Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Reflections on the 2013 Uprising in Egypt and the Reaction in Britain.

Journalists in Britain are already attempting to view the mass protests in Egypt, Brazil and Turkey as part of a wider global trend towards revolution against the 'neoliberal world order'. Each uprising has its own particular dynamic but Seumas Milne is already offering his version of these events.
As in 2011, the opposition is a middle-class-dominated alliance of left and right. But this time the Islamists are on the other side while supporters of the Mubarak regime are in the thick of it. The police, who beat and killed protesters two years ago, this week stood aside as demonstrators torched Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood offices. And the army, which backed the dictatorship until the last moment before forming a junta in 2011, has now thrown its weight behind the opposition.

Whether its ultimatum to the president turns into a full-blown coup or a managed change of government, the army – lavishly funded and trained by the US government and in control of extensive commercial interests – is back in the saddle. And many self-proclaimed revolutionaries who previously denounced Morsi for kowtowing to the military are now cheering it on. On past experience, they'll come to regret it.
Milne's interpretation is aptly titled Egypt, Brazil, Turkey: without politics, protest is at the mercy of the elites. Milne does not believe in spontaneous protests. Real democracy means the Jacobin-Bolshevik model whereby tightly organised vanguard elites channel protest into the politically correct direction.

So he knows a lot indeed about how organisation is essential in order to hijack revolutions.

Milne's sole criteria , however, for judging protests is whether they fit into his Manichean worldview of being objectively pro or anti-US. As a consequence, Milne's outlook , as always, seems to be based on the luxury of having things both ways so as to be 'right' no matter what the outcome of the mass protests.

Clearly, given that he has tended to back Islamists in the past, in so far as they were against US backed authoritarian regimes, he cannot now deny the failures of Morsi's regime nor does he bother to mention the fact many do not like its Islamisation of Egypt nor the attacks on the Coptic Christians.

Instead he chooses to use weasel language like this, 
The protesters have no shortage of grievances against Morsi's year-old government, of course: from the dire state of the economy, constitutional Islamisation and institutional power grabs to its failure to break with Mubarak's neoliberal policies and appeasement of US and Israeli power.
To get around these inconvenient facts he uses jargon such 'constitutional Islamisation'. Milne claims there are 'no shortage of greivances' but 'appeasement' of the US is not really up there as a main one: many protesters just seem to not want the US to back Morsi.

Milne's main concern is not that of the protesters, though he affects to be partly on their side, and it boild down to only one thing-whether the new government will be anti-US or not before it has even been constituted.
..the reality is, however incompetent Morsi's administration, many key levers of power – from the judiciary and police to the military and media – are effectively still in the hands of the old regime elites. They openly regard the Muslim Brotherhood as illegitimate interlopers, whose leaders should be returned to prison as soon as possible.
Yet these are the people now in alliance with opposition forces who genuinely want to see Egypt's revolution brought at least to a democratic conclusion.
There is no evidence that undefined 'opposition forces' are 'in alliance' with the army or Mubarak era elites as Milne insinuates . On the streets there is simply the hope that the army, which remains largely secular, will guard against any attempt by the Islamists to mobilise their supporters should Morsi actually be forced out.

That hope may well prove to be naive. But it is what the protesters demanding the revolution to be pushed towards its democratic conclusion actually want as well as an end to Morsi's retention of the structures of dictatorship and attempt to control the state for the exclusive benefit of his party of God.

Milne, by contrast, seems to care more about any revolutionary purity not being sullied by any relationship with the US despite the fact it's aid to Egypt is minute compared with the billions of dollars that oil rich Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar are investing under Morsi ( some $10bn so far )
If Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are forced from office, it's hard to see such people breaking with neoliberal orthodoxy or asserting national independence, as most Egyptians want.
By 'such people' Milne means any future government that isn't explicitly anti-American. That concern takes priority over any form of economic recovery to benefit Egyptian people no matter what their particular political allegiances are or mere 'formal' middle class ( i.e "bourgeois" ) democracy.

If Egyptians are split into two rival camps between those who support the Muslim Brotherhood and illiberal general will conceptions of democracy, with the prospect of majoritarian tyrannies, and those who oppose that for various reasons then there is obviously no consensus on what 'most Egyptians' want.

In accordance with doublethink, Milne both accepts that Egyptians want to bring the revolution to a democratic conclusion and denies it. If any new government-even a transitional ' managed change of government'-has the potential to move  towards the US for whatever reason, it isn't what 'most Egyptians' want.

Instead, the likelihood is that the Islamists, also with mass support, will resist being denied their democratic mandate, plunging Egypt into deeper conflict.
In other words, if Morsi's pro-US Muslim Brotherhood government is replaced by a more openly democratic Eygptian government that is favourable to the US and does not break with neoliberal policies then that will entail necessary resistance from the Islamists.

The fact is that the Egyptians in Tahrir Square seem to want a proper representational democracy first which protects minorities, is open and not full of cronies and corruption and does not try to impose one version of a Godly regime on all of them the better to enhance the power of the state over society.

Milne,however,  is only interested in 'framing' the perception of the Egyptian revolution for radicals in the West with a veneer of objectivity that can be easily peeled away by looking forensically at Milne's logic and language. He tends to fit the facts into a a rigid propaganda screed.

The Egyptian revolution is far more complicated than Milne is intentionally portraying it. There are two broad currents of popular opinion in Egypt.The first are those who believe in pushing Egypt towards becoming a more Islamic republic under Morsi.

Those who support Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are usually poorer and more uneducated with little understandind of what the procedures of a functioning democracy are beyond imposing the will of the 'Godly' people against those forces that are not.

The second consists of a broad coalition of the educated and more secular minded Egyptians, Coptic Christians and anti-Islamist Muslims who resent the Muslim Brotherhood because its puritanism and incompetence is bad for the economy and the tourist industry.

For years before the 2011 revolution, Egypt was trapped in a cycle of fanatical Islamist revolt and state repression. When terrorists murdered tourists in Luxor in 1997 there was mass revulsion against Islamists who reacted with a ceasefire against Mubarak.

Subsequently, the more moderate Islamists represented by Morsi built up a rival power base and were dedicated to working their way to power through a democratic mandate as a means to impose their brand of state power on society in a way that cannot be other than polarising and divisive.

The problem has been, set against the background of a collapsing economy, that the Morsi regime has been seen to be allowing radicalised Islamists some freedom to persecute minorities such as the Christians in order to retain a populist power base, a strategy that shows continuity with Mubarak's dictatorship.

The opposition to Morsi is based upon those politically minded Egyptians with a memory of constitutional rule for thirty years before Colonel Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak ended the free expression of opinion, imposed military rule and dictatorship.

Needless to say, Nasser is feted by Milne and Galloway and those in the farcical "anti-war" left in Britain which is only against imperialist wars and not revolutionary guerrilla wars that are lauded on the sole basis of "resistance" to any force not utterly hostile to the US.

The Egyptians who want a functioning democracy are being pragmatic and are not focusing their attention on the US. Only embittered monomaniacal ideologues such as Milne and Galloway see every event connected with the Arab Spring in relation to some vast geopolitical struggle against the US.

The point is not that the US has not played a part in shoring up corrupt authoritarian regimes in the Gulf to protect its oil and strategic interests. It is that in Egypt there is a social and cultural unity absent in other Arab lands and the first demand in Cairo is a proper democracy.

Milne is less interested in that than in whether any new government will be anti-US or not. It's his sole criteria for assessing whether a revolution is good or bad. The aspirations of the people on the ground are only as important as ciphers in his messianic geopolitical calculations.

In that sense, ironically, the 'hard left' in Britain follows closely the sort of thinking pursued by fanatical neoconservatives who actually did try to promote choreographed 'Colour Revolutions' from Serbia to Ukraine and Belarus, from Lebanon to Georgia ,that were to benefit pro-US elites.

Milne, however, is trying to impose a vulgar Marxist-Leninist class based analysis on events in Egypt. The reference to the 1848 revolutions in Europe hints at the idea that revolutions must be permanent to achieve true freedom or else they will be co-opted by state power.

Essentially Milne is cunningly setting up his propaganda so that if the military take control in Egypt or oversee a transition to the new state is pro-US, whether democratic or not, it is a 'betrayal'. Then he can say as journalists like to 'I Told You So'.

Thought this may not seem very important, Milne is a leading propagandist for the self appointed extra-parliamentary opposition to Anglo-American foreign policy in Britain.  He is a leading figure on Stop the War Coalition platforms and a supporter of George Galloway whom radical journalist John Pilger regards a man of principle.

Criticism of US foreign policies is one thing but the problem with ideological Anti-Americanism is that-a is clear with Milne-is that the reality on the ground in places such as Eygpt and Turkey is distorted to fit an agenda pleasing to many radical leftists in the West.

Not only does this lead to disinformation, it actually retards any ability to criticise what is actually wrong about Anglo-US foreign policy. Contrary to what many on the radical left believe, the US does not have some almost supernatural ability to manipulate events globally.

This paranoid worldview comes close to conspiracy theorising as what evidence does Milne actually have that the 'middle class' protesters are somehow in league with the army and the remnants of the Mubarak regime ? Milne has none and simply inserts an ideological template for interpreting any future development in place of actual evidence.

Milne wants to portray the Egyptian revolution in class warfare terms, the masses against the 'pro-US state'. He simply ignores the division between the Islamist conception of democracy and the constitutional democratic one supported by many protesters.

The US has interests in the balance of power in the Middle East but it simply cannot control events in the way Milne wants his fans to believe. It's necessary to maintain this fiction so that if or when things go wrong it will be wholly the fault of the US.

No doubt the US will respond to events in Egypt if things spin out of control and that reaction will be judged on whether it is beneficial to Egypt or not. The Anglo-US response to Syria has been largely been malign and based on a form of messianic Cold War thinking towards Iran as an 'existential threat'.

The irony is that the radical left opposition to Anglo-US foreign policies is equally based on a form of Cold War thinking given that "anti-war" groups are full of ex-communists who cannot get over the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed and no longer acts as a "systemic alternative".

There are, in my opinion, many in Britain who oppose Anglo-US foreign policies on constructive grounds and would like to put pressure on the government not to totally ignore public opinion in being prepared to play dangerous power games in the Middle East.

But these voices of sanity are drowned out by noisy rabid fanatics who hijack that opposition to espouse positions that rationalise jihadi Islamist terrorism, see the US as a unique and cosmically Evil Empire and often support just any regime on the sole grounds it is anti-US.

It is Orwellian and makes intelligent discussion of events in the Middle East impossible, not least when the British government itself resorts routinely to justifying decisions by oily 'public diplomacy' and there are no confrontational or real debates over foreign policy in Parliament.

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