by John Reimann
The US and the global capitalist class understand the threat in Egypt perfectly. They see that the removal of a president today by extra democratic means can lead to the downfall of the entire capitalist system tomorrow.
As the New York Times wrote: Morsi’s “removal through mass protests and military intervention would set a terrible precedent. Egyptians would be encouraged to take to the streets and ask the generals to intervene whenever a president became unpopular. The genius of democracy, by contrast, is that it wants voters to change their minds when leaders fail and to replace them not in spasms of fury but regularly and for the best reason: that others can better deliver what the people want…. To arrive at such a system, though, the people need patience and faith that leaders can be voted out. Mr. Morsi hurt himself badly with his efforts last November to sidestep the courts while he rammed through a constitution…. If the millions in the streets want the Brotherhood out of power, they must learn to organize and campaign effectively, and vote them out.”
When Morsi was running for president, his economic advisors had talks with the representatives of the Obama administration. Those representatives reported that they were very pleased with what they heard. In other words, they committed to imposing austerity on the Egyptian people. (As if they hadn’t felt austerity enough. At the time of Mubarak’s overthrow, nearly half of all Egyptians were living below the official global poverty level of $2.00 per day.) However, under pressure from an aroused population, and with a militant and powerful workers’ movement including in Mahalla, Morsi backed down. He didn’t impose the austerity measures the IMF and global capitalism was demanding.
Meanwhile, the economy deteriorated even further. As one article reported, “In January, however, foreign reserves plummeted to a new low of $13.6 billion, not quite enough to cover three months worth of imports, or slightly below the level most analysts consider critical. ”
To “resolve” the immediate crisis (at the cost of creating an even greater one in the future), the IMF was demanding that the Morsi regime cut public expenditures, lay off government workers, end or sharply curtail fuel subsidies, and possibly devalue the Egyptian currency. Understanding that he had trouble enough as it was, Morsi was unable to take any of these steps to any degree. Such was the power of the movement from below that he was, in effect, forced to renege on the commitments his economic advisors had made to the Obama administration.
Only able to win the election due to the extreme political vacuum, and becoming increasingly unpopular due to his heavy-handed attempts to consolidate power, even this was not enough. The result was the eruption we saw in the last few days. According to one report “this was the biggest protest in world history. It will have an effect around the globe from Turkey to Brazil.”
The new military-based regime will certainly try to gain control over the situation. They have already started by arresting Morsi and other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s impossible to know whether these arrests are popular in Egypt, but any political act must be judged in part by who carries out the act. In this case, the arrests of MB leaders today will lead to arrests of workers’ leaders tomorrow. This new regime has close ties with the Saudi and Qatari regimes as well as a tie with Israel; it will be no friend of workers’ power and democracy in Egypt.
The Egyptian capitalist media is trying to build illusions in reformism by adding to the prominence of reformist leaders such as Mahmoud Badr, one of the originators of the petition campaign that played a role in the anti-Morsi campaign. According to reports, he has praised the role of the military and is being rewarded by being put on TV.
Despite this, and despite the lectures of the New York Times and their ilk, the masses of Egypt have shown that they have drawn some practical conclusions. While there may be some illusions in capitalist democracy in general, the masses acted completely outside the bounds of capitalist democracy by forcing the removal of Morsi.
The struggle of the Egyptian masses has regional and global importance. In Syria, for instance, a popular uprising has been transformed into a war by proxy of the world’s major capitalist powers. This was a set back for the workers and youth of Syria. Who knows how the events in Egypt may serve to rejuvenate the movement in Syria? Who knows, also, how the masses’ refusal to accept capitalist democratic rules will affect the movement in Greece?
Not that serious dangers do not exist. On the one hand, if the military can stabilize things in the slightest, there is little doubt that they will move to impose the economic measures that the IMF and global capitalism demand. Under capitalism, there is no other alternative for Egypt. On the other hand, Islamic fundamentalism does not seem to be a spent force in Egypt. If the Muslim Brotherhood is discredited, at a future date the more extreme Salafists could rise up to replace them. During the time of the Morsi regime, there were increased attacks on women. According to reports, during the recent mobilizations, there were special teams set up to prevent this. Any new period of reaction would likely include renewed attacks on women.
Power of the Revolution
The power of the global working class is allowing the revolutionary process more time and is allowing it to move to new heights. As one participant reported: “Major strikes were planned for tomorrow, Thursday. Bus and train workers, cement workers and Suez canal workers were all due to to walk out. The protests could have developed into a general strike – the vast majority of the protesters are working class.
Mahallah workers on strike
It’s not over.
Right now here is euphoria, and people are cheering soldiers. But those celebrating in the streets are not stupid. They know what the police and army have done in the past.
Expectations of change are sky high. They are higher even than they were when we brought down Mubarak. But the possibility of any new government being able to offer genuine reforms is very limited.
People feel empowered and entitled by the events of the last few days. They brought down the president after just one year because he did not deliver, and they will do it again.”
Already, the revolutionary process has lasted for over two years there. During this time, there were huge opportunities. For instance, during the original occupation of Tahrir Square and other squares throughout Egypt, occupation committees were formed to administer the occupations. These committees could have developed as the beginnings of workers’ councils. Unfortunately, at least in Tahrir Square, the decision was taken for the committee to remain apolitical. Even the most prominent of socialists went along with this.
It is through such committees of struggle that a real, concrete alternative to the “liberal democracy” that the New York Times so loves can be developed. Hopefully, in the coming days and weeks, these will develop once again. In the days leading up to the removal of Morsi, the workers’ movement was on the upswing.