Free all the Political Prisoners!
(from of Egyptian gas workers on strike taken from www.arabawy.org)
The Egyptian revolution shook off the dictator Hosni Mubarak but has yet to rid itself of the dictatorship. In place of Mubarak, decrees are now being made by his lifelong friend and head of the Egyptian military, General Mohamed el-Tantawi. As the Guardian reported, a leaked embassy cable dated March 2008 noted that both Tantawi and Mubarak were "focused on regime stability and maintaining the status quo through the end of their time."
But working and poor Egyptians are fed-up with the status quo and have their own plans. In the aftermath of Mubarak's overthrow many of them expect their social demands for employment and higher wages met, while in addition others demand justice for those killed and injured by state forces these last weeks.
During the "Day of Rage" on January 28, wrote the Daily News Egypt, "angry protesters stripped the police chief and his deputy of all their clothes ... leaving them naked in the street." Now thousands of citizens in Suez declare they will resume protesting Monday if their demands of sacking the governor and the police directorate chief, believed to have given orders to the police to open fire on protesters on January 25, are not met." Talaat Omar, head of Al-Ghad Party in Suez, declared that "angry citizens vowed to kill the two men if they appear in the city … as they are responsible for killing dozens and injuring hundreds.”
In Nasr City, thousands of workers from several oil and gas companies are on strike and protesting in front of the Ministry of Petroleum. Their economic and political demands, according to Arabawy, include "a halt to abusive management practices in terms of sackings, the reinstatement of the sacked workers, raising salaries that roughly average on LE400, establishing an independent union, impeaching the corrupt minister Sameh Fahmy, and stopping gas exports to Israel."
But the Supreme Military Council, having declared the revolution completed, wants it all to stop. Military Council leader Tantawi ordered Mohamed Ibrahim Moustafa Ali, the head of military police, to send soldiers into Tahrir Square to explain the situation by tearing down the tents and lashing peaceful protesters with sticks, reports the Independent. Shalkami, one of the so-called "hardcore" protesters who refuses to leave until a timetable of reform is drawn up has not left the Square in nearly three weeks. He has survived attacks by the police, pro-Mubarak thugs on camels, and now the army was taking its turn to try and force him out. Shalkami, according to the Guardian, declared that the unfinished revolution must be kept "alive so that we get the 100% freedom we are asking for."
He is among those pressing for a civilian-led interim government and the immediate lifting of the dictatorial emergency laws, which permit detention without trial. The Independent reported that Shalkami along with other protesters in the square had held a small rally with demands for, in addition to the lifting of the emergency law, the release of all political prisoners. The military command has responded by declaring that the state of emergency will be lifted "when the security situation allows." In other words, the "emergency" will be deemed over when and if the army is able to break all resistance to its rule by decree. Another Tahrir demonstrator, Adel el-Ghendy, a 54-year-old building contractor, demanded a "civilian government" and accused the military of wanting to "steal our revolution."
Regardless of how exhausted they must be, the Egyptian people appear to have plenty of fight left in them. In response to the army's attack on the hundreds left at Tahrir Square, a call for help went out "over loudspeakers and via text message and social media." According to the Guardian, as result of the call, more than 1,000 people had arrived by the afternoon. Of these more than 30 were arrested and taken to a military compound at the nearby Egyptian museum. Free all the political prisoners now!
The Higher Military Council has also said all meetings by workers are banned, effectively forbidding strikes. It is a life and death question for the emerging independent labor movement in Egypt to defend its right to strike and organize. In addition to these attacks on freedom of organization, the regime has been busy reaffirming all previous international treaties.
The one group that was receiving a hearing from the military regime is the police officers. “We want to honor the officers who died during the revolution,” officer Mohamed Hussein told Daily News Egypt. “We keep hearing about the civilians who died, but what about the policemen?” Many other cops complained that "people treated them badly after the revolution." In addition to wanting better treatment from the revolution and positive recognition of those in their ranks who died while carrying out the murderous repression of the revolutionaries, the police also demanded higher wages.
The new military command was happy to oblige. Its high command Tantawi had already discussed with Interior Minister Mahmoud Wagdy the importance of a rapid return to duty of the police. So that when police began to protest outside the Interior Minister's building in Cairo, the Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, asserting that his top priority was restoration of order, had the new Interior Minister Mahmoud Wagdy quickly put together concessions which included a pay raise for the police.
While some Egyptians may have bought into the dangerous lie that the police are fellow workers, many more were not fooled. As reported by the BBC, on Sunday morning before the tent city had been torn down by the military, at one point the protesting cops entered Tahrir Square and chanted: "It's a new Egypt, the people and the police are one." Hundreds of protesters chanted back the popular anti-Mubarak chant "Get out, get out!"
Although the tent city may have been torn down and the military refuses to listen to the demands of the protestors, the Guardian noted that the story is still unfolding and reported that a "victory celebration is planned for Tahrir Square on Friday at which organisers of the protests plan to announce a 'council of trustees.'" What is needed instead is a worker led struggle for a constituent assembly as well as an all out struggle to build the independent organizations of the working class.
Down with the Dictatorial Emergency Laws!
Release all the Political Prisoners NOW!
Fight for a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly and the Right to Organize Independent Workers Organizations!