Published on Worker’s Action, by Shamus Cooke, August 4, 2013.
The battle for the future of Egypt is underway, and it’s chaos. There has been violence on both sides of the divide, with the military inflicting the heaviest doses on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. The violence combined with any lack of long-term solution could bode poorly for Egypt’s future, but the situation is in extreme flux, and by no means anywhere settled. There is still abundant hope for most Egyptians to achieve a better world, though time is of the essence … //
… A key question must be asked: if the majority of Egyptians have demanded — and continue to demand — that the Brotherhood be evicted from power, and the Brotherhood continues to use violence and mass civil disobedience until they are reinstated, what is to be done? There is no middle ground here, since the Brotherhood has refused any concession short of the reinstating of Morsi.
The recent events in Egypt are ultimately a battle for power; and on one side of this battle you have the majority — i.e. democracy — of Egyptian people who are vehemently anti-Muslim Brotherhood. There are no easy answers here. Being “against violence” is an especially easy way to avoid these complex political issues that are ultimately a struggle for political power.
One example of this battle for power took place when the pro-Morsi demonstrators attempted to block the October 6th Bridge in central Cairo, the central artery of traffic and commerce of the capital city. It’s true that the Egyptian military used excessive force in breaking up the action, but it’s also true that such an action — and others like it —pose a direct challenge to the people’s wish to be politically rid of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is attempting to use force — in the form of militant civil disobedience and violence — to force the Egyptian people to concede to their one demand — the reinstatement of Morsi.
Force must be countered with force, not empty phrases.
But who should be employing this force? Delegating this
task to the Egyptian military is extremely dangerous. Not only will the military inevitably kill innocent people — thus reinforcing the Brotherhood’s base — but the generals have a political agenda of their own, based on their own economic interests that the average Egyptian — not to mention the rank and file soldier — has nothing in common with.
If the Egyptian people view the Muslim Brotherhood as the most immediate threat to their revolution — which seems reasonable — revolutionary Egyptians need also to immediately organize themselves as an independent force in self protection from the Brotherhood and the army, which should include reaching out to the rank and file Egyptian soldier.
If the Brotherhood is the most immediate threat to the revolution, the generals come in at a close second, although the current state of the military could not possibly suppress the revolution in its current state, and the military knows it.
But this can change fast. If the generals are able to successfully destroy the power of the Brotherhood and feel that they have the broader population unquestionably behind them — thus strengthening their position — they will immediately go after the Egyptian left and trade unions, to ensure that their elite interests are protected. Egypt’s history is full of this exact dynamic, starting with Nasser who crushed the Brotherhood — after they tried to assassinate him — and then quickly went after the Egyptian left.
And although the military and its economic benefactors are trying to create an ultra-nationalistic, pro-military attitude among the Egyptian people — which could possibly strengthen the military — the masses have interests of their own that easily transcend the abstract “love of country,” not to mention the empty politics of “political Islam.”
The broader Egyptian population must clearly put forth their independent demands, which, if united in an organized way, can cut the power of the generals and the Muslim Brotherhood at the kneecaps. The long term political loyalty of the masses will not depend on religion or patriotism, but on what organization fights for their collective interests, expressed in the demands for jobs, bread, public services, and a foreign policy that isn’t subservient to the United States, Israel or their competing puppet Gulf monarchy dictatorships.
An independent mass movement has been the critical missing link in Egyptian politics for decades, which has allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to falsely pose as the “opposition” in Egyptian politics. But now a new, much stronger opposition has been formed via revolution, which, if strengthened, will dissolve the political and economic basis on which “political Islam” stands, while inevitably demanding the political and economic base of the generals be destroyed.
An independent political path around the military and the Brotherhood isn’t utopian. For example, in the first round of the 2012 presidential elections, the founder of the left-wing Nasserite Party, Hamdeen Sabahi, won 20 percent of the vote (Morsi won only 24%), barely missing the 2nd place finish needed to make it to the 2nd and final round. Another independent candidate won 17 percent of the vote.
In short, there is already broad support for a political program that serves the needs of the majority of Egyptians. Once these demands are properly articulated and effectively organized around, the situation in Egypt will have fundamentally changed, since the people in Egypt will have found their collective voice regarding what they collectively aspire toward, easily pushing aside the obstacles to their revolution once and for all.