Turmoil in Egypt: The Myth of “People Power” and the REAL Revolution Needed

August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Editors’ Note:

On August 14, Egyptian government security forces launched a bloodbath against supporters of Mohamed Morsi. The numbers of those killed through police assault, helicopter, sniper, and bulldozer attack may be as high as 2,000. Thousands were injured and the military is threatening further slaughter.

This vicious repression is totally unjust and must be thoroughly condemned.

Morsi is a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. He had been elected president in 2012 but was ousted from power on July 3 by the Egyptian military. This was a coup that the United States helped engineer. Many progressive forces in Egyptian society supported the actions of the military, claiming that the military was acting to preserve the spirit of the February 2011 uprising that forced an end to the despotic rule of Hosni Mubarak.

This was willful self-delusion. This was in fact a coup and it served the larger interests of U.S. imperialism. The Obama administration has continued to send military aid to Egypt.

Since the coup, Morsi supporters have been organizing protests and encampments in Cairo and other cities in Egypt.

The Egyptian security forces now appear to be poised to wipe out large pockets of support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian military is moving against a rival oppressive force, and Egypt may be lunging into a reactionary civil war.

U.S. imperialism has blood on its hands. And nothing good can come of this for the great majority of the Egyptian people.

Below, we are printing slightly edited excerpts from a talk given by Raymond Lotta at New York Revolution Books on August 14. These excerpts provide background analysis and orientation for understanding what has been happening in Egypt—and the real revolutionary alternative that is needed.


February 2011: A Revolt, Not a Revolution

The uprising of 2010-11 toppled the Mubarak regime. It demonstrated that there is no permanent necessity to the existing conditions and structures under which the great majority of humanity lives and suffers. And it was tremendously inspiring to oppressed people and people everywhere who yearn for an end to oppression and for a better world.

If you were in the streets demanding the downfall of the Morsi regime... or you saw that as a positive thing and cheered it on... deluded yourself and others that this was a “people’s uprising”... or are in denial that what took place was a coup by the reactionary Egyptian military, but you are now—correctly—appalled by the massacre of Muslim Brotherhood protesters... then you have to take some responsibility to confront that you were USED, PLAYED, and MANIPULATED by one oppressive agenda and section of the oppressive ruling class to facilitate and justify a reactionary coup and a slaughter to try to crush a rival reactionary oppressive force.

Now is the moment to STOP BEING PLAYED like this. There IS ANOTHER WAY. You’ll find it in Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage. A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA—in Arabic, Farsi, English, and other languages at revcom.us. Get it, read it, spread it over social networks and hand to hand, discuss it, organize around it, and write to us at revolution.reports@yahoo.com.



But this revolt did not become a revolution. Mubarak was forced to step down. But the same basic forces that have ruled over and exploited the Egyptian people remained—and remain— in power.

1) Egypt remains a prisoner of the imperialist world market.

Egypt’s economic structure is dependent on and shaped by foreign capital, international loans, and Egypt’s subordinate integration into the world economy. Much of the foreign investment capital entering Egypt is concentrated in financial services and natural gas, sectors that generate few jobs.

The Egyptian state has promoted the development of profitable export sectors, especially cotton goods. Foreign domination has given rise to rampant and rapacious land speculation—and to bloated investment in tourism. The Egyptian military is in the thick of it all: it controls 40 percent of the economy.

This whole path of development has diverted resources from agriculture. Egypt has favorable agricultural resources and the potential to develop a sustainable agriculture. But it depends on the world market to supply its food needs and is the world’s largest importer of wheat.

A tiny stratum of Egypt’s wealthy has benefited, while poverty and squalor have spread. Forty percent of Egypt’s population lives near or below the poverty level. I’m talking about families subsisting on $2 a day. Youth make up 75 percent of the unemployed. And think about it: some 30 percent of Egypt’s university graduates cannot find work.

2) The repressive neocolonial Egyptian state remains intact.

Watch the entire video:

Turmoil in Egypt: The Myth of "People Power" and The REAL Revolution Needed -- A Talk by Raymond Lotta from Revolution Books on Vimeo.

The Egyptian state represents and enforces the economic and social relations that I have been describing. It is the guardian of the property rights and an economic structure based on exploitation and subordination to imperialism. This state represents the interests of a ruling class that rests on exploitation of the great majority of the population. This is a ruling class that has evolved in relation to a certain kind of capitalist development that is highly dependent on imperialism.

The army, the intelligence services, riot police, ordinary police, high courts, and the bureaucracy built up during the Mubarak era serve the interests of imperialism and the dictatorship of the exploiting classes in Egyptian society. The army concentrates the monopoly of legitimate armed force. It is the main pillar of a reactionary and oppressive state.

For almost 35 years, the Egyptian state, with the military as its principal bulwark, has been a keystone of U.S. imperial dominance in the Middle East, receiving some $40 billion in military aid from the U.S. This state opened its airspace to U.S. war planes during the Gulf War of 1991. It has given Western imperialism, including the U.S. Navy, unimpeded access to the Suez Canal. After the so-called Egypt-Israel peace agreement was signed in 1979, Egypt has been an active accomplice to Israel’s violent subjugation of the Palestinian people. The Mubarak regime helped enforce Israel’s blockade of the Palestinian population in Gaza, preventing basic supplies from reaching people.

The July 3 Coup

The U.S. played a critical and decisive role in the military ouster of Morsi. Not that the U.S. was behind every demonstration and outpouring. But it was the key force that had engineered the coup, working through its diplomatic corps, national security advisor, other regimes in the region, and of course the Egyptian military.

Yet in the face of incontestable facts, a grand narrative of “people power” has emerged: “It was not the army that took over, it was the army that acted on behalf of the people.” This great self-delusion has taken hold among millions. It is the delusion of “people power.” Phase 1 was the ouster of Mubarak. Phase 2 was the demand for elections. Phase 3 is the ouster of Morsi.

The article in Revolution newspaper and revcom.us, “Millions of People CAN Be Wrong: The Coup in Egypt Is Not a People’s Revolution,” makes the important analysis that “because the masses in their millions are acting [it is not the case that] 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. ...


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


Large sections of people, especially from the educated youth and middle classes, have concluded, and have been swept into the ideological torrent, that the main danger to Egyptian society, and to the people of the world, comes from the Islamic fundamentalist forces. And so the military—where and when it opposes Islamic fundamentalism—is seen as a positive force in society. This is willful self-delusion. And it is poisonous. People are being led to embrace a reactionary program that strengthens the Egyptian military and that allows it to carry out slaughter against supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The “Two Outmodeds”

Bob Avakian’s analysis of “the two outmodeds” provides a powerful and essential tool for understanding this conflict and acting to change the terms of things. On a world scale, two reactionary forces are clashing politically, ideologically, and militarily. Each preaches an enslaving ideology; each is a rival representative of the status quo. In Bringing Forward Another Way, Bob Avakian has analyzed these dynamics:

“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.”

The rivalry between these competing outmodeds—their oppressive ways of organizing society, their oppressive ideologies and programs, and their political representatives—is a major faultline in much of the world, in Egyptian society, and is a source of splits within Egypt’s ruling classes. And each tendency feeds on the other—the crimes of each drive people into the arms of the other. And none of this is in the fundamental interests of the people.

But humanity does not have to choose between these two unacceptable alternatives, these two non-solutions. What is needed is to bring forward another way: in opposition to and to break out of the dynamic of McWorld vs. Jihad that dominates much of the world now, including Egypt.

We have to be clear about what a genuine revolution is. It does not leave the reactionary state and army, exploitative economy, imperialist relations, and oppressive social relations intact. No! Revolution aims to defeat and dismantle the oppressive structures and military force of the old order. And on that basis, it sets out to establish a radically new and different state power and socialist economy, with liberating social relations, all aiming to serve the struggle to achieve a communist world without classes—a world community of humanity.

The new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian represents the only way out of the madness and horror of the present world and toward a world truly worth living in. It is the real-world liberatory alternative to the “two outmodeds.”

This re-envisioned communism speaks to the actual and real felt needs of the great majority of world humanity. It corresponds to the direction that the world needs to go in—and can go in. And people need to get hold of Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage. A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA to learn about this.

A Revolutionary Communist Pole Must Be Established

People’s sights need to be raised to this far better world.

And a critical dimension of genuine revolutionary work is waging sharp ideological struggle in society—and transforming the thinking of people as a key element in building a movement for revolution and accumulating forces for revolution.

That means calling out, not conciliating with, the “two outmodeds.”

  • The truth is: there can be no capitalism—“enlightened” or otherwise—that does not viciously exploit people, lead to impoverishment and destruction of the environment.
  • The truth is: elections, parliamentary democracy, and the formal rights in oppressed nations that have not ruptured out of imperialist domination are quite compatible with the dictatorship of the exploiting classes.
  • The truth is: there can be no Islam or Christianity—“humanistic” or otherwise—that does not oppress women.

A revolutionary movement has to be challenging people to cast off the shackles of religion; its appeal to supernatural forces and gods that do not exist; and its core values of patriarchy, domination, and enforced ignorance enshrined in belief, ritual, and custom. All of which prevent people from understanding their world and their capability to transform it and themselves.

A movement for revolution has to popularize and fight for the scientific communist understanding of the world and society.

A touchstone question in bursting the constraints of “the two outmodeds” is the emancipation of women. This is about unleashing the fury of women as a powerful force for revolution. The oppression of half of humanity is woven deeply into the central strands of oppression of class society. The freedom from oppression that women require can only be achieved through the most radical transformation of society. And taking up that question today—as a touchstone question among the oppressed themselves and as part of promoting a new culture and morality that can inspire people and “fit” them to make revolution to emancipate all of humanity—this is an essential component of building a genuine movement for all-the-way revolution.

Lessons of Recent History

Let’s do a thought experiment. Rewind the tape and go back to 2009, before the upsurge. You saw that the Muslim Brotherhood was in opposition to Mubarak, and it had a following among the poor. You also saw that growing numbers of middle-class forces were becoming alienated from the Mubarak regime but were looking for inspiration to the West—while various bourgeois-liberal forces were themselves coming into opposition to the Mubarak regime.

Now having seen what happened since 2011, and how the outlook and class interests of these “two outmodeds,” representing two rival and mutually reinforcing representatives of imperialist dependency, have come to dominate political and social life—what was called for? To tail one or the other of these two forces? No, what is needed is to establish a real communist pole that can begin to influence millions.

The situation in Egypt today—in which large sections of the population are being rallied around the reactionary military, representing the oppressive interests of U.S. imperialism, and other sections are being rallied around the retrograde Muslim Brotherhood, who seek to reorganize society along theocratic lines—only underscores the need for this pole.

There is in fact a way towards emancipation: the new synthesis of communism. The challenge is to take this up as an urgent and comprehensive solution—now in the midst of this horrific situation of the military assault on the Muslim Brotherhood—and to make it a powerful force of attraction and contention in society and the world.


Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.