Feb 21, 2011
Even before massive protests in Egypt ousted the dictator Hosni Mubarak, the country’s ruling circles and the army, in collaboration with the U.S., gave a foretaste of what they call the “transition to democracy.” Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s Vice President and the head of his intelligence service, began to negotiate publicly with the opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood, a reactionary organization that uses religion. Suleiman, too, is gone now, leaving in charge Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who has been the minister of defense and commander-in-chief of the armed forces for 20 years – the same armed forces whose violence and repression imposed Mubarak’s dictatorship on the population.
If the U.S. pressured Mubarak to step down, it certainly was not out of any concern for democracy. After all, Mubarak was able to stay the dictator of Egypt for 30 years with the support of the big powers. But dictators can serve the wealthy inside their country and abroad only so long as they have control over their own people. The resilience of the protest movement showed that Mubarak was no longer able to play that role. As a result, the U.S. took its distance and pushed for another team – one that would be able to calm the anger and reestablish order – to take over.
Now Mubarak is gone, but if the change is limited to putting in place some of his deputies to prepare new elections in six months, then the main beneficiary of the confrontation the protesters put up will be the Muslim Brotherhood. Being legal and having a part in writing the new constitution, the Muslim Brotherhood is now part of the power structure that keeps the order.
The U.S., which has been pretending that Muslim fundamentalism is its main adversary, suddenly turns out to be collaborating with it. But there is nothing surprising about that. Many times in the past already, the U.S. has relied on reactionary forces, in order to oppose other political forces that threatened certain U.S. interests. In the case of Egypt, for example, the U.S. secretly supported and funneled money to the Muslim Brotherhood for decades via Saudi Arabia, to counter some aspects of the secular nationalism of the previous dictator Nasser.
So, while we can rejoice that the protest movements have kicked out the dictators Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, and that the movement has spread to other Arab countries like Jordan and Yemen, conscious workers have lessons to draw from what is happening in these countries.
The first lesson is that the people represent a considerable force, and that the worst of dictators can be overthrown once the fear created by terror gives place to the willingness to act. But another important lesson is that, as soon as the dictator is gone, imperialism and the local bourgeoisie will be at work to find a political solution which allows them to preserve what’s essential to them: exploitation and oppression.
The transition to democracy, advocated today by the West and the Egyptian bourgeoisie, doesn’t at all have the objective of easing the great misery of the exploited classes – caused by unemployment, and by wages so low that they amount to only one-fourth of those in Turkey, a country where wages are already very low. The transition they advocate doesn’t have the objective of doing anything about the striking inequalities between the rich and the poor. On the contrary. The goal of the big powers and local bourgeoisie is to throw overboard some leaders so that nothing changes – neither for the exploiters nor for the exploited classes.
Nor does talk about future elections mean the army’s hand will be taken off the throat of the population.
All this means that the so-called “transition” won’t bring the exploited classes bread or even democratic liberties. The exploited will get both only when they impose them themselves, by giving themselves the means for this: a policy that represents their class interests, and organizations that are determined to make them prevail.