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Egypt’s Revolution Must Remain the People’s Revolution

By Ghada Chehade


February 22, 2011

In this article I will explore the uncertain fate of the Egyptian revolution given the problem of military rule, and the U.S’ attempts to control and contain genuine Arab uprisings and the reasons behind this. I will conclude with a brief mention of the universality of the Egyptian case and the need for a global uprising against a system that oppresses and exploits us all--organized, global capital.

Revolution in Egypt Still Open-Ended

Following Mubarak’s resignation, revolutionary fervour is spreading throughout North Africa and the Middle East. The day after the ouster of Mubarak, people took to the streets in Yemen (where they had already begun protesting during the Tunisian uprising) to demand the resignation of the president. In Algeria, inspired by the Egyptian Revolution, people are in the streets demanding freedom and justice despite an official ban. In Bahrain, people clash with the state, as they demand change. And in Libya, the people continue their own courageous uprising despite massacres by the repressive and murderous state (over 300 people have been killed in Libya from gunfire and possibly bombs) [1].

Clearly the success of the Egyptian people has sparked a positive chain reaction among the people of the region. Yet the situation in Egypt itself remains unclear and problematic given that the army is in power, and not the people. While the people succeeded in (and are to be applauded and admired for) getting him out, the problem remains that Mubarak handed power over to the military. There is speculation about whether what happened in Egypt was a revolution or "a coup d’etat staged by the already dominant military" [3]. Egyptian political analyst, Said Zulfica (speaking on Press TV Feb 11), maintains that the Egyptian military is most likely in regular contact with the Pentagon currently, and that the Pentagon may have told the military that Mubarak is a liability and has to go. Until the temporary government is a civilian one and not a military one, Zulficar is a bit hesitant to fully celebrate saying, "Mubarak was not ruling this country for the last five years, it was already being ruled by Suleiman and the people around him," so we have to wary of "any New Egypt that keeps these people in place." Whether or not Mubarak handed power over to the military willingly or not, the main issue is that having Mubarak’s old cronies and the main recipients of U.S bribe money in power (even if for only a short while) is hugely problematic. For example, Tantawi, the current head of the Supreme Military Council, was Mubarak’s defense Minister for 25 years, and during his service to Mubarak was staunchly against any types of reforms [2]. As long as Egypt is under military rule it will remain under the old Regime’s (and its patrons) control, making real and meaningful change impossible.

My impression so far is that what happened in Egypt was indeed the result of the will and work of a people in revolt. The military, taking lead or orders from the U.S and Israel, took a wait-and-see approach and did not attempt to crush the popular uprising (partly because it was totally unexpected and too massive), and has chosen instead to attempt to highjack (and co-opt) the revolution and try to get ahead of the curve. As mainstream media report, the Egyptian Army is making unilateral declarations of reform and senior officers are unwilling to open up sustained and transparent negotiations with those who helped organize the revolution [4]. While the army may be attempting to "placate the people" with Constitutional reforms, it can and must not be the authority to make reforms if this is indeed to be a genuine popular revolution and if we are to believe that the army intends to hand over power to an elected government that truly represents the people (which would no doubt change the military’s constitutional reforms anyhow). There has to be a civilian temporary governing entity established immediately. As has been pointed out, "the Egyptian military…has no culture of democracy much less any history of fostering real change." Financed with support from overseas, "it is subject to influences from all its many newfound friends of 'democracy,’ especially its patrons in Washington" [5]. At present the military is doing what anyone would expect an autocratic state army (especial one funded from abroad) to do; it is attempting to highjack the revolution and to uphold the status quo, which in this case includes martial law [6] and continuing support for Israel [7].

Peoples’ Revolutions Must be Wary of Co-optation Efforts

For this and other reasons it is surprising that some of the youth leadership of the Egyptian revolution have been willing to sit down and negotiate with the army and even feel the army will meet some of their demands [8]. Activists need to be wary of cooperation with the military, especially one that is funded by the U.S [9]. Instead of sitting down at the negotiating table with the U.S-backed military, activists should be urging the public to stay in the streets—to stay in revolt—by the millions until a transitional authority representative of the people is put into place.

While youth activists are playing a great and important (and admirable) role in the Egyptian revolution, they must be wary of potential appropriation efforts. As previously argued [10], both before and during the revolution, the U.S has made efforts to cozy up to youth opposition movements and groups in Egypt. One way that the U.S has attempted to do so is through the promotion of social networking media as a "basic right" [11]. It is important to note that social networking sites like facebook are a double-edged sword in that they are a relatively open and free media that can be used to organize and connect people that at the same time, allows government or corporate parties access to the information and the ability to data mine and profile individuals. The question of which corporate entities own facebook (and their affiliations) is also highly problematic [12]. While online social networking is a great way for youth activists in Egypt (and anywhere) to connect, organize and politically mobilize, they must always be wary of how it opens them up to information gathering and undercutting efforts by state and business interests. This is not meant to criticize but to urge caution. The complexity of the dynamic between authentic uprising and those that may seek to undermine it puts one in the (delicate) position of fully supporting and applauding the success of the people’s revolution while cautioning that the people remain vigilant and not acquiesce to internal or external forces that threaten it.

The people of Egypt rose up from every walk of life and across the age spectrum. They bravely and admirably fought for and accomplished much more than people in the U.S may ever have the motivation or courage to achieve-- they stood up to and removed a corrupt, exploitative, authoritarian ruler. And while they may not articulate an overtly anti-systemic stance [13], the uprisings were more than a revolt against an individual despot; they were "a denunciation of neo-liberalism and the political suppression required to impose it" [14]. Tyrants and dictators in the Arab region "serve the interests of organized capital" [15]. In rising up against the despotic servants of organized capital, the people also (even if for some, inadvertently) rose up against this global system of oppression. For this reason, "steps are being taken to hijack the Arab revolution" [16]. It is important to note that unlike pre-World War II empires, the U.S functions as type of economic Empire (without direct colonies), meaning it dominates the world through the often violent and/or forceful spread of its economic system—predatory, monopoly capitalism—across the globe. The US’ main task after WWII was to continue opening doors to capitalist markets, and thus began the U.S imperial project of capitalist globalization. [17]. Through structural adjustment programs and other policies forced on poor countries by the (U.S-controlled) IMF and World Bank, U.S policy and Business elites grow richer while further impoverishing farmers and ordinary people in other countries. Tyrants and despots in the Arab region make this exploitative process possible and as such are backed or installed by the U.S. Thus it is not surprising that the U.S’ "strategic objectives are aimed at ultimately repressing and co-opting the organic revolutionary uprisings in the Arab world." [18].

As the leader and main beneficiary of global capital, the U.S has played both sides in efforts to co-opt and contain the Egyptian revolution. While Obama duplicitously proclaims that "Egyptians want nothing less than genuine democracy," the reality is that the U.S administration (past, present or future) does not desire, support and would never allow "genuine democracy" to exist anywhere in the world (including the U.S), especially not in the geo-politically important and oil rich and/or adjacent countries of the Middle East and North Africa. The people of the region’s passion and desire for change is profoundly authentic, so too is their suffering. Poverty, exploitation and unemployment are very real, and the people are desperate to change and end this. However, the last thing the U.S administration wants in Egypt or any Arab country is true democracy:

"They simply will not tolerate democracy. They will talk democratic change; they will never allow it; they will never tolerate it. They will, maybe, institute its façade, but never the real thing. That is what the people have to be wary of" [19].

Realizing that the momentum for change in the Middle East is real and unstoppable, the U.S is positioning itself to attempt to get ahead of the curve and reshuffle the deck so to speak. Thus we see it "turning on" and disposing of long-time faithful puppets like Mubarak (and next, Gadaffi?). To the U.S (and Israel) the individual dictators are disposable/expendable and do not matter "so long as the regime (one that serves their interests while repressing domestic progress, democracy etc) stays" [20].

This is because, as previously stated, policy and Business elites in the U.S benefit (greatly) from the poverty, unemployment, and desperation of ordinary people [21] (including people in the U.S). And through enormous bribes from the West—to ensure that client regimes sell out their own people and markets to neo-liberal structural adjustment programs (i.e. to resource and labour exploitation, plundering, privatization etc.)—so too do the despotic rulers and militaries of the Arab region.

In the case of Egypt it is interesting and important to note that the military has become a type of capitalist, business entity insofar as the Camp David Accords signed by Anwar Sadat turned much of the military into "nationalist capitalists":
"Since 1977, the military has not been allowed to fight anyone. Instead, the generals have been given huge aid payoffs by the US. They have been granted concessions to run shopping malls in Egypt, develop gated cities in the desert and beach resorts on the coasts. And they are encouraged to sit around in cheap social clubs. These buy-offs have shaped them into an incredibly organised interest group of nationalist businessmen" [22].

Today the military dominates Egypt’s economy [23]; "It's [the Egyptian military] a business conglomerate, like General Electric..." and it is "represented in virtually every sector of the economy" [24]. Thus the U.S-funded military are part of the corrupt and powerful business elite in Egypt and will continue to protect it. In this respect tolerating the (capitalist) military or negotiating with in the midst of a popular revolution may prove to be a step backwards.

The Universality of the Egyptian Case and the Need for a Global Uprising(s) Against Capital

The people of the Egyptian revolution must continue to rise up and push for deeper, systemic change that radically transforms Egyptian society, life, and especially the state. And the people of the world must join them. States (and their oppressive institutions)—though they may appear different on the surface or go by different labels— universally serve the capitalist imperialist system, enslaving the people and selling us out to the predatory and destructive forces of capital. This system is rotten to the core (or root) and this rot is intrinsic and intentional. Global capitalism is not merely a benign system "turned bad" or running out of control (although it is certainly both bad and rabidly out of control). Its social relations and processes are inherently predatory and exploitative. Capitalism—whether global or nationalist—is little more than an intricate funnel-system, which takes money and resources from the already impoverished or middle classes and funnels it to the mega-rich. It is a ravenous and destructive process, which is cyclical in nature and currently threatens every living thing on earth and the earth. This means that it (and the states that serve it) cannot be reformed; no matter how much cosmetic surgery we give it. For that which cannot be reformed, this may require the political equivalent of a lobotomy.

The people of Egypt and the Arab region are currently rising up for things that are universal and that all human beings desire and deserve—individual liberty, dignity, justice, the ability to feed and support our families etc. Like all of us, they just want to live. Ordinary, good people are caught in the middle of a global game of power politics and greed. The majority of us are not mega-rich. Despite our superficial differences (of race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, gender, sexuality etc.) we share a common humanity; and humanity is being oppressed, exploited and increasingly impoverished for the greed and power-lust of a very corrupted few (including corporate giants, Arab dictators, and U.S politicians and policy makers). This global behemoth/injustice is a danger to us all. Thus it is time for humanity to join together to form a healthy, meaningful, joyful, just and humane alternative to the current global abuse and barbarism.

Ghada Chehade is an independent political analyst, PhD Candidate, poet, and activist living in Montreal.


[1] http://www.presstv.ir/detail/164919.html




[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/wikileaks-files/8326225/Wiki
Leaks-Egypts-new-man-at-the-top-was-against-reform.html# ...

[3] See http://original.antiwar.com/lobe/2011/02/15/egypt-revolution

[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/15/egyptian-army-hi

See also http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/15/us-egypt-elbaradei

[5] http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23200

[6] http://mostlywater.org/egypts_military_declares_martial_law

[7] http://timelines.boston.com/2011/2/12/egypt-army-commits-to-

[8] http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/2011214

[9] The many nuances and divisions and conflicts within the Egyptian military (and between it and police and the secret service) are important to understand. Also, while they are paid-off by the U.S, some argue that this tends to breed resentment rather than loyalty in the Egyptian military (of course, the resentment still does not stop them from taking the money and serving U.S interests). This is a topic that is too large for the scope of this article but was examined comprehensively here--http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/2011231

[10] http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23018

[11] http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23018

[12] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B37wW9CGWyY

[13] Rather than representing symbols of radical resistance against global capitalism, some of the youth heroes of the Egyptian revolution seem to thrive within it. Wael Ghonim, for example, is an executive at mainstream electronic media corporate giant Google. Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently praised and congratulated Ghonim for the key role he played in the Egyptian "protest movement" (apparently reluctant to refer to it as a revolution).

[14] http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/2011214
It should also be note that as the colonial or imperial presence in the region, Israel (partnered with the U.S) benefits greatly from neo-liberal policies and the plundering they allow. For instance, for decades Israel has been stealing (and profiting from) Palestinian and Arab water. See-- http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=18299

[15] http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23050.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Foster, J. B. (2006). ANaked imperialism: The U.S. pursuit of global dominance.

Colas, A. & Saull, R. (2006). The war on terrorism and the American 'empire’ after the cold war.


[19] http://www.iraqwar.mirror-world.ru/article/242549

[20] Ibid.

[21] To learn about how U.S elites perpetuate and benefit from global poverty and suffering, and from war and global destabilization:

[22] http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/2011231

[23] http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23200

[24] Professor Robert Springborg

:: Article nr. 75255 sent on 23-feb-2011 03:19 ECT


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