Giving the regime what it wants

July 8, 2015

On June 29, a powerful bomb killed Egypt's top prosecutor Hisham Barakat as he drove to work. He was the highest-ranking Egyptian official killed in the violence and repression that has gripped Egypt since the military coup that overthrew former President Mohamed Morsi.

Two years ago, on June 30, 2013, millions of people took to the streets to voice their anger at Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood regime, then only one year old. Days later, the military seized the moment to overthrow Morsi--and it went on to wage war against any current that dared to criticize the generals. In the years since, Islamists, journalists, socialists, human rights lawyers and leaders of the workers' movement have all faced relentless police repression, imprisonment, torture and other violations of their rights.

The following statement issued by Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt explains the counterrevolutionary role played by Barakat--but also how his assassination will make the tasks facing already embattled revolutionary forces even more difficult to accomplish.

USUALLY THE assassination of public figures unleashes a whirlwind of confusion as propaganda and counter-propaganda circulate, conspiracy theories flourish, and violence is met with counter-violence. Naturally, the assassination of the prosecutor general the day before the June 30 anniversary has created an unprecedented state of panic and hysteria.

The assassinated prosecutor general is the symbol of the judiciary of the military regime and the coup. This lawyer for the coup played a direct role in all the disasters since July 2013--from the massacre of the Republican Guard Headquarters to the slaughter of protesters at Raba'a and al-Nahda Squares and many others, including the killing of the Ultras [pro-revolution soccer fans] in Zamalek and Shaima'a al-Sabbagh's murder. He is responsible for hundreds of death sentences, tens of thousands of detainees and the acquittal of the criminals of the Interior Ministry and other security institutions. In all these events, one man was the key link in the chain between the military regime and the judiciary: Hisham Barakat, who was assassinated on June 29.

Hisham Barakat
Hisham Barakat

From the point of view of the supporters of the military coup and the counterrevolution, he symbolizes patriotism and protecting the state from collapse: an iron fighter against terrorism and against all those who conspire against Egypt and her state, her security and stability. Indeed, he was the "people's lawyer," as the headlines in the coup's private and state-owned newspapers loudly proclaimed.

The reaction to the assassination indicated the nature of the political moment in Egypt today, at the beginning of the coup's third year. Sisi himself gave a speech at the funeral of the "people's lawyer," saying that the blood of this "martyr" would be avenged by the police, the army, the judiciary and the media. "The hands of justice have been shackled by laws," he added, "but we will revise those laws to deliver justice as swiftly as possible," confirming that the death sentences will be carried out. In other words, all that is coming is a new wave of murder and repression.

Naturally, this triggered a wave of hysterical propaganda with different media outlets baying for blood and demanding executions. [Newspaper editor and former member of parliament] Mustafa Bakri called for the declaration of a state of emergency and the expansion of the military courts.

As for the Muslim Brotherhood, they keep repeating the same conspiracy theories that the regime itself assassinated the prosecutor general in order to justify more repression. Behind this analysis lies the assumption that the coup is reeling and about to collapse, and its leaders have thus lost their senses.

OF COURSE, the leaders of the coup and their media are using the assassination to launch a new wave of repression, murder and lethal violence, not only against the Muslim Brotherhood, but against any opposition to the regime. This is clear from the media and political attacks on activists and human-rights defenders, as this is the description used to label opponents of the regime who are not Islamists. Any talk of rights today--whether economic, social or of course political rights--will be considered support for terrorism and an attack on the state and the people.

Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat was one of the most important men of the counterrevolution and played a dirty role in enabling Sisi to transform prosecutors and judges into cheap tools in the hands of the army generals and police, erasing even the appearance of judicial independence. The judges were, of course, never independent of the interests of the state and the ruling class, but the regime continued to need judges capable of appearing independent and neutral in the eyes of the masses. But in the context of counterrevolution, all the masks have fallen and the likes of Hisham Barakat and Minister of Justice Ahmed al-Zend administer justice as if it were a branch of the military or the police.

Men like these deserve to be tried in revolutionary tribunals for their crimes against the Egyptian people and their revolution. But terrorism and assassinations will not save us from the nightmare of counterrevolution. Rather, these methods deepen its madness and violence and increase the support of wide sections of the middle class for all kinds of barbaric and repressive measures that will be directed not only against the Brotherhood, but against all protesters and strikers, and certainly against all prisoners and detainees.

We saw in the first few hours after the assassination how Sisi and his media rushed to mobilize a new escalation of unprecedented repression. Hisham Barakat will be replaced immediately by someone else who is even more brutal, ugly and corrupt.

BUT DO we not deserve justice for our martyrs and for the thousands of victims of Hisham Barakat? His assassination will not bring justice. Instead, it helps our enemies to increase their torture, oppression and murder.

Individual assassinations and terrorism in general, even if they target those who have violated the people's rights and the revolution, only have the effect of increasing the violence of the counterrevolution at the same time as they increase the frustration among the masses who are longing for a return to the revolutionary path. For those who assassinate a leader of the counterrevolution, it is as if they are saying to the masses, "We have no need of your demonstrations, your sit-ins and your strikes. Stay in your homes, and we will finish off this tyrant or corrupt official on our own." Rather than taking a step forward, we take a step back, and the road to revolution becomes more difficult.

The revolution of January 25, 2011, confirmed that the only road to revolutionary change is when the masses move themselves--in the streets and squares and workplaces. Our weapons are strikes, sit-ins and protests as we organize our ranks in preparation for the coming revolution. Assassinations and bombs only serve the enemies of revolution.

The day will come when all those who played a role in the counterrevolution will be judged. All those who killed and tortured and imprisoned and raped. All those who justified, funded and legislated for the military dictatorship. But those tribunals will take place under the supervision of the masses occupying the squares and the factories. There are no shortcuts to retribution. We must fight patiently and consistently to win back our streets and our squares and our revolution, and only when we have achieved this will we see justice.

First published at the Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt web site.

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