Archive for the ‘Nationalism’ Category
Is this Enough?
An important interview with Joseph Daher, a member of the Syrian Revolutionary Left Current, in International Viewpoint today makes the following point,
What is your response to some on the left who assert that the Syrian opposition are proxies for Western imperialism and the oil rich Gulf states?
The problem with some of the Western left, especially the Stalinists, is that they have been analysing the Syrian revolutionary process from a geo-political perspective, ignoring completely the socio-economic and political dynamism on the ground in Syria. Many of them also consider Iran, Russia, or Syria to be anti-imperialist states struggling against the USA, which is wrong on every aspect. Our choice should not be to choose between on one side the USA and Saudi Arabia and on the other side Iran and Russia, our choice is revolutionary masses struggling for their emancipation.
The background to this is the assessment that the democratic and social revolution against Assad, through local coordinating committees, continues.
We have to understand more generally the crucial role played by the popular committees and organisations in the continuation of the revolutionary process, they are the ultimate actors that allow the popular movement to resist. This is not to undermine the role played by the armed resistance, but even they are dependent on the popular movement to continue the battle, otherwise without it we would not stand a chance.
In this respect the role of the Islamists has been challenged,
The Syrian revolutionary masses have increasingly opposed the authoritarian and reactionary policies of these groups. In the city of Raqqa, which has been liberated from the forces of the regime since March 2013, many popular demonstrations occurred against the authoritarian actions of Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS in the city. Similar demonstrations took place with masses challenging this kind of behavior in Aleppo and other cities.
It should be said as well that Jabhat al Nusra has not hesitated to strike deals with the Assad regime, for example the regime is paying more than $150 million Syrian lire [AU $2.4 million] monthly to them to guarantee oil is kept pumping through two major pipelines in Banias and Latakia. Jabhat al Nusra fighters have also been involved in other businesses.
The Syrian National Council, instead of defending the principles of the revolution and doing everything possible to develop the democratic components of the FSA, have let these groups, which are and were part of the counter-revolution since their establishment, to develop without condemning them and actually providing them with cover. These groups, just like the Syrian regime want to divide the Syrian people into sectarian and ethnic entities. The Syrian revolution wants to break the sectarian and ethnic division.
Different leftist forces have been involved in the Syrian revolutionary process since the revolutionary process began. We can find numerous smaller leftist groups and youth in Syria participating in the revolutionary process, in popular committees on the ground, organisation of demonstrations and of the provision of services to the population. The left has mostly been engaged in the civil work, in opposition to the armed work.
From the very beginning, despite our modest capacities, we, the Current of the Revolutionary Left has not once faltered in our engagement with the revolution, calling for democracy and socialism. We have struggled alongside the people and all democratic forces for the victory of this great popular revolution, just as we struggle for the formation of a socialist workers’ party.
The Labour Representation Committee makes this, very different, assessment of the forces opposed to Assad.
The tragedy for the Syrian people is that what began as a mass movement for democracy, as part of the wider Arab spring, has been largely hijacked by western-backed and Gulf-funded anti-secular and anti-democratic groups, some linked to Al Qaeda and extreme forms of Islamic fundamentalism, as Owen Jones recently pointed out (Independent – Owen Jones). The success of such forces could lead to a wholesale sectarian bloodbath.
This analysis is based on the following,
As Sami Ramadani pointed out in the July edition of Labour Briefing: ‘During the past two years, an assortment of terrorists flooded in from Libya, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Europe. Some are flown to Turkey to receive their arms and funds, an effort coordinated by a specially set up CIA HQ in Turkey. Saudi rulers generally back the Wahhabi Salafis and pro-Saudi secular forces associated with the Lebanese right wing, while Qatar backs the Muslim Brotherhood. However, Qatari and Saudi funds were given freely, especially during the 18 months of the fighting, to anyone who wanted to fight in Syria or defect from the regime. Qatar’s dictatorial rulers alone have spent $3 billion within two years in its efforts to topple Assad’s regime.’ (Labour Briefing – Battleground Syria).
We note, with great interest, that the Novueau Parti Anticapitaliste, (part of the Fourth International that Publishes International Viewpoint) has this to say about what should have been done to avert these developments.
Mais nous réaffirmons que les grandes puissances occidentales, en refusant de livrer les armes que réclament depuis tant de mois les structures collectives de lutte dont s’est doté ce peuple, portent aussi une lourde responsabilité dans la perpétuation du régime assassin, tout en contribuant au développement de courants obscurantistes religieux qui constituent un second ennemi mortel pour le peuple syrien.
But, we reaffirm that the principal Western Powers, by refusing the supply arms – demanded for months by the Syrian people’s collective structures of struggle – bear a heavy responsibility in sustaining the murdering regime. This has equally contributed to the development of religious obscurantist currents, who are mortal enemies of the Syrian people.
This call for arming the Syrian opposition has not unnaturally caused waves inside the NPA – see here,
All the evidence points to the Labour’s Representation Committee being right and the NPA/International Viewpoint having wildly exaggerated the strength of democratic and left forces in the Syrian opposition as it is presently fighting.
Behind this are wider differences inside the Arab left.
Nicolas Dot-Pouillard in le Monde Diplomatique noted last year that
“..unlike Egypt and Tunisia, the Syrian revolt has not had unanimous support from the Arab left. There is a split between those who sympathise with the protestors’ demands and those who fear foreign interference, both political and military”
….unconditional supporters of the revolution do not seem to be in the majority either. Most of them are on the far left of the political spectrum, usually Trotskyist (the Socialist Forum in Lebanon, the Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt) or Maoist (the Democratic Way in Morocco). They have links with sections of the opposition, such as Ghayath Naisse’s Syrian Revolutionary Left. Since spring 2011 they have taken part in occasional demonstrations in front of Syrian embassies and consulates in their own countries. There are also some independent leftwing intellectuals who support insurrection, like the Lebanese historian Fawwaz Traboulsi. They demand the fall of the regime, and rule out dialogue. Even though they champion peaceful popular protest, they believe the rebels have the right to resort to force of arms. Far left supporters of revolution distance themselves from the Syrian National Council (SNC) (5), one of the main opposition coalitions, because they believe its links with countries such as Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia could compromise the independence of the popular movement.
..the majority of the Arab left are maintaining a prudent distance from the Syrian uprising. They condemn its militarisation, which they say only benefits radical Islamist groups and the foreign fighters flocking to Syria. They criticise the sectarianism of the conflict, pitting first Alawite then Christian minorities against a Sunni majority radicalised by repression, which they fear will lead to unending civil war. And they worry about the regional and international balance of power. With Iran and Syria set against the Gulf monarchies, and Russia and China against the US, Syria has been put on the front line of a great international war game. The left tends to favour Iran and Syria, and Russia and China, rather than those they oppose.
For all their courage one gets the impression that the leftist forces in the Syrian opposition, not to mention any armed activity, are small in number. Has the “prudence” of those who did not joint them been proved wrong? The LCC’s judgement would indicate that it has not.
Dot-Pouillard’s conclusion remains valuable,
the position that much of the Arab left takes on Syria reflects its own clash with political Islam. That is why parties that normally claim to be “revolutionary” and “progressive”, even if they are not necessarily Marxist, are, paradoxically, hoping for a negotiated solution and gradual transition in Syria, for fear of disillusionment in the future.
One could add that those forces – from Counterfire to the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) – on the European left that once saw progressive aspects in political Islam are particularly in disarray.
Their allies in the Muslim Initiative are now engaged in protesting for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood – here the ally of a key player (the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood) in the anti-Assad alliance.
More openly the Muslim Association of Britain – which jointly organised with the StWC the big demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq – has this to say,
We call on all activists and workers to support the revolution in every field and arena, everywhere; and to pressurise the political establishments to take firm action against the tyrannical Assad regime.
Dr Omer El-Hamdoon – MAB President said, “Out thoughts continue to be with the Syrian people, who have faced more than two and a half years of oppression; and more recently this chemical attack.”
“It is about time the international community takes firm action to put an end to the killing and destruction that it taking place in front of our eyes.”
As a group closely aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood we await with interest an protest from the MAB against a Western armed response.
Or perhaps its ‘anti-imperialism’ was always a matter of variable geometry.
Gilbert Achcar: “Social-imperialist” says Weekly Worker.
This very recent interview with Gilbert Achcar (which I cannot find in English) is extremely important.
From Gauche Anticapitaliste (Extracts).
The revolutionary process in the Arab region continues to surprise the media. How do you analyse the recent events in Egypt and Tunisia?
While there are qualitative changes that have taken place, but the fact that there are twists and turns in the process is not surprising. We must understand that what began in late 2010-early 2011 is a revolutionary long-term development. The idea that the electoral victories of the forces of Islamism (intégrisme islamique) in Tunisia and Egypt would close down the changes under way proved completely wrong.
These forces were doomed to failure since, they, like the regimes they replaced, had no response to the serious social and economic problems that caused the uprisings. They are a continuation of neo-liberal policies and therefore can not solve these problems which have only got worse.
The revolutionary process can take surprising forms, but we will continue to pass from upheaval to upheaval in the region as a whole, before the situation stabilises. This, would require, according to a positive hypothesis, a profound change in the social nature of the region’s governments and their move towards policies based on the interests of working people .
How do you see the battle going on today in Egypt?
In Egypt today, we must distinguish two levels: the manoeuvres and conflicts between those concerned with political power, and the underlying wave of popular discontent. The second has been unleashed, but like the the unrest of 2011, has ended in a military intervention.
Mubarak, had already been dismissed in February 2011 by the military, which then placed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces at the top of the executive. This time, they kept their distance from a repetition of the past operations, having burnt their fingers trying to govern the country in a state of upheaval. This is because any government carrying out neo-liberal policies is bound to wear itself out rapidly. But while civilians have been appointed to head the executive one can not hide the fact that it is the army that has the power.
However, it is a very right-wing view of democracy to adopt the the argument that the army intervened against a democratically elected government. That is to say that elected officials have carte blanche to do whatever they want for the term of office, even if they blatantly betray the expectations of their constituents. A radical conception of democracy involves the right to recall elected representatives.
It is this form that the movement took in Egypt with the petition calling for Morsi to go and for new elections to be held. The youth movement “Tamarrod” (Rebellion), gathered in a few months an impressive number of signatures for their petition calling for this, a much higher total than the number of votes Morsi obtained in his election to the presidency. From this point of view, his dismissal was entirely legitimate.
By contrast the big problem is that rather than organising the broad movement to overthrow Morsi by means of mass struggle – a general strike, civil disobedience – we saw the opposition leaders, both liberal and left agree with the military and applaud the coup. This action’s ultimate logic is to capture the potential for popular mobilization and impose a return to hard-line ‘order’, which has been confirmed by the actions of the military. This is extremely serious. In this respect there is a strategic gap on the majority of Egyptian left. The army’s image has been restored, and the commander in chief of the army (Al-Sissi) has been covered with praise.
Al-Sissi is the strong man of the new ‘ancien regime’. Although only Defence Minister, he allowed himself to call on the people to demonstrate in support of the army – completely ignoring the new government.
Today, even the youth of Tamarrod have begin to worry – rather late. They have fallen into a trap of their own making. The coup has allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to rejuvenate , posing as martyrs, and the victims of a military coup. They reconsolidated their social base, albeit minority – it is now clear – but important. The military action has polished their image anew.
The position of the Islamist movements who occupied the place of the old regimes in Tunisia and Egypt has quickly deteriorated , but the weakness of the left is now equally a big problem …
Apart from the revolutionary left that remains marginal in Egypt, most of the left have put their forces behind the National Salvation Front . Most of those who originate in the traditional Communist movement and those from the Nasserist current, which remains the left with the most influence on the people at large, have participated in the process of mystifying the role of the army. This is all the more unfortunate in that these forces were in the streets against the army in the months leading up to the election of Morsi!
Hamdeen Sabahi, the Nasserist leader, explained a few days before June 30, that it had been a mistake to have shouted a year earlier “Down with the military government,”. In this respect he drew the wrong lessons from history. This is a real error, to repent and to say now that we should be applauding the army.
What do you think of Tunisian plans to end the power of Ennahdha?
Unfortunately, there is a risk that Tunisia will develop into a similar scenario to Egypt: a left that does not have the political insight to fight on a left-wing agenda, and is preparing to build alliances even with the parts of the former regime. These links are present in Nidaa Tounès ["Call of Tunisia" - an initiative launched by Beji Caid Essebi, former Minister of Defence and Foreign Affairs under Habib Bourguiba, a lawyer specializing in arbitration cases - become party recognized and authorised in July 2012]. Such an approach ultimately benefits the Islamist forces who have a golden opportunity to denounce the agreements of the left with remnants of the former regime. This allows the Muslim Brotherhood or Ennahdha to pose as bearers of the legitimacy and continuity of the revolution.
There is a problem of political representation of the working classes in the revolution?
Yes,. The problem is that instead of trying to win hegemony in the mass movement – fighting primarily on social issues- which would unite against it supporters of neo-liberalism ranging from fundamentalists to men of the old regime and even the Liberals, the Tunisian left has made a short-sighted alliance with sections of the old regime.
In a country like Tunisia, in my opinion, the trade union Federation, the UGTT (General Union of Tunisian Workers) is a socially hegemonic force and can easily become the politically dominant one. But a wall is erected between union struggles and the political.Tunisia’s left now heads the UGTT. But rather than launch the union federation into the political battle, with a strategy of forming a workers’ government, this left seems to be moving towards alliances – against its own interests – between its different political groups organised in the Front Populaire, on the one hand, and the Liberals and the remnants of the former regime, on the other.
Interview with Gilbert Achcar, led by Jacques Babel. Interviewed Monday, July 29 by Jacques Babel. Published on Alencontre.org
Achcar’s political conclusion can be summarised simply,
The left must assert a third, independent, way, against the old regimes and against the Islamists (Intégristes), to satisfy the social demands of those who who created these uprisings.
How far the Arab left is in a position to do this, is, one may say, quite a question.
The neoliberal policy of Egypt’s new president Mohamed Morsi looks very much like a continuation of that of Mubarak. It is increasing social tensions.
by Gilbert Achcar
In Prague, 1948, my mother knew an English woman who married an Indonesian Communist and went to live in the country.
As children Mavis told us of the 1965-6 mass killings in Indonesia and wondered what had happened to her friend.
I believe she survived.
This was one of the 20th century’s most unreported crimes.
An estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 people were secretly and systematically killed in 1965-1966 in a bloody purge of suspected communists throughout Indonesia. Others put the figure higher.
It opens with shots of ethereal dancers swaying in verdant countryside.
The words of Voltaire, “All murderers are punished, unless they kill in large numbers, and to the sound of trumpets” appear on the screen.
The protagonists are Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry in Medan (North Sumatra) . During the Indonesian killings of 1965-6 they ran a death squad. They tortured, slaughtered , and extorted those (usually ethnic Chinese) able to but their way out. Anwar personally killed around 1,000 people, usually by strangling with wire, which he commends as less messy than other murder methods.
The film follows Anwar and his friends. They have been invited to re-enact the killings for the cameras. They are soon busy making their own movie, depicting their memories of the period, happy as often as not.
It’s as if members of an Einsatzgruppe had become the Sealed Knot.
The production of the ‘film’ is interwoven with shards from their present-day life.
Anwar is a pillar of society, or what passes for it in Sumatra.
He has continued links with the Pancasila Youth, a paramilitary organisation closely tied to present-day Indonesian political establishment. They revel in being ‘gangsters’ claiming it signifies ‘free men’ – an English phrase like many others that crops up in their conversation.
The genociders’ ’film’ becomes more and more surreal. It’s a jumble of Fellini grotesques, Indonesian ghosts and demons, musicals, cowboy movies, and Nazi sado-porn.
Invited on a local television station to discuss the project Anwar defends his actions, “God hates Communists”.
There is not the remotest suggestion that they will ever be punished for their crimes. Human rights? says Adi. They are irrelevant.
If he is utterly without remorse, Anwar by contrast appears greatly troubled by all the dead he left behind.
Oppenheimer has called the film ”a documentary of the imagination.”
It would be more accurate to say that, ” we find ourselves looking long into an abyss in which unspeakable horror and utterly mundane madness are thrown together “ Mark Kermonde.
The Act of Killing does not cover other areas where the murders took place. Or other forces than gangsters who were involved.
Apart from the anti-Communist and anti-Chinese motivations of the killers there was a religious dimension.
Wikipedia notes, The Muslim group Muhammadiyah proclaimed in early November 1965 that the extermination of “Gestapu/PKI” constituted Holy War (“Gestapu” being the military’s name for the “30 September Movement”), a position that was supported by other Islamic groups in Java and Sumatra. For many youths, killing Communists became a religious duty. Where there had been Communist centres in Central and East Java, Muslim groups portraying themselves as victims of Communist aggression justified the killings by evoking the Madiun Affair of 1948. Roman Catholic students in the Yogyakarta region left their hostels at night to join in the execution of truckloads of arrested Communists.
This is an important and deeply unsettling film.
A number of times it’s repeated on the screen that if any of the victims wish to rise up again they will be crushed.
I cannot but think that it showed the worst side of the “most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth.” – as the King of Brobdingnag put it.
James Bloodworth writes in his Spectator Blog,
“Formulating policy on the back of what you believe human beings ought to be liker rather than what they tend to be like can have serious consequences. Mass immigration is a case in point.
The paradox of the liberal love affair with immigration is that the progressive’s disdain for borders and the fetishisation of dry economic data risks undermining one of the very aspects of society he professes to cherish: the welfare state. For there is increasing evidence to suggest that declining support for social security among people in Britain may not simply be down to ‘Thatcherism’, but also to unwillingness on the part of the British people to see their hard earned money spent on people from overseas.
As David Goodhart has written:
‘All people are equal but they are not all equal to us. Most people in Britain today accept the idea of human equality, but remain moral particularists and moderate nationalists.’
Recognition of the fact is not necessarily to endorse it. It is, however, to accept that there may be a social democratic cost attached to mass immigration that cannot simply be wished away by utopian promulgations that reek of the seminar.
As 19th century French philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon put it: “If the entire world is my brother, then I have no brother.”
Let us begin by saying that James has taken some extremely dubious sources to back up his argument.
Jonathan Portes in the London Review of Books summarised, before tearing to shreds, Goodhardt’s argument,
There are two major problems with contemporary British society, according to David Goodhart in The British Dream, and both are primarily caused by immigration. The first problem is economic: the plight of the white working class, especially the young, and the decline of social mobility. Goodhart argues that low-skilled immigrants have taken jobs from unskilled natives, leaving them languishing on benefits, while high-skilled immigration reduces both the incentives and opportunities for ambitious and talented natives to move up the ladder. Many find this thesis convincing, and it has been accepted as fact by much of the political elite. There is, however, almost no evidence to support it. The second problem is social: the decline of a shared sense of community, local and national, which Goodhart relates to the failure of at least some immigrants to integrate, either ‘physically’ (where they live, who their kids go to school with, what language they speak and so on) or ‘mentally’ (in terms of the degree to which they identify with Britain, or share a common set of values).
The flaws in Goodhardt’s argument start from their assumptions,
The belief that if immigrants get ‘more’ of something (jobs, education, opportunities, political power), natives (or whites) must get less.
Portes goes into detail about Goodhardt’s book (which I have read), chalenging its statistical correlations and social absis (notably the relative deprivation of the ‘white’ working class).
Clearly this is simply not true,.
But important as this is James’ more fundamental premise is because people ‘lose’ from immigration social solidarity is undermined by it.
He accepts, without serious empirical support, that people no longer back welfare because of immigration’s effects on loosening social bonds. There is a fraying of social reciprocal obligation.
Two points on this spring to mind.
- Opinion against welfare is largely based on dislike for any kind of benefit claimant. The recent BBC show on the lives of low paid workers and the unemployed Ipswich We all Pay Your benefits, showed people from the town divided – from the same social and cultural background. Indeed the show was criticised for setting one group of the less well-off against another – poorer – category of people.
- The decline in backing for the Welfare state may be less than he imagines, as serious studies are now emerging showing that this has not happened. The Guardian recently published an article by David Stuckler and Aaron Reeves ”We are told Generation Y is hard-hearted, but it’s a lie.”
This concludes that people’s anti-benefit attitudes are being fuelled by politicians and the media,
Take the case of the BBC. Perhaps eager to be seen to fulfil its mandate to appear balanced, the corporation has reinforced misperceptions of the prevalence of benefit fraud in various programmes, such as Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford’s We All Pay Your Benefits series, and its Future State of Welfare programme. Indeed, the Future State of Welfare was the subject of so many viewer complaints that it was investigated by the BBC Trust’s editorial standards committee, which on Tuesday found that “viewers were left unable to reach an informed opinion and the [BBC's] accuracy guidelines had been breached”; it was, they said, “a breach of impartiality”.
But the BBC is far from being the only offender. Overall, the number of mainstream news articles in the UK using the term “scrounger” jumped from 173 in 2009 to 572 in 2010, remaining high since. This has an impact: GoogleTrends shows that searches for the term scrounger have rocketed since 2010, a sign that it is entering the public’s vernacular. Within this context, the repeated portrayal of young people as being against social spending risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Attitudes could also harden if public programmes fail to assist young people. The government’s flagship scheme to help 160,000 young people move into employment has so far enabled fewer than 5,000 to do so. Some may rightly begin to ask themselves, why bother to pay taxes into a public system that is not there for them when they need help?
Historically, the British Social Attitudes data shows that support for increasing welfare spending rises under Conservative governments and falls under Labour. There are signs that this trend is repeating itself, as support for such spending among young people has in fact risen 3.5% since 2010. Now is the time to make the case to the next generation for spending on effective social services. We need to challenge the misleading welfare narrative – using evidence is a good place to start.
Bloodworth makes the argument that “If the entire world is my brother, then I have no brother.” This is a quote from French 19th century Joseph Proudhon, “(15 January 1809 – 19 January 1865) a politician, founder of Mutualist philosophy,economist and socialist (of a very individual kind).
In other words universal solidarity has no real force.
This skirts dangerously close to the arguments of the French far-right of the early 20th century against those (like the French socialist Jean Jaurès) who brought together support for ‘abstract’ universal human rights and socialism.
They too would cite Proudhon, as the leader of the Action Française was wont to do.
This indicates one of the reasons why Proudhon was not a very good guide to universal benevolence.
Although he was a writer with great insight into the 19th century labour movement he was capable of anti-Semitic, germanophobic and anglophobic outbursts.
The philosopher Richard Rorty put forward a more reasonable form of this argument and how one might develop away from it.
Rorty conceded that people would spontaneously gravitate towards people they can identify with (see writings such as Philosophy and Social Hope 1999).
Wikipedia summaries how he developed this thought (largely in
Rorty contended that throughout history humans have devised various means of construing certain groups of individuals as inhuman or subhuman. Thinking in rationalist (foundationalist) terms will not solve this problem, he claimed. Rorty advocated the creation of a culture of global human rights in order to stop violations from happening through a sentimental education. He argued that we should create a sense of empathy or teach empathy to others so as to understand others’ suffering.
Rorty believed the US left should adopt “national pride” as part of its ideology.
“The Left, by definition, is the party of hope. It insists our nation remains unachieved.”
Would James Bloodworth be satisfied with a ‘narrative’ that heads in this direction?
Goodhart certainly does.
But that’s the rub.
As Portes concludes,
Goodhart, who holds the ‘liberal elite’ responsible not only for immigration policy in the last twenty years but also for British politics more widely, describes himself as a ‘post-liberal’. By this he appears to mean that he has a less market-oriented economic policy, and ‘greater respect for “flag, faith and family” social conservatism’. Attitudes to immigration are central to both: Goodhart’s social conservatism seems to mean a strong presumption that the impact of ‘outsiders’ on British society is negative, while his rejection of economic liberalism leads to the view that the impacts of immigration on the UK economy are often negative and, where positive, not worth the downsides.
In other words this is a conservative line of thought.
A more genuine and emancipatory way of thinking is to argue for empathy an solidarity not towards a ‘nation’ but towards people, not towards the ‘flag’ but towards real human beings, not to cut and divide but to bring people together through solidarity against oppressions and exploitation.
That is a thought, and it has a name, it’s called socialism.
What should the left think about the Egyptian Crisis?
Here are some useful contributions from Arab Awakening.
It is essential to read the whole articles but these are some extracts.
Egypt’s long revolution: knowing your enemy
SAMEH NAGUIB and ROSEMARY BECHLER 29 July 2013
Sameh Naguib is a leading member of the Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt, in London to speak about ‘Egypt, the Arab Spring and revolution today’ and to research a book he is writing on the Egyptian revolution whose title he thinks may be, ‘Egypt: the Long Revolution’.
N: Well, the 30th June was a very complicated day. It confuses everybody all over the world; in Egypt and outside of Egypt, because what you have is two processes happening at the same time. You have on the one hand what is clearly a revolutionary wave involving millions and millions of the Egyptian people. On the other hand, the army and the old regime have used that unprecedented upsurge to get themselves back in the saddle and to get rid of the Muslim Brotherhood.
So, formally-speaking it is undeniable that you have a coup. Obviously. The military removed the president, who we haven’t seen or heard of since that day. He was the elected president. He was democratically elected, so this is by definition a coup.
But at the same time, you have this massive outburst, even bigger than the 2011 uprising, that is unprecedented. It’s much more geographically widespread, and occurs at the peak of the biggest strike wave we have ever had in Egypt. In the months preceding the 30th June – you may not know this – we had the highest level of strikes anywhere in the world and not just in Egyptian history – a rate of approximately 500 strikes a week, that’s the average.
But to answer your question, the coup, in order to legitimate itself both within Egypt and outside – particularly for the west which is important – has a kind of liberal front. So, all these people who have very good democratic credentials, like El Baradei, have been placed at the forefront as if there were an actual democratic process taking place. And importantly those people, and the financiers behind them, control the media in Egypt. They have big private media at their service, controlled by the billionaires who are supporting these two parties.
Egypt’s new interim government is not a leftist coalition
Joel Beinin: To be sure the army is aware that with this economic crisis, with rising prices and the fall in the import of wheat, the Egyptian people’s social rights have to be addressed. I would not say that the new government looks likely to follow this path. The prime minister Hazim Beblawi is a man of the centre and his government arises out of an agreement between the youth movements, the liberal party al-Dostour, led by Mohammed el-Baradei, and the Nasserists, supporting Hamdin Sabbahi: it is not a leftist coalition.
GA: In terms of political direction, what does the Minister of Manpower, Kamal Abu Eita, president of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, lend the government?
JB: Eita is a Nasserist, not a socialist. It is enough to read his first commentary after the offer: “Workers should become the heroes of production”. According to the Nasserists, strikes should never take place: the national economy must ameliorate to the point that all salaried workers can live properly. For this reason, Eita has been criticized by the left, for instance by Fatma Ramada, representative of the Independent Syndicates’ board, who harshly opposed his appointment.
GA: Have the Muslim Brothers lost their support among the Egyptian workers?
JB: They never had any such support. The workers in the industrial sectors showed their clear opposition towards the Brotherhood; for instance, by rejecting the Constitution in the Nile Delta region and Cairo, the biggest industrial areas of the country.
A: During this year, did the many leftist parties that supported the rebel campaign swell their ranks before the 3 July military coup?
JB: The true leftist parties, such as the Revolutionary Socialist party, do not have a significant constituency. They are not able to mobilize the workers. They had some political space before and after Mubarak: but the economic crisis alienated their support in the workers movement. The Tamarrod (rebels) always described itself as a big coalition. Among the signatures collected, a fifth come from the left. But this component is rather lost in nationalist discourses. The campaign which led to Morsi’s fall speaks to and for the nation, without expressing the demands of any one class.
Le Monde Diplomatique is an important source of information and analysis.
The Muslim Brotherhood proved vulnerable in power both to its old secretive culture and a new popular awareness of its inaptitude for government. But it has to be included in any pluralist attempt to restore democracyby Alain Gresh
There may be surprise that an army source said 14 million Egyptians (some sources claimed as many as 33 million) demonstrated on 30 June, and that the army supplied the media with photos taken from military planes to back the claim (1). Or that interior ministry officials claimed the demonstrations were the biggest Egypt has ever seen. There may be scepticism over the 15 (or possibly 22) million signatures collected by the Tamarod (“rebellion”) movement for a petition demanding the resignation of President Mohammed Morsi; and over the claim by an “Egyptian philosopher” that the signatures were “recounted by the Supreme Constitutional Court” (2).
Whatever the exaggerations, the demonstrations were the biggest since January/February 2011. Egyptians gathered to repeat their demands for dignity, liberty and social justice, and to reject the policies of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.