•  HOME 
  •  BOOKS 
  •  WWP 
  •  DONATE 
  • Loading

Follow workers.org on
Twitter Facebook iGoogle

Army, Muslim Brotherhood, U.S. jockeying for Egypt rule

Published Feb 18, 2012 9:25 AM

Workers in some factories and students in the universities in Egypt held strikes on Feb. 11, one year after the revolution that forced President Hosni Mubarak out of office and shook the world. A week earlier massive protests held the Egyptian regime and the police responsible for the deaths of more than 70 people at a soccer match.

Meanwhile, the forces behind the current regime over the past year were in the news.

In control of the Egyptian state — of the repressive arm of the government — are the top officers making up the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The Army has run Egypt since the 1950s, and since the early 1970s many of the top officers have also accumulated wealth. They can be considered part of the Egyptian ruling class, the 1%.

In Parliament, the leading party is the Muslim Brotherhood, the best-organized force in the period right after last year’s revolution, which then won 37 percent of the vote and even more seats in last April’s elections.

Then there is U.S. imperialism, which supported the Mubarak regime for 30 years. The Obama administration distanced itself from Mubarak only after a heroic mass uprising and street fighting made it obvious that the former general was on the way out, barring a slaughter that might have split the army.

Washington’s policy has been to keep in power a stable Egyptian regime that keeps the country open for imperialist investment and maintains a nonaggression pact with Israel. The U.S. has given the Egyptian army $1.3 billion in aid annually throughout this period to assure this policy.

Like 19th-century British imperialism, 21st-century U.S. imperialism has no permanent allies, only permanent interests.Through most of the past year U.S. imperialism seemed to support SCAF. In the event that a mass uprising threatened to oust SCAF, Washington has also maneuvered where possible with all forces that might take office or power to ensure that Egypt continues its basic foreign and economic policy as under Mubarak.

The alliance gets sticky

The Egyptian general-capitalists are aware of this, so they took steps to try to prevent a Washington double-cross.

On Dec. 29, the Egyptian authorities arrested 43 people, including 16 U.S. citizens, who were agents of some nominally nongovernmental organizations. These included Freedom House, the ­International Republican Institute and the National Democratic ­Institute — the last two associated with the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively — and all openly pro-imperialist organizations that intervene in foreign countries.

The NGOs’ role is to work with political activists outside the local government to make sure any political change favors U.S. interests. Separately or together, they helped organize “regime change” — that is, coups — in Serbia in 2000, in Haiti in 2004 and in Honduras in 2009. The IRI also helped organize an attempted coup in Venezuela in 2002 that blew up in its face when a mass uprising reversed it.

On Dec. 29, SCAF sent Washington a message: “Back off!” Among the 43 charged were 17 Egyptians and 10 non-U.S. foreigners, including two German citizens from the Konrad Adenauer Institute. This NGO is an organ of the Christian Democrats and thus of German imperialism.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have warned SCAF that U.S. military aid could be frozen if the U.S. citizens are not released. A New York Times editorial Feb. 12 also scolded the generals. Egypt’s premier said: “Egypt will not kneel.” (Washington Post, Feb. 8)

That SCAF and Washington are at odds these days should fool no one into thinking the Egyptian generals have suddenly picked up the flag of Egyptian sovereignty and will defend Egypt’s workers and farmers. On the contrary, SCAF is using the incident to try to paint up all its opponents as tools of the U.S. and paint itself as nationalist.

Nor should anyone think that U.S. imperialism, after endorsing Mubarak’s 30 years of repression and rigged elections, is suddenly concerned with democracy or human rights. The Egyptian military is still essential to U.S. domination of the Middle East.

Role of the Muslim Brotherhood

The situation in Egypt remains fluid. When tens of thousands of people in Tahrir Square at the end of January demanded the military step down immediately, the Muslim Brotherhood — which had agreed to support SCAF’s control of the government until June — took on a new role, that of providing a human wall of its members to control the mass struggle. The people answered by chanting, “No Brotherhood, no officers. Down, down with military rule!” (New York Times, Jan. 31)

Ten days later, on Feb. 9, the Brotherhood demanded that the military rulers give up control of the regime. Many have noted that this stronger stand against the generals took place when SCAF is in conflict with Washington.

All these forces remain accountable to the Egyptian people, who continue to take to the streets and to exhibit political experience and understanding.