Millions of people in Egypt who have supported the January 25 revolution savored in the last year or so invaluable moments of hope for the future of a country that has been devastated by decades of greed by a small group of crony capitalists and utterly corrupt politicians. Perhaps, more importantly, ordinary people who succumbed to poverty, ignorance, disease for so long because of the rotten system have rediscovered their human potential in the past 16 months in a way they never dreamed of.
The impoverished masses fought brave battles for months everywhere demanding living wages, decent healthcare, some bread, and even access to cooking oil to feed their chronically semi-hungry children.
They fought these battles against a selfish and greedy gang of businessmen and their political lackeys who horded villas and mansions, luxury cars and private jets – untold wealth which has been extracted in the first and final analysis from the sweat of those who make the buses run in the capital, those who wave the ships in the billions-generating Suez Canal, and millions who struggle day in and day out to survive negligence, homelessness and the degradation of their humanity.
They contributed not only thousands of martyrs and injured during the 18 day uprising against the dictator, who is still treated as an emperor in posh hospitals, but also more and more martyrs in the months that followed at the hands of the same repressive security forces which taunted all of us for generations.
Unfortunately, the masses that set an example for the rest of the wretched around the Arab world of how to fight for bread and roses against an oppressor class have not yet been able to either secure a decent loaf of bread without drudgery or breathe the full scent of liberty because they have only traveled half the way on the road to completing their revolution.
Those in history who made a half revolution, those who rose up courageously against their oppressors but failed to build a new social system based on the political and economic expropriation of the tyrants and the formation of new egalitarian power structures, paid a heavy price.
More than once in the history of revolutions, discredited ruling classes which were not changed by the masses and were allowed to linger and conspire in the background always found a way to recollect their economic, political, and repressive powers and have made a come back to sever the heads of those who dared to question their unearned wealth or demand freedom and democracy.
In 1973, the rulers of Chile carried out a bloody military coup and slaughtered the workers and the poor in this southern American country and instituted a semi-fascist military dictatorship for 20 years afterward because the masses did not finish their revolution.
In 1933, the Nazi party in Germany reached power and made millions of workers and Jews pay an unthinkable human price because the oppressed could not go all the way in creating an alternative to the old decrepit system.
Today, the Egyptian revolution faces a danger that is unfortunately very similar to the fate of the revolution in Chile and Germany.
The numbers among the masses to win the war against the exploiting elite both in Chile and Germany were more than abundant but grave political, strategic and tactical mistakes by revolutionary forces proved decisively fatal at the end.
In the case of Chile, illusions harboured by sections of the masses and the organized revolutionary groups in the neutrality of the generals of that country’s armed forces disoriented many in the pro-revolution camp over the course of the 3 years of the revolution by preventing them from correctly appreciating who will save the ruling class at the end of the day.
These illusions let General Pinochet round 30,000 revolutionaries, activists, trade unionists and execute them in a football stadium at the beginning of a bloody coup that destroyed the revolution and ushered in 2 of the darkest decades in the history of Chile.
In Germany, both revolutionary and left-reformist forces with support among two thirds of the population – the communist party CP and the social democratic party SDP – gravely underestimated the danger that Hitler posed to future of democracy let alone any hope of more radical social change.
The CP and the SPD, both mass-based parties which garnered together close to 65 per cent of support among the population, failed to form a united front against Hitler in the months that preceded his 35 per cent victory in the 1933 elections.
Guided by Stalin from Moscow, the communists prioritized their narrow sectarian interests in their struggle against the social democrats over the general and immediate interests of the revolution.
The communist party let its blind hatred of the social democrats and bitterness over the latter’s past betrayals to the revolution (which were costly betrayals to the revolution and dated back to 1914) lead them to characterize the wavering social democrats as social-fascists - thus equating between the latter and the actual fascists around Hitler – and, fatally, refused to lock arms temporarily with the social democrats to stop Hitler.
Tragically, as the left remained divided, the real fascists won the elections; quickly destroyed both the mass based communist party and the social democratic party; smashed all unions and democratic formation or institution; exterminated millions of Jews and other oppressed groups replacing the spectrum of revolution that haunted the ruling classes with the spectrum of fascism that destroyed democracy and any hope for revolution for generations afterward.
These historic lessons of what mistakes not to repeat when revolutions face imminent dangers of counter-revolutionary coups have a critical immediacy for all revolutionaries in Egypt in these decisive moments.
Tragically, some pro-revolution forces today mistakenly describe a conservative and vacillating political organisation such as the Muslim Brotherhood which had betrayed the goals of the revolution at more than one point in the past (and no doubt it could do that again in the future) as religious fascists and, in this way, these pro-revolution forces equated between a force that opportunistically compromised with the old regime and the actual regime which seeks to annihilate the entire revolution.
Consequently, these pro-revolution forces, who combine a wrong analysis of the Brotherhood with a degree of blind hatred of the group, naively see the current standoff simply as a fight between two equal evils revolutionaries must stay out of.
At a time when the real forces of darkness are sharpening a final dagger to stab the revolution as a whole and not just the Brotherhood, some much needed revolutionaries refuse to lock arms with the thousands and thousands who have taken to the streets, including Islamists and secular revolutionaries, to stop real the treal spectrrum of full and complete counter-revolutionary victory.
There is one huge difference between the current case in Egypt and the Chilean and German experiences. Those who died in mass graves in Santiago or German concentration camps have left us great lessons in bravery but, sadly, cannot come back to correct their mistakes in order to rewrite the bloody ending of their story. However, revolutionaries and the masses in Egypt still have a chance (and a very strong one as a reservoir of support for the revolution uncovered itself recently in the shape of majority vote against the old order in presidential elections) to stop this rapidly encroaching danger, win this life or death battle, and breathe one more day to prepare for greater struggles to come then write our own story for the record.
The writer Fahmy Howeidy, better than anyone, eloquently captured the historic necessity that those who genuinely believe in this revolution not make a fatal mistake at this increasingly graying moment in his column in El-Shrouk newspaper which is titled “For the revolution not the Brotherhood”:
“I recognise that there are some people who are obsessed with destroying the Brotherhood and settling accounts with them at any cost, and, for this reason, they could careless about a retreat for the revolution or its defeat. I have nothing to say to these people because their battle is not concerned with the nation or its fate. I write only to those who still have some foresight which would allow them to love the nation more than they hate the Brotherhood.”