The real trigger of popular protest movements and their escalation is widespread injustice and the failure of mechanisms in place to alleviate injustice. This causes people to resort to a legitimate form of expression about their grievances about injustice and its perpetrators, as well as the slow pace of exercising justice, which is the goal of proper democratic rule.
This fatal mistake was made by the deposed tyrant and his oppressive cohorts when they refused to accept that expanding popular protest movements and rising tension in the last months of his rule was a harbinger of the end of his reign.
At the time, several intellectuals and analysts made the same mistake by insisting on describing it as merely social movements without any political significance. How wrong they were.
After the tyrant was deposed, the authoritarian military regime and its cronies invented the expression "category interest” to describe popular protest movements in a failed attempt to diminish their importance, and solicit acceptance by the masses to suppress them.
The junta’s subsequent subservient governments followed suit; Essam Sharaf’s cabinet issued a disgraceful law that suppresses the inherent right to go on strike when necessary, and civilian and military security agencies rallied to face-off with popular protest movements with despicable force, especially — in cahoots with company officials in the public and private sectors — harassing the leaders of labour strikes and sit-ins to stifle the rights of workers. This transformed popular protests that began peacefully into violent incidents deliberately instigated by security forces to sabotage the image of peaceful protests.
Not much has changed under the rule of political Islam; the Muslim Brotherhood-led parliament issued a law restricting the right to go on strike and sit-ins that was more damaging of this inherent right than Sharaf’s law.
On 17 September, Al-Ahram newspaper ran the headline “Continued strikes threaten the collapse of the economy” as stated by the minister of industry and foreign trade in the Brotherhood government. The man is one of the business ministers, a group that helped sink the ship of the deposed tyrant in the seas of corruption resulting from the marriage of power and money.
This minister had issued a ministerial decree earlier banning strikes, protests or demonstrates during official work hours. His decree is illegal because it violates inherent rights that are guaranteed by international treaties and covenants that the Brotherhood regime relentlessly claims to uphold.
The minister, and everyone in the Brotherhood regime, must recognise that Egypt’s honourable judiciary has passed remarkable laws safeguarding the right to peaceful gathering, including strikes and sit-ins in the workplace which — by definition — must occur during official work hours. How else would it be defined as a labour strike?
We must not forget also that the right to gather peacefully is one of the key gains of the great people’s revolution that broke the barriers of fear and oppression. Thus, issuing such a decree by a minister in a cabinet that claims to be representative of the great people’s revolution is misled and absurd. The minister of finance in the Muslim Brotherhood government — an aide to Youssef Boutros Ghali in the deposed tyrant’s government — had issued an earlier statement blaming strikes for all economic woes.
If the minister believes strikes are threatening the economy, we counter that widespread injustice is the real reason for popular protest movements and is a harbinger of the downfall of the state. The Muslim Brotherhood state is not immune against the inevitable fate of unjust despots if injustice continues to infect all corners of the country and break the backs of the citizenry.
It is truly astounding that all those who came to power since the deposed tyrant until today have not learnt that attempting to suppress popular protest movements with administrative decrees, legislation, security and administrative oppression has not and will not succeed as long as injustice is rampant. It usually ends with a rise in popular protest that accumulates and facilitates qualitative transformation, planting the seedlings of the great people’s revolution as at the end of the reign of the deposed tyrant.
Strangely enough, no one in the MB regime is taking any real steps to establish justice or combat extravagant spending and plundering – which were key reasons for the financial crisis plaguing us since the days of the deposed tyrant.
Justice, we should remember, is one of the main goals of the great people’s revolution that the Muslim Brotherhood claims to represent. Establishing justice and preventing injustice are also pillars of the great religion of Islam.
In the purest fountain of Arab Islamic culture, the Quran, justice is the supreme law on many issues, while injustice is strongly vilified. The Almighty vows that the unjust will suffer the worst agony for eternity and warns against “relying on them” in several instances.
In an article published recently in Al-Shurouq newspaper, Omayma Kamal discussed a report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) issued in Cairo that reveals that the real wages of an Egyptian worker have dropped by 10 per cent in the period 2003-2010. During the same period, a worker’s productivity grew three times more. This means that workers were made poorer while business owners became wealthier at their expense.
In truth, even if the faces have changed, those in power are acting as if the revolution did not take place in this land. Accordingly, since injustice is still prevalent and has flourished — at least in shocking price hikes, though wages and pensions stabilised relatively — it is no surprise that popular protest movements have spread and escalated. And they will continue to rise if the Muslim Brotherhood regime does not fulfill its election promises that evaporated into thin air as soon as it came to power.
If we look at the key sector of education because of its critical role in any renaissance project in this era of knowledge in the advanced world, while Egypt is swamped in darkness, we find that teachers are on strike despite the fact that Brotherhood members are at the helm of the ministry of education and labour unions that are supposed to protect the rights of teachers.
In universities, discontent and protests have spread from the faculty to administrators who have shuttered the gates to Cairo University and other campuses. This is a critical sector that has been entirely frozen because of rampant injustice.
Labour strikes in the transportation and production sectors continue and will not end as long as they continue to be ignored or illegally criminalised.
The subsequent waves of the great people’s revolution will continue as long as injustice remains rampant. Ignoring the legitimate rights of the weak and impoverished in Egypt will continue to be a threat to authoritarian rule.
The people of Egypt, and all others in the Arab world, are on track for revolutionary liberation that will not stop until the goals of the Arab liberation tide are achieved with regards to freedom, justice and human dignity by overthrowing authoritarian rule.