Egypt Protests Demonstrate Power and Perils of Mass Protests

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[Middle East] [Elections] [ULK Issue 33]
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Egypt Protests Demonstrate Power and Perils of Mass Protests

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After a year under the elected rule of President Mohamed Morsi, in June and July the Egyptian people once again took to the streets to protest a government that was not serving their interests. Back in 2011 the Egyptian people successfully took down Hosni Mubarak and forced the country's first elections for President. As we wrote at that time in ULK 19: "The Egyptian people forced President Mubarak out of the country, but accepted his replacement with the Supreme Council of the Military — essentially one military dictatorship was replaced by another. One of the key members of this Council is [Omar] Sueliman, the CIA point man in the country and head of the Egyptian general intelligence service. He ran secret prisons for the United $tates and persynally participated in the torturing of those prisoners." But the Egyptian people were not fooled, and they rightfully took to the streets to force further change this summer. Still, we do not see clear proletarian leadership of the protests, and instead the U.$.-funded military is again stepping in to claim the mantle and pretend to represent the people.

Morsi is widely considered "Egypt's first democratically elected president." Prior to the elections in 2012 the country was led by an elected parliament and an unelected President, Hosni Mubarak, a former general who took power after the assassination of his predecessor in 1981. But it's important to consider what "democratically elected" really means. Democratic elections presume that the people in a country have the ability to participate freely, without coercion, and that all candidates have equal access to the voting population. Most elections in the world today do not actually represent democracy. In many countries dominated by Amerikan imperialism, there are elections, but we do not call these democratic, because it is not possible for candidates without lots of money and the backing of one imperialist interest or another to win. When democracy gets out of imperialist control and an anti-imperialist candidate does participate and win, they better have military power to back them up or they will be quickly murdered or removed by military force (see "Allende in Chile" or "Lumumba in the Congo"). We should not just assume that people participating in a balloting exercise represents democracy for the people.

There are some key political reasons why Morsi won the presidential election in 2012. Representing the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi was well educated and spent several years getting a doctorate in the United $tates and teaching at University in the 1980s. He is certainly not one of the 40% of the Egyptian population living on less than $2 a day.(1) The Muslim Brotherhood has long been a well organized activist group, which despite being banned by the government from participating in Parliamentary elections was allowed to organize on the streets as a counterforce to progressive anti-imperialist parties that faced complete repression.(2) Demonstrating the advantage it had over other banned organizations, the Muslim Brotherhood put together the most effective electoral campaign after Mubarak fell. It is telling that the runoff in the presidential election was between Morsi and Ahmed Shafiz, the prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, and the vote was close. Essentially the election was between a representative of the status quo that had just been overthrown, and a candidate who promised to be different but represented a conservative religious organization.

The military has once again stepped in to the vacuum created by the mass protests demanding the removal of President Morsi, pretending to be defending the interests of the people. This position by the military is no surprise after Morsi, in August, stripped the military of any say in legislation and dismissed his defense minister. The military selected the leader of the Supreme Constitutional Court to serve as interim president after Morsi stepped down. Morsi still enjoys significant support among the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt who continue to take to the streets to demand that he be freed from military prison and returned to power.

The Egyptian military actually has a long history of institutional power. In 1981, after Mubarak took power, the military expanded with the help of Amerikan aid. This aid came as a sort of bribe, as up until the 1977 peace accord Egypt had been attempting to lead an Arab resistance to Israel's occupation of Palestine, a cause the people of Egypt continue to support to this day. Since then the military has remained one of the top receivers of U.$. military aid, second only to Israel itself, until 2001 when Afghanistan became the largest. The armed forces in Egypt used this economic power to take up significant economic endeavors entering into private business with factories, hotels and valuable real estate.(3) It is clever leadership that allows the military to divorce itself from failed leadership of Egypt time and again while acting behind the scenes to ensure that only those individuals they support, who will carry out their will, gain the presidency. This is not a democracy. And the leadership of the armed forces will continue to serve their Amerikan masters, not the will of the people, as General el-Sisi is once again claiming.

MIM(Prisons) supports the interests of the masses of Egyptian people as they ally with the interests of the world's majority who are exploited by imperialism. We praise their ongoing activism in taking to the streets when the government is not meeting their needs. But we can learn from history that deposing one figurehead does not make for revolutionary change. Fundamental change will require an overthrow of the entire political institution in Egypt that is dependent on U.$. imperialism. And while President Nasser offered an independent road for Egypt during the anti-colonial era following WWII, true independence requires the full mobilization and participation of the masses in creating a new system based on need and not profit.

It is a truth in humyn history that those with the guns and power will not voluntarily step aside, but they will make cosmetic changes to try to fool the masses into complacency. We call on the Egyptian people, who have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice for the movement, not to be fooled and not to allow electoral politics to drain their momentum. The military is not on your side, and neither are any of the branches of the existing government. Seize the power you have demonstrated in the streets and build for fundamental, revolutionary change to a government that actually serves the people and not the elite.

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