From day of challenge to day of victory
SocialistWorker.org reports on the fall of the Mubarak regime, with on-the-spot reports from Cairo, plus news and analysis, as the movement looks to a new future.
HOSNI MUBARAK is gone. Hours after a televised speech in which he defied the mass uprising against him and declared he would remain as Egypt's dictator, Mubarak stepped down. His newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman appeared on state television on Friday to announce that authority had been transferred to a council of military leaders.
The streets of Cairo and every city in Egypt, filled with protesters furious about Mubarak's speech last night, erupted in jubilation. News channels with their cameras trained on Tahrir Square gave up trying to make themselves heard over the joyous demonstration. Reporters described deafening chants of "Egypt is free!" and "You're an Egyptian, lift your head."
Many questions remain about the shape of the new regime under the military--and what role, if any, Suleiman, who infuriated Egyptians over the past several weeks with his defense of Mubarak's continued reign, will play.
The military has been at the center of the Mubarak dictatorship for 30 years and also bears responsibility for the regime's crimes. In fact, military police have been involved in arresting key activists. Now the struggle will have to continue to make sure that the military establishment--which is also deeply involved in the country's business affairs--doesn't consolidate power in the hands of the armed forces.
But it's already clear that the people of Egypt have changed the course of history in the Middle East--and the world beyond. They have overcome the violence of police and thugs, the regime's attempts to co-opt parts of the opposition, and the double-dealing of Western leaders who put "stability" ahead of Egyptians' demands for democracy.
The emergency laws that enabled Mubarak's police state to rule for 30 years are still on the books. But the millions of people who engaged in this revolutionary struggle--with the sacrifice of at least 300 lives, with thousands more injured and arrested--weren't intimidated. They will continue to press for genuine democracy. And workers--whose strikes pushed the regime to the breaking point--will continue to press for wages that can put food on the table, as well as the right to organize independent unions.
Egypt's revolution has taken a giant leap ahead, opening the way for a struggle that can reshape all of Egyptian society. And the monarchs, dictators and U.S. stooges who hold power across the Middle East are terrified that they--following Mubarak and the ousted Tunisian autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali--could be next.
AS FRIDAY began, it was clear that the demonstrations would be bigger than ever today--and so was the level of anger.
Already furious at Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's refusal to announce his resignation on Thursday night, the mass of people were now upset at Communique #2 of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which backed Vice President Omar Suleiman's line that constitutional changes would come--but only after the protests end.
The statement said that the armed forces "confirm the need to resume orderly work in the government installations and a return to normal life, preserve the interests and property of our great people."
If the regime thought this would quiet people's anger, they were wrong. By midday Friday, thousands had already surrounded the state television building and smaller numbers were outside the presidential palace. And Tahrir Square was packed as tightly as it had ever been in the course of the revolution
As SocialistWorker.org contributor Mostafa Omar reported from the long line to enter Tahrir Square at midday:
The army's statement says nothing concrete. They are trying to back up the vice president's promise that will lift the emergency laws--but they said they would do so only at the end of the current crisis.
This is leading to the first serious rift between the demonstrators and the army. People are entering into heated debate with officers, accusing them of taking the side of the regime, and not the revolution. Already, three officers have quit the army and joined the protests--one of them has given a lengthy interview to Al Jazeera.
And while thousands are camping outside the state TV building, about 2,000 workers in state TV and radio are on strike--the people who produce the regime's version of the news.
Already, there are an estimated 10,000 people camped outside the presidential palace in Heliopolis. People are coming to Tahrir with the expectation of marching there. But it's a long march--miles and miles.
What effect the mass discontent on the streets had on the maneuvers behind the scenes will probably become known in the days to come, but the morning and afternoon mobilizations were a clear rejection of the attempt to maintain Mubarak in power, while emphasizing that his powers had been transferred to Suleiman.
Furious, the crowds continued to swell as the evening hours approached, and demonstrators reportedly overcame the military's attempt to defend the state television building.
When Suleiman finally appeared on television to make his brief statement that Mubarak had stepped down, the streets erupted again, but this time with joyous celebrations.