BY JEFF MACKLER
Egypt’s U.S.-backed military, carefully dressed in “democratic” trappings since massive nationwide protests had forced its 30-year dictator-leader Hosni Mubarak from power in January 2011, was exposed for the world to see on Aug. 13, 2013. With a “mandate” from its appointed “interim cabinet” and its effective declaration of martial law, the regime unleashed a bloodbath in Cairo. According to statistics from the government Health Ministry, well over 600 pro-Morsi sit-in protesters were gunned down in cold blood at Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda Squares and elsewhere. Muslim Brotherhood (MB) supporters put the number of deaths at 2000.
CBS News on-the-scene reporters noted with shock that many had been murdered by army snipers with deadly shots to their heads and chests. CNN International reported that medical personnel at several field hospitals were ordered to immediately depart at gunpoint, leaving the wounded and dying unattended, if not to be murdered outright. Estimates of the wounded range from 3500 to 4500, with the numbers daily increasing, as Morsi supporters are daily demonized as terrorists, foreigners, and traitors—to be hunted down, if not exterminated as “rats.”
Departing Morsi protesters, arms held high in terror-induced surrender, passed through the single cordoned opening allowed by the military—only to regroup in areas around Cairo including Shubra, Abbasseya, and Ramses Squares, among other locations. The military’s killing spree continues across the country.
The unfolding tragedy saw scattered Morsi supporters sometimes taking revenge by destroying a few government buildings and Coptic Christian churches. Meanwhile, the great majority of protesters gathered in momentary safety at new locations for fear of returning home, where the chauvinistic fury unleashed by the capitalist-controlled media in all its variations all but called for house-to house-attacks to drive the “Islamists” from the nation, or even worse measures.
The mis-named and pro-military Egyptian Socialist Party (SP) released a statement that is typical of what appears daily in the jingoistic media, heaping scorn on the “authorities” for not sufficiently arresting, brutalizing, and holding accountable the “instigators of sedition and violence.”
“Hatred, terrorism, and murder against Coptic citizens,” says the SP press, “is an intolerable issue, and authorities are required to take immediate actions to arrest the instigators of such incidents, and not resort to merely formal reconciliation sessions. This is in addition to holding prompt and fair trials for all those involved.”
The SP, as with other hate-mongers among Egypt’s “liberal” (that is, pro-capitalist, pro-military but secular establishment), also condemned the “lies and hypocrisy” of U.S. and European political leaders, concluding, “We will not allow Egypt’s Copts to be targeted for hatred, nor neglected by authorities that do not meet its citizens’ demands and rights.” This essential “call to arms” to deepen the persecution of Muslims is the stock in trade of the now openly functioning old dictatorship, minus Mubarak.
The terror employed against Muslims must be categorically opposed by all who seek to unite Egypt’s oppressed masses today and in the future, regardless of the Morsi government’s brutal attacks and murderous treatment of Egyptian workers who struggled to better their lives under his reign. Without doubt, the terror employed today against the Muslim community will be meted out in far greater measure tomorrow against all who protest by the now unmasked dictatorship.
The whirlwind of events since the mass rebellions that first toppled Mubarak in 2011, and since the even greater mobilization of June 30 demanding an end to the year-old Morsi government, have left Egyptian society deeply divided. Not insignificant layers suffer from what might be defined as “historic amnesia” with regard to Mubarak’s erstwhile capitalist allies, secular and MB alike, and his bloody crimes. Although they were sometimes persecuted and excluded to varying degrees, these forces nevertheless tolerated or were complicit with his decades-long murderous regime, and were among the last to take to the streets demanding Mubarak’s ouster.
Ousted president Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief Islamic leader, Khairat Shater, along with several other MB leaders, remain in prison despite U.S. and worldwide pressure to release them and bring about a negotiated “compromise” wherein the MB would be allowed to participate in new elections and be represented in a future government. Before the Aug. 13 crackdown, Morsi and his leading supporters signaled their agreement, with the sole qualification that they be released and allowed to function politically. Undoubtedly, the U.S. will pressure both sides to return to the negotiating table.
The giant June 30 mobilizations demanding Morsi’s resignation and new elections were in great part an explosive expression of the mass hatred of Morsi’s reactionary and pro-capitalist economic and social measures, which he carried out in full accord with the old regime—the still powerful and unchecked felool and the U.S.-backed and economically powerful, if not dominant, military-industrial establishment.
While it is true that the old regime exacerbated Morsi’s insoluble dilemma—that is, presiding over a crisis-ridden capitalist state in the context of a worldwide capitalist economic crisis—Morsi’s solutions, like theirs, could only be at the expense of the Egyptian masses. No capitalist government on earth, secular or Muslim, dictatorship or “democratic,” or any other variant, is capable of significant reforms, not to mention improvements, in the quality of life of the oppressed masses. Morsi remained tied to the old regime and its policies by his inherent incapacity to break with the exploitative capitalist social system to which he remained tied by a thousand chains and institutions of the old order, which he left virtually intact.
The leading politicians and top advisers of U.S. imperialism cynically believe that anything and everything can be “negotiated” with their lesser capitalist “allies” if the alternative, secretly or privately posed, is the imposition of imperial power via death-squad governments akin to Mubarak’s, overt military intervention, economic embargo/blockade, or selected drone assassinations. These U.S. weapons of mass destruction have been routinely employed to varying degrees in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere to “stabilize” U.S. imperialist-destroyed states and advance U.S. corporate interests.
The lion’s share of Iraqi oil profits, however disguised, flow into U.S. corporate coffers; Afghanistan’s resources and strategic geographic location remain under imperialist control; Libya’s oil, and the resources of poor nations throughout Africa and Asia more generally, are mercilessly re-colonized. It matters not if the new rulers are “elected” or come to power in imperialist-backed coups; the end result is the same. From the new imperialist point of view, unstable regimes can be tolerated—provided only that they are subservient.
The slaughter of the Cairo sit-in protesters—which shocked the entire world—was not the preferred choice of the leaders of global capitalism. Virtually all of them issued perfunctory statements of condemnation. U.S. Secretary State John Kerry said that Egypt’s political reconciliation efforts had suffered a “serious blow”. Kerry added, according to the BBC, “This is a pivotal moment for all Egyptians. The path toward violence leads only to greater instability, economic disaster, and suffering.” Similar statements came from the UN Secretary General and the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron.
However, all rejected designating as a coup the military’s usurpation of a legitimate and unprecedented mass mobilization against a regime that had lost its credibility. The U.S. government in particular, threats to the contrary, ignored its own law prohibiting aid to regimes that come to power by forcibly removing elected governments. To date, the U.S. has declined to cut off the $1.4 billion it annually bestows on its long-time Egyptian military allies.
Notwithstanding his threats to halt the aid, or to order a temporary face-saving suspension of it, President Obama and his representatives on the scene stand ready to facilitate or force a settlement that, for the moment at least, maintains the image of Egypt as a “democratic” albeit blood-stained state. Indeed, shortly after the July 3 coup, top State Department officials proclaimed that Egypt would now have “a second chance at democracy.”
Healing the massive divisions that today plague Egypt’s workers, peasants, and the poor is a prerequisite to re-focusing the just anger of the vast majority against the horrific conditions imposed by Mubarak and Morsi—that is, against Egypt’s capitalist elite. The relatively sudden shift of popular sentiment from Morsi to the military, with the latter tragically hailed by many in the streets as national saviors, is far from the final chapter of the still-unfolding revolutionary wave in Egypt today. No wing of Egypt’s capitalists offer the slightest solution to the critical issues that have repeatedly brought millions and even tens of millions into the streets demanding fundamental change.
In the United States, antiwar and social justice fighters must begin by demanding an immediate end to all U.S. aid to Egypt and an end to all U.S. intervention in the affairs of that nation.
In Egypt the best revolutionary currents have hopefully learned some critical lessons, including rejecting electoral or any other support to any and all capitalist candidates. In their propaganda and agitation they must also warn against the possibility that the vast majority’s wholly justified expectation of democratic change could again be manipulated to achieve reactionary ends—as was the case when the U.S.-backed and advised Egyptian military seized the moment and postured as national saviors only to become the unmasked murderers that they have always been.
History teaches that there is no straight line to the revolutionary transformation of society. The great Russian Revolution of October 1917 had its roots, at least in part, 12 years earlier when the St. Petersburg masses mobilized, religious icons in hand, to the Tsar’s Winter Palace, demanding bread. They were met with gunfire and death, but their illusions in the “great monarch’s” benevolence were shattered. They came back twice again in 1917, the first time to remove the Tsar, and the second to remove the “liberal” provisional capitalist government that had proved incapable of meeting their elementary needs.
In the course of those 12 years in Russia, revolutionary fighters carefully constructed a deeply rooted and massive revolutionary socialist party, which was free from any illusions in capitalist self-reform, and was prepared to storm the heavens to bring into being the world’s first state based on the direct rule of the working masses and the expropriation of the expropriators—that is, the ruling capitalist minority. Nothing less will meet the challenges posed by the uprisings that the Arab Spring ignited throughout the Middle East.
Photo: Woman shields a wounded man on Aug. 13 as a military bulldozer approaches to demolish the Cairo camp of pro-Morsi supporters. Credit: Mohammed Abdel Moneim / AFP / Getty Images