Make no mistake, the Muslim Brotherhood is a brutal bunch. This one video of their supporters throwing some kids off a roof is evidence enough. No wonder their removal from power is celebrated by millions in Egypt. But is the new military regime an alternative?
America’s Wall St. Journal provides the answer. “Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet.” So wrote the editors of the Wall St. Journal on the day after those generals threw Egyptian President Morsi out of office. They were referring to the economic policies of Pinochet, who totally opened up the Chilean economy to the plunder of the “free” market and of international finance capital. But he was only able to do so by killing tens of thousands, and imprisoning and torturing many thousands more.
The Wall St. Journal would like al-Sisi to become another Pinochet
Today, such a step in Egypt would be impossible; the masses are far too aroused. Again, the Wall St. Journal makes that clear. In another article they quote a “former government official” as saying: “The military looked at the crowd in the streets. They said, ‘We will not have crowds in the street.’ We just can’t have that. What does the crowd want” We’re going to give it to them.” What they are giving the “crowd in the street” is the removal of Morsi… for the moment. In doing so, they took a huge risk. Even the US regime strongly urged them not to intervene. They were terrified of the precedent that would set. If one political leader can be removed due to a mass uprising, who is next?
But what the Wall St. Journal advocates has to be taken seriously.
There has been massive pressure on Mubarak to adopt neoliberal reforms. He was unwilling to do so because of the pressure from below, including from the unions. This pressure – both political from the US, the IMF, etc., and economic — will intensify. Already before the most recent wave of struggle, Egyptian foreign reserves were reduced below the three month level. This means that there were only enough foreign reserves to finance three months worth of imports. Three months is considered the critical, cut-off point.
One of the reasons for discontent under Morsi, it seems, was the deteriorating economic situation. This will continue to deteriorate, including possible mass fuel shortages. If left to their own devices, then this military-based regime will try to deal with that by “market based reforms”. First and foremost, this will mean elimination or sharp reduction in fuel subsidies, and the price of fuel will skyrocket. It will also very possibly mean allowing the Egyptian pound to drop in value. This will mean that all prices in Egypt will increase.
Under thèse circumstances, a renewed wave of struggle is likely. But as the unnamed government official explained, the military ousted Morsi exactly to get the crowds off of the street. Then, they will have to seek to drive them off the street by physical means if they can. The mass arrests of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership is a warm-up.
What are the organized political forces in Egypt? It seems the main ones are the Muslim Brotherhood and the more extreme Salafists and the military. The working class has shown its power – through the general strike that brought down Mubarak and since then is several strikes. In fact, there were reports that several strikes were planned for Thursday, before the military ousted Morsi. The question is how can the Egyptian working class stamp its mark on the struggle?
For the moment, the anger against the Muslim Brotherhood seems to be ruling the day. That is understandable. But knowing what one is against can only carry the movement for so long. The dangers of reaction remain. This includes renewed attacks on women – gang rapes, etc. as well as the economic attacks on the masses in Egypt.
According to reports, massive street battles and demonstrations have happened since Morsi was ousted. How long can these continue? As far as civilian rule – it seems the military never really fully gave up power, even while Morsi was in office. The only force that can really remove them from power as well as provide an alternative to the Islamists is the Egyptian working class.
The masses in the streets of Chile supported Allende. The workers’ movement had to either move forward and seize and consolidate power or, ultimately, face defeat.