On Egypt (3)

Three comments / excerpts from internet discussion lists.

…I would add …that the other “battle” within the ruling class in Egypt, within the army, that is now playing out, over the fate of Mubarak (and whether he should be removed immediately or not) also needs to become the subject of Marxist analysis of the events. Even if the army decided to support the “people” and remove Mubarak now, so long as it retains control as an institution, so long as it constitutes a “caretaker” government until elections can be “organized” (which seems to be the choice of the Obama administration), the mass movement will be neutralized by capital, and the time gained will be used to negate it. Only a movement that explicitly raises class demands can begin to avert that fate.

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…Yes, revolutionaries in Egypt must be on the street … but what’s really needed is analysis, not just “pride” — the kind of analysis that Marx made of the class struggles in France in 1848, an analysis of the actual political and class forces in motion, but one relevant to Egypt in 2011. When several days ago the Egyptian army rolled into the streets around Tahrir Square, most of the protester there, including the representatives of organized political groups, greeted them as allies. As a conscript army, its ranks filled with the sons of workers and the poor, the prospects for appealing to them is real. But the army is also the officer corps, the very socio-political force from which Mubarak (like Nasser and Sadat before him came), the veritable lynchpin of the capitalist class in Egypt since 1953. Marxist analysis can make clear that as a political force the army (not the rank and file soldiers) is the enemy of the mass movement, of the working class, and the behavior of the army today, permitting the government thugs to attack Tahrir Square, standing down as hundreds of protesters were assaulted, and several killed, is the outcome. The only question was whether the army would deliver the coup de grace to Mubarak in the interests of preserving its own power or choose to crack down on the protesters: we may be seeing the answer to that question now. As to the political organizations which seek a democratic Egypt, the immediate removal of Mubarak, the suppport of the Obama administration, and elections, none of them, not ElBaradei, not the “New Wafd,” are in a position to mobilize the mass of the population in a free election. Indeed, at the risk of historical analogies they seem to be latter day Miliukov’s and Kerensky’s. Far more likely to emerge in a powerful, perhaps leading position, as a result of free elections is the Muslim Brotherhood, which does have a real powerful base. Perhaps Washington can live with such a regime (after all the Brotherhood is now “moderate”), but can women, Copts, Marxists, workers? That’s not the concern of Obama, but it is the concern of socialists, which is why analysis and not just being in Tahrir Square is what’s needed.

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Though old formulas may no longer work, worker’s councils, soviets (neighborhood and work place), elected and revocable, are still the place to begin. By contrast, the democratic regimes that replaced the Stalinist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989 legitimated capitalist social relations, preserved the value form (wage labor, commodity production, etc.) and reduced the working class (and the mass of the population) to passive spectators of political processess managed by professionals in the service of capital accumulation and power politics. Is Poland, Hungary, or Romania, post-1989 the model for Tunisia or Egypt? That is where the call for democracy and free elections will lead even if successfful, and not simply a prelude to military rule or religio-ethnic xenophobia. Revolutionaries have something other to propose in an historical epoch where democracy in the best of cases is the political framework to manage austerity and the planet of slums that is all capitalism can produce today.

Mac Intosh

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