[News] Military Coup in Egypt - Requiem for a Revolution that Never Was

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 18 11:44:11 EDT 2013


July 18, 2013
*The Military Coup in Egypt*

  Requiem for a Revolution that Never Was


    /"Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they
    are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new
    evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is
    extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it
    is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize,
    ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit in with the core
    belief." /

    - Frantz Fanon, /The Wretched of the Earth/

As the military in Egypt consolidates its putsch against the leadership 
and political structures of the Muslim Brotherhood, it should be obvious 
that the initial narrative rationalizing intervention by the military as 
a necessary corrective to a "revolutionary process" has lost all 
credibility. Yet many liberals and radicals appear united in a fanciful 
reading of the events in Egypt that not only legitimizes the coup but 
characterizes the collection of small-minded state-capitalists thugs who 
make up the top officer corps of the military as part of the people and 
the revolutionary process.

 From bourgeois intellectual hacks like Isabel Coleman to venerable 
Marxist materialists like Samir Amin, who implied that the Egyptian army 
was a neutral class force, the emotional response to seeing hundreds of 
thousands of people on the streets seems to have created a case of 
temporary insanity, or as Frantz Fanon refers to it as -- cognitive 
dissonance. This can be the only explanation for the theoretical and 
rhetorical acrobatics many are engaged in to reconcile their beliefs in 
democratic rights and revolutionary transformation with what is 
occurring right before their eyes in Egypt.

*A revolution in name only *

The popular use and acceptance of the term revolution to describe the 
events in Egypt over the last two years demonstrates the effectiveness 
of global liberal discourse to "de-radicalize," with the collusion of 
some radicals, even the term "revolution."

Eschewing the romanticism associated with revolution and the 
sentimentality connected to seeing the "masses in motion," it has to be 
concluded that between February 2011, when Mubarak was ousted, and July 
3, 2013, when the military officially reassumed power, there was no 
revolutionary process at all, in the sense that there was no transfer of 
power away from the class forces that dominated Egyptian society. No 
restructuring of the state; no new democratic institutions and 
structures created to represent the will and interests of the new 
progressive social bloc of students, workers, farmers, women's 
organizations etc.; and no deep social transformation. In fact, the 
rapes and sexual assaults that occurred during the recent mobilizations 
were a graphic reminder that sexist and patriarchal ideas still ruled, 
untouched by this so-called revolutionary process.

A revolutionary process is a process by which structures of power are 
created by a broad mass of people that allow them to eventually 
transform every aspect of their society --- from the structure and role 
of the State and the organization of the economy to inter-personal 
relations --- all with a view to eliminating all forms of oppression. 
There were some important organizational advances made by some elements 
of the labor movement in Egypt, including the creation of independent 
trade unions. However, the organizational imperative for revolutionary 
change that requires the building of popular structures to sustain mass 
struggle and represent dual power, was not as strong as it should have 
been in Egypt.

Early 2011 in Egypt saw mass agitation for social change and a mass 
rebellion against a dictatorship that galvanized previously disparate 
social forces and classes --- Westernized secular liberals, labor rights 
activists, radical students, women's rights activists and Islamic 
fundamentalists --- into one oppositional social bloc. The initial 
demand was for the end of the Mubarak dictatorship and the creation of a 
democratic system that respected democratic rights --- the essential 
component of an authentic national democratic revolutionary process. 
However, the maturation of this process was arrested due to three 
factors: (i) the seizure of power by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces 
(SCAF) on February 11, (ii) the channeling of mass dissent primarily 
into the electoral process, and (iii) the failure of the oppositional 
forces to organize sustainable mass structures to safeguard and 
consolidate the developing revolutionary situation.

The concern with characterizing the nature of mass struggle in Egypt and 
in Tunisia that eventually was branded as the "Arab spring," is not 
driven by a desire for some kind of neat, categorical purity that 
abstracts complex social phenomenon from its historical context. But 
instead the concern is the need to differentiate politically and 
programmatically the specific political challenges and tasks between an 
insurrectionary phase of struggle and one that has entered a 
pre-revolutionary or revolutionary phase.

This is important because the liberal appropriation of the term 
"revolution" to describe everything from the events in Libya and Syria 
to the Green movement in Iran not only distorts social reality but also 
advances a dangerous narrative. That narrative suggests that 
revolutionary change takes place as a result of spectacle. It devalues 
organizing and building structures from the bottom up as unnecessary 
because it is the theater that is important; the episodic show; the 
display that refutes Gil Scott Heron's admonition that "the revolution 
will not be televised!"

The perverted logic of this approach is reflected in both the failure of 
the opposition to organize itself beyond the spontaneous mobilizations 
of 2011 and the knowledge of Morsi's opponents, the Tamarod --- thanks 
to signals from their patrons in the U.S. --- that if they demonstrated 
significant street opposition to President Morsi the U.S. would have the 
cover to support intervention by the military.

*The military's pre-emptive strike against revolution*

To have a clearer view of the current situation in Egypt, we must debunk 
the nonsensical, a-historical gibberish that suggests that the Egyptian 
military is a neutral, grand mediator of contending social and political 
forces, and stepped into the political scene in January 2011 and again 
July 2^nd as a national patriotic force allied with the interests of the 

The reality is that what we have witnessed in Egypt is a lateral 
transfer of power, in class terms, from the civilians in the Mubarak 
government, representing capitalist interests tied to the State, to the 
military, which has similar economic interests, with their enterprises 
and retired officer corps populating companies connected to the State 
sector.  In fact, under President Morsi, the military never really went 
away. It maintained an independent space in the Egyptian state and 
economy. Critical ministerial positions in the Morsi cabinet, such as 
the Interior Ministry, Defense and Suez Canal Authority, were given to 
individuals associated with the Mubarak regime that were allied with the 
military. And the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, populated by 
Mubarak-era appointees, was the main instrument used by the military to 
limit and control any efforts to restructure the state or expand Morsi's 

For U.S. policy-makers, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Morsi government 
were never seen as an alternative to Hosni Mubarak. Despite the 
repression meted out to members of the Muslim Brotherhood by the Mubarak 
regime, it was well understood that the Brotherhood was part of the 
Egyptian economic elite and open to doing business with the West. 
Therefore, Morsi was seen as an acceptable and safe civilian face to 
replace Mubarak while the U.S. continued its influence behind the scenes 
through the military.

Both the U.S. government and the Egyptian military had objective 
interests in making sure that the power of the Morsi Presidency remained 
more symbolic than real. The military, working through the 
Constitutional Court and the bureaucracy, made sure that President Morsi 
and the Muslim Brotherhood only had nominal control of the State. Morsi 
did not control the intelligence or security apparatus, the police, the 
diplomatic corps, or the bureaucracy, which was still staffed with 
Mubarak holdovers.

In fact, one of the major sources of tension between the military and 
the Muslim Brotherhood was the threat --- and real moves --- made by the 
Morsi government to use their nominal state power to curtail the 
economic activity of the military, which holds interests controlling 
anything from 15 to 40 percent of the economy, in favor of the interests 
of the Muslim Brotherhood itself, representing sectors of the 
competitive capitalist class.

One way of looking at the assault on the Muslim Brotherhood is that it 
was nothing more than a militarized solution to an intra-bourgeois class 
struggle within the context of Egyptian society, and had nothing to do 
with the interests of the fragmented and institutionally-weak opposition.

So the idea that the military, as a neutral force, allied itself with 
"the people" and only stepped in to resolve a political crisis is 
nothing more than a petit-bourgeois fantasy.

The class-based, social and economic interests of the military mean that 
it will oppose any fundamental transformation of the Egyptian economy 
and society, the ostensible aim of the "revolution." Significantly, this 
means that the power of the military is going to have to be broken if 
there is to be any prospect of revolutionary change in Egypt.

*A National Democratic Revolution: One step forward, three steps back*

This analysis, however, should not be read to suggest that the people 
were just bit-players in a drama directed by powers they had no control 
over. The mass rebellion in Egypt created a crisis of governance for the 
corrupt elite that were in power and their U.S. patron. The demand for 
the end of the dictatorship was an awesome demonstration of people-power 
that created the potential for revolutionary change. The problem was 
that the dictatorship had severely undermined the ability of alternative 
popular forces to develop and acquire the political experience and 
institutional foundations that would have positioned them to better push 
for progressive change and curtail the power of the military. 
Unfortunately for Egypt, the force that had the longest experience in 
political opposition and organizational development was the Muslim 

The call by a sector of the "people" for the Morsi government to step 
down was a legitimate demand that expressed the position of a portion of 
the population that was dissatisfied with the policies and direction of 
the country. Yet, when the Egyptian military --- a military that has not 
demonstrated any propensity for supporting democratic reforms --- 
intimated that it would step in, the mass position should have been "no 
to military intervention, change only by democratic means" --- a 
position that a more mature and authentically independent movement might 
have assumed if it was not being manipulated by powerful elite forces 
internally and externally.

It was wishful thinking that bordered on the psychotic for liberal and 
radical forces in the country and their allies outside to believe that a 
democratic process could be developed that reflected the interests of 
the broad sectors of Egyptian society while disenfranchising the Muslim 
Brotherhood, a social force that many conservatively suggest still 
commands the support of at least a third of the Egyptian population, and 
is the largest political organization in the country. Liberals and some 
radicals that supported the coup did not understand that the 
construction of the "people" is a social/historical process that 
requires both struggle and engagement. Not understanding this basic 
principle has resulted in the killing of the national democratic 
revolution in its infancy.

The powerful national elites that bankrolled the anti-Morsi campaign and 
their external allies, including Saudi Arabia and the U.S., have 
successfully set in motion a counter-revolutionary process that will 
fragment the opposition and marginalize any radical elements. The 
Egyptian elite understood much more clearly than the Tamarod or the 
National Salvation Front that a revolutionary process would entail the 
development of a political program that has as its objectives the 
subordination of the military to the people, the public appropriation of 
state capitalist sector and the rejection of neoliberal capitalist 
development. Because of that understanding, they moved with textbook 
precision over the last year and a half to protect their interests.

Sadly, the liberal and radical collusion with the anti-democratic forces 
of the Egyptian military and economic elite has provided legitimacy for 
the same retrograde forces that dominated Egyptian society under Mubarak 
to continue that domination, but this time in the name of "revolution."

/*Ajamu Baraka* is a human rights activist and veteran of the Black 
Liberation Movement. He is currently a fellow at the Institute for 
Policy Studies. Baraka can be reached at www. Ajamubaraka.com 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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