Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Egyptian Workers Should Organise For Their Own Defence

Despite more than a week of mass protests Mubarak says he will stay in office until, September.
He says, he wants to remain in order to oversee an orderly transition. If the masses agree to that, their revolution is lost. Mubarak, or someone like him, once the movement has been demobilised, will simply re-establish themselves and entrench their power. We have seen that happen time and again throughout history.

If the masses wish to avoid more bloodshed than is needed, and given that at the moment the Army has said it will not fire on the people, then it will be necessary for the masses to move from passive demonstrations accepted by the Army, to active winning over of sections of the Army to their side. Any move against the Presidential Palace would be likely to provoke a response from the Republican Guard.
The best way of countering that would be if sections of the Army announced their support for the masses, and for Mubarak to go immediately. For that to happen, pressure needs to be exerted from the masses on to the rank and file troops, and in turn from there on to the Officers.

A central role in that should come from the Egyptian workers and their organisations. But, whether or not the workers are succesful in bringing about such a development they should not be content with it.
The Army should only be allowed to play a role in ousting Mubarak, and providing a stabilising force under the political leadership of some interim Government made up of Opposition parties subsequent to the rapid convening of a Constituent Assembly. As Marxists, we have to warn the Egyptian workers of the dangers that lie ahead, even if they are succesful in replacing the bourgeois political regime of Mubarak with the bourgeois political regime of Parliamentary democracy. The latter will itself only be another form of the workers oppression in the interests of the Dictatorship of Capital. Given the economic consequences of the unrest, the bosses will attempt to make the Egyptian workers pay for that cost.
As the Miners in Britain found in 1984, even a parliamentary democracy is capable of using the methods of a Police State to oppress and repress the workers in the interests of Capital, if the workers resist.

That is why in organising themselves to assist in the overthrow of Mubarak, the workers must do so by developing their own forms of organisation, their own forms of democracy, their own forms of State capable of protecting their separate interests from those of the bosses.
In part, they have already done that by creating their own Militia for defending their communities against looters and other criminals, and by creating wider Committees to co-ordinate these actions. In reality these forms of Workers State, Workers Self-Government and Workers Democracy are far more important achievements for the Workers than the limited gains that bouregois democracy can bring, and which the bourgeoisie would just as quickly take away were they not to meet its needs in controlling the workers.

That is not to say that the workers have no interest in achieving bouregois democratic freedoms such as the right to free speech, to a free press, to the right to organise, create and belong to Trades Unions, to strike etc. all of which are themselves vital to the workers' own organisation and defence of its interests, but the workers must strive to go beyond those limited gains or face the prospect of seeing its own oppression continue but in another guise. Alongside the struggle for those freedoms, and for the establishment of a wider bourgeois democracy, the workers must concentrate on building up their own resources. They need to develop Workers Democracy through the establishment of Workers Committees in the Factories, Shops and Offices that extends across the Trades Unions and pulls in the unionised as well. They should assist in the development of similar Peasant Committees in the countryside. They should seek to make contacts with the workers and peasants in the rank and file of the Army in order to encourage them to set up their own Committees seeking to introduce democratic rights and control within the military. They should extend the Militias set up to defend their communities against the petty thieves into broader Defence Squads and Militias to defend against the bigger thieves of Capital who rob them of their Labour Power. They should extend the Committees they have established across the cities to draw in delegates from the Factory and Peasant Committees, and the Soldiers Committees.

When the bosses attempt to impose pay cuts on the workers they will then be in a position to resist.
If the bosses seek to respond by locking out the workers or closing down the factory, shop or office the workers should in turn respond by occupying it, and setting up their own Worker Co-operative, and to link it with other Worker Co-operatives, building a powerful worker owned section of the economy separate from the bosses economy, and meeting the workers needs not the bosses.
And in all this the workers will need the support of its own alternative state organs in the form of the Defence Squads, the Militia and the network of Workers Committees, to face down the attempts of the bosses to use those sections of the Police and Security Services, the fascist gangs and others to batter the workers into submission.

How far such a struggle would go is impossible to determine for now. Nor should we attempt to prejudge it, or to insist that only by some kind of insurrectionary struggle for State Power could the workers prevent themselves being thrown back. It is quite possible that the Workers Committees, Militias, etc. and a growing worker owned sector of the economy could exist side by side with Capitalist property, and a Capitalist State for some time, just as Capitalist property and forms of Capitalist State existed side by side with Feudal Property and the Feudal State for a very long time. But, ultimately such a division in society can only be resolved by the victory of one form of property over the other, one form of demcoracy over the other, one form of state over the other. Our task as Marxists is to do everything in our power to facilitate the development of the Workers' Property, the Workers Democracy, and the Workers State, and thereby to make more likely its ultimate victory.


James Bloodworth said...

Here here. Excellent post.

"Our task as Marxists is to do everything in our power to facilitate the development of the Workers' Property, the Workers Democracy, and the Workers State, and thereby to make more likely its ultimate victory."


Workers to power!


Renegade Eye said...

Good post.

I'm guessing Egypt will go through several governments. Capitalism doesn't have room to maneuver, with the world crisis going on. Where will jobs come from?

Boffy said...

I'm writing a lengthy post on the situation in Egypt, and asking the question "What Is To be Done"? I'm hoping to be able to start publishing it from Sunday probably. The obvious drawback being that things are moving so quickly that you could be proved wrong on the very day you publish.

But, the main thing is to try to learn the lessons from what is for us a huge laboratory experiment in which a number of theories are tested. For example, I would say that if a refutation of the Third Camp theory on the nature of the Soviet State were required this is it. Mubarak is showing the extent to which a Capitalist State apparatus under the control of a powerful Bonapartist regime can defy the Capitalist Class in defence of its own interests. But no one I'm sure would try to represent Mubarak's regime as some kind of new class!!!

In short, I think it will depend on what happens from here in terms of how long, and how hard Mubarak tries and succeeds in holding on to power. If he holds on for long either there could be a Military Coup exchanging one set of General for another, or the MB could arise as an organised force as happened in Iran, and establish a theorcratic regime. Neither in the workers interests.

The best option would be for the military to fracture, for the Generals to tell Mubarak to go, and for their to be a provisional Government set up for the purpose of conducting elections. In that period the Socialists must keep well apart from the government "extreme revolutionary opposition", and focus on building up the working class as set out above. In that way if some kind of bouregois democracy is set up the workers are best placed to defend their interests and push forward their party, if in those elections the workers parties gained a majority they would have the base outside Parliament to push forward their demands as a Workers Government.