Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Egyptian Revolution - Part 1

The Egyptian masses are one again on the move, and engaged in desperate street battles with the forces of the Egyptian State.
Back in February, I argued that the events in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa were similar to the Revolutions of 1848, in which a growing bourgeoisie attempted to assert its right to political dominance through the establishment of a bourgeois democratic regime, and drew in the proletarian and peasant masses behind it. There were lessons for workers from those Revolutions, which saw the existing State apparatus make concessions to the democratic revolution, prior to absorbing it, and then turning it back. In part, it was able to do so, because the bourgeoisie are unreliable allies for the workers. They fear the potential power of the workers, that could overwhelm them. For these reasons, it is always necessary, as Marx and Engels, and later Lenin and Trotsky, concluded, for the workers to avoid being used as cannon fodder by the bourgeoisie. The workers have to maintain strict organisational and political independence, and focus on building their own strength. In making any temporary tactical alliance with the bourgeoisie, the workers have to keep one eye on their ally, as well as looking forward to the immediate enemy.

Given the experience of the 1848 Revolutions, and given the experience of the 1905 Revolution in Russia, I warned of the danger in the Revolution settling for merely the offers of reform.
When Mubarak offered such reforms, the British media continually asked representatives of the Egyptian revolutionaries, if it was not time for them to call off their demonstrations. I wrote,

"Western news reporters, particularly from the BBC, have missed no opportunity to ask the question ad nauseum of protesters whether they should not now call off the protests now that Mubarak has made concessions – concessions which, of course would disappear to be replaced by vicious repression if the protests did end."

And, when the Military organised a Coup to remove Mubarak, I warned that this was merely a case of Cerberus removing one of its heads in order that the rest of the beast could continue.

"Just as the Egyptian working-class began to enter the fray, the Egyptian Generals have implemented a Military Coup. The celebrations in Tahir Square are understandable as the events of the day are seen in the positive light of Mubarak standing down, but in reality the Military that have now pushed him aside, possibly on the back of heavy prompting from the US, are the same Military top brass from which Mubarak himself came, and which supported Sadat before him, and which supported Nasser before him. In reality Egypt has merely swapped the political regime of a Bonapartist leader resting on a military-bureaucratic elite, for the open rule of that same military-bureaucratic elite."

In the intervening period that has been borne out. The Military junta has entrenched its power, as the street protests dissipated.
It has acted to beat down workers struggles, it has arrested, and kidnapped radicals, it has used increasing force to break up protests when they arose, it has subjected opponents to Military Trials, and it has attempted to negotiate with other reactionary social forces such as the Muslim Brotherhood, to provide itself with anew social base, in order to limit any real democratic change, so as to continue to exert its power even after elections.

I have pointed out in the past how similar the current conditions are to the 25 year period of the Long Wave Boom that led up to the First World War. Today, it is the Middle East and North Africa that occupy a similar position to the position the Balkans occupied back then. The Middle East is a tinder box - From The Hope Of Spring To The Danger of Conflagration. Alongside, the uprisings there are also intense sectarian struggles between Shia and Sunni. The Sunni regimes with their power base in the Gulf are closely tied to the US, whereas Shia Iran acts to support the regime in Syria, as well as backing Hamas, and Hezbollah, and exerting increasing influence over Iraq.
At the same time, this feeds into a global power struggle, with Russia and China standing in the background some distance behind Iran, and its clients. In Libya, it was the US's Sunni client regime in Qatar, that provided many of the Special Forces troops on the ground needed to defeat Gaddafi.

A detailed Marxist analysis of these complex interconnections is needed. Egypt, plays a central role within the analysis of prospects for workers in the region, because of its size, and level of development. The current events cannot be seen outside the wider context of what is happening in Europe either. One of the reasons for the uprising in Tunisia and Egypt was the economic development that had arisen in those countries, which in part was a result of their incrasing integration into a wider Mediterranean Economic Area closely connected to the EU. Part, of the plan was for bourgeois democracy in Egypt to be supported by investment via a form of Marshall PLan. But, with many Governments in the EU being committed to austerity programmes in their own economies, it is difficult to see, how they could justify to their electorates the expenditure that would have been necessary for such a plan. This series of posts seeks to place the Egyptian Revolution - if such it turns out to be - in its historical and wider context.

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