Category Archives: Egypt

The Middle East’s newest strongman

Violent clashes spread in Egypt as US backs army coup

By Alex Lantier 
6 July 2013
Clashes spread throughout Egypt yesterday as security forces cracked down on protests by supporters of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) President Mohamed Mursi, who was ousted in a coup Wednesday. The coup—launched with US support to end mass protests against Mursi and pre-empt the development of a political movement in the working class—now threatens to plunge Egypt into civil war.
Initial reports indicated that dozens were killed and at least 400 injured in protests in Cairo, Alexandria, and the Sinai Peninsula yesterday.
The Egyptian generals are coordinating their crackdown closely with Washington. The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, spoke with Egyptian chief of staff, Lieutenant General Sedki Sobhi, Thursday, also contacting Israeli army officials. These ties show that, while the initial target of repression is the MB, the ultimate target of the military regime is working class opposition to the free-market and pro-imperialist policies that Washington demands.
To block the growth of opposition to the coup from the working class, the army is relying on liberal and pseudo-left forces that back the Tamarod (“rebel”) coalition, such as the National Salvation Front (NSF) of Mohamed ElBaradei and the Revolutionary Socialists (RS). Tamarod officials supported the coup, appearing on Wednesday next to military strongman General Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi as he announced the installation of the new military regime. Yesterday, the NSF called on Egyptians to “protect” the regime in street protests.
In Cairo, the army fired on a pro-Mursi protest at the Republican Guard barracks, where Mursi is being held, killing three and wounding at least 65. Deadly fighting continued yesterday evening on the October 6 Bridge near Tahrir Square, as security forces intervened in clashes between pro- and anti-Mursi protesters.
At least 12 were confirmed dead yesterday in Alexandria, after gun battles erupted between pro- and anti-Mursi demonstrators, with police joining the anti-Mursi side.
In the Sinai, where Islamist forces have substantial support, the army declared a state of emergency after a wave of attacks on army installations in Al-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid, and Rafah, and on the Al-Arish airport. Reports indicated that 20 Islamist fighters as well as several soldiers and policemen have died in clashes since Mursi’s ouster.
Sheikh Ibrahim El-Manei, the head of the Union of Sinai Tribes, said that the region resembles a “battlefield.” Alluding to the risk of civil war, he added that he was wary of “the Algerian and Syrian scenarios.” He was referring to the bloody Algerian civil war of 1991-2002 and to the ongoing US-led proxy war in Syria, both of which featured armed Islamist insurgencies fighting the national army.
General Ala Ezzedine told Egypt’s state-run daily Al Ahram that the army will soon start a “mass operation” to crush opposition in the Sinai.
The army is moving to destroy the MB’s positions in the state. Newly-installed President Adly Mansour dissolved the Shura Council, the Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament, by decree yesterday.
The army also reportedly has arrested up to 300 leading MB officials, including MB Supreme Leader Mohamed Badie and billionaire Deputy Leader Khairat al-Shater.
The coup is proceeding with Washington’s full support. The Obama administration has even cynically sought to avoid admitting that what is taking place in Egypt is a coup, as this would legally bar Washington from paying its yearly $1.3 billion subsidy to the Egyptian army.
US congressmen have also indicated that they favor ignoring the law to continue backing the coup. “The law by its terms dictates one thing, and sensible policy dictates that we don’t do that,” Democratic Representative Howard Berman told the New York Times. “That’s why the executive branch gets to decide whether it’s a coup or not. Under the plain meaning rule, there was a coup.” However, Berman added that he opposed cutting off aid to the Egyptian army.
The Egyptian military junta that Washington is supporting is a deeply reactionary regime, dedicated above all to crushing opposition in the working class.
Perhaps the clearest indication of the reactionary policies US imperialism intends for the Egyptian army to carry out came in a column from the Wall Street Journal, calling for the new junta to model itself on Chilean dictator and mass murderer General Augusto Pinochet.
The Journal called for Washington to “help Egypt gain access to markets, international loans, and investment capital. The US now has a second chance to use its leverage to shape a better outcome. Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, who took power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy.”
Pinochet came to power in a US-backed coup on September 11, 1973 that overthrew the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende. His regime murdered, tortured, or exiled hundreds of thousands of Chileans.
Pinochet’s reactionary free-market policies, which devastated working class living standards in Chile, are considered a model for Egypt by US financiers as they push for deeply unpopular cuts to state subsidies to grain and fuel prices. These are critical to keeping bread and transportation affordable for working class families in Egypt.
Former World Bank chief economist for the Middle East Caroline Freund wrote: “The right approach to Egypt’s economic problems would be to force it to bite the bullet now by ending wasteful expenditures, especially fuel subsidies. These cost almost half of government revenue, at a time when Egypt’s budget deficit is more than 10 percent of gross domestic product and growing.”
The Egyptian military regime is aggressively signaling to international finance capital that it will carry out the policies demanded of it. Farouq El-Oqda, a former head of Egypt’s central bank, is now being offered the prime ministership. Adel El-Labban, a former Morgan Stanley banker who is now a leading executive at Bahrain-based Ahli United Bank, is reportedly another candidate for the post. Voice of America noted that businessmen are enthusiastic about the army regime, as “a more technocratic administration” anxious to lure “back some of the investors and money which have fled the country.” It cited Karim Helal, the chairman of investment bank ADI Capital: “I believe that anybody who is asked to join the cabinet won’t hesitate.”

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Egyptian army coup topples Islamist president Mursi

By Johannes Stern and Alex Lantier 
4 July 2013
The ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi, following four days of nationwide mass protests, has placed power in the hands of a military junta which is committed to the defense of the economic interests of the country’s ruling class and to the geo-political aims of American imperialism.
The removal of the hated Mursi regime has evoked jubilation. However sincere and deeply felt this sentiment may be, the fact is that Mursi’s overthrow has placed the army, not the masses, in power. None of the essential demands that motivated the mass protests—for decent jobs, livable wages, adequate social services, and democratic rights—will be met by the military regime.
The military has intervened for one overriding purpose: to pre-empt and suppress the growing political movement of the Egyptian working class. The coalition government that it unveiled last night is in no way a genuine expression of the democratic strivings of the working class. Rather, the new ruling structure is a sinister coalition of reactionary forces, which includes long-time henchmen of Hosni Mubarak, various Islamic politicians, and several liberal politicians with close connections to the US-based International Monetary Fund. None of the individuals and organizations has either a mass social base or advances a popular social program.
After seizing control of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) television stations and reportedly arresting Mursi, the head of the military junta, General Abdul Fatah Khalil Al-Sisi, unveiled a political “road map” that includes the immediate suspension of the constitution and the formation of a so-called “national technocratic” government.
The term “technocratic” is being bandied about to evoke the image of politically neutral experts who stand above partisan class interests. In reality, the so-called “technocrats” are steeped in the reactionary nostrums of the international banks.
The anti-working class character of the government emerges clearly from examining the list of reactionaries who flanked al-Sisi as he announced his “road map” yesterday evening. These included several generals, Coptic pope Tawadros II, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, and opposition politicians including National Salvation Front (NSF) leader and former UN official Mohamed ElBaradei, Younis Makhioun of the far-right Salafist Al Nour Party, and Mahmoud Badr of the opposition Tamarod (“Rebel”) coalition.
Each one of these figures was selected to create the impression of broad support for the new regime across key political and religious divides in Egypt.
The army chose the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour, as president. Mohamed ElBaradei has been named prime minister. There are vague promises of early elections.
Mansour had long ties to the old Mubarak regime. ElBaradei, who worked for years as an official of the United Nations, has close ties to the economic and foreign policy establishment of the United States. ElBaradei supports austerity measures worked out in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which favors cuts to subsidies for basic goods such as grain and fuel.
In the political maneuvers that set the stage for the military coup, a key role has been played by the Tamarod coalition. This is a thoroughly pro-capitalist political movement. Founded at the end of April as a campaign to collect signatures against Mursi, it quickly became a rallying point for a range of opposition parties—liberal, Islamist and pseudo-left alike—and remnants of the former Mubarak regime who oppose the MB. Its supporters include El Baradei’s NSF, the Islamist Strong Egypt Party of former MB member Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, the April 6 Youth Movement, and the pseudo-left Revolutionary Socialists (RS). The movement also accepted an endorsement from General Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Mubarak.
Although the United States had been backing Mursi, the Obama administration entered into talks with the Egyptian military once it became clear that the regime could not be saved. The Egyptian army launched the coup after intensive discussions with General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In a statement yesterday evening, US President Barack Obama backed the removal of Mursi, while taking care to avoid the word “coup.” Using vague language that imposed no restraints on the military, Obama sanctimoniously requested that the army “move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible, through an inclusive and transparent process.”
Once again, the Revolutionary Socialists—the most prominent of the pseudo-left groups in Egypt—has adapted its rhetoric to the political maneuvers of the bourgeoisie. In February 2011, the RS backed the military junta that came to power after Mubarak’s ouster. In 2012, as the military faced mounting popular opposition, they hailed Mursi’s election as a victory for the revolution. Now that the working class has moved into struggle against Mursi and the MB, they have aligned themselves with a coup to bring back the army and elements of the old Mubarak regime into power.
The only consistent element of the RS’s reactionary politics has been their opposition to the emergence of an independent political movement of the working class. They speak for sections of the upper middle class, closely connected to the Egyptian bourgeois establishment and its imperialist backers.
The World Socialist Web Site warns the working class against the illusions in the military. The army will seek to enforce the policies demanded by finance capital. In the final analysis, the conflict between the military on the one hand and the ousted Muslim Brotherhood on the other is a fight between conflicted factions of the ruling class. The main target of the repression that the military is preparing will be the working class. The stage has been set for the denunciation of further protest actions by the working class as harmful to the “national interest” and illegitimate.
There are no progressive solutions to the revolutionary crisis that has been shaking Egypt in the last two years, outside the coming to power of the working class, mobilizing the great mass of urban and rural poor on the basis of a socialist and anti-imperialist program.

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Outside Agitators

By Patrick J. Buchanan
June 07, 2013 “Information Clearing House – A Cairo court has convicted 43 men and women of using foreign funds to foment unrest inside Egypt in connection with the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.
Sixteen of those convicted were Americans. All but one, Robert Becker of the National Democratic Institute, had already departed. Becker fled this week rather than serve two years in an Egyptian prison.
And U.S. interventionists are in an uproar.
“Appalling and offensive,” said Sen. Pat Leahy of the verdicts.
“The 2011 revolution was supposed to end the repressive climate under Mubarak,” said The Wall Street Journal of our ally of 30 years whom Hillary Clinton called a family friend.
This “crackdown,” decries The Washington Post, was defended with “cheap nationalism and conspiracy theories.” As for Egypt’s proposed new law for regulating foreign-funded groups promoting democracy, it is “based on … repressive and xenophobic logic.”
Yet the questions raised by both the Cairo and Moscow crackdowns on U.S.-funded “democracy” groups cannot be so airily dismissed.
For these countries have more than a small point.
While U.S.-funded democracy promotion is portrayed as benign, the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, DNI and Freedom House have been linked to revolutions that brought down regimes in Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and nearly succeeded in Belarus.
People who pride themselves on bringing about revolutions should not whine when targeted regimes treat them like troublemakers.
And who directs these “pro-democracy” groups?
Before 2011, Freedom House was headed by ex-CIA Director Jim Woolsey, who says we are in “World War IV.” The IRI is chaired by John McCain, who pushed for U.S. intervention in the Russia-Georgia war and is clamoring for air strikes on Syria.
The DNI chairman is ex-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who says: “We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall, and we see further than other countries into the future.”
Is it not understandable to patriots of the original “Don’t Tread on Me” republic that foreigners might resent paid U.S. agents operating inside their countries to alter the direction of their politics?
We have a right to advance our democratic values, we say.
But for the United States to push, for example, for freedom of speech, press and assembly in the People’s Republic of China is to promote political action that must lead to the fall of Beijing’s single-party state. Do we not understand why that might be seen by the Chinese Communist Party of Xi Jinping as subversive?
In the Cold War Americans learned that not only was the Communist Party U.S.A. a wholly owned subsidiary of Joseph Stalin’s Comintern, that party had deeply infiltrated the U.S. government and Hollywood. In the late ’40s and early ’50s, America was convulsed over communist penetration of our institutions.
Martin Luther King Jr. was wiretapped by J. Edgar Hoover at the direction of JFK and Attorney General Robert Kennedy because he refused to dump an adviser, Stanley Levison, who was a communist and thought to be a Soviet spy.
Were the Kennedys being “repressive and xenophobic”?
If we were apoplectic that Soviet-funded communists were seeking to influence our culture and politics, why ought not other countries, with cultures and institutions far different from our own, react even as we did?
In the stricter societies of the Islamic world, governments have enacted laws regarding alcohol, premarital sex, divorce, abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage and religious conversions different from any such laws in the U.S.A.
In some of those countries, such activities can produce floggings, amputations, stonings and beheadings. In many of these countries, children are indoctrinated in the Islamic faith in government-supported schools. Not here.
We may deplore this, but where do we get the right to intervene in the internal affairs of these countries if they do not threaten us?
And are we really consistent in our democracy promotion?
How many U.S.-funded agents of Freedom House, NED, IRI and NDI are in Bahrain demanding elections that would permit the Shia majority to dump the king and oust our 5th Fleet from its Persian Gulf base?
How would we react if Riyadh funneled billions of petrodollars into organizations and agents to finance Wahhabi madrassas and assist local Muslim communities in the U.S.A. with their efforts to enact sharia law?
What lies behind U.S. interventions in the internal affairs of countries all over the world?
There is, first, the residual Cold War mindset. What we did for Solidarity in Poland was right and successful, and we cannot give up this tool of democracy just because the Cold War is over.
Second, there is the arrogance of power, the End-of-History babble about democracy being the last, best hope of earth to which all nations should aspire — and if they don’t, give them a kick in that direction.
Once the most admired of nations, America is no longer so.
Why not? Because of our compulsive interventions, military and political, in the internal affairs of nations that are none of our business.
Defund the American Comintern, and bring the outside agitators home.

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Egyptians Playing into Zionist Hands

Israel’s designs call for the reoccupation of the Sinai, supporting the creation of a Coptic state in upper Egypt and two Sunni states in the North and in the South
By Adel Safty 
February 24, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – (Gulf News) In the turmoil that continues to rock Egypt, demonstrators carried banners advertising their demands; some asked where were the bread, freedom and social justice promised by the new regime; others denounced the regime and called for its fall; yet others promised a permanent revolution and threatened retributions against anti-revolutionary forces.
One of the most unexpected demands was formulated by a protester partaking in a demonstration in Port Saeed. The demonstrators were protesting the death sentences handed down by a Cairo court against individuals found guilty in the Port Saeed football massacre. A television reporter asked this protester to explain his grievances. He denounced the corruption and heavy-handedness of the government in Cairo, and emphatically added something to the effect: We are sick and tired of Cairo; we want independence from Cairo; we want our own state.
I was taken aback by his answer. I expected, given the context, that he would say he wanted a retrial for the accused; or that he wanted a new government; but not that he wanted separation from Egypt and a new state called Port Saeed. I have never heard of a separatist movement based in Port Saeed and advocating independence from Cairo.
While I am not a believer in conspiracy theories, international politics is basically a continuous struggle for power; and in the pursuit of power the Machiavellian craft of deception, lies, and outright use of force, though never publicly acknowledged, nonetheless regularly inform the clandestine face of international politics.
Sometimes the naked use of force is obviously a flagrant breach of conventions and commonly accepted norms, but nonetheless publicly and unashamedly used to pursue illicit political ends. This was infamously the case in the Bush administration’s decision to use force to invade Iraq, while the influential media cheered on in the run-up to the war.
Last week marked the 10th anniversary of then secretary of state Colin Powell’s infamous presentation to the UN Security Council in which he used incomplete and misleading information — partly planted by friends of Israel in the Bush administration like Douglas Feith in the Defence Department — to make the case for weapons of mass destruction and war against Iraq.
The Washington Post opined that it was “hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction”. TheNew York Times editorialised that Powell “was all the more convincing because he … focused on shaping a sober, factual case against Mr Hussein’s regime”.
Now that we know that there was no weapons of mass destruction and the case for war was based on a massive campaign of lies and deception, the New York Times offered this sobering assessment. “Ten years later,” it wrote, “ Powell’s speech,” stands as “a historic testament of shameless deception leading to vast carnage …”
But the conspiracy theory that animated discussions and speculations about the nature and the purpose of the diehard demonstrators in the streets of Cairo and other cities has its foundations in what this demonstrator in Port Saeed said about his city wanting independence from Egypt to found its own state.
Isn’t that precisely what the Zionist plan for the Middle East advocated? The dismantlement of the large Arab states into small, weak, and dependent entities built around confessional or ethnic foundations, and unable to challenge Israeli hegemonic domination of the region.
In 1982, Hebrew University Professor Israel Shahak, an Israeli human rights activist, translated a Hebrew language article in the official Organ of the World Zionist Organisation magazine Kivunim (Directions)
The article was titled, ‘A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties’. Shahak stated in the foreword: The Zionist plan for the Middle East “is based on the division of the whole area into small states, and the dissolution of all the existing Arab states”.
Libya has been weakened. Sudan has been divided; Iraq has been neutralised by the internal strife exacerbated by the American invasion with Kurdistan practically a separate state. Lebanon is weak; and Syria is being destroyed. Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel.
Not surprisingly Egypt is accorded special attention. And this has been the case long before the publication of the World Zionist Organisation document. When Jamal Abdul Nasser became the effective leader of Egypt in 1954, he showed an unexpectedly favourable disposition to contacts with the Israeli leaders, especially prime minister Moshe Sharet, with a view to achieving a peaceful settlement of the Palestine question.
Nasser’s readiness to negotiate with Israel threatened the Zionist strategic goal of expansionism that could only be accomplished by force and under the cover of an Israel perpetually threatened with destruction. The heresy of Sharet who wanted to deal with the Egyptian leader and Nasser’s interest in a negotiated settlement provoked the anger of the Zionist establishment.
David Ben-Gurion eased Sharet out, took over the reins of power, and proceeded to plot, with the French and the British, the 1956 attack on Egypt. Although the 1956 attack (following the 1954 Israeli attack on the Egyptian garrison in Gaza) failed to bring Nasser down, it put an end to his interest in pursuing an accommodation with Israel.
The weakening of Egypt remained a central objective of Israeli policy. When Nasser fell into the trap of crisis escalation when Israel threatened Syria, Israel launched its thundering attack on June 5, 1967. In the space of six days the Israeli army demolished the armies of three Arab countries — Egypt, Syria, and Jordan — and occupied the Sinai, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank. A war of attrition ensued and its ferocity with Israel carrying air raids deep inside Egypt, unsettled Washington. Secretary of state William Rogers proposed a peace plan, which was accepted by Nasser, but rejected by Israel, and eventually torpedoed by Henry Kissinger — Rogers’ archrival in the White House.
But it was Anwar Sadat who took Egypt out of the conflict, and signed a separate peace treaty with Israel. This opened the door for Israel to terrorise its neighbours with impunity: air raid against Iraq in 1981, invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and in 2006, air raid against Tunisia in 1985, and countless assaults against the Palestinians, with Egypt under Sadat and his successor Hosni Mubarak were unable to do much more than verbally condemn.
Egypt under Mohammad Mursi vigorously protested the latest war against Gaza, and all political groupings called for the review of the Camp David Accords signed with Israel. Israeli strategic designs for Egypt call for the reoccupation of the Sinai, and the destabilisation of Egypt by supporting the establishment of a Coptic state in Upper Egypt, and two Sunni States in the North and in the South.
Maybe the Port Saeed protester who demanded independence for his city was not aware that he was unwittingly promoting Zionist designs. 
Adel Safty is distinguished professor adjunct at the Siberian Academy of Public Administration, Russia.
This article was originally posted at Gulf News

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Morsi: The Beginning of His End

Why Does The US Supports Morsi The Dictator
Dr. Mohamed Elmasry
February 20, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – November 22, 2012 was a black day in the short history of the two year old Egyptian revolution. It was the day when Morsi gave himself absolute powers and turned into a dictator.
Before that date most Egyptians, including those who did not vote for him, were willing to give Egypt’s first elected president time to prove himself and to successfully tackle the country political as well as the economical and social justice files.
But the peoples’ hopes of having an elected president whose loyalty would be for all the Egyptians, men and women, rich and poor, Muslims and Christians, young and old, conservatives and liberals, and to serve them all well were dashed away.
Instead Morsi has proven he himself is fully controlled by his Muslim Brotherhood group and he was only working hard to maximize their grip on power, no more.
January 29 was another black day when Morsi newly appointed Prosecutor General Tal’at Abdullah ordered the mass arrest of The Black Bloc group, and also their supporters claiming it is a group engaged in “terrorist” activities.
The Black Bloc, a new Egyptian opposition group of young people, made its first appearance on the eve of the second anniversary of the 25 January 2011 revolution with a declared aim of fighting Egypt’s new dictatorship of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The group is drawing its inspiration from the European Black Bloc protesters, using the same tactics first seen in Germany in the 1970s. Its members dress all in black.
Last Friday February 1 was another black day when Egyptians along with the whole world witnessed a live video showing Morsi’s police force using excessive violence against a poor unemployed labourer, 50 years old Hamada Saber who was protesting near the presidential palace.
What has made matters worse were the attempts of Morsi and his government to threaten the man to lie and to say that the protesters not the police who did beaten him and dragged him in the nude to the waiting police car.
Then Morsi’s interior minister lied in public saying Mr. Saber is telling the truth. But in the footage, Mr. Saber can be seen surrounded by a group of half a dozen officers clad in black riot gear and wielding batons. They hit him several times, remove his clothes, and drag him into an armoured vehicle.
Initially the interior ministry suggested that Mr. Saber was carrying petrol bombs or firing a gun and promised an investigation. On Saturday, its spokesman told the state news agency the incident was “regrettable and unacceptable”.
The footage was shown repeatedly on Egyptian and international media and went viral on social media.
The president’s office trying to do a damage control said it was “pained by the shocking footage of some policemen treating a protester in a manner that does not accord with human dignity and human rights”.
Yet Morsi’s office insisted this was “an isolated act”. But it was a lie as Egyptians know full well that the police force is now in the service of Egypt’s new dictator Morsi and his MB group; most of those killed protesting after Morsi took office were killed by the police.
The story got the attention of more media coverage again as Mr. Saber appeared on state television from a police hospital. He described how he had been drinking a soda and watching the scenes when “protesters” surrounded him. “They didn’t leave me any money and took my clothes,” he said.
But his relatives, including his young daughter Ranya gave a series of TV interviews contradicting her father version of events.
“He’s afraid, he’s in hospital and everyone around him tells him what to say,” she said. “They [the police] hit him, you saw what happened.”
But Mr. Saber got the courage to tell the truth when human rights lawyers promised him legal help.
“He’s a coward,” said Mr. Saber cousin, Ashraf when Mr. Saber was forced to lie. But the real cowards here are Morsi, his government and his MB group. The Saber’s incident is the beginning of the end of Morsi’s dictatorship; it is a matter of how and when, as the killing of young Khalid Saeed by Mubarak’s police ended his dictatorship two years ago.
This article was originally posted at Canadian Charger
Copyright © The Canadian Charger.

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Mursi declares state of emergency as protests escalate in Egypt

By Alex Lantier and Johannes Stern 
28 January 2013
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi declared a 30-day state of emergency in three Suez Canal cities yesterday, as protests begun on the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution spread throughout the country. Police and army units fired live ammunition, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds, while protesters attacked police stations and offices of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in cities across Egypt.
Clashes at Tawkifeya [Photo: Al Hussainy Mohamed]
The move came amid rising expectations of a decisive confrontation with police in mass protests planned for today, the anniversary of the “Friday of Rage” protests of January 28, 2011. On that day, hundreds of thousands of protesters battled police mobilized by then-President Hosni Mubarak in street fighting in Cairo. Mubarak was toppled amid a revolutionary strike wave of the Egyptian working class two weeks later.
Mursi declared a 30-day state of emergency for Port Saïd, Suez, and Ismailia, as well as a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. The state of emergency allows the police and military to detain protesters indefinitely without charge and to prosecute them in military courts, to suspend constitutional rights, and to censor the press.
Mursi threatened to re-establish the state of emergency throughout Egypt: “I always said I’m against any exceptional measures, but I also said I might resort to such measures if I had to. I may even do more for the sake of Egypt, it’s my duty… I instructed interior ministry officials to deal strictly with whoever threatens the people, public, and private institutions.” This is an open threat to crush all opposition to the government.
Shubra march [Photo: Al Hussainy Mohamed]
Mubarak ruled throughout his 30-year presidency under a state of emergency. Mursi’s decision to re-impose it to crush protests testifies to the counter-revolutionary character of his regime.
Mursi’s announcements reportedly led to more protests against the move. In Ismailiya, a new demonstration began with calls, “Down with Mursi, down with the state of emergency.”
Egypt’s bourgeois opposition is cynically issuing calls for protests, which will occur with or without them and over which they are trying to maintain their influence, while simultaneously giving their support to Mursi’s repression. The National Salvation Front issued a statement calling for the suspension of the constitution pushed through by the MB, “retribution” for the killings of protesters, and the dissolution of the government.
However, Khaled Dawoud, a spokesman for the NSF—a coalition led by the liberal Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nasserite Hamdeen Sabahi, and former Mubarak regime official Amr Moussa—declared: “Of course we feel the president is missing the real problem on the ground, which is his own actions. His call to implement emergency law was an expected move, given what is going on, namely thuggery and criminal actions.”
The National Defense Council, led by Mursi and representatives of Egypt’s powerful army officer corps, invited the opposition to “broad national dialogue that would be attended by independent national characters.”
Army units deployed to Port Saïd and Suez yesterday, amid escalating protests over death sentences handed out against 21 fans of Port Saïd’s Al-Masry Football Club. Last year they worked with police to attack fans of Cairo’s Al-Ahly club, who had played a major role in street fighting against Mubarak’s thugs in the 2011 protests in Cairo. Some 73 Ahly fans were killed and roughly 1,000 wounded. (See also: Mass protests in Egypt against pro-junta football riot ).
At the time, MB officials criticized police and the ruling military junta, claiming the tragedy was “the result of intentional reluctance” by the authorities. Now that the MB is in power, however, they are protecting the police. While the Al-Masry thugs worked with Port Saïd police officials during the raid, the announcement of the police officials’ sentence was delayed until March 9, leading to widespread suspicions that they would be let off.
Friends and relatives of Al-Masry fans sentenced to death stormed the jails to free them, setting off a violent confrontation with police forces in which at least 30 protesters were killed, shot with live bullets and birdshot.
On Sunday the army fired on the funeral procession for those killed Saturday, scattering the procession and claiming at least three more lives.
In Suez clashes intensified Saturday, after nine protesters were killed by police on Friday. The protesters were reportedly shot with live ammunition at close range, including some from behind.
Protesters stormed the Suez police station, set prisoners free, and took police weapons. After forcing the security forces to flee, they burned down the building. As during the Friday of Rage on January 28 two years ago, police withdrew from Suez, and the Third Army was sent in to enforce security in the city and crack down on protesters.
The army moved also into Ismailiya, another city on the Suez Canal. Military reinforcements were sent to the headquarters of the Suez Canal Authority. Mursi and the Egyptian military are worried that they can lose control of the strategic waterway. Since the fall of Mubarak, strikes by Suez Canal workers have repeatedly threatened the operations at the Canal, which are critical to global trade and the US military’s presence in the Middle East.
Over the weekend, protests intensified in cities across Egypt. In the industrial city of Mahalla, protesters attacked the city’s police station with rocks and attempted to storm it. Security forces shot tear gas canisters at protesters. Protesters also attacked the Mahalla city council, throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at the building.
As of this writing, there are ongoing protests and clashes in the capital city, Cairo. On the iconic Tahrir Square, the symbol of the Egyptian Revolution, and its surrounding streets, protesters are defying attacks by Egyptian security forces.
On Sunday demonstrators blocked the 6th of October Bridge, leading to downtown Cairo, as well as the Sadat metro station, bringing the metro traffic to a halt. On the Corniche al-Nil, security forces fired tear gas at protesters who defended themselves by throwing stones. Protesters also attacked the Ministry of Supply and Social Affairs, setting the building on fire.

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Egypt’s New Pharaoh

By Chris Hedges
December 19, 2012 “TruthDig” — When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran after 14 years in exile on Feb. 1, 1979, he set out to destroy the secular opposition forces, including the Communist Party of Iran, which had been instrumental in bringing down the shah. Khomeini’s declaration of an Islamic government, supported by referendum, saw him rewrite the constitution, close opposition newspapers and ban opposition groups including the National Democratic Front and the Muslim People’s Republican Party. Dissidents who had spent years inside Iran’s notoriously brutal prison system under the shah were incarcerated once again by the new regime. Some returned to their cells to be greeted by their old jailers, who had offered their services to the new regime.
This is what is under way in Egypt. It is the story of most revolutions. The moderates, who are crucial to winning the support of the masses and many outside the country, become an impediment to the consolidation of autocratic power. Liberal democrats, intellectuals, the middle class, secularists and religious minorities including Coptic Christians were always seen by President Mohamed Morsi and his Freedom and Justice Party—Egypt’s de facto political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood—as “useful idiots.” These forces were essential to building a broad movement to topple the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. They permitted Western journalists to paint the opposition in their own image. But now they are a hindrance to single-party rule and are being crushed. 
The first of two days of voting on a new constitution was held Saturday. According to reports Sunday, the document is being approved. The second round of voting, next Saturday, includes rural districts that provide much of the Brotherhood’s base of support, and it is expected to end in the constitution being ratified by the required 50 percent or more of Egypt’s 51 million voters. Opposition forces charge that the first round was marred by polling irregularities including bribery, intimidation, erratic polling hours and polling officials who instructed voters how to cast ballots. A large number of the 13,000 polling stations will have had no independent monitors; many judges, in protest over the drafting process, have refused to oversee the voting.
The referendum masks the real center of power, which is in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. The party has no intention of diluting or giving up that power. For example, when it appeared that the Supreme Constitutional Court would dissolve the panel—stacked with party members—that was drafting the new constitution, the Brotherhood locked the judges out of the court building. Three dozen members of the panel, including secularists, Coptic Christians, liberals and journalists, quit in protest. The remaining Islamists, in defiance of the judges, held an all-night session Nov. 29 and officially approved the 63-page document.
The draft constitution is filled with disturbingly vague language about democratic rights, civil liberties, the duties of women and the role of the press. It gives Islamic religious authorities control over the legislative process and many aspects of daily and personal life. One reason the constitution is expected to pass, apart from voting fraud, is because many liberals, secularists and Copts have walked away in disgust from electoral participation.
The Brotherhood, ironically, was not part of the vanguard that led the 18 days of protests in February 2011 that brought down Mubarak. It was reluctant, after decades of being severely repressed, to throw its weight behind the protesters clogging Tahrir Square. It said at first that it would not compete in the presidential election or run a full slate of parliamentary candidates. But once it saw the chaos, squabbling and disarray among its secular opponents, who ran three competing presidential candidates, it seized the opportunity.
Passages in the proposed constitution such as “The state is keen to preserve the genuine character of the Egyptian family” and the state guarantees freedom of the press except “in times of war or public mobilization” are vague enough to allow the Muslim Brotherhood to severely curtail women’s rights and ruthlessly silence press criticism. Morsi’s imperial presidential declaration of Nov. 22, until he rescinded it last week after street protests, effectively placed him above the law. Rescission of the decree will not, however, prevent the party from attaining dictatorial power.
The Brotherhood does not shrink from the use of deadly force. The violent street clashes between thousands of pro- and anti-government demonstrators outside the presidential palace last week left 10 dead and about 700 wounded. Some anti-government protesters said they were beaten in a makeshift detention and torture center that the Brotherhood set up close to the palace. Morsi showed no remorse. He announced in a nationally televised broadcast that anti-government demonstrators had confessed to being “paid thugs.” And the new government, to curb further street protests, including those that took place in Alexandria this weekend, has authorized the military to arrest civilians.
The Muslim Brotherhood, like all revolutionary parties that replace an ancien régime, has inhabited the traditional structures of power. Government ministers and cabinets have been appointed. Parliamentarians have been elected. Judges have been named. But actual power is held, as in most post-revolutionary societies, by parallel party organizations. There are two systems of authority. One is public and ceremonial. The other is secret and unassailable. It is this realization—that the formal positions of power no longer mean anything—that led to the withdrawal of 30 percent of the Constituent Assembly, including several presidential advisers. Public figures in official roles are window dressing.
Successful revolutionaries, as Crane Brinton wrote, “combine, in varying degrees, very high ideals and a complete contempt for the inhibitions and principles which serve other men as ideals. They present a strange variant of Plato’s pleasant scheme: they are not philosopher-kings but philosopher-killers. They have the realistic, the practical touch very few of the moderate leaders had, and yet they have also enough of the prophet’s fire to hold followers who expect the New Jerusalem around the corner. They are practical men unfettered by common sense, Machiavellians in the service of the Beautiful and the Good.”
Leon Trotsky explained this mentality when he described the role of the Bolsheviks, who he admitted had been a distinct minority, in 1917.
“The Bolsheviks,” he wrote, “took the people as preceding history had created them, and as they were called to achieve the Revolution. The Bolsheviks saw it as their mission to stand at the head of this people. Those against the insurrection were ‘everybody’—except the Bolsheviks. But the Bolsheviks were the people.”
In short, the revolutionary elites give liberty only to those who they believe deserve it. And all revolutions, even purportedly secular ones such as the Bolshevik Revolution, are in essence religious experiences. They hold out glorious utopian visions and insist they have harnessed the forces of history, racial purity, destiny or God. They bifurcate the world into good and evil. They are exempt, as revolutionaries, from everyday morality. They embody an absolute truth. To tolerate differences is to abet evil. It is to permit those who are misguided to squander their lives. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine argued this point in 1600 when he ordered the Dominican friar and astronomer Giordano Bruno to be burned at the stake for blasphemy. The longer heretics live, he said, the more damnation they heap upon themselves. 
Revolutionary governments invert morality and the rule of law. They believe, as Maximilien de Robespierre wrote, that they pit the despotism of liberty against tyranny. This is why Morsi increasingly mirrors the dictator he replaced. 
“All revolutionaries, the moment they undertake the actual responsibilities, become in some sort conservatives,” wroteG.M. Trevelyan. “Robespierre guillotined the Anarchists. The first administrative act of the [English] Regicides was to silence the Levelers.”
Revolutionary governments are adept at playing on class hatreds and the self-righteousness of true believers. The middle class proved vitally important to the Egyptian revolution, as in all revolutions. But the largely secular middle class and especially the upper class are despised by the masses of poor that make up most of Egypt’s population. The only effective form of resistance to the secular Mubarak regime was to retreat into the strict tenets of orthodox Islam. The embrace of orthodox Islam became for many of the poor an identity and the sole source of hope. There is no need to enforce dress codes or the mores of orthodox Islam in impoverished Cairo slums such as Imbaba. But in the upper-class neighborhoods of Cairo such as Zamalek, where the old regime was in economic terms more generous, orthodox Islam never had the same cachet, even as upper-class women donned the hijab and orthodox Islam made inroads into the economic elite.
This revolution, like all revolutions, has called poor believers into the streets to battle the party’s opponents. The opposition is branded the enemy of the revolution and, more ominously, the enemy of Islam; the anti-government protesters, in the words of Morsi, are the stooges of foreign embassies and Israel. And the poor—the Lumpenproletariat—are only too happy to lend their services as shock troops in defense of sacred beliefs and the promised future of glory and bread. They already detested those they are now being rallied against. Once released by the state from traditional forms of restraint, the mob willingly becomes vicious.
The last three weeks of street violence presage a period of blood and repression. The opposition, which at first wanted to boycott the referendum, is mounting a beleaguered effort to defeat it. The lines are drawn. Morsi and the Brotherhood have been exposed as the heirs of the old dictatorship in new garb. The struggle for an open society is being waged by the betrayed on the streets of Egyptian cities. It will be a fight to the death. Brotherhood posters put up throughout Egypt in support of the pending constitution urge people to vote yes to “Supporting Legitimacy and Shariah [Islamic law].” Those who oppose legitimacy and Islamic law, it goes without saying, are heretics.
Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

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Navigating Egypt’s Revolutionary Crisis

By Shamus Cooke 
December 12, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – As chaos again envelopes Egypt, the revolution is evolving in new directions, along contradictory and confusing channels. It’s tempting to immediately support the “opposition” to the Muslim Brotherhood’s apparent “power grab,” but the situation in Egypt is more complex. The recent events in Egypt are not simply signs of a healthy revolution, they also include immediate dangers.
Making sense out of a constantly changing, frantic revolution involving millions of people involves unpeeling layers of outer turmoil until the inner motives of different interest groups are exposed. At bottom, the groups vying for power have economic interests at stake; asking “who benefits” is still the best way to navigate a revolution.
For example, in Egypt the freshly-formed “opposition” — to the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government — is a motley crew. After the President announced “emergency powers,” an opposition coalition formed, calling itself the “National Salvation Front,” consisting of different groups united with the ultimate aim to remove President Morsi from power (some members of the coalition revealed their actual motives when the President rescinded the emergency powers decree, but they retained their demand for him to immediately step down). Included in this coalition are sincere revolutionary youth, wealthy 1%’ers and western-backed bureaucrats, as well as “socialists”, unions, and even those with deep connections to the former Mubarak dictatorship like Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister under Mubarak.
The only thing that unites this group is their antagonism to the Muslim Brotherhood. But different groups within the opposition have different reasons for hating the Muslim Brotherhood. The revolutionary youth and socialists want a real democracy, both social and political, and correctly view a religious group in power as being inherently anti-democratic, since it automatically minimizes the rights of religious minorities, like the religious states of Saudi Arabia and Israel do.
However, others in the coalition are anti-Muslim Brotherhood for less virtuous reasons. Those who benefited from the former dictatorship simply want to be back in power where they controlled the government, using it as a giant money trough of parasitic corruption.
The other liberal and affluent groups in the opposition — those not connected to the former regime — aspire towards the same government money trough: they were excluded from state power by the Mubarak regime and now the Muslim Brotherhood dominates the state apparatus and all its perks. This exclusion from power is the real basis for many of these groups crying about democracy; they want a democracy with themselves in power.
In Egypt, the economic interests of different groups are consciously hidden behind religion and abstract notions of democracy. The very wealthy and corporations have no problem acting extra religious or especially democratic if it pushes their interests forward.
But to truly wield power during a revolution implies that you express the interests of the millions who crushed the Mubarak dictatorship. And although it’s true that the new opposition has led massive demonstrations in the streets, it’s also true that the Muslim Brotherhood has led much bigger demonstrations, a fact under-reported in the media.
Another ignored fact is that most people believe — including Egyptian opposition groups — that the Muslim Brotherhood will win the upcoming referendum vote, which is why the opposition is trying to prevent the referendum from happening by causing havoc in the streets, instead of waiting for a more democratic vote.
President Morsi has accused the organizers of these protests to be scheming towards a coup, and there’s likely more than a little truth in this (this was in part the reason he gave for granting himself emergency powers).
It’s certain that the former Mubarak officials in the opposition are thinking along these lines. Some have accused the military and police of provoking violence and intentionally not intervening in protests that killed several people and injured hundreds outside the presidential palace. Similar non-interventions during mob violence happened at a massacre at a soccer game where 75 died, and with attacks against Christian churches. The military are regulars at using such social crises to reclaim their powers via martial law and dictatorship. This threat is real and urgent in Egypt.
And although the Muslim Brotherhood has bent backwards trying to please the military, this can change quickly; the military has a weak allegiance to the Brotherhood and a long history of conflict. It would rather have military-associated politicians in power.
This isn’t to suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood is politically supportable. They’re not. They have been far too friendly to the military and other criminals associated with the former regime. Nor have they done anything to address the economic and social issues that were the real fuel of the revolution. Millions of people participated in the revolution because they wanted to improve their lives. This hasn’t happened. And things are about to get worse under the Muslim Brotherhood government.
For example, the Brotherhood government recently signed off on a loan from the U.S.-dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF), which, as history has repeatedly shown, proves disastrous for the working and poor people of the debtor country by forcing economic policies that favor rich investors at everyone else’s expense.
Moreover, the IMF usually demands privatization of public services that are directed toward helping the poor. One example of a common IMF attack on the public sector is the elimination of government fuel subsides, which lower the price of gasoline and oil used for cooking. This IMF policy has created mini-Arab springs in Jordan and Nigeria; and now Egypt’s IMF loan includes the same attached string. A report on Reuters explains:
If the [Egyptian] government does begin cutting the [fuel] subsidy and publishes a timetable for its eventual removal — probably a minimum IMF demand — then we would expect funds from the IMF and other donor organizations to provide Egypt with breathing space [to fund its government].
At the same time, the IMF loan also helped insure that Egypt’s Mubarak-era miniscule taxes for the wealthy and corporations stay where they are, at 25 percent.
Thus, in one stroke of the pen — signing the IMF debt deal — the Muslim Brotherhood proved in practice that it will continue the economic policies of the wealthy-dominated Mubarak dictatorship.
This economic policy of free-market capitalism of the IMF is agreed to by all of the large anti-Brotherhood “opposition” groups, with the exception of the revolutionary youth and socialist organizations. This is more proof that for many of these groups, the battle for “democracy” is a shallow one, a thin shell of political democracy that doesn’t penetrate into the larger economic sphere. The best expression of this razor-thin democracy is the leader of the opposition coalition,Mohamed ElBaradei, who said that:
“The demands of the revolution were for social justice, freedom and dignity.”
Of course “social justice” is vague enough to be misinterpreted to not include jobs, good wages, adequate social services — the core economic demands of the revolution.
And although the economic voice of the majority of Egyptians is not currently being expressed by any of the main groups vying for power, the demands of working people will inevitably find their way into the larger struggle for power. Voices expressing these demands are already emerging in various parts of the country, where labor and community issues are coming to the forefront. For example, the Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions recently included in their demands:
Re-form the Constituent Assembly with at least 50 percent of the members to be workers and peasants
Guarantee trade union freedoms in the Constitution or the law
Issue a new labor law guaranteeing workers’ rights
Speed up the implementation of a law on minimum and maximum wages, and link these to rising prices
Return of all workers to work who have lost their jobs
It has also been reported the important industrial city of Mahalla — known for its tradition of labor struggles — has declared itself “independent” from the government, and will be run by a “revolutionary council,” although details are still scarce.
Ultimately, the voice of the working Egyptians must be expressed if the revolution is to be pushed forward. However, an urgent question must still be answered immediately: Should the main demand of the opposition — for President Morsi to step down — be supported?
It seems that, at this time, the demand is premature, considering that there has been a recent election that overwhelmingly put the Muslim Brotherhood into power, and that even the opposition admits that the Brotherhood is likely to win its nationwide referendum vote (the large pro-government demonstrations seem to confirm this). The demand thus seems strangely at odds with the current political reality, and thus raises suspicions about some of those demanding it, especially the ex-Mubarak lackeys, who are likely using legitimate popular anger for the purpose of coup-making.
The opposition’s shallow version of democracy cannot be won by ignoring President Morsi’s recently won democratic election. The revolutionary youth in the anti-Brotherhood coalition should strive for an independent path for working people, far away from those associated with the last dictatorship and with those trying to tie Egypt’s economy to the short leash of the U.S. corporate-run IMF.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

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Egypt’s proposed constitution enshrines dictatorial powers and military rule

By Chris Marsden
30 November 2012

Egypt’s Constituent Assembly began voting on Thursday on a new constitution in an aggressive move by the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohammed Mursi.

While it is designed to head-off a possible legal challenge, the more significant aim is to rally the Brotherhood’s social base against the mass protests that came after Mursi granted himself dictatorial powers last Thursday. It is also aimed at preparing a counter-offensive by the military.

The move seeks to pre-empt a ruling on Sunday by the Supreme Constitutional Court that could have dissolved the assembly and ruled on the legitimacy of parliament’s upper chamber, the Islamist-dominated Shura Council. The court dissolved the lower chamber, the People’s Assembly, in June.

The Brotherhood is pushing for a vote on the constitution that would give a pseudo-democratic façade to efforts to consolidate its power and that of the Egyptian military—collectively representing the dominant forces within the bourgeoisie. Once passed, Mursi must put the constitution to a referendum within 15 days. Elections would follow in early 2013.

In an interview on Egyptian state television Thursday night, Mursi said that if the new constitution is approved, last week’s decree “will no longer apply.” The implication is that if the constitution is not passed, Mursi will continue to assert unlimited executive powers.

While it has received very little attention, by far the most important element of the new constitution is its efforts to preserve the privileges and power of the military. This is aimed at reforging the alliance between the Brotherhood and the army, on which the fate of the bourgeoisie depends if it is to face off the growing popular opposition.

The Constituent Assembly approved articles stipulating that the military budget will still not be subject to parliamentary oversight. This is vital first to conceal the massive involvement of the military in the economy, which controls an estimated 40 percent of GDP. It is also aimed at concealing from the working class the the extent of the military’s repressive apparatus.

The constitution also contains an article allowing the Military Prosecution to try civilians for crimes that “harm the Armed Forces,” as proposed by the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party leader Mohamed al-Beltagy.

It establishes a National Defense Council, headed by Mursi and including the prime minister; the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, finance and interior; the chief of intelligence; the chief of staff of the Armed Forces; the commanders of the Navy, the Air Force and the Air Defense Force; the commander of operations of the Armed Forces; and the chief of military intelligence. The defence minister, according to a related article, must be an army officer and act as the commander in chief of the Armed Forces.

This council will decide on national security issues, the military budget and be consulted on all future laws relating to the military. The article allows for further unspecified powers to be granted to the council.

There could not be a clearer blueprint for a future military dictatorship.

Mursi has in addition attempted to combine efforts to utilise religious prejudice to rally the more backward layers of workers and peasants with a rejection of the more extreme demands of his allies in the Salafist groups. This is so as to make it easier for the United States and the European powers to support his power-grab. The assembly therefore voted to keep sharia, or Islamic law, as the “main source of legislation”—as under the deposed regime of Hosni Mubarak.


However, the constitution does not include calls by the al-Nour Party to have reference to the “principles” of sharia law replaced by “rules.” It also states that Christianity and Judaism will be the “main source of legislation” for Egyptian Christians and Jews. Article 219 defines Islamic law in terms of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence, enshrined in the authoritative role of the Al-Azhar Mosque and University.

Mursi’s declaration last week ruled that there could be no appeal against constitutional decrees made since he came to power, and that he could take any measures to “preserve the revolution” or safeguard national security. In the face of growing opposition involving protests of hundreds of thousands, Mursi pledged to abandon these powers as soon as a new constitution was in place. He reassured senior judges, most with ties to the old regime, that the decrees would be restricted to “sovereign matters” aimed at protecting institutions and would therefore allow them to sleep soundly in their exceedingly comfortable beds. The judiciary nevertheless called an unprecedented strike.

The new constitution makes clear that the Brotherhood has no intention of giving up the powers it has claimed. The Constituent Assembly passed an article giving the Shura Council the power to issue legislation until a new lower house of parliament is elected. Thus the powers accrued by Mursi have simply been transferred to a body dominated by the Islamists.

The Brotherhood was openly contemptuous of its bourgeois opponents. Eleven of the liberal members of the Constituent Assembly that withdrew in protest at Mursi’s earlier decree, along with representatives of Egypt’s three main churches, were summarily replaced. Such contempt is fuelled by the understanding that the overriding concern of the opposition parties is to ensure that hostility to Mursi and the Brotherhood is kept within limits that do not threaten the fundamental interests of the Egyptian bourgeoisie and its imperialist backers.

One of the eleven removed from the panel, former foreign minister under Mubarak and failed presidential candidate Amr Mousa, meekly complained to Reuters, “This is nonsensical and one of the steps that shouldn’t be taken, given the background of anger and resentment to the current constitutional assembly.”

Mohamed Abdel-Alim Dawoud of the Wafd party, who also withdrew, similarly warned, “If the Brotherhood continue this way, it will heat up matters further because there is no intention to reach consensus.”

Mursi bases his calculations on the green light he has been given by the Western powers. Washington and its allies see the Brotherhood first as an important force for order in the Middle East, as has been demonstrated in its role in establishing pro-Western regimes in Tunisia and Libya, in the opposition movement in Syria and in the recent efforts of Mursi to secure a cease-fire in the aftermath of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. They are also looking for the Brotherhood to work with the army in suppressing mounting opposition to austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund, which have already provoked a wave of strikes.

On Wednesday Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr told reporters while attending a meeting in Berlin with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle that political unrest would not affect Egypt’s negotiations with the IMF for a $4.8 billion loan. That same day, the cabinet unveiled its economic reform programme pledging to slash the budget deficit from 11 percent for the 2011/12 fiscal year to less than 5 percent by 2016/17 through brutal cuts.

A mass protest against Mursi takes place today, called by his official opponents. But with a growing threat of military repression, everything now depends upon the mass of workers and poor farmers breaking from such bourgeois forces and taking up a struggle for independent organs of workers power and for a workers’ government.

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Mass protests against Egyptian President Mursi

By Johannes Stern 
28 November 2012
The crowds at Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday [Photo: Lilian Wagdy]
Hundreds of thousands protested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and throughout Egypt yesterday against Islamist president Mohamed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
In scenes recalling the initial days of the Egyptian Revolution, which led to the downfall of former dictator Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, the Egyptian masses are again demanding the ouster of a US-backed despot. Amongst the most popular chants were, “Down, down, Mursi-Mubarak” and “Mursi you coward, you agent of the Americans.”
Unrest has been growing throughout the country since Mursi issued a constitutional decree last Thursday claiming all legislative, constitutional, executive and judicial powers.
Mursi’s bid for dictatorial powers is backed by US-imperialism. It came immediately after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thanked Mursi personally for his reliability to Washington during the brutal Israeli onslaught against Gaza. Mursi is also backing the US war drive against Syria and ultimately Iran.
Throughout the day, mass marches convened on Tahrir Square including protesters from all walks of life. Hundreds of artists marched from the Cairo Opera crossing Qasr al-Nil Bridge chanting “Down with the constitutional declaration.”
In the afternoon, a demonstration by thousands of lawyers entered the square. According to the judges club, 99 percent of Egypt’s courts and prosecutors had stopped work and started a strike against Mursi’s decree, which bars judicial review of his decisions and basically eliminates the judiciary.
The biggest marches, with tens of thousands of protesters, began in the working class neighborhood of Shubra in the north of Cairo, from Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandiseen and from Fatah Mosque in Ramsis Square. Thousands traveled from other governorates to Cairo to join the anti-Mursi demonstrations.
In the evening hours, far more than 100,000 protesters gathered in the square and the surrounding streets, with chants of “Irhal, Irhal” (leave, leave) echoing through downtown Cairo.
Throughout the day, heavy clashes took place in Simon Bolivar Square behind the US Embassy where Mursi’s Central Security Forces (CSF) attacked hundreds of youth with tear gas and rubber bullets. The protesters hurled stones back at the hated CSF units, which have been increasing their violent crackdown in recent days.
Since the outbreak of the clashes last Monday, hundreds of protesters have been detained by police and over 400 have been injured. So far, three protesters have been killed. Yesterday, Fatehy Gareb, a member of the Socialist Alliance Party suffocated from tear gas. Before that, 18-year-old Ahmed Naguib and 19-year-old Gaber “Jika” Salah, a member of the April 6 Movement, were gunned down by police.
Marches of students from the capital’s three main universities—Cairo University, Ain Shams and Helwan—arrived in the late evening commemorating the martyrs. “Gaber Jika is dead and the president is responsible,” and “Kill us, no matter what, your tyranny will not affect us,” they chanted. They carried banners demanding: “Down with the supreme guide’s rule.”
Protests took place in all major Egyptian cities. In the coastal city of Alexandria, tens of thousands took to the streets. Protests were also staged in Suez, Mansoura, Aswan, Damietta, Bani Suef, Fayoum, Luxor, Tanta, Zagazig and Mahalla.
The anti-Brotherhood protests were called by various liberal and pseudo-left groups, including El-Baradei’s Constitution Party, the Nasserite Karama Party led by former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi and the liberal Free Egyptians Party founded by billionaire tycoon Naguib Sawiris. Other organizations participating were the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the April 6 Youth Movement, Kifaya, the Tagammu’ Party, the Revolutionary Socialists (RS) and others.
A class gulf separates these parties and the masses of workers and youth who are calling for the ouster of Mursi and the downfall of the regime.
Five months after the election of Mursi, the counterrevolutionary character of his regime is revealed before the Eyptian masses. “Power has exposed the Brotherhood. We discovered their true face,” explained Laila Salah, a housewife, who said she voted for Mursi in the presidential election but is now protesting on Tahrir Square. After Mubarak, she said, “Egyptians will no longer accept being ruled by an autocrat.”
The perspective of the secular and liberal opposition, however, is not to bring down Mursi in a mass revolutionary struggle. Despite their sharp factional conflict with the MB over how to distribute power and wealth inside the state machine, their goal is to reach a compromise with the Islamists. In a statement—presented by leading RS member Haitham Mohammadein at the headquarters of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party in Cairo on Monday—the groups called upon Mursi to cancel his decree and put forward a program ensuring “transitional justice”.
In the last months the RS promoted Mursi to the hilt. They supported Mursi in the elections and sought to promote Mursi and the MB as revolutionary forces. After Mursi was declared president in June, Sameh Naguib, a leading RS member, celebrated his ascendance as “a real victory for the Egyptian masses and a real victory for the Egyptian revolution.”
As workers and youth turn against Mursi’s dictatorship, the pseudo-left groups seek to uphold the illusion that democracy can be achieved under Islamist rule and within the framework of the bourgeois state. The renewed struggles, however, make ever clearer the far deeper tasks facing the Egyptian revolution: the overthrow of the bourgeois state by a socialist revolution, led by the working class, to eliminate capitalist relations and imperialist rule in the Middle East.
Both factions of the Egyptian ruling elite seek to prevent such a struggle by any means and fear a situation which could lead to a massive strike wave of the working class on a scale of the one that brought down Mubarak in February 2011. The last months have already witnessed one of the largest strike waves since the ouster of Mubarak, and yesterday’s protests were joined by textile workers in Mahalla.
Through the night, clashes between anti-Mursi protesters and MB supporters were reported in Mahalla, with over 300 hundred people injured. In Alexandria, the MB’s headquarters was stormed by angry protesters. Another headquarters was set afire in Mansoura. Reportedly, the security forces refused to protect the office. Several FJP headquarters in major cities have been attacked in recent days. The MB reportedly called upon the army to protect its headquarters in the Moqattam district in Cairo.
Having received the backing of Washington, Mursi and the MB are so far unwilling to make any concessions to their secular rivals and are rather preparing for massive repression. The MB accused their opponents of “not caring about the country’s national interests,” and Prime Minister Hisham Kandil threatened that his government will confront saboteurs. Gehad el-Haddad, a senior adviser to the MB, said Mursi would “not rescind the declaration.”

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Egyptian Islamists clash with liberals and pseudo-left groups on Tahrir Square

By Johannes Stern 
15 October 2012
Clashes erupted between followers of the ruling Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the secular liberal and pseudo-left opposition on Tahrir Square in Cairo on Friday.
Fighting reportedly began after protesters chanted slogans against the MB and Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Mursi. The Islamists reacted by destroying a stage set up by the Popular Egyptian Current of Nasserite politician Hamdeen Sabahi and physically attacking their opponents. Clashes then broke out throughout the square and the surrounding streets, lasting hours.
In chaotic scenes protesters on both sides threw stones and Molotov cocktails at each other. Two microbuses used to carry Brotherhood members to the square were set ablaze. At one entrance of the square, the petty-bourgeois Revolutionary Socialists (RS) and the Muslim Brotherhood clashed as the RS tried to prevent the Islamists from entering the square. Throughout the day, dozens of protesters on both sides were wounded. Security forces were completely absent from the scene.
The clashes reflect mounting tensions inside the Egyptian political establishment over how to distribute power and influence inside the Egyptian state machine, after a revolutionary upsurge in the working class ousted long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak in February of last year.
One of the most contentious subjects of this internal struggle is Egypt’s new constitution. The Constituent Assembly, tasked with drafting the document, is controlled by the Brotherhood and the Salafist Nur Party who won the parliamentary elections in November last year. Secular groups criticize the Constituent Assembly for not representing the other political forces and social groups inside Egypt and demand a reshuffling or dissolution of the body.
Last Wednesday a partial draft of the new constitution was published, largely modeled after Egypt’s 1971 constitution but more tilted towards Islamic Sharia law. The secular opposition criticized it, and several lawsuits were filed against the assembly’s constitutionality. Next Tuesday Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court is expected to rule on the validity of the assembly, possibly dissolving it and thus also voiding the proposed draft.
The court ruling will be another showdown between the ruling Islamists and the judiciary, which largely consists of Mubarak-era appointees. Already in June the High Constitutional Court ruled the People’s Assembly unconstitutional. It was subsequently dissolved by the then-ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) military junta.
After Mursi’s election and his counter-coup against SCAF, struggles inside the Egyptian ruling elite are again intensifying.
The Friday protests, dubbed “Accountability Friday,” were initially called by a broad coalition of liberal and pseudo-left groups, mainly to protest the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly. Some also criticized Mursi for failing to fulfill his promises in the first 100 days of his rule.
Participants included Mohamed El Baradei’s National Association for Change and his newly founded Constitution Party, Sabahi’s Popular Egyptian Current, the April 6 Movement, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the liberal Wafd Party, the Democratic Revolutionary Alliance (a coalition of various pseudo-left groups), and the Revolutionary Socialists.
On Thursday the Brotherhood, the Nur Party and other Islamist forces called for simultaneous protests on Tahrir Square against the acquittal of 25 Mubarak regime figures by the Cairo Criminal Court on Wednesday. The accused were charged with involvement in the so-called Battle of the Camels on February 2 last year—when Mubarak thugs attacked protesters on Tahrir Square in the initial days of the revolution. Mursi subsequently tried to remove Egypt’s prosecutor general Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, but backed down on Saturday.
Both groups, the ruling Islamists and the liberal or pseudo-left forces sought to present their Friday protests as “revolutionary.” But in fact neither of these camps expresses the interests of the Egyptian workers and youth, the main force behind the Egyptian revolution. They represent two factions of bourgeois Egyptian politics fighting over influence and positions inside the post-Mubarak state.
Neither camp has any significant popular basis amongst the working class, which increasingly views all the Egyptian bourgeoisie’s parties with contempt. The working class responded to calls for the Friday protests with a show of mass abstention. There is a sense amongst workers that the groups calling for protests are not fighting for the demands of the revolution.
Not long ago, the contending groups were collaborating closely against the working class. In the parliamentary elections last November, Hamdeen Sabahi and his Karama Party formed an electoral alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood. The RS supported Mursi in the presidential elections earlier this year, calling the Muslim Brotherhood a revolutionary force that could be pressured “to complete the objectives of the revolution.”
However the Brotherhood—now in power and in control of the presidency—is increasingly moving not only against the working class, but also against its former political allies.
The Islamists are clearly using these clashes to increase repression in Egypt. In a statement issued on Saturday, the Brotherhood declared that their members were attacked first and that the violence was committed by thugs. The statement demands “that the security forces arrest these criminals and put them on trial with all the other thugs facing prosecution.”
It also demands that all political forces “put the country’s interest above all personal and party interests and to hold the love for their country higher than the hate of the Brotherhood.”
The main target of the repression will be the working class. In the last weeks and months Mursi’s security forces repeatedly cracked down on protests and strikes of workers and youth, arresting hundreds. A recent report by the Nadim Human Rights Center revealed that at least 34 people were killed by the police in custody and at least 88 tortured in the first 100 days of Mursi’s rule.
The pseudo-left groups, which are now themselves coming under attack by the Islamists, are unable to mount any principled fight against the repression. Organically tied to the bourgeoisie and the state, they responded with impotent appeals to the Islamist government to intervene and protect them against the Islamist supporters on the streets.
On Saturday a coalition of the pseudo-left and liberal parties issued a statement calling upon Mursi to investigate the assault.
Amin Iskandar of Sabahi’s Popular Egyptian Current went even further, blaming the forces of the interior ministry for failing to protect the protesters. Their “neutrality” had only benefited the Muslim Brotherhood, he said.

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Egypt’s New Leader Spells Out Terms for U.S.-Arab Ties

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and STEVEN ERLANGER
September 23, 2012 “New York Times” – – CAIRO — On the eve of his first trip to the United States as Egypt’s new Islamist president,Mohamed Morsi said the United States needed to fundamentally change its approach to the Arab world, showing greater respect for its values and helping build a Palestinian state, if it hoped to overcome decades of pent-up anger.
A former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mr. Morsi sought in a 90-minute interview with The New York Times to introduce himself to the American public and to revise the terms of relations between his country and the United States after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, an autocratic but reliable ally.
He said it was up to Washington to repair relations with the Arab world and to revitalize the alliance with Egypt, long a cornerstone of regional stability.
If Washington is asking Egypt to honor its treaty with Israel, he said, Washington should also live up to its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule. He said the United States must respect the Arab world’s history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values.
And he dismissed criticism from the White House that he did not move fast enough to condemn protesters who recently climbed over the United States Embassy wall and burned the American flag in anger over a video that mocked the Prophet Muhammad.
“We took our time” in responding to avoid an explosive backlash, he said, but then dealt “decisively” with the small, violent element among the demonstrators.
“We can never condone this kind of violence, but we need to deal with the situation wisely,” he said, noting that the embassy employees were never in danger.
Mr. Morsi, who will travel to New York on Sunday for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, arrives at a delicate moment. He faces political pressure at home to prove his independence, but demands from the West for reassurance that Egypt under Islamist rule will remain a stable partner.
Mr. Morsi, 61, whose office was still adorned with nautical paintings that Mr. Mubarak left behind, said the United States should not expect Egypt to live by its rules.
“If you want to judge the performance of the Egyptian people by the standards of German or Chinese or American culture, then there is no room for judgment,” he said. “When the Egyptians decide something, probably it is not appropriate for the U.S. When the Americans decide something, this, of course, is not appropriate for Egypt.”
He suggested that Egypt would not be hostile to the West, but would not be as compliant as Mr. Mubarak either.
“Successive American administrations essentially purchased with American taxpayer money the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of the region,” he said, by backing dictatorial governments over popular opposition and supporting Israel over the Palestinians.
He initially sought to meet with President Obama at the White House during his visit this week, but he received a cool reception, aides to both presidents said. Mindful of the complicated election-year politics of a visit with Egypt’s Islamist leader, Mr. Morsi dropped his request.
His silence in the immediate aftermath of the embassy protest elicited a tense telephone call from Mr. Obama, who also told a television interviewer that at that moment he did not consider Egypt an ally, if not an enemy either. When asked if he considered the United States an ally, Mr. Morsi answered in English, “That depends on your definition of ally,” smiling at his deliberate echo of Mr. Obama. But he said he envisioned the two nations as “real friends.”
Mr. Morsi spoke in an ornate palace that Mr. Mubarak inaugurated three decades ago, a world away from the Nile Delta farm where the new president grew up, or the prison cells where he had been confined by Mr. Mubarak for his role in the Brotherhood. Three months after his swearing-in, the most noticeable change to the presidential office was a plaque on his desk bearing the Koranic admonition, “Be conscious of a day on which you will return to God.”
A stocky figure with a trim beard and wire-rim glasses, he earned a doctorate in materials science at the University of Southern California in the early 1980s. He spoke with an easy confidence in his new authority, reveling in an approval rating he said was at 70 percent. When he grew animated, he slipped from Arabic into crisp English.
Little known at home or abroad until just a few months ago, he was the Brotherhood’s second choice as a presidential nominee after the first choice was disqualified. On the night of the election, the generals who had ruled since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster issued a decree keeping most presidential powers for themselves.
But last month Mr. Morsi confounded all expectations by prying full executive authority back from the generals. In the interview, when an interpreter suggested that the generals had “decided” to exit politics, Mr. Morsi quickly corrected him.
“No, no, it is not that they ‘decided’ to do it,” he interjected in English, determined to clarify that it was he who removed them. “This is the will of the Egyptian people through the elected president, right?
“The president of the Arab Republic of Egypt is the commander of the armed forces, full stop. Egypt now is a real civil state. It is not theocratic, it is not military. It is democratic, free, constitutional, lawful and modern.”
He added, “We are behaving according to the Egyptian people’s choice and will, nothing else — is it clear?”
He praised Mr. Obama for moving “decisively and quickly” to support the Arab Spring revolutions, and he said he believed that Americans supported “the right of the people of the region to enjoy the same freedoms that Americans have.”
Arabs and Americans have “a shared objective, each to live free in their own land, according to their customs and values, in a fair and democratic fashion,” he said, adding that he hoped for “a harmonious, peaceful coexistence.”
But he also argued that Americans “have a special responsibility” for the Palestinians because the United States had signed the 1978 Camp David accord. The agreement called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza to make way for full Palestinian self-rule.
“As long as peace and justice are not fulfilled for the Palestinians, then the treaty remains unfulfilled,” he said.
He made no apologies for his roots in the Brotherhood, the insular religious revival group that was Mr. Mubarak’s main opposition and now dominates Egyptian politics.
“I grew up with the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “I learned my principles in the Muslim Brotherhood. I learned how to love my country with the Muslim Brotherhood. I learned politics with the Brotherhood. I was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
He left the group when he took office but remains a member of its political party. But he said he sees “absolutely no conflict” between his loyalty to the Brotherhood and his vows to govern on behalf of all, including members of the Christian minority or those with more secular views.
“I prove my independence by taking the correct acts for my country,” he said. “If I see something good from the Muslim Brotherhood, I will take it. If I see something better in the Wafd” — Egypt’s oldest liberal party — “I will take it.”
He repeatedly vowed to uphold equal citizenship rights of all Egyptians, regardless of religion, sex or class. But he stood by the religious arguments he once made as a Brotherhood leader that neither a woman nor a Christian would be a suitable president.
“We are talking about values, beliefs, cultures, history, reality,” he said. He said the Islamic position on presidential eligibility was a matter for Muslim scholars to decide, not him. But regardless of his own views or the Brotherhood’s, he said, civil law was another matter.
“I will not prevent a woman from being nominated as a candidate for the presidential campaign,” he said. “This is not in the Constitution. This is not in the law. But if you want to ask me if I will vote for her or not, that is something else, that is different.”
He was also eager to reminisce about his taste of American culture as a graduate student at the University of Southern California. “Go, Trojans!” he said, and he remembered learning about the world from Barbara Walters in the morning and Walter Cronkite at night. “And that’s the way it is!” Mr. Morsi said with a smile.
But he also displayed some ambivalence. He effused about his admiration for American work habits, punctuality and time management. But when an interpreter said that Mr. Morsi had “learned a lot” in the United States, he quickly interjected a qualifier in English: “Scientifically!”
He was troubled by the gangs and street of violence of Los Angeles, he said, and dismayed by the West’s looser sexual mores, mentioning couples living together out of wedlock and what he called “naked restaurants,” like Hooters.
“I don’t admire that,” he said. “But that is the society. They are living their way.”
© 2012 The New York Times Company

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Morsi Delivers his Calling Card

By Pepe Escobar

August 31, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – You’d better not mess with Muslim Brother Morsi.

Straight out of “communist” China – where he secured a red carpet welcome from President Hu Jintao and vice-president Xi Jinping – the Egyptian president lands in “evil” Iran as a true Arab world leader. [1]
Imagine conducting a poll in Tampa, Florida, among delegates at the Republican convention anointing the dodgy Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan duo as their presidential ticket. Chances are Morsi would be ranked worse than Hitler (oh no; that was Saddam. Or maybe Osama. Or maybe Ahmadinejad … ) geopolitical divide. On one side, the 1% crowd yelling for blood – be it from Barack Obama or from assorted Muslims. On the other side, the bulk of the real “international community”, practically the whole global South (including observers such as China, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico) refusing to bend over to imperial military/financial diktats. Reaffirming its impeccable journalistic credentials, US corporate media dismisses it all as just “a Third World jamboree”. 
Anyway, the big news is that Egypt is back. In other news, the Washington-Tel Aviv axis is apoplectic. 
Morsi may be walking like the proverbial Egyptian in popular imagination; sideways. In fact he’s advancing all the time. By now it’s clear that Egypt’s new foreign policy if focused on restoring Cairo, historically the intellectual hub of the Arab world, to its leadership position – usurped by the oil-rich barbarians from the House of Saud during those decades when Egypt was a mere lowly servant of Washington’s geopolitical designs. 
Those were the (long gone) days – over three decades ago – when Tehran broke relations with Cairo over Egypt’s signing of the Camp David accords. Morsi’s attendance of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran may not yet signal the return of full diplomatic relations, as Morsi spokesman Yasser Ali has been spinning. But it’s an earth-shattering diplomatic coup. 
Enter the new great game 
A quick recap is in order. Morsi’s first crucial foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia, for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting in Mecca. The House of Saud regards the Muslim Brotherhood with extreme suspicion, to say the least. Right after that Morsi got a personal visit from the Emir of Qatar, and a US$2 billion check with no strings attached; then he immediately sacked the old leadership of the Orwellian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). 
Meanwhile, Morsi had already launched Egypt’s plan to solve the interminable Syrian tragedy; a contact group uniting Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. No Syrian solution will be achieved without these key foreign players – with Egypt being careful to position itself as the mediator between Iran and Turkey/Saudi interests (which amount to the same; in 2008 Turkey struck a strategic, political, economic and security accord with the GCC). 
With just one stroke, Morsi cut off the head of a fake snake being sold to Washington for years by the Jordanian King Playstation and the House of Saud; that of an “evil” Shi’ite crescent from Iran to Lebanon via Iraq and Syria undermining the “stability” of the Middle East. 
What Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and Jordan’s younger Abdullah II in fact fear is the unrest and rage of their own populations, not to mention the mere idea of democracy; it’s easy to blame rampant Shi’ism for everything because Washington is gullible – or expedient – enough to buy it. 
The “Shi’ite crescent” myth can be debunked in a number of ways. Here’s just one – that I have witnessed in person, on the spot, for quite a while during the mid-2000s. Tehran knows that the majority of Iraq’s powerful clergy are totally adverse to the Khomeinist concept of the Islamic Republic. No wonder Tehran is very much worried about the renaissance of Najaf in Iraq as the premier holy city in Shi’ite Islam, to the detriment of Qom in Iran. 
Washington buys this propaganda because it’s right at the heart of the New Great Game. Whatever the administration in place, from Bush to Obama and beyond, a key Washington obsession is to neutralize what is seen as a Shi’ite axis from Lebanon, via Syria and Iraq, across Iran and all the way to Afghanistan. 
A mere look at the map tells us this axis is at center of the humongous US military deployment in Asia – facing China and Russia. Obviously the best intel in Beijing and Moscow has identified it for years. 
The Russians and the Chinese see how the Pentagon “manages” – indirectly – a great deal of the region’s oil reserves, including the Shi’ite northeast of Saudi Arabia. And they see how Iran – as the gravity center of the whole region – cannot but be Washington’s ultimate obsession. The nuclear row is just a pretext – the only one in the market, actually. Ultimately, it’s not a matter of destroying Iran, but of subjugating it to the condition of a docile ally. 
Into this hardcore power play steps in Brother Morsi, reshuffling a deck of cards as lightning quick as a Sheldon Adelson-employed Macau croupier. What might have taken months and perhaps years – the sidelining of the old SCAF leadership, Qatar being privileged to the detriment of Saudi Arabia, a presidential visit to Tehran, Egypt stepping up as a leader of the Arab world – was accomplished in barely two months. 
Of course it will all depend on how the Egypt-Iran relationship develops, and whether Qatar – and even Iran – are able to help the Muslim Brotherhood to keep Egypt from not collapsing (there’s no money for anything; a $36 billion annual deficit; nearly half the population is illiterate; and the country imports half of its food). 
Take me back to Camp David
The immediate problem with Egypt’s contact group for Syria is that Turkey – in yet another stance of its spectacularly counter-productive foreign policy – decided to boycott NAM. Yet Egypt is undeterred, proposing to add Iraq and Algeria to the contact group. [2] 
And in steps Tehran with yet another diplomatic “sweeping” proposal, according to the Foreign Ministry; a NAM troika of Egypt, Iran and Venezuela, plus Syria’s neighbors Iraq and Lebanon. So everybody wants to talk – apart, given the evidence, from Turkey. Tehran’s proposal is fully supported by Russia. 
And just as US corporate media coverage was reveling in the hate speeches at the millionaires’ convention in Tampa, “isolated” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei meets with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Tehran and calls for a nuclear-free Middle East. [3] 
Not exactly the stance of a “new Hitler” who wants a nuclear bomb … yesterday, as the warmongering Bibi-Barak duo in Israel ceaselessly spin. And certainly a very popular global South denunciation of Washington’s cosmic hypocrisy of willfully ignoring Israel’s nuclear arsenal while squeezing Iran for its nuclear program. 
Needless to say, none of this has been reported by US corporate media. 
Meanwhile, all global South eyes are on Morsi. They way things are moving, it’s not far-fetched to imagine the Muslim Brotherhood playing the Camp David card sooner or later. In that case, expect Washington to go ballistic – and even time travel to 1970s Latin America, as in promoting (yet another) military coup. 
The bottom line is, if the Muslim Brotherhood really articulates an independent foreign policy over the next few months, with even a hint that Camp David should be renegotiated (over 90% of Egyptians would support it), the warmongering Bibi-Barak duo had better get real. 


Notes:
1. See here for China Daily report.
2. See here
3. See here

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan(Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com (Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd.

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China, Egypt Back Palestine’s Statehood

By Xinhua
.

BEIJING, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) — China and Egypt have reaffirmed their support for an independent State of Palestine, according to a joint press communique issued here on Thursday.

The independent state should have full sovereignty established on the basis of the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, said the communique, which also backed Palestine’s participation in the United Nations and other international organizations.
The document was released after Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s three-day state visit to China concluded early on Thursday morning.
It said China and Egypt support the international community in intensifying efforts to promote dialogues to finally solve the “Palestine question” through peaceful talks in a comprehensive and justified way.
China has spoken highly of Egypt’s contribution on promoting peace between Palestine and Israel, and the country’s promotion of internal compromise in Palestine, said the communique.
It added that Egypt appreciates China’s efforts on supporting the just cause of the Palestinian people and safeguarding peace and stability in the Middle East.

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Morsi delivers his calling card

By Pepe Escobar 

You’d better not mess with Muslim Brother Morsi. 

Straight out of “communist” China – where he secured a red carpet welcome from President Hu Jintao and vice-president Xi Jinping – the Egyptian president lands in “evil” Iran as a true Arab world leader. [1] 
Imagine conducting a poll in Tampa, Florida, among delegates at the Republican convention anointing the dodgy Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan duo as their presidential ticket. Chances are Morsi would be ranked worse than Hitler (oh no; that was Saddam. Or maybe Osama. Or maybe Ahmadinejad … ) 
Tampa-Tehran. Talk about the ultimate snapshot of the current geopolitical divide. On one side, the 1% crowd yelling for blood – be it from Barack Obama or from assorted Muslims. On the other side, the bulk of the real “international community”, practically the whole global South (including observers such as China, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico) refusing to bend over to imperial military/financial diktats. Reaffirming its impeccable journalistic credentials, US corporate media dismisses it all as just “a Third World jamboree”. 
Anyway, the big news is that Egypt is back. In other news, the Washington-Tel Aviv axis is apoplectic. 
Morsi may be walking like the proverbial Egyptian in popular imagination; sideways. In fact he’s advancing all the time. By now it’s clear that Egypt’s new foreign policy if focused on restoring Cairo, historically the intellectual hub of the Arab world, to its leadership position – usurped by the oil-rich barbarians from the House of Saud during those decades when Egypt was a mere lowly servant of Washington’s geopolitical designs. 
Those were the (long gone) days – over three decades ago – when Tehran broke relations with Cairo over Egypt’s signing of the Camp David accords. Morsi’s attendance of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran may not yet signal the return of full diplomatic relations, as Morsi spokesman Yasser Ali has been spinning. But it’s an earth-shattering diplomatic coup. 
Enter the new great game 
A quick recap is in order. Morsi’s first crucial foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia, for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting in Mecca. The House of Saud regards the Muslim Brotherhood with extreme suspicion, to say the least. Right after that Morsi got a personal visit from the Emir of Qatar, and a US$2 billion check with no strings attached; then he immediately sacked the old leadership of the Orwellian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). 
Meanwhile, Morsi had already launched Egypt’s plan to solve the interminable Syrian tragedy; a contact group uniting Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. No Syrian solution will be achieved without these key foreign players – with Egypt being careful to position itself as the mediator between Iran and Turkey/Saudi interests (which amount to the same; in 2008 Turkey struck a strategic, political, economic and security accord with the GCC). 
With just one stroke, Morsi cut off the head of a fake snake being sold to Washington for years by the Jordanian King Playstation and the House of Saud; that of an “evil” Shi’ite crescent from Iran to Lebanon via Iraq and Syria undermining the “stability” of the Middle East. 
What Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and Jordan’s younger Abdullah II in fact fear is the unrest and rage of their own populations, not to mention the mere idea of democracy; it’s easy to blame rampant Shi’ism for everything because Washington is gullible – or expedient – enough to buy it. 
The “Shi’ite crescent” myth can be debunked in a number of ways. Here’s just one – that I have witnessed in person, on the spot, for quite a while during the mid-2000s. Tehran knows that the majority of Iraq’s powerful clergy are totally adverse to the Khomeinist concept of the Islamic Republic. No wonder Tehran is very much worried about the renaissance of Najaf in Iraq as the premier holy city in Shi’ite Islam, to the detriment of Qom in Iran. 
Washington buys this propaganda because it’s right at the heart of the New Great Game. Whatever the administration in place, from Bush to Obama and beyond, a key Washington obsession is to neutralize what is seen as a Shi’ite axis from Lebanon, via Syria and Iraq, across Iran and all the way to Afghanistan. 
A mere look at the map tells us this axis is at center of the humongous US military deployment in Asia – facing China and Russia. Obviously the best intel in Beijing and Moscow has identified it for years. 
The Russians and the Chinese see how the Pentagon “manages” – indirectly – a great deal of the region’s oil reserves, including the Shi’ite northeast of Saudi Arabia. And they see how Iran – as the gravity center of the whole region – cannot but be Washington’s ultimate obsession. The nuclear row is just a pretext – the only one in the market, actually. Ultimately, it’s not a matter of destroying Iran, but of subjugating it to the condition of a docile ally. 
Into this hardcore power play steps in Brother Morsi, reshuffling a deck of cards as lightning quick as a Sheldon Adelson-employed Macau croupier. What might have taken months and perhaps years – the sidelining of the old SCAF leadership, Qatar being privileged to the detriment of Saudi Arabia, a presidential visit to Tehran, Egypt stepping up as a leader of the Arab world – was accomplished in barely two months. 
Of course it will all depend on how the Egypt-Iran relationship develops, and whether Qatar – and even Iran – are able to help the Muslim Brotherhood to keep Egypt from not collapsing (there’s no money for anything; a $36 billion annual deficit; nearly half the population is illiterate; and the country imports half of its food). 
Take me back to Camp David
The immediate problem with Egypt’s contact group for Syria is that Turkey – in yet another stance of its spectacularly counter-productive foreign policy – decided to boycott NAM. Yet Egypt is undeterred, proposing to add Iraq and Algeria to the contact group. [2] 
And in steps Tehran with yet another diplomatic “sweeping” proposal, according to the Foreign Ministry; a NAM troika of Egypt, Iran and Venezuela, plus Syria’s neighbors Iraq and Lebanon. So everybody wants to talk – apart, given the evidence, from Turkey. Tehran’s proposal is fully supported by Russia. 
And just as US corporate media coverage was reveling in the hate speeches at the millionaires’ convention in Tampa, “isolated” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei meets with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Tehran and calls for a nuclear-free Middle East. [3] 
Not exactly the stance of a “new Hitler” who wants a nuclear bomb … yesterday, as the warmongering Bibi-Barak duo in Israel ceaselessly spin. And certainly a very popular global South denunciation of Washington’s cosmic hypocrisy of willfully ignoring Israel’s nuclear arsenal while squeezing Iran for its nuclear program. 
Needless to say, none of this has been reported by US corporate media. 
Meanwhile, all global South eyes are on Morsi. They way things are moving, it’s not far-fetched to imagine the Muslim Brotherhood playing the Camp David card sooner or later. In that case, expect Washington to go ballistic – and even time travel to 1970s Latin America, as in promoting (yet another) military coup. 
The bottom line is, if the Muslim Brotherhood really articulates an independent foreign policy over the next few months, with even a hint that Camp David should be renegotiated (over 90% of Egyptians would support it), the warmongering Bibi-Barak duo had better get real. 


Notes:
1. See here for China Daily report. 
2. See here
3. See here 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). 

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com (Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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A Brotherhood coup in Egypt

By Victor Kotsev 

Egypt’s ostensibly inexperienced president Mohammed Morsi accomplished nothing short of a coup d’etat on Sunday when he replaced the men who were widely seen as Egypt’s rulers – Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and Lieutenant general Sami Anan, among others – and shredded the latest constitutional amendment issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). 
The SCAF, its rule undercut by the collapse of authority in the Sinai peninsula and by last week’s cross-border terror attack (which cost the lives of 16 soldiers and caught the Egyptians unprepared despite a “detailed intelligence warning”), conceded. However, it is uncertain what its true motives and intentions are, as is the precise magnitude, in practical terms, of the Muslim Brotherhood’s spectacular victory. Many eyes, both in the region and farther away, are fixed on Egypt as the intrigue unfolds. 
It remains unclear what exactly transpired in the days and hours prior to Sunday afternoon’s surprise announcement. The fact that General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Tantawi’s replacement as defense minister and army chief, is nearly two decades younger than him has raised the possibility of an internal army coup. The sharp generational divide in the army’s higher echelon and the unwillingness of the older generals to share some of their power with younger colleagues has been a liability for the SCAF since the ouster of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, himself an octogenarian air force general. 
As Shadi Hamid from the Brookings Doha Center wrote on his Twitter account, “What we saw today in Egypt increasingly seems like a mix of a civilian counter-coup and a coordinated coup within the military itself.” 
Despite rumors of an impending army coup against Morsi, which may have something to do with his actions, for at least a couple of weeks now there were signs that the power of Tantawi and the SCAF was waning. For example, the military remained strangely silent during a number of debates surrounding the drafting of the new Egyptian constitution, despite having given itself authority over the constituent assembly with the amendment which Morsi just abrogated. 
Also, the previously assertive Tantawi demonstrated some servility in the wake of the Sinai attack, when he fired his intelligence chief and several other generals at the request of Morsi. Regardless of whether his failure to respond more forcefully to the president’s early overtures sealed his fate, as some analysts claim, it was clear that something was amiss. 
On the ground, something is clearly wrong with the military campaign against Sinai terrorists. The government claims to have captured “the Bin Laden of Sinai” and to have killed at least 20 militants in air strikes last week. Recent reports, however, question the veracity of all of these claims. [1] Meanwhile, in response to several deaths which occurred subsequently in the course of the military campaign, Sinai militants assassinated a tribal sheikh and his son. [2] By most accounts, the loss of government control in Sinai has progressed so far that the army will have an extremely hard time reasserting its authority. 
Moreover, the economy of Egypt is also faltering, with traditional sources of income such as tourism slashed by the unrest and almost daily riots over the shortage of essential products. Clearly, Morsi and the Muslim Brother face an extremely daunting task of managing the country. 
These issues, alongside the unpopularity of the military’s older leadership, may have something to do with the SCAF’s unusual acquiescence to Morsi’s schemes. After all, the Muslim Brotherhood could make an excellent scapegoat in the event of an economic collapse and a breakdown of social order in Egypt. 
As the influential US-based intelligence analysis organization Stratfor wrote recently, “While Morsi may have achieved a symbolic victory in removing long-serving members of the former Mubarak regime from their military posts, the military had its own reasons for going along with the moves – reasons that are intended to increase, not reduce, the military’s influence over the civilian government.” 
To be sure, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood won a major victory. Ironically, as many have pointed out, Morsi’s power now is akin to or, in theory, even greater than that of Mubarak at his height. The prominent Egyptian secular leader Mohammed ElBaradei wrote in a tweet on Monday, “With military stripped of legislative authority & in absence of parliament, president holds imperial powers. Transitional mess continues.” 
For now, Morsi’s program appears to measure up in ambition to the challenges ahead of him. Whether his goals are ultimately to safeguard the revolution, as his supporters claim, or to promote democracy, as some Western observers have argued, is much less certain. A harsh campaign against independent media who have been critical of the president and the Brotherhood has been taking place for several weeks now. 
Furthermore, at the same time as he sacked Tantawi and Anan (and reshuffled the top army brass), Morsi appointed also a new vice president, the respected senior judge Mahmoud Mekki. This step was widely interpreted as an attempt to counter the uncooperative judiciary, which has sided with the SCAF on several occasions in the last year and is perceived as a relic from the Mubarak regime. As Marc Lynch wrote in Foreign Policy, “[Mekki’s appointment] could be seen as another … bold move in institutional combat, by potentially co-opting or intimidating the judiciary.” [3] 
It remains to be seen whether the army holds in store surprises of its own. Certainly, while support for the Muslim Brotherhood was clearly visible on the Egyptian streets following Sunday’s events, Morsi’s daring has also won him and the Brotherhood some new resentment. Elements of the secular opposition and of the army, not to mention the Copts and other minorities, may now have acquired a common enemy. 
The maneuver also provoked mixed reactions among the international community. The United States half-heartedly acknowledged that “We had expected expected President Morsi at some point to coordinate changes in the military leadership,” even though American leaders claimed they, too, were caught by surprise. According to the Washington Post analyst David Ignatius, the US endorsed the reshuffle “warily.” [4] 
Given that the US has a strong influence with the Egyptian military and is believed to have played an active role in the ouster of Mubarak, the recent visits in Cairo of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ought to raise some suspicions. While no hard evidence currently links the visits to the coup, Tantawi ostensibly started to lose his voice roughly at the same time. 
Countries in the Persian Gulf have been even more overtly supportive. Qatar, for example, announced that it would lend Egypt US$2 billion just as Morsi announced the reshuffle. 
Israel, on the other hand, is quietly reeling, both because of the departure of several generals with whom it had enjoyed good working relations and because of the ascendance of the Muslim Brotherhood. “The damage caused to Egypt’s pro-West and secular military may eventually jeopardize the peace treaty with Israel,” the Israeli journalist Alex Fishman wrote in the daily Yediot Ahronot. 
Over in Gaza, Hamas is in an awkward situation since the Egyptian authorities have reportedly requested several of its operatives to be extradited in connection to last week’s terror attack. While a decisive Muslim Brotherhood victory in Egypt would likely be immensely beneficial for it in the long term, right now the movement is in a lot of hot water and has been reduced to complaining that it is being treated as unjustly as back when Mubarak was in charge. 
For now, however, while Morsi and the Brotherhood have won a major battle against the political influence of the military, they still have not won the war. In a country which is experiencing as much flux as Egypt, even a daring coup d’etat may not have a very clear impact. 

Notes:
1. Truth as elusive as militants in Egypt’s Sinai, AFP, August 11, 2012
2. Gunmen kill tribal chief, son in north Sinai, Ma’an, August 13, 2012
3. Lamborghini Morsi, Foreign Policy, August 13, 2012
4. US officials warily endorse new Egyptian defense minister, Washington Post, August 12, 2012 

Victor Kotsev is a journalist and political analyst. 

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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New Egyptian government sworn in by Islamist president Mursi

By Johannes Stern 
3 August 2012
On Thursday, the Egyptian cabinet was sworn in by Mohamed Mursi, the Islamist president of Egypt. The new government brings together figures of the Egyptian financial elite with representatives from the Egyptian military, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB), former ministers of the interim government of Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri, and various technocrats.
The new government marks a seamless transition from the Mubarak dictatorship to Mursi. Most of the new ministers are either senior level bureaucrats of the Mubarak era or were amongst his closest allies.
Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and de facto dictator of Egypt, keeps his post as defense minister. A close ally of the US, he was Mubarak’s defense minister for two decades and had served as defense minister in seven governments before.
His appointment reflects the military’s continued domination of all aspects of political live in Egypt. In a military coup shortly before the run-offs of the presidential elections, SCAF dissolved the parliament and took over all legislative and budgetary powers.
The military refuses to give up its political and economic privileges, and the inclusion of Mubarak-era bureaucrats into the government highlights that Mursi merely acts as a pliant figurehead for its rule.
Egypt’s new Prime Minister, Hisham Qandil, who was already appointed by Mursi one week ago, made clear at a press conference that his government aims to continue all the pro-imperialist and anti-worker policies of the past. “Do we start from zero?” he asked, answering: “For sure, no. There has been serious and dedicated work in the past period by previous governments that we must build on.”
Qandil himself headed the office of Mubarak-era Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Mahmoud Abou Zeid from 1999 to 2005. Later he worked for the African Development Bank in Tunisia, before taking over the Irrigation Ministry in the post-Mubarak interim governments of Essam Sharaf and Kamal El-Ganzouri. Qandil is a technocrat considered to be close to the MB. Like Mursi, Qandil is an US-trained scientist, having received his PhD at North Carolina State University.
The new interior minister is Police General Ahmed Gamal Eddin. Eddin personifies the repressive police apparatus of the Egyptian state. As deputy interior minister under Ganzouri, he regularly ordered brutal crackdowns against peaceful protesters and strikers. He has close family ties to former stalwarts of Mubarak’s now-dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP) and is the nephew of Abdel Ahad Gamal Eddin, the leader of the NDP’s last parliamentary bloc.
Six ministers of Ganzouri’s interim cabinet retained their positions—including Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr, Finance Minister Mumtaz al-Saeed, Minister of Insurance and Social Affairs Nagwa Khalil, and Scientific Research Minister Nadia Zakhary.
The Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), are taking over four ministries—housing, youth, information and manpower. The handing over of the information and manpower ministries to the MB is significant, as the MB is notorious for its hostility to strikes and its anti-working class propaganda.
After the revolutionary ouster of Mubarak on February 11 last year, the MB supported the anti-strike and protest law issued by SCAF. During the latest wave of strikes, leading FJP members denounced strikers as “remnants of the old regime” aiming to destabilize Mursi’s presidency.
The new Minister of Manpower, Khaled El-Azhary, is also a member of the board of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), the official federation of yellow unions that acts as a police force in the factories to control the workers. Former ETUF leader Hussein Megawer currently faces charges for helping organize the infamous “Battle of the Camels,” when government thugs attacked protesting workers and youth on Tahrir Square on February 2, 2011.
The new government has already vowed to continue and even intensify the neo-liberal economic policies which sparked the mass working class uprisings last year.
All major economic portfolios were given to bureaucrats or businessmen dedicated to the economic policies of the Mubarak-regime. The Ministry of Investment was handed to Osama Saleh, the chairman of Egypt’s General Authority for Free Zones and Investment. The new minister of Trade and Industry is Hatem Saleh, the CEO of Gozour Food Industry Group, a subsidiary of Citadel Capital.
Citadel Capital is the leading private equity firm in the Middle East and Africa, headed by Egyptian tycoon Ahmed Heikal.
According to reports on Egyptian state television, Mursi has appointed former interim Prime Minister Ganzouri as his personal advisor. Ganzouri is a former Mubarak official who had already served a first term as prime minister in 1996-1999. He is a strong advocate of free-market policies and has close ties to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
The inauguration of the new Egyptian government was a show of political cynicism. Only shortly before the cabinet was sworn in Qandil praised it as a “people’s government.” Minutes later he announced that members of his cabinet will hold a meeting on Saturday to discuss “our next steps” in order to receive a new IMF loan.
He declared that an agreement with the IMF would help to balance the budget, pursue economic reforms and restore the confidence of foreign investment. On Wednesday, Qandil already announced that Egypt had agreed to a loan of US$200 million from the World Bank.
While the Egyptian ruling elite is preparing deep attacks on the working class, social discontent is growing and heading towards another explosion. On the same day the government was sworn in hundreds of urban poor stormed a luxury tower on the Nile in downtown Cairo. Security forces fired at the crowd with tear gas and live ammunition, killing at least one person. Witnesses reported that the violence broke out when one worker doing temporary security work at the tower was refused payment.
Witnesses told the Egyptian Independent that security guards opened fire at the worker when he demanded his salary.
Media also reported seventeen strikes and sit-ins blocking railways all over Egypt Thursday. The protesters demonstrated against water and power cuts, bad working conditions and low wages. Hany Hegab, head of the Egyptian National Railways Authority, complained that Egypt’s railroads have witnessed 870 protests and strikes since the outbreak of the Egyptian revolution on January 25 of last year. He called upon the new government to introduce and enforce laws against blocking trains.

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Egyptian workers mount mass strikes against US-backed junta

By Johannes Stern 
18 July 2012
Since the beginning of the week, a new wave of strikes and protests has spread over Egypt. Textile workers are on strike in the Nile Delta town of Mahalla al-Kubra, in Alexandria and in the coastal governorate of Daqaliya.
Ceramic workers in the industrial city of Suez, doctors in Marsa Matrouh, university workers in Kafr el-Sheikh, postal workers in Alexandria and Assiut and health workers on the Sinai Peninsula are also on strike. Other protests and strikes have been reported from Cairo, Bani Sueif and Minya.
The renewed strikes and protests reflect growing hostility in the working class to the reactionary policies of the US-backed military junta and its new Islamist figurehead, President Mohamed Mursi.
After Mursi’s inauguration as the first president after the revolutionary ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak last year, the Egyptian ruling elite’s main goal is to further privatize the Egyptian economy, cut subsidies, and attract more foreign investment.
The Islamists and the junta generals are currently in discussions about forming a new cabinet, tasked with further attacks on the Egyptian masses. Among the names discussed for the new prime minister are three prominent bankers—Farouk El-Oqda, the current governor of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), former CBE governor Mahmoud Abul-Oyoun, and former deputy CBE governor Hesham Ramez.
The strikes are the working class’ answer to the continuation of Mubarak-style free-market policies.
On Sunday 25,000 textile workers at the state-owned Mahalla Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in the industrial town of Mahalla al-Kubra went on strike and staged a sit-in at the factory. Workers demand an increase in their share of the company’s annual profits, higher retirement bonuses and the removal of the management.
The workers of Mahalla played a leading role in last year’s revolution, and the Egyptian ruling elite is concerned that the mass strike could spark another revolution. On Monday and Tuesday workers of seven other Nile Delta textile factories went on strike, raising the same demands as Mahalla workers.
Members of the Freedom Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the MB, reportedly tried to convince the Mahalla workers to end their strike, but were chased away.
The Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm published a video of the striking Mahalla workers which gives a picture of the militant mood among workers in Egypt.
In the video, a female worker expresses her disillusionment with the Islamist president who only cares about a tiny wealthy elite. “The first thing he does when he gets his hands on the presidency is to forget about us. He’s only thinking about those earning 200,000 or half a million. He doesn’t think about the workers who are sweating blood. Where are our rights? We can’t even afford a crust of bread. Where is our president now? We want the minimum wage. Not one of our demands has been met.”
A male colleague adds: “The revolution didn’t bring anything to the workers of Misr Spinning in Mahalla. Back in 2006, we were getting profit-sharing bonuses of four and a half months. Other people are getting more and we’re getting less. How can they bring in someone like Fouad Abd-al-Alim [the new head of the public sector Holding Company for Textiles and Garment Production]? He was the most corrupt one here. He destroyed the factory in Mahalla and is destroying the rest of the public textile factories. The workers here are making the revolution again from the start. The coming revolution will be a workers’ revolution.”
Threatened by the specter of a renewed revolution, the junta and the Islamists are seeking to violently repress the strike wave.
In Suez, one of the epicenters of the revolution, security forces fired tear gas at hundreds of factory workers of the Cleopatra Ceramics company on Tuesday. The workers stormed government buildings in the port town, demanding the prosecution of the owner of factory Mohamed Abul Enein, a former member of Mubarak’s now-dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP). The workers accuse Enein of not paying wages, illegally firing workers, and being involved in the infamous “Battle of the Camels”—when Mubarak’s thugs attacked protesting workers and youth on Tahrir square.
Military units reportedly entered Suez after the clashes between the workers and police forces, in which at least 15 workers were injured and 6 arrested.
In South Sinai, security forces reportedly fired live ammunition to disperse hundreds of health workers staging a sit-in in front of the office of the undersecretary of the Ministry of Health. The workers demanded higher incentives and protested poor health conditions inside the hospitals in South Sinai and the lack of medicines and equipment.
The regime did not dare to attack the Mahalla textile workers yet, however. It aims to rely on its pseudo-left supporters to bring the situation under control. Egypt’s Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mahmoud Issa, reportedly plans to visit the Mahalla workers on Wednesday. On Tuesday evening, the secretary general of the Gharbiya governorate who went to the factory was not able to calm down the workers and they said they would continue the strike.
Amongst the negotiators are experienced petty-bourgeois elements, such as Kamal al-Fayoumi, who aim to shut down and sell out the strike. These figures try to present themselves as representatives of the workers but their policies are directly opposed to the interests of the working class and play into the hands of the counterrevolution.
Fayoumi is a member of the misnamed pseudo-left Revolutionary Socialists (RS) group, which is opposed to a second revolution against the junta, and a struggle for workers power and socialism. The RS supported Mursi in the presidential elections and claim that the Islamists can be pressured for social reforms.
While Mursi and the junta are violently cracking down on striking workers, the RS claim in their latest statement that “pressure on Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood is just what will drive their decision in the right direction, the direction of completing the objectives of the revolution and overthrow the rule of the military and purge the state.”

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Clinton backs Egyptian military junta, Islamist president

By Johannes Stern 
16 July 2012
Over the weekend US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks with the leader of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) junta, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in Cairo.
While officially claiming to promote a “democratic transition” in Egypt, Clinton’s visit deepened the counterrevolutionary alliance between US imperialism and the Egyptian bourgeoisie against the threat of renewed mass struggles of the working class. Her visit comes amidst an intensifying power struggle between the two competing factions of the Egyptian ruling class, the military and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
Earlier this week, the Supreme Constitutional Court in Egypt overruled a presidential decree issued by Mursi to reinstate the Egyptian Parliament. By overruling the decree, SCAF made clear that it seeks to defend its full control of the Egyptian state machine. In a military coup shortly before the run-off in the Egyptian presidential elections, the junta had dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament and taken over all legislative and budgetary powers and the drafting of a new constitution.
Clinton tacitly backed the coup, saying that, “it is very clear that Egyptians are in the midst of complex negotiations about the transition including the make-up of parliament, a new constitution and the full powers of the president.”
She praised SCAF for “representing the Egyptian people in the revolution” and for protecting “the Egyptian nation.”
A former State Department adviser, Peter Mandaville, also stressed that the US considers the Egyptian military the main defender of its interests and a force to control the Islamists. He told the New York Times that “every bone in the body of the US Foreign policy establishment is going to feel more comfortable with the idea that there is still a strong military looking over these guys and looking out for US Interests in Egypt and the region.”
Washington regards the Egyptian military as the main bulwark against another explosion of the masses. Last year’s working class mass uprising, which led to the ouster of long-time US stooge Hosni Mubarak, shook Egyptian capitalism and imperialist rule in the Middle East to its foundations.
There are signs that the working class is again going on the offensive. The same day Clinton met Tantawi, the 25,000 textile workers at the state-owned Mahalla Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in the industrial town of Mahalla al-Kubra in the Nile Delta went on strike. The workers of Mahalla, who played a major role in last year’s revolution, are demanding the removal of company management and a greater share of 2011 profits and increases in severance pay.
Fearing renewed mass struggles, Washington is trying to prevent an intensifying confrontation between the military and the Islamists, which could destabilize Egypt. During her visit Clinton assured Tantawi that the junta has the full support of Washington. However, she also put some pressure on the generals to grant the Islamist president expanded powers, as a cover for ongoing military rule in Egypt.
According to Egyptian diplomatic sources, Clinton told Mursi “that there are certain things that the US expects from Egypt” in exchange for its continued financial support. One US demand is that Egypt continue the Mubarak regime’s pro-US foreign policy.
One of the main issues discussed, according to an official speaking to Al-Ahram Online, is Egypt’s continuing commitment to the three-decades-old peace deal with Israel. The diplomat said that the US expects “Egypt to use the good ties that link the Muslim Brotherhood with the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip to curtail any plans that Hamas might have towards escalation with Israel.”
According to the official, the US also expects Mursi to continue limiting Egypt’s relations with Iran.
Mursi signaled that he and the Brotherhood are willing to cooperate closely with Washington. At their meeting at the presidential palace in Cairo’s upscale Heliopolis suburb, Mursi told Clinton that “we are very, very keen to meet you and happy you are here.”
After the meeting Clinton expressed her satisfaction: “President Mursi made clear he understands the success of his presidency and Egypt`s transition depends on building consensus across Egypt`s political spectrum; to work on a new constitution to protect civil society; to draft a new constitution that will be respected by all and to assert the full authority of the presidency.”
During and after the meeting between Clinton and Mursi, thousands of protesters gathered outside the US embassy and Clinton’s hotel to denounce US interference in Egypt and the MB’s collaboration with Washington. Placards held by protesters read “Go to hell, Hillary” or “You like the Islamists, Hillary? Take them with you.”

Having received Washington’s backing, the junta made clear that the generals do not intend to give up their powers. Speaking to troops in the city of Ismailia on Sunday, Tantawi said that the army “would not allow anyone to discourage it from its role in protecting Egypt and its people.”
However, Tantawi signaled that the military is willing to work out a compromise with the Islamists on their conditions. He claimed to respect the presidency stating that the “the armed forces and the army council respect legislative and executive authorities.”
The main power SCAF has granted Mursi so far is to deploy the army against the population. The constitutional addendum issued by SCAF after the US-backed coup allows Mursi to “issue a decision to commission the armed forces with the approval of SCAF to maintain security and defend public property…if the country faces internal unrest requiring the intervention of the armed forces.”
Clinton’s visit shows the utter cynicism and hypocrisy of US imperialism’s claims to promote “democracy”. As Clinton praises both the Egyptian junta and the Brotherhood, Washington is signaling the Egyptian bourgeoisie that—as was the case during last year’s uprising—it will accept the bloody repression of any renewed working class struggles which threaten capitalism in Egypt.
In return, the Egyptian junta and the Islamists pledged to back the US war drive against Syria and Iran. After her visit in Cairo, Clinton continued on to Israel, reportedly to discuss Iran’s nuclear program and the war in Syria with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres.

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Egyptian Islamists accept army dissolution of parliament

By Johannes Stern 
11 July 2012
Amid increasing tensions between the Egyptian army junta and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the Brotherhood signaled its acceptance of the army coup of June 14 that dissolved the parliament. On that date, the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) declared the Islamist-dominated Parliament unconstitutional.
On Sunday Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, had issued a decree reinstating the dissolved parliament with “all its powers.” He also called for new parliamentary elections within 60 days after the drafting of a new constitution.
To pressure the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) junta to accept the presidential decree, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) called for mass protests on Tahrir Square in Cairo for Tuesday.
On Monday SCAF reacted to Mursi’s decree with a statement defending the dissolution of the People’s Assembly, the lower house of Egypt’s parliament. SCAF also defended the June 14 coup. Based on the SCC ruling, the generals had dissolved the parliament and the constituent assembly shortly before the run-offs of the presidential elections. By issuing a constitutional addendum, they granted themselves sweeping powers including control over the legislature, the budget, and the drafting of the new constitution.
In their Monday statement, the SCAF generals warned Mursi and the Brotherhood to respect the constitution, adding that they were “confident” that state institutions would respect “constitutional decrees.”
Fearing the destabilizing effect of a power struggle between the Islamists and the army, the Egyptian regime’s imperialist backers intervened to press for a compromise. In a news conference, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “We strongly urge dialogue and concerted effort on the part of all to try to deal with the problems that are understandable but have to be resolved in order to avoid any kind of difficulties that could derail the transition.”
Under pressure from SCAF and its imperialist backers, Mursi and the MB were quick to reassure the generals that they would not challenge SCAF’s control of the state, but continue to play their role as figureheads for SCAF. Mursi also assured Western imperialism that he will protect its strategic and economic interests in Egypt and throughout the region.
Also on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle met Mursi for talks in Cairo. After a 40-minute meeting with Mursi, he told reporters that he had “the impression that a solution can be found.” He added that Mursi assured him “that he does not aim to question the decision of the constitutional court, but that this is rather about how to organize the ruling’s implementation.”
Westerwelle said Mursi also assured him that all of Egypt’s international agreements would be respected, “including those in the Middle East”—a reference to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.
Mursi’s initial defiance of SCAF and the junta’s reaction highlighted the rising power struggle between the Egyptian military and the Islamists, who are two rival factions of the Egyptian ruling class. Both control vast portions of the Egyptian economy, and the military views the MB’s increasing influence in the Egyptian state machine after last year’s revolutionary overthrow of former dictator Hosni Mubarak with suspicion. The MB seeks to attract more foreign investment and further privatize and liberalize the Egyptian economy, which the generals regard as a threat to their economic power.
Despite their conflicting interests, the main concern of all factions of the Egyptian political establishment—the military, the Islamists, or the liberal and petty bourgeois pseudo-left forces—is blocking the emergence of renewed revolutionary struggles by the working class. The Egyptian workers and youth were the main force behind the Egyptian Revolution, and their historic struggle beginning last year shook the Egyptian bourgeois state and Western imperialism in the Middle East to their foundations.
The parliamentary session summoned by Mursi on Tuesday was a show of utter subservience to the junta and its institutions. The meeting lasted only five minutes, and MB Speaker of Parliament Saad al-Katatni announced that the legislative body had gathered only “to review the court rulings, the ruling of the Supreme Constitutional Court.” He stressed that the parliament “is not contradicting the ruling, but looking at a mechanism for the implementation of the ruling of the respected court. There is no other agenda today.”
El-Katatni proposed to appeal the SCC’s ruling against the parliament. Parliament approved the proposal and adjourned. El-Katatni then declared that parliamentary sessions will not resume until the Appeals Court’s verdict. The MB then called off the announced mass protests on Tahrir Square.
Later on Tuesday, the SCC overruled Mursi’s presidential decree to reinstate the Egyptian Parliament. According to the state-controlled daily Al-Ahram, the SCC ruled that its 14 June verdict must be enforced.
By overruling Mursi’s decree, SCAF made clear that it seeks to defend its full control over the Egyptian state, and that Mursi’s powers as president will still be determined by the generals.
The main power Mursi has is to call for the use of the military to repress the population. The constitutional addendum issued by SCAF and endorsed by the MB allows the president to “issue a decision to commission the armed forces—with the approval of SCAF—to maintain security and defend public property…if the country faces internal unrest requiring the intervention of the armed forces.”

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Egypt: Islamist president takes symbolic oath of office in Tahrir Square

By Johannes Stern 
30 June 2012
Mohamed Mursi, the first Egyptian president since the revolutionary ouster of long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak last year, took a symbolic oath of office in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday.
After Friday prayers, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leader spoke before tens of thousands of people, presenting himself as the president of the revolution and claiming he would “continue [its] course.” Mursi then recited the presidential oath.
The stage-managed event was a fraud. Its central aim was to reassure the generals of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that Mursi would not challenge their control of the state. Barely two weeks after the junta dissolved the MB-dominated parliament in a military coup, Mursi stressed that his speech “does not mean that I do not respect the law, the constitution, the judiciary or any of Egypt’s patriotic institutions.”
In a further signal that he defends the junta and its counterrevolution, Mursi officially took the oath on Saturday before the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC), the Mubarak-era judicial body that declared the parliamentary election unconstitutional, opening the way for SCAF to dissolve the parliament as well as the constituent assembly that was tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution.
After the SCC ruling and dissolution of the parliament, the junta issued a constitutional “addendum” seizing all of the legislative and budgetary powers of the defunct parliament. SCAF formally decreed the independence of the armed forces from civilian control, preparing the ground for mass repression of renewed protests and strikes.
There were intensive talks between SCAF and the Brotherhood during and after the presidential elections, which were held under the junta’s auspices. Half of all registered voters abstained from the elections, and protests erupted after the first round against both right-wing candidates—Mursi and the army-backed candidate, Ahmed Shafiq.
The day before Mursi appeared in Tahrir Square, SCAF member General Mohamed Assar told the privately owned CBC television that the army refused to abandon any of the powers it had gained through the coup.
“The [new] government will have a defence minister who is head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces,” he announced. Asked if this meant SCAF leader Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s de facto dictator, would keep his post as minister of defence, Assar said: “Exactly. What is wrong with that? He is the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the defence minister and the commander of the armed forces.”
Assar also warned political groups to “have balance in Egyptian politics.” He pointed to the “tasks” of the Islamists, stating that they “need to calm the people” and “assure Coptic Christians, liberals, artists and intellectuals that their rights are guaranteed.” He added that “president-elect Mursi has been doing a good job with regards to that.”
Washington also praised Mursi, whom it sees as an ally in the defense of its strategic and economic interests in Egypt and the broader region. On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated Mursi, declaring that “we have heard some very positive statements so far.” Clinton hailed Mursi’s pledge to honor all of Egypt’s international obligations, “which would, in our view, cover the peace treaty with Israel.”
She added, “We expect President Mursi to demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity that is manifested by representatives of the women of Egypt, of the Coptic Christian community, the secular, non-religious community and young people.”
The same day, a Mursi spokesman announced that his first appointments as president of Egypt will be a woman and a Coptic Christian. He reportedly also plans to include figures from “left” youth groups in his cabinet.
Prominent names being considered reportedly include Ahmed Maher of the April 6 Youth Movement, Wael Ghonim, the Google executive and administrator of the “We are all Khaled Saeed” Facebook page, and Amr Hamzawy, former research director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Beirut and leader of the Freedom Egypt Party.
These developments make clear that the entire political establishment—the military, Islamists, liberals and middle-class pseudo-left organizations alike—are lined up against the Egyptian working class. As the “democratic transition” is exposed as a complete fraud, the Egyptian bourgeoisie and its imperialist allies are obliged to rely more and more openly on their pseudo-left appendages to maintain capitalist rule and intensify the oppression of the working class.
Both the April 6 Youth Movement and the pseudo-left Revolutionary Socialists (RS) were present on Tahrir Square in support of Mursi when he took his oath. Hisham Fouad, a leading RS member, claimed that Mursi’s success in the elections had dealt “a serious blow” to the counterrevolution and was “a boost to the revolution.”

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The Egyptian election

26 June 2012
The announcement that the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Morsi won Egypt’s presidential election has been widely hailed as a turning point in the country’s history. The international media has described Morsi as, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, Egypt’s “first freely elected president.”
Egypt’s own press was even more euphoric, with the daily Al-Shoroukcarrying the banner headline, “Morsi president on orders from the people: The revolution reaches the presidential palace.”
These claims turn reality on its head. Egypt’s workers, students and oppressed masses cannot afford to lend the slightest credence to such fabrications.
It is now nearly 17 months since mass demonstrations and, above all, a widening wave of mass strikes forced out Egypt’s US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak. This eruption of revolutionary struggle was a high point of the response of the international working class to the assault on its jobs, living standards and basic rights carried out in the wake of the worldwide financial meltdown of September 2008.
Egyptian workers rose up seeking an end to conditions of poverty, exploitation, social inequality and political repression. They fought heroically against the Mubarak regime’s security forces and thugs—armed and backed by US imperialism—sacrificing some 1,000 martyrs in the course of the struggle that culminated in Mubarak’s ouster on February 11, 2011.
Nearly a year-and-a-half later, however, none of the demands of Egyptian workers for improved living standards, jobs, social equality and democracy have been met. Instead, the repressive capitalist state apparatus and the domination of the country by imperialism remain intact, minus the odious figure of Mubarak himself, who was recently transferred from Tora Prison to a Cairo hospital.
The installation of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi in the presidential palace does not change this reality. It is the end result not of a “free and fair” election, but a vote that was held under conditions of military rule and boycotted by half the registered voters, followed by a sordid backroom deal between the right-wing Islamist party and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) military junta.
In the midst of the run-off between Morsi and his opponent, the former Air Force commander and Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, the SCAF carried out a political coup, disbanding the Islamist-dominated parliament, arrogating to itself control over the writing of a new constitution, and clearing the way for a new round of repression and torture by decreeing the right of the military and state intelligence agencies to arrest civilians. It issued a further constitutional “addendum” assuming all legislative and budgetary powers of the disbanded parliament and formally establishing the complete autonomy of the armed forces from civilian control.
The decision to call the election for Morsi, rather than Shafik, one of the military’s own, followed intense negotiations between the military command and the Brotherhood that continued through the weekend. The precise terms arrived at in the course of these talks, held behind the backs of the Egyptian people, will become clearer in the days and weeks to come. One thing is certain: any deal worked out between the Brotherhood and the SCAF can only produce a counterrevolutionary government whose main aim will be the smashing of the revolutionary struggles of the working class.
That this is recognized within ruling circles in both Egypt and the imperialist centers was made clear as the Egyptian stock market registered its biggest one-day rise on record in the wake of the election announcement. The Wall Street Journal reported that US diplomats, who held “private talks” with the Brotherhood’s leadership and its economic team, said the organization’s “representatives have reassured the US by saying ‘all the right things on the economic side.’”
One of the immediate aims of the SCAF-Brotherhood regime is reaching an agreement with the International Monetary Fund on an emergency $3.2 billion loan. This will be tied to the implementation of so-called economic “reforms,” i.e., drastic austerity measures that will further degrade the conditions of life for the working class in a country where 40 percent of the population subsists on $2 or less a day.
It is vital that Egyptian workers and youth draw a balance sheet of the past year and a half and examine the political forces and programs that brought them from heroic strikes and mass struggles to the installation of the counterrevolutionary SCAF-Muslim Brotherhood regime. In particular, the closest examination is warranted of the role of the pseudo-left organizations, which despite calling themselves “revolutionary” and even “socialist,” represent not the strivings of the working class to put an end to capitalism, but those of more affluent sections of the middle class to carve out a greater role for themselves within the existing social and political setup.
Typifying this layer is the misnamed group Revolutionary Socialists (RS), which opposed the demand raised by workers for a “second revolution,” seeking instead to legitimize the lie that the SCAF military command was the vehicle of a “democratic transition.” In May of last year, the RS asserted that the SCAF “aims to reform the political and economic system, allowing it to become more democratic and less oppressive.”
Later, when popular opposition to the SCAF mounted in response to mass arrests and military trials of workers and youth, the RS promoted the Muslim Brotherhood as an alternative to the generals, brushing aside the role of the Brotherhood in collaborating with the military regime. They did so in order to head off the development of an independent movement of the working class.
In the second round of the presidential election, the RS threw its support to the Brotherhood, claiming that a vote for Morsi was a vote against “counterrevolution” and “fascism.”
In an interview posted June 25 on socialistworker.org, the web site of the RS’s American counterpart, the International Socialist Organization, RS leader Mostafa Ali gives an indication of the illusions that his organization is attempting to promote about the Brotherhood, which he credits with stopping the military’s coup.
He poses a series of questions: “Will the Muslim Brotherhood leadership once again compromise with the SCAF? Will they betray the mass mobilization in the square? Will they accept the terms of the deal that has been set by the SCAF?”
In the interview, given on June 22, Ali suggests that the answer is no. The Brotherhood, he states, despite its “wavering and vacillation,” has “to draw a line in the sand in order to stop the coup.” Within two days, this assessment proved completely bankrupt.
The task of the “revolutionary left,” he continued, is to “build a united front of all revolutionary forces against the coup,” in which he clearly includes the Muslim Brotherhood and other bourgeois political forces. Within this “united front,” he states, “the Egyptian working class would be a significant part of a struggle that could combine both democratic political demands and economic demands in weeks to come.”
Thus, the aim of this so-called “left” party is to subordinate the working class to the bourgeois Muslim Brotherhood, which has in turn agreed to serve as a figurehead for the SCAF junta. This is a formula for binding the Egyptian workers hand and foot and delivering them to their mortal enemies.
The only way forward for the workers of Egypt lies in a decisive rejection of this type of counterrevolutionary petty-bourgeois politics. The unpostponable task is to organize a new revolutionary leadership based on an international socialist perspective to mobilize the independent strength of the working class in the struggle for power and the overthrow of capitalist rule. This means building an Egyptian section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.
Bill Van Auken

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Egyptian junta installs Islamist Mursi as figurehead president

By Barry Grey 
25 June 2012
Egypt’s Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission on Sunday declared Mohamed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) candidate, the winner of the presidential election runoff held the week before in the midst of a political coup carried out by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
The announcement followed a three-day delay during which tens of thousands of people, mostly MB supporters, thronged Cairo’s Tahrir Square to denounce the military’s assumption of dictatorial powers and the threat that the SCAF would falsify the election results and hand the presidency to its favored candidate, former Air Force chief Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Tahrir Square earlier this month [Photo: Gigi Ibrahim]
Many thousands were on the square Sunday awaiting the announcement while troops stood by to crack down on an anticipated eruption of anger in the event of a decision in favor of Shafiq.
Last week, the junta threatened to use an “iron fist” against protesters, and stationed troops and armored vehicles in front of the electoral commission offices, the vacant parliament building and other public offices in Cairo. At the same time, intensive behind-the-scenes negotiations were underway between the SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood over a deal to give Mursi the largely powerless presidency in return for the Islamists’ acceptance of the military’s assumption of dictatorial powers.
Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was evidently involved in brokering the deal. Following reports that he was negotiating with the MB over a possible cabinet post, he met Saturday night with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the SCAF.
It was an open secret that the electoral commission’s announcement would be determined by the outcome of these talks, not the vote totals from the presidential runoff.
In the event, the commission declared that Mursi had won the election with 51.7 percent of the vote compared to 48.3 percent for Shafiq, a difference of some 900,000 ballots. It said the turnout in the runoff was 51.6 percent, compared to an even lower 46 percent in the first round of the election.
The mass abstention reflected the lack of enthusiasm in the working class for both candidates—Shafiq, a holdover from the hated Mubarak regime, and Mursi, the spokesman for a right-wing, pro-capitalist Islamist party representing the interests of sections of the bourgeoisie and more affluent middle-class layers.
Soon after the electoral commission’s announcement, Tantawi congratulated Mursi, who is slated to take office July 1. He will do so under conditions where the generals have dissolved the parliament and constituent assembly, decreed de facto martial law, and arrogated to themselves full power over legislative and budgetary matters, the security agencies and the military, and the formation of a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution.
This travesty of democracy, the outcome of a deal between rival factions of the ruling elite that excluded the sentiments and interests of the broad masses of Egyptians, was immediately hailed by Washington and other imperialist powers as a watershed in the “democratic transition” supposedly being carried out under the jackboot of the SCAF generals.
The Obama White House congratulated Mursi and the Egyptian people for “this milestone in their transition to democracy.” At the same time, it warned the incoming president not to challenge the US imperialist-dominated political set-up in the region, including centrally the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. “We believe it is essential for the Egyptian government to continue to fulfill Egypt’s role as a pillar of regional peace, security and stability,” the White House declared.
British Foreign Minister William Hague said, “The people of Egypt have elected a new president. I congratulate him and them on the result and the peaceful process.”
This attempt to obscure the reality of a military dictatorship and enable the generals to prepare massive repression against a renewed movement of the working class is supported by the entire political establishment within Egypt, from “moderate” Islamists, to secular liberals to the various middle-class pseudo-left organizations. The latter have lined up squarely behind Mursi and the Brotherhood.
Last Friday, after two days of meetings with liberal Islamist defectors from the MB, secular Nasserites and representatives of the April 6 youth movement, Mursi held a press conference in which he announced the formation of a national front. He pledged to appoint a non-MB member as prime minister and assign other cabinet posts to representatives of non-Islamist “national forces.”
On Sunday, following the electoral commission’s announcement, the Revolutionary Socialists (RS) issued a statement declaring the election of Mursi a “significant revolutionary victory.” Ever since the revolutionary movement centered in the working class toppled US-backed dictator Mubarak in February of 2011, the RS has sought to give credibility to the claim that the army was presiding over a “democratic transition.” At the same time it has collaborated with the Brotherhood to block the emergence of an independent movement of the working class to overthrow the junta and replace it with a workers’ state fighting for socialism.
In its statement Sunday, the RS reiterated its support for the non-existent “democratic transition,” despite the assumption by the military of dictatorial powers. It said of the installation of Mursi: “Once again the masses are proving that they are still able to alter the plans of the counterrevolutionary military, and revolutionary legitimacy is still able to extract benefits and revolutionary laws.”
This is a continuation of the counterrevolutionary role of the RS and other pseudo-left organizations, such as the Socialist Popular Alliance, the Egyptian Socialist Party and the Communist Party of Egypt, most of which signed a pledge of support for the Egyptian constitution of 1971 and endorsed the role of the military in Egypt’s political life just days before the SCAF dissolved the parliament and constituent assembly and declared martial law.
Mursi’s central function will be to collaborate with the military in unleashing state violence against a renewed movement of the working class, which all factions of the bourgeois establishment, including its “left” flank in the RS and similar groups, fear could topple the Egyptian state and open up the entire region to working-class revolution.
In a nationally televised speech late Sunday night, Mursi vowed to swear the oath of office before the seated parliament and not before the Supreme Constitutional Court, as the SCAF generals had decreed. This—one of the demands advanced in the RS statement—was an attempt to provide a fig leaf of defiance to an abject statement of subordination to the Egyptian military and US imperialism.
Declaring that “national unity” was “the only way to get Egypt out of this difficult crisis,” the US-educated president-elect expressed gratitude and admiration for the military, the police, judges and other government officials for their work “on behalf of the nation.” He said, “I must salute them because they have a role in the future.”
Then, in a bow to the US and Israel, he said, “we will preserve all national and international agreements.”
The pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist politics of the Muslim Brotherhood were laid out in a friendly interview with the head of the organization, multimillionaire businessman Khairat Al Shater, published Saturday by theWall Street Journal. Making clear that he favored free-market economic reforms, Shater said, “Our economic vision is close to a modified capitalism.”
He went on to declare that the priority of the Muslim Brotherhood was a close “strategic partnership” with the US.
A key to the essential role the Brotherhood is seeking to play by gaining a foothold in the state apparatus is provided by Article 53b of the constitutional decree issued by the SCAF arrogating to itself dictatorial powers. The article states: “If the country faces internal unrest which requires the intervention of the armed forces, the president can issue a decision to commission the armed forces—with the approval of SCAF—to maintain security and defend public properties.”
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US Struggles to Install Proxy "Brotherhood" in Egypt

From Egypt to Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood does the West’s bidding – now joined by overt State Department fronts.

By Tony Cartalucci

June 24, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — Were anyone to still believe the rhetoric of the so-called “Arab Spring,” one would be admittedly confused over the emerging political landscape in Egypt where the military establishment and the Muslim Brotherhood have emerged from what was supposedly a “pro-democracy” “popular uprising.”
However, if anyone understood that the “pro-democracy” protesters were in fact US State Department-funded, trained, and equipped mobs providing cover for the attempted installation of the Muslim Brotherhood amongst many other potential Western proxies, the current political battle would make perfect sense.
The Egyptian military, like in many developing nations, may accept money from the West, may train with Western forces, and may even participate in Western machinations of global domination, but are ultimately nationalists with the means and motivation to draw lines and check the West’s ambitions within Egypt and throughout Egypt’s sphere of influence. The necessity for the West of removing not only Hosni Mubarak who had refused to participate in a wider role against Iraq and Iran, but the grip of the military itself over Egyptian politics and replacing it with the Muslim Brotherhood who is already hard at work in Syria attempting to overthrow one of Iran’s primary regional allies, is paramount. 
“Pro-democracy” movements, particularly the April 6 youth movement, trained, funded, and equipped by the US State Department, serve the sole purpose of giving the Muslim Brotherhood’s installation into power a spin of “legitimacy” where otherwise none exists. Those within these “pro-democracy” movements with legitimate intentions will be inevitably disappointed if not entirely thrown under the wheels of Western machinations as regional war aimed at destroying Iran, Syria, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah arch of influence slowly unfolds.
Muslim Brotherhood were, are, and will be Western Proxies 
Despite the Brotherhood’s lofty rhetoric, it has from its inception been a key proliferator of Western foreign policy. Currently, the Syrian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood has been involved heavily, leading in fact, the US, Israeli, Saudi, and Qatari-backed sectarian violence that has been ravaging Syria for over a year. In a May 6, 2012 Reuters article it stated:
“Working quietly, the Brotherhood has been financing Free Syrian Army defectors based in Turkey and channeling money and supplies to Syria, reviving their base among small Sunni farmers and middle class Syrians, opposition sources say.”
While Reuters categorically fails to explain the “how” behind the Brotherhood’s resurrection, it was revealed in a 2007 New Yorker article titled, “The Redirection” by Seymour Hersh, as being directly backed by the US and Israel who were funneling support through the Saudis so as to not compromise the “credibility” of the so-called “Islamic” movement. Hersh revealed that members of the Lebanese Saad Hariri clique, then led by Fouad Siniora, had been the go-between for US planners and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
Hersh reports the Lebanese Hariri faction had met Dick Cheney in Washington and relayed personally the importance of using the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria in any move against the ruling government: 
“[Walid] Jumblatt then told me that he had met with Vice-President Cheney in Washington last fall to discuss, among other issues, the possibility of undermining Assad. He and his colleagues advised Cheney that, if the United States does try to move against Syria, members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood would be “the ones to talk to,” Jumblatt said.” –The Redirection, Seymour Hersh
The article would continue by explaining how already in 2007, US and Saudi backing had begun benefiting the Brotherhood: 
“There is evidence that the Administration’s redirection strategy has already benefitted the Brotherhood. The Syrian National Salvation Front is a coalition of opposition groups whose principal members are a faction led by Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian Vice-President who defected in 2005, and the Brotherhood. A former high-ranking C.I.A. officer told me, “The Americans have provided both political and financial support. The Saudis are taking the lead with financial support, but there is American involvement.” He said that Khaddam, who now lives in Paris, was getting money from Saudi Arabia, with the knowledge of the White House. (In 2005, a delegation of the Front’s members met with officials from the National Security Council, according to press reports.) A former White House official told me that the Saudis had provided members of the Front with travel documents.” –The Redirection, Seymour Hersh
It was warned that such backing would benefit the Brotherhood as a whole, not just in Syria, and could effect public opinion even as far as in Egypt where a long battle against the hardliners was fought in order to keep Egyptian governance secular. Clearly the Brotherhood did not spontaneously rise back to power in Syria, it was resurrected by US, Israeli, and Saudi cash, weapons and directives.
And most recently, as the West frequently does before elections it wishes to manipulate, premature claims by the Muslim Brotherhood of a victory during a presidential runoff were made headlines by the Western media in an effort to portray the Brotherhood as the victors and lay the groundwork for contesting any results other than a decisive win for the West’s proxy of choice.
US State Department-run Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) “Muslim Brotherhood Declares Victory In Egypt Election,” amongst many other articles attempted to give readers the impression that the Muslim Brotherhood had indeed already won the election. In reality the official tallies had yet to be given and it was merely the Brotherhood’s own rhetoric upon which the report was based. As election results were finalized, and the Brotherhood’s candidate, the US-educated Muhammad Morsi, appeared not to have the decisive victory claimed by his party and the Western media, immediately accusations of voter fraud were leveled against the Egyptian government.
The West is already combining its various proxy fronts for what it sees as a pivotal showdown and perhaps another opportunity to overthrow any remaining nationalist tendencies within the Egyptian military. Despite the Muslim Brotherhood, allegedly being a theocratic sectarian party, the antithesis of what the secular April 6 Movement allegedly stood for, Ahmed Maher, the movement’s founder threw his full support behind the Brotherhood.
Maher it should be remembered, had been in the US, Serbia, and back again to the US for a series of training and networking opportunities arranged by the US State Department before during and after the so-called “Arab Spring.” What seemed like politically ideological opposites, between April 6 and the Muslim Brotherhood, in fact share a common denominator – they are instruments executing Western foreign policy. 
Libya, Egypt, Syria and Beyond to Form United Front Against Iran
Weakening Egypt before NATO’s assault on Libya was a crucial step in ensuring the latter’s absolute destruction and the creation of what is now a Libyan terror-emirate shipping cash, weapons, and fighters east and west to destabilize and overthrow various governments on the Anglo-American’s long “to-do” list. The West’s ability to install a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, with it’s substantial regional standing and influence would be a serious blow not only to Syria, but to Iran as well. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is already echoing calls by the US and Israel for “intervention” in Syria. 
Along with Libya, Egypt and of course the Gulf States of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and with the possibility of the Brotherhood coming to power in Syria as well, a united front against Iran would be formedand prepared to fight a proxy war on the West’s behalf against the Islamic Republic. 
Such a reordering has not only been mapped out in US foreign policy documents like Brookings Institution’s “Which Path to Persia?” report, but mirror designs against China where all of Southeast Asia is slated for destabilization, regime change, and realignment to carry out the West’s ambitions to contain and even collapse a rising China.
Tony Cartalucci Blogs at Land Destroyer

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Protests continue in Cairo amid threats of crackdown by military junta

By Barry Grey 
23 June 2012
As tens of thousands rallied Friday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square against the assumption by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) of dictatorial powers, the standoff between SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) over the disputed presidential election grew more tense, and the junta threatened to unleash repression against the protesters.
Friday saw the biggest of the daily demonstrations called by the Islamist Brotherhood since Tuesday to protest a series of moves by SCAF dissolving the MB-dominated parliament and constituent assembly and effectively placing all legislative and executive power in the hands of the generals.

A mass protest at Tahrir Square against the Mubarack verdict and military rule on June 5 [Photo: Lorenz Khazaleh]
Tensions have increased since the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission, appointed under the deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak, delayed its announcement of the winner of last weekend’s presidential runoff from Thursday to this weekend. The commission claimed it was putting off the announcement to consider charges of election fraud.
Both the MB candidate, Mohamed Mursi, and his runoff opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force commander and Mubarak’s last prime minister, have claimed victory. It is widely suspected that SCAF ordered the delay in order to prepare the army and police for an anticipated eruption of popular protest over an announcement handing the presidency to the generals’ candidate, Shafiq.
The state-owned Al Ahram newspaper on Friday cited unnamed government figures and Western diplomats as saying the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission was set to announce the victory of Shafiq on Sunday evening. The article reported a source as saying the SCAF-backed candidate would be credited with having received 50.7 percent of the vote.
Sources at the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission, the newspaper reported, would not confirm the reports of its intention to declare Shafiq the winner.
Earlier in the week a group of judges monitoring the elections, the Judges of Egypt, issued a statement unofficially declaring Mursi the winner. The judges said Mursi had won the election with about 900,000 more votes than Ahmed Shafiq.
According to ahramonline, intense negotiations between the Brotherhood leadership and the military command continued into the night Thursday toward a “a political deal” that would allow Mursi to assume the presidency, while keeping real power in the hands of the generals. The SCAF is demanding that the Brotherhood pull its supporters out of Tahrir Square and accept the military’s constitutional decree arrogating to itself dictatorial powers.
The report quoted a Brotherhood source as saying that a deal could be reached by Saturday or Sunday to allow Mursi to assume the presidency. “But if no deal is reached, and if the SCAF insists on taking everything and giving nothing, then we would not be surprised if they announce Shafiq as president,” the source said.
The US is giving its tacit support to the junta, neither denouncing its power grab nor demanding that it rescind its dictatorial measures. Washington continues to maintain the absurd pretense that the junta is presiding over a transition to democracy. In line with this façade, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a television interview urged SCAF to hand over power to the “legitimate winner.”
The conflict between SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood is a power struggle within the Egyptian bourgeoisie. The MB is itself a right-wing party hostile to the working class and committed to defending both capitalism and the existing imperialist set-up in the Middle East. It reflects the interests of sections of the corporate-financial elite and privileged middle class layers that have been excluded during the decades of military rule from political power and what they consider their rightful share of the economic spoils from the exploitation of the workers.
The Brotherhood collaborated with SCAF in suppressing the revolutionary upsurge centered in the working class that brought down Mubarak in February of 2011, but came increasingly into conflict with the generals after winning a majority in the parliamentary elections.
It wants to secure a share of state power by winning the post of president, reduced by SCAF’s decrees to a mere figure-head, and is eager to work out a deal with the junta. At the same time, it, along with the military, fears a new eruption of mass protests and strikes by the working class and is seeking to head off a revolutionary movement to overthrow the capitalist state and establish socialism.
The MB also fears that the installation of Shafiq, following the military coup carried out last week, will discredit it by exposing its role in promoting the fiction of a “transition to democracy” under the junta.
Friday afternoon, SCAF flatly rejected calls by the MB, other Islamists, liberals and pseudo-left groups such as the Revolutionary Socialists that have now lined up completely behind the Brotherhood that it rescind its measures dissolving the institutions put in place to provide the illusion of a democratic transition.
In a four-minute statement read on state television, SCAF warned that the army and police would be mobilized in response to any attacks on Egypt’s “public or private institutions.” Defending its issuance of an amendment to the constitutional declaration of 2011 giving itself immunity and complete control over the country’s security forces, granting the army the right to arrest civilians, and assuming control over legislative and budgetary issues, SCAF declared: “The issuance of the supplementary constitutional decree was necessitated by the needs of administering the affairs of the state during this critical period in the history of our nation.”
It said ominously that it would allow peaceful protests so long as they did not conflict with the “interests of the country.”
The statement denounced MB presidential candidate Mursi for declaring victory prior to an announcement by the election commission and blamed him for growing political unrest.
Mursi responded by reiterating his demand that the junta reverse its dissolution of the parliament and constituent assembly and its assumption of dictatorial powers. However, he refrained from repeating his previous claims to have won the election, and made clear the Muslim Brotherhood’s desire to collaborate with SCAF, calling its members “honest men working for the betterment of Egypt.” He added, “They are working to safeguard our land.”
The Egyptian army is the backbone of the Egyptian capitalist state and the main bulwark against working class revolution. Should the Muslim Brotherhood—or, for that matter, its pseudo-left supporters such as the Revolutionary Socialists—manage to carve out a share of state power, they would deploy the military and police to put down a challenge to capitalist rule by the working class.

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Egyptian military threatens crackdown over disputed presidential elections

By Johannes Stern and Alex Lantier 
21 June 2012
Egyptian military sources signaled plans for a crackdown against popular opposition to army rule yesterday evening, amid an escalating dispute over the outcome of this weekend’s presidential elections.
The Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) announced they would delay the announcement of the election result, previously planned for today, until the weekend.
This came after a group of judges monitoring the elections, the Judges of Egypt, issued a statement unofficially declaring Muslim Brotherhood (MB) candidate Mohamed Mursi the winner. At a press conference held at the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, the judges announced that Mursi won the elections with 13, 238,335 votes, against 12,351,310 for Ahmed Shafiq—the last prime minister under ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, who was the army’s preferred candidate.
Yesterday night an anonymous military source told the state-owned daily Al Ahram that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) junta was determined to block Mursi from taking office: “The military council is determined not to allow the Muslim Brotherhood to seize power. It will not relinquish the reins of power until a new constitution is issued, and the arena is set for a balanced political process.”
Given that the SCAF junta controls the drafting of a new constitution, whose release has been postponed to the indefinite future in the aftermath of last week’s coup, this statement implies that the junta will not allow Mursi to be declared the winner this weekend. The junta intends to retain full control of the executive.
The military source suggested that any attempt to declare Mursi the winner threatened the stability of the state. Declaring that any further talks would be “of a confrontational, rather than friendly nature,” he added: “To avoid any sudden shifts that could lead to confrontation and drive the situation to the brink, the military council remains the only force capable of regulating the political process so as to preserve the stability of the state.”
The official stated the MB was relying on support from the Egyptian bourgeoisie’s main imperialist patrons, who preferred an MB victory: “The United States and the European Union have both been sending messages reflecting their preference for Mohamed Mursi as Egypt’s president. In the belief that they enjoy this support, the group has adopted a policy of pressuring Egypt’s interim rulers regarding upcoming political arrangements. Moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood’s guidance bureau has been exchanging messages with the US—to which Israel is privy—containing reassurances about the group’s stance on Hamas, Gaza, and the Camp David accords.”
The army remains the basic power behind the Egyptian state and the only entity potentially capable of forcibly suppressing working class opposition to the Egyptian regime, however. As such, the official implied, the army expected the imperialist powers to support it in order to avert a possible breakdown of state authority: “It remains unclear, however, whether the US would prefer to see Mursi or Shafiq in Egypt’s highest office.”
While the army’s comments are directed immediately at the MB campaign, the principal target of state repression would be mass working class protests, like those that led to the ouster of Mubarak in the initial weeks of the Egyptian revolution in February 2011.
In a separate declaration, army officials told Al Ahram that they were working on a “Plan B” to deploy army forces throughout the country: “We’re bracing for a major wave of rioting and unrest for at least two days, which could be incited by the Muslim Brotherhood after Shafiq is announced president. … We anticipate all kinds of problems and are taking steps to contain them.”
These officials said they were preparing a state of emergency to cover the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and other major urban centers—including Alexandria, Suez, and Ismailiya.
The escalating conflicts over the presidential elections reflect a bitter power struggle inside the Egyptian bourgeoisie, between the military and the MB. Initially, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the MB cooperated to suppress the revolutionary struggles of the working class, but divisions between them grew after the parliamentary elections were won by the Islamists.
With its military coup last week, the military clearly signaled that it did not intend to hand over power to the MB. It dissolved the parliament and the constituent assembly, which were both dominated by the Islamists. With a constitutional decree issued Sunday, SCAF took over all legislative and budgetary powers from the dissolved Islamist-dominated parliament.
The army’s comments followed a series of attempts by the Brotherhood to pressure the army to allow Mursi to take office. On Tuesday, the Mursi campaign published a pamphlet presenting him as the winner, with 52 percent of the vote. A spokesperson of the Mursi campaign said that “the figures are based on polling station results issued on Sunday and Monday, along with the tally of expatriate votes.”
The MB also called protests on Tahrir Square on Tuesday, which were attended by tens of thousands of people. Together with various liberal and pseudo-left groups—such as the April 6 movement and the Revolutionary Socialist (RS), which joined the MB’s protests—the MB is concerned that a Shafiq victory would expose the empty and fraudulent character of the “democratic transition” the army has claimed it was organizing, and in which they participated.
With the “democratic transition” exposed as a lie by the army coup, the MB and its allies fear an explosive confrontation between the working class and the army.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Mohamed Ghozlan warned of a “dangerous faceoff” between the people and the army if Ahmed Shafiq is declared Egypt’s new president. A Shafiq victory would be “a direct military coup by the military council,” Ghozlan added.
Under these conditions, the MB is signaling their concern over the army’s attempts to monopolize the formal institutions of political power set up by the junta. Saad al-Katatni, the speaker of the dissolved parliament, warned that the army’s positions could “lead us into a vacuum and the constitution could take years, giving a justification to the military council to stay in power for years. This is unacceptable.”
Katatni stressed that the MB posed no immediate threat to the junta. “What happened in Algeria cannot be repeated in Egypt,” he said, referring to the 1991-2002 civil war that claimed some 150,000 lives in Algeria, as the army crushed an armed revolt by Islamist groups that had won the 1991 elections. “The Egyptian people are different and not armed. We are fighting a legal struggle via the establishment and a popular struggle in the streets.”
Shafiq’s campaign reacted to the MB’s initiatives with a press conference, claiming that the Mursi campaign was circulating “false results,” and that in fact Shafiq had won the elections. Shafiq campaign spokesperson Ahmed Sarhan accused the MB of “spreading lies about the results of the vote all along,” claiming that “according to our counting our candidate is leading with 51.5 to 52 percent.”
The constitutional decree allows the army to intervene “if the country faces internal unrest […] to maintain security and defend public property.”
Extra security forces are being deployed across Egypt. Three thousand police and soldiers are being sent to protect vital political and economic sites, including the Suez Canal, head of security in Suez, Adel Refaat, said Wednesday. “We will firmly defend all public institutions and police stations,” he said.
A military build-up has also been reported on the Cairo-Alexandria Road—with photographs of army checkpoints with barbed wire emplacements manned by heavily-armed troops, reminiscent of the 18-day uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

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Egypt’s Impoverishing Choice

By Sean F. McMahon

June 20, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — The infamous Battle of the Camel remains the cipher through which to interpret the ongoing war for dominance of the Egyptian polity. On 2 February 2011, Egypt’s monopoly capitalist class had the domestic capitalist class in Tahrir Square attacked with hired thugs mounted on camels and horses. While the Egyptian military, assured of accruing benefits regardless of the victor, awaited the outcome quite literally in the middle of the battle, Egypt’s workers and peasants were largely fodder and incurred greater and greater losses.
The second round of the presidential elections, the struggle of the moment, has the same dynamic – Egypt’s monopoly capitalist class, represented by Ahmed Shafiq, is battling the domestic capitalist class, represented by Muhammed (“the Spare”) Morsi. The military is mediating the battle, in line with is own very real material interests, and the interests of the workers and peasants are being trampled. Moreover, this internecine class war is creating a polity that demands all “Egyptians” subscribe to the global neoliberal project. The only notable difference between the two capitalist classes pertains to the means deployed to realize this subscription. Shafiq and the monopoly capitalist class are willing to use violence to realize the neoliberal polity, while Morsi and the domestic capitalist class are using ideology, specifically religion.
Shafiq, Monopoly Capital and Violence
The Mubarak regime served the interests of Egypt’s monopoly capitalist class (in conjunction with those of the military). The monopoly class, with members such as Ahmed Ezz and Rashid Muhammed Rashid, was closely associated with the heir-apparent Gamel Mubarak. While a number of the representatives of this class have been imprisoned or ignominiously fled the country, the class and its interests persist. Shafiq is aligned with, and representative of, this persistent class and its interests. This is why he was made prime minister in the waning days of Mubarak’s reign and, according to accusations leveled in Egyptian court, helped plot the Battle of the Camel. Shafiq has not shied away from identifying with this class and its interests, or its former representative, during the presidential election process either. Shafiq has described Egypt’s former octogenarian authoritarian as a “role model” [1] and was quoted as “saying that ‘unfortunately’ the revolution succeeded.” [2]
Shafiq has been represented as the candidate of Egyptians desirous of security. In pursuit of this mantle he has gone so far as to refuse to criticize the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), including for its governing of the violence of November 2011 and the Port Said football massacre. Security is often represented as universally good, but is, in fact, “profoundly political.” [3] Security means the preservation of a particular political order. It is about limiting the range or “possibility of politics.” [4] Security is antithetical to change and, consequently, is inherently conservative. When Shafiq invokes the notions of security and order, he is talking about perpetuating the prevailing relations in Egypt, or at least those that prevailed until they were directly challenged in January and February of 2011, namely the ongoing dominance of the Egyptian political economy by the monopoly capitalist class.
Shafiq and the interests he represents are neoliberal. His policies regarding improving education, healthcare and infrastructure in Egypt rely on privatization and the use of private capital. He maintains that international loans should not be assumed to buy food for poor Egyptians; reduces workers’ rights to human rights; wants to turn the Suez Canal area into an export processing zone in everything but name; says he will resolutely defend the Egyptian pound’s exchange rate (a strong currency is in the interests of importers, those that can afford to buy Mercedes Benz, for example, most certainly not exporters and those reliant on rents derived from tourism); and is adamant that Egypt develop a “seriousness toward protecting foreign capital as much as [it] protect[s] Egyptian capital.” [5] This last policy position is surely a nod, at least in part, to recent rulings in the Egyptian courts that have resulted in seizures of Saudi-owned companies in Egypt that were purchased during the Mubarak period under circumspect conditions.
In a perfect symbolic coming together of his monopoly class interests, political conservatism and neoliberalism, Shafiq, in a May meeting with the American Chamber of Commerce in Cairo, suggested that “he would use executions and brutal force to restore order within a month.” [6] Demonstrations and strikes, seemingly any resistance to the dictates of power, are not permissible in his vision of Egypt. Clearly, for Shafiq and the interests he represents, Egypt and Egyptians will be neoliberalized. If this process requires violence, so be it.
Morsi, Competitive Capital and Ideology
Morsi and the Ikhwan (the Muslim Brotherhood) represent the interests of Egypt’s domestic, competitive capitalist class. The group’s constituency is primarily the urban (working) poor, but its members are the national capitalist class and the petty bourgeoisie. Khayrat al-Shater, the Ikhwan’s chief strategist and financier, and first presidential nominee, is a case in point. Al-Shater is a multimillionaire who, it was recently announced, is a prominent shareholder in a new supermarket venture in Egypt intended to compete against existing chains in the Egyptian market. [7] The capitalist class represented by the Ikhwan has global connections, but it profits, not through the securing of politicized monopolies and credit as does the monopoly class, but rather through successful competition in the national structure of accumulation.
Like Shafiq, Morsi and the interests he represents are neoliberal. The Ikhwan’s program is called al-Nahda(the Renaissance). It is a “strongly free market” project. [8] According to a salon.com article, the group’s “economic agenda embraces privatization and foreign investment while spurning labor unions and the redistribution of wealth.” [9] Furthermore, the Brotherhood does not support progressive taxation as a means of combating poverty, but prefers voluntary charity instead, and calls for “the withdrawal of the state from providing subsidized services to the people” (thereby opening up new “profitable” markets for its members). [10] As examples of more obvious class antagonism, Morsi has refused to set a minimum wage for Egyptian labor and the group’s political party, the Freedom and Justice Party, has called for the cancelling of “the 50 percent quota for worker and farmer parliamentary seats in the new constitution.” [11] As if that was not enough, in another striking symmetry, al-Shater spoke to the same American Chamber of Commerce that so warmly received Shafiq and his class interests. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Shater gave a speech so committed to promoting free markets, foreign investment and other business interests that some in the Chamber said it was as if he was reading their own talking points.” [12]
Finally, also like Shafiq, Morsi has spent the presidential election campaign constructing an Egypt tailored to the interests of the capitalist class he represents. Immediately after the first phase of the presidential elections, the Ikhwan declared “the nation is in danger;” and “the revolution is in danger, we need to have a democratic country, Shafiq is against democracy.” [13] Shortly thereafter, the group asserted that “there would be massive street protests if Shafiq wins, arguing it could only be the result of rigging.” [14] And now, on the eve of the second phase of the elections, Morsi has said: “[n]o true Egyptian wants the recreation of the former regime [in the form of a Shafiq victory].” [15]
The Ikhwan is making an Egyptian polity in which citizens must support the group in order to be revolutionary and democratic. If their electoral victory does not come to pass, it is because of fraud and/or inauthentic Egyptians, and there will be retribution. At best this exclusivist construction leaves no room for competing, and genuine, political interests, not the least of which may be rooted materially or religiously; at worst, it casts out of the Egyptian polity all those unwilling to subscribe to the Ikhwan’s neoliberal project.
Where Shafiq has been explicit about his willingness to use repression to compel conformity to his class’ construction of Egypt, Morsi and the Ikhwan have been equally explicit about their use of ideology to affect the same end. Morsi and the Ikhwan are using the ideology of religion to realize their class’ construction. According to Amr Abou Zeid, an adviser to the al-Nahda program: “[to raise capital for the al-Nahdaprogram] [w]e are not thinking of Islamic banks. Islamic banks are cosmetics of conventional banking. We are speaking of Islamic private equity funds, Islamic infrastructure funds, Islamic agriculture funds, Islamic venture capital funds.” [16] To acknowledge that adding the adjective “Islamic” to “banking” is only to give capital a religious veneer while saying that “Islamic private equity funds,” “Islamic infrastructure funds,” “Islamic agriculture funds,” and “Islamic venture capital funds” are something else is to make a distinction with no difference. Just as capital accumulation through banking is made more politically appealing by calling it “Islamic banking,” so too are other instruments of accumulation made more appealing by calling them “Islamic equity funds” and “Islamic venture capital funds.” Quite simply, and rather transparently, Morsi and the Ikhwan are wrapping the interests of the class they represent in the Quran, as it were.
Impoverishing Choice
Language does not mediate political realities. It makes them. The Egyptian polities being made by the two remaining contestants for the Egyptian presidency, and the classes they represent, as well as the mechanisms and techniques they are using to realize their ends, are profoundly unappealing. The choice confronting Egyptians this weekend is abhorrent, not because it pits the former regime against Islamists, but because no matter what the outcome, the effects will be deleterious for the vast majority of a people who deserve so much better.
Notes
1. David Kirkpatrick, “Egyptian is Counting on the Worries of Elites,” New York Times, 27 May 2012, accessed 14 June 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/28/world/middleeast/ahmed-shafik-counting-on-egyptian-elites-fears.html?pagewanted=all.
2. Amira Howeidy, “Tahrir or bust?” Al-Ahram Weekly, 7-13 June 2012, p. 1.
3. Simon Dalby, “Contesting an Essential Concept: Reading the Dilemmas in Contemporary Security Discourse,” in Critical Security Studies: Concepts and Cases Keith Krause and Michael C. Williams eds. (London: Routledge Press, 1997), p. 22.
4. Dalby, “Contesting an Essential Concept: Reading the Dilemmas in Contemporary Security Discourse,” p. 7.
5. Nadine El Sayed and Hania Moheeb, “Ahmed Shafik: The Air Marshal,” Egypt Today, May 2012, pp. 45-51.
6. Kirkpatrick, “Egyptian is Counting on the Worries of Elites.”
7. “Muslim Brotherhood to launch chain store,” Al-Masry Al-Youm, 14 April 2012, accessed 14 June 2012,http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/muslim-brotherhood-launch-chain-store.
8. Patrick Werr, “Egypt’s Brotherhood looks to private sector to boost economy,” 6 June 2012, accessed 14 June 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/06/us-egypt-election-economy-idUSBRE8550RK20120606.
9. Avi Asher-Schapiro, “The GOP Brotherhood of Egypt,” Salon.com, 26 January 2012, accessed 14 June 2012, http://www.salon.com/2012/01/26/the_gop_brotherhood_of_egypt/
10. Zeinab Abul-Magd, “The Brotherhood’s businessmen,” Al-Masry Al-Youm, 13 February 2012, accessed 13 February 2012, http://www.egyptindependent.com/opinion/brotherhoods-businessmen.
11. “Islamist parties seek to end Parliament’s farmer and worker quota,” Al-Masry Al-Youm, 9 March 2012, accessed 14 June 2012, http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/islamist-parties-seek-end-parliaments-farmer-and-worker-quota.
12. Kirkpatrick, “Egyptian is Counting on the Worries of Elites.”
13. Samer al-Trush, “Egypt vote narrows to Islamist, Mubarak holdover,” The Montreal Gazette, 25 May 2012, accessed 14 June 2012,http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Egypt+vote+narrows+Islamist+Mubarak+holdover/6680537/story.html.
14. Maggie Michael, “In Egyptian election, results point to deeply divisive run-off race,” The Globe and Mail, 25 May 2012, accessed 14 June 2012, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/in-egyptian-election-results-point-to-deeply-divisive-run-off-race/article4209917/.
15. “I will not allow a military coup, says Morsy,” Al-Masry Al-Youm, 13 June 2012, accessed 13 June 2012,http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/i-will-not-allow-military-coup-says-morsy.
16. Werr, “Egypt’s Brotherhood looks to private sector to boost economy.”
Sean F. McMahon is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the American University of Cairo and co-editor, with Dan Tschirgi and Walid Kazziha, of Egypt’s Tahrir Revolution forthcoming from Lynne Reinner Publishers.

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Mass protests in Egypt against military rule

By Peter Symonds 
20 June 2012
An estimated 50,000 people took part in protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square yesterday against last Thursday’s coup and the establishment of a military dictatorship by Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Another sizable demonstration took place in the port city of Alexandria.
After dissolving the Islamist-dominated parliament last Thursday, SCAF issued a constitutional decree on Sunday granting itself sweeping powers. The decree was issued immediately after the conclusion of the presidential election run-off.
The powers stipulated in the decree include control over all budgetary and legislative matters and control of the country’s constituent assembly, which is in charge of drawing up a constitution, as well as complete command over the armed forces and their deployment to suppress “internal unrest.” The security forces have already been deployed to enforce what amounts to martial law.
These measures transform the next president into an impotent figurehead for the military junta. Results of the presidential run-off between Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, and Mohamed Mursi of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood are due to be announced Thursday. The two are right-wing representatives of rival factions of Egypt’s ruling elite.
Yesterday’s protest was called by the Muslim Brotherhood in a bid to politically control widespread popular anger over SCAF’s authoritarian moves and to exploit this opposition to pressure the military chiefs for a political accommodation. The Islamists, along with the various liberal and pseudo-left organisations that joined yesterday’s demonstration, have all promoted the illusion that SCAF and the military will allow a “democratic transition” to civilian rule.
While many who took to the streets were supporters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the demonstrations reflected broader public outrage over the military’s actions. The protesters chanted “Down with military rule!”; “Military rule again, no way! We’re the power, we’re the people!” and “You coward Field Marshal, free the parliament!”
Galal Osman told the Christian Science Monitor, “This is a military coup against the people. We want the president that we elected to have all the powers of his office. We want to write the constitution without the military interfering. You can’t have 19 unelected men subverting the will of the people.”
Speaking to the Associated Press, Mohammed Abdel-Hameed said, “It is not possible to have a revolution and then have military rule and a president with no authority. If they want blood, we are ready to offer blood. So that my son can live free.”
Popular anger over the military’s actions was compounded by news that Mubarak was being moved out of jail on medical grounds. Many people are highly sceptical of prison reports that his health is deteriorating rapidly. Mubarak was jailed on June 2 after being convicted of failing to stop the killing of protesters last year.
The ongoing protests in Tahrir Square are likely to escalate tomorrow if SCAF’s preferred candidate Shafiq is declared the winner of the election. Both sides claimed victory yesterday in the wake of Sunday’s run-off.
While posturing as democrats at the protest, Muslim Brotherhood leaders are seeking to cut a deal with the military that would allow Mursi to function as its figurehead. Spokesman Yasser Ali told a press conference: “Why do we rush to the word ‘confrontation?’ We do not seek any confrontation with anyone. No one in Egypt wants confrontation… There has to be dialogue between national forces.”
The Muslim Brotherhood does not represent the Egyptian working class and rural masses, but a layer of the bourgeoisie and upper-middle classes whose economic interests were stymied by decades of repressive military rule. Despite their bitter differences, SCAF and the Islamists share a common fear that further social and political upheaval would be a threat to bourgeois rule.
In his appeal for dialogue, Islamist spokesman Ali is calling for a continuation of the de-facto coalition with the military junta over the past year that suppressed the revolutionary movement that toppled Mubarak in February 2011.
SCAF’s coup, however, indicates that the military has decided to dispense with the political services of the Muslim Brotherhood, which could again be made illegal. Yesterday, a court adjourned a case calling for the dissolution of the Islamist organisation for not taking the necessary steps to obtain recognition by the state.
There are real fears in ruling circles in Egypt and internationally that the military’s actions could provoke a political upheaval that the Muslim Brotherhood and the various liberal and ex-left organisations might not be able to control.
The country’s EGX30 share index fell by 4.6 percent yesterday, the largest one-day drop since November 22, when security forces attacked protesters, leaving dozens dead.
Said Hirsh of Capital Economics said Monday: “Recent developments will probably increase the risk of further social unrest and crush any hope of a change in economic policy. But in the extreme, this could lead to a second revolution and thus a longer period of political uncertainty.”
The security forces will undoubtedly be out in force tomorrow as the election result is announced and protests in Tahrir Square continue.

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Revolutionary Forces Call for Mass Protest Against ‘Coup D’état’

Egypt’s revolutionary forces prepare for ‘million-man’ march Tuesday to condemn addendum to constitutional declaration reducing powers of incoming president
By Ahram Online
June 19, 2012 “Ahram Online” – Revolutionary groups will participate in Tuesday’s planned nationwide protests against the military junta’s recent moves to strip the incoming president of real power via an addendum to the country’s temporary constitution.
The April 6 Youth Movement, the Revolutionary Socialists and the Revolutionary Youth Coalition, are among the groups heading to Cairo’s Tahrir Square Tuesday afternoon.
“The declaration is a clear coup d’état against the will of the people… and will lead to a puppet president,” said Ahmed Ezzat, of the Revolutionary Socialists.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Nour Party will be joining the protest with the additional goals of condemning Thursday’s court ruling that dissolved parliament and rejecting the formation of a new constitution-drafting assembly by the junta.
The two Islamist groups, which together hold more than 70 per cent of the seats in parliament, initially called for a march to the parliament building but the idea was rejected by other groups. 
On Thursday, Egypt’s High Constitutional Court declared the Parliamentary Elections Law – which governed last year’s parliamentary poll – unconstitutional. The following day the junta ordered the closure of parliament’s doors.
On Monday, two prominent MPs – Mohamed El-Omda and Mahmoud El-Khodeiry – were barred by military authorities from entering the parliament building.
Meanwhile, junta member Mamdouh Shahin announced Monday that if the recently formed constituent assembly (tasked with drafting the new constitution) fails to complete its work, an alternative assembly would be formed by the junta within one week to write the constitution and complete the task within three months.
A number of revolutionary groups, including the April 6 Youth Movement (Democratic Front) and the Socialist Popular Alliance, will march Tuesday to the parliament building from the former headquarters of the now-dissolved National Democratic Party.
On Tuesday morning, a number of syndicates, including the Engineering Syndicate, protested against the junta’s controversial new decree allowing military personnel to arrest civilians for non-military crimes.
See also – Both sides claim victory in Egypt elections: A campaign spokesman for the former Egyptian prime minister says Ahmed Shafik has won the Egyptian presidential election, countering the Muslim Brotherhood’s claims that its candidate was the winner.

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Egyptian junta proclaims a military dictatorship

By Johannes Stern 
19 June 2012
With the issuance of a constitutional decree Sunday night, the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) finalized the coup it staged last Thursday and proclaimed a military dictatorship.
Only two days before the run-off of the Egyptian presidential election, the US-backed junta had dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament and the constitutent assembly, which had been tasked with the drafting of a new constitution.
With the constitutional decree, an amendment to the military-authored constitutional declaration issued March 30, 2011, SCAF is asserting full control over political life in Egypt.
Article 56 of the decree hands over all budgetary and legislative powers to the junta until a new parliament is elected. Article 60 B allows the generals to decide the composition of the constituent assembly and control the drafting of a new constitution.
Article 53 further expands the economic and political influence of the military. It codifies that SCAF stands above the law and enshrines the military’s control over any future government, including the president.
It specifies that “the incumbent SCAF members are responsible for deciding on all issues related to the armed forces, including appointing its leaders and extending the terms in office of the aforesaid leaders. The current head of the SCAF is to act as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and minister of defense until a new constitution is drafted.”
Article 53/1 states that “the president can declare war only after the approval of SCAF.”
Under these conditions, the results of the run-off of the presidential election between Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, and Mohamed Mursi, the Islamist candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), have little significance. The future president will be nothing more than a figurehead of SCAF.
The decree was announced only 20 minutes after the polling stations closed on Sunday. The elections–held at gunpoint, with military helicopters circling over the polling stations–were marked by fraud and numerous violations. On Monday, both campaigns declared their candidate the winner with 52 percent of the vote.
Al-Ahram Online and most other Egyptian media outlets reported that Mursi was in the lead. Official results are to be announced on Thursday.
Workers and youth reacted with a mass abstention to the first presidential election since the revolutionary ouster of longtime dictator Mubarak. Both candidates are right-wing representatives of the Egyptian ruling elite, deeply hostile to the revolution and widely despised in the working class.
The orchestrated election, the military coup and the constitutional amendments have exposed the “democratic transition” promoted by the Egyptian ruling elite and its imperialist allies in the US and Europe as a cynical fraud. These developments have also exposed the political bankruptcy of all the official political forces in Egypt–Islamist, liberal, and petty-bourgeois “left”–who declared that democracy could be established under the junta’s heel.
It was never the junta’s aim to organize a “democratic transition,” but rather to protect the power and wealth of the Egyptian ruling elite, beginning with the social privileges of the generals. From the day of the revolutionary ouster of US-stooge Mubarak, it was the single-minded goal of SCAF to defend the Egyptian bourgeois state and imperialist domination of Egypt and the entire region against the threat posed by the mass strikes and protests of the working class.
With the coup and the constitutional amendments, the generals are seeking to intimidate and suppress any renewed struggle of the working class, the main force behind the Egyptian revolution.
Article 53b of the decree allows the army to intervene to crush any mass protests that challenge the authority of the generals: “If the country faces internal unrest which requires the intervention of the armed forces, the president can issue a decision to commission the armed forces–with the approval of SCAF–to maintain security and defend public properties.”
One day before the coup, SCAF issued a decree allowing military and police forces to arrest anyone who is “harmful to the government” or who “destroys property,” “resists orders” or “obstructs traffic.”
US imperialism, the main backer and sponsor of the military junta, is clearly behind the establishment of open military rule in Egypt. AFP reported that US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the leader of SCAF, one day after the coup.
According to a Pentagon statement, Panetta called “to discuss current events in Egypt” and emphasized the need to “move forward expeditiously with Egypt’s political transition, including conducting new legislative elections as soon as possible.”
Tantawi in turn “reiterated” the commitment of the junta “to hold free and fair presidential elections as scheduled and to transfer power to a democratically elected government by July 1.” According to the statement, both “agreed on the importance of the US-Egyptian strategic relationship,” and Panetta stated that “he looks forward to working with Egypt’s newly elected government to advance our mutual interests.”
On Monday, Pentagon spokesmen George Little told reporters the US was “deeply concerned about new amendments to the constitutional declaration, including the timing of their announcement as polls were closing for the presidential election.”
Little’s comments are a cynical evasion. Panetta’s talk with Tantawi one day after the coup makes clear that the US is backing SCAF’s counterrevolutionary offensive as firmly as it backed the Mubarak regime in the initial days of the revolution, when it cracked down on mass working class protests with deadly violence.


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The Egyptian coup
16 June 2012
The military coup carried out by the ruling military junta before the run-off of the Egyptian presidential election is a serious threat to the Egyptian revolution and to the working class.
It has exposed the “democratic transition” promoted by the junta as a fraud. With the support of its imperialist allies in the US and Europe, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has eliminated all the institutions it initially created to give the illusion of a transition to democracy.
After the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) found the parliamentary electoral law unconstitutional on Thursday, SCAF dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament. The junta tightened security in Cairo, and police and military forces took over the parliament on Friday, barring MPs from entering the building.
The junta also announced it would dissolve the constituent assembly elected by the parliament on Tuesday. It plans to issue a constitutional declaration, unilaterally determining the composition of the new assembly and outlining the powers of the new president.
Under these conditions, the run-off between Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Mubarak, and Mohammed Mursi, the candidate of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, is a travesty. The army clearly intends to control whatever powers the president will have. Either candidate, if elected, would be a SCAF figurehead, tasked with defending the political and economic interests of the military and suppressing any movement of the working class.
The SCAF junta is openly asserting its full control of Egyptian political life. It is seizing the legislative and budgetary powers it handed over to the Islamist-dominated parliament in January and taking over the drafting the constitution. Only one day before the coup, the junta issued a decree allowing the police, the military and state intelligence forces to arrest civilians.
These measures show that the “democratic transition” was a ruse to hide the army’s dominant role in defending the social privileges of the ruling elite—first and foremost, Egypt’s generals. The goal from the day of dictator Hosni Mubarak’s resignation was to defend Egyptian capitalism and imperialist rule in the Middle East against the threat posed by the most powerful revolutionary movement of the working class in decades.
With the coup, the generals are trying to create an atmosphere of unchallenged military authority and avoid a repetition of the situation in the early weeks of the revolution, when they felt they could not rely on the soldiers to obey orders to crush mass protests of the working class.
The main target of the coup is not the official political opposition—neither the Islamists, who dominated the dissolved parliament, nor the liberal and petty-bourgeois “left” groups—but the main force behind the Egyptian revolution: the proletariat.
The generals will deal ruthlessly with renewed strikes and protests by the working class. The coup sets the stage for a confrontation between the junta and the working class, which can defend itself only on the basis of a struggle to overthrow the junta and the capitalist class whose interests it serves.
The pseudo-left forces like the Socialist Popular Alliance (SPA), the Egyptian Socialist Party, the Communist Party of Egypt, and the Revolutionary Socialists (RS) stand exposed as tools of US imperialism and the junta. They insisted that workers could fight for the basic demands of the revolution within the framework of the institutions created by the junta. They opposed the development of a revolutionary struggle by the working class to overthrow the junta and fight for socialism.
After SCAF took power, they claimed, in the words of RS member Mustafa Omar, that Mubarak’s generals would “reform the political and economic system, allowing it to become more democratic and less oppressive.” When the working class moved against SCAF and raised the popular demand for a “second revolution,” they opposed it.
Most of the pseudo-left parties signed the so-called “pledge document” presented to the presidential candidates, which swore allegiance to the 1971 Egyptian constitution and explicitly endorsed the army’s role in the country’s political life. These parties gave their imprimatur to the underpinnings of the junta’s rule only days before the coup.
To fight the counterrevolution, the working class must take the road of mass political struggle against the Egyptian capitalist state, in opposition to all attempts to conciliate with the coup plotters in the Egyptian army staff and their imperialist advisors. This entails a determined political struggle for Marxism to shatter the influence of the pseudo-left apologists for the junta’s “democratic transition.”
The military coup poses most clearly the question of state power. None of the demands that impelled the Egyptian working class onto the road of revolution in January last year—for political freedom, social equality, and an end to poverty―can be satisfied without smashing the power of the junta and replacing it with a state power controlled by the working class itself.
Events have vindicated the perspective of Permanent Revolution fought for by the Trotskyist movement, the International Committee of the Fourth International, which insists that basic democratic rights can be secured only through socialist revolution and the establishment of workers’ power, as part of the fight for the United Socialist States of the Middle East. These events have underscored that the central issue confronting the Egyptian working class is the building of a new, revolutionary leadership based on this perspective, i.e., an Egyptian section of the ICFI.
Johannes Stern

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Egyptian junta stages coup against parliament

By Johannes Stern 

15 June 2012
The US-backed Egyptian military junta dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament yesterday in a military coup. This came only two days before the run-offs of in Egypt’s presidential elections—the first since the ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak amid mass working class protests last year.
The decision by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) junta to dissolve parliament was preceded by a ruling of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC). It suddenly declared the electoral law under which the parliament was elected in November-January unconstitutional.
The SCC, a court composed of judges appointed by Mubarak, ruled that one third of the seats in parliament were invalid because candidates of political parties were elected for seats exclusively reserved for independents.
The junta’s preparations for the ruling made clear that its main political target is the Egyptian working class, and that its main fear is the renewal of the working class struggles that brought down Mubarak last year. Before the court ruling, the junta tightened security in Cairo. Tanks were deployed in front of the heavily guarded courthouse.
The Corniche, a road along the banks of the Nile close to the court, was barricaded with barbed wire, with rows of soldiers behind it to cordon off protesters who shouted against the SCAF junta and demanded the cleansing of the judiciary. Angry youths set posters of Shafiq on fire and others waved their shoes in the air as a sign of contempt.
In the same court session, the SCC also approved the presidential candidacy of Ahmed Sahfiq, the last prime minister under Mubarak. The first round of the elections had produced a run-off between Mohamed Mursi, the candidate of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and Shafiq, the military’s preferred candidate.
Shafiq’s candidacy was threatened by the so-called political isolation law, passed by the parliament earlier this year, which bars high-ranking officials of the Mubarak regime from running for office.
To secure Shafiq’s position in the run-offs, the SSC declared the political isolation law unconstitutional as well. It cynically declared that the political isolation law directed against officials of the Mubarak dictatorship violates the right of equality before the law.
A military source quoted in the Egyptian Independent stated that the junta will also dissolve the constituent assembly elected by parliament on Tuesday and tasked with beginning the preparation of a new Egyptian constitution. Instead, “a constitutional declaration is scheduled to be issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which includes the formation of the Constituent Assembly,” the source said.

The court rulings and the junta’s decisions have exposed the “democratic transition” promoted by the Egyptian ruling elite and its imperialist allies in the US and Europe as a fraud.
By dissolving the parliament and the constituent assembly, the SCAF is seizing all legislative authority it handed over to the parliament in January and taking back control of drafting the country’s constitution.
The composition of the constituent assembly was one of the major points of conflict between SCAF and the Islamist-dominated parliament over the course of the last months. By moving to control the drafting of the constitution, the junta is making clear it intends to completely control Egypt’s political future. In particular, it can decide which powers the president will have or not have. Under these conditions, the presidential elections themselves have little real significance.
The immediate target of the military coup inside the Egyptian state machine is the Islamist MB. After the SCAF junta and the MB cooperated closely to suppress the working class in the initial months of the revolution, divisions between them grew after the parliamentary elections won by the Islamists. Both the military and the MB control vast portions of the Egyptian economy and represent the economic and political interests of competing factions of the Egyptian ruling elite.
Immediately after Mubarak’s judges had given a green light to Shafiq’s campaign, he gave a televised press conference which had the air of a victory speech. He praised SCAF and the police and declared that he “will confront chaos and restore stability in the country.”
In a blunt threat to his political rivals, he stated that “the era of settling accounts, writing laws that target specific people and using state institutions to achieve private goals is over.”
After the court rulings were announced, the MB and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), met for an emergency meeting. Mursi declared they would respect the SCC’s ruling and that he would stay in the race. He said, “We’ll go as far as we can, and if the former regime tries to rise, the revolution will be more severe this time.”
Mursi made clear, however, that the goal of the MB is to reach a deal with the junta. He stressed that there is no option but “the revolution at the ballot boxes” demanding “the handover of power and an end to the transitional period.”
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland made clear that Washington is tacitly backing the coup. She cynically declared that the US wants “to see the Egyptian people have what they fought for, which is a free, fair, democratic, transparent system of government—governance that represents the will of the people, a parliament so elected, a president so elected.”
Nuland’s comments are a cynical evasion. By voicing no objections to the coup, the US is supporting the SCAF’s counterrevolutionary measures just as firmly as they backed their long-time stooge Mubarak last year as he unleashed deadly violence against mass working class protests.
With their counterrevolutionary offensive, Mubarak’s generals signal that they are not only willing to fully reinstate the Mubarak regime but are preparing to eliminate all potential centers of opposition inside the state machine and official politics.
The ultimate target of any such crackdown, however, will be the working class—which led the revolutionary struggles that brought down the Mubarak regime and have repeatedly shaken the SCAF regime. The coup sets the stage for a violent confrontation between the junta and the working masses.
The day before the court rulings, the ministry of justice issued a decree allowing police, military police and state intelligence officers to arrest civilians. The decree was in fact a reintroduction of a stricter version of the emergency law that officially expired two weeks ago.
It allows the junta to detain anyone who is “harmful to the government,” “destroys property,” “resists orders” or “obstructs traffic.”

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Tahrir Square, round two

By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani 
CAIRO – The long-awaited verdict in Egypt’s “trial of the century” – a life sentence for ousted president Hosni Mubarak and acquittals for most other defendants – has brought the people back to Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The controversial court rulings come at a time of extraordinary domestic political upheaval, with Egypt’s first free presidential runoff just over a week away. 
“The contentious Mubarak verdict has aggravated an already tense political situation,” Mohamed Sami, head of the nationalist Karama (‘Dignity’) Party, told IPS. “Egypt’s short-term political future will likely be determined by the scope and intensity of the coming wave of demonstrations.” 
On Saturday, a Cairo criminal court issued its ruling in the months-long trial of Mubarak, who – along with his long-time interior minister Habib al-Adli and six of the latter’s assistants – had been charged with the murder of some 850 unarmed protesters during last year’s Tahrir Square uprising. 
The verdict came as a surprise: life in prison for Mubarak and al-Adli, while the latter’s six assistants were acquitted of all charges.
In a second ruling delivered the same day, Mubarak and his two sons – Alaa and Gamal – along with fugitive business tycoon Hussein Salam (who had played a key role in Egypt’s recently cancelled gas-export deal with Israel), were all acquitted of multiple corruption charges. 
Pro-revolution political forces blasted the rulings, saying that Mubarak and al-Adli deserved nothing less than execution. What’s more, the exoneration of al-Adli’s assistants, critics charge, will make it easy for the ousted president and his former minister to appeal their sentences. 
“Life sentences for Mubarak and al-Adli had been expected in order to placate a public hungry for justice,” said Ahmed Maher, general coordinator of the April 6 youth movement, which played a prominent role in last year’s uprising. 
“But both men will certainly appeal the verdicts,” Maher told IPS. “They might even be exonerated of charges of ordering the killing of protesters, given that al-Adli’s assistants – who presumably carried out those orders – were themselves acquitted. 
“The acquittal of al-Adli’s assistants also sends a signal to the police that they can continue to murder political protesters with impunity.” 
Within hours of the verdict, thousands of protesters had converged on Cairo’s Tahrir Square to denounce the rulings and demand justice for the “martyrs” of last year’s popular uprising. The following day (Monday), tens of thousands turned out to the flashpoint square to demand the defendants’ retrial and the dismissal of Egypt’s longstanding prosecutor-general. 
The latest round of demonstrations comes at a time of exceptional political uncertainty in Egypt, which is now midway through its first post-Mubarak presidential election. 
A first-round vote late last month yielded unanticipated results, with Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi coming in first with 25% of the vote and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, coming in second with 24%. The two men are now slated to face off in a hotly contested runoff vote on June 16-17. 
The surprising new electoral equation pitting the Brotherhood – which controls almost half the seats in parliament – against a former Mubarak regime official has also served to bring protesters back to the square. 
“The current Tahrir Square protests aren’t only the result of the Mubarak verdicts, but also of the ongoing presidential election, which will put voters between the Muslim Brotherhood and what many see as the revival of the Mubarak regime,” said Sami. 
On June 5, more than 100,000 demonstrators of all political stripes – including the Brotherhood – hit the square to voice two main demands: a retrial for Mubarak and his fellow defendants, and the application of a “political disenfranchisement law”. The law, which would bar Mubarak-era officials from holding high positions of state, was ratified by parliament in April and awaits the approval of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court. 
Hossam Eissa, a law professor at Cairo’s Ain Shams University and a prominent leftist personality, told IPS that application of the disenfranchisement law “would mean conducting the presidential elections again from scratch”. 
Many of the Tahrir Square protesters are also demanding the formation of “civil presidential council” consisting of the Brotherhood’s Morsi and eliminated presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi (nationalist-leftist) and Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh (moderate Islamist). The latter two men came in third and fourth place respectively in last month’s first-round presidential vote. 
The proposed council – which largely aims to sideline Shafiq – would be mandated with governing the country until a new constitution is drafted and fresh elections held. While the idea has met with support from liberal and leftist quarters, it was quickly rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood. 
If political forces want to see Shafiq defeated, the Brotherhood asserts, they should unite behind the Brotherhood’s candidate in this month’s runoff. 
According to Sami, proposals for an unelected presidential council “aren’t realistic” since such a council would lack constitutionality. 
“What’s more, neither parliament nor Egypt’s ruling military council has the authority to create such a body,” Sami said. “It’s more realistic to push for the application of the political disenfranchisement law, which would see Shafiq barred from contesting the presidency and force fresh elections.” 
While leftist and liberal parties and groups voice deep misgivings about the Brotherhood, both sides are united in their rejection of Shafiq, who is widely seen as a symbol of the ousted Mubarak regime. 
“Tuesday’s demonstration sent a powerful message to Mubarak regime holdovers that the Egyptian people reject a return to the autocracy and corruption of the past,” Mahmoud al-Khodeiry, head of parliament’s legislative affairs committee, told IPS from Tahrir Square. 
Maher, for his part, warned that the controversial court verdicts had proven that “remnants of the Mubarak regime remain deeply entrenched throughout all echelons of the state”. That being the case, he went on to describe last year’s Tahrir Square uprising as “only round-one of Egypt’s ongoing revolution.” 
(Inter Press Service)

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The Mubarak verdict

5 June 2012

The verdicts handed down Saturday in the trial of deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his top aides are a political travesty.
Accused of overseeing killings of protesters by police in the initial weeks of the Egyptian revolution in January-February 2011, Mubarak and former Interior Minister Habib El-Adly were cleared, on the basis that there was no evidence they were involved. Both were condemned to life in prison, but only for failing to halt the slaughter. Over 1,000 people were killed by police during the initial uprising.
The judiciary acquitted El-Adly’s deputies and the heads of the various security and police forces that unleashed deadly force against protesters. As it has ruled there is no evidence that Mubarak actively committed any crimes, the judiciary has offered legal grounds for letting him off entirely, should he appeal the verdict in the future.
The ruling whitewashes the Egyptian state machine, on which Egypt’s ruling military junta rests, as well the role of US and European imperialism. Having worked closely with Mubarak for decades, Washington and its allies backed Mubarak during the February 2011 uprising and now back the junta. In early February of 2011, as Egyptian security forces killed hundreds of protesters, US envoy Frank Wisner declared, “President Mubarak’s role remains utterly critical in the days ahead as we sort our way toward the future.”
The verdict makes clear that the current Egyptian regime rests on a lie—the claim that the social and democratic aspirations that drove the working class into revolutionary struggle last year could be met by simply deposing a few officials at the summit of the state apparatus.

Any serious examination of Mubarak’s crimes would expose the entire state apparatus of the Egyptian ruling class. The Egyptian junta, consisting of Mubarak’s old generals, rests upon the same security forces as Mubarak, protected by his judiciary, and financed and armed by his allies among the imperialist powers.
The verdict also exposes the political bankruptcy of the Egyptian middle-class “left.” Hostile to a revolutionary struggle to mobilize the working class to overthrow the regime and fight for socialism, it advanced instead the claim that it could build democracy under the junta’s dictatorship. The verdict in the Mubarak trial again confirms the sham character of the so-called “democratic transition” taking place under the junta’s heel—including the June 16-17 presidential run-off election.
Both candidates who made it to the run-offs—Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Mubarak, and Mohamed Mursi, the candidate of the right-wing Muslim Brotherhood (MB)—are deeply hostile to the revolution. Shafiq reportedly described Mubarak as a “role model” in a speech at the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, pledging to restore order within a month using executions and brutal force.
Mursi, who collaborated with the junta and has close ties with the US, also made clear he intends to rely on Mubarak’s police establishment. After winning the first round of the elections, he praised the police and the army, assuring them that “the status of policemen and officers will remain the same.”
Despite these statements, the middle-class “left” forces are stepping up their campaign to back Mursi and, through him, the established social order. On Tahrir Square on Saturday, Hisham Fouad, a leader of the Revolutionary Socialists (RS) group, declared: “I am standing by Mohamed Mursi, strategically in the presidential elections. We believe if numbers continue to flow into Egypt’s squares and streets this will make it harder for Shafiq to get into government.”
The petty-bourgeois “left’s” call for a “strategic” vote for the Islamist right, which aligns them with the Egyptian state, is the latest in a long series of political betrayals.
In the first months of the revolution, the RS praised the junta as a progressive force, claiming that the junta’s generals could be pressured from below for reforms and to cleanse the institutions of the Mubarak regime. After this perspective was shattered last year by popular calls for a “second revolution”—which the RS opposed—they are now endorsing the Islamist MB as an alternative to ex-Mubarak regime officials.
After the initial victories, the experience of the revolution has shown that waves of protests, however massive, cannot secure the victory of the revolution’s social and democratic demands. The working class will get nothing by trying to pressure or reform the state apparatus of the Mubarak regime; the only way forward is to fight for its overthrow.
The critical task facing the working class is to build its own popular organs of struggles, laying the basis for the overthrow of the regime and its replacement with a workers’ state struggling for socialist policies in Egypt, the Middle East and internationally.
Only such a workers’ state will be able to make a full accounting of the crimes of Mubarak and his imperialist backers.
Johannes Stern

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Protests erupt against presidential elections in Egypt

By Johannes Stern 

30 May 2012
Protests broke out in various Egyptian cities after the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) announced the official results of the initial round of the presidential elections. According to SPEC, Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, and Mohamed Mursi, the candidate of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB), will face each other in the run-off election scheduled for June 16-17.
The final results put Mursi in first place with 24.78 percent of the vote, followed by Shafiq, with 23.66 percent. In third place was the Nasserite candidate Hamdeen Sabahi who received 20.72 percent. The moderate Islamist candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh came in fourth place with 17.47 percent, and Amr Moussa, the former head of the Arab League and a minister under Mubarak, came in fifth, with 11.13 percent. The official voter turnout was low, with only 46.42 percent of eligible voters casting ballots.
The protests were directed alike against Shafiq, considered to be the preferred candidate of the military, and the Islamist Mursi. In Cairo, thousands of protesters blocked traffic on Tahrir Square, the iconic epicentre of the Egyptian revolution, shouting: “Down With Military Rule! Down With the Supreme Guide [of the Brotherhood] Rule!”

In the early evening, some 400 protesters, chanting against feloul (remnants of the former regime) stormed Shafiq’s campaign office and burnt it down. Security forces intervened, arresting protesters, and fire trucks arrived to bring the blaze under control.
Throughout the night demonstrators continued marching in downtown Cairo, shouting, “Smash Shafiq on His Head,” and holding his campaign posters upside down. Others chanted, “Down With the Dogs of the Military Regime.”
Ali, a 24-year-old pharmacist who worked in makeshift field hospitals on Tahrir Square during clashes with the military and security forces, stated: “We are sending a message to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) that we will never accept Ahmed Shafiq as our next president. He is the second Mubarak and was even in the Air Force, like the ousted leader.”
In the coastal city of Alexandria, thousands of protesters marched and tore down posters of Shafiq and Mursi. Protests also were staged in the Delta city of Daqahlia, where demonstrators chanted: “Against Mubarak, Father and Son! Against the Shoe and the Spare!” (“Spare” is a reference to Mursi, who was dubbed the “spare tire” after the junta disqualified the first candidate of the Brotherhood, Kheirat al-Shater, and Mursi was inserted as al-Shater’s replacement). Protesters also questioned the validity of the results, chanting: “Oh Bagato [the secretary general of SPEC], Tell the Truth! Was the Election Fraudulent or Not?”
Numerous violations were reported during the election process and there is a widespread feeling amongst Egyptian workers and youth that the whole framework of the elections is illegitimate. “The elections were clearly controlled by the state,” Alaa Shafani, a ceramic worker from Mansoura, told the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram Online. His son lost his leg during clashes with the police last year. “I boycotted the elections in the first place because they are illegal,” he added. “How can you have presidential elections without a constitution?”
The elections were held under the dictatorial auspices of the US-backed SCAF, with emergency laws but no constitution in place. The army was deployed all across the country and armed soldiers controlled the polling stations. Various cases of voters who tried to document electoral violations being arrested have been reported.
All the candidates were handpicked by the military junta and are strong defenders of the Egyptian bourgeois state and the predominance of capitalist and imperialist rule in Egypt and throughout the region.
The renewed protests immediately after the first round of the elections are a blow to the US-backed “transition to democracy” organized by the Egyptian ruling elite and supported by all official political forces in Egypt—be they Islamist, liberal, or petty-bourgeois pseudo-left. All of these forces fear another eruption of the militant strikes and protests that brought down Mubarak in February of 2011. They are anxious to devise new political mechanisms to control the working class and intensify the counterrevolution.
On Monday, various liberal and “left” political parties—including the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Tagammu Party, the Popular Socialist Alliance, El-Adl, the Arab Nasserite Party and the Democratic Front—met to discuss the formation of a so-called “united front.” The meeting was attended by presidential candidate Amr Moussa. Sabahi had also been invited. The participants claimed their aim was to “protect the revolution and the civil state” and not to support either of the candidates in the second round.
In fact, the meeting made perfectly clear that the aim of the proposed front is the precise opposite. It drafted a document to be presented to both Shafiq and Mursi and a representative announced that the group could support one of the candidates if he endorsed the document. The main demand is the formation of a constituent assembly consisting of “all forces of society” and tasked with drafting a new constitution.
The Revolutionary Socialists (RS) issued a statement openly embracing the Muslim Brotherhood and calling for a vote for Mursi. As with the parties of the “united front,” the RS called on the Brotherhood to pledge to form a government of national unity including Sabahi and Fotouh.
Mursi has already sent signals that he is willing to cooperate with liberal and petty-bourgeois “left” forces. In a statement Tuesday he pledged to form a “coalition government” if elected. “This government would consist of politicians from a variety of groups, not just Islamists or Brotherhood members… and the prime minister will not be from the Brotherhood or the Freedom and Justice Party,” he said.
In the same statement, Mursi made clear that such a government would intensify the counterrevolutionary offensive against the working class in collaboration with the military and the police. He praised the police and the army for securing the presidential elections, adding that “the status of policemen and officers will remain the same.”

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The Egyptian junta’s fraudulent elections and the tasks of the working class

26 May 2012

The Egyptian elections have exposed the sham character of the so-called “transition to democracy” organized by the Egyptian ruling class in conjunction with its allies in Washington after the overthrow of longtime US-stooge Hosni Mubarak by mass working class protests last February.
With the last votes being counted, the elections have set up a run-off between Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Mubarak, and Mohamed Mursi, the candidate of the right-wing Muslim Brotherhood.
Neither of these candidates speak with any political legitimacy for the aims of the Egyptian revolution. They are both deeply hostile to the aspirations for an end to poverty and dictatorship that drove millions of Egyptian workers into the streets last year to bring down Mubarak.
The elections were marked by low voter turnout reflecting the widespread sense amongst the masses that the junta’s elections have nothing to do with their revolutionary struggles, but are rather directed against their social and democratic aspirations.
The elections were held at gunpoint under the dictatorial auspices of the SCAF [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] junta with emergency laws in place but without a constitution. As Mubarak’s generals called upon the Egyptian people to vote for one of their handpicked candidates, they had not even decided what powers they intend to cede to the winner of the elections.
The utterly fraudulent elections were hailed by US imperialism and its stooges. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that the vote in Egypt marked “another important milestone in their transition to democracy” and cynically announced that she and other US officials “look forward to working with Egypt’s democratically elected government.”
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the chairman of the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) in Libya, which was bombed to power in a brutal US-led imperialist war against the defenseless country last year, praised the elections as “superb,” stressing that a “a stable Egypt means a stable Arab World.”
The elections set the stage for intensifying power struggles between two bourgeois factions amid expectations of a renewed explosion of working class anger driven by a deepening social and economic crisis as well as the rumors that ousted dictator Mubarak could soon be released.
The military and the Muslim Brotherhood both control large portions of the Egyptian economy, posing the threat of a violent fight over which faction of the bourgeoisie is to control the vast resources of the country. Egyptian workers have no real choice in the elections, as the voting is merely designed to give a false veneer of legitimacy to a regime that is preparing for an intensification of the suppression of the working class.
In order to confront the threat of an intensifying counterrevolution, Egyptian workers and youth must draw a balance sheet. Despite the most heroic sacrifices, the revolution could not triumph without a revolutionary leadership and perspective. The working class, the force that drove the revolution, remains totally disenfranchised and without any political representation.
This is mainly due to the role of the petty-bourgeois “left” parties in Egypt that claim to speak in the name of the revolution or even “socialism,” but are in fact allies of the counterrevolutionary forces. Representing the interests of more affluent layers of the middle class, they are financially and politically tied to Western imperialism and various sections of the Egyptian ruling class.
Organizations such as the misnamed Revolutionary Socialists (RS) opposed any struggle at any stage of the revolution to overthrow the army and replace the Mubarak regime with a workers’ state fighting for socialist policies against imperialist rule in the Middle East.
Initially, the RS and their international co-thinkers supported the SCAF junta and claimed that, “the council aims to reform the political and economic system.” They offered their services in controlling the working class in order to receive an “enlarged democratic space” under military rule in which they could prosper and enrich themselves.
As soon as their collaboration with the junta was threatened by mass protests against the military, they opposed popular calls for a “second revolution.” Instead they went into an alliance with Islamist forces, thus paving the way for the army’s crackdown on the June-July sit-in in Tahrir Square. Their alliance with the Islamists also foundered on mass protests against the parliamentary elections in November-January, in which the Islamists won the majority.
Having ceded leadership at every critical point of the revolution to bourgeois forces, their call for a general strike together with the Western-backed independent trade unions on February 11 draw no popular response amongst workers. Shocked by the indifference and hostility of the workers to their maneuvers, the RS moved even further to the right. Having promoted the presidential elections as an achievement of the revolution, they bear political responsibility for a situation where the Islamists and officials of the old Mubarak regime dominate political life in Egypt.
This dangerous outcome has vindicated the perspective of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), which sought to clarify the social antagonism between the working class and the various bourgeois and petty-bourgeois layers represented in the political establishment.
The counterrevolutionary support of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties and groups for the US-backed transition is a stark confirmation of Leon Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution, which holds that in backward countries such as Egypt, only the socialist struggle of the working class in alliance with their international class brothers and sisters can achieve any of the revolutionary aspirations of the masses.
To fight back against the counterrevolution and regain the revolutionary momentum, the main task for the working class remains that of establishing its political independence through the building of sections of the ICFI in Egypt and throughout the Middle East to fight for victory in the coming class battles.
Johannes Stern

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The horror and the pita

By Spengler 

Egypt’s national tragedy took a turn towards farce April 27, when Saudi Arabia closed its embassy and several consulates after demonstrations that “threaten the security and safety of Saudi and Egyptian employees, raising hostile slogans and violating the inviolability and sovereignty”, according to a Saudi statement. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States were supposed to anchor an international aid package that will forestall a disorderly financial crisis. 

With a critical fuel shortage cutting into food supplies and essential services, Egyptians already have a foretaste of chaos. The two-for-a-penny pita, the subsidized flat bread that provides much of the caloric intake for the half of Egypt’s population living on less than $2 a day, is at risk. 


A battle over the Muslim Brotherhood’s international ambitions may push Egypt over the edge into a Somali level of horror. I warned in this space on April 11 [1] that the Muslim Brotherhood thinks that it can thrive on chaos. The anti-Saudi demonstrations support this interpretation of the Brotherhood’s actions. 


The anti-Saudi demonstrations began after a Saudi court sentenced an Egyptian lawyer, Ahmed el-Gezawi, to a year in prison and 20 lashes for offending the Saudi monarch King Abdullah. It’s not clear who started them, but Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood apparently encouraged them. 


The Saudis claim that Gezawi was smuggling Xanax into the kingdom. Just who started the demonstrations against Saudi embassies and consulates is unclear, but the Muslim Brotherhood is holding a net to catch the fallout. As Reuters reported April 28,

The Muslim Brotherhood’s political party said the protests at the Saudi embassy showed “the desire of Egyptians to preserve the dignity of their citizens in Arab states”. Analysts point to the rise of the Brotherhood as a cause of Saudi concern about the direction of the post-Mubarak Egypt.

As I reported April 11, [2] the Brotherhood prefers an early economic crisis to a later one, so that it can blame the disaster on the present military government. The Muslim Brotherhood’s then presidential candidate Khairat al-Shater”said he realized the country’s finances were precarious and a severe crunch could come by early to mid-May as the end of the fiscal year approached, but that this was the government’s problem to resolve.” Since then, the military-controlled elections commission has excluded al-Shater as a candidate, and the Brotherhood replaced him with Mohammed Morsi. 


Meanwhile, Egypt’s Salafist party, the extreme Islamists, withdrew support from Mohammed Morsi and backed instead the more liberal Islamist candidate, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, often described as a “defector” from the Brotherhood. 


Although the Salafists propose an even more extreme version of the Muslim Brotherhood’s program, oil is thicker than blood in the region; the Salafists get a reported $50 million annual subsidy from the Saudis, and presumably are acting under Saudi orders. 


As the situation on the ground deteriorates, Egypt’s military government is becoming a bystander to events. Egypt is in a classic pre-revolutionary situation, like Russia in October 1917 or German in March 1933, with a vanguard party ready to dislodge a disintegrating civil society, and replace it with totalitarian party rule at street level. The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest political party, is poised to ride to power on the back of this crisis.


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is negotiating a US$3 billion loan with the Egyptian government, with the understanding that all the major parties will support severe belt-tightening, and that the Saudis and other Gulf states will fund the loan as well as additional aid. Saudi Arabia had promised to lend Egypt $3.75 billion, but paid in only $500 million of its pledge. Last week the Saudis said that they would pay in another $1 billion. But that was before the demonstrations against their embassy. 


As the main opposition body to military misrule during the past six decades, the Brotherhood harbors parliamentarians as well as firebrands. But the revolutionary dynamic in Egypt favors the firebrands. As critical shortages spread through Egypt’s fragile economy, Islamist street justice already is replacing the corrupt and crumbling institutions of the military regime. There is a second analogy to revolutionary Leninism, in the form of the Brotherhood’s international ambitions. 


In effect, the Muslim Brotherhood has chosen to push the country towards chaos. “North Africa’s biggest economy has imploded since a democratic uprising last year and the country will run out of money to meet basic subsidies including wheat and oil by the summer,” the Daily Telegraph reported April 16. The proposed $3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, the newspaper added, was part of a $12 billion emergency financing package from the IMF and European Union to save the Egyptian economy from collapse. “Brussels is most worried about the popular backlash that would result from deep cuts in public spending,” the Telegraph reported. 


The backlash, though, has been in progress for more than a year. Islamist organizations began to take control of food and fuel distribution as shortages appeared after the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The first Islamist equivalent of workers’ soviets, or “revolutionary committees,” were formed to discipline bakeries and propane sellers who “charge more than the price prescribed by law,” the Federation of Egyptian Radio and Television reported on May 3, 2011. 


These committees formed under the aegis of the Ministry of Solidarity and Social Justice. What has already emerged in Egypt, to use Leninist terminology, is a situation of dual power. The military government remains in command, but critical economic functions already are in the hands of Islamist parties. 


The Ministry of Solidarity and Social Justice began forming “revolutionary committees” to mete out street justice to bakeries, propane dealers and street vendors who “charge more than the price prescribed by law”, the Federation of Egyptian Radio and Television reported on May 3, 2011. The Solidarity ministry declared that “Gangsters are in control of bread and butane prices” and “people’s committees” would be formed to combat them. 


Fuel shortages have become critical in many parts of Egypt. UN observers report that the supply of diesel is down by 35%, and is so scarce that food supplies are threatened. According to the UN news service IRIN in an April 2 report from Cairo, “It has been three months since a fuel shortage hit Egypt, and people’s patience is wearing thin amid fears the crisis could disrupt the production of subsidized bread. The government blames hoarding for the crisis. Thousands of cars queue outside petrol stations from early morning, while long queues form outside gas cylinder centers.” 


More than a hundred Egyptian bakeries shut down in mid-April to protest the fuel shortage, the Egyptian news site Youm7.com reported April 12 [3]. In Beni Suef, dozens of bakery owners gathered in front of a government flour warehouse to complain that they could obtain fuel only at black market prices, which required them to sell bread at black market prices. 


Hoarding explains part of the problem. Egypt is running out of cash – its liquid foreign exchange reserves have fallen from $25 billion when Mubarak fell to only US$9 billion in March – and a devaluation of the Egyptian pound is widely expected, followed by a sharp rise in the price of imported commodities. But outright theft of exportable commodities also contributes to the shortages. Daily demand for gasoline jumped to 23 million liters from 14 million liters last September, the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation reported, and Egyptian press reports alleged that the additional demand reflected illegal sales of gasoline to overseas buyers. 


It is not clear whether the government is trying to make its dwindling reserves last longer by cutting fuel imports, whether hoarding of fuel is in anticipation of a devaluation, or whether fuel supplies simply are being loaded onto tankers and sold to foreign buyers. Judging from Arab-language press reports and blogs, though, the public’s perception is that corruption and incompetence have brought about an economic disaster. The military government has created a vacuum, and the Muslim Brotherhood must fill this vacuum or lose its chance to accede to power. Judging from al-Shater’s opposition to an IMF loan, the Brotherhood has decided that worse is better. 


The military government appears to have responded to the threat from the Muslim Brotherhood indirectly, through the Electoral Commission’s April 14 announcement that it had disqualified al-Shater along with nine other presidential candidates. The pretext for banning al-Shater has to do with a jail term he served under the Mubarak regime. 


Another Islamist candidate, Hazem Salah Aboul Ismail, was disqualified on the grounds that his mother was naturalized an American citizen. Ismail has threatened to retaliate to reveal secrets about corruption in the military government. A day before the Electoral Commission’s announcement, the Muslim Brotherhood in alliance with the Salafist Front had filled Tahrir Square with demonstrators. Now the Salafists and the Brotherhood are fighting. 


The Saudi Crown Prince, Interior Minister Prince Nayif bin Abd al-Aziz, is a bitter enemy of the Brotherhood. “In the past Nayif has castigated the Muslim Brotherhood for their influence in Saudi Arabia, so he can be expected to look on with suspicion as the Brotherhood moves towards power in Egypt and perhaps in Syria and Tunisia,” Joshua Teitelbaum wrote in a paper for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies [4]. 


And on April 16, Jordan’s parliament passed a draft political law that would disqualify the country’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood from participation elections, effectively banning the largest opposition party to the Hashemite monarchy. 


The Arab monarchies fear that the ascent of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt by revolutionary means portends a further revolutionary assault on their own regimes. And the result of American failure to take decisive action to interdict the Brotherhood’s march to power is likely to be greater instability and a decline of American influence in the region. 


Interdicting the Brotherhood, in turn, requires an uncharacteristic harshness on the part of American policy. War correspondent Peter Arnett might have concocted the notorious statement, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,” supposedly said by an American officer of the Vietnamese provincial capital Ben Tre in 1968. Something like that might be the outcome for Egypt. 


Notes 
1. Muslim Brotherhood chooses chaos Asia Times Online, April 11, 2012. 
2. Ibid. 
3. See here
4. See here

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman, president of Macrostrategy LLC. His book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Toowas published by Regnery Press in September 2011. A volume of his essays on culture, religion and economics, It’s Not the End of the World – It’s Just the End of Youalso appeared this autumn, from Van Praag Press. 

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


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