Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, appearing on the Press TV News Analysis program on November 23, 2012. Azikiwe discussed the political situation in the North African state of Egypt., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Egypt and the Struggle Against Imperialism
The hand of the U.S. and the internal conflict
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Even though the military seized power in Egypt on July 3, the United States is still going to deliver four F-16 fighter jets to the North African state. This transferal of some of the most sophisticated and expensive defense hardware follows a pattern of Pentagon domination of the domestic and foreign policy imperatives of Cairo.
Since the implementation of the Camp David Accords in 1979 under the Carter administration, Egypt has become the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance next only to the State of Israel. The $US1.5 billion in annual assistance from Washington is not designed for the benefit of the Egyptian people but for the protection of the interests of Wall Street, the Pentagon and the intelligence apparatus of the world’s leading imperialist state.
In an article published by Ahram Online, the state newspaper in Egypt, it reports that “The United States plans to deliver four more F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in the coming weeks, U.S. defense officials told Reuters on Wednesday, in spite of the military-backed overthrow of the country's elected president. ‘There is no current change in the plan to deliver F-16s to the Egyptian military,’ one US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.” (July 10)
This long time alliance of Washington with the military in Egypt is designed to ensure the security of the State of Israel and to prevent uprisings that could lead to a real revolutionary movement and seizure power by the people in the region. The weapons are not pointed at the enemies of the Egyptian people, being the Zionist state and the agents of U.S. imperialism, but toward the people of Egypt themselves.
Consequently, the statements and political posture of the White House is a clear indication of the role of the U.S. in the recent crisis in Egypt which is being revealed on a daily basis. Imperialism is willing to work with any political party and coalition in Egypt as long as their fundamental interests are not challenged.
In the same referenced article above, it states in relationship to the position of the Obama administration in characterizing the Egyptian military coup as not being a forced taking of political control by their most trusted allies inside the country, but a situation that needs further examination. Would the U.S. take such a view if they were not assured that the July 3 coup was in line with imperialist interests in Egypt and throughout North Africa and the Middle East?
The Ahram Online article notes “When asked whether the U.S. administration was nearing a decision on the characterization of the process of removing Morsi from the presidency, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "We are assessing how the authorities behave and how to deal with the current situation." Such a statement reveals that there will be a continuity of foreign policy toward Egypt which will maintain the same relationship that has developed since the days of Anwar Sadat and the U.S. brokered separate peace treaty with Israel.
The Military Coup and the Egyptian Revolutionaries
Many of the secular political organizations among the liberal, social democratic and leftist tendencies supported the military coup on July 3. The “rebel” or Tamarod coalition which is credited with initiating the process that led to the coup through the petition drive and the putting forth of a transitional program, had representatives at the press conference when the military seizure of power was announced.
Morsi’s government had been controversial from the start. The political character of the run-off elections in June 2012 had created a considerable amount of alienation among the young revolutionaries.
Many people saw the elections as a continuation of the same decades-long struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood, or political Islamists, and the military. The military in Egypt under the leadership of former President Gamel Abdel Nasser had taken a turn toward revolutionary nationalism and socialist orientation.
Nasser, who had been a lower-ranking officer, became dominant within the Revolutionary Command Council after the removal of Mohamed Naguib in 1954. In 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, fought a war against Israel, Britain and France, and then moved toward advocacy of regional unity within Africa and the Arab world.
Egypt formed an alliance with Syria and served as a base for many national liberation movements from throughout Africa and the Middle East. Cairo became a center of revolutionary activity and hosted the second summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1964.
In 1967, Israeli aggression in the region led to the Six Day War. Egypt suffered significant losses during the war as Israel occupied large sections of the Sinai.
The 1967 war represented a turning point in the history of Egypt and the Middle East. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had been formed three years before yet Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza during the 1967 war forcing hundreds of thousands more Palestinians into refugee camps and exile.
The PLO and other Palestinian revolutionary organizations intensified their armed struggle aimed at the liberation of their homeland. After Nasser’s death in 1970, Anwar Sadat took control and led the nation in the October 1973 war that took back some of the territory lost in 1967 in the Sinai.
Nonetheless, by the concluding years of the decade, Sadat had moved the country into an alliance with the U.S. through the separate treaty with Israel. Egypt, which was viewed as a leader within Africa, the Arab countries and the Islamic world, became a pariah and was expelled from many regional organizations and forums.
When Sadat was assassinated in October 1981, Hosni Mubarak took control of the state and continued this same political arrangement with Washington and the U.S. Military aid to Egypt was clearly designed to maintain U.S. control of North Africa and the Middle East and there is no reason to believe that the same objectives on the part of imperialism have shifted over the last three-and-a-half decades.
Consequently, when the military stepped in on February 11, 2011 and announced that they were taking over from Mubarak, it preempted the political evolution of the revolutionary movement that had surged beginning on January 25. However, it was only a matter of months before many of the same revolutionaries who had led the organizing and mobilizing during early 2011 had turned against military rule.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) largely set the terms for a series of local, parliamentary and eventual presidential elections. When the two finalists were selected, neither candidate, Ahmed Shafik, the former commander of the Air Force, and Dr. Mohamed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood allied Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) represented the workers, youth and intellectuals who took to the streets in January 2011 and provided the decisive organizational leadership that created the conditions for the removal of Mubarak.
When Morsi was declared the victor after a long delay in announcing the results, his administration did win some semblance of acceptance for several months. Nevertheless, the draft constitutional referendum of 2012 was opposed broadly throughout Egypt.
By and large the secular groups, many of whom were on the left, rejected the constitution and refused to participate in the voting. Other Egyptians had become bewildered by the successive elections and the intense political debates and refrained from participation in the referendum exercise.
As the economy continued to decline, opposition to Morsi would grow more intense. Talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a $US4.8 billion loan stalled and Egypt turned to Qatar and other emirates for economic assistance to stave off a total collapse.
The foreign policy of Egypt remained aligned with the U.S. and Israel. There was no repudiation of the Camp David Accords and Washington continued the subsidization of the military which played a prominent role in the national economy of the country.
In relationship to the Palestinians, there have been close ties between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas for many years. Yet the tunnels between the Sinai and Gaza have been destroyed at the aegis of Israel and the Egyptian government under Morsi.
These tunnels are central to the survival of the people of Gaza, which is considered the largest open air prison in the world. When Israel began to bomb Gaza in the aftermath of the U.S. presidential elections, it was the Iranian government that sent in Farj missiles that helped the Palestinians in their resistance to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
Egypt under Morsi attempted to bring Hamas into an alliance with the emirates against Syria and Iran. Morsi sided with the U.S.-backed rebels in Syria and broke relations with Damascus in recent weeks.
Morsi’s administration threatened Ethiopia as well, the seat of the African Union (AU) because Addis Ababa announced that it would proceed with the Great Renaissance Dam project which will divert some of the water from the Blue Nile for the purpose of hydro-electric power generation for Ethiopia and other African states within the Nile basin region. The Republic of Sudan is supporting the Renaissance Dam leaving Egypt isolated in the conflict.
Therefore, both the regimes of Mubarak and Morsi have remained within the political orbit of U.S. imperialism. The seizure of power by General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi on July 3 in all likelihood is designed to stabilize the political situation in Egypt so that this alliance can remain intact.
What Egyptian revolutionaries who supported the coup will soon realize is that the status quo has remained in force. In effect the regime of Mubarak has been resurrected although in actuality it never met its demise.
Morsi obviously was isolated within the bureaucratic bourgeois structures in the Egyptian state. He did not have the support of the military, the police or the civil servants and was easily overthrown by the SCAF. Even the Republican Guard, which is ostensibly tasked with protecting the presidency, did not come to his defense.
On July 8 in front of the Republican Guard headquarters at least 54 people were killed when soldiers opened fire on pro-Morsi demonstrators holding a sit-in. Was this an accident provoked by instigators as some would argue or a deliberate attempt to further intimidate and crush those Islamist forces that rejected the coup and demanded the release and re-installation of the Morsi government?
Can the military maintain power and secure the support of the people? What will the secular liberal and left forces do when conditions do not fundamentally improve and more repressive measures are instituted to force people off the streets and back into a controlled political process that will not change Egypt’s domestic or foreign policy?
The workers in Egypt have been restive and their strikes and mass demonstrations played a critical role in the January 25 uprising of 2011. These grievances have not been resolved and the military will not have the inclination or capacity to resolve them.
Young people want a future within the Egyptian political economy but can the liberal-left alliance with the SCAF propose and implement a program that will lead to the reduction of unemployment and poverty inside the country? Even if aid is provided by the emirates and the U.S., will these funds flow downward to the masses to alleviate their suffering and uncertainty?
These are some of the questions that progressives, revolutionaries and worker organizations will provide answers to in the coming weeks and months. If these political forces act independently of the SCAF and the interim governing council will they be met with the same repression that the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists are subjected to in the current period?
Was the U.S. Behind the Coup?
There were reports that there was close collaboration between the Pentagon and the Egyptian military leading up to the coup against the FJP government. The U.S. response to the coup implies that there was cooperation and the same relationship between Washington and the military will continue.
An article published in the New York Times on July 11 gave a clear indication of the apparent plan to isolate Morsi within military and bureaucratic circles in Egypt. The article points out that “The streets seethe with protests and government ministers are on the run or in jail, but since the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, life has somehow gotten better for many people across Egypt: Gas lines have disappeared, power cuts have stopped and the police have returned to the street.”
The article continues saying “The apparently miraculous end to the crippling energy shortages, and the re-emergence of the police, seems to show that the legions of personnel left in place after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 played a significant role — intentionally or not — in undermining the overall quality of life under the Islamist administration of Mr. Morsi.”
Even more revealing this report claims that “Working behind the scenes, members of the old establishment, some of them close to Mr. Mubarak and the country’s top generals, also helped finance, advise and organize those determined to topple the Islamist leadership, including Naguib Sawiris, a billionaire and an outspoken foe of the Brotherhood; Tahani el-Gebali, a former judge on the Supreme Constitutional Court who is close to the ruling generals; and Shawki al-Sayed, a legal adviser to Ahmed Shafik, Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister, who lost the presidential race to Mr. Morsi.”
This same national and bureaucratic bourgeoisie are determined to maintain its alliance with U.S. imperialism. Where Morsi failed more than anywhere else, was his belief that the FJP and the Muslim Brotherhood could supplant the old order.
The New York Times article also revealed that “Mr. Sawiris, one of Egypt’s richest men and a titan of the old establishment, said Wednesday that he had supported an upstart group called ‘tamarod,’ Arabic for ‘rebellion,’ that led a petition drive seeking Mr. Morsi’s ouster. He donated use of the nationwide offices and infrastructure of the political party he built, the Free Egyptians. He provided publicity through a popular television network he founded and his major interest in Egypt’s largest private newspaper. He even commissioned the production of a popular music video that played heavily on his network.”
This article quoted Sawiris as saying “Tamarod did not even know it was me! I am not ashamed of it.”
Sociologist and analyst Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya summed up his view of the developments in Egypt. He stresses that “For both the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters and opponents, at least at the grassroots level, America is the common denominator in their struggle. Morsi’s supporters and opponents alike are both accusing one another of complying with U.S. plots against Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters say that the U.S. had Morsi removed from power whereas Morsi’s opponents say he was a U.S. puppet that Washington was trying to keep in power. Both are actually right.”
Nazemroaya goes to illustrate that “There is one important angle that is being missed when the events in Egypt are being debated. The Egyptian military removed Morsi to pre-empt a popular revolution from taking place. The Obama administration gave the green light to remove Morsi as a means of preventing the Egyptian people from taking things into their own hands.”
The Coups D’etat and the Class Struggle in Africa
These developments in Egypt are a reflection of the weakness of U.S. imperialism and its allies in Egypt and throughout North Africa. Washington and Wall Street are viewed negatively among the majority of people in the region.
Engineering a military coup to prevent a genuine revolution in Egypt will only accelerate the contradictions within the country and the region. As the conditions worsen and the imperialist domination becomes even more evident, the crisis will erupt and pose and even greater dilemma for the imperialists.
As Kwame Nkrumah pointed out in “Class Struggle in Africa,” the advent of “Reactionary, pro-imperialist coups signify that imperialism and its internal allies, being unable to thwart the advance of the masses and to defeat the socialist revolution by traditional methods, have resorted to the use of arms. They reveal that desperation and weakness of the reactionary forces, not their strength. They are the last ditch stand by indigenous exploiting classes and neocolonialists to preserve the bourgeois reactionary status quo.” (p. 47)
Nkrumah goes on to emphasize how “once the coup has taken place, the masses are always said to have welcomed it with ‘great enthusiasm’.” There are “carefully arranged ‘demonstrations’ [that] take place which are said to be positive proof that the coup-makers represent the will of the population as a whole. At the same time, the reactionary cliques who have seized power, and who represent only narrow bourgeois class interests, proceed to set up so-called ‘revolutionary’ or ‘liberation’ councils. By the use of such terms the people are expected to believe that the new regime is liberating them and fulfilling their revolutionary aspirations.” (p. 48)
Nonetheless, there is no real liberation from neocolonialism and imperialism. The same sets of economic relations continue and the repression of genuine revolutionary sentiment intensifies.
According to Nkrumah, “In the face of the growing political awareness of the masses, reactionary governments either attempt to contain it by introducing bogus socialist policies, to suppress it by force, or to carry out a military coup. Whichever method is adopted, they proclaim that they are serving the interests of the people by getting rid of corrupt and inefficient politicians, and that they are putting the economy in order. They are, in fact, safeguarding capitalism and protecting their own bourgeois interests and the interests of foreign monopoly finance capital.” (p. 54)
The only real solution to the crisis in Egypt is the organization of the revolutionaries into a worker-led revolutionary party that is capable of seizing power in its own name. There is no substitute or short-cut to genuine economic and political transformation and it will only take place when the source of exploitation is attacked at its root and overthrown.
In the same book Nkrumah observes that “The rash of military coups in Africa reveals the lack of socialist revolutionary organization, the need for the founding of an all-African vanguard working class party, and for the creation of an all-African people’s army and militia. Socialist revolutionary struggle, whether in the form of political, economic or military action, can only be ultimately effective if it is organized, and if it has its roots in the class struggle of workers and peasants.” (p. 54)