Egypt: How SCAF Got Its Groove Back

by Pham Binh on July 17, 2013

The dust kicked up by the so-called people’s coup of July 3 in Egypt is finally settling and we can finally discern who won and who lost. Wild claims of over 30 million people protesting notwithstanding, the winner of the conflict between Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi and the masses fed up with the Morsi’s hyper-inept governance is the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), a coterie of the reactionary generals beholden to no one but themselves.

Anyone who doubts that SCAF was victorious over the revolutionary people are probably unaware that SCAF-appointed interim president Adly Mansour’s power grab is far more serious than what President Morsi was condemned for and the Islamism codified by Mansour’s new constitution is worse than Morsi’s voter-sanctioned constitution. SCAF has also overturned the March 2011 majority vote (approved by a crushing majority of 77%) to elect a parliament before drafting a new constitution and reversed the order of operations, locking in a constitution first before any elections take place. This effectively straightjackets any future parliament from enacting constitutional limits to military and police powers through something akin to the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Add to all that the fact that SCAF arrested President Morsi and hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, shut down their TV stations, repressed al-Jazeera and other media agencies, used snipers to kill reporters, and fired live ammunition into peaceful protests killing 54 and injuring over 1,000 – all without a peep of protest from the masses who rallied against President Morsi on June 30. The silence of millions who last week rose up against President Morsi’s “dictatorship” in the face of the crimes of the SCAF dictatorship is a sign that one has divided into two, that the revolutionary people have divided against themselves – secular democrats against Islamist democrats, Islamists against salafists, Coptic Christians against Muslim Brothers, salafists against secularists – instead of remaining united to dismantle the judiciary, mukhbarat, and military apparatuses that relentlessly bled, tortured, and killed them all for more than half a century. The spirit of Tahrir Square, where an injury to one was an injury to all, has dissipated due to the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government’s failure to deliver security, prosperity, and good governance to an increasingly impoverished and restless population.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood was removed from office before they could exhaust themselves as the country’s most popular and powerful political force, today they are impotent and isolated despite their mass support in the face of unrelenting state repression. The millions of votes cast for Morsi and his brethren count for nothing in a system based on bullets rather than ballots and fundamentally that is what the coup revived: rule by the ballot was replaced by rule by the bullet, rule by lawfully elected authorities was replaced by rule by unlawful, unelected authorities. Whether 10 million, 20 million, or 30 million people cheered this on does not change the fact that the Egyptian people have less power over the state that oppresses them than they did two weeks ago.


Egypt’s democratic revolution, hardly begun in institutional terms, has been aborted and undone by SCAF. The thin layer of elected officials sitting atop Egypt’s police state machinery was forcibly removed and is being actively suppressed by that machinery. Until the next elections (tentatively scheduled by SCAF for 2014), the state will continue to crush the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s single largest and most popular political party, thereby cementing SCAF’s role as political kingmaker for perhaps the next decade since the anti-Muslim Brotherhood opposition is too weak, too fractious, and too unpopular to form a democratic and stable government of its own.

If SCAF can so easily oust President Morsi and smash the most deeply rooted grassroots organization in the Egypt, taming a future President Mohamed El Baradei, Hamdeen Sabahi, or Amr Moussa, with their considerably weaker following, will be child’s play. And a future President Ahmed Shafiq? Egypt’s Pinochet will not need any taming at all.

For secular fans of democracy, the inescapable contradiction of the Arab Spring is that anti or non-secular Islamist parties were bound to win power in free and fair democratic elections held after dictators were vanquished throughout the Middle East and North Africa. This dilemma forced secular democrats to choose between the separation of religion from state power and the protection of minority rights on the one hand and majority rule through multiparty elections on the other, that is, between democratic principles and democratic process. The repeated failure of the masses to elect Western-style secular parties led Egypt’s liberal and ostensibly progressive forces Tamarod and the National Salvation Front (NSF) coalition to turn their backs on the democratic process since through that process they continually lost fair and square to Islamists. Rather than acting as a loyal opposition – loyal to the democratic revolution, opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood – they instead became anti-democrats by forming a bloc with the country’s most anti-revolutionary force: the elements of the old regime (fulool), which includes not only the country’s state institutions but also the wealthy elite and media magnates. This unholy alliance may have been formed in the name of safeguarding secular-democratic principles from Islamist political hegemony, but without the democratic process, there can be no battle of democracy against the Islamists for political hegemony among the masses.

Today, Egypt’s aborted democratic revolution is trapped in a blind alley, caught between a re-empowered SCAF and a disempowered anti or non-secular electoral majority. Until the NSF and Tamarod reverse course and defend both the legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood’s democratic mandate and the democratic process from which that legitimacy sprang against illegitimate counter-revolutionary coups and elite intrigues, SCAF will have gotten its groove back – permanently, and at no cost.

{ 165 comments… read them below or add one }

David Berger (RED DAVE) July 17, 2013 at 9:53 am

Terrific: an analysis of a political event by a socialist that does not use the concept of class.

PHAM BINH: … the winner of the conflict between Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi and the masses fed up with the Morsi’s hyper-inept governance is the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), a coterie of the reactionary generals beholden to no one but themselves.

DAVID BERGER: How about the Egyptian bourgeoisie?


Brian S. July 17, 2013 at 11:34 am

Since a significant part of the bourgeoisie is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, it should be fairly obvious that this fraction is is not one of the winners. Class analysis can be useful, but not if you use it like a conceptual hammer.


S.Artesian July 17, 2013 at 11:43 am

Correct, the fraction allied, integrated with the MB is not one of the winners. Correct again, the military, and the fraction of the bourgeoisie allied with, integrated into the existing state institutions is the big winner.

The coup, regardless of the level of support, is an advance for counterrevolution. No doubt about it.

The conclusion that for the “democratic revolution” to advance, the NSF must reverse course and defend the legitimacy of the MB is just wishful thinking. That’s not going to happen. For the revolution to go forward, the NSF will have to fall apart, and it, and the MB and the military opposed on a class, as opposed to “democratic basis.”


Brian S. July 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Well, I agree with the first part – although the “transnational” section of the bourgeoisie, people like Naguib Sawiris who were spun off from the former regime largely through their neo-liberal reforms are more important than those structurally integrated into the state.
And I agree with half of the second part: but I don’t know what you mean exactly by “opposed on a class, as opposed to “democratic” basis.” But it looks to me like another kind of wishful thinking..


Pham Binh July 17, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Meaning, the proles line up on one side and say, “we are for socialism!” and the capitalists and their generals line up on the other side and say, “we are for imperialism!” so the mases in Egypt can skip straight to fighting for socialism and instead of quote unquote democracy.

Haven’t you read Trotsky on permanent revolution?


S.Artesian July 17, 2013 at 9:14 pm

No Pham, that’s not what Trotsky says in Permanent Revolution, or in Results and Prospects, or in the History of the Russian Revolution. And that’s not what I’m saying, much to your dismay I’m certain, because it’s so much easier to apply such reductionist nonsense to arguments that don’t conform to your program of “Restore Morsi Now!” Your knee-jerk anti-Marxism is just that… knee-jerk anti-Marxism.

Stop and think, if you can, for a moment: what would it take to restore a “democratic government” — not that one existed in Egypt under Morsi and the FJP? Not that one has ever existed in Egypt.

First issue. How do we break the power of the military? What would it take to defeat the military, and those allied with the military? First thing that has to be done is to split the ranks from its officers. There’s no way around this. So how is that going to be done? Exactly how and who is going to drive that wedge– the MB? Not hardly. What will be the MB’s basis for doing that? That the military is corrupted by Western influence, is not a pure instrument of god’s will?

What will be the social content of the MB’s appeal to break the ranks from the officers? Soldiers’ councils with soldiers deputies? A new model army? Anything with the slightest connection to the class differentiation of Egyptian society?

Not hardly. Didn’t happen during Morsi’s administration.

Look we’ve been through all these iterations of “bourgeois democratic” or “national democratic” or “national self-determination” or “national salvation” governments before– from Nasser on. All have failed to resolve the issues of a growing population and circumscribed capitalist economy. Temporary relief gets purchased when the fSU supplies aid and weapons and Nasser can round up the big and small c communists; when the military can imprison workers and workers’ reps who act independently of the government. Temporary relief gets purchased when Egypt can export a section of its population to work elsewhere. Temporary relief can be purchased when the US replaces the fSU providing its weapons to the military to keep the lid on. All such “national” “nationalist” “democratic” “developmentalist” solutions fail.

So who’s left to execute the fervent dream you have of “democratic change”? The peasantry? Uhh….really Egypt doesn’t have much of peasantry, and really never did. Agricultural laborers, workers, in a veiled “landed” relationship, but not really a peasantry.

Uhh…..shopkeepers? Another bazaari revolution, is that what you think will inaugurate the era of peace, love, and democracy? And how did that work out in Iran? Good, you think? Good for all those workers who found themselves on the wrong of the Ayatollah when they too moved independently?

What? The liberal intellectuals and the “youth”– we just saw how the liberals can go from Mubarak and right back to Mubarak, riding the youth like a pony.

So who’s left? Are there workers, actual workers in Egypt? Sure are. Do they actually conduct strikes over things like living standards and grievances? They sure do? Is the source of the “problem” in Egypt economic or isn’t it? And if it is, what class in that economy has the ability to change the relations of production?

And THAT is what Trotsky said in Permanent Revolution, Results and Prospects, and History of the Russian Revolution.

But more importantly, that’s the REAL history of so-called “democratic revolutions” since the first part of the 20th century– the real history of its failure.


David Berger (RED DAVE) July 17, 2013 at 11:58 am

BRIAN S: Since a significant part of the bourgeoisie is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, it should be fairly obvious that this fraction is is not one of the winners. Class analysis can be useful, but not if you use it like a conceptual hammer.

DAVID BERGER: Class analysis is useful, indeed, and the Egyptian bourgeoisie, as a class, won. The defeat or setback for one faction of the bourgeoisie does not mean its defeat as a class. The military and the Muslim Brotherhood are both involved in the preservation of capitalism.

I notice, consistently, the absence of class analysis in the assessment of the situation in Egypt and Syria by most commentators here at TNS. And the disgrace crap of the Last Superpower group of Arthur & Co. definitely is a class analysis, for the benefit of the bourgeoisie.


David Ellis July 17, 2013 at 10:07 am

`Anyone who doubts that SCAF was victorious over the revolutionary people are probably unaware that SCAF-appointed interim president Adly Mansour’s power grab is far more serious than what President Morsi was condemned for and the Islamism codified by Mansour’s new constitution is worse than Morsi’s voter-sanctioned constitution.’

Far, far to soon to say this and nobody should be mourning the passing of the Islamist Morsi regime which in actual fact was a victory for the revolution. The military, if it tries to consolidate the bringing down of Morsi as a coup will be up against not only the masses that brought down Morsi but those that supported him. That might allow them to renew their bonapartist tyranny which means the democratic and working class masses must now start to win the base of the MB to a democratic programme, call an end to arbitrary reprisals and start winning the army rank-and-file away from the Mubarak placemen that still run it.


Brian S. July 17, 2013 at 4:46 pm

@ David E. Regrettably it wasn’t the masses that brought Morsi down – it was the military. Moreover this wasn’t some surgical intervention by the army to forestall some sort of popular revolution – it was a intervention carries out at the invitation of the mass movement and co-orchestrated by at least some of the forces leading that movement.


David Ellis July 18, 2013 at 5:20 am

It was the masses that bought down Morsi by forcing a split with the Army who were getting along fine with the Islamicising and authoritarian counter revolutionary MB government. That government was taking Egypt towards a feudal theocratic military nightmare Tehran style.

Stalinism is clearly tail-ending the Islamists as they did in Tehran on a pseudo anti-imperialist ticket which when it came to power in Iran slaughted all the communists and 10s of thousands of workers. Good riddance to the Morsi regime. His ouster was a victory for the revolution but no doubt the Military and the stunted national bourgeoisie will try to subvert and steal that victory.


Arthur July 17, 2013 at 10:35 am

The general thrust for democracy and against the counter-revolutionary coup is fine.

But the article still remains confused about the opposition being somehow “progressives” who have fallen into error.

The facts show that the forces identified as “secularist”, “liberal” and even “leftist” in Egypt are in fact deeply hostile to democracy and actively prefer military dictatorship. This reflects their class position in opposition to the “ignorant” majority of poor and oppressed Egyptians who repeatedly rejected those forces at elections and referenda.


Pham Binh July 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm

This is written for an English-speaking, Western audience unfamiliar with what’s going on in Egypt so framing the issues properly is more important than denouncing the treachery of forces/individuals they know little to nothing about. Adopting the proper framework is the first step in sorting out friends from enemies and traitors from the genuinely mistaken who know not what they do and may reverse course (like Wasat).

Most Marxist outlets (really sects) have been cheering on the coup or glorifying the anti-Morsi demonstrations because of their hostility to the Muslim Brotherhood specifically and Islamism in general because, as you say, they are hostile to the democratic revolution, hence why I stressed that element of the issue here. Then there are other Marxists like Dave Berger who are indifferent to coups and conflicts between the bourgeois Muslim Brotherhood and the bourgeois military because both are bourgeois and that is the extent of their class analysis.


David Berger (RED DAVE) July 17, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Just a quicky:

PHAM BINH: Then there are other Marxists like Dave Berger who are indifferent to coups and conflicts between the bourgeois Muslim Brotherhood and the bourgeois military because both are bourgeois and that is the extent of their class analysis.

DAVID BERGER: I suggest that before you characterize my attitudes and opinions, you find out what they are. I am not ” indifferent to coups and conflicts between the bourgeois Muslim Brotherhood and the bourgeois military because both are bourgeois.” What I’m saying, constantly, is that there is not fundamental shift in the relationship of class forces.

Coups and conflicts among factions of the bourgeoisie may, and I say may, not will, create opening for genuine left-wing developments or retard such developments. But to watch factions of the bourgeoisie toss the dice over who’s going to run the country for awhile, while any real revolution is completely short circuited, is to harbor and spread political illusions.

This is the kind of thinking that says, in the US, that the victory of the Republicans or the Democrats in an election changes the balance of class forces when, in fact, the bourgeoisie wins no matter what the dice show.


Arthur July 18, 2013 at 12:06 pm

The audience you are addressing needs to learn that many people who claim to be progressive are in fact virulently anti-democratic and side with fascist military dictatorships.

Divisions over that are clear in the mainstream media. Many liberals are pushing the traditional foreign policy establishment line supporting autocracy to avoid islamists winning democratic elections and many others are contemptuous of this and opposing the coup.

What needs to be added for a leftist audience is that people who supportive or neutral about such counter-revolutionary coups are enemies of the left.

But first you need to stop thinking of them as “Most Marxist outlets …”

People who are indifferent to fascist coups are not even mildly progressive, let alone Marxists. Events like this call for clarity.


Aaron Aarons July 25, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Genuine leftists don’t encourage workers and oppressed people to give political support to one or another faction of the bourgeoisie. Then again, genuine leftists aren’t “progressives”, and most people who call themselves “progressives” are, at best, bourgeois reformers. This kind of “progressive” does give political support to one or another faction of the bourgeoisie, since they either don’t desire social revolution or believe it is impossible.


Richard Estes July 17, 2013 at 2:52 pm

“I notice, consistently, the absence of class analysis in the assessment of the situation in Egypt and Syria by most commentators here at TNS.”

I won’t elaborate at length on my perspective about Syria except to say that I have periodically commented that the problem in Syria is that there is no large, effective working class formation, with the working class is spread across the combatants on both sides, possibly more so with the pro-Assad forces given the increasing transformation of the conflict into a sectarian one, Sunni versus Shia.

As for Egypt, the subject of this post, the coup is likely to be a catastrophe for the working class. Demographically, the largest population of working class people are probably passively concentrated in the military and the Brotherhood, with unions having failed to establish an effective national presence. My impression is that the secular movements have not only embraced the coup, but also the neoliberal policies that will be more aggressively implemented in its wake. The contempt that secularists display toward Brotherhood members is infused with a obvious class bias. There is a class logic as to why secularists would ally themselves with “wealthy elite and media magnates” beyond a struggle over the political system. It is also about protecting themselves from a politically mobilized working class and implementing policies that will enrich themselves to the detriment of workers and peasants. The coup will therefore, from a class perspective, constitute a calamitous defeat for workers unless they are able to disempower SCAF and prevent the imposition of a life threatening austerity.


Pham Binh July 17, 2013 at 3:13 pm

I don’t want to derail this thread into a Syria discussion but I think there is a bit of a parallel with Egypt in that some Syrian secularists (from among the educated classes) side with Assad or try to stay neutral because a lot of the Free Syrian Army and the Islamists are impoverished people from the countryside and therefore must be “ignorant rednecks” who really have no place in politics.

I tend to agree with what you think the coup will mean for Egypt’s workers. Without bourgeois-democratic freedoms, it is all but impossible to successfully resist neoliberalism, and on top of that, Egypt’s economy is stuck in a free fall. Esam Al-Amin broke down some of the harrowing figures facing any future government in an excellent Counterpunch piece:

“Last October President Morsi stated that Egypt’s budget is about $94 billion with an unsustainable deficit of $25 billion or 11 percent of its $230 billion GDP (by contrast the ballooning $1.2 trillion US budget deficit is 8 percent of its GDP). Egypt’s expenditures are roughly spent equally on four main items: interest on its national debt, food and gas subsidies, and public employees’ salaries, while the last quarter of the budget is for the remaining government programs. In short, Egypt severely lacks any capacity to fix its deteriorating infrastructure, stimulate its economy, improve its services, or raise the salaries of its economically crushed six million government employees. … a revolutionary approach to Egypt’s chronic economic problems would be to not play the IMF card like Mubarak in order to plug the budget hole. Rather it would be to demand a long-term delay on paying the interest on Mubarak’s billions of dollars of debt accumulated over thirty years that consumes a quarter of Egypt’s annual budget. It also requires the president to talk frankly to his people asking for their understanding, patience, and shared sacrifices. It also entails the implementation of an aggressive program to return Egypt’s stolen wealth and resources, worth tens of billions of dollars, from Mubarak’s cronies and corrupt businessmen at home and abroad. …

“In addition, the drafters of the constitution included many articles that enshrined many political rights and added economic protections. It is difficult to see how the new economic promises will be paid for if the referendum passes. For example, the constitution guarantees a minimum wage and pension. If applied immediately as stipulated in the constitution, many public employees, workers, and pensioners would see their salaries double or even quadruple. How would that impact the weak Egyptian economy that is at the brink of collapse? Where will the state bring the extra money to cover the new increases in salaries when it is already struggling with 27 percent deficit of its budget (or 11 percent deficit of GDP)? How would the new sudden increases affect the inflation rate, which is already exceeding ten percent annually? Who would enforce the minimum wage standard with the weak existing government institutions?

“Commendably, the new constitution guarantees all Egyptians access to free and quality health care as well as free education even at the university level. If implemented immediately, the Egyptian budget for education and health care would have to be increased by four to six times to fulfill these grand promises. In addition, the new constitution guarantees a monthly stipend to the unemployed (over 4 million), senior citizens (over 3.5 million), widows, divorced mothers, homemakers (countless millions), and the poor (over 20 million people are considered poor as poverty is defined in Egypt at $512 per year per person). These idealistic but unrealistic promises of the welfare state are not even matched in any Scandinavian country. If a quarter of these promises were to be fulfilled at the minimum wage established by the courts ($200 per month), Egypt would then need to increase its budget by $24 billion (or a deficit of another 10 percent of its GDP). Utterly impossible.”


Richard Estes July 17, 2013 at 3:40 pm

El-Amin has said similar things in more recent writings. Yes, it is really frightening, that’s why I said “life threatening”. At the risk of sounding alarmist, an outbreak of mass starvation is not out of the question if the military and the secularists aggressively implement neoliberal policies. In Greece, kids faint at school, but in Egypt they and their parents could actually die in large numbers.


Brian S. July 17, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I am sure there is “secular snobbery” among sections of the urban middle class in Egypt: but it doesn’t provide an explanation of this conflict (at least not at the mass level). First, there is a large middle class, professional component to the MB’s membership in the urban centres; secondly, the hostility to Morsi and the MB was very diverse -socially and geographically. This was not a simple division in any terms.


Arthur July 18, 2013 at 11:37 am

Not all middle class people are snobs. In particular the middle class professionals in the brotherhood have managed to organize among the poor. However there does seem to be an acute shortage of seculars who can organize among the poor.


Aaron Aarons July 22, 2013 at 9:57 am

“[…] the middle class professionals in the brotherhood have managed to organize among the poor.”

As have Christian missionaries. And such organizing is against the interests of the poor in both cases.

“However there does seem to be an acute shortage of seculars who can organize among the poor.”

Bourgeois secularists have little motivation to organize among the poor, while anti-capitalist secularists have far fewer resources to do so, and far more material obstacles, often violent, from the state, the churches and mosques, and other, less institutional, pro-capitalist forces.


David Berger (RED DAVE) July 17, 2013 at 4:01 pm

PHAM BINH: Without bourgeois-democratic freedoms, it is all but impossible to successfully resist neoliberalism.

DAVID BERGER: How will a bourgeois government be able to resist neo-liberalism?


Pham Binh July 17, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Despite your meticulous parsing, you missed the keyword: freedoms.


Brian S. July 17, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Well, rumour has it that this one is going to do it courtesy of Gulf finance.


David Berger (RED DAVE) July 17, 2013 at 5:25 pm

PHAM BINH: Without bourgeois-democratic freedoms, it is all but impossible to successfully resist neoliberalism.

DAVID BERGER: How will a bourgeois government be able to resist neo-liberalism?

PHAM BINH: Despite your meticulous parsing, you missed the keyword: freedoms.

DAVID BERGER: So, you are either sayiing that (1) a bourgeois government will resist neo-liberalism. Or (2) the resistance to neo-liberalism on the part of the masses, especially the working class, the only class capable of resisting neo-liberalism, requires bourgeois democracy.

So, which is it, Binh? Do you think that a bourgeois government in Egypt will resist neo-liberalism? Or do you think that bourgeois-democratic freedoms, which boil down to pariliamentary democracy, are the tool to do the job?


Brian S. July 17, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Great cartoon – says it all really.
I agree with what I take to be the main thrust of Binh’s analysis – that the Egyptian coup has had disasterous consequences for the relation of social (class, if you prefer) forces in Egypt, and has knocked the Egyptian revolution back a very long way. Anyone who doesn’t understand this as a profound defeat has their head in the sand.
The most important expression of that defeat is not in the particular impact it will have on formal democratic institutions (which will be revived in some form or other) but the fact that the military is now enshrined, for the forseeable future, as the authoritative arbiter of the limits of the revolution. As Binh says, whoever leads the next government, they will have to work within the frame defined by the military.
There is no longer any serious prospect of a further shift of power away from the military: that is symbolised by Sisi’s assumption of the position of Deputy PM to add to his role of of Defence Minister. Perhaps he will step down from the former once the “transtional proces” has been completed; but he won’t be giving up the latter any time soon.
The new government now has the task of trying to put the Egyptian political system back together. Increasingly it is looking like the new version will be little different from the preceding one: so all this upheaval will have been for very little.


Arthur July 18, 2013 at 11:54 am

Basically agree in the short term.

But although it is clearly a major setback, let’s not get too pessimistic about the long term.

“There is no longer any serious prospect of a further shift of power away from the military: … so all this upheaval will have been for very little.”

This may just be unfortunate wording, but it creates the impression the defeat is permanent or at least long term. Its worth remembering that the problems that made the Mubarek regime intolerable aren’t goint away, so the new regime will also be intolerable. On the other hand both the apathy and fear that made change seem hopeless have been smashed and now illustions about the army, and the opposition parties including the Salafis have also been smashed. The millions who voted against Shafiq aren’t going back to sleep. There will be more revolutions.


Richard Estes July 17, 2013 at 6:41 pm

has this link been posted here already? didn’t have time to check out all the links in this post

excellent, in depth article by Joseph Massad about how the coup against Morsi took shape, echoing some of the claims here:

“The Struggle for Egypt”


Pham Binh July 17, 2013 at 9:49 pm

S. Artesian: So in addition to being cynical about democratic revolution (without which no socialist revolution is possible), you’re a die-hard workerist who hasn’t studied the class structure of Egypt.
For more on that and the class struggle in the countryside, see: For information about Egypt’s supposedly non-existent peasantry, start with:


David Berger (RED DAVE) July 17, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Jeez, Binh, you talk about permanent revolution, and then you claim “democratic revolution (without which no socialist revolution is possible).”

The essence of permanent revolution, at least in the Trotskyist version, which I suppose you are following, is that the bourgeoisie is incapable of achieving the bourgeois democratic revolution, and, therefore, what you are calling the “democratic revolution” is only achieved as part of a socialist revolution.


Pham Binh July 17, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I’ve never used the term “permanent revolution” in any of my writing on the Arab Spring because I don’t subscribe to it. Trotsky was wrong and Lenin and the Communist International were right on this issue. Democratic revolutions are a necessary step towards the socialist revolution but the two are not one and the same. The twentieth century saw many democratic revolutions succeed without turning into socialist revolutions.


S.Artesian July 18, 2013 at 9:01 am

Those who think I haven’t “studied the class structure of Egypt” can decide for themselves, if so interested, by taking a look at my short study of the class structure of Egypt:

Those interested in more studies in the class structure of Egypt should look into Alan Richards’ Egypt’s Agricultural Development 1800-1980; his Migration, Mechanization, and Agricultural Labor Markets in Egypt; Helen Rivlin’s The Agricultural Policy of Muhammad Ali in Egypt; Gabriel Baer’s Studies in the Social History of Modern Egypt.

I’m not “cynical” about democratic revolution. I’m practical. Such revolutions do not exist in an economic vacuum. There’s a property content to “democratic revolution,” bourgeois, capitalist property. Those property relations trump the “democratic impulse” veiled in the need to create and expand a market, domestic and/or international.

Perhaps you, Pham, have a different explanation for the failure of “democratic revolution” in Africa, Latin America, Asia.

Oh… regarding that article from the Guardian that “proves” there’s a peasantry in Egypt… look at the first line… the caption under the photo: “Under Hosni Mubarak, a million small farmers were forced into becoming sharecroppers.”

That’s not a process of “peasant-ization;” that’s the process of proletarianization. The sharecropper relationship in Egypt is, and has been for 150 or so years, the creation of an agricultural proletariat, a rural work-force, basically landless, or… incapable of providing for its own subsistence on its agricultural plots. The relationship is akin to that of black share-croppers in the South after the defeat of US Reconstruction. Basically, what we have is a WAGE-relationship veiled by a share-cropper form.

That’s an agricultural working class, not a peasantry.

You really don’t know what you are talking about… which I guess is the key to your “success.”


Pham Binh July 18, 2013 at 9:20 am

“Failure of ‘democratic revolution’ in Africa, Latin America, Asia”? Portugal 1974-1975 was a success; India gained independence and became a bourgeois democracy after World War Two; Libya’s bourgeois democracy — which sprang directly out of the Arab Spring — is a success story compared to Syria and Egypt, and Libya’s success is only outmatched by Tunisia, where they abolished the secret police and where the left and the workers’ movement is gaining real traction.

There is one of us who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but I don’t think it’s me.


David Berger (RED DAVE) July 18, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Portugual became a bourgeois democracy after it s defeat in a colonial revolution and after about 40 years of fascism. It and Spain are probably the last countries to achieve some kind of a semblance of bourgeois democracy, and even there it’s iffy sometimes.

India … Libya’ … Tunisia, do you really thing that these countries have achieved stable, bourgeois democracy? Ask the Naxalites about democracy in India.


Pham Binh July 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Why would I ask Naxalites in India about bourgeois democracy in Tunisia, as if the stability of bourgeois democracies was what this debate was about, especially when India’s bourgeois democracy is over 60 years old and shows no signs that it’s going to collapse or be overthrown anytime soon?


Aaron Aarons July 19, 2013 at 3:11 am

India’s “bourgeois democracy”, if that’s what it is, has been characterized by military occupation of large parts of the country, including Kashmir and “tribal” areas, for most of the country’s history. And if a country where some people can build multi-billion-dollar, 20-something-story, private homes with olympic swimming pools overlooking desperately poor slums where a million people live in misery is some kind of “democracy”, you can take that “democracy” and shove it where the sun don’t shine. Even Stalinism was far better.


Aaron Aarons July 19, 2013 at 3:37 am

in everything I’ve read by Lenin on “democratic revolution”, with or without the prefix “bourgeois-“, it always includes some kind of agrarian revolution as a key part. There’s no doubt that bourgeois elites can sometimes allow or even encourage the replacement of openly authoritarian rule with “democratic” forms, and even let up on repression, especially after the workers and other potentially revolutionary sectors have been traumatized by previous authoritarian rule (e.g., Chile 1973-1990) or defeated by bourgeois counter-revolution in “democratic” guise (e.g., Portugal 1975). But that’s not what Lenin or any of the Bolsheviks meant by “democratic revolution”.


S.Artesian July 19, 2013 at 10:00 am

Not just Lenin– throughout history “democratic revolution” has involved some kind of agrarian revolution– which if you recall from the other Egypt thread, Pham found unbelievable– which has been recognized by any number of “non-Leninist” historians.

What Pham ignores in his notion of “bourgeois democracy” is that such democracy is derivative from capitalism. Bourgeois democracy is just one form of class rule.

Capital and the capitalists’ connection to “bourgeois democracy” or “democratic revolution” consists in mobilizing small property holders against pre-existing relations of land and labor, AND controlling the more radical elements with no allegiance to private property who inevitability come to the forefront in “democratic struggles.”

Without bourgeois democracy, Pham likes to say, there can be no struggle for socialism. But that’s nonsense. Without capitalism there can be no struggle for socialism, that’s the real content of class relations. And this is not a content based on the level of development of capitalism in any one location, any one nation, but on the basis of its international dominance.


Pham Binh July 18, 2013 at 9:24 am

Your discussion of Egypt’s class structure seems to end at around the 18th and 19th centuries. We are in 2013. I was hoping for something at least 1990s-ish.


S.Artesian July 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Yes, I end where I ended that first part because that’s the legacy… the development of capitalism in Egypt, and that’s what it is, does not originate with a peasantry, does not reproduce a peasantry. What occurs is an introduction and expansion of the wage relation in a veiled form.

Portugal a “democratic revolution”? Portugal was hardly a democratic REVOLUTION; it was initiated as a democratic reform, which at core was precipitated by the declining profitability at the end of the capitalist expansion of the post WW2 period, which gave way to a class struggle. The working class was pushed back in that struggle and the superficial democratic reform was affixed over the existing capitalist relations.

That the old Salazar/Caetano apparatus for controlling the class struggle was obsolete and no longer capable of doing its job does not equate to a democratic revolution; revolution being, at least as far as I can tell, a process by which one mode of production disposes of another.

To me, at least, when we’re talking about “democratic revolutions” we’re talking about something on the order say of the US Civil War, where archaic relations of land and labor, and particularly landed labor, are overthrown– doesn’t mean they don’t get re-FORMED, which is exactly what happened with the defeat of what would have been the fulfillment of the democratic revolution– radical Reconstruction– but at least in the Civil War you get that destruction of that property form encapsulating a specific relation of the exploitation of labor, or what Marx called the “conditions of labor.”

Look at Mexico’s struggle from 1906 to about 1940: “Successful” “democratic” “revolution” you think? Because Diaz was replaced by Obregon, Calles, and then the PRI? How much did that change the relations in the countryside? Not too much, really, and that includes the Cardenas period.

But all this is…. as Eldon Tyrell says to Roy Batty in Blade Runner “academic.” “You were made as well as we could make you.” And as Batty answers “But not to last.” Exactly the case with the “democratic revolution.” In fact, on the non-academic side of it, you put the truth to the lie of your own theory of “democratic revolution” by stating Libya is a successful democratic revolution COMPARED to Egypt and Syria.

We can compare anything we want to derive the conclusion we want, but that doesn’t make it meaningful– anyone who calls Libya and/or Tunisia a “successful democratic revolution” at this early stage is probably someone who thinks the election of the FJP and the Morsi government was a triumph for democracy………..

As for India being a successful example of a bourgeois democracy, or a democratic revolution… I’ll concede the point….. by adding simply– with successes like that, who needs failure?


Pham Binh July 18, 2013 at 12:22 pm

I’m glad we agree that successful democratic revolutions are possible because without bourgeois democracy and the freedom it affords the working class, fighting for socialism is not possible.


S.Artesian July 18, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Guess picking up on irony isn’t your strong suit, is it? Maybe I should have included a little smiley face, or a winking eye?

So don’t be glad. We don’t agree.

“Freedom” such that it is is derivative from economics, from class relations. I said if India is your idea of a “democratic revolution” than I’ll accept that precisely because its success is derivative of its failure to a) fundamentally improve agricultural productivity b)failure to transform the social condition of labor c) success at suppressing class struggle.

In this regard, in your schematic world where you think Marxists preach “all the proles line up on one side” and all the capitalists line up on the other, you’re the guy lining up with all the capitalists.


S.Artesian July 18, 2013 at 12:46 pm

PS By the same token, I’m glad you agree that there is no viable peasantry in Egypt as an agent of social revolution.


Pham Binh July 18, 2013 at 12:57 pm

I never said anything like that. Keep the strawmen to a minimum, please.


S.Artesian July 19, 2013 at 9:51 am

BTW, this: “because without bourgeois democracy and the freedom it affords the working class, fighting for socialism is not possible.” is just not so. Struggles for socialism have consistently overtaken, and then been opposed by, struggles for ‘bourgeois democracy.’

It would be equally accurate to say that bourgeois democracy is an attempt to bring the revolution to an end.

This notion that there must be, or must first be, a “bourgeois democracy” prior to the fight for socialism leads, pretty consistently throughout the 20th century, to direct opposition to the fight for socialism, to support of various iterations of a popular front….. and is nothing but the old “stages theory” all dressed up and still with no place to go.


Pham Binh July 19, 2013 at 10:40 am

I didn’t come up with these notions, Marx and Engels did. And they were right that just as there can be no struggle for socialism except on the basis of capitalist economics there can also be no struggle for socialism except on the basis of bourgeois-democratic political freedoms.


S.Artesian July 19, 2013 at 10:58 am

Documentation please where Marx and Engels said ONLY on the basis of bourgeois democratic political freedoms can there be a struggle for socialism?

I mean I know maybe consistency isn’t an issue, but you seemed so unsatisfied when I produced an analysis of agricultural relations in Egypt that broke off in the 2nd half of the 19th century. So it makes me wonder why now you so easily, uncritically, assert that some alleged canon from the 19th century is so fundamental, so immutable

I have this vague memory of Marx pointing to the Paris Commune as an example of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and damned if I recall Marx referring to Louis Bonaparte’s dreams of empire as a bourgeois democracy.

I also have this vague memory of the Engels supporting the US in the war with Mexico in 1846, arguing that the US would introduce capitalist discipline or something like that to backward Mexico– no to astute an analysis, since everybody in the US knew the war was being waged on behalf of the slaveholding states… but hey, uncritical is as uncritical does.

I suppose that means there could be NO struggle for socialism in Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Philippines, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Turkey as long as those countries weren’t/aren’t bourgeois democracies?

What you get with that sort of thinking, since bourgeois democracies in many countries don’t fair too well for too long, is a repetition compulsion– a constant loop of failure.


Pham Binh July 19, 2013 at 11:42 am

“…freedom of the press, freedom of association and assembly, universal suffrage, local. self-government — without which, despite its bourgeois character, a timid. bourgeoisie can manage passably well but without which the workers can never win their emancipation.”

The fact that you even need a citation shows to what extent Trotskyism has overtaken and erased Marxism whose pro-bourgeois democratic stance runs like a red thread through all of the writings and doings of Marx and Engels and which separated them from the anarchists and other ultra lefts of their time whose errors you plagiarize.


David Berger (RED DAVE) July 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm

PHAM BINH: The fact that you even need a citation shows to what extent Trotskyism has overtaken and erased Marxism whose pro-bourgeois democratic stance runs like a red thread through all of the writings and doings of Marx and Engels and which separated them from the anarchists and other ultra lefts of their time whose errors you plagiarize.

DAVID BERGER: Leave it to Binh to take a historically conditioned remark of M&E and make it into an eternal political principle.

The question becomes, as it became for the Bolsheviks, as it comes for every revolutionary in a country where the bourgeoisie is ruling without democracy: what is to be done?

Under those circumstances, to limit the proletarian struggle to the struggle for bourgeois democracy and democratic reforms is to, on the one hand, short-circuit the revolution, which expresses needs far beyond these. On the other hand, it, de facto or actually, m places the leadership of the revolution in the hands of the bourgeoisie.

Why do you think the Bolsheviks dismissed the Constituent Assembly? Because the working class has to both incorporate bourgeois democracy and transcend it.

S.Artesian July 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm

First off, I am not a Trotskyist. I have never been a “Trotskyist,” just as I have never been a Leninist. However, there is no denying Trotsky’s critical contribution to the development of Marxist theory and practice, and that is the analysis of uneven and combined development

Secondly, Pham claims that the “pro-bourgeois democratic stance runs like a red thread through all of the writings and doings of Marx and Engels” and as an example of this red thread running through ALL of the writings of Marx and Engels he produces a single portion of a sentence written by Engels in 1865, and taken a bit out of context… just a bit.

Pham neglects to point out that Engels also says in the same tract:

“There are only two ways in which the bourgeoisie can gain political power for itself. Since it is an army of officers without any soldiers and can only acquire these soldiers from the ranks of the workers, it must either ensure that the workers are its allies, or it must buy political power piecemeal from the powers opposing it from above, in particular from the monarchy. The history of the English and French bourgeoisie shows that there is no other way.

But the Prussian bourgeoisie had lost all its enthusiasm — and what is more quite without reason — for forming a sincere alliance with the workers. In 1848 the German workers’ party, then still at a rudimentary stage of development and organisation, was prepared to do the bourgeoisie’s work for it at a very modest price, but the latter was more afraid of the slightest independent stirring of the proletariat than it was of the feudal aristocracy and the bureaucracy. Peace bought at the price of servitude appeared more desirable to it than even the mere prospect of a freedom-struggle. From that time on, this holy fear of the workers had become a habit with the bourgeoisie, until finally Herr Schulze-Delitzsch began his savings-box campaign. The purpose of this was to show the workers that there could be no greater happiness for them than to be exploited industrially by the bourgeoisie for the rest of their lives, and even for generations to come, and indeed, that they should themselves contribute to this exploitation by themselves supplementing their income through all manner of industrial associations, thereby enabling the capitalists to reduce their wages. But although no doubt the industrial bourgeoisie is the most uneducated of the classes that constitute the German nation, apart from the junior cavalry officers, such a campaign had from the outset no prospect of lasting success with such an intellectually advanced people as the Germans. The more intelligent of the bourgeoisie themselves could not fail to perceive that nothing could come of this, and the alliance with the workers collapsed once more.”

So there’s only two ways for the bourgeoisie to take power, when they are in the process of attempting to take power from the old regime. Workers or conciliation with elements of the old regime. But… what about when the bourgeoisie already HAVE power?

They have no need for a political alliance with the workers– unless they feel threatened…. and as history has shown, nothing is more threatening to the bourgeoisie, not the military, not the MB, not Hamas, not fascists than the independent action of the workers operating beyond the limits of “bourgeois democracy.” So we know where the bourgeoisie and their “bourgeois democratic freedoms” are going to wind up– in every and any alliance to suppress the workers. When they have power, the bourgeoisie will adopt, adapt, reconcile with elements of the old regime to suppress the revolution. Always have and always will. And where such elements don’t exist? Hell, the bourgeoisie will fashion them anew out of whatever dross is at hand.

In addition Pham’s ignorance of history is slightly more than slightly astounding. Was Germany under Bismarck a “bourgeois democracy”? Not hardly. Was Marx’s advice to the IMWA and its German section to tie themselves to “bourgeois democracy”– to abjure independent political agitation for a class-conscious movement and instead support bourgeois parties, or even petty-bourgeois parties?

Of course it wasn’t. In the Critique of the Gotha Programme Marx specifies in his discussion of ‘revolutionary classes’ what amounts to the ‘revolutionary’ nature of the bourgeois class, and the bourgeois democratic revolution: “…in contrast to the feudal lords and middle estates, who desire to maintain all social positions that are the creation of the obsolete mode of production.”

Marx continues…”On the other hand, the proletariat is revolutionary in contrast to the bourgeoisie because, having itself grown up on the basis of large-scale industry, it strives to strip off from production the capitalist character that the bourgeoisie seeks to perpetuate.”

Now forgive me the extrapolation, but if that–production is the base, and production for value is the capitalist character of the base, and the proletariat has to strip away that capitalist character, then it needs to do the same thing for the “superstructure”– the political forms maintaining, defending, that capitalist character, whether they be bourgeois democratic or authoritarian… and given the need for the abolition of the capitalism in one, the social revolution has to abolish that superstructure, not simply adjust its form, which is exactly what Pham is arguing.

We have a proletariat in Egypt. We have large-scale production, although certainly of a limited nature. What we don’t have is any social organization capable of installing a bourgeois-democracy because in fact what we’ve had in Egypt with its monarchy, with its protectorate, with its occupations, with its colonel’s revolution, with its “liberalization” under Sadat, with its morbidity under Mubarak is exactly the representation of “bourgeois democracy”– the maximum extension of “bourgeois democracy” that capital will tolerate.

In his Critique of the Gotha Programme, Marx excoriates German Workers’ Party for backing away from the revolutionary struggle in that it, the German Workers’ Party, adopts and adapts to Lassalle’s “narrowest national standpoint.”

Marx says (in speaking specifically to Bismarck’s regime):

“It is altogether self-evident that, to be able to fight at all, the working class must organize itself at home [i]as a class[/i] and that is own country is the immediate arena of its struggle. So far its class struggle is national, not in content, but, as [i]The Communist Manifesto[/i] says, “in form.” But the “framework of the present-day national state,” e.g., the German empire, is itself in its turn economically “within the framework” of the world market, politically “within the framework of the system of states. Every businessman knows that German trade is at the same time foreign trade, and the greatness of Herr Bismarck consists to be sure precisely in a kind of [i] international [/policy]policy.”

Marx says: “And to what does the German Workers’ Party reduce its internationalism? To the consciousness that the result of its efforts will be [i] “the international brotherhood of peoples”[/i]–a phrase borrowed from the bourgeois League of Peace and Freedom, which is intended to pass as equivalent to the international brotherhood of the working classes in the joint struggle agains the ruling classes and their governments. Not a word therefore, [i]about the international function of the German working class! And it is in this way it is to challenge its own bourgeoisie, which is already linked up in brotherhood against it with the bourgeois of all other countries.”

Interesting, no? “challenge its own bourgeoisie” Germany under Bismarck, not exactly a bourgeois democracy– Pham would reserve that for the government of Ebert, Bauer, Noske– is a bourgeois state linked through the world market to the system of bourgeois states… and therefore is and must be a target for the “joint struggle” against the ruling class and their governments.

Marx then eviscerates the nonsense the Gotha Programme produces in its “democratic section.”

“Nevertheless, the different states of the different civilized (sic) countries, in spite of their manifold diversity of form, all have this in common, that they are based on modern bourgeois society, only one more or less capitalistically developed. They have, therefore, also certain essential features in common….

…Now the programme does not deal with this nor the future state in communist society.

Its political demands contain nothing beyond the old familiar democratic litany: universal suffrage, direct legislation, people’s justice, a people’s militia etc. They are a mere echo of the bourgeois People’s Party, of the League of Peace and Freedom. They are all demands which, in so far as they are not exaggerated in fanciful presentation, have already been [i] realized[/i]. Only the state to which they belong does not lie within the frontiers of the German empire, but in Switzerland, the United States, etc. should not have forgotten the chief thing, namely that all these pretty little toys rest on the recognition of the so-called sovereignty of the people and hence there is only room for them in a [i] democratic republic [i].

Since one has not the courage–and wisely, for the circumstances demand caution,– to demand the democratic republic, as the French workers’ programmes under Louis Philippe and Louis Napoleon did one should not have taken refuge either in subterfuge…of demanding things which have meaning only in a democratic republic from a state which is nothing but a police-guarded military despotism embellished with parliamentary forms, alloyed with feudal admixture, bureaucratically constructed and already influenced by the bourgeoisie……”

I think those are incredible lines and really point the way to what Pham contemptuously dismisses as “permanent revolution” and “Trotskyism.”

More applicable today even then in the late 19th century– in countries where the feudal admixture was and is even weaker (and not even properly feudal) where the “influence” of the bourgeoisie is more than influence, but outright domination– and domination does not mean unanimity. This is capitalism, remember, nothing exists without conflict.

But truly Marx’s analysis has much more import for understanding Egypt than this repetitive bleating about “democracy” “suffrage” “parliament” etc.

In these circumstances what Pham supports, endorses is nothing but a feeble echo of bourgeois parties. He offers no way forward. He echoes the idyllic bourgeois past that is in reality nostalgia for something that never was. Such nostalgia will inevitably be overtaken by the marching song of those troops, democratic and authoritarian, official and unofficial, military and brotherhood, who are the agents of the bourgeoisie’s vested interested in suppressing the social revolution.

David Berger (RED DAVE) July 19, 2013 at 11:02 am

PHAM BINH: [t]there can also be no struggle for socialism except on the basis of bourgeois-democratic political freedoms.

DAVID BERGER: Then I assume you believe the Bolshevik Revolution was a mistake unless you have the illusion that the February Revolution established “bourgeois-democratic freedoms.”

Or perhaps you’ll go whole hog and blame Stalinism on the attempt to make a socialist revolution without “bourgeois-democratic political freedoms.”


Arthur July 19, 2013 at 11:42 am

This stuff has NOTHING to do with ACTUALLY fighting for socialism.

It is purely and unambiguously an excuse for NOT supporting the fight against fascism.

People with “ultra-left” ideas do exist and do make terrible mistakes that help the enemy. But this stuff mouthing off against people fighting for democracy is purely a PRETENSE of being ultra-left. The whole point is to demobilize the fight for democracy. That isn’t what ultra-leftists do. It is what social-fascist creeps do.


S.Artesian July 19, 2013 at 1:13 pm


Supporting the bourgeoisie has nothing to do with fighting for socialism. Arguing that there is a struggle against fascism that is separate and apart from the struggle against capitalism has proven its viability to and service for……fascism.

That’s the real history of your so-called “fight for democracy.” And it has led to the slaughter of millions– in Spain, Bolivia, Chile. Vietnam, France, Indonesia, and yes the former Soviet Union.

And I know you’re going to try and prevent anyone from looking closely into the results of the positions you advocate by calling those who reject your nonsense “fascists,” but

let’s be fundamentally clear: You in your supposed fight for democracy endorsed and endorse the US invasion of Iraq. That puts the truth to your “anti-fascism.”


Arthur July 19, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Pretending that you support some non-existant fight for socialism in Egypt will not prevent anybody from understanding that you are opposed to the fight for democracy in Egypt.

Blathering about “Spain, Bolivia, Chile. Vietnam, France, Indonesia, and yes the former Soviet Union” won’t help you either.

Throwing in Iraq is a useful reminder that the wrong views many people here hold about the Iraq war put them on the same side as you. Please continue as it may help others to rethink their mistakes on Iraq.

Aaron Aarons July 23, 2013 at 3:50 am

I don’t know what to call the kind of “creep” who equates “fighting for democracy” with defending and supporting the management of the capitalist state by whoever wins its necessarily ruling-class-dominated elections now matter how oppressive their policies are, but such a “creep” is hardly worth being taken seriously by anybody on the left.

And, in a world where bourgeois electoral “democracy” is being reduced more and more to a thin veil for the dictatorship of capital, particularly finance capital, in the traditional bourgeois democracies of Europe and North America, to make the fight for “bourgeois democracy”, rather than the fight to expose it, the center of one’s politics, puts one firmly in the camp of the bourgeoisie.


Brian S. July 21, 2013 at 9:27 am

Clearly the Mubarak economic measures were not about “peasantization” – they were about the dispossession of part of an already existing peasantry, created or strengthened through the Nasser era agrarian reforms.
But its a double mistake to reduce all forms of agrarian social relations to capitalist relations – the FORM of exploitative relations determines the nature of the mode of production in agriculture, and thereby shapes the operation of the whole economic system. So confusing share-cropping in general with a relationship based on wage-labour is a basic error – which is compounded by the extrapolation that the social struggles and demands in rural society will mirror those in industrial communities. (Equating a landless labourer with a Putilov metal worker) .
The landless labourer’s most common demand is not for higher wages, but for LAND, to allow them to escape the impoverished status of those without land in a peasant economy. This is even more true of the share cropper, who is already a half-peasant.
Of course, things have doubtless shifted in recent decades with the rise in agribusiness and new export crops, but the important point is that there remains a significant “agrarian question” in Egyptian society. It also indicates one area in which there is scope for significant economic reform which would not necessarily stray far beyond the boundaries of capitalism (although its social driving force will not be the present Egyptian bourgeoisie or any of its fractions).


S.Artesian July 21, 2013 at 9:54 am

Yes, there is a significant agrarian question in Egypt, but it is not a question that can be resolved, or even originates, with peasant-based production. The evolution of the share-cropper relation subsumed in the ‘Ezbah system is very similar to sharecropper relations in the US South after the defeat of Radical Reconstruction, and one that has similar iterations in Mexico, after the revolution, Brazil, the Philippines.

I refer to it as a “veiled” wage-relation, in that the “share” that is afforded is less than subsistence and is derived from value production.

The very nature of the form is derived from the 1)need to “tether” the supply of labor power to the land– to make it available when and as needed and 2)by, in large part, the inability of cities, and later of industrial capitalism, to absorb the rural population.

What often occurs then is “agricultural involution” as the rural cultivators’ small holdings fractionalize even further. Average plot sizes of the fellahin, the rural poor, declined during the 19th and 20th centuries to a size unable to provide subsistence to the cultivators.

I don’t think it’s accurate to call the rural poor an Egyptian “peasantry” as the term is understood, used, and applied, to European small rural producers, no more than you can properly call the people of the pueblos of Mexico, the agricultural poor, those working on the haciendas, or on the hemp plantations in the Yucatan, a “peasantry.”

I think you’ll find that attempts to resolve the agrarian question of this type,–and this question itself still haunts Bolivia, the Philippines, and even China– must, and will, go far beyond the boundaries of capitalism– while the “reform” efforts pretty much center on trying to create a peasantry, a class of small “subsistence + surplus” producer– and pretty much always fail.


Brian S. July 21, 2013 at 4:38 pm

You can if you wish use the term “peasant” in a restrictive sense to apply only to agricultural petty commodity producers. But you are then left with relartively few peasants, and obscure the crucial question of how agrarian social relations develop and what impact that development has on broader economic structures. Peasants emerge out of pre-capitalist social relations through both social and political processes, are often enmeshed in all sorts of pre-capitalist and/or hybrid social relations.
As I understand it, the ‘ezbah system centred on labour service, which gave the landowner control over the labour process and suited large scale cotton cultivation. That is one way of extracting surplus. Share cropping is another which centres on sharing the product between direct producer and landowner – and can involve varying degrees of control by the landowner. The principal demands that arise in connection with the agrarian question are to throw off these various pre-capitalist social relations and obligations and allow agrarian producers to move towards a purer “peasant” form, mediated by the market. That is why this transformation is often (not always accurately) associated with some sort of “bourgeois revolution”.
As you say, ““reform” efforts pretty much center on trying to create a peasantry”, and that is exactly what nasserism did in its heyday. But it did it in a reformist way by limiting landlord’s impositions and substituting state agencies for private landlords., leaving the door open to a “counter reformation” under post-Nasser succesor regimes. Resistance to that process is the core of the contemporary agrarian question.


S.Artesian July 21, 2013 at 7:21 pm

The history of the fellahin, pretty much from the time of the Arab conquest in the 7th century, through the oscillations of rule between the Mamluks and the Ottomans, and continuing through Muhammed Ali and Abbas, is the history of loss of land, of “progressive” landless-ness.

Regarding sharecropping and the ‘ezbah, we need to distinguish between the metayage, or “true” sharecropping, and the ‘ezbah system, which as you correctly point out, initially and often paid no wage as such– providing rather small plots, and sometimes common plots for subsistence.

The fellahin lost their lad through outright seizure; abandonment in order to escape the corvee and conscription; tax defaults; debt foreclosures etc. And as this occurred and estates grew larger, there was a definite shift from the metayage to the ‘ezbah system.

Rather than be rented out for cash rents, ‘ezbah lands were exploited directly by the proprietor’s or land company agents utilizing agricultural laborers. Alan Richards in his Egypt’s Agricultural Development 1800-1980 argues, and obviously I find the argument persuasive, that a majority of large estates were operated using agricultural laborers under the ‘ezbah system.

Labor utilized was classified as “attached” or tamaliyya laborers, hired by the year and receiving money wages as well as some “payment in kind”, and daily wage laborers, tarahil labor.

The “attached” laborers were required to perform up to 25 days/month of service for the proprietors, and of course, most of this time was spent on cotton cultivation.

Regarding the daily laborers, Richards writes that “All authorities agree that these tarahil laborers were the most miserable of the fellahin. ” They were not provided housing, they had to provide their own food. They were paid a higher daily wage, but since the work was seasonal, and without the “benefit” of a plot for tillage.

The system, writes Richards, “seems to bear out those writers who characterize the political economy of Egyptian agriculture as a form of ‘backward colonial capitalism'” rather than feudalism.

The system produced for the market, and the laborers were not that market; exchanging their labor power, “embedding” it, so to speak as labor power in cotton cultivation, for means of subsistence.

Unlike the peasantry that existed in the 18th century, the ‘ezbah worker in the 19th had no claim, no right of any kind to the subsistence plot afforded by the proprietors.

Until the close of the 19th century, since the cities had no specific “corporate” status and commerce and employment in the cities were controlled by a guild system, there was no way the cities could absorb the labor power being driven off the land.

Even under the British “protectorate,” protecting the debt of course, the end of guild system did not “unleash” an industrial capitalism as investment in industry that might compete with established European manufacturing
Anyway, the point being that the resolution of this condition did not then, and does not now, lend itself to “break up the big estates” “land to the cultivators” type of program.

No doubt there remains an abiding land hunger among some of the rural laborers and equally of no doubt that is a complicated “emotion” to navigate, but I don’t think capital has any way of reforming the conditions in the countryside, which historically has been the sine qua non of bourgeois “democratic” revolutions, and the failures of those bourgeois democratic revolutions.

That’s my take on it.


Brian S. July 22, 2013 at 10:10 am

Thirty years ago I used to know quite a bit about this stuff, but I’ve not kept up, so thanks for the update on the literature.
You are certainly right that the current agrarian problems can’t be resolved through a “break up of the big estates” for the simple reason that it has already been done. Nasser’s 1952-65 land reforms virtually eliminated large estates (first those over 200 feddans, then over 100) and redistributed some 15% of the country’s agricultural land to the landless and small holders (and provided them with protection in the form of hereditable leases and fixed rents). The post 1992 “counter-reformation” has redistributed about the same area back in the opposite direction – but to medium size landowners in the 5-50 feddan class (although they often have multiple family holdings) and removed most of legal protections. Most of the current rural unrest isnot some “emotional” land-hunger but very tangible defence of these historic rights. See for a story that illustrates quite insightfully the various class and institutional forces at work.
You say “capital” has no way of reforming conditions in the countryside. It depends what you mean. Capitalist forces (including the International Financial Institutions) are leading the onslaught against the peasantry, and they they certainly won’t be changing tack any time soon. But it is possible to envisage an array of reforms that would make a major difference to agricultural productivity and rural living standards that would not involve a major rupture with bourgeois right.
To me that me that means there is the possibiliy of a “democratic” coalition of forces around a programme that would include such measures (but I only say “possibility”).


S.Artesian July 22, 2013 at 10:31 am

I’d be interested in knowing more about the array of reforms that could make a major difference to agricultural productivity and living standards and would not involve a rupture with the bourgeoisie– and I’m not trying to be glib here, because reforms have been attempted in the past, with such reforms either not being capable of sustaining agricultural productivity, or running directly into resistance from the existing ruling class structures, or………both. Mexico, even under Cardenas, in particular maybe particularly under Cardenas comes to mind.

I, obviously, don’t see a “way out” other than social revolution– but admittedly I have a “prior commitment” that might make me blind to certain possibilities, so I really would like to know what possible reforms might be effective.


Brian S. July 22, 2013 at 11:22 am

I didn’t say they wouldn’t involve a rupture with the bourgeoisie but that they wouldn’t involve a major rupture with bourgeois right (ie bourgeois principles) – and that effects the sort of political coalition that might be mobilised behind them:
*restoration of the Nasserite rent ceilings and legal security for tenants
* measures to protect wages and conditions of casual labourers
* extension of the land reforms to provide further redistribution and proper titles for small holders
* restoration of investment in agriculture, especially modernisation of the irrigation network (c.50% of water is currently wasted)
*improvement of transport networks in rural areas to allow small holders to take advantage of new export crops
* democratisation of producers coops and transfer to them of functions currently excercised by state marketing agencies
* improved credit facilities for small holders
* agricultural extension services directed at smallholders and the provision of appropriate productivity-enhancing technologies


S.Artesian July 22, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Again, how are these things going to be accomplished? Who’s going to pay for them?

These proposals are all fine, but I disagree. They will involve most definitely rupture with the bourgeois right, and with the bourgeoisie as a whole.

All these things cost money. Who’s going to pay?

I’ve worked on the transport system in Egypt, and improvement of that item alone is going to take a revolution, a full blown social revolution.

The “right” actually agrees with that– proposing however the counter-revolution of privatization of the elements of the network– railroads, marine terminals etc, which as we know only too well from experiences in Brazil, Argentina, etc. amount to little more than cannibalization.

The issue is, and more or less comes down to, agency. Putting it crudely, or maybe not: “Who’s (going to be) in charge?”

Brian S. July 22, 2013 at 4:29 pm

@ArtesianThe reply button for your ‘s comment has disappeared so I’m posting my response here. Hope you spot it.
Sorry, I was being a bit over-clever in using the phrase “bourgeois right” – I wasn’t referring to the right wing of the bourgeoisie, but using it in the Marxist/Hegelian sense of basic principles of bourgeois society:
“In a higher phase of communist society, … after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. “(Critique of the Gotha programme)
The infrastructural investments will cost a lot and have a long payback period; others will cost far less and have quite quick returns. In an authoritarian, clientilist society dominated by parasitic capitalist factions like Egypt you are spoiled for choice in finding of ways to redeploy resources and increase efficiency:
rooting out of corruption and serious taxation of the rich; restructuring of the public sector (which might involve selective privatisation); cutting of military budgets. There are also possible channels for raising capital through tough bargaining with the IFIs so that foreign assistance is channeled to where it can actually produce economic benefits rather than feed neo-liberal fantasies; from the Gulf states, who have vast sums seeking an outlet and keen to trade cash for even limited political leverage.
You’re quite right that agency is the key issue here – but my point is that this is a programme that can embrace a broad coalition of social forces – it doesn’t have to wait for soviets to spring up on the Nile, but could be built around a democratic left political formation.

S.Artesian July 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Saw your reply. And agree some are costly, some not so costly, but I don’t honestly see how any of it gets resolved minus a social, class-based, revolution. IMO, “we’ve” tried just about everything else.

S.Artesian July 22, 2013 at 10:34 am

PS Thanks for the link. A very interesting article– and I quite agree– my use of “land hunger” hardly applies.


Pham Binh July 22, 2013 at 10:45 am

The notion that only socialism can lead to any meaningful improvement in the living standards of the agricultural toilers (whether proles or peasants) is just ultra-left posturing, “revolution or bust,” as if reforms on the basis of capitalist social relations are somehow impossible.


S.Artesian July 22, 2013 at 11:18 am

First, I didn’t say “only socialism”– I maintain that only a social revolution led by the working class, which will be reciprocated and extended internationally will create the basis for sustained, and continuous improvements in living standards.

Sure reforms are possible with capitalism…. I mean look at Mexico… , get rid of the ejido-protective legislation, expel the people from the land, drive them to El Norte… and voila. Reform. Or El Salvador, create large cotton farming estates, in the late 1960s and 1970s, drive the poor off the land, and voila, you have a reform. And… civil war.

Or Brazil.. pay not attention to those death squads the bourgeoisie employ in the process of “reforming” agriculture.

I’d be “posturing” if I didn’t ask for some examples of meaningful improvements in the “living standards of the agricultural standards.” Meaningful means to me, widespread and sustained. So far, the record for that widespread and sustained improvement in living standards of agricultural toilers, of the rural poor, isn’t really all that impressive, is it?

The record seems to be significantly overweighted with examples of dispossession of the rural poor… driving them either into more marginalized forms of agricultural toil or… into the urban workforce, into maquiladoras, or into vast slums in cities such as Manila… speaking of the Philippines, perhaps you’d like to examine Corey Aquino’s “agricultural reform.”

So maybe you can show me where such “democratic” reforms have taken hold and improved the living of rural toilers? I asked Brian to describe the reforms he thinks might work. I’m asking you to show where they have worked, on a widespread and sustained basis.

Truly, you’re the one doing all the posturing and posing around here– with your “For a government of Reactionary Democrats… AND BUST!” sloganeering.


Brian S. July 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

I think what has rather got lost in this overheated discussion is Binh’s original political axis – which was Lenin’s “revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry” (1905). This was to be a democratic revolution but (as it said on the tin) made without (and even in opposition to) most of the bourgeoisie.
While I have differences with Binh over the historiography of this idea (and its relation to Trotsky’s views) and some differences over how it is formulated in current contexts, I find it a broadly correct and realistic approach to the tasks that face the popular movement in situations like Egypt.

S.Artesian July 22, 2013 at 11:57 am


But in Lenin’s scheme, how was such a “democratic dictatorship” going to come about except by social revolution in Russia, one that abolished to old ruling classes, and that in order to survive had to be reciprocated by the “outright” proletarian revolution in the advance countries.

The issue is one of, and I hate to use these words, revolutionary agency. What class could inaugurate such reforms, and under what conditions would that class be able to do that.

Despite the awkwardness, IMO, and the inaccuracy contained in Lenin’s proposal of the democratic-dictatorship, Lenin never moves his focus from this question of revolutionary agency, of class, of class struggle, and the need to overthrow the actual structures of the old regime.

That’s very different from notions of capitalist reforms.


Brian S. July 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm

@Artesian: Lenin’s formula has both strengths and weaknesses and their unpacking is sometimes complex: its main strength is that it understood the revolutionary process in Russia not in terms of some predetermined schema (as the Mensheviks did) but as a concrete political project – and that led him to the view that the “revolutionary agent” would not be a single class but a class alliance (involving not just the proletariat and peasantry, but also the “revolutionary democracy”).
Actually, Lenin at this period was almost entirely focused on “capitalist reforms” (that, in my view was the weakness of his formula) – although he wanted to push them to their limit, and thereby lay the basis for the next (socialist) stage in the revolutionary process.
Obviously Egypt is not Tsarist Russia, but I think some of the problems are analogous. See my response to Binh’s comment below for some further musings.

Pham Binh July 22, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Brian, I think there is a real challenge to come up with something analogous to Lenin’s formulation re: revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry since Egypt’s revolution (like Syria, Libya, and Tunisia) is not about a transition from feudalism to capitalism but of one form of bourgeois rule (fascism, military rule) to another (democracy) and the necessary class allies of the working class might not be intrinsically hostile to socialist measures the way petty proprietors (peasants) were bound to be in Russia a century ago. As if that weren’t complicated enough, in Egypt we have a situation where the revolution has not turned into an armed struggle or a civil war the way it has in Libya and Syria which made liquidating the old state machines easier in the sense of being very direct. How can this be accomplished in Egypt when there is no two-sided civil war, when the struggle remains peaceful in the sense that the revolutionary side is pretty much unarmed and no defections are apparent?


Brian S. July 22, 2013 at 6:03 pm

@Binh. I take your point about the differences between Tsarist Russia and the contemporary Middle East. But there are also points of similarity. Both involve societies in which capitalism as a social formation (ie not just a mode of production but a total social order, economic structures and state forms) is imperfectly realised. Tsarist Russia was a fusion of both pre-capitalist and capitalist elements – hence the durability of the autocracy and political feebleness of the Russian bourgeoisie (sorry to break the news, but Trotsky is excellent on this).
The same is true of contemporary post-colonial authoritarian regimes. but their capitalist elements are much stronger, as a result of their linkages to transnational capitalist circuits.
As a result of this, I think something that replicates Lenin’s method of seeking a coalition of social forces that can effectively challenge the prevailing rotten regimes is a valid starting point here too.
The common denominator for such an alliance is “democracy” – understood in the Leninist not the bourgeois sense: but, as you suggest, in a modern context many of the components of this alliance will be open to collective solutions – so what we are talking about is a “popular democracy” with significant social elements. (I’m also not persuaded that the Russian peasantry was an obstacle to socialist measures in the USSR – but that’s another discussion.)
I think your point about the relatively unarmed nature of the confrontation between the popular movement and the state machine reinforces the argument in favour of a democratic process of struggle (what Gramsci would have termed a “war of position” rather than a “war of movement”). The hope here would be that the development of a democratic political culture would at least loosen the authority structures within the repressive apparatus (a real possibility in a conscript army; a less likely perspective in the security apparatus).

S.Artesian July 23, 2013 at 10:11 am


We both, despite our disagreements, encounter the same obstacle– agency, class, and class-program.

Lenin’s compromise depended upon, was contingent upon, a revolutionary proletariat, and a (theoretically) fully formed Marxist party.

The compromise of a “democratic dictatorship” of the proletariat and the peasantry could not be executed by anything less.

Now, I certainly acknowledge those sorely missing ingredients– a proletariat that is organized for a revolutionary struggle and an expression, of some sort, of that organization in a class-based party. However, that’s exactly where efforts need to focus and we cannot, achieve that focus by supporting as “democratic” reactionary democrats, or a constitution that is anti-democratic and places the military outside and above the structures of so-called democracy

David Berger (RED DAVE) July 18, 2013 at 2:05 am

PHAM BINH: I’ve never used the term “permanent revolution” in any of my writing on the Arab Spring

DAVID BERGER: Maybe because it’s late and it’s hot out, your memory is a little leaky.

PHAM BINH (above in this thread): Haven’t you read Trotsky on permanent revolution?

PHAM BINH: because I don’t subscribe to it.

DAVID BERGER: You are entitled to your opinion.

PHAM BINH: Trotsky was wrong

DAVID BERGER: Because you say so. I suggest if you want to get into a discussion of permanent revolution you’ll need a bit more than ex cathedra statements.

PHAM BINH: and Lenin and the Communist International were right on this issue.

DAVID BERGER: Frankly, I don’t remember the details of the debate, but I’ll stick my neck out and say that my best recall is that Lenin came to agree with Trotsky on this.

PHAM BINH: Democratic revolutions are a necessary step towards the socialist revolution

DAVID BERGER: And, if such is bourgeois democratic revolution is impossible, as we are seeing in Egypt that it is, then what?

PHAM BINH: but the two are not one and the same. The twentieth century saw many democratic revolutions succeed without turning into socialist revolutions.

DAVID BERGER: The 20th Century is over. The bourgeoisie no longer has the economic wiggle room to engage in bourgeois democracy or to effect reforms. My opinion is that you are constantly looking to back the bourgeoisie because … .


Pham Binh July 18, 2013 at 9:25 am

So you and Thatcher agree that reforms under capitalism are impossible and that there is no alternative to neoliberalism and austerity.


S.Artesian July 18, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Well, I don’t agree with Thatcher. Reforms are possible. But capitalism will still be capitalism so such reforms are simply part of the cycle of capital, to be devalued, broken up, disposed of as capital moves to another part of its cycle which demands austerity– that is to say an attack on the living standards of the working class.

Reforms are possible. Democratic “revolutions” are not. Reaganites like to refer to their conquering of power as a “revolution.” It was not. Lula-ites like to refer to his regime as a revolution. It was not. The Argentine military calls every single one of its coups “revolutions” and so what? The MNR in Bolivia was a “revolution.” The MAS today is a “revolution” despite the fact that is utilizing the very same land reform laws and program introduced by Goni in the 1990s. The word “revolution” is so devalued in this process that it can be applied to anything… including the supposed “democracy” of Portugal, Spain, Greece, etc etc etc.


Aaron Aarons July 24, 2013 at 3:14 am

For reforms to be possible under capitalism, it would be necessary to break the power of, and expropriate, sections of the capitalist class. While, in theory, even partial expropriation of, e.g., finance capital might make concessions to the working class by capital possible, it is something that could almost not be carried out by the bourgeoisie as a whole. In fact, it would require proletarian power to carry it out, and, if that were possible, there would be no reason to stop at such limited expropriations. This is basically the point that Trotsky was arguing in Permanent Revolution.

In other words, it isn’t the abstract laws of capitalism, IMO, that make a revival of welfare-state capitalism impossible, but the political, economic, and military power of the capitalist class.


David Berger (RED DAVE) July 18, 2013 at 9:59 am

PHAM BINH: So you and Thatcher agree that reforms under capitalism are impossible and that there is no alternative to neoliberalism and austerity.

DAVID BERGER: Margaret and I often talked politics as we hoisted a pint together. The only problem is that she, like you, didn’t believe in a revolutionary alternative to capitalism, so she, as you, was caught in the conflict between austerity and reform.

Seriously, you’re going to ride this horse to the end, which is usually reconciliation with capitalism and the desperate hunt for reforms along with the minions of the Democratic Party.

So let me state it clearly: capitalism, in this period, is incapable of serious reform. Minor adjustments to the system are possible, but real reforms are not. If you think they are, Binh, it’s Show and Tell time. And if you think that reforms are possible in Egypt, you are under serious delusions.


Pham Binh July 18, 2013 at 10:52 am

Arguing that reforms are impossible under capitalism is capitulation to capitalism. That you and Thatcher agree on the short term and not the long term ought to clue you in that such a short-term view can only benefit the enemy and prevent that long-term objective from ever developing into a concrete possibility.


David Berger (RED DAVE) July 18, 2013 at 11:53 am

PHAM BINH: Arguing that reforms are impossible under capitalism is capitulation to capitalism.

DAVID BERGER: Actually, it’s pretty much the opposite. Preaching the real possibility of reforms is capitulation. Since you don’t understand and reject the notion of transitional demands, and you seem to ignore the exhaustion of capitalism, you’re going to make that capitulatin over and over again. Basically, you’re a reformist in a period when reform is impossible.

PHAM BINH: That you and Thatcher agree on the short term and not the long term ought to clue you in that such a short-term view can only benefit the enemy and prevent that long-term objective from ever developing into a concrete possibility.

DAVID BERGER: Actually, again, the opposite. The fact that you entertain the fantasy of reforms means that you will constantly be engaged in justification for the system and always miss the boat on revolution. The fact that you don’t see that bourgeois democracy is impossible in the current period is a sign of this.

Do you really think that India is a fully realized bourgeois democracy?


Pham Binh July 18, 2013 at 9:59 am

So there was a failed general strike against Morsi called by Egypt’s independent unions and the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated professional associations and unions are mobilizing against the coup and for Morsi’s restoration, i.e. in defense of the democratic revolution:

Also, SCAF has appointed a figure from the independent unions to the labor ministry over the opposition of the official unions:


Arthur July 20, 2013 at 8:15 am

The Nasserist (“independent”) unions full support for the military coup is one of many developments that confirms Brian’s attempt to analyse the situation from the perspective of “leftists” who treated the Morsi “regime” as the enemy was completely misguided:

BTW here’s a more objective attack on the earlier violent attack on the Brotherhood headquarters, about which the “Revolutionary Socialists” said they would “never forgive” the Brotherhood in response to the army shooting a thousand and killing scores:

So, how do we avoid such wrong analysis in the future – and how do end the widespread belief that groups virulently hostile to democracy are part of the left?

Starting point has to be absolute clarity in describing them as “pseudoleft” and treating them as enemies to be fought rather than letting them get away with their posturing as though their differences were from an ultra-leftist perspective rather than from the social fascist far right.


Red Blob July 20, 2013 at 10:19 am

Arthur I think that you will have to clarify your terms. My understanding is that the term Social Fascist was used by people like Stalin when they wanted to discredit Social Democrats.
Social democrats were seen by Stalin as a variant of Fascism
Most of the people here that you argue against seem to me to be left wing Communists although I’m sure they don’t see themselves as such.


Arthur July 20, 2013 at 11:44 am

Yes, I am not using the term in the same sense as the 1930s, referring to social democrats who smoothed the way for fascism (though of course it could be noted that the coup “Prime Minister” is from the “Egyptian Social Democratic Party”).

I am thinking more of the usage from the 1970s when the Brezhnev era Soviet Union and its supporters were described as “social fascists” – meaning “socialists in words, fascists in practice”.

Left wing communism is a completely different phenomenon. Left wing communists make mistakes of moving too far ahead of the masses etc.

Social fascists merely use left sounding phrases purely as a cover for overtly right-wing and pro-fascist politics.

For example checkout S. Artesian below.

“Bourgeois democracy isn’t viable”. “The Muslim Brotherhood is the enemy”.

This is EXACTLY what the Egyptian fascists say. Not just making tactical errors that play into their hands, but literally parrotting them, with EXACTLY THE SAME AIM of opposing the fight for democracy in Egypt.

Even the use of the term “bourgeois democracy” instead of just “democracy” isn’t really unique for social fascists as opposed to other kinds of fascist. See for example:

As for the claims that anybody disagreeing is a supporter of “Bush-Cheney” as a typical way to pretend to be “left”, it is somewhat anachronistic but rather similar to the current denunciations of anybody not supporting the coup as American agents according to the Egyptian fascists (who at least know who the current US President is):,1

It simply isn’t the case that people like S. Artesian are mistakenly trying to support a socialist revolution in a country where there is no such possibility. They know perfectly well that there is no socialist revolutionary movement to support in Egypt. So they are not being “ultra-left”, they are purely and simply opposed to democracy, which they claim is not “viable”.


Arthur July 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Sorry, second link above should have been to page 1 of the FP article, which cites some of the “anti-US-imperialist” rhetoric being spouted by Egyptian fascists.,0


David Berger (RED DAVE) July 20, 2013 at 5:34 pm

ARTHUR: Yes, I am not using the term in the same sense as the 1930s

DAVID BERGER: Could have fooled most people around here. You have the same heavyy-handed sensibility and shitty politics of a Third Period Stalinist.

ARTHUR: and referring to social democrats who smoothed the way for fascism

DAVID BERGER: Are you asserting that the Stalinists were right about the Social Democrats?

ARTHUR: (though of course it could be noted that the coup “Prime Minister” is from the “Egyptian Social Democratic Party”).

DAVID BERGER: Politics by innuendo is pretty much your speed. You are implying that the social democrats were responsible for Hitler. Why don’t you coin a phrase like, “After the Muslim Brotherhood, us”?

ARTHUR: I am thinking

DAVID BERGER: We are awaiting your thoughts breathlessly. The Internet as a whole pants for your wisdom.

ARTHUR: more of the usage from the 1970s when the Brezhnev era Soviet Union and its supporters were described as “social fascists” – meaning “socialists in words, fascists in practice”.

DAVID BERGER: So you have a bit of homegrown terminology used by a few leftists, that you’d like us all to use. Is that your great thought?

The problem is that whatever Brezhnev was, the term “fascist” is hardly applicable. Fascism is that stage of capitalism where the corporations and the state are in more or less unity, along with an independent fighting force, to smash the working class movement. Since there were no corporations in the USSR at the time (unless you want to extend Cliff’s notion of state capitalism and come up with some kind of a state capitalist fascism) the term fascist is just a political curse word.

ARTHUR: Left wing communism is a completely different phenomenon. Left wing communists make mistakes of moving too far ahead of the masses etc.

DAVID BERGER: I think that you have no concept whatsoever of the movement of the masses and, therefore, no basis to judge whether a group is left wing communism or not.

ARTHUR: Social fascists merely use left sounding phrases purely as a cover for overtly right-wing and pro-fascist politics.

DAVID BERGER: Actually, that’s a pretty good description of yourself. Considering that you’ve been in a political alliance with Cheney, Petraus and Blackstone, that brings you pretty close to fascism.

ARTHUR: For example checkout S. Artesian below.

“Bourgeois democracy isn’t viable”. “The Muslim Brotherhood is the enemy”.

This is EXACTLY what the Egyptian fascists say. Not just making tactical errors that play into their hands, but literally parrotting them, with EXACTLY THE SAME AIM of opposing the fight for democracy in Egypt.

DAVID BERGER: Without getting into the zigs and zags of Egyptian politics, it seems clear that you advocate an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood for its defense. The Brotherhood is, itself, a right-wing tendency. So where does that put you on the political map?

ARTHUR: Even the use of the term “bourgeois democracy” instead of just “democracy” isn’t really unique for social fascists as opposed to other kinds of fascist. See for example:

DAVID BERGER: Terminology can be used by anyone, Strasser or yourself. For example, you claim to be a socialist. Richard Carlin would love a statement like that.

ARTHUR: As for the claims that anybody disagreeing is a supporter of “Bush-Cheney”

DAVID BERGER: You are in a political alliance with Bush and Cheney. That’s undeniable. You are in bed with Petraus, Blackstone and the worst elements in US politics.

ARTHUR: as a typical way to pretend to be “left”, it is somewhat anachronistic

DAVID BERGER: There is nothing anachronistic about claiming you’re in an alliance with the US Right. You still are.

ARTHUR: but rather similar to the current denunciations of anybody not supporting the coup as American agents according to the Egyptian fascists (who at least know who the current US President is):,1

DAVID BERGER: Gobbledy gook. You have never withdrawn politically from your alliance with the superpigs.

ARTHUR: It simply isn’t the case that people like S. Artesian are mistakenly trying to support a socialist revolution in a country where there is no such possibility.

DAVID BERGER: Considering that capitalism has pretty much exhausted its viability in Egypt, socialism is very much on the agenda. But you and Binh can’t see that as you are dying to get into an alliance with one faction of the bourgeoisie or another.

ARTHUR: They know perfectly well that there is no socialist revolutionary movement to support in Egypt.

DAVID BERGER: Such a movement could spring up overnight. Such a movement arose in Portugal, for example. It was diverted into a struggle for bourgeois democracy.

ARTHUR: So they are not being “ultra-left”, they are purely and simply opposed to democracy, which they claim is not “viable”.

DAVID BERGER: Socialism is lot more viable in Egypt than bourgeois democracy.

By the way, remember to post pictures of the pro-interventionist rallies you and your mates are doubtless organizing as you are obvious a comrade of courage and conviction (as are your counterparts here in the US).


S.Artesian July 20, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Besides being a supporter of Pol Pot, Savimbi, Botha, Bush-Cheney, Arthur is also a mind-reader:

“It simply isn’t the case that people like S. Artesian are mistakenly trying to support a socialist revolution in a country where there is no such possibility. They know perfectly well that there is no socialist revolutionary movement to support in Egypt.”

I know no such thing. I know perfectly well that a proletarian revolution, a working class revolution is the only way forward in Egypt. I defy the dishonest, lying, imperialist-supporting, pseudo-Marxist Arthur to ever find one thing I’ve written that does not point to the class struggle between capital and labor as being the driver of the important social upheavals since and including the defeat of radical Reconstruction in the United States, and advocating the overthrow of capital in that class struggle.

That is after all what Marxism, fundamental or not, is all about: class struggle.

Our posing pseudo-fundamentalist Marxist wants every one to believe that there are no prospects, not for a socialist revolution, since socialism is what is derived from the seizure of power on an international scale and the reorganization of production, but for a PROLETARIAN revolution capable of expropriating the bourgeoisie. And this is supposed to be “fundamentalist Marxism” when the real “red thread” in Marx’s work that the proletariat must accomplish exactly that to afford it and its allies, of which Arthurs is not one, the possibility of addressing the various manifestations of capital.

Arthur’s logic is simply this: “S. Artesian is wearing a black tie. Fascists wear black ties. Therefore S. Artesian is a fascist.”

If one pays attention to these things you don’t find Marx endorsing “bourgeois democracy” — you find him, as in his Critique of the Gotha Programme– endorsing something quite different, and even then, conditionally: a democratic republic where sovereignty is explicitly announced as residing in the people. And the endorsement of that is made in the context of the 19th century. Arthur, or whoever, residing as he does in a diner somewhere at the end of some other universe wants to ignore the intervening 150 years– ignore that Egypt is capitalist and is in fact connected and part of the network of bourgeois states, as Germany was 140 years ago when Marx wrote that critique.

Studied, deliberate ignorance is complemented by studied, deliberate distortions: S. Artesian says……… Fascists say……. therefore……..

S. Artesian does say for example, Allende’s government in Chile was not viable it had to go when push came to shove. Pinochet said, Allende’s government in Chile was not viable and it had to go when putsch came to shove. Arthur the fundamentalist phony concludes: “Ergo S. Artesian is Pinochet.”

What this prevaricating dissembler ignores is the critical issue of WHO’s doing the pushing, and WHO’s doing the shoving. I advocate and analyzed why the workers in Chile had to break free of the UP, advance their own interests and oppose Pinochet. Not exactly the same thing is that, as SUPPORTING Pinochet?

But such distinctions are of little meaning to Arthur at the end of the universe, living in a black hole. Arthur has a class interest in denying the prospects for a viable independent proletarian struggle in Egypt. That class interest compels him to align with the US in times and places, the Moslem Brotherhood in times and places, Botha at other times and other places— all such iterations serving however, the same class, the class of capitalists.

OH… and if accuracy is an issue, perhaps Arthur would care to provide the exact reference to the phrase he supposedly quotes me as uttering: “The Muslim Brotherhood is the enemy”.

I think what I said was– in reference to Arthur’s fascist mumblings– was that to him the MB isn’t the enemy, the military isn’t the enemy, capitalism isn’t the enemy– the left is the enemy.

Now to clarify– capitalism is the enemy in Egypt, and the Moslem Brotherhood functions as an agent of a section of the capitalist class. They, the Moslem Brotherhood, have shown themselves throughout their history to be the enemies of the workers– breaking strikes, working closely with the thugs of the Green Militia to terrorize workers etc.

Arthur’s lack of logic means that workers should attempt no independent action, should oppose no measures of the MB, should not agitate for improved social welfare, equality, etc. because the economy of Egypt simply cannot afford; there’s no prospect for a proletarian revolution and any such agitation will only give the military an excuse to reassert power. This of course is exactly the argument made by the right wing of Allende’s UP, particularly the Communist Party…. and it led to the UP in fact suppressing the workers, suppressing the cordones (workers’ councils) and….thus emboldening the military.

Now if Arthur, through his telescope wants to argue that Egypt is different, then he has to show what the “viability” of “democracy” consists of, how it will handle the economic problems besetting Egyptian capitalism, and how it can possibly handle those problems without mobilizing the forces of repression AGAINST workers, who commenced a strike wave before the ousting of Mubarak, who continued to strike after the ousting of Mubarak, and will continue to strike under any form of capitalism…….until they are victorious or crushed… and Arthur is lining up on the “crush them” side. That’s exactly where the allegiance to “democracy” gets you– crushing the workers.

Arthur doesn’t even qualify as a radical democrat— making absolutely no mention of what should be done with PROPERTY in Egypt. Where is the radical democratic program calling for divesting the military of its control of the economy– and make no mistake, the military exercises substantial control of the economy. Where is the radical democratic program guaranteeing freedom of religion, equality between genders.

Where is there even a “bourgeois democracy” in Egypt? Certainly not in the 2012 Constitution.

Only the three “Abrahamic” religions are afforded protection in the 2012 Constitution. The military is once again, exempted from parliamentary oversight, overseen and accountable to a special council of officers that oversees the budget.

Freedom from discrimination is enshrined in the constitution… but the paragraph the specifically addressed discrimination against women was excised in order to appease the the conservative religious leaders. Womens’ “equality” is circumscribed by the obligations, and determinations of religious law.

The 2012 constitution makes the principles of Islam the basis for all legislation, which is exactly what was enshrined in the old constitution.

The new constitution does not exempt civilians from military trials, and the military code of justice will govern in such trials.

So tell me where’s the “viable democracy”? Where’s the “democratic republic”? It’s out there at the OTHER end of the universe from which are pro-imperialist pseudo Marxist is located.


S.Artesian July 20, 2013 at 10:21 am

Of course, the main enemy is the “pseudoleft”– that is anyone who doesn’t endorse the MB; who doesn’t support the invasion of Iraq; who doesn’t think that “bourgeois democracy” is viable, and the MB isn’t the steward of that viability now, just as Savimbi and the Union of South Africa was 30 years ago.

The military isn’t the main enemy. The bourgeoisie aren’t the main enemy. Capitalism isn’t the main enemy. Arthur wants to preserve the military, the bourgeoisie, and capitalism, institutions that he’s convinced are valuable and will become allies in his fight against the “main enemy,” which not oddly enough, is the main enemy of capitalism– the working classes.

And woe be unto anyone who takes such calls for war against the left seriously; who regards these foaming appeals to pogroms as somehow requiring a promise to meet force with force, assault with assault.

The “fascism” around here is all his.

Any site that allows people like Arthur to masquerade as “Marxists” does so only because they proprietors of that site find in the masquerade an ally for their own hostility to social revolution.

Vote Bush-Cheney! The true agents of democracy. Anyone not in agreement is an enemy.


Pham Binh July 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Arthur: what do you think of “reactionary democrats” as a term to describe Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood? It’s derived from Kautsky’s observations in The Social Revolution about what he called the “reactionary democracy.” Clearly they are for democratic multi-party elections and in that sense are democrats rather than autocrats or fascists. Their behavior in office also clearly indicates they prefer a reformist/opportunist conciliatory approach to the fulool rather than a revolutionary or militant one aimed to breaking up, defeating, and crushing those elements.


Arthur July 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Not unreasonable but doesn’t grab me. I’m not familiar with Kautsky’s usage.

My impression is the (current) brotherhood would be more accurately described as “conservative” democrats in the Egyptian context. Salafi parties more reactionary (and less democratic).

Anyone democratic is inherently less reactionary and conservative than the various “progressive” parties of the secular opposition who actually want to go BACKWARDS towards the Mubarek era. So emphasizing the conservative of reactionary character of the brotherhood is likely to give a misleading impression to people who are unaware of how bad the opposition to the brotherhood is.

Also I’m not at all sure that a reformist/conciliatory approach was avoidable in the first attempt. If they had simply confronted SCAF, they would have lost, there would have been no elections and constitution and things would be a lot less advanced than they are now. The people claiming they should have confronted SCAF have now proved themselves to be full of shit.

I suspect they are now very clear about breaking up, defeating and crushing the remnants ;-)

Along with them, many others would now also be more clear on this.

I recall reading at the time of Mubarek’s speech asking to be allowed to retire with dignity that youth activists in Tahrir square were surprised that it resonated with a substantial section of the population and built a backlash against the revolution, whereas the brotherhood leadership understood how that conservative section of the masses would react.

It isn’t just the disgusting liberals and “left” that have faith in the army. Seems to be pretty widespread in Egypt, so even now the brothers are just targeting the generals in command rather than the whole officer corps. If a Syrian situation can be avoided (as has been successful in Tunisia) then it is well worth trying to avoid it.


Pham Binh July 22, 2013 at 11:26 am
Reza Lustig July 22, 2013 at 4:44 am

I find it somewhat rich that the same writer who insists that secular/anti-fundamentalist forces in Syria begin their struggle against the Islamists after Assad is overthrown (which I have come to agree with) holds up the Ikhwan and their supporters (and financial backers/puppetmasters in Doha) as the standard-bearers for Egypt’s “democratic revolution.” Not only this, but he chides those Egyptian activists closest to his own beliefs (supposedly) for not being content with remaining a “loyal opposition” to an administration that hates everything they stand for, and have used every dirty trick in the book to stymie.

All in the name of the “democratic revolution,” of course.


Pham Binh July 22, 2013 at 7:26 am

Because strategy and tactics should be the same in all countries and contexts rather than reflect local peculiarities and nationally specific contexts, right? Memorizing general formulas and applying them blindly is a poor way to go, especially when there is no Muslim Brotherhood in Syria much less free and fair elections held in peaceful conditions. Egypt’s revolution is much more complicated than Syria’s.


S.Artesian July 22, 2013 at 8:52 am

” Egypt’s revolution is much more complicated than Syria’s.”

Yes, it’s “more complicated.” Unfortunately, Pham and the revolutionary democrat/cruise-missile Marxist Arthur have reduce the revolution to three demands:

1. For a government of “reactionary democrats” [Pham’s own characterization]

2. Defend the reactionary constitution.

3. There is no alternative to reactionary democracy.


Pham Binh July 22, 2013 at 11:28 am


1. For a freely elected democratic government, even if it has a Muslim Brotherhood majority.

2. Defend the voter-approved constitution from the reactionary military and it’s even more reactionary interim constitution.

3. There is no struggle for socialism in Egypt that does not involve first fighting for and winning bourgeois-democratic freedoms.


Aaron Aarons July 23, 2013 at 10:21 am

1. Is a “freely elected” government “democratic” merely by virtue of being “freely elected”, or is there some deeper meaning to “democratic” in this context?

2. Why in the world should anybody who claims to be a leftist have to express opposition to the reactionary Egyptian military and its constitution by “defending” another reactionary, anti-woman, anti-working-class constitution rather than denouncing both of them? Are we in the U.S. supposed, for example, to oppose one party’s repressive anti-immigrant legislation by supporting that of the other party?

3. There is no chance of winning “bourgeois-democratic freedoms” under bourgeois rule in situations where the bourgeoisie sees whatever “freedoms” Binh is referring to by that phrase as opening the way for the victory of socialism, or even for successful working-class resistance to austerity. And if Binh is referring to elections, the bourgeoisie will use those to undermine actual or potential revolutionary struggle, as they have done so successfully in South Africa for the last 20 years.


S.Artesian July 23, 2013 at 10:31 am

Pham expresses wonderfully liberal ideas about democracy. Unfortunately, as a famous German philosopher once remarked, liberalism is the philosophy of the abstract that capitulates before the world of the concrete.

So, to the abstractions, the forms, Pham proposes lets inject some substance– some materialism:

1. For a freely elected democratic government, even when it’s a reactionary formation maintained by a coalition of anti-democratic forces.

2. Defend the voter-approved constitution from the reactionary military even when the constitution exempts the military from “civil authority,” empowers the military to act as a force separate, apart, and above the constitution.

3. For the old “stages” theory of social evolution– where first a struggle is conducted for bourgeois democracy which is, and has just been shown to be, completely illusory, so that we can avoid even a hint of a threat to private or military property and avoid even a wisp of a notion of class struggle that will exceed national boundaries, despite the fact that every iteration of capitalist government, from “democratic” to authoritarian is dependent upon international support from the bourgeoisie around the world.

First… bourgeois democracy, then… socialism is the equivalent of those fundamental principles of bourgeois justice: 1. “just us” and 2. “First……..we give them a fair trial. Then……..we hang them.


Pham Binh July 23, 2013 at 11:06 am

Wrong all along the line, as usual. You’re mistaking Marxism for liberalism. You ignore the fact that Islamist forces are going to win any free and fair democratic election in Egypt; you don’t seem to be cognizant of the contradiction between democratic process and democratic principle (in this case secularism); the interim constitution is a step backwards and even more reactionary from the standpoint of the working class — its Islamist provisions are worse and the military has even more power than before; the struggle for bourgeois democracy is an unavoidable part of the struggle to supercede it via socialism, i.e. proletarian rule. The Arab Spring is not about abolishing generalized commodity production, it is about abolishing fascist/military rule, and this has been accomplished in Libya and Tunisia, so it is the notion that bourgeois democracy is illusory that is illusory.

You throw out Marx’s and Engels’ stages approach and what remains is ultra-left, anti-democratic mish-mash that uses Marxist verbiage but is completely devoid of any useful or insightful political content.


S.Artesian July 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm

“Wrong all along the line as usual” ? That’s funny, because a) that’s exactly what I say about your democratic posturing and b) how can I be wrong about saying you want to restore a government of reactionary democrats when you say you want to restore a government of reactionary democrats?

Your definition of the “stage approach” is counter to the real red-thread of Marx’s & Engels’ revolutionary approach– which is that the proletariat must act independently of the bourgeoisie, independently of the forms that protect capitalist property, of which bourgeois democracy is certainly one. See previous references to the Critique of the Gotha Programme.

The real content that you ignore in your misidentification of the stage approach is that history is the product of the social relations of production, and those social relations are the producer of class struggle.

I don’t ignore the fact that Islamists are going to win an election NOW, or maybe tomorrow, or next year; no more than I would ignore the fact that 40 years ago, Nasser would win any and every election, that Nasser still today is revered among the working class and the poor, and much more so than the MB is.

Regardless of that popularity, the issue is does there need to be a working class movement independent of such “democratic” “nationalist” capitalist organizations, advancing a program for the organization of society that is truly free? The answer to that, the answer you cannot miss in Marx’s work other than by missing it deliberately is “most definitely.”

So does the “tailing” of the MB; the support for the constitution of 2012 build that independence, that class’s ability to act in its own interests or not? I think the evidence throughout history is overwhelming. Such tailings, such “stage theory” does not and is actually designed to prevent the development of such an ability.

Nobody that I know of is going out and demanding “socialism or bust.” That’s inane. But a program that breaks the grip of the military by insisting on separating the ranks from the officers….? A program that addresses the organization of the economy that condemns 30-40% of the population to live in poverty? How about that? How about some social content beyond “vote for democracy”?

And if, by some odd chance the military does allow new elections, and does allow the FJP to run candidates– will your “program” be– “defend democracy. vote FJP”?

I asked you before: Did you support the 2012 constitution before it was adopted? If so why? If not, why not and why would you support a constitution that you objected to “democratically” and which proved incapable of defending democracy from the military?

Your democracy never existed, that’s the point. It was a mirage, created in the momentary vacuum of the contending ruling class factions.

When people exercised their so-called “democratic rights,” which “rights” go far beyond the restrictions enacted in your so-called democratic constitution, repression was mobilized. That the repression got rid of Morsi… is due to the fact that Morsi and the MB are tied to the ruling classes, the ruling social organization, and lost the confidence of the ruling classes.

What was it Saint-Just said about those that make revolutions halfway only dig their own graves? He was wrong. If they merely dug their own graves, it wouldn’t be so bad. In reality, they dig the graves for thousands of others, and then give us eulogies for “democracy.”

Hooper gave us the modern twist in Jaws: ” I refuse to waste time arguing with a man lining up to be a hot lunch.” The only problem is in so doing your chumming the waters and attracting more sharks.


Pham Binh July 23, 2013 at 1:22 pm

An independent working-class movement cannot succeed in winning democratic freedoms without alliances, alliances within its own ranks for maximum unity as well as alliances with other non-proletarian classes and their parties. Your recipe of a working class movement that is independent of all non-working class forces is a recipe for isolation and defeat, and the notion that a “program” will break the power of the generals over the grunts is laughable. There are socialist groups in Egypt pushing the very programs you think are so powerful and it has yet to sway any bayonets.

I’m not sure where you get the notion that the Nasserists are more popular among workers and the poor than Islamists. That’s not what the election results have shown repeatedly since 2011, leaving aside the fact that SCAF itself is the inheritor of the Nasser’s state machine.


S.Artesian July 23, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I never said “Nasserists”– I said Nasser. Nasser is revered in Egypt.

I never offered a ” recipe of a working class movement that is independent of all non-working class forces” and/or a working class movement “without alliances, alliances within its own ranks for maximum unity as well as alliances with other non-proletarian classes and their parties.”

I think I’ve made it clear that a working class movement has to remain independent of the bourgeoisie and all bourgeois amalgams. The MB is one such bourgeois amalgam– an alliance of the petty bourgeoisie and a fraction of the national bourgeoisie is how I recall Brian putting it.

And I certainly think the working class, in whatever alliances it makes, and I have specifically referred to such alliances with the urban and rural poor, forms such an alliance on the basis of its, the working class’ own program for the reorganization of society, for the transformation of property.

More rigor, Pham, less strawmen.


Aaron Aarons July 26, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Binh writes, “the struggle for bourgeois democracy is an unavoidable part of the struggle to supercede [sic!] it via socialism, i.e. proletarian rule.”

The struggle for democratic rights, whether those rights are “bourgeois” or not, is usually part of any struggle to overthrow the old order. At the same time, we have many cases, such as Portugal in 1975 or Spain in 1936-37, where the struggle for “bourgeois democracy” was the rallying cry of counter-revolution. In Spain, the Stalinists and their bourgeois and right-wing-socialist allies raised the call for a “democratic republic” in direct opposition to the revolutionary seizure of power, including expropriations and collectivizations, by workers and some peasants that had already taken place in the wake of the defeat of the military uprising. And, as part of that struggle to restore bourgeois “democracy”, a reign of terror, mainly against the revolutionary left, was introduced under the direction of Stalin’s secret police. When the working class is revolutionary, the struggle for “bourgeois democracy” must be anti-democratic.

To sum up, the struggle for democratic rights against a repressive capitalist regime (whether that regime is headed by an al-Sisi or an Obama) is part of revolutionary struggle and helps prepare the working masses for the harder struggle for proletarian social and economic rights and, ultimately, proletarian power. On the other hand, the struggle for the institutionalization of bourgeois democracy is counter-revolutionary.


Brian S. July 26, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Agree in places, Aaron.The weight of “democratic” demands and of a “democratic” strategy will depend on the state of the social forces in motion and the political level of the mass movement. Clearly circumstances exist in which these may combine to make initiatives that go beyond bourgeois bounds possible, and attempting to rein those in because they transgress fixed “stage” boundaries would be reactionary.
But revolutions that have the capacity to break significantly (much less definitively) with capitalism are historically rare – they from very specific combinations of economic,social, and poltiical conditions. Russia in 1917 was one such unique conjuncture (and one that was over-estimated by the Bolsheviks).
Portugal in 1975 had some of these features – and at the time I thought that it had real post-capitalist potential – looking back I ‘m not so sure, but I think something was possible. But it was a special case – replicated nowhere else in Europe (not even in Spain which had some of the same features.)
I don’t agree with you with regard to “institutionalisation” – “institutionalisation” is exactly what you need if you don’t want to leave the door perpetually open to slipping backwards, as in Egypt . But there are various things that can be”institutionalised”.


Matt July 27, 2013 at 12:09 am

Tunisia, really?


Matt July 27, 2013 at 12:06 am

A freely elected government in Egypt can only be a government that rejects imperialist involvement in the country, particularly with respect to the terms of the “peace” with Israel and the subsidy to the military.


Aaron Aarons July 27, 2013 at 12:40 am

Are you saying, Matt, that, no matter how it is actually elected, a government can only be labelled “freely elected” if it “rejects imperialist involvement in the country, particularly with respect to the terms of the “peace” with Israel and the subsidy to the military”?

Or are you asserting that, thanks to the consciousness of the electorate, only a government that fits that description could be elected in a genuinely free election?


Pham Binh July 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm

VICE (who have done excellent documentaries on the Syrian and Libyan revolutions) on the Egypt coup:


Brian S. July 23, 2013 at 7:44 am

A good piece of reporting – it will be interesting to see the follow-ups. Its always useful to get some sense of how things actually feel on the ground. It does demonstrate the depth of the political divide these events have opened up: and that is going to hang like an oppressive cloud over Egyptian politics for the foreseeable future. Its going to be extremely difficult for anyone to put democratic institutions back together after this mess.
I think the portrait of the two sides in the film is a bit skewed – probably reflecting who they found who could speak English. It certainly indicates the heterogenity of the opposition and the paranoia that has taken root as a result of the tactics of the liberal leadership – but there are clearly other currents within the opposition. Its also interesting to see the inability of the Islamist spokeseople to distinguish between recognising the wish of a part of society to live under Islamic codes and the creation of an order which places the whole society under such a code.


Aaron Aarons July 23, 2013 at 4:23 am

Sorry, but the only thing that can be said in favor of either side of this split is that it is against the other side. That is, the pro-Morsi side can be praised for being against the military, and the anti-Morsi side for being against the Muslim Brotherhood and its patriarchal (Sunni) Islamist sectarianism.

While recognizing that, for now, the main enemy is the side that holds most of the power, i.e., the military, any decent left in Egypt has to be both anti-MB and anti-military, and certainly would not want to restore the cooperation between those two reactionary forces that existed until recently.


Brian S. July 23, 2013 at 8:02 am

@Aaron. For me its not about being in favour of the MB but of determing what was the appropriate way to conduct the struggle against them. The political system under the Morsi regime had sufficient democratic elements that it was entirely possible to mount effective opposition within the existing constitutional framework .The Morsi regime had also showed itself weak and prepared to retreat under popular pressure. If the opposition had concentrated on organising itself and exploiting this “democratic opening” it would have been a far healthier situation: the takeover by the military could very probably have been avoided; and the cultural divide between Islamist and non-Islamist fractions of Egyptian society addressed through democratic negotiation rather than violent confrontation.
There are several possible scenarios for future developments – but all of them will require coming to terms with the Islamist current in Egyptian society (that is already reflected in the current political arrangements).


S.Artesian July 23, 2013 at 9:42 am


When you say “mount effective opposition within the existing constitutional framework” and organizing and “exploiting this democratic opening,” what exactly does that amount to? Does that include the street protests against the so-called democratic constitution that subordinated all freedoms to the maintenance of the state? Does that include protests against Morsi awarding himself extra-constitutional powers? Does that include the resistance of students to attempts to “correct” the curricula according to religious law? Does that include the street protests against sexual assaults of women? Does that include the street protests against the deterioration of the economy; for bread; against inflation– whether or not the shortages or the inflation are “manipulated” or “real”?

If so, the opposition did exactly that. That the military, that the– as you call it– transnational bourgeoisie, that elements of the “deep state”– all attempted, and were successful in piggybacking atop that, hi-jacking it, manipulating it, does not mean that the opposition is responsible, or caused the coup.

It does mean Morsi had lost the confidence of the fragile and uneasy coalition that stood behind the so-called democratic process, and the “constitutional government.”

You seem to place the responsibility for the “violent confrontation” of the “opposition” without distinguishing among the elements of the opposition– as if the opposition were a monolith united in or by some or a single set(s) of demands. No such unity exists, or existed. So you might as well be telling the military, the deep state, the transnational bourgeoisie that THEY should have acted according to a “democratic process.”

For those who were acting according to the principles that they had established in the downfall of Mubarak, their demonstrations were the critical, essential, vital part of the “democratic process.”

Should the “opposition” have denounced the coup? Well, of course. Again, there is no unified opposition, and illusions in the military far predate the downfall of Mubarak, much less Morsi.

We can criticize the opposition for not being more “conscious” as to what the revolution requires to succeed– but that consciousness is exactly what is being opposed by admonitions to adhere to a reactionary constitution, a so-called “democratic opening” as the consciousness required is really a class-consciousness, one that does not defer to “constitutionalism” or electoral supremacy.


Brian S. July 23, 2013 at 11:34 am

A very good piece in Jadaliya which provides some analysis of the social and political dynamics of the current situation(a second part has been recorded but not yet transcribed into English):


Brian S. July 26, 2013 at 4:14 pm

First reports coming in of today’s opposing demos in Egypt. Egptian media are rubbish at reporting numbers and there are only a couple of decent aerial photos, so difficult to judge comparative numbers. It looks to me as if if the pro-army demo was large (filled Tahrir but that ‘s not difficult to do) but significantly smaller than 30 June. The pro-Morsi demo was also large – but difficult to assess its relative size. Fortunately little violence in Cairo – but two deaths in Alexandria.
There was a small “third square” anti-military demonstration that seems to have included the Revolutionary Socialists, some members of the 6 April Youth, and some salafists. Al Jazeera described it as about 100 strong (but no way of confirming if this is accurate.
Bad news: reports of a section of Aboul Futouh’s Strong Egypt party breaking away in what looks like a pro-military grouping. That weakens the one important anti-military voice with a mass following.


Brian S. July 27, 2013 at 8:10 am

So, it seems that yesterday was just the calm before the storm. I had missed the fact that the military had given the MB a deadline of today (Saturday) to call off their demonstrations – so its pretty clear that this was an orchestrated two-part operation: mobilise a show of public support for the military and then commence a full-scale repressive drive. But the military was too keen to get going to wait for the their deadline to expire.
Reports on the number of deaths vary – with credible figures from 66 to over 120 (and likely to rise because local hospitals have been overwhelmed and forces to close their doors) plus several hundred wounded.
And the Minister of the Interior is promising more to come.
Most political forces seem slow to respond, but Aboul Futouh’s Strong Egypt has called for the resignation of the government:
“What has happened and is still happening is a massacre of Rabaa al-Adaweya protesters. Those who promised to protect the people, starting with the president all the way to the defense and interior ministers and the prime minister, as well as those who welcomed the Defense Minister’s call to rally, are all accountable for the more than 120 people who were killed and the 4,500 others injured.”
Further details here:
I don’t see how this can amount to anything less than the end of the Egyptian revolution, no matter how the next steps play out.


Brian S. July 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm

@Artesian. You quite rightly say that the opposition was not monolithic – but it did have a clear and continuous leadership: and that leadership was the National Salvation Front, which embraced everyone except some small left groups and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh ; within the NSF there was also a dominant figure – El Baradei. My comments are primarily directed against them, but there were few significant challenges to their actions.
From the start Baradei and the NSF exaggerated and distorted Morsi’s actions: they failed to acknowledge that the November 2012 Constitutional Declaration was made in order to overcome obstacles being created by the former regime judiciary to the democratisation process; and they did not shift their position even when Morsi amended the declaration to remove the objectionable provisions.
I’m not sure what you mean when you say that the proposed constitution “subordinated all freedoms to the maintenance of the state”. Can you explain?
The opposition had plenty to complain about with regard to the constitution but their conduct was hopeless: they withdrew from the Constituent Assembly early in the process; they never formulated a clear set of counter-proposals that could provide a focus for opposition; they distorted what the provisions of the constitution actually were; its possible that they failed to respond to an offer from Morsi to postpone the referendum (the record is not clear here); they dithered over whether to abstain or vote no – and ultimately were incapable of mounting a coherent campaign of opposition.
They then chose to ignore the opportunity provided by parliamentary elections due in a matter of months, put obstacles in the way of organising the elections, and failed to object when the judiciary once again interfered in the democratic process. Instead they chose to direct the movement towards demanding the downfall of the president, leading it inevitably into the arms of the feloul and the military.
There is quite a lot of evidence now that El Baradei at least, and possible Sabahi, were actively involved in courting military intervention well before 30 June. They certainly did nothing to discourage this demand becoming prominent in the mass movement, and they were actively joined by Tamarod in the days running up to the coup. So both the NSF and Tamarod were complicit in the military takeover.
The rejection of “constitutionalism” may be fine when you have something better to put in its place – but all that was on offer here was a return to military rule.


S.Artesian July 23, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Right, a movement that did not separate itself along class lines, that was unsettled and amorphous, with what are usually termed “petty bourgeois” organizations of various and many political stripes acted in the manner you described.

Yet, that’s not the entirety of the opposition, nor is that movement the driver of the conflict in Egypt.

The issues that drive the conflict are in the organization of land and labor; in the economy; in “social reproduction.” Do the ruling classes in any amalgam have the ability to resolve that conflict? None that I can see except by destroying the economy to an even greater degree.

Can the opposition, in any of its amalgams with sections of the ruling classes, the military etc. resolve the conflicts…. again, I don’t see how… given the international scope required of any such resolution.

I see no point in suggesting what Baradei or the NSF should have done for that reason.

So where does that leave us? My suggestion is we separate from all the amalgams.. and see if we can focus on an alliance of workers, the urban and rural poor, with a distinctly revolutionary social program.

Regarding the constitutional subordination of the democratic freedoms. Article 81 of the 2012 constitution says, according to what I’ve read: “These rights and freedoms shall be exercised insofar as they do not contradict the principles set out in the Chapter on State and Society in this constitution.”

Article 11, states that, “The state shall protect ethics and morals and public order.”


Brian S. July 23, 2013 at 3:53 pm

@Artesian. You repeat that the failings I describe don’t relate “to the entirety of the opposition”. But as I pointed out they apply to the leading and dominant groups and individuals,and were accepted by most other forces. Tamarod supported Baradei as their representative in dealings with the military and both they and 6 April movement promoted him as post-coupPrime minister. (And I don’t think there’s anything “petty” about the bourgeois circles Baradei moves in.)
Of course what is needed is “an alliance of workers, the urban and rural poor, with a distinctly revolutionary social program. ” But that won’t come overnight – my point is that there could have been a first step towards that if the left forces in the opposition had not swallowed the Baradei line and led the movement into a blind alley.
On the constitution: your quite right about article 81, but I don’t see anything in the State and Society section that leads to a “subordination of all freedoms to the maintenance of the state”. Rather the contrary: Art 5: “Sovereignty is for the people, the people shall exercise and protect this sovereignty, safeguard national unity and they are the source of authority, and that is as specified in the Constitution.”
But regardless, my point is not that this was some sort of model democratic constitution – it had multiple flaws – but it provided a working framework for democratic opposition to the incumbent government.
For further clarification, could I refer you to the post I did on these issues back in March .


S.Artesian July 23, 2013 at 4:54 pm

And I agree– no support to Baradei, no support to the NSF, no support for the military govt.

I’ve always maintained, from the getgo, that it was a coup, that the coup was designed to suppress the potential for social revolution; that Morsi had been found inadequate to that task.

I simply don’t think that it makes a bit of sense to pretend that restoring that government with that constitution is possible, is desirable, and amounts to a step forward as it requires one to 1) support the structure and “untouchability” of the military and 2) will not be able to address the condition of the economy.

Thanks for the link. I will certainly check it out.


Brian S. July 23, 2013 at 5:43 pm

I also don’t support the demand for the restoration of the Morsi government. (The constitution might be another matter.) Morsi was only significant in so far as he was a vehicle for carrying forward the construction of democracy. The coup basically takes us back to square one: and there’s no value in going backwards. The only way of promoting some sort of reconciliation in Egyptian society is by persuading all the forces involved to look forward. My hope would be for a rapid restoration of democratic structures, and that must include the restoration of the civil rights of all currents of Egyptian society, including the Muslim Brotherhood. I doubt that the MB would win an election held in 18 months time, even if it were conducted fairly, but its far from excluded.


S.Artesian July 23, 2013 at 8:25 pm

I agree that the coup takes us back to square one. And we don’t want to engage in repetition in the service of failure.


S.Artesian July 23, 2013 at 5:08 pm


Read the article. Very informative, very interesting and much that I can agree with– particularly this:

“The produced text failed to properly reflect the outlook and aspirations of the Revolution. Many of the non-Islamist members walked out early in the drafting stage, complaining that their views were being ignored. As a consequence, the referendum on the constitution was politically polarized. It passed with a solid 64% support, but with only 33% of the electorate voting. The Muslim Brotherhood and their Salafist allies were able to mobilize most of their supporters (just under 11 million) while the opposition were divided between 6 million “No” voters, and a large number who abstained.

In my view, the blame for the failure of the constitution-making process is shared by all the political forces involved. Primary responsibility rests with SCAF for imposing restrictive conditions in an attempt to retain control, and with Morsi and the Islamists, who did not approach the process with the goal of reflecting the views of “all Egyptians” but only those of their faction. However the opposition must also share part of the responsibility — from the very start they played into Morsi’s hands, failing to engage seriously with the process or providing a considered alternative.”

At the close you talk about the prospect for building a real opposition to Morsi– (and “capitalizing” on the conflict between the support in the rural areas and the urban middle class elements?)– and I think that opposition still needs to be configured, and such an opposition against the coalition of the “petty-bourgosie and a fraction of the national bourgeoisie” 1: can’t be accomplished by the NSF, or any other amalgam with any fraction of the bourgeoisie and 2: will necessarily have to be configured against the coalition of the “deep state,” the “transnationalists” and the military.


Pham Binh July 23, 2013 at 1:31 pm

It seems Tamarod got the independent unions not to raise their own banners at the anti-Morsi protests:


Brian S. July 23, 2013 at 5:52 pm

But interesting to see that the on wing of the union movement has not followed the Nasserists’ class collaborationist line.


Pham Binh July 23, 2013 at 10:08 pm

With liberals and Nasserists aligned with SCAF more or less permanently against the Muslim Brotherhood, I think we are at square zero, not square one. SCAF overturned the March 2011 referendum to lock in a future legislature into an even worse, even more pro-military constitution than what was approved by voters in December 2012. What little was gained in 2011-2012 has been completely stripped away by SCAF with a modicum active, popular support.

The Brotherhood has some 700,000-800,000 members and while they won’t command the numbers they did at the polls in 2011-2012, they (and the Islamists to their right) are going to keep beating the liberals, secularists, and left forces because their ground game is so much better, their grassroots following is so much stronger. The weakening of the Brotherhood would be a good thing if it was not SCAF and the fulool that had been so strengthened in the process.

Your earlier pessimism about the military’s role (against Arthur’s optimism regarding the masses) I think is correct — a lot of the mass protests leading up to the coup were barely protests and more like murderous riots and hooliganism than anything political (the link Arthur posted earlier left little doubt about this worrying development). This does not augur well for the revolution and there’s no doubt Ahmed Shafiq or his equivalent will reinvent themselves as a law-and-order secularist who can make the trains run on time and fiz the economy even if it means executions and repression. As Egypt becomes increasingly ungovernable, this option’s attractiveness will only grow as the revolution is increasingly associated with turmoil, chaos, and bloodshed and fails to put any bread on the table.


Brian S. July 24, 2013 at 8:59 am

I’ve finally got an English translation of the transitional Constitutional Declaration. Its a strange document: partly creating a political framework for the transitional period (formal powers strongly concentrated in the hand of the President); partly setting out a timetable for the transition (adoption of amended Constitution with c. 4 months; Assembly elections within a further 2.5 months; then Presidential elections); partly providing a set of skeletal constitutional provisions for the interim. Why they bothered to do the latter is not clear: presumably to provide some basic assurances of constitutional rights during the transition; and to signal some of the changes that can be expected.
These provisions are largely based on the suspended constitution, with some small improvements in the areas of civil rights and equalities. A number of controversial areas are side-stepped: e.g the power of military courts and the role of the National Defense Council is not defined in the Declaration , but are left to be “specified by law”. But given the temporary character of this document I don’t think there’s any point reading too much long-term significance into it. What will be important is the upcoming drafting and public discussion of the new Amended Constitution (if it isn’t engulfed in political chaos)
There has already been some dissent from opposition groups – especially from by Aboul Futouh
Some points that I would flag up:
1. There is again a compressed time scale for agreeing the Constitution – but it will be working from a previous democratic constitution.
2. The new ” Constituent Assembly” is going to bewholly appointed by the President (although after nominations from various organisations) ; and it is absurdly small (50 ) for a body that is to “represent all segments, sects and demographic diversities of society ”
3.Rather ominously, among those represented at the Constituent Assembly will be not only the Army – but also the Security Services.
I can only assume that there is a shortage of constitutional lawyers in the ranks of the left – otherwise I would have expected more outcry over these issues.


Aaron Aarons July 25, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Any constitution that comes out of this process will, like those that have come before, be one that genuine leftists will oppose. One doesn’t have to know much about Egypt to realize that.

However, whether or not such leftists should participate in the process at all, presuming they are even invited, will depend on whether they can use that participation to agitate for and — mainly — against specific provisions and against the constitution as a whole. Such tactical decisions can’t be made (even if any Egyptian leftists would listen to us!) by people with as little specific knowledge as I and most of us here have.


Brian S. July 24, 2013 at 9:26 am

My rather lengthy post below on the Constitution was probably a misplaced priority – but every now and then I have to indulge my obsessions.
You are right about Shafiq – but I fear the situation is even worse: El Baradei has been reported as having held a meeting with Shafiq recently, and both he and Sabahi have been making noises about the need for “reconciliation” with former supporters of Mubarak’s NDP. What I think they are aiming for is the creation of a “secular” axis to contain the Islamists – perhaps a right wing and a left wing version, maybe a common project. That could receive a lot of support from the main bourgeois circles. And it would also mean a major block to the Egyptian revolutionary process.
We now have al-Sisi calling for popular demonstrations in support of the army – interesting to see what the response is, but Tamarod is already answering the call:


Pham Binh July 24, 2013 at 1:25 pm

The tail usually does wag when the dog commands it and not vice versa, so Tamarod’s action is no surprise but is quite logical given their hostility to democracy.

I may have erred regarding Shafiq. SCAF doesn’t need him when they have el-Sisi who to my eye looks a lot like a young Ghadafi:

Basically SCAF has given itself 6 months or so to decimate the Muslim Brotherhood without triggering a civil war.


Brian S. July 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm

There have been rumours of an al-Sisi presidential candidature. I doubt that he embarked on this process with such an ambition – but these things have their logic. You can imagine the scene – “the people” clamour for him to run, and he humbly accedes to their will. I think this Friday could be a decisive day for Egypt’s future.


Pham Binh July 24, 2013 at 4:53 pm

When I first heard about the coup and the circumstances surrounding it, I thought about Rome during antiquity where various generals or politicians won support in the streets among the hungry and downtrodden through sheer demagoguery and where violent clashes between different sections of the masses were part and parcel of elite intrigues.


Aaron Aarons July 25, 2013 at 10:53 am

For those who are actually interested in class struggle in Rome, particularly in the last century BCE, a good place to start is The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome by Michael Parenti. (No links needed here; just do a search.)


Aaron Aarons July 25, 2013 at 4:26 pm

There’s a critical review of Parenti’s book that is definitely worth reading (and a lot shorter than the book):
Roman history from below?
The author deals with Roman imperialism and Parenti’s failure to put the class struggles inside Rome in the context of the plunder that supported all classes of citizens in Roman society — a more naked version, perhaps, of the imperialist plunder that supports the citizen populations of modern “democracies”.


Aaron Aarons July 25, 2013 at 11:11 am

If there is any genuine “left” left in Egypt, it will be finding ways to actively oppose the pro-military mobilization on Friday without giving any political support to the Muslim Brotherhood. For the moment, such a line probably won’t have a lot of support, but it will make it more likely that a genuine mass left can arise when those naively caught up in supporting the military wake up from their sleep.


Bill Kerr July 25, 2013 at 10:57 pm

I’m not endorsing this but found it interesting

interview with Robert Fisk about Egypt with some comments about Syria at the end:

Fisk is:
– against the military coup
– bemused that his intellectual friends support it
– very critical of Morsi in various ways

– sections of the FSA are going over to Assad
– Obama’s weapons will end up in the hands of al Qaeda


Red Blob July 26, 2013 at 3:25 am

Interesting clip Bill. The stuff about Syria is what I would expect from someone who was recently hanging out with Assad’s army as in it seems like wishful thinking at best and propaganda at worst, yeah the FSA run away all the time and the FSA will come over to our side any time now. The bit about weapons being sold on to the highest bidder. Well I think that the FSA have put their lives on the line. I suspect that military imperatives will take a higher priority than where we can turn a dollar although turning a dollar is always an important issue for some.
The comments about Egypt sounded pretty reasonable. It will be pretty disappointing if Egypt’s politics are wound back 50 years


Pham Binh July 28, 2013 at 2:24 am

Very in-depth and insightful piece on the coup and its origins:

I had no idea there was an assassination attempt on Morsi.


Brian S. July 29, 2013 at 7:03 am

Thoughtful piece on Egypt in a regional context (maybe a bit over dramatic in its forecasts)
Bad news for the “liberal secularists” (and everyone else):


Pham Binh July 29, 2013 at 1:37 pm

When I said Sisi looks like a young Ghadafi, I had no idea how closely their political ideologies seemed to align.

In other news, Egyptians in the U.S. protesting against the coup and for democracy and/or Morsi:


Brian S. July 31, 2013 at 7:33 am
Richard Estes July 29, 2013 at 2:50 pm

“The features of the new coup regime and the aim of the new megalomanic of Egypt are by now clear. The attempt to steal from the aura of Nasser is comical if not tragic and murderous. Western media, still suffering from Cold War the of Nasser, refer to Nasser as dictator. In one day Sisi killed more than the Nasser’s regime in its entirety. There was no such mass shooting under Nasser. And you look at the Western media and you see casual justifications of the mass shooting. No calls in the Western media for arming the Ikhwan as they do in the case of Syria. Egyptian liberals and some leftists and some Nasserists there are walking to the scaffold head high and under heavy dosage of delusions as those communists who aligned themselves with Khomeini. Look at this sample of description, nay justification, of the shooting: “The clashes started in the late evening of Friday when protesters from the Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in marched toward the October Six Bridge and started blocking its entrance on Nasr Street, eyewitnesses said. The police intervened and fired tear gas to disperse them. Clashes started shortly after, with birdshot and live ammunition used.””


Libyan Rebel July 30, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Again you were spot on Binh. This is a very serious setback for the Egyptian revolution and the Arab Spring as a whole. The political polarization between the left and the ruling right led to the left tossing the democratic process and siding with enemies of the revolution to achieve the common goal of excluding the MB from the political scene. The coupe has essentially brought back and emboldened the deep state which is now working hard to revert things back to the time of Mubarak.

Though Morsi made a big mistake by not making any concessions to the opposition, letting him complete his term and ousting him democratically through elections was the only way to retain the accomplishments of the Jan 25 revolution. Through this unwise and calculated move, the opposition has brought Mubarak’s state out of hibernation and putting it back now is close to impossible.


Aaron Aarons July 30, 2013 at 11:37 pm

The problem was not that “the opposition” tried to bring down Morsi, but that they didn’t expose and denounce the military at the same time. It was particularly dangerous — and, for any leftists who did so, insane — to actually call on the military to remove Morsi. Instead, the left opposition should have been, and still should be, raising slogans and making demands that treat the military and the Brotherhood as two sides of the same reactionary, anti-working-class coin. It might have led to the removal of Morsi by the military anyway, but it would have left the military with much less legitimacy in the eyes of the workers and other plebeian elements.

BTW, in a country where about 80% of young girls suffer the worst form of sexual abuse — genital mutilation — at the behest of their own parents, I can’t see any reason to respect the wishes of the majority in matters where those wishes are not those of the leftist, anti-patriarchal minority.


Brian S. July 31, 2013 at 7:47 am

I agree Aaron: but I think the left also needs to take into account the overall relation of forces and the state ofmass mass consciousness, and on that basis exercise some tactical commone sense. To call in an unqualified way for Morsi’s downfall (as even the RS did) inevitably fed into the demand by reactionary forces for a coup. In my view, the dividing line was between legitimate demands for a democratic processs to remove Morsi’s (various formulae: his resignation – “early presidential elections” – a referendum on his position) and the call simply for his downfall. Tamarod’s mass petition was in the former, democratic space; but they used the support for it to underwrite a move to demanding a coup. Whether this was due to their manipulation by other forces (for which there is clear evidence) or whether they were glove puppets all along is unclear (but see my post above for my growing suspicions). This also highlights another error of the left – a failure to scrutinise closely enough who they were allying themselves with.


Pham Binh July 31, 2013 at 9:15 am

Not only did they fail to look at who they were allying themselves with, they also failed to really think through the overall objective impact of what they were doing. They were quick to paint Morsi as a new Mubarak in part because they didn’t develop a strategy for completing the democratic revolution in a thoroughgoing way and sort of became protest-chasing-“the masses”-worshipping impressionists. Only on July 25 do the Revolutionary Socialists realize they’ve been had:!


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