When the politically more advanced sections of the Egyptian masses stood up to their Government, Army (the real power in Egypt) and police to occupy Tahrir Square and continually demonstrate, in the face of great personal risk, in order to get rid of US imperialism’s placeman, Hosni Mubarak, as President, they could hardly have expected that within a very short period they would not only succeed in that and elect a new President, but that less than a year later they would be taking to the streets again. Nor could they have expected that this would be alongside Mubarak supporters, and for the purpose of getting rid of their new elected President. Much less would they have imagined that they would be calling on the army to depose this new President! The Army did as the masses asked and removed the elected government, putting into power President Adly Mansour at the head of an interim government which will remain in office until new elections are organised under a new constitution.
When the situation in Egypt is looked at in the light only of the information given in the above paragraph, the reader could be forgiven for thinking that the Egyptian people, having given a form of bourgeois democracy a short trial, are now returning to the comfort of a military dictatorship but that would be a great mistake. In the July/August 2012 edition of Lalkar, when looking at the Presidential elections, we made the point that it is easier to know what you don’t want than to know exactly what you do want. It was in this state of mind that many Egyptians went to those polls. In a contest at that time that came down to a straight choice between Ahmed Shafik, a former air force general and the last Prime Minister appointed by Hosni Mubarak, on one hand, and Mohamed Morsi of the Moslem Brotherhood (MB), on the other, Shafik was seen by many as too close to what Egyptians didn’t want. Many of them voted for Morsi as the lesser of the two evils. As a result Morsi won by a small margin, gaining 51% of the vote.
Having won the election, the Brotherhood, going back on all its previous promises, packed the constitutional committee to try and drag the country backwards to an Islamist state and yet, at the same time, tried to please US imperialism and its guard dog in the Middle East, Israel, by filling in the lifeline tunnels to Gaza. Gaza is run by Hamas, an organisation that has very strong links to the Brotherhood, which makes this harder to understand unless you take the view that Morsi and the MB were prepared to do anything to keep the imperialists sweet, believing that this was the key to retaining power.
Of course, the things that helped create the opposition to Mubarak’s rule – the high food prices, fuel shortages and rising unemployment/poverty – remained. A government with no great support, keeping one eye on the army and bending over backwards to placate imperialism, while trying to force the masses to accept the road to the MB’s own brand of Islamic fundamentalism, is not in any position to do anything to ease these particular problems. The last straw for many Egyptians was the Brotherhood’s support for the US-backed Islamic terrorists who have been sent into Syria to overthrow that country’s government in the same way that they did in Libya. When it was revealed that Morsi was trying to raise fighters to send to Syria to do imperialism’s dirty work, the resentment that had been building boiled over. The protesters called on the army, the only power in Egypt at present with the capacity to remove the government, to do just that. This was not taking a step backwards or asking for a return to the past. The veteran protesters whose struggle on the streets of Egypt has now ousted Mubarak and Morsi are certainly not calling for the army to retain power. This is an onward march and these struggles are educating the masses of the Egyptian people. Communists are also more visible in these struggles now. Will the masses have to clash with the army at some point? Will they reject altogether the yo-yoing between the army and the Brotherhood and find an ideology that represents the majority of them regardless of religion and in favour of their interests rather than those of imperialism and its puppets? Again, it is too early to say at present but right now it is the turn of the MB to call its supporters onto the streets demanding the return of the Morsi Government. Since Morsi was removed as President there have been over a thousand deaths. MB supporters have been involved in clashes not only with the police and soldiers but also with their civilian opponents. They have also targeted the minority Christians in Egypt in sectarian attacks and burnt down scores of churches, which can only be calculated to start yet another religious clash in the region. This has alienated the Brotherhood totally from most Egyptian people, leaving the MB and its plans in tatters.
When the military moved in on the strongholds that the MB had created, there was relief and support among the majority, as these strongholds had been the scene of torture and killings by the Morsi supporters, and the most common criticism that was levelled at the army by the masses who had called for the removal was that the crackdown on the MB ‘camps’ had taken too long to be initiated.
The situation in Egypt is confusing, volatile and fast-moving. Not surprisingly, this finds its reflection in the confusion reigning in left circles as well as in the camp of imperialism and the reactionaries. Some on the left find themselves calling for the reinstatement of Morsi because he was ‘democratically’ elected and then removed through military action. Yes, the military removed the government but this action was fiercely demanded by the masses. Communists should not be slaves to formal bourgeois democracy, for, surely, if a government elected on the basis of all kinds of promises reneges on them, the people have the right to call for its removal. That is precisely what happened in Egypt. Instead of criticising this practice, we should be attempting to introduce it in our own country.
The camp of imperialism and reactionaries is no less marked by confusion, dissension and disagreements than are left circles. The Saudis, who have been propped up by US imperialism for decades, were more than a little uneasy when the US allowed Mubarak to be toppled and replaced by the MB, partly sensing that the support they receive could also disappear just as quickly in the right conditions, and partly because they are closer to the Salafi brand of Egyptian fundamentalism than the MB’s . Precisely for this reason the Saudis have thrown their weight very publicly behind the action of the Egyptian Army. Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have also publicly given their support to the new government, while the other US puppets in the region, Qatar and Turkey, have publicly taken the opposite line since they are close to the MB. The US and other imperialist powers are caught in a bind, unable openly to approve of the actions of the Egyptian army, for they contradict their “democratic” rhetoric, but unable at the same time to condemn them either. These dissensions and contradictions in the camp of the reactionaries are a major headache for imperialism, for they come at a crucial time when US imperialism is busy attempting regime change in Syria and they threaten to derail their nefarious project.
As the maturity of the Egyptian masses grows and they reach for answers and direction, we could do much worse than point them to the words of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, speaking in 1961 at the National Assembly on the result of the Casablanca Summit conference: ” Liberty cannot be protected by beseeching or compromising with the imperialist. Nor can liberty be protected by reaching a truce or being soft with imperialism. Liberty and freedom are protected far away from the castles of feudalism and reactionary elements, away from the cringing whispers, away from individual egoism hiding behind lax words and undefined expressions.
“The battles of freedom cannot be met except by a conscious, positive struggle and cannot be fought except in opposition to and face to face with the very powers of imperialism. ”
Things, however, turned out completely differently in the Middle East. Beginning with the late 1950s and early 1960s, imperialism aligned with the nationalists to crush the communist and working-class movement, before going on to defeat the nationalists. Once that had been done, all resistance to imperialism and its stooges retreated into the only safe place available, namely, the mosque. Islamism became for a while the banner of revolt against imperialism and its agents. Islamism, in turn, having very little to offer, is exposing itself as a hollow, worthless and an essentially pro-imperialist, ideology – only wrapped up in obscurantist claptrap. This is proven by the recent events in Egypt where, after assuming office, the MB took less than a year to expose itself and, by extension, the ideological baggage of Islamism. Thus the wheel has come full circle. The only way forward is through the proletarian ideology of Marxism-Leninism, which fights against imperialist domination and its puppets alike and offers real solutions to economic problems.
At the moment, the Egyptian masses are groping for answers to their real problems – answers which they have not yet found. One thing, however, is certain. They are on the move and they have lost the fear of their oppressors, and will not be easily forced into a state of submission. It is to be hoped that through their ongoing struggle they will grasp the truth that only under the leadership of a party of the working class, which fights for a bright socialist future, can the Egyptian masses achieve their liberation from oppression and exploitation, hunger and destitution. We wish them well.