Egypt: revolution redux or military rule?
Numerous were killed in street-fighting in Egypt July 5, two days after the military deposed President Mohamed Morsi, with CNN putting the number at nearly 30. Several were slain as they protested in front of the Republican Guard headquarters, where Morsi is believed to be detained. AFP portrays the incident as a gunfight between the Republican Guards and armed Brotherhood militants. Dozens of Brotherhood leaders and their staff have been arrested, including the group's supreme executive, Mohamed Badie and his deputy Khairat el-Shater. After Morsi's removal, Egypt's Foreign Minister Kamel Amr (a holdover from the period of military rule before Morsi's election) called US Secretary of State John Kerry to insist that the ousting was not a military coup. But his overstatement revealed the obvious sensitivity of the topic (especially as concerns keeping US military aid going): "There is no role, no political role whatsoever, for the military... This is the total opposite of a military coup." (Huffington Post)
On July 1, with the military's 48-hour ultimatum to Morsi pending, Egypt's most respected daily Al-Ahram reported that leaders of the protest movement had "reacted with worry" to the development. The 6 April Youth Movement (Facebook page), the Revolutionary Socialists, the Egyptian Popular Current and the Strong Egypt Party apparently issued a joint statement rejecting both Muslim Brotherhood rule and military rule. Ingy Hamdy of the 6 April movement said of the ultimatum: "We are totally against this; we support the role of the army as protector of our borders, our people and our national security, but we do not want to return to military rule or a political roadmap... The roadmap is already there; it has been provided by revolutionary youth in the form of the roadmap of the 30 June Front," which emerged as the leading body of the Tamarod (Rebel) protest camapign. "We don't want anyone to adopt this roadmap, whether the military or remnants of the Mubarak regime or Morsi. We want the people to adopt it."
But the adoption of this "roadmap" by the military seems to be exactly what happened; its plan called for Morsi to be replaced by the head of the High Constitutional Court, for the Morsi-era constitution to be scrapped, and for an "independent" prime minister and "technocratic" cabinet to be appointed until new elections can be held. Exactly what the military has now imposed. And Aswat Masriya informs us that the official spokesman of the 30 June Front was Mohamed ElBaradei, who has now been appointed as prime minister.
Leaders of the moderate-Islamist Strong Egypt Party and left-wing Revolutionary Socialists were also quoted in the Al-Ahram account. "The Revolutionary Socialists demand Morsi step down and at the same time refuse the armed forces statement," said the group's leader Ahmed Ezzat. "I believe the armed forces had to issue this statement and take this step because it does not want civil disobedience. The people were leading the movement and wanted to launch a civil disobedience campaign; at the same time, after the arrogance the Muslim Brotherhood showed, the army had to move."
This strikes us as a salient point. The military had to step in and appropriate the demands and leadership of the movement against Morsi in order to keep things under control—in line with the imperialist strategy of controlling the political trajectory of the Arab revolutions.
It should be noted that Aswat Masriya also reports that there was an editorial coup at Al-Ahram after Morsi's removal, portrayed as a staff revolt against editor-in-chief Abdel Nasser Salama, in which he was detained until he agreed to step down. Al-Ahram is partially owned by the Egyptian state, and Salama had been appointed by the Morsi administration. Perhaps his removal was prompted by such indiscretions as reporting on the protest leaders' statement rejecting military rule. Perhaps it came at military behest. It will be interesting to see how their coverage changes in the days to come.
A commentary in the Wall Street Journal stated with refreshing blatancy: "Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile's Augusto Pinochet, who took power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy. If [armed forces chief] General Abdul [Fatah] Sisi merely tries to restore the old Mubarak order, he will eventually suffer Mr. Morsi's fate."
Sickening revisionism aside (Pinochet as democratic midwife; "chaos" as a result of Allende's misrule rather than CIA destabilization), this is an incredibly revealing statement. The Egyptian military's imperial masters in Washington and on Wall Street care nothing for the freedom of the Egyptian people—only "freedom" for Western capital in Egypt. Morsi is not reviled here for his repression or his reactionary constitution, or the Muslim Brotherhood's sinister politics. His sin was failing to deliver "stability." And Mubarak is not reviled for his undemocratic state but (left unsaid, throwing the Journal's well-heeled readers a wink) failing to sufficiently dismantle the Nasser-era restraints on Western access to local labor and resources. And Egypt's own resources (which are meager compared to its oil-rich neighbors) are less what is at issue here than the nation's status as leader of the Arab world. A neoliberal counter-revolution in Egypt is critical to the imperial agenda throughout the region.
If the figure of up to 30 million Egyptians in the streets in recent days is to be believed, we've just witnessed perhaps the largest demonstrations in the history of the human race. This can't but strike some panic in the planet's corridors of power. Morsi's ouster is the fruit of this world-historic upswell, and represents a significant defeat for political Islam—especially critical in light of the recent Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian violence in Egypt, part of a terrifying pattern that threatens to ignite the entire Islamic world. But a new dictatorship (even behind a veil of democratic legitimacy) could position the Brotherhood very well to recoup its losses—allowing it to pose once again as champion of the oppressed rather than oppressor.
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