Egypt has yet to witness a real revolution
The military intervention is not “the revolution 2.0”, “the third wave of the Egyptian revolution” or even a “reset” or “back to zero” (a return to the kind of moment when President Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign), as so many people say. It is an attempt to resolve disputes within the ruling classes by force and turn a rebellious people into nothing but a pressure group for one gang of reactionaries against another.
Unlike during the January 2011 upsurge when the people were united against the regime, now they are sharply divided, aligned with either the armed forces or the Muslim Brotherhood. This situation is bad enough, but it holds the potential for even worse: a bloody disaster in which the people fight not for their real common interests but against those interests and each other, under the warring banners of political Islam and the worship of Western-sponsored illusions. Like Algeria in the 1990s and Syria today.
It’s great that people in their millions have exposed and opposed the Muslim Brotherhood. But the defining aspect of the situation is that in the name of defeating the Brotherhood, most of the forces that identity themselves as “revolutionary” have thrown themselves into the hands of Mubarak’s military.
Many Egyptians see Brotherhood rule as an immediate threat to their way of life. As they’ve seen in Turkey with the AKP’s drive to increasingly Islamise the country, political Islam has its own logic. Morsi could not meet the demands for “bread, freedom and social justice,” so how could he retain legitimacy except by force-feeding people with piety until they choked?
These Egyptians want access to global culture. The y love the web because it connects them to the world. They very rightly want to be able to express themselves freely, live their own life style and not be stifled. They are right to consider religious rule unacceptable. But they need to understand that the ideology and political system promoted by the rulers of the imperialist countries represents a worldwide system of exploitation and oppression – the root cause of the suffering, humiliation and tyranny the Egyptian people revolted against.
Partly because of their relatively privileged position, they are prone to a belief in the “free market” that has in fact crushed the vast majority of people, and the corresponding belief in Western-style capitalist democracy and its system of elections which have never brought basic change to Egypt or anywhere else. What do the liberals have to offer the great majority of people but contempt and repression? The leader of the pro-coup civilians, Mohamed ElBaradei, said, “If the army doesn’t intervene, there is a risk of a revolt of the poor which would be a disaster.”
Two possible futures
The rise of political Islam is driven by deep-going and continuing economic, social and cultural transformations caused by the global development of capitalism and the division of the world into advanced monopoly capitalist countries and those countries dependent on them and thus dominated by them.
This has led to the rise of new capitalist forces who, while seeking entry into the world imperialist system, appeal to the social relations, traditions and beliefs rooted in the past, and other backward features of society.
In addition to its association with one of Egypt’s richest financiers and leading businessmen, the Muslim Brotherhood’s strength is concentrated among (but certainly not confined to) the better-off classes, especially professionals. Many have worked in the Gulf States (often training as engineers and other fields, for that purpose) and returned home with capital, religious training and an admiration for the Gulf states which seem to have been able to preserve their cultural identity, getting very rich and modern without becoming too Western.
Egypt’s rapid capitalist development has also led to a profound social and ideological dislocation among the lower masses, who are driven to the cities but not really allowed a place in modern society. Their sense of being excluded is all the stronger because they are on the outside looking in through shop windows, TV screens and computer monitors.
Among Egyptians of various classes there is a very strong rejection of Western hypocrisy – of which U.S. support for the coup in the name of “democracy” is yet another example – and the sense of humiliation at various levels (reflected in the demand for “dignity”) for which Islam is supposedly the solution. Exactly because it is the U.S. and other imperialists who dominate and oppress the world, to the degree that people can see no alternative but to take sides between the Islamists and the pro-Western forces, today’s situation in Egypt could ultimately strengthen Islamism everywhere.
Each tendency feeds on the other – the crimes of each drives people into the arms of the other.
Blinded by the “politics of the possible”, much of the people and most of those who claim to lead them have gone from pillar to post seeking a powerful force they can supposedly influence to the people’s benefit.
Seeking a real revolution
The fact is that there has not been a revolution. The army, intelligence services, riot police, ordinary police, courts and bureaucracy built up by Mubarak remained mainly intact without him. This power structure ultimately represents the economic relations in a country whose capitalist development has made it ever more deeply dependent on foreign capital and the imperialist-controlled international market. The state, the law and the “rule of law” is not neutral. They represent the interests of a ruling class that cannot break the country out of foreign domination and enforced backwardness.
The favourable elements in Egypt today include the yearning and determination of millions not to live in the old way, and the fact that none of the people’s enemies have been able to impose a reactionary and stifling “stability”. There are splits in the ruling class and basic questions of ideology and legitimacy are in the air.
But the masses of people will seek refuge under one or another reactionary wing of the ruling class until and unless a real revolutionary alternative emerges.
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