Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

The Cairo Conferences or How some on the Left have got the Muslim Brotherhood Wrong.

with 4 comments

One major factor that explains the inability of some on the British left to support, clearly, Egyptian democrats is their long-standing links with the Muslim Brotherhood.

This is not just a matter of domestic alliances with the (then) Muslim Association of Britain in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC).

On the principle of being ‘with’ the MB – indeed anybody – when  ‘fighting’ ‘imperialism’ and the its allied states this reached its highest point in the Cairo Conferences, from 2002 to 2009.

Wikipedia is the most convenient source of the history of this alliance,

The first conference was held on the 17–19 December 2002, at the Conrad Hotel on the banks of the Nile . Four hundred attended. Speakers included former United Nations (UN) humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Dr Hans von Sponeck. Former Algerian president Ahmed Ben Bella (TC Note– who had become an Islamist) chaired the conference. One outcome of the conference was the production of the ‘Cairo Declaration’, which took a stance against the then looming Iraq war; it also noted the negative effects of capitalist globalisation and U.S.  hegemony on the peoples of the world (including European and American citizens). In addition, it noted that “In the absence of democracy , and with widespread corruption and oppression constituting significant obstacles along the path of the Arab peoples’ movement towards economic, social, and intellectual progress, adverse consequences are further aggravated within the framework of the existing world order of neoliberal globalisation”, while firmly rejecting the ‘advance of democracy’ justification for attacking Iraq.

The UK Stop the War Coalition, in particular John Rees of the SWP, initiated the signing of the declaration by European leftists, including: Jeremy Corbyn MP, George Galloway MP, Tony Benn, Susan George (scholar/activist based in France), Bob Crow, Mick Rix (general secretary, UK train drivers’ Aslef union), Julie Christie, George Monbiot, Harold Pinter, Ghayasuddin Siddiqui (Muslim Parliament), Tommy Sheridan (Scottish socialist), Dr Ghada Karmi (research fellow, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter), Tariq Ali. attended.

I shall miss out the specific references to Iraq and concentrate on what the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty highlighted of the original ‘Cairo Declaration’.

Selective and misleading extracts from the ‘Cairo Declaration’ have been published in “Socialist Worker” (18th January 2003). The carefully edited extracts refer to the internationalist struggle against neo-liberal globalisation, the growth of poverty and unemployment as a result of capitalist globalisation and US hegemony, and the need for total opposition to war on Iraq.
Such worthy sentiments, however, are not representative of the politics encapsulated in the ‘Cairo Declaration’.
The ‘Cairo Declaration’ criticises the US for ‘maintaining the existing uni-polar world order’ and blocking a shift in the balance of power ‘towards multi-polarity.’ This is not an obscure and coded call for working-class struggle against capitalist inequality. It is a complaint that the domination of international markets by large-scale US capital (uni-polarity) is squeezing out the local capitalist classes and elites (multi-polarity).

It would be tedious to go through all these ‘conferences’ declarations but this one indicates the truth of this analysis (from the 3rd Conference 2003),

• The U.S. monopolizes political, economic and military power within the framework of capitalist globalization, to the detriment of the lives of the majority of the world’s people.

• The U.S. imposes control through naked aggression and militarized globalization in pursuit of its rulers’ interests, all while reinstating the characteristic direct occupation of classical colonialism.

• The U.S. global strategy, which was formulated prior to September 11 2001, aims to maintain the existing unipolar world order, and to prevent the emergence of forces that would shift the balance of power towards multi-polarity. The U.S. administration has exploited the tragic events of September 11, under the pretext of fighting terrorism, to implement the pre-existing strategy. Attention to this global context helps explain current world developments:

• Prioritize the interest of monopolistic capitalist circles above those of the people, including Europeans and U.S. citizens.

• Integrate the economies of different countries into a single global capitalist economic system under conditions which undermine social development and adversely affect the situation of women, child health, education, and social services for the elderly. In addition, unemployment and poverty increase.

The last conference in 2009 was unde the banner of “The International Campaign Against Universal Imperialism and Zionism”. Its main  slogan was “Pro-Resistance and Anti-Occupation with its crimes”, will be discussing a number of issues such as supporting the resistance, developing the struggle against the occupation of Iraq, confronting the racist policies of imperialist governments and issues against dictatorship and globalization in Egypt and the Arab world.

Workers’ Liberty’s  comments on the 2003 Cairo Declaration, are relevant,  

The Cairo Conference was convened by an organisation committed to the defence of the national security of Egypt. At best, the conference was financed by local businessmen. (At worst, the Iraqi government had a hand in funding it.) Those attending the conference including representatives of the Iraqi Baath regime, members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, a delegation from the Cuban Castroite regime, and various veteran Stalinists lamenting the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I will not go into the issue of Israel, or Stalinism.

The most important point is that they aligned themselves with a section of the pious Egyptian bourgeoisie – with all tis own financial and capital links with Gulf States.

The MB’s anti-globalisation and ‘anti-imperialism’ now stand as a cover for their promotion of their own religious-political national interests.

These interests are increasingly anti-democratic and anti-working class.

But will those in Britain who have worked with them draw a balance sheet?

It seems highly unlikely.


4 Responses

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  1. http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article27210 The SWPs former affiliate are a lot better. And this is fairly good. With the collapse of some CPs many of the Trotskyist groups have moved into their space and alas adopted some of their popular frontist politics. In Ireland the SWP regularly denounce Sinn Fein for its move to the right. If they had the same line as per Egypt then I wonder.

    Jim Monaghan

    December 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm

  2. Do you know what the MB attitude is towards the Chinese? China is assuming more and more economic control in Africa and Asia and yet it is never mentioned. The Chinese are paying the Afghan Government $1,000,000,000,000 (that’s one trillion) dollars over the next three years for the mineral rights in Afghanistan. And yet, no-one mentions them. (I hate to sound as if I am talking ‘Yellow Peril’, but my point is, how come they get away with imperialist activities and we don’t.).

    Sue R

    December 9, 2012 at 7:16 pm

  3. Certainly, with the exception of the UK where the far left is in disarray, Trotskyist groups have moved in to fill vacuums. It is however a sign of their weakness overall, non have the size or clout of the old PCF or PCI in France or Italy, that they are making common cause with some of the most reactionary elements throughout the Middle East and Asia.

    The difference is that whereas the old CPs could dominate the popular fronts the Trotskyist groups are peripheral and are used as window dressing by the real driving forces which in the cases we are talking about is reactionary Islam.

    A case in point is Tower Hamlets and the Respect fiasco where the SWP were used by the IFE and the business interests that financed the whole thing and then when election day came the Bangladeshis went out, as ordered by the power brokers, and voted for the Bangladeshi Respect candidates and not the whites. Once the business was up and running the non Muslim players weren’t required anymore.

    We are seeing a similar scenario albeit on a much larger scale in Egypt and soon in other countries around the region. The standard uber left position is that if a movement or situation is perceived to be anti Imperialist then it is therefore progressive and to be supported even if that means alliances with people and groups which, under normal isolated circumstances, the left wouldn’t touch with a bargepole.

    Nick Cohen has summed the whole utterly dishonest process up in ” What’s Left” which is the final word on the moral bankruptcy of the far left in this country. The tiny Trotskyist groups claiming the moral high ground on this and similar matters, some are mentioned above, are basically pots calling kettles black. All are Leninist and believe in some kind of authoritarian society, as long as they are in charge of course!

    Similar useful idiots, Lenin’s supposed description of the Soviet Union supporting left out side of the country, are currently strutting their stuff in Tower Hamlets. As is well known the supposed Independent Mayor Lutfur Rahman is in fact a front for Islamic Forum Europe and a group, or rather several groups of, businessmen who are making fortunes from the council by means of various contracts.

    Rahman is now so concerned at the disparities in wealth in Tower Hamlets that he has financed a ” Fairness Commission” to spend several months taking evidence of unfairness and then to recommend to Rahman what should be done to make the borough fair.

    The whole thing is of course a massive charade as the council have no power to do anything about unfairness but that hasn’t stopped a list of useful idiots getting involved headed up by non other than Giles Fraser. Worth watching this one as the scam seems to be happening in several other parts of the country.


    December 10, 2012 at 6:49 am

  4. However in Tunisia the Islamists have run up against the UGTT.

    Andrew Coates

    December 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm

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