Mursi, army debate imposing martial law as strike wave shakes Egypt

March 28th, 2013

Published on World Socialist Web Site WSWS, by Thomas Gaist and Alex Lantier, March 27, 2013.

In advance of a possible bread strike, as workers struggles spread throughout Egypt, Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi is in talks with the army to impose martial law.  

Bakers are threatening a strike, protesting a government decision to withhold 400 million Egyptian pounds ($59 million) in government payments to bakeries that prepare low-cost bread for the poor. The loaves sell for 5 piastres, or less than 1 US cent.

Bakers expect to meet Prime Minister Hesham Qandil of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood this week to discuss terms. Last week the Mursi government threatened bakers with legal action if they strike.

Numerous transport workers have also gone on strike over the last week, with bus drivers in Mahalla, Cairo, Giza, and other cities protesting fuel shortages and rising fuel prices.

Mursi is moving to cut subsidies, above all for fuel and food, which make up approximately 25 percent of the Egyptian budget. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is demanding deep cuts in these subsidies, on which the Egyptian working class depends, as the precondition for a $4.8 billion loan to the Mursi government. US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cairo last month, pressing for Egypt to agree to the IMF loan.

In Tahrir Square, banners protesting Kerry’s visit read, “Kerry, member of the Brotherhood,” or “Kerry, you are not welcome here.”

Strikes and protests have since spread throughout Egypt. Over the last week, an estimated 1,300 factories have closed amid strike action in the Nile Delta industrial center at Mahalla in protest at the Islamist government, according to the state-run daily Al Ahram.

School and university students have also protested, demanding the ouster of the regime and of the Muslim Brotherhood … //

… The NSF and other pro-capitalist opposition parties, meanwhile, have raised the possibility of a coalition government between the secular parties, with an expanded role for the military, to replace the Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood crackdown comes amid signals that US imperialism is looking for more secular forces to wage its proxy war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in particular, and more broadly throughout the region.

Fearful of losing ground to rivals inside the Egyptian political establishment, the Brotherhood is threatening to cut off bourgeois “left” parties’ sources of funding and proceeding with a crackdown against them.

The FJP is pushing strict laws against foreign-funded Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) operating in Egypt. Washington works closely with NGOs, forging ties with petty-bourgeois groups and trade unions, to suppress working class struggles and advance US imperialist interests.

The regime has also issued court summons for five activist bloggers and against 169 additional persons, including party leaders, alleged “thugs” and political figures. These include Egyptian Social Democratic Party leader Mohamed Abul-Ghar, Free Egyptians Party member Mahmoud El-Alaily, and former Revolution Youth Coalition member Khaled Telima. Those summoned for questioning are accused of inciting demonstrations against the Brotherhood on March 22.

“If investigations prove that certain political figures are implicated, the necessary measures will be taken against them, whatever their status,” Mursi said on his Twitter account on Sunday, also carried on state television.

He added, “I am a president after a revolution, meaning that we can sacrifice a few so the country can move forward. It is absolutely no problem.”

At the same time, sections of the military are apparently considering whether to oust Mursi and install the bourgeois and pseudo-left parties in power, calculating that these forces are better able to control the situation than the Brotherhood.

General Mohamed Ali Bilal criticized “the clear inefficiency of the current administration,” attacking the Brotherhood for using “methods similar to those that were adopted by the old regime” of Hosni Mubarak, whom the working class toppled in mass protests in February 2011.
(full text).

Links:

In This Room: How one homeless US family, trapped by diminished economic opportunities, is navigating through the daily challenges, watch the video on Al Jazeera, 25.00 min, March 13, 2013;

Egypt court reinstates fired prosecutor: Ruling to overturn Morsi’s firing puts his presidency on a collision course with the judiciary again, on AlJazeera, March 27, 2013.

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