Millions of People in the Streets of Egypt Does NOT Change Reality—This Was a Reactionary U.S.-Backed Coup

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


There continues to be major turmoil in Egypt. On July 3, the Egyptian military overthrew President Mohamed Morsi in a coup, suspended the Constitution, and installed a "caretaker" government. The military junta has rounded up leaders of the organizations Morsi is part of—the reactionary Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party—and violently attacked protests mounted by those groups. On July 27, police forces—reportedly joined by pro-military civilians—fired live ammunition at pro-Morsi protesters in the streets, killing over 70 and seriously injuring many more.

The fact that a section of the people in Egypt—even a sizable section—has been misled into supporting this coup means nothing about the actual character of it. What people think is a part of objective reality—but it does not determine objective reality. And the reality is that this was a U.S.-backed coup intended to more securely nail Egypt into the horrific system of capitalism-imperialism and, in particular, into the more direct domination of the U.S.-headed bloc of that system. What's involved with the mass support for the military is not just deception (U.S. lies about "supporting democracy") but also a very significant element of self-deception. People are not looking at reality squarely in the face and getting to the essence of the matter—that what is being advanced through the coup are reactionary class forces, interests, and programs. This is a tragedy, and something that has had, and will continue to have, very bad consequences for the real interests of the people—not something to celebrate and support.

1. Since the military takeover, it has become even more clear that this was a reactionary coup that in no way, shape, or form holds out anything good for the people. This is an army that for decades has been built up, trained, and funded by the U.S. imperialists. And it has served as a key protector of U.S. strategic interests in the region: giving the U.S. priority access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace; backing Israel's savage assaults on the Palestinians; joining the U.S. in attacking Iraq in 1991; and collaborating with the U.S. "war on terror," including torturing prisoners "rendered" to Egypt by the U.S. The U.S. funds Egypt's military to the tune of some $1.6 billion a year. And Obama has refused to call the coup what it actually is—a coup—so that the U.S. aid to Egypt can continue to flow.

Accounts in the New York Times and other media reveal how directly the U.S. was involved in Morsi's ouster. In his last hours in office, Morsi refused an "offer" from Washington that would allow him to remain as a figurehead while key positions in government were replaced. According to the New York Times: "[Morsi's] top foreign policy adviser, Essam el-Haddad, then left the room to call the United States ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, to say that Mr. Morsi refused. When he returned, he said he had spoken to Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, and that the military takeover was about to begin... 'Mother just told us that we will stop playing in one hour,' an aide texted an associate, playing on a sarcastic Egyptian expression of the country's Western patron, 'Mother America.'"

2. The Morsi government was no better than what replaced it. That regime too was seeking to integrate Egypt into a subordinate position in the world imperialist system, under slightly different terms. The clash between the forces represented by Morsi and the military is a sharp example of the phenomenon in the world today that Bob Avakian has pointed to:

What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these "outmodeds," you end up strengthening both.

While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these "historically outmodeds" has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the "historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system," and in particular the U.S. imperialists.

BAsics 1:28

The course of events in Egypt with the coup and its aftermath is reinforcing this reactionary dynamic—with a section of the people supporting the military's actions (and, objectively, its U.S. imperialist backers), and another section supporting the reactionary Islamic fundamentalists.

3. Does this mean that the people in Egypt and elsewhere have no choice but to side with one reactionary "outmoded" or another? NO! There is another way—communist revolution, as re-envisioned by Bob Avakian's new synthesis. This is a road of breaking free of imperialist domination as part of a revolution to get the whole planet beyond those horrors. This revolution is possible—but those who want that other way need to fight for it and, right now, fight to get it out into the world.

The situation described in BA's statement on the 2011 uprising against the Mubarak regime is still very relevant:

It has frequently happened in history, as has been the case in Egypt (as well as Tunisia), that the domination of imperialism and the rule of local exploiters has taken a concentrated form in the regime of a "strong man" butcher. This was the case, for example, in Iran, with the torture-chamber rule of the Shah, in the Philippines with the tyranny of Marcos, and in Indonesia with the long monstrous reign of Suharto—all brutal dictatorships put in power and long kept in power by U.S. imperialism. In Iran in the late 1970s, in the Philippines in the 1980s, in Indonesia more recently, massive uprisings of the people forced the U.S. imperialists to throw aside these hated tyrants and to allow some changes. But in every case, the ultimate result was not one which led to real "freedom" for the people—instead they have continued to be subjected to cruel oppression at the hands of those who replaced the old, hated rulers, while these countries have remained within the overall framework of global imperialist domination and exploitation. But historical experience has also shown that the continuation of oppressive rule, in one form or another, is NOT the only possible outcome.

In Russia, in February 1917, another brutal despot, the Czar (absolute monarch), was overthrown by the uprising of the people. Here again, the U.S., British, and other imperialists, and the Russian capitalists, tried to continue the oppression of the Russian people in a new form, using the mechanisms of "democratic rule" and elections which, while allowing for some broader participation of different parties, would still be totally controlled by the exploiters of the people and would ensure their continuing rule, and the continued suffering of the masses of people. In this case, however, the masses of people were enabled to see through these maneuvers and manipulations, to carry forward their revolutionary rising, through many different twists and turns and, in October 1917, to sweep aside and dismantle the institutions and mechanisms of bourgeois dictatorship and to establish a new political and economic system, socialism, which for several decades continued to advance in the direction of abolishing relations of exploitation and oppression, as part of the struggle throughout the world toward the final goal of communism. The crucial difference was that, in the uprisings in Russia, there was a core of leadership, communist leadership, that had a clear, scientifically grounded, understanding of the nature of not just this or that ruthless despot but of the whole oppressive system—and of the need to continue the revolutionary struggle not just to force a particular ruler from office but to abolish that whole system and replace it with one that would really embody and give life to the freedom and the most fundamental interests of the people, in striving to abolish all oppression and exploitation.

Even though the revolution in Russia was ultimately reversed, with capitalism restored there in the 1950s, and today Russia no longer seeks to disguise the fact that it is a capitalist-imperialist power, the lessons of the Russian Revolution of 1917 hold valuable, indeed decisive lessons for today. And the most decisive lesson is this: When people in their masses, in their millions, finally break free of the constraints that have kept them from rising up against their oppressors and tormentors, then whether or not their heroic struggle and sacrifice will really lead to a fundamental change, moving toward the abolition of all exploitation and oppression, depends on whether or not there is a leadership, communist leadership, that has the necessary scientific understanding and method, and on that basis can develop the necessary strategic approach and the influence and organized ties among growing numbers of the people, in order to lead the uprising of the people, through all the twists and turns, to the goal of a real, revolutionary transformation of society, in accordance with the fundamental interests of the people. And, in turn, when people massively break with the "normal routine" and the tightly woven chains of oppressive relations in which they are usually entrapped and by which they are heavily weighed down—when they break through and rise up in their millions—that is a crucial time for communist organization to further develop its ties with those masses, strengthening its ranks and its ability to lead. Or, if such communist organization does not yet exist, or exists only in isolated fragments, this is a crucial time for communist organization to be forged and developed, to take up the challenge of studying and applying communist theory, in a living way, in the midst of this tumultuous situation, and to strive to continually develop ties with, to influence and to ultimately lead growing numbers of the masses in the direction of the revolution that represents their fundamental and highest interests, the communist revolution.

While BA's statement was in response to what was in fact a mainly positive and progressive uprising in 2011, and while the current turmoil is not of the same basic character, the main point above—the need to forge communist organization in the midst of what is still a tumultuous situation—holds as true as ever.

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