The 2013 military coup in Egypt

Egypt began 2013 under the rule of the right-wing government of the Muslim Brotherhood, headed by President Muhamed Mursi, who had won a narrow victory in the 2012 presidential election over the candidate backed by the military.

The WSWS warned that the Mursi regime was incapable of satisfying the demands of the masses:

The basic impulse for the overthrow [in 2011] of [former dictator Hosni] Mubarak came from the working class. It was when millions of workers moved into struggle to redress decades of social and political oppression that Mubarak was ditched by the regime. But today, nearly 25 percent of Egypt’s 80 million population is in desperate poverty, as inflation skyrockets and President Morsi is set to impose savage cuts under instructions from the International Monetary Fund.

A Perspective published January 30, written by Johannes Stern and Joseph Kishore, warned of the increasingly open violence by the military against the working class, and called for the independent mobilization of the working class to seize power, in opposition to the military, the Muslim Brotherhood and the liberal National Salvation Front headed by Mohammed ElBaradei. All these were factions of the Egyptian bourgeoisie. The Perspective concluded:

Two basic tasks emerge from the social and political logic of the Egyptian Revolution. First is the establishment of independent organs of working class power. The foremost examples of fighting organizations of the working class and oppressed masses were the soviets established by the Russian working class that came to power in the October 1917 revolution. The working class cannot rely on the bourgeois state. It must develop its own forms of organization that will become the basis for the conquest of state power.

Second is the development of a revolutionary leadership that can provide the strategic direction necessary to guide these workers’ organizations in the struggle for power.

The Egyptian working class continually demonstrated its determination to fight. A rebellion at Port Said included a general strike by shipyard workers and forced the military to intervene to prevent any shutdown of the Suez Canal, a key artery of global commerce and the biggest source of revenue for the government. After a visit to Egypt by US Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by more strikes and protests, parliamentary elections were suspended March 9.

In response to the continuing unrest, there was open discussion of the imposition of martial law. In an effort to divert social tensions in a reactionary sectarian direction, the Muslim Brotherhood tacitly encouraged attacks on the Coptic Christian minority.

The bourgeois liberal groups joined with the pseudo-left in a campaign against the Mursi government, called the Tamarod (Rebel) movement, which involved the collection of millions of signatures opposing the government’s policies and increasingly large public rallies, culminating in mass protests on the anniversary of Mursi’s coming to power.

The WSWS warned that the Tamarod platform, backed by bourgeois liberal, dissident Islamist and pseudo-left groups, as well as remnants of the Mubarak regime, offered no alternative to Mursi. The central question was an independent mobilization of the massive power of the Egyptian working class.

In order to overthrow Egyptian capitalism and replace it with a workers’ government fighting for socialist policies, the working class must create its own genuine organs of working class struggle, modelled after the Soviets (workers councils) that laid the basis for the conquest for power by the working class in the October Revolution in 1917 in Russia.

The military, headed by Defense Minister Abdel Fateh el-Sisi, used the Tamarod campaign as a screen for its preparation of a military coup which was launched on July 3, 2013. The initial report on the coup by the WSWS warned, “The removal of the hated Mursi regime has evoked jubilation. However sincere and deeply felt this sentiment may be, the fact is that Mursi’s overthrow has placed the army, not the masses, in power.”

In a Perspective published July 5, David North and Alex Lantier pointed to the mass mobilization of the population against Mursi which was being suppressed brutally by the military. They wrote:

The mass struggles of today have once again brought to the fore the crisis of revolutionary leadership in the working class. The objective conditions for socialist revolution are emerging rapidly. But the problem of political leadership equal to the demands of a new revolutionary epoch remains to be solved. In Egypt, mass uprisings have toppled individual rulers and destabilized the political elite, but they have not succeeded in overthrowing the military, ending capitalist exploitation and oppression, or putting an end to the capitalist state.

The military engaged in increasingly bloody repression of the working class and youth. The US government backed these actions. As the WSWS noted, “The clearest sign of the reactionary character of the army coup is that it has Washington’s support. The Obama administration has refrained from labeling it a coup, which might trigger a cut-off in US financial aid to the Egyptian military.” On July 8, the military slaughtered 51 supporters of the Mursi government protesting outside an Army barracks in Cairo.

The coup was welcomed by the liberals and the pseudo-left, with both the Revolutionary Socialists (RS) and their international co-thinkers, the International Socialist Organization (ISO), issuing statements that portrayed the military as acting under popular pressure to remove Mursi. ISO leader Ahmed Shawki went so far as declare: “[W]hile the military is in the streets and has overstepped the constitutional limits to its power, I believe that it will seek some means to quickly return power to a civilian authority. I don’t think it wants to hold state power.”

A spokesman for the RS, Hossam El Hamalawy, said he was “not really interested in getting into this semantics game about whether it is a coup or not. … When you say that this is a military coup (or period), and you just stop there, you give the wrong impression that the military had woken up one day and decided to take over.” Johannes Stern explained in a commentary on the RS:

During the coup, the RS functioned as a front group for the Egyptian military and its imperialist backers as part of the Tamarod (“Rebellion”) alliance. By backing the coup, Tamarod provided the military with the opening it needed to oust Mursi and create the conditions for a crackdown against the working class. … As a military dictatorship rapidly takes shape in Egypt, it is obvious that the Tamarod movement was a political instrument of counterrevolutionary forces that mounted a coup aiming to restore the old Mubarak regime. In fact, Hamalawy’s own account shows that the RS cooperated closely with the forces that he acknowledges were “counterrevolutionaries.” While the RS never give any explanation for their extraordinary political shifts, there is one striking consistency in their political line: the RS’ twists and turns always mirror the shifts in American foreign policy.

By the end of the July, the military-based regime consolidated itself through a bloodbath of Muslim Brotherhood supporters and other anti-coup protesters, killing hundreds, arresting thousands and staging show trials at which the ousted president Mohamed Mursi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders were sentenced to death. The US government endorsed the ongoing mass repression, with Secretary of State Kerry claiming the military was “restoring democracy.”

At the end of August, the new military regime engineered the release from prison of jailed former dictator Hosni Mubarak. The WSWS wrote: “The junta is acting with brazen contempt for popular hatred for Mubarak, in line with its hostility to every demand of the working class. Since the coup, it has massacred over 1,000 unarmed protesters in several bloody crackdowns and announced plans to slash key subsidies, drastically increasing bread and fuel prices for workers.”

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