What Is Happening in Egypt

What is happening in Egypt is of immense importance, not only due to the importance of the country but also due to the radicality of the demand.  The demand is not just that Mubarak should leave — that is a first step — but that the system be changed, putting an end to the neoliberal system associated with the military dictatorship.  That is going to be a long series of battles for months — and perhaps even more — to come. . . .  The plan of the ruling system, supported by the United States of course, is not to allow that — it’s to make minimal concessions in order to safeguard the essentials of the system: that is, neoliberal capitalist integration into the global system, which is at the root of all these social devastations of course; but simultaneously a system aligned with US policy on the world and the region, which means also tolerating, allowing de facto, Israel to continue the devastation in occupied Palestine.  Now, this is the plan.  This is what Obama means by “smooth transition” — the transition which would lead to no change in fact, except some minor concessions, such as that Mubarak would personally leave.  That is what is on the agenda now: the movement will continue to develop, radicalize, be more and more demanding in-depth changes in society . . . social and economic policies which are bound to come into conflict with global capitalism. . . .

The movement is led, as usually in our times, by a series of small, or less than small, networks of organizations.  But there are also strong social movements in Egypt.  After all, some years ago, there were the strongest strikes that had ever been seen in fifty years on the whole continent of Africa, leading to new patterns of trade unions which are really independent of the system, as opposed to very conventional trade unions which are under the control of the government.  There is also a very strong peasant movement because there is a process of exclusion of peasants by the wealthier orders . . . and they are resisting.  All that is being more and more combined.

Of course there are political forces that are more or less organized.  There is a Left, a radical Left, in Egypt, including communists, who are not unimportant.

There is of course the Muslim Brotherhood.  But, as you have seen, the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t initiate the movement.  They jumped onto the train when they saw that the movement was so large that . . . it would be silly to remain out.  Now, the Muslim Brotherhood has a very reactionary leadership — it was supporting the regime, supporting the regime, by taking positions against the trade unions and strikes, against the peasant movement, with capitalism. . . .  Simultaneously, they have de facto accepted the leadership of the US globally and in the region, de facto accepted also tolerating Israel to continue the devastation of Palestine.  These are the facts, but of course, as always, they are demagogic: they say something but they do not do what they say.  In many, many cases they do exactly the opposite of what they say.  Now, it is obvious that, in the plan of the US and the ruling class of Egypt to manage the smooth transition leading to no change, they will be attempting to integrate them more. . . .

All the advances which are being achieved . . . remain still very vulnerable — very vulnerable because of a number of reasons.  First, imperialism and the imperialist triad — the United States, Europe, and Japan — have, still in their hands, a lot of economic and financial means to try to interfere in the affairs [of movements in struggle].  Beyond that they also have politically reactionary friends to support.  And they can consider coups d’état, military interventions.  After all, they are already intervening in the region — Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere; they could do more.  So, vis-à-vis that enormous political challenge, the movements of people — even if it’s gigantic as in the case of Egypt, millions and millions and millions of people demonstrating daily, more than demonstrating, organizing themselves more and more — are not yet at the level of the challenge.  They are not yet able to capture the power and to establish a new democratic popular alternative.

Samir Amin is an Egyptian economist.  This video was published by WSF Dakar 2011 on 7 February 2011.  The text above is an edited partial transcript of the video.  See, also, Samir Amin, “Tunisia: West Could Scupper Genuine Democracy with ‘Islamic Alternative'” (Pambazuka News, 27 January 2011); Samir Amin, “Movements in Egypt: The US Realigns” (MRZine, 3 February 2011); and Samir Amin, “The Trajectory of Historical Capitalism and Marxism’s Tricontinental Vocation” (Monthly Review, February 2011).

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