatorship, insofar as Morsi could only assume power after a counterrevolutionary pact between the MB and the Army ruling staff which guaranteed the inviolability of the Armed Forces’ enormous privileges.

Therefore, if the Morsi-MB government was one more government of the same military regime, Morsi‘s downfall, as the product of a massive popular mobilization– despite the enormous contradiction which meant the military coup – was not a “defeat” (as most of the left state), but a huge democratic victory of the masses, which opened a new chapter in the Egyptian revolution.

This is so because, in our opinion, from the two elements embedded in Morsi’s downfall (mobilization of millions of people and a military coup), the determining element was the mobilization of the masses, without which the coup would not have occurred.

It was this historical masses mobilization which, once again, forced the military to opt forthe military coup against Morsi (to blow another fuse), in order to avoid that the popular anger moved forward against the regime as a whole.

The Egyptian people, fed up with the neoliberal economic measures, with the submission to the IMF and Israel, and averse to the dictatorial-theocratic project that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) attempted to impose during Morsi’s term of office, went to the streets and squares of the country and filled them in order to overthrow the one who was correctly named as the “new Pharaoh”. By doing so, the masses brought down the government military regime with a heavy blow. Therefore, Morsi’s downfall was a new victory of the revolution.

However the process contradiction arises. As occurred in the fall of Mubarak, the revolutionary action of the masses “broke up” the pact between the generals and the MB, but when the generals noticed that Morsi was no longer able to stay in power by himself and no longer fulfilled the task of containing the masses, they have relocated themselves and formalized his departure from the palace.

Skillfully, the Egyptian dictatorship has used a tactic different from the one used by the Libyan and Syrian dictatorships: despite being “his government”, the regime did not defend Morsi, or have opted for the bloody crushing of the mass movement.

With this maneuver, due to the delay in the consciousness of the masses and, above all, the lack of a revolutionary leadership, the military officers came out of this crisis, contradictorily, with their prestige in a higher level.

The military high command capitalized Morsi’s departure (the same way they capitalized, for a while, Mubarak’s departure) because, driven by their own interest of self-preservation and their strategy to defeat the revolution, opted to satisfy the main demand of the masses at that time (overthrowing Morsi ) “usurping” this popular victory.

For this reason, the masses, wrongly, viewed the military officers as the “saviors of the people”, in the judgment of the majority, they, not only stood at the “people side” against Morsi, but also, with the coup, avoided bloody confrontations, as in Syria civil war.

Muslim Brotherhood protests

The MB refused to accept the defeat and started calling the mobilization to return to power, claiming that Morsi remained the “legitimate president”. What is the character of these demonstrations and what should be the position of the revolutionaries?

If Morsi’s downfall was a victory of the revolutionary action of the masses, the MB mobilizations for Morsi’s return to power can only be counterrevolutionary.

Therefore, the Marxists cannot support or take part in these demonstrations, nor defend any rights or democratic freedom so that the defeated sector of the counterrevolution (Morsi and MB) organize themselves and express “freely” to step over a conquest of the masses. It would be the same scenario if Mubarak had called his followers to mobilize for his return, when he was overthrown by the masses.

After Morsi’s departure, the vast majority of the bourgeois forces and the trade unions leadership who claimed to be leftist adhered to the new puppet government of the military officers, including accepting positions in the ministry, such as Kamal Abu Eita, former president of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU), in order to collaborate with the regime.

Faced with this surrender, it was necessary to present an alternative of frontal opposition to the regime and to the new government which, at the same time, would not be confounded, in any way, with the MB attempts of returning to power.

It was therefore extremely progressive the emergence of the so-called independent “third field”, which is expressed more specifically in the Road to the Revolution Front[1], which raises the banner Neither military nor Brotherhood!

In the context of the “third field” call, Marxists must be the most consistent polo in facing the dictatorship, while combating the counterrevolutionary attempts of the MB to return to power and patiently explaining to the masses the need to seize the power by the working class and the building of socialism as a strategic solution for the crisis.

“Historical Defeat” and end of the revolution?

Based on these assumptions, we may realize that the military forces did not “return to power” because of the coup of July, for the simple reason that they have retained power since 1952.

On the other hand, neither is it correct, as stated by most of the international press and the left, that following the coup “the revolution is over” or has, at least, “stepped back to the Mubarak regime”.

What these sectors do not understand is the overall sign of the revolutionary process, which is not of “defeat”, but is marked by two huge victories of the revolutionary masses (the departures of Mubarak and Morsi). Every revolution goes through forward and backward steps. In every revolution, inevitably the counterrevolution acts. But in the case of Egypt, the counterrevolution still moves within a scenario of a mighty revolution which is in fully unwinding.

It is true that after the rise of Al-Sisi Beblawi a defensive position was opened up and a decline in social struggles occurred. According to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, in 2013 it took place 2,486 protests, which exceeded the 1,300 in 2011, but were lower than the impressive 3,300 struggles occurred in 2012.

Most of the 2013 protests took place during Morsi’s government (2,243 protests), which demonstrates the widespread anger that this government sparked in the masses. After Al-Sisi Beblawi’s rise (July-December 2013) only 243 proteststook place, indicating severe ebb, and a defensivemoment.[2]

But the most important is to determine the causes of this ebb and its depth. Many sectors of the left argue that the supposed “defeat” or “setback” of the revolution is due primarily to the military leadership who, after the coup, not only “came back to power” but also used a policy of physical crushing of the revolution, a generalized and indiscriminate repression against the entire mass movement, equaling the military coup in Egypt with the Chilean coup of Pinochet and Argentinean coup with Videla.

But the facts have been indicating that this is not so. First, because the revolution continues as it is demonstrated by the new facts. Second, faced with this reality, the central policy of the military regime in order to defeat the revolution is not the open, physical confrontation with the mass movement as a whole (despite the Bonapartist measures), but a policy of deceit, making democratic concessions and using the mechanisms of the bourgeois democracy (referendum, elections etc.).

Some might ask: what about the repression and the massacres against the MB? What about Morsi’s arrest and the MB’s outlawing? What about the arrests of the independent activists of the 6 April Movement as well as the members of Socialist Revolutionaries?

It is true that the security apparatus continues cracking down, but the character of the repression is not generalized but selective.

The most violent crackdown of the dictatorship is focused on the MB and despite wanting to extend it to the whole mass movement as from “the campaign against terror”

it is demonstrated that there is no possibility, there is no sufficient correlation of forces for such undertaking because the revolutionary situation opened after Mubarak’s departure is not closed.

Accordingly, Morsi’s removal and his arrest, as well as the repression and the MB outlawing, cannot be regarded as a “bloody repression against the revolution” (unless we consider the MB as “part of the revolution”), but as concessions that the military were forced to make “not to lose the horse”.

When the regime clamps down on the MB, it does it with a level of acceptance that it does not have, at the moment, to repress other sectors. At the same time, the regime uses the repression against the MB to consolidate itself, as Morsi’s arrest and the repression on the MB rely on the support of major sectors of the masses, precisely because they are hated and were defeated by the people.

Hence, the military regime can perpetrate massacres and outlaw the MB almost without popular reaction, except, of course, the reaction that comes from the MB itself.

It is clear that the dictatorship tries to use the repression against MB to extend it to all people, for example, trying to accuse all dissenters of “helping the terrorists”, but as of yet they have failed to accomplish it.

Therefore, the crackdown against the independent activists identified to the “third field” or those sectors that come to fight, as we shall see, has no comparison point to the level of repression that the regime carries against the MB.

So, unable to drown the revolution in a bloodbath, the military bet everything they have to manipulate the masses democratic illusions. In that sense, they boosted the constitutional referendum in January of this year and prepare for April the presidential elections, in which it is highly likely the candidacy of the now Marshal Al Sisi.

But not even in this setting things move exactly as the generals would like. In the constitutional referendum, the government project surpassed the 98% approval (something quite common in a dictatorship). But this referendum had a low participation of 37% (only 4 percent above Morsi’s referendum in December 2012), when the military hoped to reach 80%. [3] This shows that, although it is undeniable that large sectors of the masses continue to rely on generals, such backing starts to be questioned.

In short, facing the fact that the revolution was not defeated (which does not mean it cannot go through defensive situations), the military regime (the same since 1952) is not able to “crush” the movement as a whole (or at least it does not opt to do it) but it starts to “divert” the process through deceit (trust in Al Sisi, “the savior of the nation”) and the dead path of the bourgeois elections.

The workers movement comes into play

Two months ago it began to change the correlation of forces unfavorable to revolution, which demonstrated itself during the second half of 2013. The workers upsurging was an important factor in the resignation of former Prime Minister Hazem el Beblawi and all his office, including Kamal Abu Eita, former president of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) who agreed to be Labor Minister after the coup and is now regarded as a contributor to the government. Support for Beblawi government, according to surveys, had fallen to less than 25%. [4]

Workers’ struggles began on February 10, in Mahalla textile industrial complex where more than 60,000 workers work and is a symbol of the revolution. This strike had been preceded by strikes of metal workers in Alexandria and Suez. [5]

In Mahalla, more than 20 thousand workers, mainly from the companies Mirs Spinning and Weaving and Helwan Spinning and Weaving, demanded payment of a number of delayed bonuses and the minimum wage of 1,200 Egyptian pounds (US$ 170 dollars) – many workers earn around US$ 70. They also fought for the removal of Fouad Abdel-Alim, a loathed government manager who manages the industries of the area. Among their flags was also the fight against plans to privatize the company, which is still a state owned company.

The dictatorship, despite its threats, cannot repress the strike; it had to swallow its “anti-protest law” and, after several proposals rejected by the strikers, it disbursed 516 million Egyptian pounds to pay overdue salaries and bonuses. Mahalla workers, after these achievements, suspended their strike on February 22, but conceded a “period” of 60 days for the government to meet the full workers’ demands.

Mahalla struggle has been expanding across the country and the minimum wage demandof 1,200 Egyptian pounds became national, unifying the struggles of workers in many industries. The issue is that the government, to soothe the growing discontent over inflation, announced the increase of the minimum wage to 1,200 Egyptian pounds for a third of state employees, a promise they did not fulfill. This fact unleashed the wrath of this sector and encouraged all other sectors, public and private, to demand the same adjustment.

There were drivers’ strikes in the public transport sector in Cairo and Alexandria aiming at this demand. Around 42,000 workers stopped the 28 bus garages of the Great Cairo, forcing the Army to “cover up” the service. They also demanded significant investment to renew the obsolete fleet of buses for safety reasons. The government, rather than repress, had to negotiate and promised to invest 15.2 million of Egyptian pounds, but the strikers considered insufficient the amount and went on strike until February 27.

The drivers’ strike, which, according to Cairo governor, Galal al-Saeed, has cost his government US$ 115,000 per day, [6] ended with a partial achievement corresponding to an increase of US$ 30. But the discontent continues. They promised us a minimum wage and now they say it does not apply to our company,” said Reda Abdel Kerim, a driver. “Shops have already put up prices when the government said it would increase salaries. The government tricked us,” he said.[7]

Then the post office workers, the rank and file police officers and the health sector workers went on strike demanding wages increase, better working conditions and increase in the budget for public health. The strike of health workers had an adhesion of 87% [8] and set up a wide unity among physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, veterinarians and others.

In order to have an idea of the process magnitude, the Egyptian Center for Human Rights reported 54 strikes and demonstrations since the beginning of 2014, that involved about 100,000 workers, [9] something very positive for changing the situation sign, by the entry on the scene of the working class organized in the process subsequent to July.

To understand the discontent that exists “among the lower ranks”, it is interesting reading Hoda Kamel’s statement, of the EFITU: “For the past six months, the people waited for the government to be the government of the revolution – as they had promised, but when January came, people realised it was a trick because the minimum wage is just for a very small part of people working in the government, not for the private-sector or most government workers.[10]

The discontent with the regime and its priorities begins to rise, giving a more political tone to the protests: “Why did the interior ministry get a 30 per cent hike, and [also] the army?” asked Adel Sayed, an administrative worker at the bus company, quoted by the Financial Times. “Does it mean that this is the country of the army and police only?[11]

The flurry of workers’ strikes also had the progressive characteristic of disregarding the treacherous leadership connected to the regime since Mubarak times, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (EFTU), whose president, Gebaly al-Maraghy​​, repeated to the workers the government speech: “Our battle is to increase production and combat terrorism. If we don’t win, the whole of Egypt will be destroyed.”[12]

Moreover, the struggle has brought together with it an incipient process of reorganization and a trade union unity. A new steering committee of the fights was formed, which brought together workers on strike of nine companies and representatives of the strikes of doctors, as well as members of the independent trade unions of civil aviation, post office and the railroad workers. [13] Faced with this, the government Beblawi and the new Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb have demonstrated the military regime limitations to crack down sectors that are not linked to the MB.

The governmentjust could not surround the plants in Mahalla with the Army and slay between one thousand and two thousand workers, as it did with the MB camps at Cairo in August. Such a crackdown would have dire consequences so as to trigger a new outburst against the regime itself precisely because the revolution continues.

So they had to implement a negotiation and concessions policy, while appealing to the “patriotism” or Mehleb sentences like: “Stop all kinds of sit-ins, protests and strikes. Let us start building the nation.”[14] Al Sisi, the regime “strong man”, had to say he “understood” the workers’ demands, so avoiding bumping into this sector shortly before the elections.

To build a worker and independent alternative against the military dictatorship and against the Brotherhood!

1.      The revolutionary left should consider that the revolution was not “defeated”, but that it will continue with its ebbs and flows, over a long period. Because the structural problems that led to the beginning of the revolution, both economic and the masses’ legitimate democratic aspirations, have not been and will not be solved by the Egyptian military dictatorship and their governments.

Economic conditions, characterized by 30% of unemployment and 40% of the population surviving on a dollar a day, gets worse as time goes on. Since the beginning of the year it increased the power failure and the fuel shortage, a situation particularly annoying for the masses. The millionaire loans and gifts from the Gulf allied monarchies served only to prevent the immediate financial collapse. The government, in this scenario, will not be able to prevent deepening the attack, such as to establish the end of the fuel subsidy, a measure which led to the discontent which toppled Morsi.

Accordingly, deception and confusion after the usurpation of the people’s victory which overthrew Morsi, from the military leadership begin to show its limitations.

2.   The flurry of workers’ strikes, in addition to being an extremely progressive fact for the revolution, portends new confrontations and larger crises, the military will face heading the government – (which can accelerate the masses experience with it) – a government which is almost without extra options and almost without economic advantages to meet the demands for which the Egyptian people have already starred in two large chapters of their revolution.

3.      Thus, it is possible that the ebb situation which began after July coup starts changing favorably for the working class and the people. 

4.      However, it is important to be clear that the level of current struggles have not gone so far to endanger the regime, despite the fact that the atmosphere of “national unity” that followed the coup has been cooling off. On the other hand, Al Sisi holds the support of the masses sectors and he is highly likely to win the elections. Accordingly, the absence of a revolutionary leadership in the process is the main side of attack of the counterrevolution, either that represented by the government or the one as represented by the Brotherhood.  

5.     In this setting, it is vital that all sectors that are heading struggles against the government and the military regime, especially the working class movement of Mahalla, the drivers, the healthcare workers, the new workers’ committees that have been emerging in every sector, as well as the members of the Front Path to Revolution and the whole “third field” in general, discuss a national plan of struggle in a wide inter-sectoral meeting, and coordinate their actions in order to defeat in the streets the economic and repressive plans of al-Sisi and the Egyptian generals.

It is necessary to unify the economic and democratic struggles, resuming the great banner of the revolution: “Bread, Freedom and Social Justice,” and move forward against the policy of the puppet government of the military and the counterrevolutionary actions of the MB, which continues claiming the return of the “Pharaoh” defeated by the people.

In this context, the workers movement with their strikes and incipient reorganization must stand at the head of the struggle against the military dictatorship, showing the right path to the others exploited and oppressed sectors.

The workers movement must also spearhead efforts for building a working class alternative against the government and the Brotherhood for the upcoming presidential elections.

In this electoral process it will be crucial to gain the conscience of workers and of the vanguard who defeated Mubarak and Morsi, presenting them an independent alternative and candidacies of workers and social fighters identified with the revolution, particularly those who run strikes and face the dictatorship, against the almost certain postulation of Al Sisi and any other bourgeois expression.

The demand that unifies this fight is precisely: Neither military nor Brotherhood! which is highly positive as it expresses a repudiation to the historically two major counterrevolutionary political forces.

To this it should be added the need to fight for a classist and socialist alternative through a program of destruction of the military regime and for a workers’ and popular government, which means nothing but raising the urgent and vital need to build a party which must be revolutionary, internationalist  and of the working class in Egypt.


[1] The Road of the RevolutionFront was bornin September 2013. Its axis is the fight “against the military forces andthe MB” and for the classical banner of the revolution”Bread, Freedom and Social Justice”. It is integrated by the Movement April 6, theRevolutionary Socialists, the Movement NO to military tribunals, among other groups and individuals of the independent vanguard who participated in the struggles against Mubarak and Morsi.








[9] Idem.






Translation: Wilma Correa

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles