A Lesson in How Not to Do a Revolution

20140325-105822.jpg Photo by RT

According to Amnesty International, an Egyptian court has sentenced 529 supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi to death for the killing of a single police officer, in what Amnesty is calling the largest group death sentence anywhere in the world in recent years. Since overthrowing the Morsi government in July 2013, the Egyptian military has killed over a thousand people and jailed over 16,000.

In 2011, after 30 years of brutal military dictatorship, the Egyptian people rose up and in what seemed to be the biggest and most significant achievement of the Arab Spring, overthrew the Mubarak regime. Through their persistence and vigilance, they opened a new chapter in their nation’s history, ready to be written by the people and for the people, instead of by a corrupt, repressive and treasonous wealthy class allied with and supported by imperialism, which helped keep them in power, through naked repression. Their revolution had, for a brief period, opened the door wide open to a new set of laws and priorities, one in which, instead of the minority of the rich elite and foreign transnational corporations getting richer, the people in the millions could have their needs attended to and met, and instead of a bloody dictatorship imposed by the police and military, which was paid for, trained and maintained by US imperialism to preserve the status quo and prevent change, they could finally enjoy democracy. The door to such change did not open easily; it was pushed open by the collective force of millions of people who camped out in Tahrir Square and refused to back down. The regime did everything they could to resist the revolution that was in the making. They offered to replace Mubarak with his Vice President. They promised to make some changes in the constitution. And, of course, it wasn’t all carrots. They also tried, as hard as they could, to suppress the uprising. The Obama Administration, which stayed in close contact with the military leaders, defended Mubarak, at first. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton admonished the protesters and told them to go to their homes. Vice President, Jo Biden objected to calling the regime a dictatorship. Unlike in Ukraine, where they didn’t like the government because it wouldn’t ally itself with European Union and NATO and would not accept IMF-imposed austerity measures and NATO friendly “security” clauses that came with their offer of economic assistance, the US not only did not spend $5 billion to help the protesters overthrow the government, as they did in Ukraine, they continued to provide the tear gas, bullets and police and military equipment to the regime. Unlike in Ukraine where they were condemning the police for trying to push back Molotov cocktail throwing protesters who were trying to take over government buildings, in Egypt, they were condemning the protesters for creating chaos and disorder and disrupting the economy.

But, the people prevailed – at least for a brief period – and the regime fell and real elections were held for the first time in many decades and Muslim Brotherhood came to power. But, they too began to reveal their corruption, curtailed freedoms, embraced neoliberal policies, remained within the confines dictated by imperialism, made no socioeconomic changes and above all left the ruling class and their protectorate military intact. The military that was trained and funded by imperialism and therefore stayed loyal and continued to take orders from Washington, and which remained untouched by the revolution and, if anything, it actually gained an undeserved and unjust credibility, was not about to give up its class roots and affiliation. What compromises it did make when faced with the ire and demand of the people for change, it did because they were imposed on it. A military that was the main vehicle for Mubarak’s dictatorship for three decades, defending the rich few within the country and the interests of multinationals without, would not and did not suddenly convert to a democratic and populist institution willing to side with the people and their aspirations for democracy and social and economic justice. It remained at the ready to take back the freedoms won at the first opportunity it would get.

It didn’t take too long for that opportunity to come. A year of the Mosri regime was enough to make people realize that the MB was not what they made a revolution for and so they went back into the streets, in even larger numbers than when they revolted against Mubarak. This was the opportunity the military was waiting for. Not because Mosri had made any significant or major structural changes that they opposed, but, because people had won two things the military and their bosses in Washington were not happy about: the right to have an elected representative government with some level of guaranteed democratic rights, and even more importantly and more menacing to the ruling elite and imperialism, a sense of empowerment that they do have the power. In other words, the military did not come roaring back to take charge of the situation and begin taking back the gains of the revolution because there had been structural and socioeconomic changes, but because there hadn’t been any. Had the revolution dismantled this potent tool – what more potent than the armed forces – of the ruling comprador bourgeoisie and their allies in Washington, the gains would not have been reversed.

We will have our day here, too. History and other people’s experiences are there to guide us and show us the way forward. A revolution that keeps the police, the NSA, the FBI, the CIA, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Pentagon, and in short all the armed forces and all the myriad security and intelligent forces intact will fail and the 1% and the 0.1% will come back and resume where they left off.
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