On some political reactions to the impeachment of President Morsi by the Egyptian army
(«Proletarian»;Nr. 10; Winter-Spring 2014)
On August John Kerry, the American Secretary of State, said that by overthrowing President Morsi in early July the Egyptian military «were restoring democracy» and had acted «at the request of millions and millions of people» (after the failure of negotiations with the Muslim Brotherhood and the bloody repression of their supporters, the United States then began to criticize the new government).
But it is not just the United States or the international media which applauded the military action, lauding it as a victory of the masses against an anti-democratic government. Thus it is not only the usual intellectuals who chatter sententiously on what they know the least (the situation of the proletarian masses and their struggles), but also currents or political parties claiming to be Marxist or Communist who hailed it as a «second revolution»!
For example, we can cite the British trotskyist Socialist Workers Party who in their press, wrote «Second revolution brings down Egypt’s president» (1); «This is a contradictory situation. It is formally a military coup. The army has effectively arrested the president and 77 leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. They intervened to save themselves from a new revolution. But at the same time it is a mass popular revolt. The people forced the army to act, and the army only did so because they were worried about their own future» (2).
The opportunism of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran :
But perhaps the greatest enthusiasm was shown by the Worker-communist Party of Iran. In a communiqué after the overthrow of Morsi it wrote: «The Egyptian revolution has taken another important step forward for the people of Egypt, the Middle East and the whole world. The immense Tamarod (Rebellion) movement, which organized «the biggest ever demonstration in history», drove the government of Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood to the brink, finally forcing its downfall by the army. This is the third government, after those of Mubarak and Tantawi, which is being toppled by the power of Al Tahrir and Egyptian revolution. This was not only a decisive step towards weakening the Islamist forces in Egypt and in countries like Iran, but, more crucially, an expression of going beyond the limits of democracy and dealing a fatal blow to the myth of the rule of the ballot box, i.e. the rule of the bourgeoisie. The whole world witnessed how tens of millions of women and men came onto the streets in Egypt, directly exercised their will and toppled a government (…). This is a historic watershed which will bear the name of the Egyptian revolution.»(3).
For the SWP as for the WCPI, the bourgeois army (which is the «backbone of the Egyptian state» as the WCPI communiqué reminds us), has therefore become the expression of the «direct control» of the masses, and thus being «forced» by the masses to overthrow the government, taking upon itself the role of protagonist of a «second revolution» and even dealing a fatal blow to the power of the bourgeoisie!
The WCPI calls itself Marxist, but at the moment when the most popular slogan was «The Army, the People, One Hand»! They helped spread the fatal reformist lie that it is possible for the oppressed to use the bourgeois state (exerting pressure on it by peaceful demonstrations) in their favor. On the contrary the Marxists must warn the workers that the army is an even more implacable enemy than the Muslim Brotherhood because it is the ultimate defender of that capitalism which exploits and condemns them to poverty. Their duty is dispel the absurd illusions of the fatal blow that could be delivered to the power of the bourgeoisie with the removal of a government by its own armed wing.
If the WCPI release goes on to say that the revolution «has to directly confront and defeat the backbone of the Egyptian state, i.e. the army», we must immediately suspect that these are just empty words when that sentence is followed by a tribute to the «magnificent Tamarod movement» which would have «placed the Egyptian revolution in a stronger position». However, this movement, whose leaders have publicly stated that they are working for reconciliation of the revolutionaries and the folouls (representatives of the former regime), was financed by sectors of the Egyptian bourgeoisie and it was supported by most of the bourgeois parties, such as the party of ElBaradei or the National Salvation Front whose president is now Prime Minister. It has always been in contact with the ruling circles of the army and after the dismissal of Morsi by the military, it called for the creation of militias to help the army and the police!
The inconsistency of the positions of the WCPI still poke through regarding the perspectives it puts forward: «the greatest danger threatening the Egyptian revolution is if this revolution remains merely an opposition force [that is therefore not really a revolution?], and if the gigantic Al Tahrir movement does not transform itself into state power based on the direct will of the people organised in their mass grassroots organizations».
A State power based on the direct will of the people, may be an anarchist ideal, but for Marxism it is an absurd utopia: State power is necessarily based on organizations and structures of various types and based on armed force. It cannot come into existence through an indeterminate transformation of opinion and through demonstrations, but by the necessary prior dismantling of the former state power through insurrection and the revolutionary seizure of power. Furthermore, for Marxism ‘the people’ is made of various social classes, with divergent social interests: to speak of the people is to wish to hide the existence of these divergent interests and to oppose the class struggle.
Speaking of the grassroots organizations the only ones that exist today are tied to the bourgeoisie and the State, such as the Tamarod or the unions!
«The Al Tahrir and the immense movement of the Egyptian people should elevate the exercise of its will [the WCPI told us earlier that the instrument of this desire was the bourgeois army!] from changing governments and toppling the various representatives of the bourgeoisie to taking political power and setting up a new system based on people’s undeniable freedom, prosperity and dignity».
The WCPI is careful not to recall the fundamental teaching of Marxism that the only way to overthrow capitalism and achieve the emancipation of the proletariat and the oppressed masses is the class struggle carried through to the final goal, which involves the creation of classist organizations for the daily struggle (trade unions, etc. .), the constitution of the revolutionary class party, the violent seizure of power and the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship. Instead of using these lessons of Marxism to combat the inevitable confusion, of not just the masses but also but also among the elements thrust into the vanguard, the WCPI opportunistically aligns itself on this confusion; concealing the Marxist positions, it delivers these nauseating clichés on freedom, dignity, the people, denounced by Marx and Engels over a century and a half ago!
The petty-bourgeois orientation of the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists
The Revolutionary Socialists is the only Egyptian far left group known abroad, and as such it enjoys a reputation internationally as a defender of Marxist positions in the social and political tempest that has shaken Egypt since the start of the «Arab spring».
Unfortunately, this reputation is falsely claimed and the SR, with ties to the British SWP which we quoted at the beginning of this article, have demonstrated their complete inability to hold to a Marxist, class political orientation: they display a congenital tailism in relation to the dominant political currents.
In their «letter to supporters» (4) in mid-August, the SR claimed not to want «to hide or delay some of our policies and principles in order to enjoy the temporary, close support of the masses behind our rhetoric and our slogans. On the contrary, concealing some of our slogans or our policies in order to achieve short-term political goals will only lead to opportunism. This is not the way that the Revolutionary Socialists work, and we have completely avoided opportunism (…)».
But in fact, it is the most unbridled opportunism that has characterized and characterizes their policies. They have supported various political forces, but always bourgeois: their only constant is their stubborn refusal to adopt class positions! We will see this through a quick review their positions in recent years.
In their statement of condemnation of the massacre of August 14, hundreds of Islamist demonstrators, they wrote: «The SR did not support for a single day the regime of Mohammed Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood. We have always been at the forefront of opposition to this criminal regime.» The reality is somewhat different.
According to a confidential cable from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo (revealed by WikiLeaks), from 2008, after the wave of strikes in the textile industries, the SR seems to have been part of a front comprising the Muslim Brotherhood, the Waft, Nasserite, Karama and Tagammu parties (Parliamentary opposition parties tolerated by the regime) favoring a «transition to a parliamentary democracy» before the presidential elections in 2011, this front hoping to have the support of the Army and the police (5).
Whatever the case may be, the SR publicly defended the direction provided by the leaders of the SWP, that alliances with Islamist parties are possible, with the slogan : «with the Islamists , sometimes with the State, never»( 6). In fact they have been sometimes with the Islamists, sometimes with the State!
On February 25, 2011, ten days after the fall of Mubarak, the SR signed the ultra-reformist statement of the «working coalition of 25 January Revolution» consisting of «Leaders, emblematic figures and other personalities related to the Egyptian workers’ movement», i.e. representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, the Communist Party, trade unionists and democratic NGOs. Its first two points were: «1. Form the civilian Presidential Council immediately, in order to direct the transition. 2. Bring down the government of Ahmed Chafik (although it is trying to do a quick repair job) and form another government made up of national bodies that are qualified and completely independent of the current regime, until the holding of new elections».
While the situation was supposedly revolutionary, obviously no even vaguely classist demand could be issued by such a gathering including declared or concealed enemies of the workers’ struggle! (7). Only the seventh and eighth and final point made a timid reference to workers’ interests by requiring the dissolution of the official trade union federation, the reinstating of laid-off workers and to «Implement international agreements relating to economic and social rights so as to be able to enjoy trade-union freedoms and fair wages (…)» .
Throughout this tumultuous period, one seeks in vain for the taking up of classist positions even vaguely reminiscent of Marxist orientations on the part of the SR, only interested in «short-term results».
Thus in July 2011 they participated in the organization of a Friday of «national unity» against the provisional Government in Tahrir square, within the framework of a «United front» which included practically every party right up to the far-right Salafist: it undertook to send to the «Military Council the message that the political forces in Egypt could not be divided», the various organizations having agreed to put aside their differences. It was of course impossible to advocate independent class struggle while participating in an inter-classist front which included bourgeois parties, secular or religious! Salafist protesters having used the demonstration to demand the application of Sharia law and the creation of an Islamist state, the secular parties declared, in a statement also signed by the SR, that they would withdraw «in the name of their pacifist principles» and as a sign of protest that the «divergences» between the participants had been publicly expressed (8)!
SR electoral support for Morsi
During the presidential elections of June 2012, the first since the fall of Mubarak, the SR called for a vote in the second round for the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood (Mohamed Morsi) against the one supported by the military (Shafiq), they wrote in their statement that it would be a serious mistake not to differentiate between the «reformist Muslim Brotherhood and the ‘fascism’ of Shafiq. The Brotherhood were supported by millions in the elections who aspire (...) to a true democracy». Calling for «the unity of revolutionaries and reformists [that is to say the Muslim Brotherhood]», they advocated the formation of a «national front against the candidate of the counter-revolution» and called on the Muslim Brotherhood form a coalition government «across the political spectrum»!!! (9).
Faced with the argument that there is no difference between the generals and the Muslim Brotherhood, the SR admitted: «From a class point of view, if we look at their programs, there is no differences. But there is one very important difference. The Muslim Brotherhood has a mass base — an ability to mobilize. (...) The base of the Brotherhood, and the masses who support them, are an audience for the Left in Egypt. They are an audience for the revolution. The SR does not ‘support’ the Muslim Brotherhood. But in the battle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military, we are on the barricades with Islamists» (10).
Therefore, the Islamists are reformists that should be supported because they have millions of people with them: a nice admission of opportunism...
According to Marxism , the «reformists» are enemies of the revolution, supporters of the established order (the Bolsheviks called them agents of the bourgeoisie), but they manage to deceive the proletarian masses by claiming to defend their demands and arguing that they can be met by legal and peaceful means, by simple reforms. You cannot rip the masses from the clutches of the reformists with the tactic of the «Political United Front» with them, but only by mobilizing the base, in a united struggle for these demands.
Moreover how can it be said that Morsi is reformist and that the «fascist» Shafiq is the candidate of the «counter-revolution», if the two candidates have the same program? And if the masses who support the Muslim Brotherhood, do so on the basis of a program that is as reactionary as that of the generals, how can you say that these masses are an audience for the revolution?
But the most important question is this: is it possible to fight fascism or the «counter-revolution» through the ballot-box and by supporting a reactionary party? Have the workers no alternative but to use the bourgeois electoral process – put in place to divert the real struggle – and is the only choice between two bourgeois alternatives? To ally with religious or secular bourgeois parties, with the aim of democratic reforms, is a complete betrayal of proletarian interests and the class struggle, since we are no longer in the era of anti-feudal and anti-colonial revolutions (and even then, if specific, very temporary alliances in the revolutionary struggle were possible, the condition was the class independence of the proletariat).
Millions of Egyptians understood that the elections could change nothing: refusing to support the candidate of the generals as well as of that of the Muslim Brotherhood, they abstained, giving a lesson to the so-called Socialist Revolutionaries...
A few months later, in November 2012, while the unpopularity of the Muslim Brotherhood was at its peak at the time of constitutional changes decreed by Morsi , the SR abandoned their belief in the reformist nature of the Muslim Brotherhood: «Today all the masks fell from Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood organisation (…). They and the remnants of the old regime are two sides of the same coin, which is tyranny and enmity towards the people» (11) they stated indignantly.
This does not however mean that they decided to follow a policy of proletarian class independence; irresistibly attracted by the prospect of interclassist assemblies, they called for the «formation of a new Constituent Assembly representing all sectors of society» and the formation of a «revolutionary coalition government until the adoption of a new constitution and the election of a new government»! The use of the word ‘revolutionary’ here to push this proposition for a government of all parties, embodying national unity which SR has regularly advocated, is monstrous to anyone who calls himself a Marxist… a:
The Tamarod campaign
In the spring of 2013 the SR engaged in the Tamarod campaign, although they now say they knew that not only various bourgeois and capitalist, forces including the Mubarak regime, but even the Mukabarat – the secret police – participated in this campaign (12)! The Tamarod campaign had no revolutionary or proletarian contents; it was a massive collection of petitions, funded by big capitalists and relayed by the media opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood to demand the resignation of the Morsi Government; its purpose was to contain discontent caused by the policies of this Government and the social crisis within the framework of the bourgeois regime. It led to huge street demonstrations June 30. In these demonstrations the Tamarod leaders had sought and obtained the condition that there be no workers’ flags and banners. Today the SR explains that it was a condition demanded by the army: «the army did not want a clearly visible role for the working class, it wanted it to be a moment of national unity, with Egyptian flags and that’s it. Everyone together – the remnants of the former regime, the revolutionaries, the left, the right, the large capitalists, all together» (13). It is easy to understand that these events inevitably opened the way for a military coup to overthrow Morsi.
The SR approved of the action of the army by posing it as a second revolution imposed by the military revolt of the masses (the positions of the SWP mentioned at the beginning of this article were written by the SR): «Al Sisi did on 3 July 2013 what Hussein Tantawi did before him on 11 February 2011– he acquiesced to the will of the rebelling populace, not out of any patriotism or revolutionary fervor, but out of fear of the revolution» (14) (!). According to their analysis, the military would now play the card of the liberal opposition forces to attempt «to derail the revolution».
Actually the military had so little «acquiesced» to the revolutionary will of the masses, that, reinforced by their confidence, they immediately strengthen the repressive State power, engaging in repeated massacres of Morsi supporters, appointing representatives of the former regime for positions as Governors, sending soldiers and police to break strikes, prohibiting strikes in certain public sectors (hospitals) and organizing a large campaign of nationalist propaganda of which Syrian and Palestinian refugees were the first victims.
In this new situation, the SR stated in August that it was «of the utmost importance to revive the project of the Revolutionary Front with principled parties which do not drift into the arms of the state and the new government, neither are they allied with the Islamists against the state and which adopt a programme of the demands of the revolution and its goals» (15).
It should be noted here that the SR never did care to define what this revolution was and what its goals were (except in the vaguest and most vacuous terms): bourgeois revolution, socialist revolution, simple democratic reform of the State? This would have required them to analyze the role of the different social classes in this revolution, to delineate perspectives on the basis of this analysis, and so on. . . But for that they would have had to break with their immediatism and turn to Marxism – an impossible task for the SR which determines their activity on a day by day basis, subject to the mercy of events.
The «Revolutionary Front» began in late September. Once again, it can be seen that this is an initiative that contains absolutely nothing proletarian: redistribution of wealth, full equality between individuals, opposition to the authoritarian regime, judgment of its crimes, foreign policy guaranteeing national independence, these are its programmatic points. The Front plans to launch campaigns for a «declaration of the right of Egyptians» (apparently the classic – and bourgeois – ‘human rights’ do not apply to the Egyptians), for the recognition of the social and economic rights in the future Constitution, and for an ‘audit’ of the external debt of Egypt in order to pay only that part which has been «used in the interest of the whole of the Egyptians» (16).
This typically petty-bourgeois program is not surprising if you look at what groups or parties compose the front: in addition to the SR and different personalities, there is indeed the Party of Strong Egypt, splinter Islamic party from the Muslim Brotherhood, «moderate» but wholly bourgeois (who won 17% of the vote in presidential elections), the April 6 Movement (petty-bourgeois organization, patriotic and pacifist , born on the momentum of the workers’ struggles in 2007, a section of which supported the military coup after they supported Morsi in the presidential elections), etc... Authentic Revolutionary Marxists have no place in such a front whose activity, if indeed it occurs, can only be contrary to the struggle for the class independence of the proletariat.
To demonstrate the Marxist position, let us read excerpts from a text by Lenin, written to define the attitude of «Social Democrats (read: Communists or Marxists) towards the other opposition forces. It should be noted that at that time in Russia the bourgeois revolution against the old pre-capitalist regime had not occurred; several social classes were therefore interested in the overthrow of the semi-feudal Tsarist regime – while in Egypt today capitalism is the dominant mode of production and the bourgeois revolution is no longer possible; therefore while partial and limited alliances with other opposition forces representing these classes were possible in the fight against tsarism – this is no longer the case in Egypt. Note also that there was not yet a real party and Lenin set as the goal of the work of revolutionaries the formation of the revolutionary party.
Lenin wrote: «While pointing to the solidarity of one or other of the various opposition groups with the workers, the Social-Democrats will always single out the workers from the rest, they will always point out that this solidarity is temporary and conditional, they will always emphasize the independent class identity of the proletariat, who tomorrow may find themselves in opposition to their allies of today. We shall be told that «such action will weaken all the fighters for political liberty at the present time.» We shall reply that such action will strengthen all the fighters for political liberty. Only those fighters are strong who rely on the consciously recognized real interests of certain classes, and any attempt to obscure these class interests, which already play a predominant role in contemporary society, will only weaken the fighters»(17).
The politics of the SR could not be further away from the teachings of Lenin!
* * *
Historically, there is no possibility in Egypt of any other revolution than the proletarian revolution; and this revolution will not be confined to the borders of this country, it will be part of the global Communist revolution. The regime crisis in which bourgeois power is today engulfed is not yet the prologue of the proletarian Communist revolution; but it can and should be used by the Egyptian proletariat to prepare for the future final struggle and give an example to the proletarians of the world.
The political convulsions that have shaken Egypt for two years have their roots in the economic and social crisis in which this country, even more than others, is immersed. To exit this crisis Egyptian capitalism has no alternative but to attack the proletarians and disinherited masses ever more fiercely. This is the route that the IMF indicated and that the Muslim Brotherhood were reluctant to follow through on, not because of their alleged «reformism», but for fear of unleashing the struggle of the proletarian masses. Unable to provide to the capitalists that they asked of them, the Muslim Brotherhood have been swept away with savagery by the «bodies of armed men» who are the essence of all bourgeois States. The financial assistance provided by the petro-monarchies to the new authorities can only be a temporary remedy: attacks against the proletariat are more than ever on the agenda in Egypt, especially as revenue from tourism, a particularly important economic sector, has melted away dramatically because of the recent troubles. The struggle between the classes is therefore bound to intensify; the Egyptian proletariat will have to fight tough battles to resist the capitalists who are preparing to increase by all means its exploitation and its oppression. It has already shown its capacity for struggle, from the time of the Mubarak regime, and removal of Mursi and the formation of a new Government by the military only seems to have resulted in a temporary truce in strikes.
However, to fight successfully against an ruthless class enemy that will stop at nothing, to not only resist this enemy and grasp a few concessions, but to overthrow it, the proletariat will have to establish not only class organizations to carry out the daily struggle, but the leadership organ of its generalized struggle its own revolutionary class party, communist and internationalist.
It is a goal that cannot be immediately realized, if only because it requires as a precondition the political struggle of vanguard elements, like the Social Democrats at the time of Lenin, against all the false perspectives, against overt adversaries, as well as masked adversaries, against the military and the democrats, against the Islamists and against the petty-bourgeois currents that try to pass themselves off as revolutionaries, such as the SR.
But for the proletarians of Egypt as for those around the world, there is no other way.
(1) http:// socialistworker. co.uk/ art/ 33814/ Second+ revolution+ brings+ down+ Egypts+ president
(3) http:// communisme-ouvrier. info/ ?L-avancee- historique- de- la. As far as we know, the WPI has not released other statements on the events in Egypt.
(4) http:// socialistworker. co.uk/ art/ 34144/ Egyptian+ Revolutionary+ Socialists+ letter+ to+ supporters
(5) http:// wikileaks. ch/ cable/ 2008/ 12/08CAIRO2572.html. It was the account of discussions with a leader of the «April 6 Movement» back from the USA. The embassy added that it could not confirm the reality of the plan outlined by the latter, plan that it considered «unrealistic».
(6) http:// www.sa. org.au/ index. php? option= com_ k2&view= item& id= 7333: egypt- sometimes- with- the- islamists- never- with- the-state& Itemid= 386
(7) http:// www. internationalviewpoint .org/ spip.php? article2102. The PC under Mubarak, was part of Tagammu party, is implanted in the trade union bureaucracy, like Tagammu it was hostile to the mass movement, to the strikes and demonstrations that brought down Mubarak.
(8) http:// english.ahram. org.eg/ News/ 17654.aspx
(9) http:// socialistworker. co.uk/ art/ 28103/ Revolutionary+ Socialists+ statement+ on+ Egypts+ presidential+ elections
(10) http:// www. sa.org.au/ index. php? option= com_k2& view= item& id= 7372: the- road- to- mursis- victory& Itemid= 386
(11) http:// www. socialistworker.co .uk/ art/ 29537/ No+ to+ dictator ship%2C+ no+ to+trading+ on+ the+ revolution+ and+ the+ martyrs
(12) http:// socialistworker. org/ 2013/ 09/ 03/ the-main- enemy- is- the- state
(13) http:// opendemocracy .net/ sameh- naguib- rosemary- bechler/ egypt% E2% 80% 99s- long- revolution- knowing- your- enemy
(14) http:// socialistworker .co.uk/ art/ 33815/ Egypt % 3A+ Four+ days+ That+ shook+ the+ world
(15) http:// socialistworker.co.uk/art/ 34144/Egyptian+ Revolutionary+ Socialists+ letter+ to+ supporters
(16) http:// www.lcr-lagauche .be/ cm/ index.php? view= article&id= 3023: egypte- declaration- constitutive- du- front- l-chemin- de- la- revolution- thuwar- r-&option= com_ content& Itemid= 53
(17) Lenin, «The Tasks of the Russian Social- Democrats» (1897), (MIA)
International Communist Party