Egypt: Revolution Continues
When the Egyptian people poured into the streets in millions in opposition to President Muhammad Morsi and his ruling Muslim Brotherhood, three weeks ago, and the military responded by deposing the President and cracking down on his party officials and followers and closing and banning their TV station, some understandably and rightly reacted by condemning what was clearly a military coup against an elected government. But, a first reaction is often premature and insufficient for understanding a dynamic and fluid situation such as in Egypt where different social forces with disparate interests and objectives are vying for influence and power within the society. What’s needed is an analysis based on the social and political “facts on the ground” and the push and pull of these contradictory forces taking place.
As I wrote in my last piece right after the coup: “If we were to summarize the latest events in Egypt in one sentence, it would be that the revolution continues”. The coup was obviously and unquestionably in reaction to the people coming out en mass and even more forcefully and in greater numbers than before to show their opposition to the government of Morsi.
With that single and deciding act, they demonstrated that they were not done with their revolution and showed their unmistakable resolve to continue it. To what point or degree or what specific objectives, it’s not clear and I’m not sure it’s clear even to those whose glorious demonstration could be seen from space. What was clear is their resounding rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood as the answer to or resolution of their revolution. They knew what they got was not what they made a revolution for.
This is not unique to Egypt. Revolutions often take many trials and turns and sometimes they continue for years, at times, taking a step back, and other times leaping forward, sometimes taking a more wait and see attitude towards what’s offered to them and sometimes a militant, reinvigorated and roaring response that shakes the foundations of the system.
If we view Morsi’s scorecard for the past year, we see that basically the only change was the Islamization of the government and not much else. Economically, the nation remained in the jaws of imperialism and their imposed neoliberal policies with the poverty and misery it always entails. The government failed to even address the joblessness and poverty, as if it wasn’t even its issue. Instead, it continued the corruption of the previous government, filling the pockets of the ruling class which remained intact. What had changed was the latter’s representative, and as far as they were concerned, nothing else. What’s more, he tried to grab power for himself and his party every opportunity he got. Late last year, he tried to ram such power grab into the law. He also moved to stifle the voice of his opponents, decidedly moving towards the kind of dictatorship people had revolted against.
If Morsi and his government were to be the substitute for Hosni Mubarak, it could and would be arranged, without much fuss. In fact, when it became clear, three years ago, that Mubarak had to go, the regime, in consultation with Washington, offered his Vice President as the replacement. It was only after people’s rejection of any member of the Mubarak regime that the military took over and called for a new constitution and elections. It was during that period when after frequent flights to Cairo by the Obama Administration and Pentagon generals and their meeting with the ruling military that the latter announced that they would maintain a veto power over any civilian government that would come out victorious in the elections. That’s because both Washington which represents the US ruling class and the Egyptian military which is paid, armed and supported by Washington, were unsure as to the outcome of the elections and the ramifications it could have for the Empire and their plans for the region, including but not limited to Israel. But, when they realized that Morsi was not interested in any meaningful economic and political changes and was only interested in giving the regime a more Islamic facade – as in painting a house green instead of blue -Washington’s and military’s fears subsided and they acquiesced to a MB government.
Now, it must be emphasized that, as I said before, the overthrow of the MB government was not the military’s idea. Their continuation of the previous regime’s economic policies and even their moves for power grab and against democracy and against their opponents was not a problem for the military. The continuation of the revolution, especially with even more rigor and force than before, was. The coup was simultaneously out of fear of the masses on the streets that if left alone could possibly overthrow the rule of Washington’s allies, as well as, an opportunistic move to try a more secular regime with the same old neoliberal economic policies and alliance with imperialism, as before. With this act, the military tried to prevent the forward move of the revolution, while pretending to be on people’s side and planning to sell them another pro-imperialist capitalist government in order to maintain the status quo.
As I said before, this is rather typical in the course of revolutions. After the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979, first, his so-called “Prime Minister” was offered as the substitute. Then, a more moderate representative of imperialism was tried, followed by yet another with a little more nationalistic character, as opposed to the Shah who was a clear and unabashed puppet of Washington, as was Mubarak.
The Iranian revolution which was against imperialism, especially of the US, as well as against US imposed dictatorship, was finally successful in overthrowing the pro-imperialist regime of large capitalists who had squeezed not only workers, but also the local and smaller bourgeoisie. The revolution was led and later completely taken over by those sectors of the middle and owner classes that were associated with the small businesses and shop owners – the so-called “bazaris” – who were deeply religious who went on to impose their own brand of anti-democratic, anti-women and religious dictatorship. In the case of Egypt, people already rejected the most powerful Islamist party which unlike in Iran, did not even represent a real change of regime with new alliances and sphere of power. Not only the pro-imperialist military and bourgeoisie remained intact, so did the pro-imperialist economic and political policies in their entirety which was what imperialism had hoped for. They didn’t mind painting the house green at all. That’s why they had no problem with the Morsi government and even expressed an initial dismay or at least concern about the coup, in order to sound democratic, if nothing else. They too realized that the military had no other choice and did the right thing, especially since it was a popular move by a military that remains their best hope for continuing to impose their dictated policies over the country, and soon dropped their disingenuous and demagogic complaints. They also realized that they still have a chance with the likes of ElBaradei.
So, what’s happening now, is that people are being offered a third choice which is not going to be very different from the first two and that’s because the ruling class and their protectorate military which answers to Washington are remaining in control. The neoliberal policies dictated by Washington and the World Bank and IMF will continue to keep the people impoverished and funnel the nation’s wealth into the coffers of world imperialism and their domestic wealthy allies. And consequently, as a natural requirement, there will be no room or tolerance for democracy, as workers will still have to be suppressed and critics silenced. It remains to be seen if the revolution will find its legitimate, strong, unwavering and dedicated leadership that could lead the revolution to achieve true democracy, independence and social justice. But, for now, the revolution continues. We’re about to witness Act III.