It was a good day for the first anniversary of the beginning of the Egyptian insurrection. Most of the past week has been grey, cloudy, an early khamsin filling the air with desert dust. Last night early arrivers to Tahrir Square were welcomed with a shower. But today was almost balmy as we set out from Dokki, across two bridges, and then to Tahrir Square. In the long and narrow streets, rimmed by tall buildings, shouted slogans echoed up and down: “Down with military rule!”
As we walked out from Dokki Square to the main street, the roar of the calls got louder and louder. A massive march was just ahead of us – easily 10,000 people. The participants were not really celebrating. They were protesting. As we got into the crowded mass of the march, more and more of the marchers were repeating the refrain. They know that the first stage of the struggle is very far from consummation. 10,000 political prisoners languish in prisons after having been tried before military tribunals. Over 1,200 are dead, and they have not received justice. “The SCAF and the baltagiyya,” or the paid thugs of the military government, “are the same thing,” said one protester as I walked by.
The press of people on Kasr El Aini, the bridge leading directly into the square, was tremendous: it took us an hour to cross it at a tortoise’s shuffle.
As we got closer to the square, those spoiling for more action hit into the festive effervescence of the Muslim Brothers. In the recent round of voting, they dominated, winning close to half of the seats. They have plenty of reason to celebrate and have called out their support base to do so. They are “a free-market party led by wealthy businessmen whose economic agenda embraces privatization and foreign investment.” And they are apprehensive about instability and are eager to get back to the work of businessmen: making money. Thus they are labeled “pragmatists” by the Obama government, which is set to increase the pace of aid deliveries to Egypt in an effort to bolster them.
Understandably, those who look to further horizons were not happy with the celebratory mood. One chant I heard walking by was, “This is not a party, this is a revolution!” In front of the balustrades lining the road leading into Tahrir were numerous demonstrators holding placards of those who had been martyred in the Egyptian fight for freedom. A massive truck-borne obelisk listing every single martyrs’ name cut a swath through the human traffic blocking the square.
The Union of Revolutionary Youth have declared a sit-in in Tahrir. In Alexandria revolutionaries have given the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces until Friday to resign, and thus finish the bourgeois revolution, one that has been in stasis since the radical forces that could have brought it to fruition were destroyed in the years both immediately before and after 1952, leaving the state in the hands of the Free Officers who instituted the military junta that to this day rules Egypt. It’s a good sentiment, but the officers aren’t ensconced in Alexandria. They’re ensconced in Cairo. How to get them out of there is the question now facing those of the people of Egypt who wish to send the military back into the barracks, get it firmly under civilian control, and set to work to securing the goals of January 25, still hauntingly far a year later: bread, freedom, and social justice.
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