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Volume 41 Number 2, February 5, 2011 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Uprisings in Egypt and Elsewhere:

Let the People Decide – No Interference
in North Africa and the Middle East!

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

Uprisings in Egypt and Elsewhere:
Let the People Decide – No Interference in North Africa and the Middle East!

The President's Promises and the Bloody Events of Wednesday, February 2

Discussion:
Defence of the Health Service

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Uprisings in Egypt and Elsewhere:

Let the People Decide – No Interference
in North Africa and the Middle East!

Egypt
The unprecendented mass demonstrations in Egypt

The last few weeks have seen unprecedented demonstrations and other protests by the masses of the people in Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt and other countries in North Africa and the Middle East. In Tunisia, the people’s actions toppled the regime of Ben Ali, who was forced to flee the country, but popular protests have continued demanding that a new government is established which will act in the interests of the masses of the people. In Jordan and Yemen, political reforms have also been initiated, following mass protests, although there are signs that these have not yet satisfied the demands of the protest movements in these countries.

Egypt

In Egypt, protests and demonstrations, which have reportedly already led to hundreds of deaths, are continuing in Cairo, Alexandria and elsewhere, demanding an end to the dictatorial Mubarak regime as well as a change in the direction of the economy. It is reported that the headquarters of the ruling political party have been burnt to the ground in Cairo and Alexandria and in many places local people have taken over some of the functions of local government and policing. In response to the mass protests, Mubarak was at first forced to dismiss the government and then to promise not to stand for re-election. However, in recent days violent attacks on the anti-government protesters have been organised, while the attitude of the army, a major force in the political life of the country, remains unclear.

Egypt Egypt Egypt
Demanding an end to the dictatorial Mubarak regime as well as a change in the direction of the economy

The momentous events in North Africa and the Middle East and especially in Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan and Egypt are protests enjoying popular support directed against reactionary and dictatorial governments but it is not mere coincidence that these are also regimes that have been backed to the hilt for many years by the big powers and principally by US imperialism. Indeed the Ben Ali, Saleh and Mubarak regimes have been maintained in power in this way for over thirty years. The Egyptian regime in particular, which is essentially a military dictatorship that has sought credibility through corrupt elections, is the main ally of US imperialism and Israeli Zionism in the region and is annually supplied with $1.3 billion of military aid, most of which is used for the suppression of the Egyptian people. The countries in which these protests and uprisings are taking place are little more than proxy states compelled to carry out the political aims of the imperialist system of states. The regimes have implemented neo-liberal economic policies under the diktat of the IMF and World Bank which have impoverished the masses of the people and led to mass unemployment and constantly rising prices.


Protesters stop for prayers

However, it must also be borne in mind that US imperialism, as well as the other big powers, provide financial and other support for those who are presented by the monopoly controlled media as leading opposition politicians throughout this region. It was in Cairo in 2005 that the then US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, called for political reforms and “free minds and free markets” throughout the region. There is also some evidence to suggest that the US has provided support and training to some of those directly involved with organising the protests in Egypt.

Egypt

It is in this context that the statements and responses of the governments of the US, Britain and the other big powers in recent times must be seen. In the case of Tunisia, which was formerly a colony of France, the French government at first offered support to the Ben Ali regime, even in the midst of the popular uprising. Since the regime was toppled, France as well as the US have been at pains to maintain the status quo by calling for “reforms” and “free and fair elections” by means of which they can manage the unfolding events, and establish a new regime which is favourable to their interests.

Egypt

In Egypt, the big powers and even some of the organisers appear to have been surprised by the scale and scope of the protests, which have now continued for almost two weeks. What has been noticeable, however, are the efforts the big powers, and especially US imperialism, have made to interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs, to manage the protests, to demand an “orderly transition”, so that matters can be settled in ways that are favourable to their interests. In this regard, they have called for reforms by the Mubarak regime and most hypocritically called for an end to violence, both on the part of the protest movement and the reactionary regime that they have armed to the teeth and trained to murder and torture the Egyptian people. Meanwhile, some commentators have suggested that the US-led big powers are attempting to make use of the popular uprising as a strategy to bring about a regime change which goes against the people’s interests after the old one has outlived its usefulness. In this regard, tactics of trying to divide the people or promote some high-profile leader have so far proved unsuccessful.

Egypt

For its part the British government, which hitherto claimed that “the British and Egyptian governments have a strong relationship and share mutual objectives”, first issued a joint statement with France and Germany that even praised Mubarak for what was referred to as the “moderating role” he has played over many years in the Middle East. The statement also called for moderation on all sides and has demanded that the regime institute reforms based on “universal values”, by which is meant the neo-liberal values of the big powers. In short, that the people of Egypt should not empower themselves and “reforms” should be introduced by the reactionary regime to allow more elements of western-style representative democracy so that the status quo can be maintained. On Thursday, the governments of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain issued a new joint statement condemning the use of violence and demanding “ a quick and orderly transition to a broad-based Government”. Tony Blair also surpassed himself in his scanadalous praise for Mubarak for maintaining order in the region.

Protesters wave the Egyptian flag
Protesters wave the Egyptian flag in downtown Cairo

The long-suffering Egyptian and other people in the North Africa and the Middle East have many grievances, which have their origin in the economic and political system maintained by local regimes in the interests of Britain, the US and the big powers, as well as Zionist Israel. In the struggle to free themselves from the clutches of imperialism and its local agents, they will be their own liberators. In these circumstances, the workers and all democratic people in Britain must demand that Britain and its allies cease all interference in the region and allow the peoples of North Africa and the Middle East to decide their own future.

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The President's Promises and the Bloody
Events of Wednesday, February 2

A Statement from the protesters at Cairo's Tahrir Square to the Egyptian people:

{short description of image} US tanks

We the protesters who have currently been in a sit-in at Tahrir (Liberation) Square in Cairo since January 25, 2011, strongly condemn the brutal attack carried out by the governing National Democratic Party's (NDP) mercenaries at our location on Wednesday, February 2, under the guise of a "rally" in support of President Mubarak. This attack has continued on Thursday, February 3. We regret that some young people have joined these thugs and criminals, whom the NDP is accustomed to hiring during elections, to march them off after spreading several falsehoods circulated by the regime’s media about us and our goals. These goals that aim at changing the political system into one that guarantees freedom, dignity and social justice to all citizens are also the goals of the youth. Therefore we want to clarify the following.

Firstly, we are a group of young Muslim and Christian Egyptians; the overwhelming majority of us does not belong to political parties and have no previous political activism. Our movement involves the elderly and children, peasants, workers, professionals, students and pensioners. Our movement cannot be classified as "paid for" or "directed by" a limited few because it has attracted millions who responded to its call of removing the regime. People joined us last Tuesday in Cairo and other governorates in a scene that witnessed not one case of violence, assault on property or harassment of anyone.

Secondly, our movement is accused of being funded from abroad, supported by the United States, as being instigated by Hamas, as under the leadership of the president of the National Assembly for change (Mohamed El-Baradei) and, last but not least, as directed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Many accusations like these prove to be false. The protesters are all Egyptians who have clear and specific national objectives. The protesters have no weapons or foreign equipment as claimed by instigators. The broad positive response of the people to our movement's goals reveals that these are the goals of the Egyptian masses in general, not any internal or external faction or entity.

Thirdly, the regime and its paid media falsely blame us, young demonstrators, for the tension and instability in the streets of Egypt in recent days and therefore damaging our nation's interests and security. Our answer to them is: It is not the peaceful protesters who released the criminal offenders from prison onto the unguarded streets to practise looting and plundering. It is not the peaceful protesters who have imposed a curfew starting at 3.00 pm. It is not the peaceful protesters who have stopped the work in banks, bakeries and gas stations. When the protesters organised the one-million demonstration it came up in the most magnificent and organised form and ended peacefully. It is not the protesters who killed 300 people, some with live ammunition, and wounding more than 2,000 people in the last few days.

Fourthly, President Mubarak came out on Tuesday to announce that he will not stand in the upcoming presidential election and that he will modify two articles in the Constitution, and engage in dialogue with the opposition. However, the State media has attacked us when we refused his "concession" and decided to go on with our movement. Our demand that Mubarak steps down immediately is not a personal matter, but we have clear reasons for it which include:

  1. His promise not to run again is not new. He promised when he came to power in 1981 that he will not run for more than two legislatures but he continued for more than 30 years.

  2. His speech did not put any collateral for not nominating his son "Gamal", who remains until now a member of the ruling party, and can stand for election that will not be under judicial supervision since he ignored any reference to the amendment of Article 88 of the Constitution.

  3. He also considered our movement a "plot directed by a force" that works against the interests of the nation as if responding to the demands of the public is a "shame" or "humiliation".

  4. As regards to his promise of conducting a dialogue with the opposition, we know how many times over the past years the regime claimed this and ended up with enforcing the narrow interests of the Mubarak State and the few people who control it.

And the events of Wednesday proved our stand is vindicated. While the President was giving his promises, the leaders of his regime were organising (along with paid thugs and wanted criminals equipped with swords, knives and Molotov cocktails) a brutal plot to attack us in Tahrir Square. Those thugs and criminals were accompanied by NDP members who fired machine guns on unarmed protesters who were trapped on the square, killing at least seven and wounding hundreds of us critically. This was done in order to end our peaceful national popular movement and preserve the status quo.

Our movement is Egyptian – Our movement is legitimate – Our movement is continuing.

The Youth of the Tahrir Square sit-in

February 3, 2011 at 11:30am

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Discussion:

Defence of the Health Service


Workers’ Weekly interview with Roger Nettleship, Workers’ Weekly Health Group


WW: What is your view about the complaint of some who represent health care professionals that the Health and Social Care Bill concentrates powers for the running of the NHS in the hands of the Secretary of State?

RN: What they are complaining about is that the Bill does not liberate the NHS enough from the previous Health Act which made the government and health secretary responsible for the comprehensive health care system. That part of the Bill waters down the responsibility in terms of just overseeing these commissioners, Monitor and so on. That is, it is further delegating that responsibility to the market but does not go as far as distancing the responsibly of the minister as in other privatised industries.


WW: It seems that when the government declares that it is “liberating the NHS”, it is not liberation at all!

RN: I think that the Bill is not concentrating wider powers in the hands of the health secretary. It is devolving the minister’s responsibility from 1947 to provide a comprehensive health service to commissioners and watering them down, unlike the energy industry, for example, where the monopolies hold complete sway. The analysis represented by what has been said in the Health Service Journal, for example, implies that it should go further, and this is the pressure from the monopolies, Trusts, etc. Liberating the NHS for the monopolies is the aim.


WW: But is the Bill not concentrating powers in the government?

RN: In my view, it is actually lessening the power of government over the health service by setting up the largely private consortia and boards to purchase health care and reducing the government role to interfering with the consortia in purchasing to provide a "comprehensive health service". This is a long way form the responsibility to directly make investments to provide a comprehensive health service. I think that to say it is concentrating power is misleading. It is doing what they say – “liberating” the NHS for the monopolies to engage further with than they have already. But some people think it does not go far enough and will try to lobby to take this further.


WW: The Bill appears to ensure that government has the powers to ensure that the NHS goes in the direction of serving the monopolies. There seem to be commentators, such as the Kings Fund, saying that the Bill is paradoxical, and this seems to be the meaning of the paradox. The state is in the service of the monopolies. It is the opposite of the government taking responsibility to invest in social programmes, but it is not prepared to stand back and see what happens. In the debate of "evolutionary versus revolutionary" it is “revolutionary” – that is, in the same direction as New Labour, but actually a qualitative change.

RN: They already had these powers which as you say are paradoxical. Because the context of the previous acts was the responsibility of the health secretary to provide a comprehensive health service free at the point of use – which formulation will still exist after the Bill, I believe. The Labour government used those powers before, of course, to take NHS in the direction of serving the monopolies. Successive Labour health secretaries, working closely with the private sector, had already constructed almost the entire edifice of a healthcare market. The Tory plan merely speeds up the final stage and makes it more clearly visible; but again those powers which are given by the Act are paradoxical. It is under the heading of the Secretary of State and the comprehensive health service and raises the issues under this heading of the duty of improving quality, reducing inequalities and promoting health autonomy on which it elaborates. Under this cover, the Bill abolishes the Strategic Health Authorities and PCT commissioners and gives the power directly to privately run commissioners (purchasers) whilst it further turns what is left of NHS bodies such as Trusts into independent companies. The formal powers of the secretary for state are to directly intervene in that with the responsibilities above.


WW: It could be said that the Coalition is merely taking to its logical conclusion what was begun under New Labour. However, it is also that case that they have thrown a grenade into the NHS. What the effect of this grenade is, is what we have to develop discussion on, and how the thrower benefits from the carnage. Why are they courting all this opposition, why are they doing something different from what even the Programme for Government set out? They are deliberately going too far, too fast, so why and what is the effect. It appears that it is part of the old being dead, the old social contract, the old welfare state. But who will rescue the situation? Is the opposition to what they are doing really going to be of no effect? Is their paradox really a paradox, or is there a clear strategy? If there will be such carnage in the NHS, won't the overall control of the government be strengthened? The important thing to remember is that they will have their Fixed Term Parliament Bill, so the opposition will not come in any shape or form from within the loyal opposition. So it rests on how effective the workers' movement will be, and in particular the Workers' Opposition. Our task is to unite everyone to stop the carnage.

RN: It is very important to unite everyone to stop the carnage and wrecking of the health service by giving the opposition its perspective in this fight. We must also probe further into things and at the same time develop the discussion. It is about being all-sided as well. For example, the grenade scenario was predicted in many ways when New Labour put the commissioning in place when they started "world class commissioning", employing 500 commissioners in each area and discounted the millions it cost we said, and every serious health worker knew then it was a set up for the next step to put commissioning in place and that private monopolies would not tolerate such stringent commissioning and would want a new government to transform it into a blunt instrument which is what is happening. Abolishing this and the SHAs is where they hope to cut millions as well. Also, Lansley was talking about abolishing SHAs and his GP commissioning plans in the HSJ long before the election even though they did not mention it in the election so it was not unexpected.


WW: It is important to be all-sided as you say. Clearly, Labour does not have a position which is opposed to the Coalition's. In fact, all their position amounts to is to "reconnect with the voters" and say everything is too much too quickly. If they have nuances, they have yet to appear. It is necessary to be objective about what changes are being brought about and their significance, and unite everyone to participate in opposing them, meanwhile explaining the perspective of turning over the health service lock, stock and barrel to the service of paying the rich, and the necessity to fundamentally change this direction, upholding that health care is a right!

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