The Egyptian elite are making a counter-revolutionary thrust, but whether it works depends on the masses’ reaction, says John Rees

The Egyptian ruling class have made their move.

The parliamentary elections of last year have been declared invalid by an election court, effectively dissolving parliament.

The law – passed under pressure from the revolutionary mobilisations- which banned remnants of the old regime from standing in elections, has been declared void.

This clears the way for Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister appointed by dictator Hosni Mubarak before his fall, to remain a candidate in Saturday’s Presidential elections.

Perhaps most dangerous of all, the old Mubarak Emergency Law giving wide repressive powers to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been reimposed.

The Muslin Brotherhood’s Presidential candidate, Mohammed Morsi, has said that he accepts the courts decisions, but is now insisting that a vote for the Brotherhood is the only way that the revolution can be defended from the SCAF offensive. But other sections of the Brotherhood are more critical and the Parliament, with a Brotherhood majority, looks set to meet in defiance of the ban.

In electoral terms this Saturday revolutionaries have two bad options. Shafiq is SCAF’s candidate and SCAF are the core police apparatus of the old order and the essential face of counter-revolution. The Brotherhood have been compromising with SCAF for their own opportunist reasons. That has been a disastrous policy, but the Brotherhood are not the same as the Mubarak continuity state. And many Brotherhood voters want the revolution to succeed, in spite of their leaders. That is not true of Shafiq voters.

But, as so often in the Egyptian revolution, the real force that can destroy this counter-revolutionary attack is the mass mobilisations in Tahrir Square and the other squares of Egypt, fed by actions in the poorest areas and by Egypt’s workers.

The Egyptian elite aren’t actually in a strong position, as Counterfire, the Guardian’s Jack Shenker and Hani Shukrullah in Al Ahram online argued after the first round of the Presidential elections. The first round saw left candidate Hamdeen Sabahy win majorities in Cairo and Alexandria. He came third overall. This demonstrated a massive resonance for the message of revolutionary Tahrir in the wider Egyptian society.

That broader base of support now needs to be mobilised in defence of the revolution. It needs to be called into Tahrir tomorrow and in the days after.

The left must now say to the Muslim Brotherhood that the time for turning every event in the revolution to their electoral advantage, no matter what the effect on the fate of the revolution as a whole, is over.

The revolution is at stake and it will take more than a vote for Morsi to defend it. Now is the time for all those who are genuinely in favour of the revolution to make a stand. And that stand must begin in Tahrir. Now.

John Rees

John Rees is a writer, broadcaster and activist, and is one of the organisers of the People’s Assembly. His books include ‘The Algebra of Revolution’, ‘Imperialism and Resistance’, ‘Timelines, A Political History of the Modern World’, ‘The People Demand, A Short History of the Arab Revolutions’ (with Joseph Daher), ‘A People’s History of London’ (with Lindsey German) and The Leveller Revolution. He is co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition.