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.

The two sides needed each other. Opposition parties had popular credibility, unlike Mubarak-era officials. Mubarak figures brought deep pockets and influence over the powerful state bureaucracy.

Some of these figures "are the ones who continue the methods of the so-called deep state," said Ms. Mahdi. "They are the ones who know who are the election thugs, how to hire them," she said. They know "which public-sector managers have the biggest networks of employees." As Mr. Morsi's ouster neared, there were increasing meetings between the military and opposition. They included senior aides to Mr. ElBaradei, former presidential candidate and Arab League chief Mr. Moussa, and another presidential candidate, Hamdeen Sabahy, according to Mr. Samih, and other people close to top NSF members.” (18)

As the New York Times reports, the unholy alliance of army, folool, big business, liberal opposition and Tamarod prepared the coup by a series of measures which led to massive shortages and insecurity for the masses in daily life.

The apparently miraculous end to the crippling energy shortages, and the re-emergence of the police, seems to show that the legions of personnel left in place after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 played a significant role — intentionally or not — in undermining the overall quality of life under the Islamist administration of Mr. Morsi. (…) But it is the police returning to the streets that offers the most blatant sign that the institutions once loyal to Mr. Mubarak held back while Mr. Morsi was in power. Throughout his one-year tenure, Mr. Morsi struggled to appease the police, even alienating his own supporters rather than trying to overhaul the Interior Ministry. But as crime increased and traffic clogged roads — undermining not only the quality of life, but the economy — the police refused to deploy fully. (…) Mr. Sawiris, one of Egypt’s richest men and a titan of the old establishment, said Wednesday that he had supported an upstart group called “tamarrod,” Arabic for “rebellion,” that led a petition drive seeking Mr. Morsi’s ouster. He donated use of the nationwide offices and infrastructure of the political party he built, the Free Egyptians. He provided publicity through a popular television network he founded and his major interest in Egypt’s largest private newspaper. He even commissioned the production of a popular music video that played heavily on the network. (…) Ms. Gebali, the former judge, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that she and other legal experts helped tamarrod create its strategy to appeal directly to the military to oust Mr. Morsi and pass the interim presidency to the chief of the constitutional court.” (19)

Contrary to the leftist praising of the army coup as an “execution of the people’s will”, the military-imposed regime is fully supported by the big capitalists. The Economist – another central mouthpiece of the capitalists – reports: “Big business has broadly rallied to the new regime.” (20)

 

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

 

The Egypt's army command is not only the backbone of the repressive state apparatus and as such an important component of the ruling class. In addition, it also plays a major economic role as a powerful state capitalist. It is “a state within a state”.

The army generals sold vast swathes of military land to finance some major urban developments near Cairo. In return for selling military property on the Nile Delta and Red Sea coast with idyllic beaches and exquisite coral reefs, military officers became key shareholders in new tourist developments.

The army command also owns at least 16 enormous factories that produce not just weapons, but an array of domestic products from dishwashers to heaters, clothing, doors, stationary pharmaceutical products, and microscopes. Amongst them are big corporations like Abu Zaabal (Engineering Industries), Benha (Electronic Industries) and Maadi (Engineering Industries). It also builds highways, housing developments, hotels, power lines, sewers, bridges, schools and telephone exchanges. In addition the military is also Egypt's largest farmer, running a vast network of dairy farms, milk processing facilities, cattle feed lots, poultry farms, fish farms. (21)

Much of the military state capitalist’s size is unclear because the army command makes sure that there are no real published accountings. There is simply no civilian control. Even when Mohammed Morsi became president, he had to agree – as part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rotten deal with the army command – that there would be no civilian oversight of the military budget.

There are different assessments about the economic weight of the army state capitalist sector. Some report that the Egyptian military control anything from 15% to 40% of the economy. (22) Joshua Stacher, an Egyptian-military expert and assistant professor at Kent State University in Ohio, estimates that as much as one-third of Egypt’s economy is under military control. (23)

From these figures it becomes clear the army command is one of the biggest groups of the capitalist class in Egypt. The damage to the production caused by the revolutionary instability of the last two years, the collapse of the tourism industry etc. all these are major reasons for the army command to liquidate the cause of the instability – the revolutionary ferment in the society – and to reestablish law and order.

So contrary to the petty-bourgeois left’s phantasm, the army command is not executing the will of the people. Rather it is a state capitalist with very concrete profit interests which it is determined to increase.

 

Military-imposed government attempts to liquidate the revolutionary wave

 

As we stated repeatedly the military coup was directed from the beginning to liquidate the revolutionary ferment in the society and to reestablish stable conditions for business and the imperialists. For this the ruling class had to cancel its deal with the Muslim Brotherhood – not because the latter was not willing to serve the capitalists interests but because it was not capable to do so under the given circumstances. Therefore the Morsi government was not longer needed. (More on the Muslim Brotherhood and the Morsi government below).

During the decades of the Nasser-Sadat-Mubarak dictatorship, it was very dangerous for the working class to strike. Immediately after the revolution in early 2011, the number of strikes increased. However there was a breakthrough in the number of strikes as soon as the army was no longer responsible for running the government and a civilian government – led by Morsi – took over. The army command and its imperialist backers had agreed to a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood in the hope that the latter could create a successful democratic counterrevolution towards stabilization of the political situation. This obviously failed.

Under the Morsi government the number of strike increased dramatically. A study about labor movements during 2012 – published by the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights in April 2013 – shows that most of the year’s 3,817 labor strikes and economically motivated social protests happened following Morsi’s election. There was an average of 185 protests or strikes per month between January and June 2012 (the period in which the army command ran the country) In contrast, workers staged an average of 452 monthly protests or strikes between July and December 2012 following Morsi’s inauguration. There have been over 2,400 protests or strikes in the first quarter of 2013 alone, specifically between January and March.

Most protests came from the governmental sector, which witnessed 1,355 demonstrations and strikes, accounting for 35.5% of 2012’s total. Private sector workers accounted for 10.3% with 393 protests while public sector employees made up 5.8% with 221 protests. Freelancers and self-employed workers held 182 protests, accounting for 5%. Citizens protesting against rising prices, lack of fuel, electricity problems, and other economic problems held 1,656 protests; the remaining 43.4%. The authors of the study concluded: “The statistics demonstrate the doubling of protest movements since July following President Morsi’s inauguration which reflects the will of workers to have their voice reach the new president”. (24)

This revival of class struggles showed to the ruling class that the Morsi government was unfit to stabilize the country. The Al-Ikhwan government came itself under increasing pressure since its own social basis – the lower middle class, the professionals etc. – suffered from the declining economic and social conditions. Thus the Morsi government tried to generate new sources for financial and political support by intensifying relations with China ad Iran in order to countering the country total dependence on US imperialism. It also increased its reactionary Islamist agenda to pacify its core constituency (introducing the Sharia law in the constitution).

The new, military imposed Bonapartist regime tries to stabilize the political situation mainly by four policy tools:

* expanding the repressive state apparatus and reestablish the hegemony of the folool

* integrating the bourgeois-liberal opposition and even elements of the labor bureaucracy as a subordinated force to the army and the folool

* transforming the progressive mass protests against the Morsi government into an accoutrement to reactionary law and order policy of the new military-imposed regime.

* increasing the repression against the Al-Ikhwan in order to force it either to submission or to smash them.

 

Expanding the repression apparatus

 

Let us illustrate the expansion of the repression apparatus with a number of examples. Immediately after taking power on 3rd July the army command has started a wave of massive repression mainly against the Muslim Brotherhood. In the month since than it has killed at least 300 people (other sources speak of more than 480 people), injured over 10,000 and arrested more than 2,000 people for political reasons but without any legitimate charges. This wave of repression was mostly directed against the Al-Ikhwan as the most significant force who opposes the coup, but not exclusively. Esam Al-Amin, writing in Counterpunch, reports: “Al-Wasat (Center) Party leader Abulela Madi and his deputy Esam Sultan were arrested on July 29 and later charged with incitement and conspiracy to murder. According to Madi’s son, both political leaders were told at the time of their arrest that if they were to publicly support the coup they would not be arrested. Both summarily rejected the offer and went to prison.” (25)

In addition the 3rd July regime has already started to expand the repression apparatus and its powers. It is highly significant but mostly underreported that on 29th July Egypt's interior ministry Mohamed Ibrahim announced the resurrection of Egypt's state security investigations service wing of the police force under President Mubarak – the Mabahith Amn ad-Dawla. This unit is a symbol of police oppression, which was supposedly closed in March 2011. It has the task “to combat terrorism and monitor religious activity”. (26)

Mohamed Ibrahim added that experienced police officers, i.e. notorious experts in torture, sidelined in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution would be brought back into the fold. In addition, soldiers were granted the right to arrest civilians.

On the same day, Egypt's interim prime minister was given the power to place the country in a state of emergency – a hallmark of Egypt under Mubarak. Patrick Kingsley in The Guardian rightly observed: “Ibrahim's announcement the next day [after General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi asked for the public’s backing to fight what he termed as terrorism] hinted that he felt he had implicit public support for a crackdown on not just terrorists but religious and secular activism of all kinds.

It is characteristic that many police and army officers feel now more self-confident after the coup of General Al-Sisi. The Guardian quotes a police officer: “’Our pride is back,’ one middle-ranking Cairo-based police officer told the Guardian, adding that state security's notorious treatment of detainees was reasonable given that, in his view, the detainees were unlikely to be innocent.”

Aida Seif el-Dawla, a prominent Egyptian human rights activist, and the executive director of a group that frequently supports victims of police brutality, commented: “It's a return to the Mubarak era. (…) These units committed the most atrocious human rights violations, (…) incommunicado detentions, killings outside the law. Those were the [units] that managed the killing of Islamists during the 1990s. It's an ugly authority that has never been brought to justice.” (27)

Even the pro-coup mouthpiece of the US ruling class – the Wall Street Journal – is forced to recognize: “Egypt's interim civilian government moved toward reviving the police state that characterized the widely hated regime of longtime former President Hosni Mubarak.” (28)

 

Integrating and political beheading of the liberal opposition

 

We characterize the military-imposed regimes as Bonapartist. It is based on an alliance between the army and the folool who constitute its core and with the bourgeois-liberal camp around the National Salvation Front of ElBaradei as an important but subordinated ally. Sectors of the labor bureaucracy have been incorporated too as it is reflected in the nomination of Kamal Abu-Eita, president of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions and a member of the Nasserite Al-Karama Party, as Minister for Manpower. His task is to end the strike wave which shattered Egypt in the past 12 months and he already called for an end to all strikes.

It is not excluded that the 3rd July Bonapartist regime might also attempt to integrate sectors of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since it is the largest and best-organized party in Egypt, the regime has to try to pacify at least a part of them. The US administration also pressurizes Al-Sisi to do so because they fear that a civil war might be provoked with unforeseen consequences not only for the country but for the whole region. There are already reports about secret negotionations between the army command and Al-Ikhwan leaders. (29)

However it is clear that even in the case of some reconciliation, sectors of the Brotherhood would only be allowed to play a subordinated role in the military-imposed regime. Esam Al-Amin reports about a secret proposal the regime made to the Al-Ikhwan leaders: “According to a well-placed source close to the MB, by the fourth week, the military sent a proposal to a senior MB leader and former minister. It called for the MB to immediately disband their sit-ins, end their demonstrations, recognize and accept the new political reality (i.e., the military coup), and admit to their mishandling of ruling the country. In return, the military promised to release all MB prisoners, drop the charges, and allow the group to participate in the political process. The intermediary further told the MB leadership that in the next parliamentary elections the group would only be allowed to win 15-20 percent of the seats, while all the Islamic parties combined would not exceed 30 percent, a warning sign of fraudulent elections. The interlocutor then made it clear that the proposal was not subject to negotiation, but was a matter of “take it or leave it.” He warned that if the proposal was rejected, the military not only would crackdown heavily on the group to end their protests, but also that their group and affiliated party would soon be dissolved and outlawed.” (30)

Various progressive forces are completely confused about the character of the 3rd July regime because it claims to represent the will of the mass movement against the Morsi government and because it raises the banner of democracy and secularism. Indeed, this camouflage is a necessary element of the Bonapartist regime in order to channel the progressive mass movement against the previous Morsi regime.

However, General Al-Sisi has managed to debilitate this movement. Given the collective betrayal of the mass movements leadership (mainly NSF-ElBaradei, Tamarod, trade union leaderships), the new regimes has been able to demobilize the movement and to transform any mobilization into an uncritical cheerleading for the new Bonaparte as was most powerfully demonstrated at the reactionary mobilizations on 26th July which gave the regime “the mandate to fight terrorism”.

In reality, if the regime can consolidate its power and crash the protests of the Muslim Brotherhood, it will turn next against the workers movement and the progressive movements and force it to surrender or to be smashed too.

Hence the Bonapartist 3rd July regime is an enemy for the whole working class and all oppressed. This is why a broad united front for joint actions – which should include the Al-Ikhwan – against the regime and its repression is the task of the day.

 

How do the imperialist enemies assess the military coup?

 

It is not only Egypt’s ruling class which is fully behind the coup d’état but also the imperialist powers. In fact there would have been no coup by the army without the Obama administration’s approval in advance since the Egypt military is financed by and completely dependent of US imperialism. (With $1.5 billion in annual aid Egypt is the second-biggest recipient of US military aid world-wide, only behind Israel.) The RCIT has pointed out from the beginning that the coup took place and was in the service of the US and other imperialist power.

In the last weeks the huge degree of the US administration’s involvement in planning and executing the coup has become more and more public. US imperialism was directly involved in organizing the coup. The New York Times reports that the final step to launch the coup was taken after Morsi’s top foreign policy adviser, Essam el-Haddad, spoke to the United States ambassador in Egypt, Anne W. Patterson, as well as to Susan E. Rice, the US national security adviser. Rice told Morsi that the military takeover was about to begin. (31)

While people like Alan Woods who are so disconnected from the reality of class struggle that they characterize the military coup as “a nightmare for the bourgeoisie”, both the Egyptian bourgeoisie as well as the imperialist powers are well aware that the coup serves their interest. (32)

The Obama administration refused to characterize the coup as such, so that it is able to continue the financial support for the Egypt regime. On 1st August US secretary of state John Kerry during a trip to Pakistan officially sanctioned the coup – in truly Orwellian language – as a “restoration of democracy”: “The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descendance into chaos, into violence. (…) And the military did not take over, to the best of our judgement - so far. To run the country, there's a civilian government. In effect, they were restoring democracy.” (33)

Another leading representative of Western imperialism, former British Prime Minister and Special Envoy for the Middle East Quartet Tony Blair, also justified the coup and urged the West to “engage with the new de facto power and help the new government make the changes necessary”:

Now the army is faced with the delicate and arduous task of steering the country back on to a path towards elections and a rapid return to democratic rule. We must hope that they can do this without further bloodshed. Meanwhile, however, someone is going to have to run things and govern. This will mean taking some very tough, even unpopular decisions. It is not going to be easy. What is happening in Egypt is the latest example of the interplay, visible the world over, between democracy, protest and government efficacy. Democracy is a way of deciding the decision-makers, but it is not a substitute for making the decision. (…) I am a strong supporter of democracy. But democratic government doesn't on its own mean effective government. Today, efficacy is the challenge. (…) So what should the west do? Egypt is the latest reminder that the region is in turmoil and won't leave us alone, however we may wish it would. Disengagement is not an option, because the status quo is not an option. Any decision not to act is itself a decision of vast consequence. At its crudest, we can't afford for Egypt to collapse. So we should engage with the new de facto power and help the new government make the changes necessary, especially on the economy, so they can deliver for the people. In that way, we can also help shape a path back to the ballot box that is designed by and for Egyptians. (…) Our interests demand that we are engaged. We have to take decisions for the long term because short term there are no simple solutions.” (34)

This position of the imperialists is also reflected in a number of influential bourgeois commentators. Thomas Friedman for example – a leading US columnist – urged the Obama administration to support the Al-Sisi regime: “This is no time for America to be punishing Egyptians or demanding quick elections. Our job is to help the new government maximize the number of good economic decisions it makes, while steadily pressuring it to become more inclusive and making it possible for multiple political parties to form. If that happens, Egypt will have a proper foundation to hold democratic elections again. If it doesn't happen, no number of elections will save it.” (35)

 

Support by imperialist Israel and the Gulf monarchies

 

The reactions of the Israeli state are another clear indication that the coup brought the army command as a strongly committed pro-US and pro-Israeli regime to power. We already reported in another article about the approving comment from Tzachi Hanegbi, an advisor for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Recently the Israeli ambassador in Cairo, Yaakov Amitai, congratulated the new regime and said: “Al-Sisi is not a national hero for Egypt, but for all Jews in Israel and around the globe.” He added that Israel is looking forward to the launch of new relationships with Egypt as well as joint efforts in the war on terror. (36)

The Israeli government wants to seize the opportunity to start a counterrevolutionary wave to roll back the Arab Revolution. In opposite to “army socialists” like Alan Woods, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands that this is a government which is not riding on the back of a revolutionary tiger (to use the unfortunate phrase of Alan Woods), but that it is a counter-revolutionary tiger which can help the ruling classes to defeat the Arab revolution. Thus Netanyahu is pushing for the West to adopt a new “Marshall Plan” for the Egyptian economy to help the coup plotters to succeed. (37)

The reasons for Israel’s cheers are clear: the Al-Sisi regime has made clear from the first day that it supports the efforts by Israel as well as the USA and their Palestinian lackey Abbas to isolate Gaza and to smash Hamas. As we reported in a past article, the regime closed completely the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza and deported Palestinians arriving in Egypt. It is highly symbolic that the army command formally arrested Morsi on allegations of spying for Hamas. Despite the hallucination of many Egyptian and Western leftists, the Al-Sisi regime is not the executor of the people’s will, but a staunch henchman of US imperialism and Zionism.

It is also characteristically that the first and most enthusiastic supporters of the coup d’état were several Gulf monarchies. Immediately after the coup Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates gave the new regime loans totaling $12 billions. Again, the reasons are clear. The Gulf rulers have been frightened by the Arab Revolution since the beginning. Not surprisingly the Saudi king offered the Tunisian dictators Ben Ali exile after the victory of the Revolution in January 2011. In opposite to the centrist muddle heads the ruling class of the Gulf states understands that the military coup d’état in Egypt is a counter-revolutionary strike against the Egypt Revolution and – so the rulers hope – the whole Arab Spring.

In addition the Gulf monarchies are glad to have got rid of the Morsi government which built closer relations with Iran – a major rival for them in the region. And last but not least, Morsi was a symbol hateful for the monarchs given that he was an elected president.

 

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

 

While we see in the Syrian civil war a combination of the domestic popular revolution with inner-imperialist rivalry – mainly NATO versus Russia (and China to a limited degree) – this seems to be different in the case of the Great Powers position on the Egypt coup. (38) Not only the Western Powers but also Russia and China reacted positively to the coup. (39) Soon after the coup Chinas foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, stated: “China respects the choice of the Egyptian people. We also hope that all parties concerned in Egypt can avoid using violence and properly solve their disputes through dialogue and consultation and realise reconciliation and social stability.” (40)

Similarly the Russian government reacted welcoming to the coup and offered the Al-Sisi regime economic aid: “According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Egypt may ask Russia for economic aid. Moscow is prepared to consider a request to that end. The authorities of Egypt may turn to Russia for economic aid, and Moscow is ready to consider its granting, Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov said in an interview with RIA Novosti.” (41)

What is the cause for the Russian and Chinese imperialists’ positive reception of the coup? We think that there are two main reasons. First – and this is particularly true for the Putin government – they are relieved to get rid of the Moris government which supported tactically the Syrian Revolution against the Assad dictatorship. The Al-Sisi regime has already made clear that it will not continue such a policy.

However the more general reason can be found – similar to the motives of the Gulf monarchies – in Moscow’s and Beijing’s understandable hostility against the democratic revolutions in the Arab world from the beginning. As we know the Putin regime as well as Stalinist-capitalist rulers in China are obliged to follow a state-capitalist authoritarian type of rule. They are less rich than their Western imperialist counterparts who can afford to bribe wide layers of the middle class and the labor aristocracy and hence ensure a material base for their rule via the form of bourgeois democracy.

For this reason both Moscow and Beijing feared from the beginning of the Arab Revolution that it could provoke similar democratic revolutions in their own empires. And indeed we did see some democratic mass mobilizations in Russia against the Putin regime (albeit they were strongly dominated by middle class forces).

Unsurprisingly Alexei Pushkov, the chairman of the State Duma's International Affairs Committee, reacted to the coup by stating: “The Arab Spring has only led to chaos in Egypt and a bloody foreign-backed drama in Syria, war in Libya, a mess in Tunisia and war in Mali.” (42)

A senior diplomat of a leading European Union country recognized the imperialist united front of support for the Egyptian coup. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he is quoted with the following words: "It as a sad irony that Russia, Saudi Arabia, America and Europe are broadly in the same camp on what happened in Egypt; while Africans who suffered centuries of colonialism, being patronised for their alleged backwardness, are the only ones really giving a clear, pro-democratic message." (43)

Similarly the Chinese state media used the Egypt coup to prove the superiority of dictatorships and the failure of “Western-style democracy”. Chinese state news agency Xinhua commented that Egypt’s chaos was proof that the “export of democracy is not a guarantee to cure all diseases, and it cannot solve the difficult issues that different countries face as they develop. (…) Some Western countries should use the situation in Egypt as an example, to seriously reflect, wake up, and not readily criticize other countries. This is also saving a bit of face for them”. Other official papers wrote in a similar spirit. (44)

 

The Assad regime is relieved too

 

As we have already noticed in an earlier statement, the reactionary Assad dictatorship immediately reacted positively to the Egyptian coup. The Syrian ruler was glad to see a government fallen which was – in opposite to Assad himself – elected in bourgeois-democratic elections as well as a, albeit lukewarm, supporter of the Syrian Revolution: “Whoever brings religion to use in politics or in favour of one group at the expense of another will fall anywhere in the world. (…) The summary of what is happening in Egypt is the fall of what is called political Islam.” (45)

Similar to their pro-Zionist persecution against Palestinians and Hamas, the 3rd July regime also persecutes Syrian exiles in Egypt. According to Egypt’s Ahram Online 276 Syrians were deported from Cairo International Airport within a few hours of their arrival in the country on 8th July. The airport authorities had also refused entry to 189 Syrians the previous day. Shortly before the arrival of the passengers from Damascus and Beirut, Egyptian authorities had “imposed new conditions for admission into the country”. Prior to the coup against President Morsi, Syrian nationals enjoyed unconditional entry to Egypt, while entry visas and security permits are now mandatory. (46)

Another report indicates that the regime is inciting an anti-Syrian resentment in the media and amongst the population: “A new wave of anti-Syrian sentiment has begun sweeping through parts of the country. After some Syrians may have participated in pro-Morsi demonstrations, Syrians in Egypt have told me that they are being branded as “pro-Ikhwaan” as a whole, as well as being accused of contributing to prostitution. (…) Egypt is also making it nearly impossible for any additional Syrians to enter the country. A visa is now required, and obtaining it from Syria requires getting cleared by Syrian security… we all know what that means in Syria.” (47)

So we see that – instead of the myth uphold by various pro-Assad leftists who claim that their hostility against the Syrian Revolution would represent a kind of anti-imperialism – the dictator of Damascus welcomes the pro-US coup. Why is this the case? This is because the central issue of the Syrian Revolution is not the threat of an imperialist colonialization of the country – albeit the civil war is obviously intermixed with inner-imperialist rivalry between NATO and Russia. The central issue is rather the democratic popular uprising against the dictatorship. As long as he and his ruling clique can stay in power, Assad has no quarrels whatsoever with US imperialism. Therefore Assad welcomes the military coup in Egypt because it doesn’t matter for him that the grip of US imperialism is strengthened in the Middle East. What matters to him is the weakening of the rebel movement in Syria. (48)

It also shows something else: Western imperialism might sometimes tactically use its influence amongst the bourgeois leadership of the Syrian rebels in order to advance their interests and it would like to see a regime in Damascus which is more directly subordinated to Washington. But for Western imperialism (as well as for Russian and Chinese imperialism) these interests are subordinated to a much more important goal: The roll back and if possible the liquidation of the revolutionary process in Syria and the whole Arab world. Because it is such a revolutionary wave which is most threatening both to the Western as well as the Eastern imperialist powers. It is this common interest which makes it possible for them to reach agreements and compromises.

 

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

 

After giving an overview of the characteristics of the military-imposed 3rd July regime we will now discuss the arguments of our critiques.

 

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

 

Comrade Downing and the SF/LCFI understood much better the character of the coup d’état in Egypt than most of the left. However a weakness we see in the SF comrades publications on the Arab Revolution is their constant denial that one can characterize this historic event as a “Revolution”. This is simply strange for an organization which adheres to the tradition of Marxism! While it is of course true that the uprisings and civil wars in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria etc. were neither led by a revolutionary party nor did they succeed in a socialist revolution until now, it is well know that Marxists use the term “Revolution” also in a wider sense: to describe mass movements which strive to overthrow a reactionary regime and thus imply the potential – which can be realized if they are led by a revolutionary workers party – to drive forward the process of permanent revolution to the successful seizure of owner by the working class in alliance with the poor peasantry and the urban poor. (49)

This was the understanding of the Marxist classics. How else could Trotsky speak about the “Indian Revolution” in 1939 despite the fact that neither soviets nor a revolutionary party existed, or about the “Spanish Revolution” in 1930/31 when the masses overthrew the monarchy but again without soviets or a revolutionary party?! (50) We fear that the SF comrades’ refusal to speak about the Arab ‘Revolution’ betrays a sectarian approach towards the “backward” masses who are led by petty-bourgeois and bourgeois forces. The comrades don’t recognize the essence of such an event of historic proportions when millions of Arab workers, peasants and lower middle class take part in uprisings and mass mobilizations against capitalist misery and suppression of democracy since two and a half years. They have shattered a region which until 2011 was under total control of US imperialism and its lackey dictatorships. In some cases like Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen they succeeded in bringing down the bourgeois dictators, albeit the democratic revolution is still unfinished and will remain so as long as the working class in alliance with the peasants and lower middle class will take power to carry through the socialist revolution.

Lenin once remarked that one of the fundamental requirements of the materialist dialectic is to “the deepening of man’s knowledge of the thing, of phenomena, processes, etc., from appearance to essence and from less profound to more profound essence.“ (51) It is highly unfortunate that the SF comrades fail in recognizing the essence of the Arab Revolution.