Revolts in Egypt and the Arab states: The spectre of the development of the class struggle

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jk1921
Revolts in Egypt and the Arab states: The spectre of the development of the class struggle
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Revolts in Egypt and the Arab states: The spectre of the development of the class struggle. The discussion was initiated by jk1921.
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jk1921
This is an excellent analysis

This is an excellent analysis of the situation. We don't hear much in the media about what is happening outside Egypt right now, but the spread of this movement internationally has been impressive. You can bet the bourgeoisie in the core states are watching what is going on and taking the lessons for future class convulsions. We must also.

Meanwhile in the U.S., the left blames the Federal Reserve and Wall Street for speculation leading to a spike in commodity prices causing the unrest. Its all the bankers fault spurred on by free money from the state! On the other hand, the right talks about a conspiracy between communists and socialists to found a Muslim caliphate. The bourgeoisie couldn't be more decrepid.

Red Hughs
Well, As far as I know,

Well,

As far as I know, commodity speculation and the resulting food price inflation has been one pretty immediate cause of much of the unrest we're seeing. Naturally, there have been a number of other causes as well, many of them also related to the crisis.

We can't start or end our analyses with "evil bankers" or the Federal Reserve. But I think it is reasonable to say that the declining rate of profit has appeared as an orgy of speculation which is taking a more and more noticable toll world wide.

One important thing that's worth saying in contradiction to the various leftist viewpoints is that capital today really just cannot turn back the clock to any of the times when it was healthier. It is extremely difficult to point to any nation which a stable "model of accumulation". And the measures that are being taken to keep the simple commodity cycle going - ie, keep up demand, merely move things towards further unhealthy tendencies. (A new "dot-com" bubble seems to brewing in the US for example...)

 

jk1921
Thanks Red, Yeah, I didn't

Thanks Red,

Yeah, I didn't mean to imply that the speculation and Fed. Reserve policies aren't involved in sparking the unrest; but--as you said--to stop there is to deflect the blame away from captialism's crisis itself and onto to particular factions of the bourgeoisie, which opens the door to all types of reformist illusions. We are witnessing a major campaign (from both the right and the left) to lay the blame for the current crisis on "financial capital," which obscures the structural crisis of the captialist system itself that spurs the flight into financialization, debt, speculation and the rest.

 

red flag
Where now for the protests

While the mass protests against the Mubarak regime is to be applauded I think that we have to recognise the weaknesses of the struggle.  It seems to me that the strategy of the protesters to occupy Tahir Square as a means to put pressure on Mubarak is leading to a standoff between the pro and anti Mubarak supporters which is only going to be resolved in favour of the capitalist class.  Simply occupying the Square is inadequate as a strategy and is trapping workers and making it easier for the Eygyptian capitalists to disarm workers both politically as well as physically.  Hope this doesnt happen but I suspect it will as the present stalemate will not last. 

Red Hughs
The struggle has many

The struggle has many weaknesses with the aim for "mere" bourgeois democracy being high among them.

Communists should walk a fine line between applauding the "space" and opportunity these events open up and pointing out their weaknesses.

As far as Tahir Square goes, for all I know, occupying the space could be good. Occupying key work-places is a good tactic for bringing a country to a halt. Once the country is essentially at a halt (as I believe Egypt is), occupying the most geographically central locations seems good. The next step though would be actually moving against your enemies - which is what would only wild speculate that people are ready or able to do.

But all this is pretty hypothetical on my part. I could be wrong and there could key workplaces or other locations which are still unoccupied.

 

ernie
the working class is in a difficult position

 Agree with Red flag the working class is in real danger of being sucked into a stand-off between different fractions of Egyptian capital if they stay in the square and also allow themselves to be swept along by democratic illusions. The only way to avoid this is through the class defending its own interests. This will bring into further conflict not only with the present set of gangsters but those seeking to replace them who are trying to use this movement to their own ends. However the prospects for the class being able to do this are not looking good.

There are not only the very powerful illusions in democracy but also in the army as a 'neutral' force. The military is no neutral force it is part of the state and defending the interests of capital and its own dominance in any future line up. Thus its actions around the square are part of the effort by the bourgeoisie to crush any proletarian movement from developing, in response to the increasingly obvious fraction fight over the future division of power.

The longer the present gang stays in power the stronger is the illusion that changing the president is the answer and all the economic demands concerning unemployment prices etc are lost sight of: which is clearly what the whole of the ruling class want, be they in power or in opposition.

It would be very interesting to know what is going on in the factories, offices etc and in other cities and towns. One has the suspicion that they media is concentrating on the square to hid the wider movement, especially any autonomous working class struggle.

 

ernie
 On the army, an aspect of

 On the army, an aspect of why the army not intervening is that many of the conscripts would not be willing to shot their own people. But this is only part of it. The Channel 4 News tonight also report that more reliable troops had replaced the conscripts around the square.

This thread on Libcom is very interesting source of information, including from within Egypt. libcom.org/forums/news/egypt-january-25th-protest-23012011. It is clear that there is a massive movement which is going unreported by the media 

Devrim
Egypt

ernie wrote:
It would be very interesting to know what is going on in the factories, offices etc and in other cities and towns. One has the suspicion that they media is concentrating on the square to hid the wider movement, especially any autonomous working class struggle.

I disagree. I feel that the reason that the media isn't reporting wider working class actions is because they are probably not happening. 

I think that unlike Tunisia, this is not a working class movement, but a 'populist' cross class movement. That doesn't mean that of course there aren't thousands of workers involved as individuals, nor does it mean that something, such as a massive act of state violence, couldn't mobilise the working class as a class.

ernie wrote:
There are not only the very powerful illusions in democracy but also in the army as a 'neutral' force. The military is no neutral force it is part of the state and defending the interests of capital and its own dominance in any future line up.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if it comes out in a year or two that the army, and military intelligence were not involved in building this movement from the start.

ernie wrote:
 Agree with Red flag the working class is in real danger of being sucked into a stand-off between different fractions of Egyptian capital if they stay in the square and also allow themselves to be swept along by democratic illusions.

I don't think it is a danger of something that might happen, but a description of the current situation.

Devrim

Zanthorus
Agree with Devrim

I agree with Devrim's post. I think there is a danger here of being desperate for examples of large-scale autonomous workers' struggle that we attempt to find it where there is none.

baboon
I think that it's clear that

I think that it's clear that the media world-wide has been concentrating on Tahrir Square and it appears that the regime has sprung the trap. Those in the square can now only get in and out through army checkpoints and the BBC reports that plain-clothes police are roaming the streets around.

The only report of a strike was one I saw at a steelworks and apart from demonstrations in workers' districts of Mahallah and a few other places, nothing else.

The military are well in control and have shown some adaptability and intelligence.

I don't think that we can put too much down to the working class in Egypt in the immediate but rather see this currrent wave of revolt as a movement unfolding in which the working class will have to play a more definite role. This is much wider than Egypt.

red flag
What I was attempting to get

What I was attempting to get at in my last post was that I think that at the begining of the present uprising there was some idea by Eygyptian workers that they had to take action to press their demands such as reduction of food prices, some action to address unemployment etc onto a reluctant regime.  However as they were swept up into the occupation at Tahrir Square they were then pulled into the bourgeoise miliue of demanding the end of Mubarak and democratic elections end of corruption etc. 

I also agree that at present there are no automonous workers movement in Eygypt and there will be none until the petite bourgeosie, left intelligensia, Islamic Movements prove in practice that they have no solution to the crisis of Eygyptian capitalism.  This doesn't mean that I am arguing for some stages style of process after all the radicalisation of the Russian workers in 1917 happened relatively quickly.  The same can happen today.  What has to be remebered is that the suffering which drove the Eygyptian workers into the anti Mubarak rebellion will still be there and will hopefully lay the foundations for the development of class consciousness and an autonomous working class movement.

Red Hughs
Thank you for the expansion

Thank you for the expansion Red Flag. It seems like an excellent good point.

Red Hughs
I only noticed Devrim's

I only noticed Devrim's comment now. Also very instructive.

To me, the uprising presented the visible reality of a large democratic movement and the possibly that autonomous working class action might take place on top of it. Obviously, I'm observing all this from afar so accessing the likelihood of proletarian action is hard. 

The one thing that occurs to me with all this is that food price inflation is not a plot for getting rid of governments but a symptom of an ongoing crisis. It probably won't go away in any country where market relations prevail.

That may make whatever capitalist "solution" appears not as stable as it otherwise would be.

 

 

 

 

 

Beltov
To the inflation of prices

To the inflation of prices add the rising unemployment, growing poverty and the rapidly growing youth population who aren't being offered a positive perspective. Whatever stitch-up the bge put together, they can't solve the roots of the crisis, which will only worsen... 

red flag
From tonights news we can see

From tonights news we can see how one faction of Eygyptian Bourgeosie has utilised the anger from the anti mubarak rebellion and is manevouring themselves into place so they can line their pockets.  The tragedy is that some Eygyptian workers gave their lives so one faction of the bourgeosie can replace another faction. 

Agree that the crisis of capitalism will ensure that there will be no period of stability rather the danger for workers is that class consciousness will not mature fast enough and that lessons will not be learned in time.

jk1921
I think it is important to

I think it is important to recognize that these events began on the proletarian class terrain, even if they are now being effectively recuperated by the state, through various factions of the national capital with assistance from imperialist powers. The Egyptian bourgeoisie is somewhat more sophisticated than the Tunisian, which explains its ability to keep this movememnt within acceptable limits for the state. However, our hope as revolutionaries is that the Egyptian workers will learn from these events and recognize the traps in future class confrontations.

Devrim
Understanding the period

jk1921 wrote:
I think it is important to recognize that these events began on the proletarian class terrain, even if they are now being effectively recuperated by the state, through various factions of the national capital with assistance from imperialist powers. 

I don't think that the events in Egypt did. Those in Tunisia certainly did, and those in Algeria seem to have. I can't see it with the events in Egypt though.

baboon wrote:
The only report of a strike was one I saw at a steelworks and apart from demonstrations in workers' districts of Mahallah and a few other places, nothing else.

This is pretty similar to Iran 18 months ago where there was one strike at a car factory (and talking to people who were there it seems to have been pretty sketchy), and Greece where there was one strike at primary schools*.

I think that if we want to try to understand the period we have to look at the movements over the last few years as a whole. It seems to me that working class people, and of course the vast majority of those involved in al these movements have been working class, feel a need to struggle. Certainly there has been a willingness there and no lack of personal bravery. However, the working class hasn't been able to assert itself as a class. To put it quite bluntly, it lacks both the experience and the confidence. It has yet to recover from the terrible defeats of the 1980s and the awful years that were the 1990s.

Of course, the last decade has shown signs of the begining of a recovery, but we are not anywhere near the levels of class struggle that we experienced in the mid eighties, let alone that of the end of the seventies start of the eights or the begining of the seventies.

I think that the recovery will be slow. It is not impossible for there to be a massive jump. Massive repression in Egypt or Iran could have brought masses of workers out on strike. At the moment it seems unlikely though.

Devrim

 

 

 

*In a way the weakness of the Greek movement is expressed by the fact that although there were strikes at the same time (already organised before the events started by the CP union) the movement never really managed to make the necessary links.

 

jk1921
I think the issue at the

I think the issue at the moment is that we are seeing a new generation of workers struggling whose lives have been marked by unemployment and marginalization. They want to struggle, they feel that it is necessary, but they are unsure how. There are a lot of lessons still to be learned.

baboon
I think the overall global

I think the overall global analysis proposed by Devrim above still applies but libcom reports today on at least some outbursts of class struggle in Egypt. I don't think that we should vacillate but never say never.

 

The main purpose of this post, given that the section is rooted in Britain, is to look at the activity of the British bourgeoisie in relation to Egypt, ie, the involvement of British imperialism. I know that the Americans are well involved, the French, Turkey, Syria, Israel and even Hamas not least through their links to the Egyptian state are also more or less so, but we do have a responsibility to look at the role of our "own" imperialism within this cess-pit of imperialism.

 

Britain's role in Egypt is situated in the beginning of global imperialism proper and, like most countries and states in the Middle East, Britain was instrumental in setting this country up in its modern form. But I want to look at some of the elements of its involvement in the present upheavals, an involvement which is closely linked to its historical "responsibilities" in this country and the defence of its imperialist interests therein.

One or two things, brief reports, struck me at the beginning of the revolt; for example, there was a very early reference to "kettling" which I thought the context of which could have only come from British police sources. It wouldn't be unusual for British police forces to be involved: in the recent wikileaks there's the details of them training a Bangladeshi government death squad (the "Rapid Action Battalion") which has been responsibile for over a thousand deaths. This "training" started under the Labour government and the Foreign Office has stated that UK government sources "provide a range of human rights assistance". Recent training for the RAB has been provided by police forces of Humberside and West Mercia through the National Policing Improvement Agency and approved by the increasingly sinister Association of Chief Police Officers.

 

Then the Palestine leaks came out through al-Jazeera showing the centrality of the British embassy in Cairo, working with top Mukhabarat man Sulieman and the likely involvement of Mossad, in the so-called 'Palestine peace process'. This shows the closeness of British imperialism to the Egyptian regime. There was some surprise when the Muslim Brotherhood were invited to talks with Sulieman but, like many other Muslim fundamentalists, Britain has been courting this group. A few years ago, the Policy Exchange think-tank published leaks that showed the attempts of the Foreign Office to woo the Muslim Brotherhood. The FO's Middle East and North Africa Desk said in 2006, "Given that Islamist groups are often less corrupt... consideration might be given to channeling aid resources to them..." We know that Britiain's position on Hezbollah is ambiguous to say the least with the distinction so loved by imperialism made between their "political and military wings". We know very well the involvement of Britain with all sorts of fundamentalists and even a few weeks ago there were arguments in FO (minority arguments) about Britain being "soft on terrorism".

 

I don't know how this fits in, but a week ago, the head of MI6 (the British ambassador to Egypt in early 2000) was warning about a wave of home-grown suicide bombers in Britain and a few days later, PM Cameron was continuing and reinforcing the Labour government's anti-Muslim propaganda line. It seems to me that denouncing Muslims in Britain and supporting fundamentalists abroad is a particular strategy of the British ruling class.

 

I don't have much more to add on the role of Britain but we do have a responsibility to look for it.

 

On the general situation, I think that Mubarak is finished. In fact he was gone already and has been brought back from the dead. I think that the response of the Egyptian bourgeoisie has been sophisticated possibly pointing to the hands of the CIA and MI6. It looked to me like Sulieman and the military/secret police have been running the country for some time and have even used these events to settle with the Gamal faction who were clearly not liked by the main military gangsters. The latter have shown their intelligence in bringing the president back to the fore - probably as a future bargaining chip, ekeing out "concessions" and using selected and, still, widespread repression. Increased subsidies and some pay rises have been given to elements of the working class and troops that might have joined the protests have surely been identified and confined to barracks. The military is intact and possibly, in the face of the "democratic" process, may have even strengthened itself.

Devrim
Strikes in Egypt

It seems that strikes are breaking out in Egypt now. Maybe I was too pessimistic. I think we sdtill have to stress though that unlike what many leftists say there isn't a revolution.

Devrim

 

red flag
Against constuent assembly

Agree with Devrim that the events in Eygypt doesn't mean that we are witnessing a revolution rather I think what we are seeing is that one faction of the bourgeoise is using all the pent  up frustrations of Eygyptian workers and petite bourgeoise to manevour themselves into lucrative positions.  What is important however is that these events gives huge lessons to Eygyptian workers regarding the counter revolutionary nature of bourgeoise democracy.  Also allows revolutionaries in the developed imperialist countries the chance to argue against the idea of a constituent assembly as being somehow preferable as all leftists are currently arguing.

jk1921
I think we can't get away

I think we can't get away from the fact that the events in Egypt were sparked by the unrest in Tunisia and elsewhere and were intially led by the disenfranchaised young. Of course, the Egyptian bourgeoisie has been able handle the situation with a degree of tactical skill that their Tunisian counterparts simply lacked. We are not hearing much in the media about Tunisia anymore, but from what we do hear, the struggle is continuing against the new government.

ernie
Can we see a link between the

Can we see a link between the growing strike movement and the decision to dump Mubarek now? I would say yes, but then the military may also use the situation to reinforce their own position. No matter what happens this strike movement (www.almasryalyoum.com/en/news/labor-professional-protests-join-popular-uprising, which appears to be about economic issues primarily, is very interesting especially given the huge pro-democracy media campaign etc. The workers defending their class interests will certainly worry the government and the opposition parties.