August 22, 2013: Four Points of Orientation on Egypt

August 22, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


The situation in Egypt is on a very bad, downward spiral for the people. The bloodbath against supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and deposed, elected president Mohamed Morsi is moving in the direction of a one-sided, reactionary civil war. And Egyptian society is becoming more sharply polarized around two oppressive and unacceptable alternatives: the U.S.-backed military, and Islamic fundamentalism. At the same time, many who took part in the uprising of February 2011 that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak have become demoralized and confused.

The silence and passive complicity of large sections of secular, liberal, and progressive forces—and the insistence by these forces that the July 3 military coup was “resetting the democratic process”—is shameful. And through all this, the basic interests, needs, and demand for freedom that inspired the uprising that toppled the U.S.-backed Hosni Mubarak regime remain unaddressed. The recent release of Mubarak himself from a prison hospital, where he was awaiting trial for presiding over the murder of hundreds of protesters, to “house arrest” is both an outrage in its own right and a profound statement of the nature and agenda of the military regime.

It is not enough to say “a pox on both of your houses,” as apparently some secular, progressive forces in Egypt are now doing. The massacres and repression being carried out by the Egyptian military must be unequivocally condemned and resolutely opposed. At the same time, radical and revolutionary-minded people who genuinely hunger for liberation must be actively taking up and working to forge the only real revolutionary alternative—the revolutionary communist alternative—to the world as it is. This must become a real force and ideological pole of attraction and contention in Egytian society and the world.

Cold-Blooded Truth on Democracy and Dictatorship

In the immediate aftermath of the massacre by the Egyptian Army of supporters of Egypt’s elected president Mohamed Morsi, an Israeli official was quoted in the Jerusalem Post saying Israel and the West must support Egypt's army. “The name of the game right now is not democracy." He added: "The name of the game is that there needs to be a functioning state. After you put Egypt back on track, then (you can) talk about restarting the democratic process there." (Representatives of the U.S. have used similar formulations, along the lines of “resetting democracy” in Egypt.)

Such formulations are a cold-blooded endorsement of the massacre and a green light for more bloodshed and torture. At the same time, the quote from the Israeli official captures something real about the relationship between democracy, on the one hand, and “a functioning state” on the other. Of course, the official does not equate a “functioning state” with the dictatorship of a ruling class—but that is the essence of the matter. Any democracy is going to be defined and constrained by the nature of a “functioning state” that serves and enforces one kind of society or another: the nature of the democracy in a world divided into classes, which is the world we live in, is based on the dictatorship of one class or another.

And in the case of every “functioning state” on the planet today, that dictatorship is one of an oppressive class of exploiters who rule over the vast majority. The democracy they install and allow is confined to: that which enables the ruling class to work out its differences; “loyal opposition” that serves their rule; and formal elections through which the masses are led to believe that they are involved in meaningful decision-making but which actually serve to legitimize the rule of the exploiting classes.

The limits of that democracy are enforced through an oppressive state power. The class that holds state power wields whatever level of violence deemed necessary to crush opposition from any quarter (including from forces like the Muslim Brotherhood that do not represent a positive alternative). Tasers and arrests against Occupy protesters in the USA enforce the rule of a “functioning state.”

It is meaningless, and actually profoundly dangerous, to talk about the antidote to that kind of state power being “democracy”—in Egypt or anywhere else—absent dealing with the system of class rule and “functioning state”—class dictatorship—that defines the nature of that democracy.

But there is an emancipatory alternative to capitalist-imperialist democracy and dictatorship. It is a radically different kind of state power. The dictatorship of the proletariat—the rule of the formerly exploited and oppressed, in alliance with the great majority of society—serves the mission of overcoming the division of society into classes, and all antagonistic social divisions, and getting to a world free of all exploitation and oppression of any kind—and all the institutions and ideas that flow from and reinforce the division of society into classes. At that point, there will be no need for state power of any kind. People will consciously and collectively organize the affairs of human society. 

For what revolutionary state power would mean in living color, see the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.

That kind of dictatorship and democracy is liberating, and possible. But it can only come about through revolution that replaces one kind of state with another.

There has been no revolution in Egypt. The old exploiting order and its enforcement mechanisms remain intact. The overthrow of that order, and its replacement by a new emancipatory political, economic, and social system, is what is needed. Making this revolution is full of challenges and difficulties. But this revolution is what is necessary...and it is possible.

The following points provide an orientation on which people can begin to act in their own interests—in the interests of humanity—in this situation:

1. The blood flowing in the streets of Egypt is on the hands of the U.S. capitalist-imperialist system. The U.S. was not “manipulated” by the Egyptian military into supporting the coup. The fingerprints of U.S. imperialism are all over the coup. U.S. officials—directly, and through back-channels—gave Morsi the option of resigning or being overthrown. The U.S. has long, deep ties to and critical leverage over the Egyptian military, including through economic and military “aid” which continues to flow—providing strategic backing and symbolic endorsement for the coup and the massacres. Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid in the world...after Israel!

The Egyptian military is not “overstepping” or “betraying” some “popular mandate” that was supposedly given to it by the Egyptian people when the army removed Morsi from power in July. The Egyptian military was acting then and continues to act today as it always has: as the guarantor of the rule of the exploiting classes in Egypt and enforcer of  Western imperialism’s interests, especially those of the U.S., in Egypt and the region. It is well past time for people to cast away deadly delusions and self-delusions about this military.

2. U.S. backing for the July 3 military coup is not a stain on the “democratic ideals” promoted by the U.S., nor a short-sighted and correctable “misstep” by the Obama administration. This backing is a highly conscious move. A reliable Egypt with the military in control is a key U.S. “asset” in dominating an area of the world essential to maintaining the position of the world’s sole superpower.

On the other hand, what is happening in Egypt is not all of the U.S.’s bidding or under its control. There are internal elements of the situation—there are factors, forces, and rivalries in play in Egypt—that have their own dynamics. And consequences of the coup and bloodbath against the Brotherhood may well come back to “haunt” the U.S. in a whole range of forms, including driving sections of people in Egypt and beyond into the arms of forces like Al Qaeda. It may impact, in unpredictable ways, various fronts including in Syria; on U.S. moves to weaken and knock down the Islamic Republic of Iran; and on the situation in the volatile Sinai desert region of northern Egypt that borders Palestinian Gaza and Israel.

U.S. imperialism is facing a real cauldron of contradictions in the Middle East. 

U.S. backing for the military coup against the Morsi regime has been driven by the largest strategic needs of the U.S. empire.

Egypt has the largest population (90 million) of any country in the Arab world. The U.S. relies on the Egyptian military as a bulwark in moves against Iran. The U.S. counts on access to Egyptian airspace to wage its war in Afghanistan and to carry out its global “war on terror.” The projection of U.S. global “authority” requires unimpeded access through the Suez Canal: U.S. naval ships pass through the Canal; and four billion gallons of oil a day are shipped from the Middle East, with the Suez Canal a key transport link. In addition, Egypt’s collaboration with Israel aligns the largest army in the Arab world with, instead of against, Israel—and creates much greater freedom for Israel to play the role of an outpost for imperialism in the Middle East and beyond.

These, and other strategic considerations, are why the aid and political support for the Egyptian military continues, even as it reveals the hypocrisy of claims that U.S. foreign policy is based on promoting “democracy.”

3. The conflict between Western imperialism and Islamic fundamentalist forces, like those in power in Iran, is playing out in an ugly, bloody way within Egypt, where two reactionary forces are facing off. At the same time—on a larger and more strategic scale—the larger clash between the West and Jihadist Islamic fundamentalism was a major defining factor in the U.S. support for and involvement in the July 3 coup, and set loose the army (and other forces) to crush or greatly weaken the Muslim Brotherhood—to violently “reset” things so that other reactionary repressive forces more closely aligned with U.S. interests are in power.

This clash between what Bob Avakian has identified as the “two outmodeds"—Islamic fundamentalism and Western imperialism—with the latter responsible by far for the worst suffering on a global scale—creates a great need for the U.S. to shore up a stable Egypt that will be a reliable ally. But its attempts to do so are uncorking new destabilizing factors.

4. Another way—communist revolution, as re-envisioned in Bob Avakian's new synthesis—is possible. This is a road of breaking free of imperialist domination as part of a revolution to get the whole planet beyond these horrors. But those who want that other way need to fight for it and, right now, fight to get it out into the world. In Egypt itself, the situation as described at the end of Bob Avakian’s statement on the 2011 uprising against the Mubarak regime still holds true:

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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From A World to Win News Service on the Role of the U.S. in the Egyptian Bloodbath

August 19, 2013. A World to Win News Service. By Samuel Albert. The Egyptian armed forces are slaughtering people on a mass scale, and they are doing it with the backing of the U.S. This is the time not only to oppose this terrorism, but expose the American hand behind them.

If some regime the U.S. perceived as standing in its way were doing what the Egyptian military is doing—massacring unarmed demonstrators and even prisoners, like for instance Assad in Syria, the U.S. and its allies would not be "reviewing" aid, sending diplomats, making phone calls and cancelling joint military maneuvers that the Egyptian army is too busy to bother with right now. They would be howling at the UN, screaming about "red lines" and threatening air strikes or other armed intervention. The imperialist politicians expressing second thoughts about the green light Washington gave this coup are not just hypocrites. They are also rightly concerned that it might not work out in favor of American interests.

The armed forces could not have stepped in so easily if they had not received the mass support organized by the liberals and "leftists," including the youth organizations who mobilized  demonstrations in Tahrir and other squares to beckon the generals to save them from Islamist rule and then gave the coup legitimacy. Just a few weeks ago, some of those now trying trying to disassociate themselves from the army's crimes were chanting "The people and the army are one hand."

This slogan, which arose in January 2011 when the army deserted Mubarak, all but faded out later that year when the army shot down Christians, youth and others demonstrating against it. At the time the Islamists courted the army instead of opposing that violent repression. The military later gave them their consent to form a government, although it never gave up the key ministries and other positions and its veto power. Now that chant represents more than an illusion. In the face of today's difficult and frightening disorder, it is a program for restoring the old order and worse.

But it is not true that any of those who now dominate the political stage, the military, leading liberal politicians or Islamists, have suddenly "betrayed the revolution." These events show that there has been no revolution, and that they are all reactionaries who never changed their nature and goals as they maneuvered amid complex and changing situations. Any genuine revolutionary movement should not only understand these things itself but do its best to bring that understanding to as many people as possible. Instead of exposing both the liberals and Islamists, too many people who call themselves revolutionaries have sought refuge under the wing of one or another of these powerful enemies and tailed the pro-Western and religious illusions that both sides have propagated and the masses of people have suffered from all along.

The situation now is different than when the spontaneous revolt against Mubarak seemed to unite the people, or at least the most active people. Now the people are divided, pulled and sometimes going back and forth between two reactionary gangs under the warring banners of political Islam and worship of Western-sponsored illusions.

On one side stand the liberal proponents of the Western values marketed as "freedom," especially the "free market" that has crushed the vast majority of people in every country, and the corresponding belief in Western-style capitalist democracy and its system of elections that have never brought basic change anywhere. They have nothing but contempt and repression to offer the impoverished urban masses and most of the half of the population that lives in rural areas.

When these imperialists' chosen local representatives saw their chance, the liberals dropped their rhetoric about majority rule, political rights and the rule of law and reached out to the "the nation's armed forces" that have never been the armed forces of the people and the nation as many so-called Marxists in Egypt claim. The military has always belonged to the imperialist-dependent Egyptian ruling exploiter classes, and spoon-fed and led by the nose by the U.S. for the last four decades.

On the other side stand the Islamists, who claim to represent "freedom" from Western domination, hypocrisy and humiliation while institutionalizing the backward economic and social relations and thinking that have helped keep Egypt weak and vulnerable to the domination of foreign capital. Their project is to combine exploitation, oppression and inequality with the false solace of religion, the hypocritical charity of the mosque and the suffocating solidarity of "the community of the faithful" that abolishes critical thinking. 

Both sides are representatives of a reactionary order and enemies of the best aspirations people fought and died for chanting "Dignity" and "Bread, freedom and social justice," and neither has a program for an Egypt that is not subordinated to the world imperialist system. While the Islamists have scared many people into the arms of the generals, the army's murderous rampage is likely to strengthen the appeal of political Islam.

Many people are trying to stop this vicious spiral. What's needed is a game changer, a core of men and women united around and struggling—in the streets and in the minds of the people—for real revolutionary goals, a real alternative to the world as it is, the political, economic and social transformation of Egypt to become a base area for a world free of all forms of oppression and exploitation.

This scientifically based vision could start to become a material force, mobilizing growing numbers of people—the downtrodden excluded from political life and others throughout society—to oppose the generals and the non-solutions represented by the liberals and Islamists and build toward the goal of revolutionary political power. This is the only way that the people can begin to throw off their mental shackles, overcome the divisions among them as they unite for the emancipation of humanity from all forms of exploitation and oppression.

As hard as that certainly is, any other solution is an illusion. That's the solution to today's bloodbath that revolutionary-minded people everywhere need to work for and support.


A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.

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