Egypt’s Revolution: Democratic, Not Socialist

by Pham Binh on August 7, 2013

In Marxist lexicon, there are two types of revolution: democratic and socialist, or more scientifically, bourgeois-democratic and proletarian-socialist. These two types of revolution involve different class alignments, have different tasks, and lead to different outcomes, although a two-stage uninterrupted revolution that is initially democratic and becomes socialist is possible. The socialist revolution is a battle between the whole of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat for political supremacy and ends with the victory of either the capitalist or socialist social systems. The democratic revolution is a battle against autocratic rule that removes fetters on capitalist development between a great variety of classes – peasants, workers, students, landlords, capitalists, small business owners. In democratic revolutions, bourgeois forces can be found on both sides of the barricades (unlike in socialist revolutions) and their concrete outcomes can vary tremendously because of their class heterogeneity. Making accurate generalizations about democratic revolutions is difficult since they have occurred on every inhabited continent in one form or another beginning at least 300 years ago.

Part of the inability by Marxists to understand the Arab Spring as democratic rather than socialist revolutions is due to the experience of the bourgeois-democratic revolutions that ended feudalism in Europe centuries ago. Those transitions from feudal to capitalist social relations were accompanied by shifts from rule by lords and monarchs to rule by elected representatives and parliaments as a kind of “package deal.” Based on this limited experience, Marxists such as Neil Davidson have erroneously concluded that bourgeois-democratic revolutions can only occur in countries with pre-capitalist social formations. One example of a bourgeois-democratic revolution that did not involve anti-feudal class content is Portugal in 1974-1975 when a fascist dictatorship was overthrown, paving the way for a transition to bourgeois democracy. After four decades of fascist repression, Portugal’s workers’ movement was simply not in a position to put proletarian rule on the agenda in the revolution; the same is true today of the proletarian (and non-proletarian toiling) classes of Libya, Egypt, and Syria, all of whom are only beginning to create their own organizations. None of them have created their own parties much less acquired socialist awareness on a mass scale. The following remarks by Lenin about the Russian revolution of 1905 are surprisingly relevant on this issue:

“Only the most ignorant people can ignore the bourgeois nature of the democratic revolution which is now taking place; only the most naive optimists can forget how little as yet the masses of the workers are informed about the aims of socialism and about the methods of achieving it. And we are all convinced that the emancipation of the workers can be effected only by the workers themselves; a socialist revolution is out of the question unless the masses become class conscious and organized, trained and educated in open class struggle against the entire bourgeoisie. In answer to the anarchist objections that we are putting off the socialist revolution, we say: we are not putting it off, but we are taking the first step towards it in the only possible way, along the only correct road, namely, the road of a democratic republic. Whoever wants to reach socialism by a different road, other than that of political democracy, will inevitably arrive at conclusions that are absurd and reactionary both in the economic and the political sense. If any workers ask us at the given moment why we should not go ahead and carry out our maximum program, we shall answer by pointing out how far the masses of the democratically-minded people still are from socialism, how undeveloped class antagonisms still are, how unorganized the proletarians still are.”

Marxists tend to fall prey to the very naïve optimism Lenin warned against by viewing the Arab Spring’s revolutions as incomplete or as failures so long as they fail to overturn capitalist social relations. This is a real failure on our part to evaluate these struggles on their own terms and properly appraise the human aspirations driving tens of millions of people to risk life and limb toppling tyrants from Tripoli to Damascus. Overwhelmingly, the revolutionary masses of the Middle East and North Africa desire democracy – capitalist democracy, democracy on the basis of generalized commodity production – not socialism, not the dictatorship of the proletariat, and certainly not a horizontal society without rich and poor. We Marxists may not like this, but it is what it is. The masses are fighting for progress, not perfection, to end insufferable tyrannies, not to end capital’s tyranny over labor.

We seem to have forgotten the axiom that while socialism is impossible without democracy, democracy is possible without socialism. This truism has been confirmed by the victorious democratic revolutions in Tunisia and Libya, neither of which are examples of Trotsky’s permanent revolution since they accomplished the democratic tasks he mistakenly believed were “conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

Socialists fight for and in democratic revolutions not as an end but as a means, as a necessary, unavoidable, but nonetheless transient stage in our long-term struggle to end capitalism. As Engels explained, “the workers can never win their emancipation” without “freedom of the press, freedom of association and assembly, universal suffrage, local self-government” despite the “bourgeois character” of these gains.

We must first win the battle for democracy before we can win the battle of democracy.

Confusion over Egypt’s Revolution

Failure to comprehend the January 25 revolution as democratic rather than socialist in nature has led Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialists (RS) to erratically tail events instead of charting clear course along which to guide the masses towards the revolution’s goals.

"New wave" of the revolution or Egypt's Tea Party?

“New wave” of the revolution or Egypt’s Tea Party?

On the one hand, RS initially called for a vote against the old regime’s candidate Ahmed Shafiq during the 2012 presidential runoff by casting a vote for the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammad Morsi. On the other hand, RS characterized the overthrow of Morsi by the old regime on July 3 as “the height of democracy.” So RS backed an Islamist democrat against a fascist autocrat in 2012 but took the exact opposite position in 2013! On July 5, RS hailed the anti-Morsi demonstrations as “the historic beginning of a new wave of the Egyptian revolution” only to express buyer’s remorse on July 25 that “the Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown to deepen the revolution, not to support the regime” after it became indisputable that the anti-Morsi demonstrations led by Tamarod were only organized to provide popular veneer for the regime and its campaign of repression.

For initially backing Morsi to defeat Shafiq in the 2012 presidential runoff, RS was wrongly condemned by practically every Marxist organization, publication, and blog the world over on the grounds that the Muslim Brotherhood is an equally reactionary anti-working class force as Shafiq and the fulool (meaning Mubarak’s army, police, judiciary, the media, and associated business interests). While it is true that both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood are bourgeois, pro-capitalist, pro-neoliberal, and counter-revolutionary from the standpoint of socialism, only one is counter-revolutionary from the standpoint of democracy. One stands for autocracy and the other stands for bourgeois democracy, one stands for rule by the bullet and the other stands for rule by the ballot, one is an institution of tyranny and the other is a mass party with a huge following among the oppressed classes. In a conflict between these two anti-worker forces, the interests the working class and the democratic revolution in general demand a vigorous, unrelenting fight against the military side by side with all democrats – Islamist, secular, and even neoliberal – not because these forces will accede to the formation of an Egyptian Soviet republic but because the working class has a direct and vital interest in defending democratic gains (however tenuous, insufficient, and underdeveloped) from military attack, in fighting for bourgeois-democratic rule against bourgeois-fascist rule alongside allies no matter how temporary, shaky, or devious they might be.

Anything less from socialists would be treason.

Since 2011, RS’s statements have correctly claimed that Egypt’s revolution remains incomplete and that its goals remain unaccomplished but without explaining what steps or measures taken together would constitute the revolution’s completion. Without the strategic goals that flow from understanding of how the democratic and socialist revolutions differ from one another, developing a strategic line of march to either political destination is impossible and tailing events is inevitable.

For example, RS’s February 2011 statement demanded the nationalization of privatized enterprises as if putting more economic power into the hands of the fulool would be a step forward for the revolution or the working class. This demand was dropped from subsequent statements without explanation.

The other measure RS demanded in February 2011 was the creation of elected popular councils and indeed an entire hierarchy of delegates from such councils. What these councils should do, how/where they would be elected (through neighborhood, workplace, campus, and/or barrack assemblies?), and whether these councils should assume executive, legislative, judicial, or sovereign authority either over or against the existing state machine RS did not say. Whether these councils should carry out democratic or socialist tasks (or both) RS also did not say. This vague demand for councils disappeared from subsequent statements but reappeared after the July 3 coup. Here, RS coupled their call for councils with new demands:

  1. Immediate steps to achieve social justice for the benefit of millions of poor and low-income. These are the people who paid the greatest share of the price for Mursi’s failure to implement the goals of the revolution—and that of the Military Council before him.
  2. Election of a Constituent Assembly, representing all sections of the people—workers, peasants and the poor, Coptic Christians and women—to write a civil, democratic constitution which entrenches the values of freedom and social justice.
  3. The drafting of a law of transitional justice which holds to account the Brotherhood for the blood it has spilled, as well as the Military Council and the symbols of the Mubarak regime, and achieves retribution for the martyrs and injured of the revolution.

These demands raise more questions than they answer. “Steps to achieve social justice” for the poor – what steps? What of the first Constituent Assembly that was dispersed by a fulool court – should it be reconvened, or does RS oppose such a move since the Assembly faithfully reflected the parliament’s freely and fairly elected Islamist majority? Should the already-written and voter-approved constitution be suspended or restored? How could a transitional law holding the military and police accountable be drafted by a military-police government headed by Mubarak’s Supreme Constitutional Court justice, Adly Mansour?

So despite acknowledging in its first statement after the July 3 coup the need to “overthrow … Mubarak’s state, including its security, military, and judiciary institutions,” over the past two years RS has not outlined what such an overthrow would mean in practice, in terms of achieveable goals.

First Thing’s First

There can be no serious talk of socialism in Egypt or of a second revolution until the first revolution is completed, that is, until the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is arrested by the armed people, until the mukhabarat is disbanded, until every fulool institution from the judiciary to the media is obliterated, purged, and/or castrated by revolutionary-democratic organs and measures which are the only way to guarantee the masses complete political freedom. Until then, Egypt’s democratic revolution (or what is left of it) will be in permanent danger, the people’s victories will remain tenuous at best, and the socialist revolution will stand far beyond the political horizon.

Defeating the fulool will require revolutionary-democratic measures. In Libya, these measures were carried out by force, by civil war; Ghadafi’s poorly equipped army refused to slaughter protestors and defected. There, the armed struggle to smash the tyrannical state machine necessarily preceded the peaceful struggle to set up institutions of democratic governance such as a sovereign national legislature.

By contrast, Egypt’s army has proven to be the deaf, dumb, and blind instrument of SCAF time and time again since 2011, ousting the country’s first democratically elected president without producing mutinies or even individual defections. Here, the peaceful struggle to create (or rather, recreate) institutions of democratic governance such as an elected popular assembly must precede an armed struggle and be coupled from the outset with revolutionary (meaning illegal) measures such as:

  • Declaring the assembly to be the sovereign institution in the Egyptian state, its decisions inviolable and not subject to review or annulment by the dictatorship’s judiciary.
  • Dismissing all judges except those specially designated by the assembly, their vacant positions to be filled by elected judges at a later date.
  • Creating popular militias to defend the assembly from the inevitable police, military, and paramilitary attacks and provide security for neighborhoods the police abandon to punish the residents with lawlessness.
  • Firing all mukhabarat and police personnel, arresting their commanders, purging military intelligence, closing and physically occupying the Interior Ministry.
  • Most importantly of all, establishing democratic civilian control of the armed forces. Soldiers should only follow orders from or co-signed by assembly representatives; orders without such endorsement are null and avoid, and those that issue them or follow them are traitors and must be treated as such. Each unit should elect recallable delegates at mass meetings who will report directly to the assembly or its representatives since the existing officer corps has repeatedly betrayed the people. Only revolutionary-democratic measures such as these can force the entire army, unit by unit, to choose who it is loyal to – the people and their elected representatives or the fulool. Swaying the army’s bayonets and separating the ranks of the honorable and the patriotic from the treacherous and the corrupt will require laws and proclamations from above by authoritative and respected revolutionary bodies as well as intensive mass mobilizations from below such as peaceful mass rallies and occupations where ever troops are garrisoned.

This approach to Egypt’s “deep state” stands in stark contrast to that of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood whose conciliatory, reformist attempt to tame the fulool by means of negotiations, backroom deals, and miserable compromises left counter-revolutionary institutions intact and fully operational. (The political police – the State Security Investigations Service – was simply renamed and retained all its powers and functions!) Their method was not an accident nor a mistake but sprang from the Muslim Brotherhood’s bourgeois nature and class policy which makes them averse to the kind of dramatic, sweeping, risky, and disruptive moves needed to crush the fulool once and for all.

The social classes in Egypt with an interest in carrying out the revolutionary measures needed to really begin the democratic revolution are the working class and non-proletarian toilers in alliance with the lumpenproletariat (the urban poor and chronically unemployed who dwell in ashwa’iyyat) and petty proprietors – in other words, the people, the 99%. A revolutionary-democratic struggle by these popular classes would pit them directly against the fulool and indirectly against the compromising, vacillating oppositional segments of the bourgeois elite – the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamad El-Baradei, Amr Moussa, and Hamdeen Sabahi – since this class has no interest in waging a determined, relentless, all-or-nothing struggle that will wreck and radically re-make Egypt’s state institutions. Such a fight could split the Muslim Brotherhood, whose self-contained “deep state” and 700,000-800,000 members make it the country’s only mass party, into revolutionary and opportunist wings and draw support from the myriad of petty-bourgeois salafist parties since all of them have been victims of the fulool’s anti-Islamist demonization and persecution campaigns.

Of course, effecting the foregoing scenario is far more difficult than outlining it, especially when the power of SCAF and the fulool is dramatically increasing and sweeping away the precious few democratic gains of the January 25 revolution. Even so, having strategic goals, even if they are increasingly difficult to reach, is far better than not having them at all. Proper orientation and progress on a journey are impossible without first having selected a destination and the only possible path to a socialist Egypt is the road of democracy.

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that Lenin’s two-stage scenario of a democratic revolution that grows over into a socialist revolution without interruption faces much brighter prospects in modern Egypt than it did in semi-feudal Russia, with its 180 million peasant proprietors and the apocalyptic devastation wreaked by world, civil, and revolutionary wars. One-third of Egypt’s 26.5 million-strong labor force works in agriculture, producing 15% of the country’s GDP, and two-thirds of its 85.3 million people live outside the cities, which makes the class war in the countryside of decisive importance for the revolution’s future.

The fellahin are not a force inherently hostile to democratic economic planning. The biggest obstacle to improving their horrible living conditions is unrelenting state repression and so their interest in shattering the fulool state and completing the democratic revolution is as great as that of the urban workers if not more so, given that the landlords that oppress and fleece them are often state officials, well-connected businessmen, army and police commanders, or judges. The fellahin’s desire for land and land reform is thoroughly bourgeois but nonetheless progressive compared to the “new feudalism” of exponential rent increases that pushed millions into desperate poverty and the precarity of sharecropping after the reversal of the 1952 land reform. Their equally bourgeois demands for replacing corrupt, monopolist “free” markets with fair markets for their produce are coupled with pleas for sensible, human need-based economic planning by the state.

Egypt is a major food importer because state policy favors lucrative export products like flowers rather than less profitable items like wheat, which in turn favors capital-intensive agribusinesses over poor and middle-income families of tenant farmers and sharecroppers. Implementing mass consumption-driven food and agriculture policies would not only be in the interests of the fellahin, it would be in the interests of the hungry in the cities who scrape by only because the government subsidizes bread imports at tremendous cost. Such a policy orientation would also alleviate sharp bread price increases due to fluctuations in the world market while reducing the state’s exploding deficits, freeing up funds for greater social spending on health care and job creation.

All of this illustrates that “Bread, Dignity, and Social Justice” – the January 25 revolution’s slogans – can only be realized by a victorious alliance of the urban workers, rural farmers, unemployed, and those engaged petty commerce over the fulool classes in a democratic revolution that can alone prepare the battleground for a worker-led socialist revolution to put people before profits .

The biggest barriers to this people’s democratic revolution growing over uninterrupted into a workers’ socialist revolution are not so much products of objective socioeconomic development as they are subjective products of a historical, political, and organizational nature. This brings us to the bad news regarding the possibility of an uninterrupted democratic-socialist revolution in Egypt.

Despite the dizzying array of new and growing parties on the Egyptian landscape, the working and toiling classes do not have a party or a political instrument of their own with which to fight for and in the democratic revolution against the other classes. Without its own party, the working class is impotent politically and is drawn in tow behind the parties and politics of other classes, hence why the Muslim Brotherhood enjoys strong support in white-collar unions, hence why the workers’ candidate in the 2012 presidential race, Khaled Ali, received only 134,000 votes while the bourgeois radical Hamdeen Sabbahi received 4.8 million (see Appendix).

The socialists – whose task it is to merge with, help organize, and lend purposiveness to the workers’ movement – are badly divided and ineffectual. RS’s attempt to form a class-based party, the Democratic Workers’ Party (DWP), received promising support from labor organizations and leaders but fizzled almost immediately because party names based on class or religious identity are against the law. The Muslim Brotherhood and the salafists had the common sense to get around this restriction by naming their parties Freedom and Justice and Party of the Light rather than anything overtly religious. The error of dogmatically insisting on an illegal name was compounded by RS’s decision to push within DWP to boycott what ended up being one of the few free and fair parliamentary elections in Egypt’s history. The end result of this policy? When tens of millions went to the polls to consider who to vote for, they could only give their votes to the parties and candidates of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois classes – Islamists, salafis, liberals, and fulool – and so these classes can exercise political muscle and fight for mass support while the working class can do neither properly.

Immediate Tasks: Reverse the Coup, Free Morsi

Championing the democratic revolution in Egypt now means not only condemning the coup and the SCAF-controlled interim government in words but actively organizing to reverse the coup in deeds by literally breaking Morsi out of jail and returning him to his rightful office. The weapon of criticism cannot replace the criticism of weapons, condemnation without action is phrasemongering.

morsiMarxists are not supporters of Morsi, but letting him rot in a Republican Guard cell and allowing the coup to proceed as planned is a death-blow to a democratic revolution barely begun and without the freedoms its victory will bring, no powerful proletarian movement can develop. Our loyalty is not to Morsi (who we will not hesitate to overthrow and defeat) but to the working class specifically and the democratic revolution generally. Breaking him out of a military jail today does not preclude arresting, overthrowing, or un-electing him tomorrow, nor does it imply an ounce of political support for the bourgeois-obscurantist Muslim Brotherhood or Morsi’s reformist ineptitude any more than the Bolsheviks’ active defense of the Kerensky government from Kornilov’s coup make them supporters of Kerensky’s strike-breaking and repression of peasant committees.

Repulsing and defeating SCAF’s power grab would embolden the increasingly despondent and apathetic masses whose plight has worsened dramatically since 2011. A revolution that does not put more bread on the table cannot go on indefinitely because indefinite hunger among the working masses – although it can provoke stormy rebellions and desperate revolts in the short run – can only lead to listlessness, cynicism, and submission in the long run.

Today, the fate of Egypt’s democratic revolution hangs in the balance. Either a renewed upsurge against the fulool forces them to relent, concede, retreat, release Morsi, and ease up on anti-Muslim Brotherhood repression; or, the January 25 revolution remains permanently incomplete thanks to a series of rotten deals between servile liberals, secularists, and salafis on the one hand and a reinvigorated fulool on the other who, having succeeded in smashing Egypt’s only mass party, effectively end the Arab Spring as we know it.


Appendix: Electoral Results of Democracy in Egypt

March 2011 Constitutional Referendum

Choice Votes Percentage (%)
Elect Representatives First 14,192,577 77.3
Write Constitution First 4,174,187 22.7
Voter Turnout 18,366,764 41.2

December 2011-January 2012 Lower House Parliamentary Elections

Alliance/Party Votes Percentage (%)
Democratic Alliance for Egypt (led by Freedom and Justice Party [Muslim Brotherhood]) 10,138,134 37.5
Islamic Alliance (led by Al-Nour) 7,534,266 27.8
New Wafd Party 2,480,391 9.2
Egyptian Bloc 2,402,238 8.9
Al-Wasat 989,003 3.7
Revolution Continues Alliance 745,863 2.8
Reform and Development 604,415 2.2
Freedom Party 514,029 1.9
National Party of Egypt 425,021 1.6
Egyptian Citizen Party 235,395 0.9
Union Party 141,382 0.0
Conservative Party 272,910 0.0
Democratic Peace Party 248,281 0.0
Arab Egyptian Unity Party 149,253 0.0
Voter Turnout 27,065,135 54.0

January 2012 Upper House Parliamentary Elections

Party Votes Percentage (%)
Freedom and Justice (Muslim Brotherhood) 2,894,922 45.04
Islamist Bloc 1,840,014 28.6
New Wafd 543,417 8.5
Egyptian Bloc 348,957 6.8
Freedom Party 84,936 1.3
Democratic Peace Party 95,273 1.5
Voter Turnout 6,427,666 12.4

May 2012 Presidential Race (Round 1)

Candidate Party Votes Percentage (%)
Mohamed Morsi Freedom and Justice (Muslim Brotherhood) 5,764,952 24.80
Ahmed Shafiq Independent 5,505,327 23.70
Hamdeen Sabahi Independent 4,820,273 20.75
Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh Al-Nour (endorsed) 4,065,239 17.50
Amr Moussa Independent 2,588,850 11.14
Mohamed Selim Al-Awa Independent 235,374 1.01
Khaled Ali Social Democratic 134,056 0.58
Hisham El-Bastawisi Tagammu 29,189 0.13
Mahmoud Hossam Al-Din Independent 23,992 0.10
Mohamed Fawzi Eissa Democratic Generation Party 23,889 0.10
Ahmed Hossam Kamal Khairallah Democratic Peace Party 22,036 0.09
Abdullah Al-Ash’al Independent 12,249 0.05
Abul-Ezz El-Hariri Popular Socialist Alliance 4,090 0.00
Voter Turnout 23,229,516 45.62

June 2012 Presidential Race (Round 2 Run-Off)

Candidate Party Votes Percentage (%)
Mohamed Morsi Freedom and Justice (Muslim Brotherhood) 13,230,131 51.73
Ahmed Shafiq Independent 12,347,380 48.27
Voter Turnout 25,577,511 50.19

December 2012 Constitutional Referendum

Choice Votes Percentage (%)
Approve Constitution 10,693,911 63.8
Reject Constitution 6,061,101 36.2
Voter Turnout 17,058,317 32.8

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Aaron Aarons August 7, 2013 at 6:10 pm

If you’re really concerned with the desires of the majority, then maybe you need to recognize that the majority of eligible voters in Egypt didn’t take part in any of those votes you tabulate, with the slights exceptions of (1) December 2011-January 2012 Lower House Parliamentary Elections, where a whole 54% of those eligible to vote could bring themselves to vote for one of the 14 parties on offer, and the runoff between Morsi and Shafiq, where 50.19% of those eligible voted. In the latter case, many of those who voted for either candidate certainly voted for that candidate because they feared him less than they feared the other.

But why in the world would any socialist care in principle about who got a majority of the votes? Regardless of what he said in 1905, Lenin and the Bolsheviks would not have led the former Tsarist empire for more than a few months if they had respected the majority (or, at least, plurality) vote in the Constituent Assembly elections that took place — not under reactionary or bourgeois rule, but under Bolshevik rule!

You continue, Binh, to confuse the struggle for democratic rights — rights that are sometimes called “bourgeois-democratic” because they are not inherently in contradiction to capitalist rule — with the support for bourgeois parliamentary democracy. But, in the case of Egypt, there is at least one democratic right that would have to be imposed against the apparent will of the majority. That is the right of young girls to grow up with their genitals and their sexuality intact — a right that is presently denied to any overwhelming majority of girls! Would you side with that right of girls (future women) if it conflicts with the results of a majority vote? I think, or at least hope, most leftists would!


Pham Binh August 8, 2013 at 11:50 am

Problem is no one can say what a non-voting silent majority wants. Anarchism, socialism, full communism, the continuation of an imperialist war — anything is possible, depending on your political agenda.

Why in the world do socialists care about what the majority of voters want? It’s a very Stalin-esque question. Who gets a majority of votes says a lot about what people want, or what they actively say they want. Even though elections didn’t count for much in Tsarist Russia, Lenin spent a lot of time analyzing election results including for the Constituent Assembly that was dispersed. You should try reading his stuff some time.


Aaron Aarons August 8, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I may have read more Lenin before you were born, Binh, than you have since. But notice that I wrote:

But why in the world would any socialist care in principle about who got a majority of the votes? [emphasis added]

In other words, election results do matter, both as a rather imperfect reflection of the balance of forces and because they confer, in the minds of intermediate forces, an aura of legitimacy over those who get the most votes. But serious leftists are not among those ‘intermediate forces’ I am referring to, and we certainly don’t genuflect before results of bourgeois elections.

BTW, if one gives credence to the works of Grover Furr, Stalin was in favor, in the mid-1930’s of introducing a bourgeois-style parliamentary system into the USSR, while his opponents inside the CPSU were not. Moreover, Stalinists have, since that time, been quite adept at using the results and prospects of bourgeois elections against their left opponents. So my question is, perhaps, Trotsky-esque, Bordiga-esque, Pannekoek-esque, or Durutti-esque, rather than “Stalin-esque”.


Marlon P-A August 8, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Thanks for shedding light on the Democratic Workers Party’s abrupt disappearance after that fanfare a few years ago, I didn’t know what had happened. One wonders why the Popular Socialist Alliance got to keep its name when the DWP didn’t, though.


Pham Binh August 8, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Because popular, socialist, and alliance are not class or religious identities.

If I had to pick a name for a party in Egypt, my first choice would be the “Bread, Dignity, and Social Justice Party” and my second choice might be “the Socialist Brotherhood” or some variant of that.


David Berger (RED DAVE) August 8, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Problem is that bourgeois-democratic revolutions, based on an active and vigorous capitalist class, are no longer possible during this period. This, of course, opens the way for the proletariat to accomplish the democratic tasks and establish class rule in its own name, not in the name of the bourgeoisie.

Do you really think, Binh, that Tunesia and Libya are bourgeois democracies? If you do, how about Iraq? And if Iraq is such a democracy, it’s obvious that this democracy was established through US intervention. Do you support such intervention in Iraq (and Afghanistan) as you do in Syria? And how about if the US makes a quick foray into Egypt to give the Muslim Brotherhood a hand?


Pham Binh August 8, 2013 at 1:55 pm

So what, in your view, are the governments of Libya and Tunisia if not bourgeois democracies?

This thread is not about Iraq, U.S. intervention, or Syria. Stay on topic or stay out of the thread.


duen de August 8, 2013 at 10:44 pm

“the anti-Morsi demonstrations led by Tamarod were only organized to provide popular veneer for the regime and its campaign of repression”

Whatever Tamorod’s motive, 22 million Egyptians signed its early recall petition, and on June 30, BEFORE THE COUP, followed Tamarod into the streets to demand the same. Should ‘we’ have joined the masses calling for real democracy, or supported the MB’s counter demo or abstained?

The millions who protested against the MB gov’t and for early elections (not a military coup) voted with their feet. The popular Occupy chant ‘This is what democracy looks like.” seems appropriate.


Pham Binh August 9, 2013 at 9:16 am

Wrong all along the line.

1. The 22 million figure has never been independently verified. Esam al-Amin summed up this problem pretty well: “Another popular myth is the claim that in less than eight weeks 22 million registered voters signed a petition to demand early presidential elections as a prelude to the June 30 demonstrations. But the Tamarrod (or Rebellion) movement was established in late April by three young individuals and did not have an organizational infrastructure. Such an improbable feat would have required 4 million hours or half a million man-hours per week.”

2. Poet Ahmad Fuad Negm said publicly that he personally signed the petition 16 times.

3. Just as many millions voted with their feet to defend Morsi’s legitimacy, but you don’t seem to be counting their votes.
“Demonstrations of comparable size were reported throughout the country, with streams of Egyptians flooding streets in the coastal city of Alexandria, southern Egypt and the heavily populated Nile Delta region. Smaller protests were held by Egyptian expatriates in Sydney, Paris, Washington and other capitals.”

4. Democracy does not look like a military coup, I don’t think Occupy would support the Pentagon ousting Obama.


Aaron Aarons August 9, 2013 at 5:14 pm

You, Binh, conflate opposition to the military’s ousting of Morsi and repression of his supporters with support for the return of Morsi to the presidency.

If the Egyptian anti-capitalist left can’t come up with better demands than that to raise against the military, they’re a pretty sorry lot.


byork August 9, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Imagining for a moment that 22 million did actually sign the petition, then this should have made them very confident of electoral success. They could have won the next election rather than rely on the Mubarak remnants and the military to topple the elected government. The problem with so many of the comments on this site is that individuals claiming to be left, with pedigrees they are happy to flaunt, actually do not believe in democracy, do not believe in competitive multi-party elections. Thankfully, this century’s first communist-led revolution has established precisely those things (in Nepal) and any attempt anywhere to revive a Left that is not pro-democracy in that rudimentary sense will fail because – believe it or not – the workingclasses of this century do not like, and will not support, one-party states that deny them a choice in their vote.


Aaron Aarons August 13, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Real leftists don’t want a “one-party state” but a state based on councils, or ‘soviets’, of some sort, where workers and others eligible to govern (which shouldn’t, IMO, include those allowed to hire labor) vote for people whom they know and are recallable. That way those who control mass media, including especially imperialist governments with their powerful TV and radio transmitters, etc., have a lot less influence on who gets elected than they would if people were voting for parties whose names can be promoted in such media.


byork August 14, 2013 at 12:21 am

Meanwhile, in Egypt, an elected government has been overthrown by a military coup, based on elements that had kept an autocrat in power for more than three decades, until the people rose up and ousted him and then voted in a constitution in a referendum and voted for a government in elections. The new leaders, whose rule is based on military force rather than the moral authority arising from a democratic electoral process, are killing, torturing and imprisoning those who were elected and their supporters. Politically, it’s as simple as which side are you on. Yes, the situation is complex in other ways but where one stands is not – not if you’re coming from the perspective of left-wing values. A state based on soviets, or councils or revolutionary committees (as in China pre-1970s) will require a central government, which will need to be elected if it can claim democratic authority. A C21st socialism insists upon a multi-party competition at all levels, including parties that are pro-capitalism.


Aaron Aarons August 14, 2013 at 4:39 am

Genuine leftists will oppose the “killing, torturing and [with some exceptions] imprisoning” of political opponents by any bourgeois government and, with more exceptions, by an anti-capitalist leftist government. This is entirely independent of whether the government doing these things was, in some sense or other, “democratically elected” or not.

In 1988, Carlos Andrés Pérez was “democratically” elected President of Venezuela, campaigning on an anti-IMF, anti-neoliberal platform. He then almost immediately reversed himself and instituted harsh neoliberal reforms, provoking riots in and around the capital, Caracas, that were murderously repressed by the army and police. (These events are known as the Caracazo.) Three years later, there was an unsuccessful coup attempt by left-wing officers and soldiers led by Hugo Chavez. Had that coup been successful, it would have involved the overthrow of a “democratically elected” government, but it would have been supported, perhaps critically, by just about every leftist in the world. And if it had taken place during, rather than long after, the Caracazo, it would have been even more enthusiastically supported.

byork writes, “A C21st socialism insists upon a multi-party competition at all levels, including parties that are pro-capitalism.” What you mean is that supporters of your little “Last Superpower” pseudo-left groupuscule and other pro-capitalist “leftists” don’t want to see the suppression of capitalist restorationists by a proletarian state.


Brian S. August 11, 2013 at 8:41 am

The role that Tamarod has played in the period just before June 30 and subsequently as cheerleaders-in-chief of the military, plus the evidence that they were materially supported by Naguib Sawiris and advised by fulool figures must cast a dark shadow over their whole operation and their credibility (certainly in the later days when their claimed numbers shot up and their line shifted from calling for early elections to demanding the downfall of the government.) The numbers claimed for the anti-Morsi demonstrations were certainly fantasies.


prianikoff August 9, 2013 at 7:13 am

Even if Binh’s political conclusions about the reactionary nature of the Egyptian coup are correct, this didn’t require his flawed analysis to arrive at this conclusion.

The alarm bells were ringing as soon he defined Portugal in 1974-5 as a “bourgeois democratic revolution”.
Not even the Portuguese Communist Party had such a schematic, right-wing position at the time.
The problem wasn’t that socialism was off the agenda, it was that the rank and file committees of workers and soldiers weren’t strong enough to take power.
In order to defeat the army leadership and the well-funded right wing leadership of the Portuguese Socialist Party under Mario Soares, they first had to win a majority of the working class.
This required solving the question of political leadership in the existing mass parties first.
Rather than doing this, the PCP and ultra-left Maoist sects tail ended a section of the military.
They failed to apply a United Front strategy, or to call for a Workers Government.
Had such a government arisen, either through a parliamentary majority and/or the activity of rank and file workers, it would have had a radicalising effect on the working class throughout Europe.
The “bourgeois democratic revolution” was certainly not at the top of the political agenda in Western Europe at the time!

Then we encounter Binh’s strange descriptions of Tunisia and Libya as “victorious democratic revolutions”.
Elsewhere, in a similar vein, he has described the events in Syria a “national democratic revolution”.
This is a bit like trying to be a movie reviewer using stills.

Syria, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt have all had succesful struggles for national independence.
But these were incomplete due to the stunted, uneven nature of economic development, the political influence of imperialism and the geo-politics of oil.|
During the Cold War, republican nationalist regimes in Egypt, Syria and Libya relied on alliances with the USSR to resist the encroachments of the West.
Muslim Brotherhood-inspired opposition movements were cultivated by the West when it suited their purposes.
They had their own agenda, but their anti-communist ideology was useful at the time.

The oil dynasties of Saudi Arabia, Qatar Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain have never had “national democratic” revolutions.
They were and are neo-colonial regimes, created by Imperialism to safeguard its oil interests.
Their logistical and political support to the Libyan and Syrian rebels wasn’t aimed at further the national independence of these countries, but at making them even more economically and politically subservient to Imperialism. The intention of Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy when they bombed Libya was to engineer a borgeois democratic *counter-revolution*.
If you don’t understand that this is a different animal to a national democratic revolution, don’t take a job as a zoo-keeper.

The wildcard in the pack is the Muslim Brotherhood.
As I’ve indicated, they have their own agenda and can play both a reactionary and progressive role, depending on whom their allied against.
In Egypt, the role of the Military Caste and SCAF complicates the picture, as does the importance of maintaining the Camp David Agreements.
When the Cold War ended, the US was able to cement a close relationship with the Egyptian Army.
The mass protests that overthrew Mubarak meant it had to go along with ditching Mubarak and trying to tame the MB.
But the State Dept was clearly not trustful of it, nor did the Israeli government believe that it would police Camp David.
Hence the accusations about Morsi being allied with Hamas.
What the US government would really like to do is tame the Brotherhood and bring it into a National Unity government under Army guardianship.
The SCAF and the upper layer of the Egyptian ruling class simply don’t trust them enough for this.

Morsi should be freed and the army should step down.
But the MB are not a vehicle for “democratic revolution”, however much they are currently playing the democratic card.
Their constitution would also have curtailed many democratic freedoms.
Any alliance with the MB has to be tactical and episodic, whereas an alliance with the Military such as Tamarod and el-Baradei made is beyond the pale.

The key to undoing this tangle is to put forward the independent class demands of the working class and poor.
– demands that will lead in a socialist direction, such as a sliding scale of wages, food subsidies, progressive taxation and the nationalisation of basic industries
These are closely interwined tasks because the events in Egypt and Arab World can’t be contained in a schema of democratic revolution.


Pham Binh August 9, 2013 at 9:01 am

I never described the Syrian revolution as a “national democratic revolution,” and you fail to offer up an accurate alternative way to describing the Tunisian and Libyan revolutions. If they are not bourgeois-democratic revolutions, what are they? Failed proletarian revolutions?

Furthermore, what Obama aimed at in Libya was very different than the eventual outcome — the U.S. tried to use its military leverage over the revolutionaries to force a negotiated settlement that would preserve Ghadafi’s state machine. What happened instead was that this machine was smashed, the exact opposite of what the U.S. wanted. On top of that, a year after Ambassador Stevens was assassinated, not a single person has been charged or apprehended by the new Libyan government, and the government continues to hand over Ghadafi’s son to the I.C.C. Libyan independence emerged from the revolution and NATO’s intervention intact. I’ve dealt with these issues at length elsewhere:

As for your views on Egypt, I’m glad we agree that we should break Morsi out of jail and that the main task now is to end military rule. But your proposed demands have nothing to do with that. They already have food subsidies and the state/army already owns a lot of industry — some estimates are that the army controls something like 40% of the country’s economy — so how does nationalizing private enterprises or basic industry advance the cause of socialism when the state machine is fascist and controlled by SCAF? Your proposed demands seem to be derived from Trotsky’s 1938 Transitional Program rather than a close and careful study of what is actually going on in Egypt in 2013.


Aaron Aarons August 9, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Binh writes, “a year after Ambassador Stevens was assassinated, not a single person has been charged or apprehended by the new Libyan government”.

You seem to be putting this fact on the plus side of the balance sheet of post-Gaddafi Libya. So do you agree with me, in contrast to, I believe, the unnamed “Libyan Rebel” and many others who have commented or been published here, that the successful attack on the U.S. “diplomatic” spy facility in Benghazi was a good thing?


Aaron Aarons August 9, 2013 at 4:53 pm

I’ll start by conceding that most of my serious study of the defeated Portuguese revolution of 1974-75 was over a third of a century ago, so I don’t remember a lot of specifics.

But “democracy”, meaning rule through parliamentary elections, was the rallying cry of the right, supported by most Maoists, as they burned Communist Party offices and otherwise physically attacked the left. As I have pointed out elsewhere on this site, what happened in Portugal in late 1975 was a bourgeois-democratic counter-revolution against the advance of the revolution that began in 1974 with a leftist military coup but soon involved masses of workers and peasants.

The question of what could have been done, and by whom, to continue the Portuguese revolution and defeat the counter-revolution is not one I will take up at this time, except to say that it could have not have been done through any legalistic “united front”, but would have had to be done directly by workers, peasants and leftists in the military.


herrnaphta August 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm

dude fess up: you have no idea what Neil Davidson argues about bourgeois revolution.


Pham Binh August 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm

If I’ve made an error, please correct it.

As far as I know, Davidson claims there are five preconditions for bourgeois revolution, one of which is a crisis of pre-capitalist social relations. That seems to rule out a priori the possibility of bourgeois-democratic revolutions taking place on the basis of capitalist social relations (which conflicts with his “consequentialism”).


herrnaphta August 9, 2013 at 1:52 pm

There are many here to correct, but I’ll stick to two regarding Davidson.

1.) Davidson, following Hal Draper, argues that it is helpful to divide revolutions into two categories: political and social. The first involves some sort of revolutionary change in the state, and the second a change from one mode of production to another. Your distinction between bourgeois-democratic and proletarian-socialist narrows the scope of possible revolutions (Guy Bois, for example, argues that the transition from antiquity to feudalism was a social revolution, a position that finds no expression in your set of “two types of revolution.”) Now, you may wish to argue to that Davidson, Draper, and Bois are incorrect, and that really there are only the two types of revolution you delineate, but it appears you are not even aware of the more abstract distinction, baldly declaring “there are two types of revolution” as you do.

2.) More seriously, your taxonomy of revolution involves a conflation of democracy and the bourgeoisie. A large part of Davidson’s argument is that the concept of a “bourgeois democratic” revolution is a specious one, given that the social relations which support bourgeois rule do not require democracy, and that the bourgeoisie actually doesn’t play much of a role in fighting for democracy – that task has fallen to the subaltern classes time and time again. The fact that you ascribe to Davidson the view that a “bourgeois democratic” revolution requires the pre-existence of feudalism reveals a total ignorance of the basic thrust of his argument, which is that bourgeois revolutions are revolutions that establish independent centers of capital accumulation, and have no necessary connection with democratic revolutions.


Pham Binh August 9, 2013 at 1:56 pm

The problem is that dividing revolutions into political and social doesn’t tell us about the class content of a given revolution.

I don’t ignore the basic thrust of his argument, I just don’t think that basic thrust has any relevance to the Arab Spring which is a fight over forms of capitalism rule rather than a fight over capitalism or socialism (or feudalism or capitalism).

Why Marxists insist on re-litigating bourgeois-democratic revolutions from 300 years ago when there are new, modern bourgeois-democratic revolutions we should be studying and aiding is beyond me. Ditto with “the transition debate.”


Shaun Joseph August 9, 2013 at 2:08 pm

“Why Marxists insist on re-litigating bourgeois-democratic revolutions from 300 years ago when there are new, modern bourgeois-democratic revolutions we should be studying and aiding is beyond me. Ditto with ‘the transition debate.'”

Yeah, history is bunk!


Pham Binh August 9, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I guess one-liners are your idea of constructive criticism.


TRPF August 12, 2013 at 10:44 am

To be fair, Marx, Engels, Kautsky, and Lenin are the ones who developed (“invented”) the distinctions between the two types of revolution presented in this piece and they run throughout all of Lenin’s work. His book was called Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution not Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Political Revolution nor Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Social Revolution for a reason. Neither concept would have provided any guidance whatsoever re: class aims and alliances. (Perhaps that is why Draper preferred it.)


herrnaphta August 9, 2013 at 2:07 pm

You are, of course, free to wear your ignorance on your sleeve as proudly as you like (I would expect nothing less from Proyect’s protege), but please forgive the rest of us for thinking it necessary to understand the world in order to change it.


Pham Binh August 9, 2013 at 2:19 pm

As soon as you and comrade Shaun Joseph finish debating in your ivory tower and come to consensus on what happened 300+ years ago in Europe so you can begin thinking through issues related to the Egyptian and Syrian revolutions, please let the rest of us know.

You also failed to substantiate the charge that I am ignorant of Davidson’s views. I mentioned him only in passing because this is not really about him or his views. Most Marxists share the same faulty assumption that bourgeois revolutions can only take place on the basis of pre-capitalist social relations, so you are welcome to insert any name you like in his place.

Instead of engaging substantively with the arguments and evidence I presented, you tried to nitpick and came up short.


Shaun Joseph August 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm

“As soon as you and comrade Shaun Joseph finish debating in your ivory tower and come to consensus on what happened 300+ years ago in Europe so you can begin thinking through issues related to the Egyptian and Syrian revolutions, please let the rest of us know.”

Well, some comrades are capable of thinking about many things. I think it’s fine, for instance, that Louis Proyect writes about movies as well as Syria. I’m glad Trotsky wrote about literature as well as the German Revolution. Only an anti-intellectual person would counterpose them.

Furthermore, if you invoke “bourgeois[-democratic] revolution” as a concept for understanding contemporary Egyptian politics, obviously you’re engaging questions treated by the “transition debate.” So the problem of the transition is completely and immediately relevant to the questions that you yourself raise. You can’t then run away from the debate just because herrnaphta manifestly knows about a thousand times more about it than you do.

Also, for the record, I’m not an academic–just a socialist who thinks that there’s no revolutionary practice without revolutionary theory. (Where did I pick that up? Probably a fortune cookie or something.)


TRPF August 12, 2013 at 10:32 am

“So the problem of the transition is completely and immediately relevant to the questions that you yourself raise. You can’t then run away from the debate just because herrnaphta manifestly knows about a thousand times more about it than you do.”

You’d be right if Egypt were undergoing a transition from feudalism to capitalism, but it’s not, so you’re wrong and the transition debate has no relevance here.

Go play know-it-all elsewhere if you’re not interested in discussing the Egyptian revolution.


Reza Lustig August 10, 2013 at 2:28 pm

“Our loyalty is not to Morsi (who we will not hesitate to overthrow and defeat) but to the working class specifically and the democratic revolution generally. Breaking him out of a military jail today does not preclude arresting, overthrowing, or un-electing him tomorrow, nor does it imply an ounce of political support for the bourgeois-obscurantist Muslim Brotherhood or Morsi’s reformist ineptitude any more than the Bolsheviks’ active defense of the Kerensky government from Kornilov’s coup make them supporters of Kerensky’s strike-breaking and repression of peasant committees.”

Very neat. Can I quote you on that, when “tomorrow” comes?


S.Artesian August 10, 2013 at 11:48 pm

“any more than the Bolsheviks’ active defense of the Kerensky government from Kornilov’s coup make them supporters of Kerensky’s strike-breaking and repression of peasant committees.”

Still using that Pham– I thought you agreed that it was a bad example and wanted to switch to the Kapp Putsch.

I think it’s too bad for you, and but just right for others that you provide a link to what Lenin wrote regarding Kornilov and Kerensky:

“It is my conviction that those who become unprincipled are people who (like Volodarsky) slide into defencism or (like other Bolsheviks) into a bloc with the S.R.s, into supporting the Provisional Government. Their attitude is absolutely wrong and unprincipled. We shall become defencists only after the transfer of power to the proletariat, after a peace offer, after the secret treaties and ties with the banks have been broken—only afterwards. Neither the capture of Riga nor the capture of Petrograd will make us defencists. (I should very much like Volodarsky to read this.) Until then we stand for a proletarian revolution, we are against the war, and we are no defencists.

Even now we must not support Kerensky’s government. This is unprincipled. We may be asked: aren’t we going to fight against Kornilov? Of course we must! But this is not the same thing; there is a dividing Line here, which is being stepped over by some Bolsheviks who fall into compromise and allow themselves to be carried away by the course of events.”

Practically, what did that mean? Well it meant literally that– no support; no claiming “keep the PG in power” or in your case “Return the PG to power.” It meant independent organizations that did not follow the PG orders. It actually meant exhibiting what “All Power to the Soviets” meant when confronted with attempted military suppression.

Tell you what you do Pham– go start a campaign to “break Morsi out of jail” so you can give him a fair “democratic” trial. See how far you get with that when trying to form your democratic united front with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Let me know when you plan on doing that, and who to notify when you don’t make it back.

Anyway, and sure the fact that


Brian S. August 11, 2013 at 9:18 am

We have been discussing this (or related issues) in North Star for a considerable period of time: and, pretty much end up going round in circles. What is curious about this is the fact that the two sides that tend to emerge are not I think, as far apart as they like to present themselves.
Advocates of the “democratic revolution” perspective (which includes me but with a somewhat different approach than Binh) agree:
1. that the Egyptian revolution, however you want to label it, will not be led by the Egyptian bourgeoise nor supported by any of the main capitalist class fractions;
2. it will have to be led by political structures rooted in the working class and popular strata (peasants, petty commodity producers, other sections of the petit bourgeoisie)
3. it will therefore have to have a significant social content – expansion of trade union rights, minimum wages, subsidies for essential items of popular consumption land reform, support of cooperative organisations etc
4. To have any perspective of making headway in a very hostile environment (legacy of decades of authoritarian corporatism, with large parts of the authoritarian state still intact – particularly its repressive apparatuses) there will have to be a very broad social mobilisation, which can most effectively be achieved around what I would call “Democracy+” – radical democratic institutional reforms + pro-poor social measures.
I think much of this perspective is shared with the opposing “permanent revolution” corner; and advocates of this perspective have often been ready to acknowledge the centrality of democratic demands in developing revolutions.
I think both sides have weak zones in their argument: I think Binh paints himself into a corner by insisting on the “bourgeois revolution” conceptualisation in a context where it doesn’t really fit (Egypt has been a social formation dominated by the capitalist mode of production for more than half a century; and he puts forward a programme that no serious bourgeois would look at twice).
The “permanent revolution” advocates are too eager to assert the “growing over” of the revolution from democratic to socialist phases, and are imprecise (and usually unrealistic) about the time frame involved and the preconditions necessary for this. The result is that they can easily slide into a dangerous ultra-leftism – as did the Egyptian RS (ably reviewed by Binh).
I don’t claim this way of looking at the issues resolves the differences , but I hope it might help us to focus our discussion on key (and potentially more fruitful) areas of debate.


admin August 20, 2013 at 1:59 pm
Brian S. August 21, 2013 at 8:45 am

Also excellent report from Patrick Kingsley of the Guardian, that helps challenge some of the myths being generated by supporters of the coup:


steven johnson September 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm

The claim that there has been a successful democratic revolution in Libya really should have warned everyone not to take this article seriously. If someone will say something so grotesquely untrue shows nothing said can be taken seriously.

The schematic equation of Morsi and Kerensky essential to the so-called argument is a superb example how inept ruminations on the past can divert from understanding today. The roles of Tsarist Russia and today’s Egypt in the respective world imperialism is just too different.

The disgusting thing is that the author has reduced the bourgeois democratic revolution to the legal formality of elections. What other bourgeois democratic task was the Morsi government ever going to accomplish? Morsi had made no effort to fulfill any demands of the people at large. All his efforts were dedicated to consolidation of his and his party’s power, to taking their share. Morsi’s regime was not a bourgeois democratic revolution, it was a faction fight. Morsi is not against the fulool, which is how they could grow so strong under his misrule. Morsi is just the new kind of fulool.

Morsi split the revolutionary masses, mobilized a segment of the oppressed behind a banner of reaction. The people as a whole exercised their judgment on Morsi’s bourgeois democratic credentials by coming out against him. Tragically, without a revolutionary leadership (not even a bourgeois democratic one!) their mass uprising only allowed the return of the old faction under this cover.

Nonetheless, nonetheless, the people en masse rejecting Morsi was the real expression of bourgeois democratic revolution! Attacking the people of Egypt on behalf of a bourgeois democratic counterrevolutionary like Morsi in the name of bourgeois democratic revolution is folly or hypocrisy.

The equation of Kerensky and Morsi is dogmatism masquerading as analysis. There is no way forward by supporting Morsi. A revolutionary party as a tribune of the oppressed must struggle with the people against the counter-revolutionary violence, not in favor of a Morsi counter-revolution covered with the figleaf of formal elections.

As for the question of how to move forward, it depends on what you want. Those who, like the author, wish to


Brian S. September 7, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Well, as you don’t give us your version of what happened in Libya its difficult to respond on that. It would be premature to label it “sucessful” since it isn’t completed yet, and clearly is passing through a very difficult period (although part of that is about people exercising their new democratic rights to protest and strike.) But I don’t see anything “grotesque” here.
As for Egypt: Much of what you say about the intentions of the Morsi regime are true; but the issue was not what further democratic tasks Morsi would accomplish (doubtless very few) but what scope the structures that had come into being alongside his government gave for democratic struggle. These were considerable, but were thrown away by the opposition and the mass movement set back, at least years and possible decades, by facilitating the military coup. “The people as a whole exercised their judgment on Morsi’s bourgeois democratic credentials by coming out against him.” You’ve obvously not been watching- “the people” came out on both sides in this conflict. Who had the majority of public support we’ll never know, because the coup eliminated any means to determine that.


steven johnson September 7, 2013 at 6:17 pm

The ethnic cleansing of black towns like Tawergha; collective punishment of Sirte; a resumption of tribal warfare; gang war between militias; assassination as politics; bankruptcy; anarchy. The democratic process in Libya is carried out in mortal danger from the victors, whom I gather you supported. If this is success, what other than complete extermination could count as a failure by your standards?

Morsi most certainly did lose majority support, for the very good reason that he was not a bourgeois democrat, but an enemy of bourgeois democracy. He and his party were adamantly committed to an attack, social, economic, political and religious, upon the majority of the country. He and his party did so regardless of how much it weakened them in their struggle with the fulool precisely to prevent a successful bourgeois democratic revolution. Unlike you, they believed they could not ally with their mortal enemies, the people as a whole, in a struggle with simple competitors, the fulool.

If you insist on fatuous historical analogues, Morsi is analogous to Kornilov, not Kerensky. His formal bourgeois democratic credentials are as irrelevant to the real revolution as the formal majority in the Constituent Assembly. A slightly closer analogy to Morsi might be Louis Napoleon. The situation in the Sinai in particular is wholly incompatible with all these analogies, however. Perhaps you should try to drop the schematism and historical dogmas?

You’ve made it perfectly clear that resistance to the generals is not enough, that you believe the socialist movement must liquidate into political support for Morsi. Why?
You really have not justified this.


Brian S. September 8, 2013 at 6:09 pm

@ Steven: I think you’re getting me confused with Binh – perhaps that’s my fault for responding to a post directed to him: but he’s not available to respond and I have similar (but not identical views). But please don’t assume that I have exactly the opinions expressed in the introduction to this thread
Libya: I can’t go over all these issues here – take a look at the previous discussions on this site and you’ll see them examined in considerable detail. There is certainly an acute political crisis at the moment in Libya, but predictions about imminent “anarchy” have been made often in the past and not materialised. The country is only two years away from a bitter and civil conflict, and has no experience of democratic political life to draw on – you don’t overcome a burden like that in the blink of an eye. The Libyan people have frequently displayed their resourcefulness in crises in the past.
Egypt: You say “Morsi most certainly did lose majority support” But how do you know that? That’s the purpose of free elections, to determine the distribution of popular views. Without them anybody can claim to be a majority.
I don’t think anyone is in favour of political support for Morsi (anyway, I’m certainly not) – but what I was in favour of was the use of democratic means to oppose him. And in the current situation I think the defence of democracy in Eypt has to include the defence of the civil rights of the MB.


steven johnson September 9, 2013 at 12:05 am

I’m sorry for assuming you were speaking for Binh.

As to Libya, I am baffled as to how much more anarchy you need to characterize the situation as anarchy. Today, the issue only matters if you are right that these are only the pains due to infant democracy, while if I am right neither of us is relevant any more.

If Morsi still had the majority of the people’s support, the generals would not have been able to resist him politically. The generals couldn’t suppress the people’s mass demonstrations to save Mubarak. They have not suddenly acquired any magical powers. They couldn’t suppress the people’s mass demonstrations supporting Morsi, either during his presidency as a whole; during the last days leading to the coup; in the resistance to the coup. This shows that Morsi does not have the support of the majority of the people.

The reason the generals could suppress the resistance in ways they couldn’t before is twofold: First, your beloved counterrevolutionary has strengthened the fulool by his policies. Second, Morsi has split the masses. His counterrevolutionary policies have for instance made it impossible for the Christians, the Sufis and pretty much any Sunni who accept kalam to support him. Morsi cannot even play nice with the hard core Salfists! There is no conceivable arithmetic that justifies thinking Morsi has majority support.

The claim that the mass demonstrations against Morsi were a plot by the generals is equally as preposterous and propagandistic as the claim that they were in numbers greater even than the demonstrations that overthrew Mubarak. If the demonstrators were half the numbers claimed, Morsi was already too weak to carry out his counterrevolution without the fulool. Why then was he needed? The generals took him out, lest the democratic revolutionary process eject the traitor Morsi by a kind of journee.

In short, the events showed me Morsi has lost majority support. That, rather than elections, is how I know.

There is a considerable overlap in our postitions on the immediate tasks of the moment, although I wonder why you value the civil rights of the MB. The civil rights of their misled prey is the important thing. The left in Egypt is in a terrible position, stabbed in the back by Morsi, then left in a terrible bind of choosing two flavors of counterrevolution.

However, lest this continue into mere quarrelsomeness, I will have to confess that I don’t think elections are the bourgeois democratic revolutionary means of determining who has the majority. In fact, I think that in bourgeois democracies at all times, it is very commonly elections that are the means of pretending to be the majority. Further, I don’t think legal means are the ways bourgeois democratic revolutions are won. Revolutions are not legal. I’m going to let this rest now because I don’t understand how you think.


Brian S. September 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Libya, whatever its problems, is a long way from somewhere like Iraq: as long as we agree that you can use whatever term you like to describe what I agree is an acute political crisis. There will clearly need to be some dramatic development – emergence of new political forces or revival of popular mobilisations – if it is to get beyond that.
On Egypt: as you say, the mass movement in Egypt was divided – “events” confirm that but can’t allow you to calibrate that division.
I don’t think the mobilisations against Morsi were a plot by the generals – but they were heavily manipulated by the fulool from an early stage as openly proclaimed by Naguib Sawiris (and the demonstrations weren’t half the number claimed – they were probably less than 20%)
If you want more insight into “how I think” take at look at these previous pieces:


Rajesh Tyagi April 13, 2014 at 5:07 am

Character of Arab Spring is democratic! What does it imply? It only imply, (i) that the immediate and predominant tasks are democratic in nature, (ii) that the proletariat finds a ready allyin other sections of population who have interest and stake in favour of the the this revolution, etc etc. Now this situation is coupled with the fact that due to dominance of stalinists over the workers movement in Arab Countries, Proletariat is unable to rise upto the tasks, the situation in history demands from it. It is unable to unite itself and the toiling mass of the country behind it and take to power.
But then this simply means: that the democratic revolution would not be realised, that the mass upheavel would turn to a fiasco, that it would not usher in a revolution capable to solve the tasks before these countries, that February 1917 would only repeat itself, devoid of an advance to October. This is exactly what Trotsky has propounded in his ‘permanent revolution’. I fail to understand on what basis the writer says Trotsky’s analysis falls short to explain Arab Spring!
In fact, whole analysis of the wiriter of this article is based upon essentially wrong understanding of Trotsky. Writer thinks that Trotsky stands for a socialist Arab Spring, while the democratic phase contradicts Trtosky. This is absolutely incorrect notion, and has nothing in common with analysis of Trotsky.


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