Millions of People CAN Be Wrong: The Coup in Egypt Is Not a People's Revolution

August 2, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Editors' Note: A number of readers have responded and commented on our article "On the Coup in Egypt: Strengthening Imperialism, Not the People."

One Egyptian reader wrote:

Your article has it all wrong. This was not a coup as the U.S. media would make you believe. This was a truly popular action that encompassed essentially ALL Egyptians rising up all-at-once against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The Army simply joined in when they saw the massive and undeniable hatred the general population has for the MB. The Army stepped in when it became clear that the two sides would essentially tear each other to pieces and destroy Egypt in the process.

And that writer argued:

Your article is just parroting the same old disdain for the military complex (which normally I would agree with) BUT this time in Egypt, believe it or not this was a great and truly popular REVOLUTION against a growing Fascist and irresponsible mafia of men who use religion to manipulate the masses for their own personal and organizational gain. The MB never had the interests of the nation or the people (many of whom are minorities), at heart. They even admitted long ago that they would use "democracy" only once—to assume power—and that once in power, they would dismantle the very "democracy" that got them there.


The irony in your coverage is that you actually play into the hands of the Imperialist game by completely ignoring the fact that this was the biggest political protest in the history of mankind (BBC quote) that had over 33 million people on the streets chanting for Morsi to LEAVE. In fact, you and your article have simply toed the line on the CNN line that it was a coup—effectively denying to the world that this was people power—not military power—that made them fall. The US media has never and will never empower the people that way—ironically neither does your article.

This reader's letter also argued that the U.S. was invested in the Muslim Brotherhood, and that "it was the people of Egypt that did it on their own—and would have done it on their own, with or without the Army."

Below is a response to these arguments, written by another reader to whom we forwarded the letter. We look forward to a continuing dialog and debate on the critical questions involved in understanding and acting on recent events in Egypt.


This Revolution article you refer to states the truth with regard to the actual reality of what is happening in Egypt. It does not skew things for any political ends; it does not further illusions, deceptions, and self-deceptions that seem so commonplace today. Recent events and revelations only further prove and reinforce that this was a coup by the military—"a sudden and decisive action in politics resulting in change of government illegally or by force." What is unfolding in Egypt is not a people's revolution.

Yes, to be crystal clear, Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood represent a reactionary force, oppressive to whole sections of people, especially women—and not operating out of any fundamentally liberating or even anti-imperialist framework. But does this justify the slaughter by the U.S.-backed military—and the liberal democratic secular forces it has unleashed in support of its actions?


What Millions of Egyptians Think Does Not Define Reality

There is a profoundly problematical—and wrong and harmful—underlying assumption and mode of thinking in this letter. The assumption and argument is that because the masses in their millions are acting, whatever they are doing must be righteous, just, and ultimately in their interests. Millions may think it is a popular revolution, but objective reality is that it was a coup, engineered by and serving the military, with the blessing of the U.S. ("Mother America"). Among the millions out in the streets, there were demonstrated assertions that the army is "with" the people, joining the people, as you state in your letter, "when they saw the massive and undeniable hatred the general population has for the MB [Muslim Brotherhood]."

This is a particular and concentrated form of populist epistemology (epistemology: the philosophy of what is truth, how do you get to it) that what people think defines reality. (This populist epistemology is an approach where truth is determined by what people think, that is, on public opinion. It does not apply science to understand objective reality in its underlying workings and dynamics; it does not challenge, refute, and transform people's false ideas and ways of thinking that are out of sync with objective reality; and therein ultimately leaves the world "as is").

Masses of people—including in their millions—can be, and in this case are, confused, misled, and profoundly wrong.

Behind the Coup

There were millions on the street unhappy with Morsi and chanting for him to leave, but who and what engineered it, organized and unleashed it, and to what ends?

Recent events and revelations demonstrate that the opposition—meaning those who were opposed to the Morsi Islamic fundamentalist regime and supported the Egyptian military—and the military were working together, with a convergence of interests, to unseat Morsi.

The Wall Street Journal reported: "In the months before the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's top generals met regularly with opposition leaders, often at the Navy Officers' Club nestled on the Nile. The message: If the opposition could put enough protestors in the streets, the military would step in—and forcibly remove the president.

"By June 30, millions of Egyptians took to the streets, calling for Morsi to go. Three days later, the military unseated him." (July 19, 2013)

I want to note that it is not the case that the U.S.—even with its influence over both the Brotherhood and the army—initiated, maneuvered, and controlled every step of the process. However, what has become increasingly clear is that the U.S. decisively stepped in at critical moments. For instance, the New York Times published an account indicating that in Morsi's last hours as the president, he was offered a deal via an Arab foreign minister, who was acting as emissary of Washington, to end the standoff with the country's top generals by effectively relinquishing power through accepting a new prime minister and cabinet that would take over all legislative powers. Reportedly, Morsi refused.

This was communicated by his top foreign policy advisor, Essam el-Haddad, who spoke with Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador, and Susan Rice, the U.S. national security advisor. According to the NY Times account, after the phone call el-Haddad reported, "'Mother just told us that we will stop playing in one hour' an [Morsi] aide texted an associate, playing on a sarcastic Egyptian expression for the country's Western patron, 'Mother America.'" (July 6, 2013)

The military takeover that unseated Morsi then began.

This flies in the face of the popular myth and mass self-deception on the nature of what happened—that the army merely stepped in to carry out and fulfill the people's spontaneously expressed will, and as expressed and concentrated in your statement that "The Army simply joined in when they saw the massive and undeniable hatred the general population has for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Army stepped in when it became clear that the two sides would essentially tear each other to pieces and destroy Egypt in the process."

What Does It Mean to Empower the People?

You talk glowingly of "empowering" the people. The more fundamental question is: millions "empowered" to do what? What are the interests being served by any particular "empowerment" of the people? Are they being empowered to consciously fight for the fundamental interests and liberation of the people—or serving and strengthening another reactionary pole?

It is also not true that "This was a truly popular action that encompassed essentially ALL Egyptians rising up all-at-once against the Muslim Brotherhood." What about the supporters of the Brotherhood—are they not Egyptians? What about those getting slaughtered by the Army now for opposing the coup—are they not Egyptians?

U.S. Interests and the Egyptian Military

The army concentrates the monopoly of legitimate armed force—and is the main pillar and enforcer of a reactionary and oppressive state. The Egyptian state is the guardian of property rights and an economic structure based on exploitation and subordination to imperialism. And while it is not the focus of my response to your letter, a critical element of that has been collaborating with Israel to violently oppress the Palestinian people—including helping enforce the horrific blockade of Gaza. The Egyptian military stands fundamentally opposed and antagonistic to the interests of the people. Try fighting for a genuinely emancipatory revolution which breaks free of imperialist and oppressive political, economic, and social relations—and this becomes sharply and dangerously clear.

There is an irony that while millions—including yourself—clearly see U.S. interests as fundamentally antithetical to the interests of the Egyptian people and masses of people around the world, somehow that does not apply to an Egyptian military that has historically been built up and funded by the U.S.—to the tune of more than $1 billion annually (which does not include secret aid), second only to Israel. As is becoming increasingly clear, the hand and control of the U.S.-backed military is being strengthened.

People are being unleashed for very reactionary ends—to strengthen a reactionary Egyptian military and to commit massacres against the supporters of the Brotherhood. Does stating this truth deny the millions of people "empowerment" or "agency," as some might put it? No, it reveals the underlying content of this agency, the content of this empowerment, who and what guiding framework and goals are objectively leading this—and brings into sharp relief the need for a radically different type of leadership, of conscious, revolutionary and communist, leadership that is guided by the method and goals of genuine emancipation.

What Is Needed

Which brings me to my final point.

What is needed is to bring forward another way—in opposition to the McWorld vs. Jihad dynamic that dominates much of the world now, including in Egypt. Calls for democracy merely channel back into one of these reactionary alternatives—and fundamentally do not and cannot escape the imperialist framework and relations which dominate Egypt.

Because of the work of Bob Avakian, that radically different alternative—in its re-envisioned socialism, and its overall method and approach to social reality and its transformation—does exist. In opposition to McWorld/Jihad, what is sorely needed is raising people's sights to this far better world that is necessary, desirable, and viable—and from that standpoint and framework for a new stage of communist revolution, people in Egypt engaging and wrangling with this, taking it up, and struggling through to forge leadership that in the midst of mass upheaval and upsurges can lead the millions on a conscious scientific basis to realize this through a genuine revolution—one that does not leave the reactionary state and army, exploitative economy, imperialist relations, and oppressive social relations intact, but that replaces them with a genuine socialist society, a new economy and political system with liberating social relations, all aiming for a communist world.

This is what is sorely needed. What we do not need is euphoria which fosters and chases after dangerous illusions.

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