[News] Egypt in Movement

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 3 11:06:57 EST 2011

Egypt in Movement

By <http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/samiramin>Samir Amin

Samir Amin (SA): In the short paper, I wanted to 
stress the strategy of the enemy, that is, the 
strategy of the USA and the ruling class of 
Egypt. Many people do not understand this. Now I 
would like to discuss the components and the strategies of the movement.

There are four components of the opposition. One 
is the youth. They are politicized young people, 
they are organized very strongly, they are more 
than one million organized, which is not at all a 
small number. They are against the social and 
economic system. Whether they are anti-capitalist 
is a little theoretical for them, but they are 
against social injustice and growing inequality. 
They are nationalist in the good sense, they are 
anti-imperialist. They hate the submission of 
Egypt to the US hegemony. They are therefore 
against so-called peace with Israel, which 
tolerates Israel’s continued colonization of 
occupied Palestine. They are democratic, totally 
against the dictatorship of the army and the 
police. They have decentralized leaderships. When 
they gave the order to demonstrate, the 
mobilization was one million. But within a few 
hours, the actual figure was not one million, but 
fifteen million, everywhere throughout the whole 
nation, and in the quarters of small towns and 
villages. They had an immediate gigantic positive echo in the whole nation.

The second component is the radical left, which 
comes from the communist tradition. The young are 
not anti communist, but they do not want to be 
put in the frame of a party with chiefs and 
orders. They do not have bad relations with the 
communists. Absolutely no problem. Thanks to the 
demonstrations, there is a coming together, not 
of leadership, but of interaction.

The third component is the middle class 
democrats. The system is so police and so mafia 
that many, including small businessmen, were 
continuously racketed in order to survive. They 
are not part of the left; they accept capitalism, 
business and the market, they are even not 
totally anti-American, they do not love Israel 
but they accept it. But they are democrats, 
against the concentration of power of the army, 
police and the gang mafia around. El Baradei is 
typical of them, he has no idea of the economy 
other than what it is -- the market. He does not 
know what socialism is, but he is democrat.

The fourth component is the Muslim Brotherhood. 
Even if they have a public political popular 
echo, they are ultra reactionary. They have not 
only religious ideology, they are reactionaries 
on social ground. They have been openly against 
the strikes of the workers, standing with the 
state. They think workers should accept the 
market. They took a position against the 
peasants’ movement. There is a strong middle 
peasant movement, they are menaced by the market, 
by the rich peasants, and they struggle for the 
right to maintain their property. Muslim 
Brotherhood took a position against them, saying 
that land property is a private right, and the 
market is sacrosanct in Koran. Muslim Brotherhood 
has in fact been complicit with the regime. The 
regime and Muslim Brotherhood are in apparent 
conflict, but in fact they are combined. The 
State has given three major institutions up to 
the Muslim Brotherhood: education, justice, and 
state TV; these are very important state 
institutions. Through education, they have 
imposed the veil first for the girls in school 
and then for society. Through justice, they 
introduced the Islam law shari’a. Through the 
media, they influence public opinion. The 
leadership has always been a corrupted political 
leadership made of very rich people. They have 
always been financed by Saudi Arabia, which means 
by the USA. But they have two big influences, one 
in the sectors of the middle class which are pro 
capitalist, anti-communist, afraid of the people, 
and they think Muslim rule is not a bad thing. 
These are spontaneously with them. They are very 
influential among teachers, medical doctors, and 
lawyers etc. At the same time, they have a lumpen 
support in which they recruit their paid 
militias.  In Egypt, extreme poverty is large 
scale. We have 5 million in Cairo that can be 
totally deprived among a population of 15 
million. Among the very poor with very low 
political understanding, Muslim Brotherhood has 
this army that they can mobilize.

What happens is the following. The movement was 
started by the youth, joined immediately by the 
radical left, and joined the next day by the 
bourgeois democrats. Muslim Brotherhood boycotted 
for the first four days because they thought the 
movement would be defeated by the police. When 
they saw that the movement could not be defeated, 
the leadership thought they could not stay out, 
and they moved in. This fact must be known.

We come to the strategy of the USA. The system is 
not Mubarak, but the people started with one 
symbol, which is Mubarak. A few hours after 
Mubarak nominated Omar Suleiman as vice 
president, the slogan shouted by the people was 
“No Mubarak, no Suleiman, they are two 
Americans.” Obama said we want a soft transition, 
which would be something like in the Philippines. 
The people say, we want to get rid of not one 
criminal but all criminals, a real transition not 
a farce, so there is a very high political 
consciousness. Yet the USA target is a soft 
transition. How? By opening negotiation with the 
right and the centre, with Muslim Brotherhood and 
eventually some bourgeois democrats, they would 
isolate the left and the youth. That is their 
strategy. With or without formal concessions, 
they say soon Mubarak will be out. An invitation 
to so called “negotiation” was initiated by vice 
president Soliman. The Muslim Brotherhood 
leadership is clever, they did not surrender. But 
they accepted the principle of negotiations with the system.

The conference of the movement, which is 
discussing everyday, is establishing the rules for a real transition:

First, the immediate dissolution of the 
fabricated assembly, second, the immediate 
lifting of the martial law and allowing free 
demonstration, third, starting the project of a 
new constitution; fourth, the assembly elected 
should be a constitutional assembly and fifth, 
not immediate or fast elections, but allow for a 
long time of freedom. If it is immediate 
elections, many people will vote for the Muslims 
because they are organized, they have the media, 
and so on. But if you allow for a year of real 
freedom, the left and the youth can then organize themselves.

It is the beginning of a long struggle. Egypt is 
a country of long revolutions. From 1920 to 1952, 
with ups and downs. In the long run, the youth 
and the left are the majority, with capacity of 
action. But a bad possible scenario is the 
possibility of Muslim Brotherhood attacking them. 
They have tried. The system is very vicious. It 
had opened the prison and released 17,000 
criminals, given them pro-Mubarak badges, arms, 
money, and the guarantee that they would not 
return to the prison, for them to attack the 
demonstrators. These criminals could not have 
escaped from the prison without the protection of 
the police. Nobody from the movement opened the prison.

Q: You think the young people are for the left. 
But it seems likely that the right and Muslim 
Brotherhood will try to divide the young people. 
I think it is important that the youth, even the 
democrats, are not for the Americans.

SA: Many democrats are neutral, not against the 
Americans. El Baradei is rather naïve that the 
Americans are for democracy. We continue 
repeating that the target of USA is not democracy.

Q: What has been the role of the workers and the farmers?

SA: Three years ago, there was a wave of strikes 
in Egypt, the strongest in the African continent, 
South Africa included, since 50 years. The 
official trade unions are completely controlled 
by the state, since the time of Nasser, like the 
Soviet model of state control of the trade union. 
The strike did not start from the trade union 
leadership, but from the bottom. We can say it 
was spontaneous in terms of it not being 
initiated by the leadership. It was a success, a 
gigantic success. The regime three years ago 
wanted to send the police. The companies said no, 
it was impossible, because we could have all the 
factories destroyed. They negotiated. The strikes 
won very small concessions, 10% or 15% increase 
of wages, which was less than what had been eaten 
by the inflation of those years. However it won 
something important for dignity, and for trade 
union rights, such as no one would be dismissed 
without the knowledge of the trade union. They 
established themselves as new independent trade 
union. They are there now in the movement.

The peasant movement is much more difficult in 
connecting. There has always been a radical 
movement since 1920. You have the latifundias, 
but there are also the rich peasants which are 
very strong in rural society since they are not 
the absentees, and they have relations with the 
government, the lawyers, the doctors. There are 
the middle peasants, the poor and the very poor 
peasants, and the landless. The situation of the 
landless, curiously, has not deteriorated in the 
last 30 years, because they have out migrated to 
the Gulf countries for work, and they have made 
some small money which allowed them not to buy 
back land, but to establish themselves in the 
grey, informal economic activities. The very poor 
are menaced, because the neo liberal market 
allows and facilitates them to be expropriated by 
the rich peasants, new capitalist landowners, and 
modern Egyptian companies associated with 
agrobusiness. They are very radical, they are not 
anti-communist, but they do not know what 
communism is. They simply do not know. It is the 
weakness of the communists that they have never 
been able to integrate them. The only people who 
went to discuss with them were the communists, 
not Muslims, not bourgeois democrats. But nobody 
has influence on them. But they have continued their struggles.

Q: Have the workers and the peasants participated in the recent mobilizations?

SA: The peasants have mobilized in the small 
villages, but there are no links with the global 
movement. They do not participate in the 
conference that is discussing the transition.

Q: Are the movements mostly urban?

SA: Yes, also in small towns.

Q: How would you explain their spontaneity?

SA: The people are fed up with everything, with 
the police. If you happen to be arrested, even if 
it is only because of the red light, you will be 
beaten and tortured. There is the daily torture 
and repression from the police. Absolute 
impunity. Most ugly. People are also fed up with 
the mafia system. The entrepreneurs that the 
World Bank says are the future, are gangsters. 
Where do they have their fortune? From selling 
land of the state given to them by the state for 
nothing, for building projects; wealth 
accumulated by dispossession. They are squeezing the real entrepreneurs.

People are also fed up with the American 
dictates. Egyptians are good nationalists. We 
ask, how can we be so low, that the American 
ambassador and president dictate everything 
everyday? There is also the social degradation. 
Unemployment and poverty is growing for the 
majority, inequality is gigantic. So all that 
combined. The government has no legitimacy. Now 
that is no more. Sudden explosions. People got 
killed. But they know that if you struggle, you may die.

Q: What is the impact on solidarity on Arab countries?

SA: It will have an echo, but each country is 
different. Tunisia is a small country, with a 
higher level of education and of living, but it 
is a small country and vulnerable in the global economy.

Q: It seems people are more organized in Tunisia, 
and it is more spontaneous in Egypt. There would 
certainly be an impact on Palestine?

SA: Sure, also impact on Syria which is very 
complex. It is very difficult to know the impact 
on Iraq. South Yemen is nationalist populist left 
and with Marxist rhetoric and some thinking of 
the radical left, the strong feeling for one 
nation. But it is like Korea, with a backward 
north and an advanced south. Yemen may split 
again, because the south cannot accept unity.

Q: Please comment on the latest developments.

SA: What has happened is that firstly, Mubarak 
has not resigned. He has been dismissed by a coup 
d’etat of the head of the army, and he and his 
fellow vice president Omar Suleiman have been 
dismissed. This new official leadership of the 
army is claiming that it will hold power until 
new elections, and then the army will go back to 
the barracks. In the meantime, they are responsible for the transition.

But the conference of the movements has continued 
its work, to push for its demands for a new 
democracy with all freedoms such as organization and access to the media.

Secondly, this conference will deliberate on a 
concept of new constitution, so that the assembly 
that will be elected will be a constitutional 
assembly, not a legislative assembly, even if the 
government makes its soft amendments to the present constitution.

It is too early to know how this new government 
will manage the condition. We will know in the 
coming days. The movement has not completed its 
project. The leadership of the army wants a 
strong transition with an election in which of 
course the Muslim Brotherhood will be highly 
represented. We want a slow transition in order 
to allow for the new political, democratic forces 
to organize themselves, to elaborate their 
programmes and projects, and to have access to 
the public opinion, before the elections.

Dr. Samir Amin is a prominent Egyptian political 
economist who currently lives in Dakar, Senegal.

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