The Coup d'État in Egypt and the Bankruptcy of the Left’s “Army Socialism”

A Balance Sheet of the coup and another Reply to our Critics (LCC, WIVP, SF/LCFI)

By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 8.8.2013, www.thecommunists.net

 

Contents

I.             One month after the coup: Have we seen an advance or a setback for the Egyptian Revolution?

The Left’s Failure to understand the Meaning of the reactionary Coup

After one month only politically blind people can deny that this was a reactionary coup d’état

Egypt's army command as a major player of the capitalist class

Military-imposed government attempts to liquidate the revolutionary wave

Expanding the repression apparatus

Integrating and political beheading of the liberal opposition

How do the imperialist enemies assess the military coup?

Support by imperialist Israel and the Gulf monarchies

Russian and Chinese imperialism are glad about the coup d’état

The Assad regime is relieved too

 

II.           The Assessment of the Coup: Discussing the arguments of our critiques

Comment on Socialist Fight’s critique on the term “Arab Revolution”

On Socialist Fight’s Incomprehension of the Syrian Civil War

Some “army socialists” start to feel uneasy and invent a “Third Camp”

Can a Military Coup ever reflect an Advance of the Revolution?

LCC: Mistaking a counterrevolutionary military coup for an “advance of the Arab revolution”

The Value of the Muslim Brotherhood for the Bourgeoisie

Questions to the LCC on the so-called “Advance of the Revolution”

Before the Coup D’État: Summary of the RCIT’s assessment and conclusions for revolutionary tactics

After the 3rd July: Summary of the RCIT’s assessment and conclusions for revolutionary tactics

 

III.          The Marxist classics on reactionary coups d’états

Marx and Engels against “tactical” support for reactionary forces against bourgeois opponents

Lenin, Trotsky and the Communist International on reactionary coup d’état

The Communists’ tactic during the reactionary coup d’états in Bulgaria 1923 and Poland 1926

 

IV.          The revolutionary democratic program and the slogan of a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly

On the LCC critique against our application of the slogan of a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly

WIVP: Confused about who should convene a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly

 

* * *

 

It is now little more than one month ago that the Egypt army command led by General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi overthrew the Morsi government via a coup d’état and took power. Al-Sisi leads a reactionary coalition with the “deep state” – the old repressive state apparatus from the Mubarak-era – at its core and which incorporates the pro-Western liberal opposition as well as a number of petty-bourgeois leftists and trade union bureaucrats. It is backed by the imperialist Great Powers and the Gulf monarchies and supported by the Apartheid State Israel.

Since the 3rd July the army killed – according to different estimations – between 300 and 500 people. On a single day, the bloody Saturday 27th July, the military and police orchestrated a massacre which left at least 120 demonstrators dead and a further 4,500 people injured. The progressive mass movement against the bourgeois Islamist Morsi government – which rallied at its height millions of people at the 30th June demonstration – has disappeared as an independent movement and their leaders succumb to the new Bonaparte General Al-Sisi. Kamal Abu-Eita, president of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, has been appointed by the army command as Minister for Manpower and calls for an end to all strikes.

The developments since the counterrevolutionary coup on 3rd July mean that the Egyptian Revolution has suffered a setback. This setback can be reversed and the military-imposed regime has not consolidated its power until now. But at the moment they are in the offensive and the workers movement must see this danger in order to develop the necessary tactics of mobilizing the working class for the defense of the democratic achievements and to defeat the putschists.

This coup is one of the most important events in the current world situation and therefore a crucial question for the perspectives of the class struggle not only in Egypt but the whole Middle East region and internationally. The 3rd July coup represents a model for the counter-revolution how the forces of the old regime with the imperialists backing might try to liquidate the Arab Revolution under the disguise of secularism and democracy. Engels once defined communism as the “insight into the nature, the conditions and the consequent general aims of the struggle waged by the proletariat.“ (1) Without understanding the new conditions for the working class struggle which have been created via the reactionary military coup, it is impossible for revolutionaries and the vanguard of the workers movement in Egypt and international to find the correct road to the socialist program in Egypt today.

The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) has elaborated its assessment of the events in Egypt in a number of articles and statements. (2) We supported the progressive mass mobilizations against the bourgeois-Islamist Morsi government which took place before the 3rd July. The RCIT called in this period to participate in these mobilizations in order to advance them towards a revolutionary general strike to overthrow the Morsi government. We warned against any political support for the bourgeois-liberal National Salvation Front. We also warned of the danger of a military coup and stated that – contrary to many leftists view – the army command is no friend but an enemy of the masses. We called for the formation of action committees in each factory, workers neighborhood and village as well as self defense committees to be organized on district and national level to coordinate the revolutionary activities. We argued that the goal must be to creation of a workers government, based on the poor peasantry and the urban poor committed to the expropriation of the multinationals, big capital and banks under workers control as well as the replacement of the bourgeois state apparatus by workers and peasant organs.

With the military’s coup d’état on 3rd July the situation changed fundamentally. It overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government which has its main base amongst the religious middle class but which has also substantial support amongst the urban and rural poor. The army and the imperialists had decided to get rid of the Morsi government because it had failed in its task to pacify the country after the 2011 revolution in the interests of imperialism and the big bourgeoisie.

After the coup the army command and its puppet government became the main enemy. Since then the central task is to organize mass mobilizations against the new military-imposed regime in order to defend the limited gains of the unfinished democratic revolution of February 2011. Today it attempts to suppress the Brotherhood. Tomorrow it will look for the trade unions and the left. This is why the main enemy today is the military-imposed regime. The most urgent task now is the defeat of the military regime by the working class struggle.

Revolutionaries should call for the formation of Actions Committees to organize the defensive struggle against the putschists. They should participate in the mass demonstrations and square occupations and argue for an extension of the struggle to the enterprises in order to prepare for a general strike. Revolutionaries should call for a broad united front to defeat the coup regime. Such a united front orientation should focus on the workers organization but must of course also include the Muslim Brotherhood since they are currently organizing the only existing mass mobilizations against the coup. Revolutionaries would limit such a united front only to the practical struggle against the military-imposed regime and the defense of the democratic rights. They must not support any call for a return of Morsi to power. They should raise the slogan of a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly to be organized and controlled by the revolutionary masses. Such an assembly must be protected by workers and popular militias against any interference by reactionary forces.

The RCIT calls to combine such a program with the perspective of a workers government, based on the poor peasantry and the urban poor committed to the expropriation of the multinationals, big capital and banks under workers control as well as the replacement of the bourgeois state apparatus by workers and peasant organs!

It is around these lines on which a revolutionary organization in Egypt should be built in the current phase. At the same time revolutionaries should call all workers organizations to break with the bourgeois forces and form an independent Mass Workers Party based on a revolutionary program!

Naturally not only the RCIT but many organizations of the workers movement have elaborated their assessment of the events in Egypt. In this document we will also deal with a number of positions and arguments of other organizations. More than one month of Bonapartist rule of General al-Sisi allows us to assess the evaluation and tactics of various groupings in the workers movement.

In this context we will also reply to various arguments and criticism which have been put forward against the RCIT’s assessment and tactics of the military coup in Egypt in a context of a public debate between several organizations like the Liaison Committee of Communists (LCC, with groups in New Zealand, USA, Zimbabwe), the Workers International Vanguard Party (WIVP, South Africa) and Socialist Fight (Britain) which is part of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (which has also groups in Brazil and Argentina). (3) We think such a debate is urgent because the revolutionary program is not an abstract truth or a dead letter but has to be constantly tested, defended and if necessary refined according to the developments of the class struggle.

 

I.             One month after the coup: Have we seen an advance or a setback for the Egyptian Revolution?

 

Obviously the most important question for the workers movement and the socialist forces in Egypt and internationally is the question how to assess the coup. As we discussed already several times, most progressive forces in Egypt praised the coup and saw it as an expression of the victorious march forward of the masses. The biggest danger for the workers and socialist movement is to confuse a defeat with a victory, a setback with an advance, a counter-revolution with a revolution. This is exactly what most of the Egyptian as well as the international left are guilty of and what demonstrates their bankruptcy. What we have seen is an critical or uncritical adaption to the military coup d’état by most of the left hailing the overthrow of the Morsi government and the suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslim) as an “execution of the will of the Egypt people”. Marx and Engels once denounced sarcastically the program of the German opportunist workers leaders Ferdinand Lassalle as "Royal Prussian Governmental Socialism". (4) Similarly we can call the petty-bourgeois left’s adaption to the army command as “army socialism”.

Such “socialism” is in fact a betrayal of the working class interests. It represents a major obstacle for the formation of an authentic revolutionary response by the working class vanguard so that it can find a way out of the misery. Without a fundamental clarity over the question who is the ruling class respective its hegemonic executioner and thus who is the main enemy in a given situation, any organization is doomed to fail terrible in such a highly sharp class struggle situation as we see it currently in Egypt.

 

The Left’s Failure to understand the Meaning of the reactionary Coup

 

Let us briefly recapitulate how a number of progressive organizations viewed the military’ coup d’état on 3rd July. To understand its failure one has to bear in mind that the left in Egypt – as all over the world – usually adapts towards the petty-bourgeoisie, the intelligentsia and the labor bureaucracy. These layers in turn subordinate to factions of the domestic and/or foreign bourgeoisie.

Most left-wing forces in Egypt were in close collaboration with the National Salvation Front led by the pro-Western liberal Mohammed ElBaradei for quite some time. As is widely known the NSF welcomed the coup from the beginning. In fact – as we will see later – it was involved in a conspiracy with the army command for at least half a year in order to prepare the coup. Today ElBaradei is vice president of the military-imposed government.

As we already quoted in the first RCIT statement on the coup d’état, the petty-bourgeois youth movement Tamarod also openly supports the coup d’état and defends it as an act of “revolutionary legitimacy that has reflected the people’s will against the tyrants who do not want stability in Egypt.” (5) Tamarod even supported General Al-Sisi's call for mass demonstrations on 26th July to mandate the army and police to crackdown on "violence and terrorism". It said that it supports the military in its "war against terrorism." (6) On its official Facebook page, Tamarod called on its supporters to heed the armed forces' call for protests. "We call on all the Egyptian people to gather in all the squares next Friday to call for the trial of Mohamed Morsi, support the Egyptian armed forces in the coming war against terrorism and cleansing the land of Egypt. The army and the people will fight terrorism." (7)

The Egyptian Communist Party is deeply enmeshed in a popular front with the bourgeois-liberals and supports ElBaradei. Already in the times of the Mubarak dictatorship it saw the Islamists as the main enemy. As a result, the Stalinist cadre – as the Egyptian academic Hazem Kandil put it splendidly – “made their peace with the regime a long time ago. Their excuse was that Islamization poses the biggest threat to Egypt, and that commitment to secularism binds them to the supposedly liberal ruling group. They therefore agreed to play according to the regime’s rulebook, which allowed them to write and lecture, while forbidding them from building a real base among the working class.” (8)

It is therefore not surprising that the Stalinists praised the army’s coup from the first day enthusiastically. It wrote: “Our party salutes the Egyptian masses, heroes in their grand victory over the forces of tyranny, backwardness and communalism (…) Our valiant armed forces have reaffirmed their profound devotion and total loyalty to our people and its right to live in dignity and freedom. They have thus responded to the people’s demand and joined the revolutionary struggle (…) Our party calls for an absolute priority [by a ‘technical’ government of transition and a new constitution] to meet the demands of the laboring classes (…) Our party demands equally that Morsi be brought before justice along with the pillars of his governing clique and the terrorist allies involved in a politics of terrorism against the Egyptian people.” (9)

Salah Adli, the party’s General Secretary, stated: “What has happened is not a military coup in any way, but a revolutionary coup by the Egyptian people to get rid of this fascist rule. What the army did is carrying out the will of the people and protecting them from the plots of the Muslim Brotherhood and their armed terrorist allies who want to ignite sectarian strife and civil wars, divide the Egyptian army and destroy the institutions of the Egyptian state to serve the interests of imperialism and Zionism in the region.” (10)

The fake-Trotskyist Revolutionary Socialists – which is aligned with the centrist SWP (Britain) and praised by many other centrists internationally – in turn adapts to the petty-bourgeois left-liberals of Tamarod and via this to the NSF. (11) As a result it too hailed the military coup d’état as a “new wave of the Egyptian revolution”: “What happened on June 30 was, without the slightest doubt, the historic beginning of a new wave of the Egyptian revolution, the largest wave since January 2011. (…) What has happened in Egypt is the height of democracy, a revolution of millions to directly topple the ruler.” (12) As we will see later, the brutal reality of the military-imposed regime since then has forced the Revolutionary Socialists to reduce its enthusiasm for the coup d’état.

Many of the international centrist tendencies also failed to understand the meaning of the coup d’état and to draw the correct conclusion for their tactics. The SWP’s International Socialist Tendency backs uncritically the line of their Egyptian group.

The shameful cheerleading for a reactionary army coup was however not restricted to Egypt. Painting a counterrevolutionary coup d’état as “the Second Egyptian Revolution”, the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) of Alan Woods doesn’t know any limits to the praising of the coup d’état:

Morsi has fallen. The magnificent movement of the masses has once more shown to the entire world the authentic face of the Egyptian people. It shows that the Revolution, which many even on the Left believed to have stalled, still possesses immense social reserves. Despite all the lying propaganda that tries to present the Revolution as a “coup”, this was a genuine popular insurrection, which spread like wildfire through every city and town in Egypt. This was the Second Egyptian Revolution. (…) By constantly harping on the fact that it was the military that removed Morsi, they are striving to divert attention away from the fact that it was the masses who brought about the overthrow of Morsi. This was not a coup. On the contrary, it was imposed on the military by the masses. The generals have made it clear that they do not want to take over the government. That is hardly surprising. One only has to take one look at the heaving mass of humanity in Tahrir Square to understand the impossibility of the army controlling such a vast movement. Instead, the generals decided to ride on the back of the tiger. The problem is that a man who rides on the back of a tiger will encounter serious difficulties when he tries to dismount.” (13)

After the massacre on 8th July, when the army killed more than 50 pro-Morsi demonstrators who staged a sit-in in front of an army headquarter in Cairo, the IMT justified the army repression by calling the Muslim Brotherhood the “Vendee”, i.e. the most counter-revolutionary force against the Revolution. In a situation where the army command is consolidating its reign by brutally driving its Islamist opponents from the streets, the IMT calls for the defeat of the Morsi supporters as the precondition for the advance of the revolution! (14)

The “International Committee of the Fourth International” of the late Ernest Mandel avoided making a fool of themselves as did the IMT. Nevertheless one month after the coup d’état these right-wing centrists have only been able to publish a superficial hodgepodge. They declared that “neither Morsi nor the army represents the aspirations for freedom and social justice”, that “a period of great uncertainty for the revolutionary process has therefore opened” and that the “construction of a democratic pole, of those on the left and those favourable to social justice, to advance” is necessary. (15)

The Mandelites is silent on the questions if the military-imposed regime is the main enemy since the 3rd July or not, what are now the main demands and tactics and what should be the attitude of socialists toward the pr-Morsi demonstrations. This means it is useless for the workers vanguard to find a political orientation in such difficult times.

 

After one month only politically blind people can deny that this was a reactionary coup d’état

 

The RCIT characterized the military takeover from the beginning as a reactionary coup d’état and emphasized the necessity to fight against it. However many leftist “refrains from saying the ‘C’ word” as the Indian academic Mahmood Mamdani correctly describes the left’s hesitance to call the coup by name. (16)

The truth is that this is a coup d’état which was organized long in advance, backed by the Egyptian ruling class as well as by the US imperialism, Israel, the Gulf monarchies and the Assad dictatorship in Syria.

While the Egyptian Stalinists, the RS as well as Alan Woods hallucinate about the victory of “the Second Egyptian Revolution”, this was not a coup which was spontaneously organized as a reaction to the 30th June demonstration, but rather prepared in advance. Today even pro-coup and pro-imperialist sources admit that the coup d’état was prepared by the army and the folool (remnants of the Mubarak regime) for some time with the support of the bourgeois-liberal opposition and the petty-bourgeois Tamarod movement. In fact, preparations started already in November 2012.

The Wall Street Journal, a central mouthpiece of US imperialism which supports the military’s coup d’état and call the generals to follow the road of the mass murder and dictator Pinochet in Chile reports: (17)

In the months before the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's top generals met regularly with senior aides to opposition leaders, often at the Navy Officers' Club nestled on the Nile. The message: If the opposition could put enough protesters in the streets, the military would step in—and forcibly remove the president. "It was a simple question the opposition put to the military," said Ahmed Samih, who is close to several opposition attendees. "Will you be with us again?" The military said it would. Others familiar with the meetings described them similarly. By June 30, millions of Egyptians took to the streets, calling for Mr. Morsi to go. Three days later, the military unseated him. (…) The secret meetings between the military and secular opposition parties were key to the political chess game leading to Mr. Morsi's departure. The meetings represented a strange-bedfellows rapprochement between two groups long at odds: Egypt's opposition, and the remnants of the Mubarak regime. (…) With Mr. Morsi out, Mubarak-era figures and institutions are gaining influence. The military chose a Mubarak-era judge as interim president. Other Mubarak-era judges are set to head efforts to draft a new constitution.

Egypt's opposition and Mubarak-era officials began to mend ties in November, after Mr. Morsi issued a constitutional declaration giving himself sweeping powers in what was widely considered a power grab. Opposition parties united under the banner of Mr. ElBaradei's National Salvation Front.

Mubarak-era loyalists had long distrusted Mr. ElBaradei. But after Mr. Morsi's declaration, the ice thawed. Some influential Mubarak-era figures joined Mr. ElBaradei, including Hany Sarie Eldin, the lawyer for imprisoned steel magnate and Mubarak regime heavyweight Ahmed Ezz.

Mr. Eldin's joining "sent a message to powerful businessmen who were skeptical about the revolution and ElBaradei that they could trust him," said Rabab al-Mahdi, a political-science professor at American University of Cairo who is close to NSF leaders.