The Continuing Crisis in Egypt, More Power Games While the Masses Are Dying Of Hunger And Poverty

The Revolt Against the Islamists

Tahrir Square once again exploded. Millions of protesters took to the streets of the main cities of Egypt. President Morsi was deposed, arrested and put under surveillance in the "offices" of the Republican Guard. An interim president, Adli Mansour, former President of the Constitutional Court, has taken his place and the Constitution has been suspended. The plan was to create a caretaker government to review the constitution and prepare the ground for the next election to be held within nine months, or one year at a maximum, while the army continues to be the mainstay of Egyptian public life. Just as in the days of Mubarak, and as it has been under the management of the short Morsi government, this is still a delicate period of crisis in both national and international terms. It’s no coincidence that Al Sisi, the new strong man who is dominating the political scene after Morsi is an army general and Minister of Defence.

What’s the reason for all of this? Because Egypt still pursues the so-called Arab Spring? First of all it must be said that the severe economic crisis which was the basis of the first demonstrations against Mubarak, not only has not been resolved, but has severely intensified, affecting almost all social strata. In two years, Egypt has taken ten steps back from an economic point of view. In a country where the majority of the population lives in conditions of semi-poverty, real unemployment has reached 40% and pauperisation seems to be an unstoppable process, it is normal for social unrest to lurk beneath the ashes, ready to burn the squares at the first opportunity.

The occasion was provided by disappointment with the Morsi Government, with his party in and, more generally, with the Muslim Brotherhood who had preached so much in terms of democracy and equality and had had a landslide in the elections a year ago. Morsi not only disregarded the expectations, but, with his fundamentalist clique, continued the old tradition of dictatorial power based on force, coercion and corruption. It was no different from the old and much-maligned regime, except the worsening economic crisis and the increasingly oppressive religious wrapping that packaged the same old power.

The combination of these two factors was the basis of the new demonstrations against the Morsi government and its supporters, even though it must be said that while they were of no less political intensity their numerical content was much smaller, as the events of Friday, July 5 showed. This gave the impression to both domestic and international political observers that if some sort of "demiurge" had not intervened in time, civil war would have erupted violently and Egypt would be in serious political crisis, bringing with it the entire region, and putting into question the already difficult balance between the Arab world and Israel, between the European Union and the United States, not to mention the price of oil and international speculation on oil revenues.

The "destroyer" could take the field to avert the crisis, safeguard the economic interests of big business and take control of the political situation before confused anger on the streets was unleashed. The "army demiurge" has done its duty. It has brought down the government, arrested Morsi, promised elections within nine months and in the meantime has become, in the figure of General Al Sisi, the real commander of the operation. Everything as planned in terms of preservation of the system and selling it to the masses, but in this regard, there are some things to think about. The first is that the army was careful not to intervene in the streets by force when Morsi and his government were under criticism. It has used the carrot while the stick has been brought out only to tap Morsi, a tap that was hard enough to erase the old government without the national or international public crying "coup", although that is what it was. The stick has therefore been reserved for supporters of Morsi who have taken to the streets to demand the legitimate reinstallation of their leader. The second is that the use of the velvet glove to make a very soft coup, was "advised" by the Obama administration, which was monitoring it via telephone operations and recommending the maximum prudence. The American foreign affairs minister was in direct contact with Al Sisi before and during the military coup. Do not be deceived by Obama’s subsequent statements ("claiming that democratic normality will be restored as soon as possible"), which are part of the usual party game. The White House had never liked the Islamist government of Mohammed Morsi even if it had to put a good face on a bad game, making a show of normal collaboration that many observers have mistaken for unconditional support. Morsi’s support and assistance to groups such as the Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas certainly did not fit with the programmes of the Pentagon. In fact by endorsing the coup, the U.S. is attempting to achieve a threefold aim: Prevent a new crisis which would disconnect Egypt’s domestic policies from American plans for the Middle East, in other words, to ensure that the relationship with Israel does not change, leaving things as they are. Reconnect the wires that have always linked the U.S. government with the Egyptian army, the only structure, in political and economic terms, to relate to for any internal solution. Use the weapon of blackmail ($1.3 billion dollars arrive annually in the coffers of the army that was Mubarak’s, Tantawi’s and now Al Sisi) to influence alliances and positions. That the army and not the president is the focal point of any alliance between Cairo and Washington is well known to Obama’s advisors. When the street demonstrations went against Mubarak, the army was first of all left to act, when they realised that things were going badly they sided with the crowds and ditched the "Pharaoh", putting an interim representative in place in the shape of Tantawi, who led Egypt to the first "democratic" elections. When the Islamist government was on the ropes the army supported the opposition, in part the same opposition that had previously militated in the ranks of the Mubarak party itself. Thanks to Morsi, the true "dominus" of Egypt is once again the military, in the shape of the minister of defence, Al Sisi. Thus the U.S. administration does not care who is formally in power, does not bother much about which politicians sit on the chair of the highest office of the Republic of the Nile. Although some preference exists, the important thing is that you do not break the relationship with the military structure. On the other hand, the interest is mutual. U.S. imperialism can not do without the Egyptian army, just as the latter can not waive the U.S. funding if it wants to continue to play a leading role in the economic and political life of Egypt. Amongst all these aspects there’s also been Obama’s ploy of proposing Mohammed el Baradei — head of the secular opposition alongside vice president Mansour, until his resignation and the consequent escape to Austria after a charge of treason — as future candidate for the Egyptian presidency. He was unable to play this card two years earlier, when the situation in Tahrir Square became politically out of hand, installing the Islamist government that would give him some concern, even though it did not tear up the agreements with Israel and continued to be a faithful ally of the USA.

In conclusion, up to now the millions of desperate Egyptians who have taken to the streets have allowed a game to be played that has passed over their heads. On the one hand they have provided a pretext for the army to regain power — with the removal of Morsi acting as the political sweetener — but they have also allowed U.S. imperialism to regain its role, image and acceptance in an area where until recently it would have been rejected as a foreign body.

What is most disconcerting of all is that the announcement of the dismissal of Morsi and the army coup were celebrated on the streets as if it were a victory and not just another defeat. Despite everything: Tantawi’s announcement that Mubarak was overthrown, Morsi’s downing of Tantawi, a secular government, then a religious one, then another secular one, for the world of labour there has been no change. The crisis of capitalism remains, capitalism itself is not questioned. Egyptian workers are becoming more and more poor and unemployed while the army remains in command of operations which, in this case, have also been in the same direction — that of American imperialism.

The Military Coup and Its Effects

The army coup sparked an inevitable reaction from Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party as well as his Salafist rival Al Nour. The squares were filled again, but with the opposite emblems. Not millions, but just tens of thousands of Islamists rallied against the new regime accusing it of having subverted the outcome of the first free elections, of interrupting the process of democratisation which had begun with the "Egyptian Spring" in Tahrir Square and of having restored the old regime of the "Pharaoh" Mubarak. The counter-chorus from the followers of Mansour rejected these accusations. "You" you were the real culprits of the failure of the democratization process in Tahrir Square. "You" have interposed your Islamist obscurantism between the demolition of the old dictatorial regime of Mubarak and the democratic future of Egypt. "You" have provoked the new revolt which has again taken up the interrupted goal of fully carrying out the democratisation process. Meanwhile, the army has cracked down hard on the demonstrations of the Islamists and arrested its most prominent leaders. Final total: 51 dead on one day, Monday, July 9, and thousands injured. The full script for a civil war was announced. Masses taking to the streets on behalf of "their" segment of the bourgeoisie and bourgeois political leaders who direct "their" electoral supporters on the ground including the violent clashes as necessary, depending on what’s at stake. We have written in previous articles about the army and its role in Egyptian society but it is still worth reaffirming some individual points. Since the days of Mubarak, who himself came from its ranks, the army has not only acted as a powerful structure in the defensive scaffold of Egyptian capitalist interests, as befits any army in this world, but, above all, has been the backbone of the national bourgeoisie to which it belongs. The generous amounts "bestowed" by the U.S., since the 1978 Camp David Accords right up to the present day, have allowed the military caste not only to become politically powerful but, at the same time, to operate at the heart of national capitalist investment. In practice there is no business sector, either financial or commercial which does not see the heavy presence of the military. Investments range from the oil industry to the holding of shares in the company that runs the Suez Canal. From the management of activities related to the rich tourist sector to speculative investments on international stock exchanges. Given these conditions, the army cannot be both referee and player. Arbiter of political destinies at the same time as player within one of the factions of national capitalism. Mubarak was dropped when it was clear that there was nothing more to be done for the political continuity of the "pharaoh", while Mansour has been mandated after getting rid of the uncomfortable Islamist government. The Army is behind the nomination of Hazem Beblawi as the head of the Government, as well as favouring the candidacy of Mohammed El Baradei as deputy prime minister. All of course securing American leadership in the area and the assurance that the cash flow from Washington to Cairo will continue, otherwise the army’s dual role of referee and player would turn into no more than a ball boy on an outside court.

Also in this case do not be fooled by the attitude of American diplomacy which formally says it is following events in Egypt with "concerned attention", when in fact it considers the Beblawi solution satisfactory with El Baradei in the vice presidency, and as long as it remains it intends to continue to provide subsidies for the army in addition to completing the planned sale of three F 16s. To avoid any doubt, the American Sixth Fleet has sent two warships to patrol the coast of Egypt from Suez to Alexandria to meet any eventual needs of American citizens.

To complete the picture, the historic allies of the U.S. government, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait, in other words the Sunni imperialist oil front, have immediately come to the aid of the gasping economy of Cairo and its precarious transitional government. In the face of a steep fall in revenue from tourism, much lower income from the Suez Canal due to the decreased flow of international trade, a decline in GDP in just two years by more than 60% and 10% inflation, the Gulf allies have shelled out $15 billion. Never has charity been so risky. The one which has undergone the biggest loss, Saudi Arabia, has made a political investment in the long term. Its first interest is to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from taking power with the risk, already feared by the U.S., of creating instability in the area to the benefit of the Shiite Hezbollah, Hamas and, in general, pro-Iranian jihadism. There is small risk of this in Riyadh but it’s not impossible, so might as well take precautions. In the second place, once the money arrives at its destination, it automatically works to push the new Egyptian government into being politically dependent on the interests of the great benefactor or, at minimum, a good ally on the basis of good expectations. In the third place it helps stem the waves of protests in Egypt, ensuring that the latent civil war returns back within institutional channels, a goal that the Saudi bourgeoisie is very interested in, as are all the other Gulf states, which see the "Arab Spring" as a spectre behind which their own masses are hiding and the real possibility of contagion. Last but not least, the lavish gifts and credit facilities are intended to contribute to the maintenance of a situation of peace in the area, something that would make the oil revenue more certain and reliable and, with it, a stronger imperialist role for Riyadh and the Gulf states, in an anti-Iranian drive for energy supremacy throughout the Persian Gulf and beyond. This, moreover, would strengthen the axis with Washington, which in recent years has not been all it appears to be.

The Reasons for the Fall of the Morsi Government

The reasons for the fall of the Morsi government are the same ones that sent Mubarak packing, with the aggravating circumstance of the betrayal of expectations. Mubarak was swept away by the crisis that hit the Egyptian economy, Morsi has been removed by a coup d'état, after massive popular demonstrations, because he failed to overcome the crisis, to reduce unemployment, to cure the disease of corruption. In short, because he did not respond to the expectations he had created before and during the election campaign. Under the Mubarak regime, the Muslim Brotherhood had forged a political image and created consensus in their favour, not only proposing Islam as the only way out of the crisis and growing pauperisation, just like any other fundamentalism, but also transforming mosques into places of shelter for the poor. They proposed and practised a welfare state where the state, the real one, remained permanently inactive on social issues, from the bread supply to the distribution of medicines, whether assisting the elderly or the penniless and poverty-stricken. A small matter, but one that seemed huge compared to what the State used to be able to do, which was already very little. After their rise to power all the promises proved to be empty. Everything remained as it was before, the only novelty was that the crisis continues and the already precarious conditions of the population are getting worse. The promise of price controls through anti-inflationary policies was crucial. In the past year inflation has increased sharply by more than 10%. The same applies to unemployment, while the purchasing power of wages has continued to fall. As well as the inability to renegotiate a loan of €3.8 billion with the International Monetary Fund and the inability to move to a welfare state worthy, at least, of overcoming the usual problems the Muslim Brotherhood had dealt with, which, if they appeared under Mubarak to be a positive sign, under the administration of Morsi has become a sign of failure and weakness. Hence the revival of the demonstrations in the wake of the disillusionment and why the military intervened since they had no intention of losing that hegemonic role that they have always had.

In addition, the alarming data from the Central Bank spells a significant decline in foreign exchange reserves, which from $36 billion in 2010 have dropped to the current $13.5 billion. The reduction in reserves poses a serious risk to the administration of the whole country in terms of salaries of civil servants, of state payments to private companies and, not least, to the sustainability of the public debt which is still rising and the payment of interest on debt contracts, such as with the Bank of Hong Kong, HSBC, which has a claim of $33 billion just for interest accrued up to 2013.

In agriculture, things are even worse. At least a million farmers are broke. The production of wheat, still the basic staple of the poorer classes, has literally collapsed by 80%. The rising cost of fuel has forced many farmers, especially in Upper Egypt, not to grow crops and they have been abandoned. The Morsi Government could only carry on thanks to loans from Qatar (six billion dollars) and oil supplied at subsidised prices, otherwise the situation would have collapsed long ago. Compounding the situation, the Morsi Government reportedly has been forced to cut subsidies to the poor to comply with the demands of the International Monetary Fund in exchange for billions of dollars in loans. Even the much-vaunted healthcare reform has stalled and continues in the usual garb of private charitable institutions operated by the Brotherhood itself. It had nourished the hope that this would fuel the Islamist opposition to the regime of the "pharaoh", not realising that times had changed, that the crisis was travelling at an unsustainable rate and that, since the government could no longer afford petty charity it would have to make those promised reforms.

The final sector adding to the economic crisis, and weakening Morsi’s standing, is tourism. The government forecast was for a return to the numbers of the best years for tourism at the Pyramids. It talked of 13 million visitors in less than a year, but instead they decreased by almost 20%, with hundreds of thousands of job losses that came on top of those in agriculture, maritime trade (Suez Canal and its connections), textiles and general manufacturing. The state’s revenue has dropped alarmingly. It has gone from $46 billion in 2010 to $13 billion in 2013. Adding to the tourist crisis was the government's decision to tighten Islamist restrictions on the sale of alcohol in areas with a higher number of tourists, as well as the decision of the Salafist Mayor of Luxor to impose wearing the veil on foreign women. This has certainly not helped increase tourism or the domestic popularity of Morsi. In conclusion, this government failed in every aspect of the economy as well as disappointing social expectations. It could not be otherwise. For those who voted for Islamic parties with an almost unanimous consensus the disappointment was equal to the enthusiasm of their expectations, so that even a military coup has been hailed as a positive event and only a minority of the Muslim Broterhhood has cried foul. The downgrades by Fitch and Merrill Lynch completed the picture. The first has lowered Egypt’s rating from the already low B to B-. The second sent an alarm signal to foreign investors whose finance fled Cairo, while Moody's and Standard & Poor's put it in even more negative terms, downgrading the Egyptian economy with its political instability to a miserable Triple C.

Only the Cairo Stock Exchange has shown some positive life, a sign that the evil of speculation is scraping the bottom of the barrel while savers queue at banks before they close for good.

Meanwhile, the protests continue. The two sides (pro and anti Morsi) clash every day in the streets with hundreds wounded and several dozen deaths. The army continues its work of repression against supporters of Morsi as it planned.

It is interesting to learn that a few hours before the fighting of July 23, Essam el-Erian, number two in the party of the Muslim Brotherhood, made an open denunciation of the heavy but repeated American interference in the political affairs of Egypt. His accusation explicitly named the U.S. ambassador who had supported the removal of Morsi and, consequently, the military coup. He encouraged members of his party to "besiege" the U.S. Embassy and expel the ambassador from Egyptian soil. "The U.S. role in the coup is very clear and no one can hide it. Ask the masses of the Egyptian people ... lay siege to the embassy until they leave," said el-Erian, during an official meeting with a hundred Islamist former members of the Upper House of Parliament, before it was dissolved. The interest lies in the fact that while the political forces and the international press talk only of domestic affairs, the role of imperialism particularly the United States, is mentioned only as an afterthought, when, in fact, it is a significant element. Speaking of the army massacre of the pro-Morsi protesters, President Obama’s attitude was really strange, as if it did not concern U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. President has only said that the violence must stop and that Egyptian politics should return to normal as soon as possible. That’s not saying much and not enough for someone who has been accused by domestic opponents of collusion with the military coup. It’s not enough for the American press which has made serious criticisms: "If Obama does not want a bloodbath and the birth of a new autocracy he must do more now", was the complaint launched by a Washington Post editorial, which charged the American President for not taking a position condemning army. Furthermore the Post wrote, "the United States continues to support it." The Pentagon’s delay in delivery of new F16 fighters to Egypt has been interpreted as the usual smokescreen just to appease public opinion. "The annual aid program”, says the Washington _Post_, “is still going on thanks to the legal stratagem adopted by the State Department.” This stratagem fraudulently allows the White House to avoid taking a position on events since Morsi’s removal: the legal entity in Foggy Bottom (i.e. the State Department) which guides the White House, has advised the President to adopt a low-profile because the United States Administration has to avoid being asked to officially declare whether there was or was not a coup in Egypt. How to say "for us it is as if nothing had happened and if something has happened is not within our competence to judge, so business as usual." By doing so $1.3 billion continues to be available to General Al-Sisi, Defence Minister and strongman of the regime, and Egypt's policy remains the same, in tune with American interests. It is no coincidence, as the New York Times pointed out, that President Obama, in commenting on the arrest of the first "democratically" elected president in Egyptian history and the suspension of the constitution by the military leadership, has never used the only possible expression to describe it, that of "a military coup", merely, as before, says the NY _Times_ "inviting the armed forces not to give in to violence and work for the return of a democratically-elected government." This is an embarrassment both domestically and internationally but the needs of imperialism are paramount and will certainly not be embarrassed in carrying it out through this ugly stain on Obama’s image as President (although it would not be the first since all his reform programmes are still only on paper).

A Tale of Two Squares, the Army and its Barbaric Massacres

While American imperialism somehow steers a course towards the military regime, the opposition have taken to the streets in an uninterrupted series of protests. Morsi’s orphans demand that their President be released from prison and reinstated to the presidency of Egypt as the elections had decreed. They cried out against the scandal and organised themselves in a mass mobilisation. Two places were chosen to mark their territory and organise resistance: Nahda Square and Rabaa Square. Just as the anti-Morsi protestors had chosen Tahrir as a symbol of their protest. While the demonstrators fiercely demanded their legitimate political right, the Government replied that with terrorists, with those who supported Hamas and Hezbollah, who had acted violently against institutions and the armed forces themselves, there was no possibility of dialogue. So they had to get off the streets, and get back in line otherwise the army would intervene to defend "legality". For their part the protesters forgot that their yearnings for democracy did not include how Morsi had undermined the old constitution in a series of minor coups, making it closer to the dictates of Sharia than a modern bourgeois state. This was how the model of the fundamentalist society was taking shape, hand in hand with state employment of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood and an undisguised political nostalgia for the Caliphate. Whilst the army, in the name of a spurious defence of legality, its own, sold the military coup as the only way to save Egyptian society, threatening to bludgeon anyone who stood in their way. Both positions represent different aspects of the Egyptian bourgeoisie. On the one hand we have the weaker faction far from the major economic and financial power, but eager to get there as quickly as possible by fighting on the front of the traditionally Coptic medium and small businesses, and then attempting to grab control of "public" institutions. On the other hand we have the big bourgeoisie, played by senior cadres of the army, controlling about 40% of the Egyptian economy, who will not give an inch. In the middle, as usual, the proletariat, the sub-proletarians and peasants who become cannon fodder on both sides with no independent political focus.

After a series of ultimatums, several times postponed, the threatened repression violently exploded on Wednesday, August 14. The army intervened in Nahda and Rabaa Squares with incredible ferocity, killing 800 protesters. Thousands were arrested and the main leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood seized.

This very serious incident could only create turmoil in international public opinion as well as those imperialist centres which have direct interests in Egypt or wider ones in the Mediterranean basin. The U.S. found itself faced with further embarrassment. "Palace gossip" suggests that the White House was aware of Al Sisi’s move. They knew that sooner or later repression would be used and for this reason both Obama and Kerry, and Defence Secretary Hagel, exerted pressure for any use of force to be as soft as possible and that "collateral damage" should not exceed that of a "normal" police operation. This is not because an unusual humanitarian feeling penetrated the White House or, even less, because they wanted to save Morsi, but in order to avoid further trouble for the Obama administration in the face of the repressive military regime’s atrocities in Cairo. It was no accident that the American President was forced to kick off with a series of statements full of a lot of toxic smoke. He deplored the excessive use of force, raised the usual appeal for the restoration of legality, and as a maximum punishment, decided to review some aspects of the alliance with Egypt and to cancel the joint naval exercises scheduled for September. Not a word, however, on the coup of July 3, total silence about the nature of the Mansour government and its armed wing Al Sisi and, above all, no review, not even for a second of that grant of nearly a billion and a half dollars Obama continues to put in the hands of the army that remains, even after the massacre, the only possible tool of U.S. imperialism.

However, it is not only American imperialism that is on the move. Before and after the slaughter. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and a good part of the United Arab Emirates have lined up alongside Al Sisi defining him as the defender of the political integrity of Egypt against attacks by Islamist terrorists. Qatar and Turkey, however, took up the defence of Morsi as the democratically elected president and a victim of the arrogance of the Egyptian army. The choice of who to line up with is, of course, the result of imperialist interests and ambitions in the area. The tragic events in Cairo have given them a massive boost. Erdogan's Turkey considered that its religious affinities with the Morsi government would create a solid political alliance, which would favour Ankara’s project to consolidate its role as an oil hub in the Mediterranean and energy link between Europe and Asia. With a military government bent on defending its national interests and under constant American economic blackmail, it would be more difficult given the recent problems with the state of Israel. It is not impossible however, as the secret diplomacy of the U.S. aims to reconstruct the old tripartite political and military axis consisting of Egypt, Israel and Turkey itself.

Qatar has spared no expense. Its television network, Al Jazeera, has flooded the Arab world and beyond with constant propaganda in favour of Morsi. It has already heavily bankrolled his regime in financial terms, since the rich emirate had hoped to do a type of tourist-commercial business with it. Qatar had already announced (January 2013) a credit of $2.5 billion for the Mansour government installed by the military regime, identifying it as the ideal vehicle for their financial investments. This credit is due to be followed up with another of the same size, but the most important aspect was that the small Gulf country with the large oil revenues had already struck up the possibility of doing business with the Morsi government, to the Pharaonic tune of 200 billion dollars, according to which Qatar would be guaranteed the economic management of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt for five years including, of course, the Pyramids, Luxor, and the Valley of the Kings and Queens.

The attitude of Saudi Arabia is much more complex. According to the information provided by the Saudi agency, SPA, the Saudi King, Abdullah, has decided to send the new military-backed regime an interest-free payment to the Egyptian Central Bank for two billion dollars, a grant of a billion dollars, plus two billion dollars in the form of oil and gas supplies. In a recent statement, just after the seizure of power by the army, the Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim al Asaph, told the SPA agency that the decision to help Egypt was taken by King Abdullah to economically support Egypt at a time of particular political and economic weakness. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has never made any secret of its satisfaction with the fall of Morsi. King Abdullah himself was among the first heads of state to congratulate the new president Adli Mansour a few hours after the coup. So much hatred for Morsi and so much love for the military regime is explained by the dominant role that Saudi Arabia aims to play between the Gulf countries and the Middle East, and Egypt, which has always played a key role in the events of the area. Riyadh’s imperialism has always operated in favour of extremist, fundamentalist and jihadist groups as pawns designed to strengthen its financial influence exported under the barefaced lie of a sectarian war in the Muslim world. After the fall of Mubarak, their trusted ally who they supported financially, the Saudi King sponsored the Salafist al-Nour against the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi was guilty of having boycotted the candidacy of the Salafist Hazem Salah Abu Ismail to the benefit of his election campaign a year ago. Once Morsi came to power, relationships became complicated. His policy of favouring Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine has made the Saudi regime more suspicious. The fear was that Egypt would slide gradually towards the Shiite Syria-Iraq-Iran axis leading to a change in the balance of oil markets until now controlled by the leading producing country in the world. Secondly, the Saudi oil aristocracy was concerned that, after the fall of Ali in Tunisia, the "democratic revolution" of the Muslim Brotherhood could become an example to export even to Arabia and the Gulf states. So the removal of Morsi and his political legacy, even if done violently, could only be greeted favourably by Saudi Wahabbism. Much better a bloody military regime than a potential political enemy in a position to challenge the oil hegemony of Saudi Arabia, with dangerous alliances. It is in this sense that we must read the statements of Prince Saud al Faisal who suggests that the US-Egypt-Saudi Arabia political axis is the only one able to oppose the Russia-Iran-Syria axis in the Mediterranean and the Gulf.

Crisis, Chaos, Repression and What is the Proletariat Doing?

A large portion of the 25 million Egyptian working class took part in the demonstrations that ousted first Mubarak, then Morsi. Before and during the demonstrations, there have been significant episodes of class mobilisation with demands against the high cost of living, inflation, unemployment and against the process of impoverishment that has lasted for years and which, under the weight of the current crisis, has now become unbearable. Theses mobilisations have involved the proletariat of Suez, Ismailia and Port Said, relating to economic activities associated with the management of the Suez Canal. There have been incidents, even recently against the Morsi government, such as the textile workers’ strike of Mahalla and peasant demonstrations in the Delta due to a lack of work and wages and the high cost of food. In political terms, however, there has been very little class struggle because it is locked into the framework imposed by the old and new unions and, on a political level, the wage working masses have become attracted to bourgeois factions that have been, and continue to be, the real opinion-formers in Egyptian society. On this we have two examples and one regret.

The first concerns the negative role of trade unionism, old and new, in making compromises with any form of power acting (or rather not acting) within a conformity dictated by the crisis, and at its most radical, aims to work on the impossible terrain of neo-reformism.

After the fall of Mubarak and the collapse of the old regime’s trade unions (The Egyptian Trade Union Federation) a new union (The Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions – FESI) arose with apparent ambitions for greater autonomy and determination in the conduct of struggles. In fact, the new unions have behaved like their predecessors, more attentive to the needs of Egyptian capitalism than the living conditions and exploitation of the proletariat, to the point that, with the formation of the Morsi government, one of their founding leaders thought it right to apply for the job as Minister of Labour and succeeded in his attempt to rise through the Islamist institutions. Persistent rumours report that the new union FESI, composed of elements of the old union regime, was even created under the influence of the CIA which was groping for a way to influence the behaviour of the masses at the time of the first anti-Mubarak movement. Another expression of this failure can be seen in the number of very small unions (very similar to those seen in Italy), which are as radical in words as they are helpless in practice, with little following and with no chance of counting for anything in the contractual struggle. The outcome has been the diversion of proletarian struggles into a thousand streams, unfulfilled slogans, illusions burned out in a single demonstration and a lot of disillusionment. Strikes have been mainly organised outside the unions but the bosses’ have the same attitude of distrust towards both the new unions, and the traditional political forces.

The second example concerns the political aspect of the Egyptian workers’ struggle. Despite the growing distrust of the unions, old and new, as well as the traditional political forces, the attitude of the proletariat has concentrated on demands (a minimum wage, the fight against unemployment) without going further, or has moved "politically" but only acting as a mass movement for one of the two major bourgeois factions fighting each other in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. It has had no independent criticism of what is happening and why it involves so much violence. During the original movement that led to the fall of the "Pharaoh", a part of the proletariat was the battering ram against the old regime only to find itself under Morsi’s Islamist government, supported from the sidelines by the fascist fundamentalist Salafists of al-Nour. This government has now also fallen not only because it was similar to the previous one, but because it was not best suited to the interests of the imperialist powers of the Gulf and the U.S. The proletariat now finds itself under a new military regime similar, if not worse, in personnel and repressive attitudes to that of Mubarak, with the added irritation that the proletariat itself has split in two, acting in the interests of bourgeois factions and the ambitions of international imperialism.

Our regret is a consequence of the two examples of struggle which are doomed to defeat on both the political level and that of demands. It is the lack of a class party, a revolutionary vanguard which can begin to ask questions outside and against the laws of economics and the logic of capitalism. Without a class political vanguard, there are no tactics nor a revolutionary strategy that raises the demand struggles into political struggles against capital. Without a cutting edge that distinguishes the interests of the class to those of the bourgeoisie, that puts the logic of the need for a resurgent proletarian internationalism against bourgeois nationalism of all political or religious shades, and the ferocity of an imperialism made even more ravenous by the damage of the international crisis, there will be no real class struggle. The alternative is to remain sitting at the rigged table of the national bourgeoisie where the three card trick that gets rid of politicians and makes them reappear is played out. Down with Mubarak. Up with Morsi. Morsi in. Mubarak out. Meanwhile El Baradei has resigned, and charged with treason for doing so, has fled to Vienna thus denying the U.S. the use of their pawn. Unless they have thought out the move in advance and have saved him to revive that option in the more or less near future.

FD, August 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Prometeo - Ricerche e battaglie della rivoluzione socialista. Rivista semestrale (giugno e dicembre) fondata nel 1946.