Where is the class struggle in Egypt?

August 13, 2013 in News by AlexWCOP

Alex analyses the developments in Egypt of the last period and gives his vision on the way forward.

Egypt Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohamed Morsie

President Morsi – History

As the world’s largest importer of wheat, Egypt under Mubarak was in no unlikely position to experience unrest when the global market price of this vital resource and over-speculated commodity exploded from $157 p.mT in June 2010 to $354 p.mT by May 2011. The rising inequality of income and living between the majority of Egyptian working people and the propertied and privileged classes of the country, “all continue to overtax resources and stress society,” as the CIA World Factbook warningly noted in 2010.

Indeed, the uprising that came, however, was not one that developed out of conscious struggles against the economic conditions, but against the dictatorship of the US backed Mubarak regime, which had crushed dissent, free press and any kind of open political worker organization for decades. Since the start of the revolution in 2011, it suffices to say that things have only gone from bad to worse for the majority of Egyptian people who have seen no material and few social gains from the hailed “Arab Spring”. Half the Egyptian population continues to live below the global poverty line which the World Bank sets at $2 a day as every fourth young Egyptian male seeks to emigrate and flee the miserable conditions in the country. While state cash reserves depleted under the new Mursi government, pre-occupied with fighting for an Islamic dominated Egyptian constitution, unemployment soared and its debt rose by more than 20% since.

Between the constant electricity outages, disrupted water supply and misery which is money for the majority of wage dependent and exploited working people, protests against the Muslim Brotherhood government erupted June 30th. Spearheaded by the liberal-democratic “Tamarod” organization in a heated campaign against Morsi (which gathered signatures for the removal of Morsi from a whopping 60% of Egyptian populace), the protest of millions on July 1st and 2nd pushed Egyptian civil society to such antagonisms where the military saw itself forced to initiate its cataclysmic coup against the governance of the Muslim Brotherhood just two days after the start of the uprising.

When the commander of the army, Al-sisi, suggested to Tamarod that a compromise be reached in form of a referendum, Tamarod’s spokesman, Mahmoud Badr, responded by saying “I tell you, sir, you may be the general commander of the Egyptian army but the Egyptian people are your supreme commander, and they are immediately ordering you to side with their will and call an early presidential election.”1 2 To the extent that Mahmoud Badr accepts the very same Egyptian army which tortured and killed so many dissidents over decades, as todays legitimately ‘democratic’ authority over Egyptian society – the date for new presidential elections has still yet to be set and granted to the “supreme commander” by their ‘loyal servants’…

The move by the Egyptian army to install martial law on July 3rd caused mass unrest and skirmishes between the army and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. As the New York Times reports, “Well over 100 people have been killed in clashes over the last month between supporters and opponents of the Brotherhood” 3

While protesters on Tahrir square are happily waving Egyptian republican flags and greeting the recent news of Morsi being detained and charged by the state, the reality is that the existing capitalist state of Egypt, which at best has secured a battle for state secularism or shown its disregard for sovereign legal proceeding at worst, remains nothing but a continued foothold for capital in Egypt over the impoverished and oppressed majority.

The question for the Egyptian state these last two years has been whether or not enough machinery and food can be imported to keep the electricity grid going and the population fed – simply put, Egypt is in crisis.

In order to keep the country functioning, and the aching in the stomachs of the people at a politically tolerable level, a $12 billion aid was given to the Egyptian state by its Gulf state neighbours until an unforeseeable deal is met with the IMF for further loans and restructuring.

The ramshackle cold war economy of the country is under harsh criticism by capital for its “outdated” and “inflexible” state expenditures on food and fuel subsidies. 4 As international capital and its press had seen no issue for decades in Egypt’s subsidies to vital foods and fuels under the dictatorship of their former ally Hosni Mubarak, the sudden push by the rulers over money and their spokesmen at the IMF and World Bank towards a liberalization of the Egyptian economy, can only be interpreted as an increasing confidence in their rule in the country.

The Wall Street Journal acknowledges the realities that, ‘”Given the inflammatory political environment in Egypt, I don’t think the IMF will come to terms with Egypt,” said Steven Hanke, a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University. “I don’t think the current government will be able to cut subsidies. Right now, that’s asking the impossible.”‘

Despite the already extremely exacerbated brutal economic conditions in Egypt, the struggle currently taking the stage in Egypt for the world to see is not the class struggle. The main conflict in Egypt is not between those who want to go beyond the existing order of things and those who defend it; It is between the conservative Muslim Brotherhood have been active in building a reactionary social movement, and the liberal bourgeoisie; between those who want to go to more traditional ways to oppress, enslave women, and those who want to keep the modern veiled system of slavery. There currently is no third order in Egyptian politics, besides the Muslim Brotherhood and army, which opposes all forms of oppression.

The struggle for economic and social independence by the working class of Egypt naturally does exist, in form of localized strikes, solidarity actions, and labour protests etc., which are increasing under the brutal conditions of crisis. However, these struggles of the Egyptian working class have had very little fruition so far in terms of building a political alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood and other pro-capitalist parties.

The “Revolutionary Socialists” of Egypt, who have agitated for many things, are currently busy building the Workers Democratic Party through the federation of Egyptian trade unions.

But the participation of socialist and communist workers in economic struggles through their political organization, naturally leads to a subordination of the political struggle to the economic struggle; to this or that economic success, yet to no final victory and liberation of the workers, which we as Marxists recognize the need for a political solution to achieve. 5

The intelligent practical work of the Revolutionary Socialists in organizing the protests against the Mubarak dictatorship on Tahrir square in 2011 and further brave actions of socialist and communist workers in Egypt should be commended. Instead of standing on the street, shouting and distributing vague slogans at the people about “down with the system!” or “all power to the people!”, or “victory to the revolution!”, what is required of all those of us who want to overcome the oppressive global economic and social conditions of capitalism, are concrete political propositions of us communist workers to the people on how to get beyond the current conditions. What is revolution? How would power lay in the hands of the people once the revolution commenced? What is the ‘victory’ of revolution for us? These are questions we must settle among ourselves and be able to answer. Revolutionary workers today everywhere need a common ground of debate, a democratic mass political worker party, to crystallize our revolutionary theory, to build a rich, concrete and scientific collected knowledge for the working class to draw upon in its practical and political struggles to come.

As the global financial world teeters on a house of cards, the European Union is in a mire of trouble, and the prospects for global economic growth are grim, the dilemma is not whether we will see a world in rebellion – the plight today is whether the left can organize itself in time around a common, comprehensive political program of the working class. To bring back mass worker party politics and engage in dynamic worker struggles for hegemony against the corrupt and dishonest capitalist forces on all fronts in modern society, is the main task for revolutionaries today.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmoud_Badr
  2. http://rosalux.de/publication/39721/egypt-after-morsi.html
  3. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/27/world/middleeast/egypt.html?_r=0
  4. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323971204578627520591622006.html
  5. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch02.htm “The immediate aim of the communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.” Communist Manifesto, Marx/Engels