Egyptian Socialist Party: Political perspectives for Egyptian socialism
May 27, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Below is the political perspectives document of the newly formed Egyptian Socialist Party -- one of a number of new pro-democracy parties formed in Egypt since the January 25, 2011, revolution that overthrew the dictator Hosni Mubarak. The party will be officially inaugurated on June 18, in Cairo.
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By the Egyptian Socialist Party
May 11, 2011 -- After the Egyptian Revolution broke out on January 25, 2011, and successfully achieved its first goal of ousting the president and continued in its demand of toppling the whole corrupt regime, it was clear there was an urgent need to bring together all those who had the conviction that our country really needed transformation into a socialist society. A transition that would help improve the social and economic conditions of the toiling masses, and reverse the trend of the old regime to subject the country to the dictates of the Imperialist led International Financial Institutions. This meant there was an urgent need to create the Egyptian Socialist Party to bring together all those who had taken part in the revolution on an individual basis so as to unite their efforts, and crystalise their political and social perspective into a coherent strategy that would guide the people in the right direction.
The ruling class that led the country for the last four decades has abandoned all the previous attempts at developing the agricultural and industrial possibilities, and instead, liquidated most of our past achievements through a program of mass privatisations to Egyptian and foreign “investors” whose only aim was to get rid of the workforce, gradually undermine the activity, and make huge profits out of speculation on the land property of the companies concerned.
After the industrial sector, privatisation moved on to the banks (one public bank was privatised and another promised), then serious steps were taken to privatise education and health services so as to relieve the government of all of its social responsibilities. Such policies were in complete compliance with the requirements of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, but were also in favour of the new tendencies of the ruling class that was intent on making money the easy way by speculation on the assets of the country.
For almost a decade before the [January 25] Revolution, the country suffered from the continued deterioration of all industrial and agricultural activities and the domination of all speculative activities, such as land speculation, creating tourist resorts instead of productive farming [that would have improved] the lot of 12 million slum dwellers. The number of unemployed stands at 6 millions (18% approx.), and the gap between rich and poor has reached unprecedented levels (the ratio of incomes among government employees is 500:1!!).
Such conditions led to continued protest movements between workers of both public and private sectors all through the decade, and creation of Kefaya and 6th April movements and others.
In the countryside the agricultural reform laws were abrogated and this resulted in land rent rising by 50 times (5000%!), and the rural cooperatives were marginalised and the peasants were victimised by the commercial banks and capitalist suppliers of all their needs, and the sole buyers of their products. Again such policies were in compliance with the instructions of the international [financial] nstitutions, but also for the benefit of the local capitalists whose sole interest became making money through speculation.
All citizens have suffered from the absence of democracy, ill treatment (amounting to torture) by the police and other government authorities. Their opinions were falsified by rigged elections, and fake political parties. They also suffered under government-sponsored religious riots to undermine the unity of the people.
All this led to a clear loss of status of Egypt that was before a beacon to the peoples of the region. Egypt became a docile executor of US and Zionist policies in the Middle East. The vital question was: Where are the Egyptian socialists in such a situation?
In answer, the undersigned declare to the toiling masses and all other patriotic sections of the Egyptian people our resolve to create the Egyptian Socialist Party that will fulfill its role, along with all other forces of the Egyptian Revolution, in promoting the aspirations of our people for liberty, dignity, social justice and progress. This party shall link its struggle for national freedom, democracy, an end of exploitation of man by man, with progress on all social and cultural and economic fronts.
This initiative comes at a time of great flourishing of the revolutionary capacities of our people, who developed their claims from simply toppling an autocratic regime to an all-out social movement for progress, democracy and social justice. The youth who played a prominent role in the January 25 revolution must find its due position within the ranks of the Socialist Party, and so must our women who have always been in the first ranks of our freedom fighters. Both categories shall occupy their due rank among the leadership of the Socialist Party.
Egyptian Socialists, all through their long struggles from the 1920s on, have been at the vanguard of Egyptian freedom fighters. Despite their continued status of illegality and defamation by the authorities, and campaigns of arrests and persecution by the police, Egyptian socialists have presented a progressive outlook in social, economic, political and cultural fields. They also made a point of standing apart from many so called leftist parties that were in collaboration with the old regime and gave it the semblance of democracy.
Socialism is not just a planned economy of state-owned companies, but is a system run by the workers and toiling masses for their own good, and developing with the latest achievements of science and technology.
Similarly, democracy is not just a system of free elections and multiple parties, but means the full participation of the citizens in running their social, political, economic and cultural life. Such a view extends from the local to the regional and global spheres, and should be a fully participatory continuous process.
Perspectives and goals of the Egyptian Socialist Party
1. The Egyptian Socialist Party adopts a view of human development that includes rebuilding of the industrial and agricultural structures, conservation of natural resources and redistribution of income in favour of the toiling masses. Such policies shall be implemented through full participatory democracy and popular control;
2. Education and scientific research is fundamental for development plans and must enjoy full academic freedom under authorities independent of administrative shackles. Social participation in planning and overseeing scientific research is a governing principle;
3. The party believes health care is not just an important human right, but is also essential for successful development efforts which should also enhance popular health care. Good health is also a guarantee of national security. The party thus supports a universal health insurance system to cover all citizens against all illnesses. The cost of this system for the needy shall be borne completely by government. The system shall be based on a comprehensive non-profit structure that may in case of need issue contracts, in full transparency, to private sector medical concerns. Popular control of this system is essential.
4. The party shall put an end to unequal development between the different governorates, and put emphasis on raising the levels of rural areas that were so far neglected, and that through democratic self-rule and democratic elections at all levels of local government;
5. The party encourages Egyptian capital as well as foreign investment as long as they participate in and comply with the national developmentp lans. Such participation must avoid any monopolistic measures and guarantee the rights of their workers, and accept democratic means of conflict resolution;
6. The party shall strive to maintain the ecology, and conserve and develop natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations;
7. The party considers democracy to be a goal and an instrument at the same time, and shall militate to draw up a new democratic constitution for a parliamentary republic based on full equality for all citizens regardless of ethnicity, colour, gender or religion. It shall promote democratic principles in all social institutions;
8. The party considers that democracy should be based on transparency, popular checks and participation in compliance with international human rights instruments ratified by Egypt;
9. The party considers safeguarding national unity against all kinds of religious or ethnic discrimination an essential duty. Thus the party rejects all propaganda in favour of sectarian religious regimes, as well as any foreign intervention on religious grounds. Such intervention aims at subverting national unity and shall be actively resisted by the party which fully respects religious freedoms for all citizens, and provides full protection for such freedoms;
10. The party militates for a comprehensive cultural revolution that promotes the values of science, equality, dialogue and implements the rights of all marginalised groups such as women, youth, the elderly and the disabled. It promotes cultural freedoms in thought, arts and the media, and encourages young artists, especially in the countryside;
11. The party does not claim itself as the only vanguard of the Egyptian people, but is intent on cooperating with all forces of true progress, whether political parties, trade unions and federations of the toiling masses of workers, peasants, government employees, professionals, the unemployed and the disabled, to build a free society of democracy and social justice and ultimately socialism. To this end it will form close alliances with all such movements;
12. The party believes in the true revolutionary capacities expressed by the Egyptian youth before, during and after the revolution, and shall strive to give a prominent role within its ranks. It shall provide the best opportunities for their political training to assume their due role in its leadership;
13. The party strongly militates against capitalist globalisation that tries to impose the neoliberal social, economic and political model that brought catastrophic results in Egypt and elsewhere. This model promotes the logic of profit over that of work, and speculation over production, selfish individualism over altruism and cooperation. It transforms government into an instrument for the accumulation of wealth for the corrupt minority, while shedding any responsibility for providing services to the people. This model also leads to loss of national sovereignty under the burden of foreign debts and the dictates of the IMF, the World Bank and World Trade Organization (WTO), which promote the interests of imperialist powers and transnational corporations against the peoples of the Third World;
14. The party stresses the Arab role of Egypt as both a choice and a necessity in view of the just rights of the Palestinian people in confronting Israeli colonialism that acts as the striking force for the imperialist powers in the region. The party shall promote the common struggle with other revolutionary Arab forces to regain the rights of the Palestinian and Iraqi peoples and other threatened minorities in the Arab world. Such a stand shall help regain Egypt’s leading role in the region;
15. The party shall strive to strengthen the ties of common interest and struggle with peoples of the Third World against all imperialist projects of domination of world capitalism as exemplified by the US, the European Union and Japan. The party shall strengthen solidarity with progressive forces all over the world, and follow the example of development and socialist experiences;
16. The party shall strive to build a fully democratic party structure in which the minority can exercise its full rights of expression and interaction. The party mechanisms must be resilient and reject any bureaucratic or dogmatic practices, so as to be able to interact with the mass movements.
The parasitic capitalism that ruled Egypt for the last four decades led the country to a position of full subordination to the dictates of the US and the international financial institutions, who own 86% of the foreign debts of Egypt and amount to 173 billion Egyptian pounds, while the internal debt amounts to 761 billion Egyptian pounds.
The share of the productive sectors of the economy (agriculture and industry) of the GDP fell in comparison with the services (commerce, transportation, communications, banking and finance, the Suez Canal revenues and the remittances of Egyptians abroad). Despite all the preferential policies, and the privatisation of half the public sector companies, the share of the public sector in exports is still equal to that of the private sector. The latter failed to provide employment opportunities for the youth who were driven to mass unemployment or risking their lives in clandestine attempts at emigration.
The capitalist model of development thus entered a dead alley, and submerged the country under the burden of subordination and stagnation of production forces. The need for more just production relations that favour the toiling masses has become primordial. Socialism has thus become the only alternative that can end the crisis of development, and provide the best model for the effective utilisation of our resources in order to be able to make use of the advanced technologies relying on a base of well-educated working class, and of local scientific and research structure.
The essential problem of Egypt is development in favour of the toiling masses and with their active participation. For years we were told that our problem was the increase in population, and millions of pounds were squandered on population-control projects, while humans were our main wealth, if only we gave them the proper education and health care and other services. We have the example of such countries as China, India ... where the huge population is a boon to profit from and not to fight.
Thus what we need is comprehensive social and economic transformation towards socialist production relations with the active participation of workers and peasants in planning, management and control. This can only be achieved through full participatory democracy for the people and not profit. Such development will suppress the longstanding crises we have suffered for decades. It shall promote public and cooperative ownership of means of production, foster private ownership and foreign investment in so far as they implement the national development social and economic plan.
The Egyptian Socialist Party therefore militates for:
1. The economic perspective
The party strives to achieve the following goals:
- Transforming the economic structure from one based on services promoting speculation and rent, to one promoting agriculture and industry;
- Developing agriculture for the aim of providing the food needs of the people, enhancing productivity and land fertility and conserving irrigation water as a vital resource not to be squandered. Providing agricultural inputs at subsidised prices, and promoting cooperative marketing of crops;
- Reconstructing industry to provide all necessities of the people, and gradually develop heavy and communication industries. This should rely on a scientific base to promote egyptian research and development;
- Reassessing the past privatisation measures and renationalise the companies that suffered from corrupt practices, and punishing those responsible for such corruption. All major projects shall be subject to public ownership and popular checks, especially by their workers;
- Full control of foreign economic relations and exchange transactions, so as to prevent speculation on our currency. The economic plan shall prevent our economy becoming an appendage of transnational corporations, and shall promote national products;
- Take all measures to conserve our environment and natural resources including Nile water, oil and gas, mineral resources and the fertility of our soil.
2. For the workers
- Employment is the right of all able citizens, and those unable to attain that right are entitled to unemployment benefits at the rate of 50% of the minimum wage;
- The workers and the unemployed have the right to form their independent trade unions free from state control. The unions have the right to freely write up their statutes, and form into federations on the local, regional and international levels free from state intervention;
- Suppress casual employment for all permanent jobs, and rectify the cases of all casual workers from date of employment;
- Fix the minimum wage at 1500 Egyptian pounds a month, and the total income of the highest paid shall not exceed 15 times the minimum wage;
- Scale wages with the rate of inflation, and maintain subsidised necessities for the people, and strict control of markets with popular participation and suppressing monopolistic practices;
- Raise the minimum pension to 1500 Egyptian pounds;
- Raise pensions by an amount commensurate with the rate of inflation;
- The health insurance system to cover all pensioners and their dependents at no extra cost;
- Abrogate the present social insurance law, and replace it by a more just one;
- The assets of the social security authority of more than 435 million Egyptian pounds shall return to theauthority and be invested in secure savings channels;
- The right of pensioners to form affiliations to defend their interests.
3. For the peasants
- Put an end to any encroachment on arable land except for essential services for the benefit of the residents in the countryside;
- Fix a maximum on the ownership of agricultural land (old and reclaimed), and reinvigorate the agricultural reform law in this connection. Giving priority in assigning reclaimed land to those who have been ousted from their property under the law of 1992/96;
- Hand property deeds to all land reform peasants who completed payment of their instalments;
- Put an end to ousting peasants from their tenures (especially land reform), and prevent the Wakf Authority from selling its land handed to the Land Reform Authority under the Laws 152 of 1957 and 44 of 1962. These laws entrust the Wakf to manage such land, but not to sell it, and reinstating any peasants ousted from such land;
- Put an end to arbitrary estimates by the Wakf of the selling prices or rent for lands allotted for housing on the Wakf lands. The same prices should rule as for arable land;
- Provide all agricultural inputs at reasonable prices, and provide locally produced improved seeds to stop domination of our agriculture by the transnational corporations of the imperialist countries;
- Put a ceiling on the rents imposed on land tenure taking into consideration the cost of inputs, and ensuring a fair subsistence level for the peasant family. Land tenure contracts should last for a minimum of seven (7) years, and poor peasants (owning less than 3 feddan shall be exempted from land ownership tax;
- Return the village banks to their original status as cooperative banks that lend peasants at no more than 5% interest rate, and reinvigorating the rural cooperatives to perform their services as before. Put an end to lawsuits against poor peasants (less than 3 feddan) for failure to pay their debts, and release of those imprisoned for such failure;
- Annul all unlawful measures to register land tenure in the names of landowners and not the tenant peasants who are cultivating such land. Reinstate article 90 of the Law 53 of the year 1966 in this connection;
- Annul the unlawful measures taken to register peasant members of village cooperatives as agricultural labourers, and reinstate them to their original status;
- Annul all measures taken to restrict the rights of peasants to create free trade unions and peasant unions;
- Stop any attempt to privatise the supply of irrigation water and force poor peasants to pay the price of this service. Treat irrigation and potable water as a public utility under supervision of the beneficiaries.
4. Public utilities and services
- Raise public expenditure on education, public health, housing and public communications for the benefit of the working masses in towns and countryside;
- Promote the education and culture of human development, and full respect of human rights and freedoms. Also stress the values of patriotism and respect of national heroes and past fights for national freedom, also value of equal citizenship;
- Make public education really free at all stages, and develop curricula to enhance technical capabilities, and put emphasis on pure and applied science in order to catch up with the scientific and technological revolution. Make higher education available for every body in accordance with their capacity. Enhance the professional capacities of the teaching profession, and raise their financial status and remuneration;
- Develop higher education and allocate enough resources, and promote values of democracy in campuses. Free election of all directors of universities, deans of faculties and heads of sections, as well as free elections for student federations and unions;
- Promote freedom of scientific research and provide enough resources for researchers working on applied scientific advances for the benefit of our industrial structures and our social needs;
- The right of all citizens for access and participation in cultural life;
- Raise the budget for the public health service to 15% of GDP, and provide free health insurance to all citizens;
- Integrate all public hospitals and other health utilities into one non-profit service structure, and raise standard of services rendered;
- The government shall provide adequate housing for the popular classes against a just portion of the minimum wage to be agreed upon socially, through government and cooperative non profit projects;
- All housing shall be provided with all necessary potable and sewage water systems, gas and electricity networks, adequate roads and public transport and communication systems. Such systems shall be provided for the popular slum housing areas, with participation of the inhabitants;
- Annul immediately the so-called Cairo 2050 Project, and stop all evacuation of popular housing areas to be replaced by speculative projects.
5. Democracy and freedom
- Promulgate a new democratic constitution for a parliamentary republic based on free citizenship and non-discrimination. The constitution to be drawn up by a freely elected constitutional assembly;
- Freedom of religious belief and practice to be guaranteed for all citizens;
- Free elections at all levels of local government from base up to town chiefs and governors. The popular councils to oversee all public expenditure;
- Abrogate all freedom-restricting laws (emergency and martial laws, trade union and political party laws) as well as all exceptional courts;
- Guarantee freedom of protest action such as strikes sit-ins and peaceful demonstrations;
- Guarantee freedom of political action, and of association in parties, trade unions, federations and alliances for all categories of citizens;
- Guarantee freedom of opinion and public expression;
- Transform the police into a civil service subject to control of the judiciary and the people.
June 18 — The Egyptian Socialist Party was founded here today before a packed auditorium of more than 400 Egyptians and international guests. What made such an assembly possible was the enormous mass revolution of last Jan. 25 that removed the U.S.-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak and made the name “Tahrir Square” an inspiration for popular revolt worldwide.
Composed of Marxists and non-Marxists, the party is centered around a perspective that capitalism has plundered Egypt and impoverished its people, and that the only way to develop Egypt and raise the standard of living is through socialist economic measures.
Speakers affirmed the Arab character of Egypt, their support for a Palestinian state, the opening of the Rafah border with Gaza, and opposition to Zionism and imperialism.
The party described the impoverishment of two-thirds of Egypt’s people as the root cause of the mass Jan. 25 Revolution that deposed Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt for more than 30 years. The Egyptian Socialist Party sees itself as a continuation of that revolution because it seeks to address and rectify the poverty and to fight against repression and for democratic rights. Members referred to the fertile grounds for socialist ideology in Egypt at this moment.
The new party emphasized that it was part of a “socialist front” with like-minded left parties that would fight together on common issues and defend the Jan. 25 Revolution. The other four parties are the Popular Democratic Alliance — made up of a majority of the former “loyal-left” Tagammu party — the Democratic Labor Party, the Socialist Revolutionary Party and the Egyptian Communist Party.
WW photos: Joyce Chediac
The Egyptian Socialist Party sees itself as part of a long history of Egyptian socialists fighting for the rights of the poor and challenging colonialism and neocolonialism since the 1920s.
Among the economic measures that the party advocates right now are decreasing the disparity between urban and rural areas, since 87 percent — seven of every eight — of Egypt’s poorest people live in rural areas; and affirming the right of workers and the unemployed to freely form independent, democratic unions without interference from the state and winning unions with nothing more than notification of the workers’ intent.
Other immediate demands include guaranteeing the right to work for every citizen who is capable and desires to work; guaranteeing the right to sustainable unemployment benefits to each unemployed person; and raising the minimum wage and pensions to 1500 Egyptian pounds on the condition that the disparity between the minimum wage and the wage ceiling not exceed 1:15.
Among other economic demands are tying wages to prices to maintain support related to an increase in commodity prices; canceling temporary hires for permanent jobs; and gaining popular participation in the oversight of the markets and the distribution of bread. (For more details, see The Egyptian Socialist Party Political Perspective at www.tinyurl.com/egyptsocialism
Perspective on Egyptian women, keeping Egypt secular
The party recognized the leadership role that Egyptian women have played in the trade unions and the role they played in the Jan. 25 Revolution. Speakers pointed out that economic deterioration and rising prices in Egypt over the last decade have made women the country’s most vulnerable group, with little access to education.
Ahmed Bahaa raised a burning issue at the moment for the Egyptian left — keeping Egypt a secular country. He said the Egyptian Socialist Party opposes a constitutional amendment declaring Egypt an Islamic country. At the same time, Bahaa said, the party “perceives Christianity, Islam and Judaism as part of the Egyptian spirit, and we extend our hand to enlightened religious leaders who share the same ground as us.” His words were followed by a chant raised from the audience of “Moslems and Christians are joining hands!”
New election rules favor the rich
Bahaa explained that new rules for new parties to run in the upcoming September elections are meant to “ensure new parties are only for the rich,” and that they “restrict those who would build a new system in Egypt and challenge those with money.”
To be on the ballot, new parties must have 5,000 registered members, and then take out prohibitively expensive ads in the two major Egyptian daily newspapers listing all 5,000 names.
According to Mamdouh el Habashi, the new party’s immediate plans include consolidating its line and reaching out to people in other parts of Egypt as well as to those in Cairo. (Most of the participants at the meeting were from the Cairo area, but there were also some from the countryside and other industrial cities.) While the party will not officially be on the ballot, el Habashi said they plan to run candidates in the upcoming elections in order to make their program known.
From the Arab world, solidarity statements to the Egyptian Socialist Party were delivered from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Iraqi Communist Party. Solidarity speakers from Europe included Johanna Bussemer, a member of the European Parliament representing Die Linke (the Left Party) in Germany, and Len Leroy from the French Communist Party.
From the U.S., this reporter delivered a solidarity statement from Workers World Party and the International Action Center.
Other international guests included representatives from the Spanish Communist Party, the French Left Party, the Red-Green Alliance of Denmark, and the Korean Democratic Workers Party (south Korea).