Around two million demonstrate in Cairo demanding that Mubarak go - general strike declared


After a week of popular revolt two million people are demonstrating in Cairo today demanding that president Mubarak and his son leave the country and that the regime be changed. An indefinite general strike has also been called by organisers of the movement.

The revolt which started last Tuesday with small groups in their hundreds marching and meeting up has now engulfed all of Egyptian society, resulting in the collapse of the police force and the deployment of the army. Ordinary Egyptians formed Neighboorhood Defence Committees to patrol their streets and a new Federation of Unions has been declared.  In the streets today the mass of people are debating what the next steps are as opposition groups struggle to be seen as the leadership of this essentially leaderless movement.

Train services have been shut down in an attempt to stop people joining the demonstrations in Cairo but according to Egyptian sources on Facebook this has helped build demonstrations all over the country.  It is said that there are "300 thousand in Suez. 250 thousand in Mahalla. 250 thousand in Mansoura. 500 thousand in Alexandria. Protesters in every single city/town in Egypt now (approx 4 Million all over Egypt)."

A coalition of opposition groups are attempting to steer the movement but it is far from clear that the mass of the people accept their direction either. A protest organiser in Tahir square interviewed like on Al Jazeera made it clear that ElBaradel is not accepted as a leader of the revolt, that "he is not even a good politician" and have accused the 'official opposition' of trying to hijack the movement.  

The Guardian's Correspondent Jack Shenker reported from the demonstration that "There is no one leader; it has been a leaderless movement from the start and it still a leaderless movement here in the square. A huge amount of energy but not much of an outlet at the moment as to where it should be taken next."  Al Jazerra is reporting that debates are taking place in the square as to what is the next step, to stay in the square or to march the 10k to the Presidential palace.

Heba Morayef, of Human Rights Watch reported that even senior judges have joined the demonstration carrying a banner which reads "The Judges and the People are one Hand together." The Egyptian ruling class is now fragmented, the role of the army on the streets has not only been unclear but there have been scenes of individual soldiers and even an officer abandoning their posts in a show of solidarity with the people.

A new Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions has been announced reflecting the role that thousands of strikes, sit ins and protests by Egyptian workers played in creating the on the ground organisation that provided part of the bed rock that this revolt is built on. Today's mobilization has been aided by the strikes called in support of it which are even affecting the ports of the Suez canal used by perhaps half of the ships that use it.  Even rumors that the canal had closed on Friday were enough to push the shares of the largest global oil taker company up 8.5% as dealers speculated on the significant rise in coast of oil transport that would come about if the tankers had to go around Africa.  Today the price of a barrel of oil broke 101 dollars.  This economic pressure is probably behind the more critical rhetoric that is emerging from those who rule the USA and the UK as it becomes clear that their man cannot stay in power through making a few minor reforms.

The strike spread from workers at a factory in the canal city of Suez who struck on Sunday night. Watching the protests the Guardian's Middle East expert Brian Whitaker declared that "perhaps we're focusing too much on Tahrir Square. There are things happening in other cities too, plus industrial action. In the end, it may be the shutdown of economic activity as a result of the protests that forces Mubarak out."

Yet the question remains - will this massive movement for democratic reform expand to become a movement that struggles around the need for economic democracy and equality that the mass of Egyptian workers and poor need. And if it does what will be the role of the army in that situation, an army whose soldiers are drawn from the proletarian classes but whose command represents the interests of the Eqyptian elite.

For those watching events unfold all over the world the revolt in Egypt is a demonstration of the power people have when they organise and stand up to those who claim to rule us.  Mubaraks' police state with its enormous secret police force and its US supplied crowd control weapons has been driven off the streets by the sheer size of the movement.  This is an example that can and is being copied elsewhere, setting fear into the hearts of the ruling minorities that control every country.

Words: Andrew Flood

More from the WSM on the Revolt in Egypt

Al Jazerra video showing early scenes from the protest in Tahir square

Interview with women in Tahir square on eve of two million strong protest

Video from Friday's battles with the riot police in Cairo