By Roger Annis, August 17, 2013
Yesterday, the Socialist Alliance of Australia issued a statement (text below) on Egypt. The statement condemns the massacre on August 14, 2013 of some 800 anti-coup protesters in Rabaa Square in Cairo. The statement makes many important points, but it also contains factural errors and leaves important issues unanswered. This contribution summarizes my thinking on the matter.
This key sentence from the statement raises three problems: “Socialist Alliance restates its solidarity with the Egyptian people’s mass movement against the Morsi government as well [as] our opposition to the July 3 military coup d’état.”
One, the Socialist Alliance statement on the military coup of July 3 (issued on July 12, nine days after the fact) did not condemn a coup d’etat. In a confusing twist of phrase, the statement said, “On July 3 this year, as on February 11, 2011, the armed forces “went over to the people” in order to steal the fruits of popular rebellion…”
The comparison between the coup of July 3, 2013 and the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011 is inaccurate. In 2011, the military and bourgeoisie were obliged to accept the removal of the hated dictator Mubarak by the fact of an unwavering, mass, popular uprising. The July 3, 2013 coup was the culmination of a carefully orchestrated plan by the same class forces to remove an elected rival and then turn on the entirety of the movement that dared to overthrow Mubarak.
The July 12 Socialist Alliance statement was issued in a context where the political forces with which the statement explicitly solidarized (the components of the feeble Coalition of Socialist Forces) were proclaiming the coup as a step forward in a “revolution”. (Note that the Revolutionary Socialists had earlier quit the CSF over the issue of its support to the uber-reactionary National Salvation Front of Mohamed El Baredei and others of his ilk.) Some components of the by-then disbanded CSF even hailed the military’s coup outright. The SA statement said: “The Socialist Alliance recognises and welcomes the June 30-July 3, 2013, popular mobilisations of the Egyptian people…” So the new SA statement on July 12 does not “restate” opposition to a coup; it belatedly recognizes that such occurred.
Two, the reference in the statement to the “Egyptian people’s mass movement against the Morsi government” is confusing. The very use of the term “movement” in this context to describe the protests against Morsi is misleading because of the totally divergent class interests among the ranks of the protests and those directing them.
A part of the mass protests, probably more than has been recognized to date, wished precisely for a return to military rule. Of note, here, is the observation in the recent interview with Hesham Zakai: “… the idea that 50%, even 30%, of Egypt’s population was last year conscious or adamant enough of their opposition to the military is just not true. Complete opposition to military rule or military “oversight” was never even attained within the revolution’s ranks…”
In the absence of a politically and morally defensible alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood presidency and government, the calls by progressives for the overthrow of the Morsi-led government were reckless and ultraleft as well as an offense to those who voted for the MB’s party and who continued to support it.
Three, the new statement still sits in the wrong “neither Morsi nor military” framework of the Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt. The latter write in their August 14 statement, “The Revolutionary Socialists did not defend the regime of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood for a single day. We were always in the front ranks of the opposition to that criminal, failed regime… We strongly participated in the revolutionary wave of June 30.
“Neither did we defend for a single day the sit-ins by the Brotherhood and their attempts to return Morsi to power.”
This ‘neither/nor’ framework is deadly wrong in circumstances of a military coup against bourgeois democracy.
I would like to add a few other points. The new SA statement misreads the political situation on several levels. It presents the military regime as some kind of balancing act between revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces. “Setting itself up as the arbiter between contenders for government power, the military is seeking to demobilise the revolutionary mass movement through a combination of co-option and bloody repression.” But the military regime is the counterrevolution, period. The Revolutionary Socialists recognize this, albeit in their often contradictory language.
Furthermore, the reference to a “revolutionary mass movement” excludes the anti-coup protesters who have, in fact, now become the major political actors in the country. The fundamental divide in Egypt today is ‘for or against’ the coup. This has been true since July 3, if not earlier.
The statement’s call for the release of political prisoners would be much stronger if it specified “starting with President Morsi and the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party”.
Finally, the call for a “civilian-led process to democratically elect a new government” is ambiguous and unacceptable, not least because it is certainly rejected by the many brave fighters who are today in the streets condemning military rule and facing down its murderous assault. They want nothing less than the restoration of the illegally overthrown government. Let’s defer to them on how best to undo the coup.
Egypt: End the military repression!
Socialist Alliance condemns the massacre of protesters by the Egyptian army during the dispersal on August 14 of sit-ins at Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda Square by supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Socialist Alliance restates its solidarity with the Egyptian people’s mass movement against the Morsi government as well our opposition to the July 3 military coup d’état. We call for the release of all political prisoners, the lifting of the month-long emergency rule, the end of monitoring and blocking of electronic communications and the attacks on reporters.
The Egyptian military is seeking to impose its will through bloody repression. Today, supporters of Morsi are targeted, but all forces that may be viewed as a threat to stability for the ruling elites risk being targeted next.
The Western backers of the army also have blood on their hands. Since 1978, the Egyptian military has received a US$1.5 billion annual subsidy from the US. The military is a conduit for imperialist influence including subservience to economic policies dictated by the IMF and World Bank that are responsible for the poverty, lack of opportunity and injustice that are the root cause of the social rebellions.
The US government must immediately end all military aid to Egypt and cease its backing of the bloodstained armed forces.
The unpopularity of the Morsi government and the polarisation in Egyptian society allowed the army to obtain some popular support for its repressive measures.
The military regime exploited mass opposition to the Morsi government to legitimise its use of extralegal, violent repression. The military regime is also seeking to prolong and deepen social polarisation around questions of religion.
Setting itself up as the arbiter between contenders for government power, the military is seeking to demobilise the revolutionary mass movement through a combination of co-option and bloody repression.
The Socialist Alliance adds its voice to those demanding that all political prisoners be released and supports those who are calling for an immediate end to military rule and a civilian-led process to democratically elect a new government.