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Egypt and the China Syndrome
By Dave Stratman

1. The demonstrators need to arm themselves. On Friday demonstrators captured the police stations in Suez, Alexandria, and at least some of them in Cairo, and I would suppose in other towns and cities as well. I've seen no reporting on this question, but I hope the demonstrators had the good sense to seize all the weapons they could.

2. Why do they need arms? Because in spite of all the happy, excited words and brave deeds and the huge throngs of people, this could all disappear in the face of a police/military crackdown. Remember China in 1989? Though most of the Western reporting focused on the students in Tiananmen Square to the exclusion of huge workers' demonstrations in Shanghai and numerous cities, the Chinese uprising was on a scale as great as what is happening in Egypt. Remember the pictures of vast numbers of people emerging from their homes in Beijing to embrace and fraternize with the soldiers a week before the crackdown? Remember the rumors that the top rulers had fled the country or at least had packed their bags? Then came the massacre at Tiananmen (and at other places around the country, but the massacres of mere workers went unreported in the West) and a ferocious country-wide repression. The celebratory, happy, exciting feelings of those weeks became but a distant memory. The Chinese movement of workers and students challenged the power of the Communist ruling power. Only one of them could survive. The only way forward for the popular movement was the violent overthrow of the Communist ruling power. This overthrow could only have succeeded if they had declared revolution to be their intent; only on this basis--that is, that they were serious about overthrowing the government--could the great many sympathetic soldiers have risked everything to join them. The students seemed to be unclear about the stark choices. The workers were clearer but had no weapons and insufficient organization.  

The Egyptian movement needs to move beyond calling for the ouster of Mubarak and declare that they are going to overthrow the state power of the rich and create a new society. This is the only basis on which they can win, because it is the only path to meaningful change and the only basis on which large numbers of soldiers can join the revolution. Anything less and the movement will either be drowned in blood, as in China, or it will be co-opted with elections or phony changes. Of course, elements of the demonstrators may have done all these things already--I simply don't know.

3. The Muslim Brotherhood are enemies of the people and secret allies of the US and the ruling elite. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was created in 1928 by a young Islamic scholar by the name of by Hassan al-Banna "with a grant from the British-owned Suez Canal Company, and over the next quarter century British diplomats, the intelligence service MI6, and Cairo's Anglophilic King Farouq would use the Muslim Brotherhood as a cudgel against Egypt's communists and nationalists...." (Robert Dreyfuss, Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, p. 46) The origins of the Muslim Brotherhood should come as no surprise. The US and political Islam have been close allies since 1947, when the US installed the House of Saud to rule over Saudi Arabia's vast oil reserves; the House of Saud is loyal to Wahabism, one of the most reactionary of Islamic sects. Since then the US has used political Islam to lure disaffected young workers and farmers away from democratic, anti-capitalist revolutionary ideas towards reactionary religious ideas and leaders. The US alliance with political Islam is sometimes overt, sometimes secret. The secret US and Israeli alliance with TIME's 1979 Man of the Year, the Ayatollah Khomeini, was brought to light during the Iran/Contra hearings, when it became known that Israel had been supplying Iran with weapons in return for cash which it sent to fund the US-backed Contras in Central America. In the same year as the Iranian revolution, the US openly recruited, organized, trained, and armed over 100,000 mujahadeen--Islamic fundamentalists--to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, using one Osama bin Laden as an intermediary and money man. Political Islam has replaced the Soviet Union as the enemy with which the US government frightens Americans while it secretly works with Islamic fundamentalists to control workers in all the lands touched by Islam.

There are two great dangers from the presence of the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt. One is that, either in reality or as a media fiction, the Egyptian revolution will be characterized as an Islamic revolution. This would dramatically undercut support for the revolution in the West and would undermine its ability to spread the revolutionary idea to all the many countries which are in desperate need of revolution, from Greece to the US. A second is the awful possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood, in the event of a revolution, gains the use of police power, and would do as Khomeini did in June-July of 1980: liquidate all the leftist elements, the workers and students, involved in the revolution. This is the great service that Khomeini performed for US and international capital. It is a service which the US will, I am sure, seek to be performed by the Muslim Brotherhood should it come to that.

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