Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/798/18130

From The Socialist newspaper, 12 February 2014

The Square: bravery, determination and disappointment in Egypt

David Johnson reviews the film The Square (el Midan, subtitled in English).

Cairo's Tahrir Square has gripped world headlines since 2011. Twice it was occupied by mass uprisings that brought down a president - Hosni Mubarak after 30 years of brutal dictatorship, and Mohammed Morsi after just 12 months of increasingly dictatorial powers.

The Square is a vivid documentary film starting with January 2011's uprising against Mubarak and ending shortly after Morsi's downfall in July 2013.

The ebbs and flows of the Egyptian revolution are seen through the eyes of participants, particularly Ahmed Hassan - a young activist, Magdy Ashour- a Muslim Brotherhood (MB) member tortured under Mubarak, and Khalid Abdalla - the British-born actor from an Egyptian family, best known for his role in 'The Kite Runner'.

In February 2011 the massive crowds are seen fraternising with soldiers. Muslims and Christians mix happily together.

Young women confidently shout slogans. All are united against the regime. "Bread, freedom and social justice" are the demands on the lips of millions.

Mubarak out!

As an army officer announces Mubarak's resignation on TV, tears are shed and crowds dance. "This is when we realised the people are the true power," says Ahmad. "Good things are coming."

The euphoria lasts weeks. The film shows lively discussions among the crowds, debating how society should move forward.

But the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had taken control of the government, the crowds were persuaded to go home and little seemed to change.

Where next?

Activists returned to the square to try to regain the position they felt they held months earlier. They were viciously attacked by security forces.

The bruised and beaten body of singer Ramy Essam, whose songs had become the soundtrack for the uprising, is shown.

Sensing their loss of power, one activist says: "It's like we did really well in an exam and forgot to write our name on the paper. Now no one knows who it belonged to."

Magdy, the MB member, is seen taking part in occupying Tahrir from the start of the uprising against Mubarak, despite the MB leadership's instruction not to take part. "I'm not happy with the Brotherhood leaders," he says.

Khalid argues with his mother, an activist from an older generation, about the forthcoming elections.

He forcefully makes the point that only the Muslim Brotherhood are well-organised for the elections, but his only alternative is to call for their postponement. "All the politicians are failures."

The October 2011 army massacre of peaceful Christian protesters outside the Maspero broadcasting centre is graphically shown. By December, the army are firing live bullets at the crowds around Tahrir.

The film's brave camera-work brings the viewer to the frontline alongside Ahmed, including the makeshift pavement hospital he is rushed to when injured.

He appears stunned by the rapid change of events in under a year. "Revolutionaries are called traitors, while the traitors are called heroes." But he takes up the struggle once again.

When the presidential election is held in May 2012, the choice is between the MB's Morsi and the old regime's Shafiq.

Nevertheless, there is rejoicing when Shafiq is defeated, albeit by a narrow 3% margin.

Khalid draws the conclusion: "Most of the time we object and say 'no', but we have no alternative of our own." Magdy's teenage daughter says: "Nothing was gained from the revolution. We still can't get healthcare."

At the end of the film, the MB is under attack as Morsi is ousted following the largest demonstration in history. But General al-Sisi takes over - the senior military officers are still in charge.

The Square shows the revolutionary youth's bravery, determination and energy, and how many ordinary MB members like Magdy were influenced by their mood and fought alongside them for dignity and social justice. But it doesn't answer the question - why is Mubarak's repressive regime being reconstructed three years later?

Role of the working class

Absent from the film are the millions of workers who played a crucial role in Mubarak's downfall and who organised into trade unions to fight for higher wages and better conditions.

Their absence reflects the lack of an organised workers' presence in Tahrir, where workers participated as individuals rather than as a class able to give a lead to the unorganised poor and middle class sections of society.

The 2011 Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions sparked mass occupations of youth across Europe and the USA - the Indignados and Occupy movements.

This film shows both the possibilities and weaknesses of those movements that mobilised so many to fight for change.

But no clear idea of what that change should be or how it could be won was put forward which left the ruling class able to keep power - hanging on by a thread in Tunisia and Egypt.

Building a party that could do this is the key task for all who are determined to change society. A strategy for a workers' government and a democratic socialist society, with an international appeal for support, could lead to victory for workers and poor people in Egypt and elsewhere.

The Square has had few screenings in Britain, despite winning awards at 20I3 film festivals and a 2014 Oscar nomination. Socialist Party branches should organise screenings and discuss it.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 12 February 2014:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Floods misery: Government cuts to blame

What future for Labour and the unions?

Fast food workers want decent pay and conditions

NHS: Kick out big Pharma

Them & Us


Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Sheffield kicks off election year with 7.6% vote

Standing up against cuts in Reading

Waltham Forest: Rally for rent control

Lewisham Labour no use in the Lions' Den


London Underground dispute

Tube strike first round: Trade Unions 1 - Johnson 0

London tube stoppages show workers can win

Effective action builds

State attacks trade union action


Socialist Party workplace news

Teachers call national strike

Posties vote yes - where now for postal workers?

Higher Education: Striking for an improved pay offer

Workplace news in brief


Reviews and readers' comments

The Square: bravery and disappointment in Egypt

Housing crisis hell: a worker's view

Don't trust Labour with our NHS

2004 Morecambe Bay tragedy: Has anything changed?

Tebay disaster: Workers' grievances can't be sidelined


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Councils continue making Con-Dem cuts

Brighton solidarity with LGBTQ+ Russians

Leicester Socialist Student arrested in peaceful protest

WASP: South African elections announced

Building the Socialist Party


 

Home   |   The Socialist 12 February 2014   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Egypt:

triangleAttacks ratchet-up Syrian conflict and fuel tensions between powers

triangleSyria: Is an end to the war in sight?

triangleSuez 1956: the decline of British imperialism and rise of the colonial revolution

triangleShimon Peres - a wolf in sheep's clothing

Film:

triangleOctober 1917 reviews: 'More bright than any heaven'

triangleWorkplace news in brief

triangleWarts-and-all account of class war and the struggle for LGBT+ rights

triangleRussia 1917: how art helped make the revolution

Army:

triangleBrutal repression of Rohingya people sparks massive humanitarian crisis

triangleInterview: the "socialist John Le Carré"

Elections:

triangleGerman elections: rise of the far right and right-wing government will provoke resistance

triangleUsdaw elections announced - fight for a left leadership, vote for Amy Murphy

International

International

18/10/17

Hong Kong

Campaign against political repression in Hong Kong

11/10/17

Catalonia

Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

4/10/17

Catalonia

Solidarity with Catalonia - the people have the right to decide

4/10/17

Catalonia

Eyewitness: Irish socialist MP participates in events

2/10/17

Catalonia

Exemplary resistance by the people of Catalonia

27/9/17

Germany

Germany: Election results in political earthquake

27/9/17

Catalonia

Strike against Madrid's 'state of emergency'!

27/9/17

Germany

German elections: rise of the far right and right-wing government will provoke resistance

27/9/17

France

French Labour reform protests

25/9/17

Catalonia

Catalonia: Student strike called

20/9/17

Myanmar

Brutal repression of Rohingya people sparks massive humanitarian crisis

20/9/17

Catalonia

Solidarity with Catalonia in the Spanish state

15/9/17

Germany

Berlin hospital strike

13/9/17

Korea

Korean peninsula: is nuclear war likely?

13/9/17

Students

Interview with leader of students' union in the Spanish state: "When we fight, we win!"

triangleMore International articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

More ...

triangle19 Oct Waltham Forest Young Socialists: Deaths in police custody

triangle19 Oct Swansea Socialist Party: Spanish revolution 1936-37

triangle19 Oct Cardiff East Socialist Party: Is equality for women possible under capitalism?

triangle19 Oct Wirral Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian Revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2