When Egypt’s working class joined the Arab Spring rebellion last year, it shook up the country’s ruling class. Workers in transportation, textiles, and the cement industry, along with those operating the Suez Canal, struck for a living wage and jobs for youth. It was only then that the rulers were forced to pay attention to the rebellion, which helped lead to dictator Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. But there was no revolution, because capitalism remained. Political power remained in the hands of the same bosses, in this case the group of generals who also held enormous economic power.
Unfortunately, the uprising lacked communist working-class politics. Consequently, as CHALLENGE said at the time, workers in Egypt would face continued oppression from either Mubarak’s pro-U.S. military or the al Qaeda-linked Muslim Brotherhood. That is exactly what happened. Today, after an indecisive Egyptian election, we see the generals and Islamists struggling for power. Neither side represents workers. Just as in Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney, electoral politics is proving a lethal distraction for our class.
Under capitalism, the bosses as a class control the state apparatus in every country worldwide. When the workers rise in class struggle against the rulers, the latter feel threatened and champion the fraud of reform. But capitalism cannot be reformed. The bosses will never give up their power peacefully. Egypt’s Arab Spring proves this, yet again.
Egypt’s Internal Dogfight: Free Market vs. State Capitalism
Muslim Brother Mohamed Morsi’s dubious “victory” over Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) reflects an enduring bosses’ dogfight. As the Egypt Independent (EI) reported on February 15:
The military trial of Brotherhood members in 2006 to 2007 was only the result of underlying competition between two groups that controlled capital in Egypt, namely between Gamal’s group [Mubarak’s son] and the Brotherhood. All of those who stood trial were leading businessmen in the Brotherhood, the most important of whom was Khairat al-Shater. Consequently, more than 70 companies owned by the Brotherhood were shut down.
The primary split in Egypt is between the religious bosses of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party’s (FJP) and the generals who favor state control of the economy. Multi-millionaire Khairat al-Shater, Morsi’s top bankroller, owns a string of high-end furniture and carpet shops. The FJP’s platform reads in part, “Economic activity is to be conducted in conformance with Islamic market mechanisms, which depend on fair competition...without manipulation or monopoly.... The state will have a decentralized role” (EI, 2/15/12). This free-market outlook has put the Muslim Brotherhood in the crosshairs of Mubarak’s generals, who view the state apparatus as their personal ATM and attack the millionaire Muslims.
Generals Are the Victors
The fight goes on. Morsi, Egypt’s first “democratically elected” president, is more a figurehead in a government where the military still pulls the main strings. The SCAF dissolved parliament before the elections and claims the right to fill key cabinet posts, including defense and treasury. “Egypt’s leading generals ...have emerged as the election’s actual victors because they are poised to remain in charge of the country for the foreseeable future” (New York Times, 6/30/12). So stated Joshua Stacher, a Kent State professor, who knows a thing or two about the bosses’ violent military suppression of dissent. [The U.S. National Guard killed four anti-Vietnam War protesters at Kent State in 1970.]
Egypt’s geopolitical significance makes its foreign relations crucial in the sharpening global rivalry among imperialists. U.S. rulers depend on Egypt’s compliance to get continued access to the Suez Canal, the passageway for vast amounts of oil and other critical resources. They also need Egypt to reaffirm its commitment to peace with Israel and to refrain from spreading Arab spring unrest into strategic Bahrain or oil-rich Saudi Arabia. To guarantee these imperatives, the U.S. is contributing $1.3 billion in annual aid to Cairo’s shaky new military/Islamic regime. The U.S. capitalists cannot feel entirely comfortable, however, with Morsi’s election and what it might imply for Egypt’s future. “[T]he rise to power of the Brotherhood in the Arab world’s most populous nation would unnerve Gulf Arab monarchies which have managed to avoid being swept away by an Arab Spring that has also toppled leaders in Tunis, Libya and Yemen” (Reuters, 6/18/12).
But so far so good for U.S. rulers, at least for now. In his inauguration speeches, Morsi vowed to abide by international agreements regarding the Suez Canal and Israel and declared that Egyptians “do not export revolution.” Morsi also supports the ousting of President Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s and Russia’s anti-U.S. stooge.
Anthony Cordesman, who leads military strategizing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a top U.S. ruling-class think tank, said: “In the near term, it seems unlikely that the election will have a major impact on U.S. and Egyptian relations; the Egyptian military remains too strong, there is no legislature, and the new Muslim Brotherhood president will concentrate on domestic issues” (Associated Press, 6/24/12). However, Cordesman added, “The midterm is far more uncertain and the long term is totally unpredictable.”
Washington Fears A Cairo-Teheran Alliance
Bearing out such unpredictability, Iran’s Fars news agency quoted Morsi as saying that a closer relationship with Tehran would create a “strategic balance” in the region, according to Voice of America (6/25/12). And the Brotherhood’s al Qaeda ties remain problematic. Mohamed Atta, ringleader of the 9/11 massacre, hailed from Egypt. Jonathan Evans, head of Britain’s MI5 (the British FBI), noted that “would-be jihadis are known to be receiving training in the likes of Libya and Egypt, mirroring what has already happened in Yemen and Somalia” (London Telegraph, 6/25/12). As Afghan workers know only too well, U.S. rulers and their allies consider any nation harboring al Qaeda to be fair game for full-scale invasion.
The anti-worker dogfight between two groups of capitalists in Egypt is what happens when communists are not in the leadership of a political movement. A rebellion quickly deteriorates into just another settlement between two opposing factions of bosses. State power never changes hands. Regardless of which faction wins, exploitation of the working class continues.
It is only when communists lead a working-class uprising, with the goal of smashing the state power of the capitalist ruling class, that true revolution occurs. This is why Progressive Labor Party enters and leads class struggle: to win workers to see that only by destroying the bosses’ state power, profits, and exploitation can a workers’ society be born. That is the task of PL’ers in all the bosses’ mass organizations. Building PLP in the class struggle is the only road to true victory for the working class.