Friday, November 18, 2011

Egyptians take to Tahrir Square again

I honestly am optimistic about Egypt.
Tens of thousands of Islamist and secular protesters gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square and Alexandria on Friday for a mass rally to pressure the ruling military council to hand over power to a civilian government.

The demonstration, dubbed the "Friday of One Demand," was called in response to a document of "supraconstitutional" principles floated by the government that declares the military the guardian of "constitutional legitimacy", suggesting the armed forces could have the final word on major policies even after a civilian parliament and president are elected.
The idea that policy should be insulated or protected from the will of the people in the Middle East has a lot of currency in Israel, a lot of currency in the US Congress and a lot of currency in the Barack Obama White House. But it does not have a lot of currency in Egypt.

Despite the parade of US delegations that have been meeting Egypt's current dictator, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi in secret, Egypt's military council has not come up with a rationale that they can express in public for why the people of the country should not set Egypt's policy. That is important because there is a limit to how hard anyone will fight for something they do not believe in.

The examples of Iran and Egypt have demonstrated conclusively for the region that the once widely-held idea that Islamism is inherently politically backward compared to secularism is wrong. Turkey's Attaturk and Egypt's Nasser may have subscribed to that idea but history has discredited it.

There still is a fight to come. With presidential elections delayed until 2013 and this weird multi-stage parliamentary election schedule that Tantawi has presented, it is now clear that the dictatorship is stalling on its commitment to relinquish power.

Barack Obama says that short term considerations may override what he claims is some long-term US value for democracy. Every indication is that he is solidly on the side of dictatorship with Tantawi, and that he is on that side for the sake of Israel. I'll say again that Barack Obama is the most spectacular Uncle Tom in world history.

On the other hand, fortunately, Obama and Tantawi cannot alone determine the future of Egypt. I don't think the outcome Obama and Tantawi are aiming for, where there is the veneer of a democratic parliament that not only does not set foreign policy, but that cannot even see the military's budget would be acceptable to the people of Egypt. It seems that Obama and Tantawi want to turn Egypt into Kuwait and call that democracy but I don't think Egypt would be governable by Tantawi if he makes a long-term attempt at it.

Egypt is the one important situation in the Middle East today. Its people have resumed demanding that it leave the colonial orbit Egypt currently inhabits along with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE and others. If the people of Egypt are successful despite the efforts of the United States and the current dictatorship, then a new Middle East will be born.


Pirouz_2 said...

When you say: "The examples of Iran and Egypt have demonstrated conclusively for the region that the once widely-held idea that Islamism is inherently politically backward compared to secularism is wrong. Turkey's Attaturk and Egypt's Nasser may have subscribed to that idea but history has discredited it."

If you mean that you dont believe that any Islamist movement is politically backward compared to any secular movement, then I agree with you. That is not correct (although I am not sure where Ataturk has ever expressed such an idea).
But I do believe that with Islamism no country could go very far and eventually it will either change its direction to secularism, or if it does not, Islamism will eventually lead it backward (even if somehow Islamism has led them forward for a time).

I think the history of Modarres and Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri vs. Mosaddegh during the constitutionalist revolution era, the history of Kashani vs. Mosaddegh in 1953 (and Kashani's full cooperation with coup d'etat),
the history of Irangate and the cooperation between Islamists in Iran with the likes of Michael Ledeen and Ronald Reagan shows the validity of what I say in Iran.

You can see a similar trend in Turkey and its Islamist movements as well.

By the way, I remember you were saying that you wouldnt mind commenting on any articles we suggest. Recently I read the following article by Samir Amin about Egypt. I was wondering what is your take on it:

Steve_in_miami said...

The reality is that Egypt for financially reasons must remain inside the colonial orbit.  No money from the US, instability.  Instability, no tourism money.  No tourism money nor US money, even more instability.  The real question for the Arab countries in the middle east without significant oil revenue is what are they going to do for a living?

Lasse said...

"Barack Obama is the most spectacular Uncle Tom in world history."

I agree, but also pity the guy because I doubt he has much room to maneuver regarding this issue.   Obama is the creation of the liberal wing of the Zionist political machine. He is the liberal George W Bush. He is as much as a black man as George W was a southern red-neck. 

Lidia said...

The reality is that Egypt WAS out of colonial orbit for years without oil. Iran with oil was in and out, regardless of oil.

Please, do not repeat the mistake of Adam Smith who said that Portugal MUST product port for Britons, who product non-agriculture goods. Not everything which is here MUST be thus. Ask Hegel, if you do not believe me :)

George Carty said...

To what degree though was Egypt under Nasser and Sadat truly independent?  Could it be argued that it was merely in the Soviet colonial orbit instead of the US colonial orbit?  After all it was the Soviets who paid for the Aswan High Dam, for example...

George Carty said...

Your name sounds Iranian, so I'm wondering what you think of my suggestion that the Islamic Republic may collapse in the near future even without any external attack.

My argument is that the rapid decline in religious faith in the 20th century western world was in part driven by falling birth rates.  Since Iran now has one of the lowest birth rates in the Muslim world (1.8 TFR -- comparable with many western countries), could this not also lead to a decline in piety there, which would have political consequences in the form of the Islamic Republic being replaced by a secular government?

Of course, many Western hawks though would still be hostile to Iran, as a plain "Republic of Iran" would almost certainly still be anti-Zionist.

Lidia said...

Nice try to equate Nasser and Sadat, by the way. But not holds any water :)

USSR was NOT a colonial power. What they got from Egypt for their support?

Steve_in_miami said...


Thank you for giving us a laugh on a Saturday afternoon.  I am SURE the people from Czech, the baltics, the Central Asian "stan" countries and so many other countries would state emphatically that the Soviet Union was indeed a colonial power.  By your argument, what has the US gotten?  Quite frankly, Egypt doesn't have much to give (my original point).  They are not much of a natural resource exporter (certainly not a strategic one), manufacturing center or center of science and technology.  The only reason the US or USSR is/has been/was a benefactor was for creating influence in the region. 

Pirouz_2 said...

Yes George, I am Iranian. But I am surprised you say that now, because we talked a few times before (about Marxism, and my idea that Iran is a liberal democracy).
Unfortunately right now I am a bit tight on time so I won't be able to read the article -which you have linked- in detail.
I don't understand though how falling birth rates should affect the religiosity of people. And since I am quite ignorant on the issue, I can't make any strong argument, but I thought the generation of 50's and 60's (in the west) were called "baby boomers"? And incidentally that corresponds the years where religion went through a rapid decline in the West (please correct me if I am wrong, I really dont know much about the issue).

As for Islamic Republic (in short IR) and its "implosion":
My friend, IR has been expected to "implode" for more than 30 years now. Islamic Republic is a developing country with a capitalist system, much like any other third world country (eg. Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Argentina etc.). As such -in my humble opinion- it is as likely to implode as any other developing country.
Incidentally I believe that Iran has changed significantly compared to what it was 25 years ago and it has become significantly more secular.

Pirouz_2 said...

Steve I disagree;
First in my view USSR was a hegemonic power but was not quite a "colonial power". You have to realize that Soviets subsidized many of their sattelite countries.
Second, US gets a LOT from Egypt. Partly what you said is true (ie. rulling Egypt would help USA greatly to rule middle east in general), but apart from that there is a huge economic gain that US gets out of Egypt (much like a lot of other developing countries which do not have too much of natural resources). Egyptians provide cheap labour (just as China and India do) and some market for the finished goods. Making hefty profits out of commodity production does not just need "natural resources" (ie. raw materials) but it also needs cheap labour and a market to sell the finished products.
As for Egypt needing US for its economy, I completely disagree. If Egypt tries to change the course of its economy from the line of Sadat-Mubarak to a direction more along the lines of production for the social needs of Egypt, it will not need USA. It is a difficult path to walk through but it is doable, it is in fact incomparablly more doable than going down the road of putting the country under the hegemony of IMF/World Bank (ie. Europe/USA) and hoping that through being robbed and exploited they will some how miraculously "develop". If Europe and USA had any magic wand for "development" they would probably use it for their own economy!  

Lidia said...

Pirouz-2 answer is good enough, and I would only add 2 points
1) also form non-western person

Was USSR imperialist? Well, imperialism has to do with capitalism, capitalist accumulation, transfer of wealth from other countries to the imperial centre, extraction of surplus value from the labouring masses of the imperialised countries, the enrichment of the imperialist bourgeoisie, enforcement of capitalist relations of production in the dominated countries etc etc. I don’t see how the word imperialist could be applied to USSR. East Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the very countries where Soviet forces suppressed the opposition, consistently had higher standards of living and per capita incomes than the Soviet Union itself. It supplied weapons to a host of national liberation movements but is not known to have gained anything materially in return. Countries like Nehruvian India and Nasser’s Egypt had very extensive economic relations with the USSR, and I know dozens of Indian officials who were directly involved in those relations but I have never known anyone complaining of Soviet exploitation of India’s economic weakness. For forces of national liberation in the tricontinent certainly, from Palestine to Cuba, the dissolution of the Soviet Union has been an unmitigated disaster. This is something very difficult to explain to western leftists.

Lidia said...

Now about Czech (the same one could easy find in Google about former USSR states) 

According to a poll commissioned by Czech Television on the occasion of
the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, two thirds of Czechs believe
politicians today are more corrupt than their predecessors before 1989.
Also, only a third of respondents said life today was better than under

So, after stopping being USSR "colony" not only 2/3 of Czechs are not better up, some of them are worse! I suppose it shows something about the nature of this "colony"

George Carty said...

Most empires exploit the periphery to enrich the centre.  The Soviet Empire (and to a lesser extent, the Czarist Russian empire) was the other way round for the most part -- impoverishing the centre to subsidize the periphery.

One place however where the Soviets did engage in more-or-less classic colonialism however was the "Stans" of Central Asia.

Back to Egypt however, I can't see that there's much to exploit there (which was Steve_in_miami's point).

George Carty said...

Maybe "collapse" was a misjudged choice of word on my part -- what I meant is that the country would cease to be Islamist due to the secularization of its population.

Lidia said...

1) to do something exactly the other way usually does not mean - do the same. To give a poor is not the same as to take from poor - just ask Robin Hood, was he the same as sheriff?

2)And I am very interested to hear what facts are supporting the claim that "Soviets did engage in more-or-less classic colonialism". For ex, did building universities with instruction on the native language count as " 
classic colonialism", even "more-or-less one"?

Pirouz_2 said...

Just looking at the trend of the past 30 years one becomes tempted to say that perhaps in future population will become more and more secularized. But then again there are opposite tendencies which may hinder or even reverse such a change. For example in my opinion a great deal depends on how much the left will actually behave in an anti-capitalist way and present a real alternative. In the political arena and as an alternative to the current mode of production and distribution, any room which the left might leave vacant may very likely be filled up by the religion.