For a Third Square!

What is the Third Square?

The Third Square (Arabic: الميدان الثالث‎) is an Egyptian political movement created by liberal, leftist and moderate Islamist activists who reject both Muslim Brotherhood and military rule following the 2013 Egyptian coup d’état.

The movement first appeared when the Egyptian defence minister, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, called for mass demonstrations on 26 July 2013 to grant his forces a “mandate” to crack down on “terrorism”,[1] which was seen as contradicting the military’s pledges to hand over power to civilians after removing Mr. Morsi and as an indication for an imminent crackdown against Islamists.[2] The announcement by General Al-Sisi was rejected by a number of political groups that had initially supported the military coup, such as the revolutionary April 6 Youth Movement,[3] the moderate Strong Egypt Party,[4] the Salafi Al-Nour Party[5] and Egyptian Human Rights groups.[6]

The Third Square movement, demonstrating in Sphinx Square, Cairo

In response, The Third Square, a group of activists who mistrust both the military and the Islamists, called for a separate protest in Sphinx Square inMohandessinCairo.[7] One of the activists described the movement as “a group of young people whose views are not represented either in Tahrir Square or Rabia Al-Adawiya”,[8] referring to the military-organised protests in Tahrir Square and the Islamist protests in Rabia Al-Adawiya square in Nasr City.[9] In a leaflet, they declared their opposition to “the defense minister calling for an authorization to kill Egyptians on the pretext of fighting terrorism”.[10]

Interviewed on the French television news channel France 24, activist Firas Mokhtar said: “The Third Square is an attempt to bring Egyptians together and put an end to the polarisation of our society”. Fellow activist and singer of Egyptian band Eskenderella, Samia Jahin, added: “Maybe there’s only a few of us tonight. But soon you might hear of another group like ours in another square.”[11]

The movement is supported by intellectuals and artists such as the activist filmmaker Aalam Wassef, who released a music video showing him sitting out the demonstrations on 26 July at home, doing his laundry in front of a banner with the word “Resist,”[10] and Omar Robert Hamilton, a founding member of the Mosireen media collective, who wrote on Twitter that he had visited Tahrir Square to collect footage for the archive, but found “the blind uniformity of this nationalism” extremely depressing.[10]

The Third Square is, in a sense, a manifestation of the age-old call for the Third Camp – neither Washington nor Moscow, neither capitalism nor Stalinism.

“Third Camp” is a term which first emerged during the first days of the Second World War. From the 1930s and beyond, Leon Trotsky and his American acolyte James P. Cannon described the Soviet Union as a “degenerated workers’ state,” the revolutionary gains of which should be defended against imperialist aggression despite the emergence of a gangster-like ruling stratum, the party bureaucracy. While defending the Russian revolution from outside aggression, Trotsky, Cannon, and their followers at the same time urged an anti-bureaucratic political revolution against Stalinism to be conducted by the Soviet working class themselves.

Dissidents in the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, witnessing the collaboration of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler in the invasion and partition of Poland and Soviet invasion of the Baltic states, argued that the Soviet Union had actually emerged as a new social formation, neither capitalist nor socialist. Adherents of this view, espoused most explicitly by Max Shachtman and closely following the writings of James Burnham and Bruno Rizzi, argued that the Soviet bureaucratic collectivistregime had in fact entered one of two great imperialist “camps” aiming to wage war to divide the world. The first of these imperialist camps, which Stalin and the Soviet Union were said to have joined as a directly participating ally, was headed by Nazi Germany and included most notably fascist Italy. The “second imperialist camp,” in this original analysis, was headed by England and France, actively supported by the United States.[1]

Shachtman and his co-thinkers argued for the establishment of a broad “third camp” to unite the workers and colonial peoples of the world in revolutionary struggle against the imperialism of the German-Soviet-Italian and Anglo-American-French blocs. Shachtman concluded that the USSR’s policy was one ofimperialism and that the best result for the international working class would be the defeat of the USSR in the course of its military incursions. Conversely, Trotsky argued that a defeat for the USSR would strengthen capitalism and reduce the possibilities for political revolution.[2]

…More recently, a movement by the Worker-Communist Party of Iran and its leaders such as Hamid Taqvaee and Maryam Namazie, together with groups including Left Worker-communist Party of Iraq, has emerged calling for a “Third camp opposing US militarism and Islamic terrorism[1]. This, however, is unrelated to the Trotskyist third camp theory,[citation needed] as neither organisation comes from a Trotskyist background.

Published in: on August 12, 2013 at 11:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. What are the political implications? What impact did these groups have in this past?

    More to the point, what impact are these groups having in Egypt right now? Are they organized enough to win elections against the Brotherhood? Are they armed?

    It sounds like the Third Square activists have an uneasy relationship with the broader Tamarod movement (the movement of liberals, unionists and leftists to oust Morsi). Do you know anything about this?

    Tamarod is explicitly anti-U.S, anti-Israel, support Assad in Syria:,_August_2013.jpg

    These pieces suggest Third Square is less rad-left than moderate:

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