Egypt; the coup that wasn’t a coup and the revolution that wasn’t a revolution Turn to the mass organisations of the working class!

22/07/2013 by socialistfight

Some Egyptians disagreeing with the outlandish WRP (and Socialist Appeal) Coup/Revolution theory



By Gerry Downing Socialist Fight 20 July 2013

We must make a Marxist analysis of the class forces involved in the so-called Egyptian revolution and the coup, which involve two mass mobilisations, both of which had revolutionary potential and both of which have failed to realise the aspirations of the poor and oppressed. What remains is a growing confidence of the masses in their own strength and ability to force change, but without a revolutionary leadership with a clear programme for socialist revolution with an internationalist perspective.

Both sides in the Egyptian conflict contain an implicit capitulation to Imperialism in different ways, which is why US Imperialism has been able to manoeuvre between both to contain and divert the revolutionary aspirations of the masses. Neither leadership will repudiate the foreign debt of almost $40B which is simply crippling the Egyptian economy. Nonetheless there is a path to the working class, to oppressed women and minorities whatever their religion for revolutionary Marxism, which is Trotskyism today. It is the aim of this piece to seek out that path by the elaboration of a revolutionary programme and perspective.

Bogus anti-Imperialism

It is well known that the Egyptian army is closely allied to the USA since 1979 [1] and that the Muslin Brotherhood (MB) was supported by the US after Morsi won the election a year ago. The violent clashes we have seen between the MB supporters of Morsi and the supporters of the 2011 ‘revolution’ who have come to regard the army as their protectors against Sharia law and the oppression of women makes for a very confusing pictures of the class forces involved in this conflict. Added to all this is the increasing indications that both sides are becoming increasingly anti-Imperialist, or at least anti-US, as Marc Lynch reports:

The streets have been filled with fliers, banners, posters, and graffiti denouncing President Barack Obama for supporting terrorism and featuring Photoshopped images of Obama with a Muslim-y beard or bearing Muslim Brotherhood colours… The tsunami of anti-American rhetoric swamping Egypt has been justified as a legitimate response to Washington’s supposed support for the now-deposed Muslim Brotherhood government. There is no doubt that many Egyptians on both sides are indeed enraged with U.S. policy toward Egypt. Nor is there any doubting the intensity of the anti-Brotherhood fever to which Washington has so effectively been linked. [2]

So the growing anti-Imperialist sentiment of both sides is the basis for revolutionary unity and we all should stress that? Unfortunately that will not work on a bureaucratic or simplistic level because the anti-Imperialism of both sides is bogus at leadership level. Therefore we must sharply differentiate this bogus anti-Imperialism from that of their followers. The army’s anti-Imperialism is partly a protest against the willingness of the US to collaborate with the MB and also its funding of civil rights NGOs and new TUs of which more below. Mubarak used to engage in this type of bluster for public consumption whilst maintaining the closest relationship with the US, although the anti-Imperialist rhetoric was never as intense as this, reflecting the need to head off the genuine anti-Imperialism of the masses.

And the other side of the anti-imperialism is an intense chauvinistic anti-Sunni attack by the army regime on Hamas and the Syrian opposition to Assad, even going as far as closing down Al Jazeera offices and attacks on Qatar, Turkey and Iran for supporting the MB. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE immediately granted $12 billion assistance to which they refused to Morsi. Food shortages and  queues for petrol and diesel mysteriously vanished after the coup making it certain that these were deliberated created to favour the conditions for the  coup.

But it is Hamas and the Palestinians that have become the main victims of this coup. Having severed its ties with Syria and Iran to get the backing of Morsi they have now lost their most important ally and the new army regime in Egypt is proving worse than Mubarak in closing all the life-line tunnels from Gaza to Egypt. In 2008/9 Mubarak facilitated the Zionist Operation Cast Lead which cost the lives of 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza and the destruction of a big proportion of their infrastructure.

Now Brigadier General (Ret.) Ayman Salama is saying Morsi “collaborated” with Hamas in a BBC interview and alleges this was the main reason for the coup:

You’re saying that the main offense from the army’s point of view was that President Morsi was too helpful to Hamas? Salama responded: “criminally speaking, he [Morsi] threatened the national and military highest security interests of the army and the whole nation by actually collaborating to Hamas against the interests of the army, especially in Sinai.” Salama added that the “military asked the president many times to give them orders, directives to block, to shut off all tunnels, all tunnels with Gaza but the president claimed that there have been many humanitarian actually sympathies with our neighbours in Hamas in Gaza to let them have a breath against the Israeli blockade.” [3]

This propaganda offensive hides the very different social and historic origins of both ‘anti-Imperialisms’.

Bonapartism and the working class

Anti-Imperialism in the bourgeois nationalist/secularist tradition culminated in the 1952 coup of the Free Officers Movement, led by Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser and the governments that followed until Nasser’s death in 1970. Its three ‘circles’ were Arab nationalism, Pan-Arabism and Arab socialism. The Wiki article describes very well this type of a Bonapartist state:

In world politics, Nasser’s Egypt, along with Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito, and India under Jawaharlal Nehru, was a major proponent of the Non-Aligned Movement, which advocated developing countries remaining outside of the influence of the superpower blocs. However, notwithstanding this policy, and government suppression of communist organisations within Egypt, Egypt’s deteriorating relations with Western powers, particularly following the Tripartite Aggression of 1956, made Egypt heavily dependent on military and civil assistance from the Soviet Union. The same was true for other revolutionary Arab governments which, although repressive of communism within Arab borders, entered into strong longstanding relationships with communist states outside of the Arab World. The Egyptian-Soviet alliance continued well into the presidency of Nasser’s successor as president, Anwar El Sadat, especially with regard to the Arab-Israeli Conflict. [4]

But Bonapartism manoeuvres between the two last remaining great classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and even though in these circumstances the issue of Imperialism and consequent conflicts between sections of classes hangs over everything it does not negate this essential divide domestically. Evidence has emerged that very likely the CIA knew about Nasser’s coup in advance and did not seek to stop it. The US remained neutral on the outcome of the coup, like they have on the 2013 one. They were more than willing to co-opt Nasser in the battle against the Egyptian working class; after the coup he banned the Communist Party and jailed many communists and other leftists. A military tribunal jailed eleven strikers from Kafr Eldawar and hanged their leaders, Mustafa Khamis and Muhammed al- Baqri, on 7 September 1952 some ten weeks after the coup following a strike at their factory for increased wages and bonuses on 12 August. The Egyptian Communist party refused to protest against this, excusing the executions lamely and dissolved itself in 1956 after the Suez crisis (they helped to mobilise popular opposition to the invasion) on the basis that Nasser was building socialism in Egypt. Nasser quickly banned all political parties, women’s organisations and the Muslim Brotherhood, who suffered severe oppression. He did pass much progressive legislation on peasant’s property right, on women’s rights and on workers’ rights. But he would not tolerate self-organisation, without which the masses cannot raise themselves to revolutionary class consciousness. He would not even use the working class as a stage army in any serious way as Peron did in Argentina, as International Socialist reported in 1961:

During very short periods it seemed as if Abdul Nasser would try to rely on the workers à la Peron, especially when he brought them out into the streets of Cairo in March 1954 against Neguib. But while making some concessions to them, mainly in the field of social insurance and, to a smaller extent, housing, he suppressed any attempt of the workers to organise independent trade unions the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions, formed in Damascus in March 1956 was turned into a tool of Egyptian foreign policy. [5]

This was the two-faced anti-Imperialism, anti women’s oppression and pro-worker policy of Nasser and Egyptian bourgeois nationalism. What are the positions of the Muslim Brotherhood on the working class, women’s oppression and democratic rights of minorities? They are just as bad, if not worse. The Sunni Muslim MB are not just a religious movement. They are the political representatives of the middle bourgeoisie and the culture of the bazaar (souk) market traders [6] with the support of many poor workers and peasants. Nasser savagely repressed them:

Throughout the rule of Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser in Egypt, many members of the Muslim Brotherhood were held in concentration camps, where they were tortured. Some died in custody, including 21 Brothers killed in their cells in June 1957. Those who escaped arrest went into hiding, both in Egypt and in other countries. One of those tortured was Sayyid Qutb, former editor of the Society’s newspaper. In August 1965, the government claimed to have discovered that the Brotherhood was organising a huge revolutionary plot. About 18,000 people were arrested, 100–200 were imprisoned, and 38 of these were killed in custody during the investigation. The police made systematic use of torture during interrogations; many, including Sayyid Qutb and Zaynab al-Ghazali, were tortured for months. The police destroyed the village of Kardasa, where the police believed a suspect was hiding, and arrested and tortured its entire population. Raids throughout Egypt were accompanied by an intense media campaign against the Brotherhood. On the basis of confessions obtained under torture, Qutb and two other Brothers were hanged in August 1966. In the 1970s, it emerged that the plot had probably been fabricated by the security services as part of a conflict between different factions within the regime. [7]

So we can see the conflict between the secularists and the MB as a conflict between the middle bourgeoisie and the big bourgeoisie; a vital component of the latter is the army, whose generals own up to 30% of the economy.

 Women’s oppression in Egypt

The MB are the main group behind the violent attacks and rapes of women and the murders of Coptic Christians and Shi’a Muslims. This ultra-reactionary attempt to divide the working class is a prominent feature of anti-modern political Islam. It is also supported by sections of the army and must be totally opposed by Marxists. It is useful here to cite a vital statistic on the terrible oppression of women, who must be such a vital part of any genuine socialist revolution here as everywhere else. They clearly have more to gain that any other section of the community. According to the website of the World Health Authority in Egypt, the Demographic Health Survey in 2000 revealed that 97% of married women surveyed experienced FGC (female genital cutting). Combined with polygamy, property rights laws, laws permitting domestic violence, discrimination in divorce and in almost all aspects of family and employment laws Egypt has regressed far from the days of Nasser on all these issues, even though his reforms were very inadequate.

Besides the usual patriarchal oppression of women in all capitalist societies the peculiar form it takes in Egypt has its history in the development of the mercantile classes of the bazaars and souks and their relationship to the land and the family. The current rise in attacks on women is because revolutionary mobilisations put these archaic relations under threat. The operation of the bazaar culture in the Middle East is anti-Imperialist but profoundly reactionary socially. Indeed its twin characteristics are inseparable and fundamental to understanding the rise of political Islam. Modern industry and the development of an industrial proletariat breaks up old family relations based on peasant production and small craft shops based on small clothing workshops, ceramics, leather goods, etc. and their sale via the bazaars and souks. Socialist revolution would begin to abolish all oppression. Rodney Wilson explains:

The failure of indigenous capitalism to develop in most Middle Eastern states can be attributed to the strength of the traditional feudal structures. A strong attachment to the land prevails in much of the Middle East, and even where there has been considerable migration into towns and cities, traditional loyalties to rural kinship and tribal groupings remain. Investment in land and property is valued more than putting funds into productive enterprises, as there is a physical acquisition that can be used for the benefit of the immediate family and more distant relations. More uncertain investment in industry not only means personal risk, but is potentially irresponsible, as it is regarded as gambling with the assets of the wider family and kinship group. There is also a reluctance to go outside the family group for business finance, as the external providers of capital, whether a bank or equity investors, could potentially wrest control from the owner. For this reason, most businesses in the Middle East are family owned and run, and rely on internal sources of finance. Large-scale private enterprises have failed to develop in most of the economies of the region, and there are few indigenous multinational companies. [8]

And later he elaborates:

The bazaar mentality permeates business culture, with trading regarded as a productive and honourable activity. Competition implies bankruptcy for the unsuccessful, and monopolistic competition a significant amount of take-over and merger activity. Such practices would be out of keeping with the ethos of bazaar society, as it involves threatening the positions of entire families. [9]

Women were in the forefront of the revolutionary movement in Tahrir Square in 2011 and since. And they have suffered terrible counter-revolutionary oppression ever since from the army but primarily from thugs mobilised by the MB. As the Guardian reported:

On Wednesday night, when Egypt’s army chief announced the forced departure of Mohamed Morsi, the streets around Tahrir Square turned into an all-night carnival. But not everyone there was allowed to celebrate. Among the masses dancing, singing and honking horns, more than 80 women were subjected to mob sexual assaults, harassment or rape. In Tahrir Square since Sunday, when protests against Morsi first began, there have been at least 169 counts of sexual mob crime. “Egypt is full of sexual harassment and people have become desensitised to it – but this is a step up,” said Soraya Bahgat, a women’s rights advocate and co-founder of Tahrir Bodyguard, a group that rescues women from assault. “We’re talking about mob sexual assaults, from stripping women naked and dragging them on the floor – to rape.” [10]

Here the forces of revolution and counter-revolution are clashing and there can be no question of ignoring this or excusing the perpetrators. As we have seen above these attacks have their material basis in the rural bazaar family ideology. These vital women revolutionists must be defended as an urgent political task. It requires physical defence guards, as have already appeared, but also a political assault on the reactionary backwardness whose anti-Imperialism includes the idea that western Imperialism is corrupting women to abandon their duty to their husbands and families with false notions of liberation and freedom. And surely the anti-Nasser ideology of the MB is the font of this reaction. As the Wikipaedia article on feminism in Egypt puts it:

Change concerning the position women in Egypt was felt by many as a “final invasion in the last sphere they could control against aggressive infidels, once sovereignty and much of the economy had been taken by the west”. Tal at Harb, a prominent Nationalist of his time, in “Tarbiyat al-mar’a wa-al-hijab” 1905 argued that “the emancipation of women was just another plot to weaken the Egyptian nation and disseminate immorality and decadence in its society. He criticised Egyptians who desired to ape the west and claimed that there was a European imperialist design to project a negative image of the position of Muslim women.”[11]

Anwar Sadat successively repealed all the progressively laws enacted by Nasser from 1970 as he, and Mubarak, his successor, increasing turned towards the US and neoliberalism. Pro-working class laws and laws assisting the peasantry and against women’s oppression were repealed as social control was imposed in a different way than under Nasser. In defending the Marxist method Gerry Downing’s 1997 work, Afghanistan: Marxist Method vs. Bureaucratic method explains how Marxism must approach the question of religious fundamentalism:

The Bolsheviks understood that in the Muslim lands in Soviet Central Asia there was a material basis for the rural customs that all hinged around the terrible oppression of women. This was an integral part of the production process in those terrible conditions of poverty. Tribal blood feuds, polygamy, etc. are part of the local customs and institutions that enabled that primitive system of production to continue. It was this type of sensitive approach, taking full cognisance of local customs and practices to advance the progressive and defeat the reactionary that succeeded here in no less difficult circumstances. This was the method of operation of the Zhenotdel – the Department of working women and peasant women – in the short years between the end of the civil war the beginnings of its Stalinisation after 1924. [12]

This is also the method necessary in Egypt and in the whole of the region. Not the brutal methods employed by the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union after the 1924 counter-revolution, those of Nasser in 1952, of those of the Stalinist leaders in Afghanistan from 1978, or the military in Algeria in 1991 who launched a military coup and started a bloody civil war rather than accept the victory of the Islamic Salvation Front, which was almost certain to win more than the two-thirds majority of seats required to change the constitution and thus democratically form an Islamic state.

But, whilst physically fighting the Imperialist-dominated coupists of the army, politically the MB will not fight them. Instead they seek to turn the anger of the poor Sunni Muslims against the Coptic Christians. Following the ouster of Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) began accusing the Copts in Egypt, along with their supporters, of being behind his removal – which they call “the June 30 coup” – and of playing a central role in the protests that led to it. The MB is basing these claims on the fact that when Egyptian Defense Minister Al-Sisi announced that Morsi had been removed, Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II had been standing at Al-Sisi’s side.

These MB claims were expressed, inter alia, by Morsi supporters in the form of demonstrations, in which protestors accused the Copts of fomenting a revolution against Islam; some of them chanted “No to the Crusader revolution.” In addition, media close to the MB published articles inciting against Egypt’s Copts. For their part, the Copts are claiming that since the January 25, 2011 revolution, and particularly since Morsi became president, the violence perpetrated against them by various Islamic elements including the MB has been steadily rising. It is reported that during Morsi’s single year in office, over 200,000 Copts fearing for their lives have fled Egypt for Europe, and that since June 30 of this year violence against Copts and Coptic property, including arson against churches, has spiked. [13]

Naguib Sawiris: Egypt’s billionaire and the Free Egyptians Party

Egypt has only two companies in Forbes list of 2,000 top companies but one is of exceeding importance in understanding modern Egypt. This is the Forbes list commentary on the Sawiris family:

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has revealed that his family plans to increase their investment in the country to the tune of billions of dollars following the July 3 ousting of President Mohammed Morsi by military force, Reuters has reported. Sawiris made the revelation on Sunday during a phone interview with Reuters when asked to make a comment about Egypt’s attractiveness as an investment destination in the wake of its political uncertainties. “My family and I will inject investments in Egypt like never before, in any new projects we could invest in,” Sawiris said.

Naguib Sawiris, who is the oldest son of Egyptian construction magnate Onsi Sawiris, said the Sawiris family is ready to launch new projects and undertake new initiatives that could provide jobs for the young people of Egypt, signalling his optimism that the economy of the troubled North African country will find its feet again after its recent turbulent socio-economic past.

“There is no going back from what happened beginning on 30 June, and I am confident that Egypt’s temporary government understands its current role and is aware of what its priorities should be in the coming months. This provides us, as investors, with new business opportunities, particularly in the hotel and tourist industries,” Sawiris said.

He added: “The removal of this fascist regime [referring to the Muslim Brotherhood of which Morsi was a member] has led to a nationwide revival, which will lead to increases in rates of tourism, in addition to creating a more enlightened country.”

Naguib Sawiris, who is also a politician and co-founder of Egypt’s Al Masreyeen Al Ahrrar political party (the Free Egyptians Party GD), has been a vocal critic of Morsi’s regime… During his self-imposed exile, his political party participated in several anti-Morsi demonstrations. His privately-owned television station, ONTV regularly aired shows that criticized the regime. Morsi is said to have specifically targeted a number of leading Egyptian businessmen and companies who were members of the country’s opposition party by imposing a series of stringent tax laws, a move that discouraged foreign investors from coming into the country and that ultimately played a role in the country’s economic crisis. Naguib also called for the creation of new incentives, including tax holidays for investors looking to inject fresh capital into the country during this period. The Sawiris family controls the Orascom Group, Egypt’s largest conglomerate, which owns interests in construction, telecom, hotels and technology and employs over 100,000 people. [14]

Socialist Action report on the activities of the Sawiris:

The coup campaign was significantly financed by Egypt’s most powerful capitalists. Naguib Sawiris, a billionaire whose family controls the Orascom (construction, telecoms, media) corporate empire, one of Egypt’s largest private sector employers, funded the opposition ‘Tamarrod’ movement that led the petition drive calling for Morsi’s ousting. At the time it was necessary to conceal who was funding the campaign, but following the coup’s success Sawiris wants recognition of his role, so the truth is coming out. [15]

This is surely proof of who organised the coup, where it is going what its intentions are. Two years after the revolution that wasn’t a revolution in 2011 we had a coup that wasn’t a coup according to the US and to some on the left, who called it another revolution. [16] We repudiate all those like Alan Woods of the IMT, the Revolutionary Socialists (SWP Egyptian followers) and the Liaison Committee of Communists who deny it was a coup. We must oppose this coup and not call for or support the suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood in any way in Egypt. On the contrary we must strive to set the base against the leadership by means of transitional demands and the Transitional Method. This is to only way to politically destroy reactionary fundamentalist ideology; by replacing it with a revolutionary socialist ideology and leadership which consistently opposes Imperialism on a global scale.

And what of the forces on the ground claiming to be revolutionaries and even Trotskyists?

As we have seen both the pro and anti Morsi ‘revolutionaries’ are a coalition. But politically both are ideologically dominated by bourgeois forces. The positions of the Revolutionary Socialist (RS), the IST section which are led by the UK SWP, are opportunist in the extreme. They have flipped and flopped and turned in all directions politically and even at times in two directions at the same time but never with a clear revolutionary programme for socialist revolution. They endorsed Morsi in the 2012 election and now they have endorsed the coup that has overthrown him, all in the name of the ‘revolution’. They have entered at least three Popular Front formations since 2010 which makes no direct appeal to the Egyptian working class, now surely the most militant in the world.

On 10 May 2011, the Egyptian Communist Party (ECP) agreed to enter into a “socialist front” with four other Egyptian leftist groups called the Coalition of Socialist Forces, which includes the Revolutionary Socialists, the Popular Democratic Alliance Party, The Socialist Party of Egypt and the Workers Democratic Party.

Given that it was ultimately the strike wave of the working class that brought down Mubarak and Morsi then surely clarity of programme and a direct appeal to the class interests of the working class and a programme to appeal to the poor peasant and city poor base of the Muslim Brotherhood is necessary. A vital part of this working class is the women workers in the cotton mills, who have fought many class battles in the recent past. A popular front excludes this from the beginning; a big part of the anti-Mubarak demonstrations were the MB and the Copts were a big part of the anti Morsi movement.

You had to be able to appeal to the mass base of these movements without politically compromising yourself with the leadership which the RS and its lead organisation the SWP have always done with the Respect project in Britain, for instance. The WSWS report that:

This eruption of the class struggle threw the pseudo-left groups even more openly into the arms of the counterrevolution. On July 27, they joined a “United Popular Front” involving nearly every force in the Egyptian political spectrum—”left,” liberal and Islamist. It included the RS, the Revolutionary Youth Coalition and the Egyptian Socialist Party as well as the Islamist Salafist Youth and (“incredibly,” in the words of the state-owned daily Al Ahram) the fascistic Islamist party, Gamaa Islamiya. The parties of the “United Popular Front” agreed not to discuss “controversial issues.” [17]

This is the Wiki report of the latest Popular Front that the Revolutionary Socialists have entered which is led by Mohamed ElBaradei. Note that it contains the Free Egyptians party, the Al Masreyeen Al Ahrrar party led by Naguib Sawiris, from Egypt’s billionaire family reported on above:

The National Salvation Front (also known as the National Front for Salvation of the Revolution or the National Rescue Front, is an alliance of Egyptian political parties, formed to defeat Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s 22 November 2012 constitutional declaration. The National Front for Salvation of the Revolution has more than 35 groups involved overall. Observers are concerned that the NSF will not be able to become a coherent political force though. The different groups mainly agree on opposing Morsi but only on few topics going beyond that. Mohamed ElBaradei is its coordinator. After the ouster of Morsi by the Egyptian military, a number of politicians from the National Salvation Front were moved into power, including three women. There follows a list of affiliated parties. The front is mainly secular and ranges from liberals (capitalists GD) to leftists. Some of them are as follows:

Egyptian Social Democratic Party, Constitution Party, Egyptian Popular Current, National Progressive Unionist Party, Free Egyptians Party, Democratic Front Party, Conference Party, New Wafd Party, Free Egypt Party, Farmers General Syndicate, Socialist Popular Alliance Party, National Association for Change, Reform and Development Misruna Party, Socialist Party of Egypt, Revolutionary Socialists, Social Peace Party, Freedom Party, Democratic Generation Party, United Nasserist Party, Freedom Egypt Party, Egyptian Communist Party. [18]

Key to the prospect of the revolution in Egypt, as everywhere, is the struggle against the existing leadership of the trade unions. There are now two contending leaderships, the old Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) and the new independent union that emerged from 2010-11. As everywhere the old trade unions were bureaucratically-led and little more than tools of the old regime. Nevertheless strikes did take place against the wishes of the leadership and workers were able to use these organisations for struggle, despite their leadership. We are also aware that the US has long have a dual approach in Egypt, that it has employed the AFL/CIO and various NGO to prevent the emergence of potentially revolutionary oppositions in the trade unions by bribery and corruption. As William I Robinson explained in 1996:

All over the world, the United States is now promoting its version of “democracy” as a way to relieve pressure from subordinate groups for more fundamental political, social and economic change. The impulse to “promote democracy” is the rearrangement of political systems in the peripheral and semi-peripheral zones of the “world system” so as to secure the underlying objective of maintaining essentially undemocratic societies inserted into an unjust international system. [19]

Michael Baker goes on to explain:

Efforts to “promote democracy” in foreign states should not however be seen as a replacement of traditional diplomatic, economic and military forms of statecraft, but instead they should be merely seen as supplemental measures (albeit important ones). Such “democratic” inventions combine relentless propaganda offensives (directed from without and within) with strategically dispersed political aid: aid which is provided to friendly political organizations, and in some instances is used to help local actors create new political bodies. Such “democracy promotion” activities are undertaken by all Western governments, but in the United States they are coordinated by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) — a group that was created in 1983 within “the highest echelons of the US national security state, as part of the same project that led to the illegal operations of the Iran-Contra scandal.” It should come as no surprise, that: “In structure, organization, and operation, it is closer to clandestine and national security organs such as the CIA than apolitical or humanitarian endowments as its name would suggest.” [20]

And the WSWS quote Hilary Clinton: At a February 23 press conference, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton publicly confirmed this:

“As many people know, the United States supported civil society in Egypt. We gave grants that the government did not like to support union organizing, to support organizing on behalf of political opposition to the regime. That goes back many years.” [21]

Having understood that it was top priority for the US to subvert the new Independent trade unions in Egypt and that in all probability they have succeeded to a large degree in doing this were are nevertheless left with the central problem of fighting for the leadership of the working class in their traditional organisations by the rank and file method and revolutionary propaganda, the prime task of all serious communists. We therefore concur with almost all of the criticisms made of the Egyptian Communist Party and the Revolutionary Socialist in their opportunist and popular frontist relationships with the forces of bourgeois reaction. But we must absolutely reject Davis North’s attack on the stated orientation of the Revolutionary Socialists to the trade unions. Having made a slanderous implication that the RS were in receipt of CIA funds the WSWS article attacks the RS approach the TUs thus:

1) She (Ann Alexander) praises Egypt’s trade unions, which served the Mubarak regime and whose bureaucrats occupied top positions within it. The unions’ ability to fight, she writes, “does not depend…on the nature of their leadership, or on their internal organizational arrangements, but on their connection to workers’ struggles and the overall balance of forces in revolution. Even undemocratic, bureaucratic trade unions can be a launch-pad for struggles for the narrowest of demands, which are capable of rapidly bursting the bounds of sectionalism.”

2) This statement falsifies the events of the Egyptian revolution. The overwhelming majority of Egypt’s industrial unions in January were controlled by the yellow Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF). The proletariat struggled not through, but against the ETUF. Indeed, during the first protests, ETUF chairman Hussein Mogawer demanded that union officials “prevent workers from participating in all demonstrations at this time,” and that they inform him around the clock of attempts by workers to join the protests.

3) The crux of Alexander’s reactionary argument is that even “undemocratic, bureaucratic” organizations are good enough for the working class. This means, as she explains, that the RS and similar parties need not limit themselves to “organizations that are to some extent initiatives of the left.” She continues, “On the contrary, [it] means above all being where the masses are.”

4) The inescapable conclusion is that the RS can and should work with (or even inside) right-wing groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood or Gamaa Islamiya. Alexander even insists that such alliances must be protected from any Marxist criticism of their right-wing character. She demands that the RS “stop the virus of sectarianism from infecting the workers’ movement and undermining the unity needed to defeat the boss, for example.”

5) So long as the working class is ruled by the junta—and controlled in the workplace by the junta’s yellow unions, or by “independent” unions funded by the junta’s backers in Washington—the “new” conditions for workers will not be different from the old. The critical task facing the workers is not the creation of new unions to bargain with the junta, but the overthrow of the junta and the seizure of power. Only placing the resources of the Egyptian and the world economy under the control of working people can provide the resources to end the social deprivation overseen by Mubarak and Washington. [22]

We have used this extended quote to demonstrate how incredible backward the political method of the SEP/WSWS is, despite the informative and educative role it plays. To help the first time reader the ‘wisdom’ that underpins this rant is that not only are there no longer any bourgeois workers’ parties left on the face of the planet – as Lenin and Trotsky characterised social democratic and Labour reformist parties until their deaths – but now there are no longer any such things as progressive national liberation movements and trade unions have become simply organs of the capitalist state and they are no longer workers’ organisations in any shape or form. The SEP guided by David North with its two hundred odd members at the most are the only workers’ organisations left in the planet, therefore the entire methodology of communism as practiced by Marx and Engels, Lenin and Trotsky is so much old hat and all contradictions in nature and life have been eliminated; it is, in fact, David North against the world and he is going to win!

To examine the details of the infantile disorder let us look at where it leaves us. The first paragraph by Alexander is objectivist and obviously wrong. It really does matter what type of leadership the TUs have. Here approach on this is the opposite side of the same objectivist coin to North’s. Even a more left wing and militant bureaucrat is better than a right wing one in terms of the class struggle, even if there is no fundamental political difference between them in the end.

But it is the second paragraph where North’s ass’s ears of mechanical materialism pokes through his orthodox Trotskyist hat. “The proletariat struggled not through, but against the ETUF” he says as if it was impossible that they did both. Of course since the bureaucratisation of the trade unions after their ‘heroic phase’ over a hundred and fifty years ago in advanced capitalist countries and much later in semi-colonial ones every strike struggle has had to overcome the resistance of the bureaucrats, who very seldom call a strike unless absolutely obliged to by pressure from their membership or to prevent the build up of such pressure. Marxists and serious TU militants have always understood this; it is the ABC of the class struggle. Having decided that TU are not workers’ organisations he can then equate them with the Muslim Brotherhood and Gamaa Islamiya, a fascistic organisation. Whilst we must place demands on the MB to separate the leadership from the base we place no such demands on fascistic groups and these are different entirely to the demands we would place on TU leaders and different again to demands on the Stalinist ECP or centrists groups like the RS. We know these are complex question and can only really be understood by forces on the ground with an intimate knowledge of all these organisations. But we also know that Marxist methodology cannot be reduced to the black and white of the good vs. bad stuff that is essentially Christian moralism that now passes for theory in the SEP.

To abandon the fight against the TU bureaucracy is to abandon the working class; you recruit from and train your members to work within the existing trade union structures. If this was Trotsky’s advice to German communists even under Hitler when these were corporate unions led by state agents why should we now adopt different tactics? Ann Alexander is quite right in what is a basis Marxist orientation; you go to where the working class are. What you go to them with is our conflict with her and her movement. But not to go to them at all and instead proclaim the revolution: “The critical task facing the workers is not the creation of new unions to bargain with the junta, but the overthrow of the junta and the seizure of power” is the jabbering of ultra-left idiots such as Lenin demolished in his famous pamphlet on Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder in 1920. And on the new unions so diligently courted by US Imperialism via the CIA and the AFL/CIO it seems North thinks revolutionists must concede that the counter-revolution has a well developed strategy on how to defeat the working class but we must have no strategy to defeat them other than the idiotic self-proclamation above!



We hope the piece has answered those who think this was not a coup organised by the army generals in collaboration with and in tune with the dictates of US foreign policy. We have tried to show that, whilst there is a rising political temperature of anti-Imperialism in the masses the leadership of both the MB and new army regime led by General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi who appointed Adly Mansour as his president and himself as the defence minister are desperately trying to head this off with chauvinistic anti-Sunni chauvinism against the Palestinians. And whilst again it was a strike wave which created the conditions for the coup the working class have no leadership to voice its interests and none even trying to intervene to win that vital leadership. We have focused on this latter question in our final paragraphs to expose the RS as opportunists popular frontists who betray the class interests of the working class internationally and David North’s WSWS as dyed-in-the-wool sectarians who equally refuse to fight for the leadership of the working class by proclaiming the trade unions as no longer workers organisations. Both have totally rejected the Leninist united front tactic and the Trotskyist Transitional method, its modern-day development. And finally we put forward the following slogans as the beginnings of a programme for the Egyptian masses:

·         No support for the Egyptian coup! No support for al-Sisi’s puppet government!

·         Defend the Muslim Brotherhood against state repression!

·         Full support to the Palestinians; overthrow the Zionist state, for a multi-ethnic state of Palestine!

·         Full separation of church and state, no discrimination against minority Coptic Christians, Shi’a Muslims or any other!

·         Form armed defence guards to defend the women and the minorities against MB and state attacks!

·         Build rank and file movements in all the unions to defeat the pro-capitalist and CIA funded leaders!

·         Build workers committees in all the working class areas with delegates from the TUs, from strike committees, from women’s organisations and the rank and file of the army etc.

·         For a Constitutional Assembly!

·         All working class and socialist organizations must break with the National Salvation Front!

·         Expropriate the landlords, the land to the peasants and agricultural workers.

·         Cancel the debts, nationalise the major industries and banks under workers’ control, organise a planned, socialist economy!

·         For a workers’ and poor peasants’ government!


 [1] Following the peace treaty with Israel, between 1979 and 2003, the U.S. has provided Egypt with about $19 billion in military aid, making Egypt the second largest non-NATO recipient of U.S. military aid after Israel. Also, Egypt received about $30 billion in economic aid within the same time frame. In 2009, the U.S. provided a military assistance of US$ 1.3 billion (inflation adjusted US$ 1.39 billion in 2013), and an economic assistance of US$ 250 million (inflation adjusted US$ 267.5 million in 2013). In 1989 both Egypt and Israel became a Major non-NATO ally of the United States. (Wiki) The army controls up to 30% of the Egyptian economy.

 [2] Lynch, Marc, July 19, 2013, They Hate Us, They Really Hate Us, When anti-Americanism is this popular in Egypt, Washington should stay as far away as it can.,0&wp_login_redirect=0

 [3] Ismael Mohamad,  United Press International, Warning of humanitarian catastrophe as Egypt tightens siege of Gaza

 [4] Nasserism,

 [5] International Socialism, Summer 1961, Munir, Nasser’s Egypt, thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy. Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

 [6] The main rule of the game in the bazaar economy is to search information the buyers lacks and to protect the information the sellers have (often causing outrage once you realise you have been ripped off as a naive tourist!). It is a pre-capitalist practice and many economists argue that the bazaar-economy behaviour is the cause of underdevelopment in the Middle East region.

 [7] History of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (1954–present), _in_Egypt_%281954%E2%80%93present%29

 [8] Wilson, Rodney, Economic Development in the Middle East, p. 17

 [9] Ibid. p. 22

 [10] 80 sexual assaults in one day – the other story of Tahrir Square, Egypt’s women increasingly at risk of rape and sexual assault as rights groups warn of a step up in attacks, Patrick Kingsley in Cairo,, Friday 5 July 2013 12.57 BST


 [12] Downing, Gerry, Afghanistan: Marxist Method vs. Bureaucratic method, 1977,

 [13] Special Dispatch No.5366, Muslim Brotherhood: The Copts Are Behind The Egyptian Military Coup That Removed Morsi,

 [14] Billionaire Naguib Sawiris Says He’ll Increase His Investment In Egypt,

 [15] Socialist Action, 17 July 2013 Egypt’s unfolding Mubarakist coup

 [16] See two articles by the RCIT on this point which deal with the wrong positions of the Revolutionary Socialists, the Egyptian Communist party, the LCC and the WIVP very well, Egypt: The U.S. Support for the Military Coup and the Left’s ignorance, Notes on the role of US imperialism in the military’s coup d’état and the failure of the Egypt left, By Yossi Schwartz, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, 11.7.2013

The Military’s Coup d’État in Egypt: Assessment and Tactics, A reply to the criticism of the WIVP and the LCC on the meaning of the Military’s Coup d’État and the slogan of the Revolutionary Constituent Assembly

By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, 17.7.2013,

 [17] Alex Lantier and Johannes Stern, The counterrevolutionary role of the Egyptian pseudo-left, 21 November 2011,

 [18] National Salvation Front (Egypt)

 [19] Robinson, William I. 1996. Promoting polyarchy: globalization, US intervention, and hegemony. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 [20] Barker, Michael, Questioning Labor Imperialism in Egypt: A Critique of the Solidarity Centre’s “Justice for All” Report, Posted on May 1, 2013 by OneStruggl,

 [21] The counterrevolutionary role of the Egyptian pseudo-left.

 [22] Ibid.

WRP Explosion

WRP Explosion

WRP Explosion

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