Egypt’s mass struggles, the coup and its regional implications
Will Tunisia, Libya and other states follow a similar pattern?
Although the United States has refused to condemn the military seizure of power in Egypt and is sending another four F-16 fighter jets to Cairo, the White House, Pentagon and State Department are obviously concerned about developments in this North African country and throughout the region.
An envoy from Washington, William Burns who is deputy Secretary of State, was dispatched to Egypt during the week of 14 July in an effort to stabilize the political situation in a way that will not conflict with US interests. Egypt is the second largest recipient of direct foreign assistance from the White House falling behind only the state of Israel.
The political structures of both Egypt and Israel serve the foreign policy objectives of world imperialism headed by the US. The $1.3 billion allocated to Egypt is designed to keep the country within the political sphere of Washington and Wall Street and to bolster the military apparatus in an attempt to ensure that the people will not seize control of the state.
Despite the tens of billions of dollars that have been turned over to the military and other forces within the national bourgeoisie in Egypt, the country still remains in a restive state. Millions have taken to the streets since January 2011 demanding jobs, income, democratic rights and a shift in the relations between Egypt and Israel that has been frozen since the advent of the Camp David Accords signed in 1979.
Egyptian workers and youth have played a pivotal role in these struggles through mass demonstrations, strikes and rebellions. Just recently workers in the utility sector and the arts have staged occupations demanding better wages and conditions of employment.
With the recent military seizure of power and the virtual re-banning of the Muslim Brotherhood, unrest is continuing inside the country. Supporters of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which is allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, are holding a sit-in near the Republican Guard headquarters in Nasr City where ousted President Mohamed Morsi is rumored to be held.
A shooting incident at this location on 8 July resulted in the deaths of over 50 people. The supporters of the FJP called it a massacre whereas the military said the deaths were the result of provocations by opponents of the coup.
Nonetheless, there are no indications that the FJP, the Salafist parties such as Al Nour and others, are willing to give up the fight against the 3 July seizure of power by the army. Although the military leadership announced on 13 July that it was nearing completion of forming an interim governing council, there is still a serious question of credibility and legitimacy that this new body will have to overcome in order to be able to rule Egypt without serious disruptions.
WILL OTHER STATES GO THE WAY OF EGYPT?
Although the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East began in December 2010 in Tunisia resulting in the forced exile of long time President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, due to Egypt’s larger population and closer links to the US., much of the focus on developments in the region were centered on Cairo. The removal of President Hosni Mubarak by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on 11 February, 2011 did not return power to the people.
During the course of 2011-2012 there were huge demonstrations and other forms of resistance against military rule. By the time of the national presidential elections in June 2012, most Egyptians were committed to sending the army back to the barracks.
With a second coup by the military on July 3, speculation has arisen over what impact this will have on Tunisia and Libya which were also subjected to changes of government albeit under drastically different circumstances. Tunisians elected a moderate Islamist government which took power after Ben Ali’s ouster by the military and security forces, although this regime collapsed after the assassination of a leading human rights lawyer Chokri Belaid who opposed their policies.
Nonetheless, all indications are that the military in Tunisia is not interested in seizing power. The nationwide response to the assassination Chokri Belaid saw strikes and mass protests which the authorities are not eager to repeat.
The largest electoral bloc within the Tunisian government, the Ennahda Party, has strongly opposed the overthrow of President Morsi. Demonstrations were held in Tunisia on July 4 demanding the restoration of the elected government in Cairo.
Ennahda Party leader Rachid Ghannouchi said of the political dispensation in Tunisia that ‘In order to avoid ideological polarization and to achieve compatibility, we adopted a serious strategy of compromise, especially between the Islamist and modernist currents. This move spared our country the evils and dangers of division.’(Magharebia, July 14)
Tunisia has started its own Tamarod (rebel) movement whose spokesman Mohamed Bennour states that they are dissatisfied with the existing coalition government. The organization says that it has collected over 250,000 signatures.
‘We want to dissolve the Constituent Assembly because it squanders public funds, produces a mined constitution and establishes a state that is not civil and eliminates rights and freedoms,’ the activist said. The Ennahda Party has denounced the Tamarod movement in both Egypt and Tunisia.
According to Magharebia, ‘Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, said in various press statements that a repeat of the Egyptian scenario in Tunisia was not possible. In his opinion, Tunisians tend to agree more, pointing out that the country was a democratic country that knows its potential and relies on the awareness of its youth, civil society and political parties when assessing the higher needs of the country.’ (14 July)
In Libya, where the Pentagon and NATO engineered the removal of the Jamahiriya, the political system under the assassinated leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi, the political situation remains very unstable. Militia groups that were financed and coordinated by imperialism in the 2011 war of regime-change remained divided and engage in deadly internecine conflicts on a daily basis.
Responses from the existing Libya political parties that participate in the US.-installed General National Congress (GNC) regime have been restrained or non-existent. Constant unrest among workers in the oil industry and within the general population does not bode well for a similar scenario of military control as enacted within Egypt.
Recently the GNC has requested NATO assistance in stabilizing the situation in Libya. The US military and intelligence presence in Libya is formidable with Marines guarding Washington’s embassies and diplomatic outposts in the country.
The Guardian newspaper reported recently that ‘Hundreds of British troops are being prepared to deploy to North Africa to tackle al Qaeda-inspired extremists. Under secret plans being drawn up urgently by top brass, UK soldiers would be sent ‘within months’ to the region to help train the Libyan army.’ (1 July)
This plan will involve at least 2,000 Libyan ‘soldiers’ who will be trained in an effort to counter so-called ‘terrorist’ threats in Libya and throughout the region.
Developments in Turkey and Syria have prompted different responses to the Egyptian coup of July 3. The government of President Bashar al-Assad welcomed the military seizure power in light of Morsi’s hostility towards Damascus through the avowed support of the rebels and the breaking of diplomatic relations.
In Turkey, which is governed by the moderate Justice and Development Party (AKP), the government has rejected the coup and called for the restoration of civilian rule. Turkey has been the scene of large anti-government demonstrations and strikes which have been severely repressed by the regime of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
REAL REVOLUTION NEEDED THROUGHOUT THE REGION
With the government in Egypt still remaining within the orbit of US imperialism, the situation illustrates the need for a real people’s revolution inside the country and throughout the region. The military-led transitional interim council says that it will prepare the people for elections in early 2014.
However, a number of political questions remain outstanding. Will the FJP and other Islamic parties be allowed full participation in the proposed elections?
Also will conditions improve for the Egyptian workers, farmers and youth under the interim governing council? In all likelihood the problems of massive unemployment and poverty will continue with no program aimed at empowering the majority within society.
In order for Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Turkey to move forward there must be a revolution led by the people and not controlled by the military which represents in Egypt the interests of the national bourgeoisie in league with US imperialism. When such a revolutionary movement takes power in Egypt it can influence the political atmosphere throughout North Africa and the Middle East.
*Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor of Pan-African News Wire