The Egyptian revolution: don’t trust the generals
What a magnificent victory for the freedom fighters it was driving Mubarak out of office.
The strikes that broke out in the last week were the final decisive action coming on top of 3 weeks of mass demonstrations that forced the tyrant to resign.
But what has replaced him? A council of the Armed Forces,a council of Mubarak cronies.
The head, Hussein Tantawi, is the former Defence Minister and Minister for Defence Procurements. In these roles he was effectively the CEO of the biggest company in Egypt and has a material interest in continuing Mubarakism, even if that has to be without Mubarak.
Since 1952 the military has ruled Egypt. For the last 30 years their agent has been Hosni Mubarak.
His policies enriched the top brass; so much so that some estimates are that the armed forces control up to 40 percent of the Egyptian economy.
An integral part of that political control and economic dominance has been the ‘peace’ treaty with Israel, a treaty imposed on the people of Egypt by US imperialism and its agents in Egyptian society – Hosni Mubarak and the military.
It is no accident that the first act of the coup leaders, the generals, was to affirm the peace with Israel. This gives them credibility with their US masters and guarantees the flow of billions to this corrupt clique in charge of the country.
Mubarak united all sectors of society, all classes, against him, except for the military and some sections of the business class.
The magnificent demonstrations and strikes across the country threatened the rule of this corrupt clique.
When the strikes broke out and it became clear that the military could not guarantee support from its lower order and conscripts, the armed forces moved to derail the revolution.
The generals deposed Mubarak to save his regime, a regime of which it was and is an integral part.
The generals have asked the old Government, installed by Mubarak last week, to stay on. Mubarak’s party appointments dominate the judiciary, the Parliament, the public service. The secret and not so-secret police remain.
Mubarak’s dictatorship remains. The tyrant even waits in the desert, surrounded by loyal troops protecting him.
The one thing that can guarantee the political victory of the freedom fighters is to continue the demonstrations and to expand the strikes.
It appears that will not happen. The liberal bourgeoisie and middle classes are threatened by the mobilisations for economic freedom as much as Mubarak was and his cronies now in power are.
The demonstrations and strikes offered a new Egypt, one where ordinary people ran society for their own benefit. The coup has, the generals hope, stopped that development and restored the old ways – the super rich and corrupt close to Mubarak running society for themselves.
It is not clear whether the military fears the wrath of the people more than it values its own privileged position. Certainly at the moment that may be the case.
But once the revolution demobilises itself, bought off by democratic promises from those close to Mubarak, the generals may feel confident to implement a form of guided democracy which balances their interests and those of the vast majority in some unstable mix of democracy and dictatorship.
The reason is simple. Democracy threatens the privileged position of the generals in Egyptian society and their role in the network of imperialism across the region.
Just as importantly, even if the wiser heads in the military understand that the old ways can no longer continue and that co-opting the movement and introducing some form of bourgeois democracy is the way forward, the new regime and its spawn cannot address the profound economic issues facing most Egyptians.
23 percent of the population live below the poverty line. Another 20 percent or so live just above it.
The economy is built on low wages.
The momentum that began to build in the last week – the intertwining of economic and political demands that workers on strike made - had the potential to raise these issues and solve them through the self-organisation of the working class.
The coup has, for the moment, stopped that.
The Army cannot solve the economic problems. The generals live off the poverty of the population.
That is why the political solution they develop is likely to favour them and their continued position in society. That includes not just poverty and low wages for most Egyptians but the peace treaty with Israel.
While it appears many of the demonstrators have now packed up, it is not clear what is happening with the strikes that began a week ago demanding better wages and expressing support with the political demands of the revolution.
If the strikes continue there is hope for the poor and poorly paid, and ultimately for the Egyptian revolution.