The Struggle against the Bloody Dictatorship in Egypt

The Failure of the Egyptian “Revolutionary Socialists” in Past and Present

By Yossi Schwartz (Revolutionary Communist International Tendency), 3 September 2016,




The imperialist propaganda regarding the Arab Revolution that began in 2011 and swept North Africa and the Middle East is that the Arab spring ended with a defeat and it is now really an Arab winter. The Economist, the mouthpiece of British imperialism, wrote: "Sadly, that outcome remains a stark anomaly. There were six Arab countries in which massive peaceful protests called for hated rulers to go in the spring of 2011. None of the other uprisings came to a happy end. Libya and Yemen have imploded, their central states replaced in whole or part by warring militias, some backed by foreign powers, some flying the flags of al-Qaeda or Islamic State. Egypt and the island kingdom of Bahrain are now yet more autocratic, in some ways, than when the protests began. And Syria has descended into an abyss. " (1)


Similarly the New York Times wrote: "Then it all went horribly wrong. By the summer of 2012, two of the “freed” nations — Libya and Yemen — were sliding into anarchy and factionalism, while the struggle against the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria had descended into vicious civil war. In Egypt the following summer, the nation’s first democratically elected government was overthrown by the military, a coup cheered on by many of the same young activists who took to the streets to demand democracy two years earlier." (2)


Yet the unfinished Arab Revolution – the "Arab spring" that has been interrupted by the local and international counter-revolutionary forces has not died as the pro-imperialist propaganda try to convince us. They forget that following the winter the spring arrives again. It is enough to know history to understand it.


The revolutionary wave that the French Revolution of 1789 released was interrupted with the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815. Yet it surfaced in 1830. It was defeated and surfaced again in 1848. It was defeated due to the betrayal of the bourgeoisie in its own revolution. It surfaced again in the 1860s and clearly won in the USA while defeated in Europe. In 1870 the first socialist revolution took place in Paris. It was defeated but surfaced again in 1905 especially in Russia. It was defeated but in 1917 the working class revolution won in Russia. We live in a historic revolutionary period in which defeats are followed by new uprisings.


The revolution in North Africa and the Middle East is alive in the amazing heroism of the Syrian people fighting the bloody dictatorship of Assad backed by Russian imperialism, Turkey, Iran Hezbollah and possibly Israel that provides Assad and Russia with drones. (3)


US imperialism and the Gulf States have intervened for their own ugly interests in order to defeat the revolution. To win, the revolution must be independent of all of them. The revolution can receive of course weapons from any side as long as the existing leadership does not subordinate the struggle to one or another imperialist side and their servants.




Repression New Rise of Mass Protests




The revolution in Egypt, the heart of the Arab nation, is traveling through the purgatory stage of Sisi’s bloody dictatorship. Sisi is well aware that a new revolutionary wave is brewing. This January Al Jazeera reported: "In a speech marking the Prophet Muhammad's birthday last month, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi warned critics not to hold protests on January 25, the fifth anniversary on the 2011popular uprising, saying a new revolt could destroy the country. ‘Why am I hearing calls for another revolution? Why do you want to ruin [Egypt]? I came by your will and your choice, and not despite it,’ Sisi told the hand-picked audience of politicians, media pundits and members of Egypt's newly elected parliament. Sisi's words, greeted by a roar of applause, revealed the regime's fears that another popular uprising may be brewing “ (4)


Indeed Sisi has reasons to be worried: "Last August, thousands of public sector workers took to the streets in one of the biggest street actions since July 2013, when a military coup led by Sisi deposed Morsi. The workers were protesting against the civil service law issued last March, which they say negatively affects up to seven million civil servants by decreasing their income, increasing the managerial powers of administrators and introducing regulations that threaten basic workers' rights.” (5)


In addition, Sisi provoked a public outcry by selling two islands to Saudi Arabia. The British Telegraph reported: "Security forces fired tear gas at those who dared protest Mr Sisi's controversial decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia and officers chased demonstrators down side streets and arrested them". (6)


On 22-23 May, a group of 26 workers went on an open sit-in in Alexandria Shipyard, demanding unpaid wages over the past four years, the abolishment of national minimum wages, and calling for annual pre-Ramadan bonuses. Sisi reacted with military court. "13 workers of the Alexandria Shipyard Company who were jailed on 25 May on charges of protesting and inciting their colleagues to strike, according to the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP).The referral of the workers sparked anger in labour communities, raising the issue of civilian workers’ status in military factories. The Alexandria Shipyard Company falls under the supervision and administration of the Ministry of Defence and Military Production as of 2007. The company stands as one of the 1960s main industrial projects in Alexandria in the maritime field. The company is one of the several economic projects that are controlled by the Egyptian Armed Forces. The complex contains 2,500 workers who are civilians." (7)


In May 2016 the capitalist courts of Sisi sentenced to prison 152 people who took part in a street protest in April, opposing selling the islands to Saudi Arabia escalating the suppression of political dissent in the country. (8)


The working class, like in the period before the toppling of Mubarak, is in the first line of the struggle.


In the first three months of 2016 there has been an average of 245 protests per month and 6 daily across Egyptian cities. (9) If in 2013 Sisi came to power with the support of the middle class, since then Sisi rule has exposed itself as the rule of the terror of the counter revolution.


"Hossam Bahgat, an investigative reporter who was recently detained by Egypt’s military intelligence agency, spoke out ahead of the fifth anniversary of the start of Egypt’s revolution on Monday – the run-up to which has seen an unprecedented crackdown by security forces against opposition and dissent. ‘This is without doubt the worst we’ve ever seen,’ said Bahgat, citing restrictions on media outlets, a spike in the number of political prisoners, forced disappearances, and alleged extrajudicial killings of Islamists by the state. ‘The level of repression now is significantly higher than it was under the Mubarak regime, and people from older generations say it is worse than even the worst periods of the 1950s and 1960s [under the rule of Gamal Abdel Nasser].’ In an effort to ward off any protests half a decade on from the uprising that toppled the former president Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian authorities have raided thousands of homes in Cairo and installed new surveillance infrastructure around Tahrir Square." (10)


The repression of the pro-imperialist and pro-Zionist regime in Egypt is very strong not only against the bourgeois-Islamist Muslim Brotherhood but also against the unions, left-wing forces and the media. Even against the same middle class that supported his coup out of anger with Morsi rule and his neo liberal policies. The middle class forces that supported the coup are no longer supporting the regime, partly because they are not afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood that became weaker. Now many are ready to join forces in action with the Muslim Brotherhood.




Economic Crisis in Egypt




Egypt under Sisi is suffering from economic crisis. The International Monetary Fund has announced in August 2016 that its staff had recommended to give Sisi's Egypt a three-year loan package of $12 billion, which may lead other Gulf countries to give more billions of dollars in order to save Sisi rule, mired in an economic slump with high unemployment and rising inflation The official unemployment is 13% which means in reality is much higher. The official figure of youth unemployment is more than double of this figure. Egypt has a trade deficit of 7% of GDP and a budget deficit of 12% of GDP. Tourism has collapsed especially since the downing of a Russian charter plane over the Sinai by terrorists last year and the crash of an Egypt Air flight in the Mediterranean in May. Its currency is overvalued and it has a shortage of foreign exchange. However this money like the 20 Milliard US-Dollars that Sisi received from Kuwait in 2013 is likely to end in the pockets of Sisi and his close friends.


The capitalist News Agency Bloomberg reports: "Sisi, squandered previous aid packages on mega-projects of dubious merit, including the expansion of the Suez Canal. As conditions for the new loan the IMF demands to devalue the Egyptian pound and to impose a value-added tax. This in a country where 25% of the population lives in harsh poverty and is running out of fresh clean water due to wasteful agricultural practices, The education system is in crisis : Sisi admitted in 2014 that the nation and in need of 30,000 new teachers, but has no money to recruit them, Egypt needs roads, Schools and fresh water but the money is spent on the Military. Business Monitor International said during 2014 Egyptian military expenditure reached a value of $5.2 billion. IMF officials practically admitted that the new package is mostly cosmetic. The fund and Sisi's Egypt economy is based on the military-industrial monopolies in everything from washing machines to olive oil." (11)


Hesham Ibrahim, professor of finance at Cairo University, said: "The IMF will only approve the loan once Egypt adopts a tough economic program, the disadvantages of which will only be endured by the poorer classes." (12)


In addition the ruling class is divided between the supporters of the repression, and others who think it is time to introduce some reforms out of fear that Sisi repressions and that his economic policies will provoke a new revolutionary waves, ones that would be stronger, and deeper.


In its January 2016 issue, the US journal Foreign Policy writes: “With economic growth slowing, currency reserves falling, inflation rising, and youth unemployment still soaring (…) [The ruling class, Ed.] is in fact a loose coalition of power centers that includes state bodies such as the military, intelligence, police, and judiciary — as well as non-state entities such as the powerful clans of the Nile Delta, tribes of Upper Egypt, private media outlets, and the business community (…) In recent months, however, the fear of the Brotherhood’s return has diminished. With tens of thousands of Muslim Brothers in prison, its exiled leadership increasingly divided, and fewer Muslim Brothers within Egypt willing to risk getting killed at demonstrations, the organization no longer exists as a coherent entity on the ground (…) Without the threat of the Brotherhood to unify the Sisi regime’s core power centers, latent tensions are now coming to the fore. The most obvious example is Sisi’s deteriorating relations with the business community." (13)


Sisi regime is very isolated in the region. He supported the failed coup in Turkey. During the coup attempt, President Sisi issued a response to the military coup in Turkey. “The Turkish military coup against Erdogan was resulted from his failed policies in the region”, he wrote in his Facebook page.


He also said, “Turkish President is responsible for civil war in Turkey and the instability and insecurity in the region.” “Erdogan provides financial and military aid to terrorist groups in order to achieve his expansionist goals”, he added. (14)


Turkey now is assisting the bourgeois-Islamist Muslim Brotherhood opposition. "Representatives of the Egypt's opposition groups including former ministers from the toppled Muslim Brotherhood administration have declared the establishment of “Egyptian Revolutionary Council” against Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in Istanbul. “The revolutionary and national forces, a year after the situation was exposed, are capable of confronting the bloody terrorist coup which stole our revolution, killed and imprisoned our people, sold our country and spread destruction and fear through the land and kidnapped Dr. Mohammed Morsi”, the spokesperson of the council which consist of 60 people, Mohammed Sharif Kamil, said during a meeting held in Istanbul on August 8." (15)


Sisi’s close ally Saudi Arabia cannot support him financially with billions of dollars anymore as it is itself going through serious economic problems due to the falling prices of oil and it is facing growing instability unlike during the first wave of the Arab Spring. (16)




The Revolutionary Socialists and the Struggle against the Sisi Regime Today




While the opposition to Sisi's regime is growing again, it is still in the stage of a defensive struggle. It is particularly urgent now that revolutionaries call for the formation of a united front even with non-proletarian forces but at the same time on conditions that the working class organizations maintain their independent. It is also important to work towards the creation of a new workers party to lead the working class. The idea behind the united front tactic must be "march separately strike, together".


One of the indications to the growing opposition in Egypt is the position of the Revolutionary Socialists, a group that is affiliated with the British centrist SWP founded by Tony Cliff.


In a recently published article they report: "In August 2015, thousands of civil servants and workers demonstrated outside the Journalists’ Union against the Civil Service law. In November 2015, hundreds of postgraduates demonstrated after false promises of employment by the state, and even succeeded in reaching Tahrir square before being dispersed by security forces. In February 2016, over ten thousand doctors gathered around their syndicate to protest against the brutal aggression of their colleagues by the police as they worked in the Mattaria hospital, and the same month saw huge numbers of inhabitants of the Darb al-Ahmar neighbourhood demonstrate outside Cairo’s security directorate against the killing of a taxi driver by a policeman (…) We also need to build united fronts that include all the opponents to the regime’s current policies, whether or not they had been part of the 30 June alliance. The state of fragmentation that was imposed by the regime using the Brotherhood scarecrow is no longer justifiable in any way. All those who refuse dictatorship, emergency laws, political arrests, the crackdown on public and personal liberties, all those who reject the capitalist policies of impoverishment imposed by al-Sisi, his generals and businessmen, and all those who reject the dependency on Saudi Arabia and Israel must stand united to confront the regime (…) Let us show solidarity with the Alexandria Shipyard workers who are facing military trials for merely attempting to organise a protest demanding their legitimate rights in the face of a government that has only offered them impoverishment and repression, let us show solidarity with the state high schools students who almost instinctively headed to Tahrir to express their anger and rejection of the failed, corrupt and clientelist school system that they have fallen victim to. Let us make these two causes that ended the third year of the coup the introduction to a new year of struggle. Let us together make this year the beginning of the end for Abdelfattah al-Sisi’s regime." (17)


By itself a call of a united front of all forces that oppose Sisi in action is correct. Yet the fact that the RS does not call for the formation of a Workers Party as a form of working class united front where revolutionaries can fight for its program and leadership is very typical to organizations that claim to be revolutionary but acts in practice to subordinate the working class to the capitalist class. Unless the working class will lead the new revolutionary wave once again, bourgeois and the petit-bourgeois forces will lead the struggle to a defeat. When the Cliffite RS speaks of bringing down Sisi and without pointing out to the need of a Workers and Fallahin Government, it means in reality advocacy for a new capitalist government. This is the politics of the popular front that subordinates the working class to the bourgeois and the petit bourgeois, not a revolutionary politics.




The Cliffite’s Support for the Military Coup in 2013




This is clear when we look to the shameful past of this centrist organization. During the military coup the RS was part of the Tamarod movement (18), a grassroots movement that played a major role in the overthrow of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood regime only one year after it was elected to power in Egypt. (19) The RS at the time of the coup denied that it was a counter-revolutionary coup. Today they like to hide the support they gave to the coup. For this reason it is necessary to remind any honest socialist among them the simple truth about their politics.


In 2013 the RS called on the masses to help the army to remove Morsi from power. In a statement from July 6, 2013 shortly after the coup they said:


But the stubbornness, stupidity and criminality of the US-backed Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed Badie, its General Guide, open the terrifying horizons of civil war. This can only be stopped by millions coming into the squares and streets to protect their revolution. They must abort the US-Brotherhood plan to portray the Egyptian Revolution as a military coup." (20)


Supporting the coup was much worse than a mistake – it was a major betrayal of the Egyptian revolution. In fact, the Egyptian army coup was planned by the US.


According to Al Jazeera of 10 Jul 2013, documents obtained by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley show the US channeled funding through a State Department program to pro-imperialist politicians.


"Documents obtained by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley show the US channeled funding through a State Department programme to promote democracy in the Middle East region. This programme vigorously supported activists and politicians who have fomented unrest in Egypt, after autocratic president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising in February 2011. The State Department's programme, dubbed by US officials as a "democracy assistance" initiative, is part of a wider Obama administration effort to try to stop the retreat of pro-Washington secularists, and to win back influence in Arab Spring countries that saw the rise of Islamists, who largely oppose US interests in the Middle East.” (21)


What was necessary at that situation was to call on the masses of the Egyptians, the workers and the Fellahins to defeat the coup without giving any political support to the Mursi government and then to bring down Mursi's government and replace it by a workers and peasant government. (22) But the same middle class logic of RS that oppose the formation of a Workers Party where revolutionaries could fight for its program and leadership led them in the presidential elections of 2012 to call for critical support for Mursi as the lesser evil. And the same class logic prevents them from defending Mursi against the military coup! They always follow the same popular-frontist logic of class collaboration – they only change the subject of the opportunist subordination!


Why was it necessary to defend the bourgeois-Islamist Mursi government without giving it any political support? On this we can learn from the Russian Bolsheviks led by Lenin when General Kornilov plotted to overthrow the Kerensky government in August 1917. At that time the Bolsheviks joined the military struggle to defend the Kerensky government against the coup attempt without lending it any political support. But the lessons of the revolutionary program, strategy and tactics are closed book for them and for their friends. This we see today in the US elections where the ISO American friends of the RS havev called to vote for Sanders and now for the Green Party rather than to fight for a Workers Party. (23)




Military Coup in Egypt




In Turkey the British SWP almost seemed learned its lesson. It called after the event for opposing the coup without giving president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government political support. "But the fight for democracy must continue – against Erdogan’s personal rule, against the idea that the military are the ultimate guarantors of the constitution, and for an end to the war against the Kurds. Socialists elsewhere must support the struggle of the Turkish people for their democratic rights, demand a reversal of the growing restrictions on civil liberties, and maintain their solidarity with the Kurdish people in their fight for national self-determination." (24)


Of course it is necessary to fight for the democratic rights against the populists bonapartist regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Of course it is necessary to fight for the right of self-determination of the Kurds but these demands must be connected to workers struggles that will open the road for the workers and poor socialist revolution. For this reason we in the RCIT called on the 15 August:


"In order to defeat the military coup we need mass actions of the workers and poor! We call for a broad united front of workers and poor to defend democratic rights! The trade unions need to organize an indefinite general strike immediately that lasts as long as the putschists are in power! We need to build anti-coup committees in every neighborhood and workplace; the economy and the transport have to be shut down. Block every road, bridge and rail to stop them from moving, build self-defense committees! For international solidarity with the struggle against the coup in Turkey! Workers and revolutionaries need to build a close relationship with the ordinary soldiers and convince them that the coup-officers and generals are the real enemies. They station the soldier in our streets and neighborhoods, let’s show them that this was a big mistake! Build the revolutionary party in the struggle! The workers’ fists will break the iron chains of dictatorial military rule!" (25)


Unfortunately the RS and its international tendency have learned nothing from their rotten politics in 2011-2013. In their statement of July 6 this year, they describe the situation and call for wide democratic coalitions. While the struggle for democratic and social demands is necessary, they once again they do not call for the formation of a Workers Party, nor do they explain the need for the working class to lead the coming revolutionary wave. They call themselves Trotskyists, yet they have dumped the theory and the strategy of Trotsky's Permanent Revolution and replaced it with their historic leader Tony Cliff’s so called deflected Permanent Revolution. This theory claims that in the absence of a self-conscious working class in countries that have not gone through the democratic revolution, the intelligentsia will lead the democratic revolution and form what they call state-capitalism (like Stalinist China and Cuba). So why should they bother in Egypt and fight for a revolutionary working class to lead the revolutionary movement with the perspective of a Workers and Fallahin Government if the leading force is the intelligentsia and the outcome according to their perspective would be a progressive state-capitalism as Egypt was during Nasser?!


Already on February 1 2011 the RS declared:


"A people's army is the army that protects the revolution”


Everyone asks: "Is the army with the people or against them?" The army is not a single block. The interests of soldiers and junior officers are the same as the interests of the masses. But the senior officers are Mubarak’s men, chosen carefully to protect his regime of corruption, wealth and tyranny. It is an integral part of the system.


This army is no longer [sic!] the people’s army. This army is not the one which defeated the Zionist enemy in October 73 [sic!]. This army is closely associated with America and Israel. Its role is to protect Israel, not the people. Yes we want to win the soldiers for the revolution. But we must not be fooled by slogans that ‘the army is on our side’. The army will either suppress the demonstrations directly, or restructure the police to play this role." (26)


Was Nasser’s army an army of the people? Of course not it was a bourgeois' army of a state capitalism which served to repress the workers and peasants and all opposition forces. Worse how could the RS, that in February 2011 warned against the army’s generals support their coup two years later?!




Forward with the Arab Revolution!




The struggle the Arab masses is not isolated to Egypt. In this year, we saw militant demonstrations that shook the Tunisian capitalist that was reminded them the struggle in the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings. Beginning on 22 January, the government imposed a nighttime, nationwide curfew. The demonstrations began after unemployed youth Ridha Yahyaoui committed suicide January 16, protesting the hopelessness of his situation in the same way Tunisian national hero Mohamed Bouazizi did in 2010. (27)


In February this year hundreds of thousands of Shiite Muslims, supporters of the influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, took to the streets of Baghdad to protest corruption in the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. On July 15 thousands of Iraqis have defied a protest ban and rallied in the heart of the capital, Baghdad, to demand an end to sectarianism and corruption.


In Yemen, while the Saudi-led coalition which includes Egypt in its dirty war against the Houthi's rebels backed by Iran, is bombing civilian targets, including hospitals and schools, the US military that stepped up its military assistance this April is increasingly distancing itself from this coalition


"The cooperation that we've extended to Saudi Arabia since the conflict escalated again is modest and it is not a blank check," Stump said. "At no point did US military personnel provide direct or implicit approval of target selection or prosecution." (28)


Thus, those who buried the Arab revolution, are going to be surprised. The revolution is alive and kicking and may surface like a storm again. What is necessary is to analyze and learn the lessons of the failure of the first wave of the Arab Spring. The most important lesson is that the liberal bourgeoisie and the middle class cannot lead to a victory. They do not have the program and their concepts are rooted in capitalism that they want to at best to reform. However because they are afraid of the working class revolution they cannot in this historical period lead a democratic revolution. The democratic demands in the region include the expelling of the imperialists, the unification of the Arab nation, the liberation of the Palestinian people, the agrarian revolution, full equality before the law especially women and the oppressed groups and the right of self-determination of the Kurds. However, only the working class, led by a revolutionary party can unite the workers and the masses regardless of their religious affiliation and get the support of the peasants and the urban poor and lower middle class. In power the workers will continue the socialist tasks of expropriation the big capital, and unified the banks, under workers control, a truly workers and peasants government of workers and peasants based on workers councils. Such a government of a workers state will defend the rights and the institutions of all religions against any discrimination and sectarianism.


The new revolutionary wave in Egypt and the Arab East is likely to ignite the Syrian working class and its victories will end the bloody civil war by the victory of the Socialist revolution.


It will also lead at least part of the Jewish workers to break away from Zionism and join the socialist Arab revolution.






(1) The Economist: The Arab Winter, January 9,2016


(2) Scot Anderson: World came apart,


(3) Patrick Hilsman: Are Israeli-built drones supporting Syria's Assad regime? Middle East Eye, 4 March 2016,


(4) Al Jazeera: Is another revolution brewing in Egypt? January 24, 2016,


(5) Ibid


(6) Magdy Samaan and Raf Sanchez: Egypt: protests against President Fattah el-Sisi broken up with tear gas while pro-government demonstrations go unhindered, The Telegraph News, 25 April 2016








(10) Jack Shenker: State repression in Egypt worst in decades, says activist, The Guardian, 24 January 2016,




(12) al-monitor August 3,2016 What will $12 billion IMF loan cost Egypt?Read more:


(13) Eric Trager: Sisi’s Fracturing Regime, Foreign Policy, 22 January 2016,




(15) Daily News, August 8 2016,




(17) Sameh Naguib: The Sisi Coup Enters Its Fourth Year, 15 July 2016,






(20) Occupy the squares: stand firm in the face of the conspiracy by the Brotherhood and America, Statement from the Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt, 6 July 2013,


(21) Emad Mekay: US bankrolled anti-Morsi activists. Documents reveal US money trail to Egyptian groups that pressed for president's removal, Al Jazeera, 10 July 2013,


(22) On the Egypt coup and the failure of the left we refer reader to Michael Pröbsting: The Coup d'État in Egypt and the Bankruptcy of the Left’s “Army Socialism”. A Balance Sheet of the coup and another Reply to our Critics, 8.8.2013, The RCIT has published numerous articles before the military coup in Egypt in July 2013, during the critical weeks of the accelerating repression in July and August 2013 and since then; see on this


(23) See on the US elections and the left e.g. Yossi Schwartz: Once Again: Opportunism of US Left Exposed. An Analysis of the US 2016 Elections Campaign, 14 August 2016,


(24) Socalist Workers Party statement on the Turkish coup, 16 August 2016,


(25) RCIT: Turkey: Defeat the Coup in the Streets!






(28) On the Tunisian uprising see Tunisia: Solidarity with the Workers’ and Youth Uprising! Down with the Nationwide Curfew! For a General Strike and Mass Uprising to Bring down the Essebsi Regime! Onward to the Second Revolution! Joint Statement of the International Secretariat of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) and the RCIT Tunisia, 23.01.2016,