Tag Archive: egypt


socialist-actionFive Precedents For Understanding Egypt’s July Coup

 

Socialist Action 2nd October 2013
The Egyptian army’s July coup was met with widespread confusion  on the left. Within Egypt and internationally some socialists actually supported  the coup, others were explicitly neutral in the struggle between the Muslim  Brotherhood government and the army.
The article by John Riddell that appears below considers these  issues from the point of view of the experience of the international communist  movement from 1917 to the 1930s, drawing out why these positions are dangerously  wrong.
 
John Riddell, a Canadian Marxist, is the foremost historian of  the Comintern and translator of its proceedings. His article is reproduced, without  permission, to inform the debate amoungst activists in Guildford,

Five precedents for understanding Egypt’s July coup

By John Riddell, September 15, 2013
Two months after Egypt’s generals ousted its elected Muslim Brotherhood  government, there is still a wide spectrum of views among socialists regarding  the meaning of this event. (See my “Egypt:  Socialists Need to Rethink”) This discussion can be deepened by considering  a few precedents from socialist history – some well known, others obscure.
 
1. 1917: The Kornilov coup
My first and best-known example of workers’ response to an attempted rightist  coup took place a year and a half before the Comintern was founded. In August  1917, workers and soldiers in Russia united to block an attempted coup by  General Lavr Kornilov against the Provisional Government of Alexander Kerensky.  At the time, Kerensky’s regime, a coalition of reformist and bourgeois forces,  was blocking progress on key revolutionary goals like peace and land reform  while repressing the Bolsheviks and other revolutionary forces.
The Bolsheviks recognized that the working class, not Kerensky, was the real  target of the reactionary military forces. Together with most other Left  currents and in alliance with Kerensky, the Bolsheviks rallied workers to oppose  the coup. Workers won a quick victory, while the Bolsheviks and their allies  gained respect and confidence from the masses. This outcome set the stage for  the Russian soviets to assume power two months later.
Surprisingly, discussions in the Comintern during its early years contain  almost no references to the Kornilov episode. In 1930–33, however, Leon Trotsky  repeatedly cited this experience as a precedent for the united front of  working-class forces needed in Germany to beat back the rising danger of  Fascism. His fullest treatment was in section  6 of What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat (1932). A detailed analysis of resistance to Kornilov appeared in two chapters  of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, published in  English the same year.
 
2. 1920: The Kapp putsch
Two years later, workers in Germany faced a similar situation. A Social  Democratic-led government had waged a brutal war against revolutionary workers  and was building up the state’s forces of repression. On March 13, 1920,  however, far-right forces made a bid for power. They led army detachments in  seizing the capital, seeking to replace constitutional government with military  dictatorship. The coup became known by the name of one of its leaders, Wolfgang  Kapp. Trade unions reacted to the coup with a call to general strike. Amazingly,  the German Communist party (KPD) called on workers not to take part in the  struggle. The strike was immensely powerful, and the KPD rapidly rectified its  stance. Only four days into the strike, the coup regime was toppled. (The story  of the Kapp Putsch is well told in chapter 18 of Pierre Broué’s masterly  history, The German Revolution 1917–23, Merlin: 2006.)
Despite their initial error, the Communists played a leading role in several  aspects in the anti-Kapp movement. In one important industrial city, Chemnitz,  the KPD led workers’ councils, representing all workers’ parties, in forming a  municipal government during the period of most intense struggle. Communists took  part in armed workers’ detachments that, for a time, drove the army out of  significant areas of the country. At one point, the KPD gave guarded support to  a union call for a government of unions and workers’ parties.
During the Kapp struggle, workers in action provided clear answers to a  series of strategic issues that were much debated in the Comintern at that time:  united front, response to rightist coups, and governmental power. However, after  an initial flurry of debate, the Kapp experience was rarely mentioned in  Communist International discussions, and its lessons were not assimilated.
 
Drawing the parallel
There are striking similarities between the Kornilov and Kapp experiences and  the military takeover in Egypt. Still, I have seen only one attempt to draw the  parallel: by Vancouver-based socialist Roger Annis.
A few days after the Egyptian takeover, Annis  wrote of the Kornilov and Kapp coup attempts: “These were both cases of  military intervention by the old orders to try and forestall and ultimately  destroy developing revolutionary situations. The Russian and German military  officers played on political deadlocks in the respective political situations in  which neither the capitalist nor the working classes could deliver a decisive  blow that would decide who would rule. In both cases, the immediate targets of  intervention were discredited or increasingly unpopular governments led by  social democrats or political equivalents.” The Egyptian situation is different in important ways, Annis says, but  “perhaps there are useful analogies here.”
 
3. 1923: Abstention in Bulgaria
During the Comintern’s early years, its Bulgarian section, a formidable mass  party, was widely regarded as the Communist movement closest to the Bolsheviks  in history and outlook. Bulgaria was ruled from 1919 by a radical peasant party,  the Agrarian Union, led by Alexander Stamboliski. Threats of a rightist coup  against his regime did not, however, lead to an effective alliance between the  peasant forces and the Communist Party. By late 1922 the Agrarians and  Communists were locked in enmity.
Elections were held April 1923, and the Agrarians were re-elected with an  absolute majority of the vote. Two months later, the rightist bourgeois  opposition mounted a coup to oust the peasant government. Resistance was  crippled by abstention of the Communist Party, which declared its neutrality.  The Stamboliski government had “used its power to defend its class and clique  interests,” the party declared. “The working masses in town and village will not  participate in the armed struggle … between the urban and rural bourgeoisie,” it  stated. (Joseph Rothschild, The Communist Party of Bulgaria, p. 120) The  coup triumphed rapidly.
The Comintern Executive Committee sought to convince the Bulgarian party of  its disastrous error. The response in Bulgaria to this critique, however, was a  premature and poorly prepared attempt at an uprising by the Communist forces  alone, which was quickly suppressed. The Comintern response to this fiasco was  ambiguous. Comintern President Gregory Zinoviev endorsed the Bulgarian party’s  conduct, while the Comintern’s representative in Bulgaria condemned the party  for “having shown itself incapable of maneuver and of leading the mass  movement.” (Broué, Histoire de l’Internationale Communiste 1919–1943, pp.  333–35)

4. 1926: A ‘socialist’ general’s coup in Poland
In our fourth example, Communists in Poland actually fought alongside rebel  army detachments in a brief civil war against defenders of a constitutionally  established but discredited bourgeois government. The coup’s leader, Joseph  Pilsudski, reputedly represented the bourgeoisie’s more progressive wing.  Indeed, Pilsudski had long been a leader of right-wing Socialist forces in  Poland, before emerging as the leader of Polish armed forces on the  Austro-Hungarian army during World War 1 and then as the president of newly  independent Poland from 1918 to 1922.
In 1926, Poland was gripped in economic crisis. Its rightist government, just  installed, was displaying authoritarian ambitions. Pilsudski, formally retired,  in fact led and inspired the bourgeois opposition. The Communist Party declared  conditional support for Pilsudski’s movement, “if they fight to defend  democratic institutions.” On May 13, troops loyal to Pilsudski rose in revolt;  the Communist and Socialist parties declared a general strike in their support.  The strike, widely effective, was decisive in enabling the rebels to win out in  a four-day civil war. Although Communists fought on the rebel side, they were  being arrested by Pilsudski’s forces even before fighting ended. Pilsudski’s  regime, which lasted until his death in 1935, preserved some democratic forms  but was heavy-handed and repressive toward the working class.
Party members quickly regretted what they ruefully called their “May mistake”  but differed in explaining what the mistake was. By now, the Comintern was  deeply influenced by Stalinism, which obstructed a correction. In 1927, an  ultraleft current took the party’s helm, wrongly explaining the Pilsudski  movement to be “fascist.” (Broué, Histoire, pp. 472–75)
 
5. 1932. Germany’s ‘red referendum’
Six years later, the German Communist Party launched a campaign in support of  a Nazi initiative to unseat the Social Democratic-led government of Prussia, the  state containing two-thirds of the German population and its capital, Berlin. By  this time, the Comintern had embraced Stalin’s assertion that Social Democracy  represented another form of fascism, “social fascism,” which had to be opposed  as strongly as the Nazis. The Communist Party claimed it would transform the  Nazi initiative into a “red referendum” for workers’ rule.
The Nazi initiative was not in itself a coup, but it was an important step  along the road to fascist power. If the referendum had won, it would have forced  new elections, which the Nazis and their allies felt sure they would win. Even  with Communist support, however, the Nazi campaign fell short, winning 38% of  the vote.
The Communist Party declared the result to be a victory, “the greatest blow  of all that the working class has yet dealt Social Democracy.” Trotsky commented, “The most rabid foe could not have thought up a surer way  of inciting the Social Democratic workers against the Communist Party and of  holding up the development of the policy of the revolutionary united front.” (Tony  Cliff, Trotsky: 1929-40)
It was three years before the Comintern abandoned this sectarian approach –  only to flip over to a “people’s front” policy that aimed for alliances with  parties of the imperialist bourgeoisie.

Summary
What can be learned from these disparate examples? Some conclusions:
· None of these examples is fully comparable to the events in Egypt. There is  no textbook here.
· Even in the Comintern’s best years, its parties sometimes, under the  pressure of events, became entangled in complicity with right-wing military  coups.
· In every such case, Communists soon realized that involvement or tacit  support had been a serious error.
· The most damaging aspect of these episodes was not the error itself but the  failure to correct it clearly and openly.
This article is reproduced, without  permission, to inform the debate amoungst activists in Guildford,Voag-Logo-Darker
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In Defence Of Our Communities

The VOAG (Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford) has been passed Unison’s publi statement on the London riots, released yesterday. We congratulate Unison in speaking up and republish their statement below.

From last weekend there has been rioting and looting spreading across London. People in working class communities have looked on with fear as riots destroyed local shops and left some people homeless. Clearly we don’t support opportunistic looting or for acts of random violence. However, if we are to avoid a return to the social unrest and public disorder seen in the 1980s, this demands a response from our community and its leaders which goes beyond mere condemnation.

Why are our young people so angry and how can we unite our community?
The police.
The police killing Mark Duggan, acted as a spark for the recent riots. This was not an isolated incident. Since 1990 320 people have died in police custody (or following other forms of contact with the police). Stop and search is used as a daily form of humiliation, especially of young black men. In the student protests we saw violence used routinely against political protestors, including school students.

Tory cuts destroying our communities.
The deliberately savage reductions in public spending imposed upon our communities by the Coalition Government weaken our communities and create anger and despair.

In March Haringey Council approved cuts of £84 million from a total budget of £273 million. There was a savage 75% cut to the Youth Service budget, including: closing the youth centres; Connexions careers advice service for young people reduced by 75%; and the children’s centre service reduced. Haringey has one of the highest numbers of children living in severe poverty, and unemployment in the borough is among the highest in the UK. In London as a whole, youth unemployment is at 23%.

Lambeth Council have announced their intention to cut £76million from their budget in the next 3 years. This includes reducing adventure playground opening hours to weekends and holidays only; £1.45 million cut from Youth Centres and Holiday activities; Children’s social care cut but by £3.5million, deep cuts in the Connexions service with opening hours halved, and cuts in Buildings Schools for the Future; alternative education provision (Closing OLIVE School and cutting back Park Campus), and cutting the Young & Safe project which aims to reduce youth crime.

At the same time last year alone, the combined fortunes of the 1,000 richest people in Britain rose by 30 per cent to £333.5 billion. The wealthy bankers whose conduct caused the economic crisis continue to be rewarded with multi-million pound bonuses, while the jobs and pensions of public sector workers – the people dealing with the aftermath of the riots today – are under threat.

What needs to be done?
In order to avoid further riots two things are necessary. First, our police service must become transparently accountable to the communities it serves. There is legitimate and longstanding community concern about deaths arising from police action, and action to address this concern must not get lost in the cacophony of condemnation following the riots.

Secondly, the Government must reverse the disproportionate reductions in local government spending imposed upon Inner London so that we can maintain the social infrastructure which gives our young people a stake – and a voice – in our society. If the Government will not do this, then the responsibility falls upon Labour-led local authorities in London to represent the interests of their electors by fighting, with all means at their disposal, for the resources necessary to provide the vital services which sustain the cohesion of our communities.

The answer does not lie in David Cameron’s “Big Society” or Lambeth’s own “Co-operative Council” but in the defence of public services from a reckless attack by a Government which is indifferent to the social damage being wrought by their economic policies, some of the consequences of which have now been played out on the streets of London.

Lambeth Council needs urgently to review cuts already agreed and being made in services to young people in particular if we are to avoid further disorder and damage to our diverse, vibrant and tolerant community.

UNISON calls for an organised defence of public services and our communities, led by trade unions and community organisations and pledges to support a public meeting in Brixton in the next few days to discuss how to build this campaign.
A MUST READ:  Statement By Workers Power on the London Riots

Message from Colonel Mu’ummar Qaddafi

Recollections of My Life: Col. Mu’ummar Qaddafi, The Leader of the Revolution.
Published by Pravda, April 5, 2011.

For 40 years, or was it longer, I can’t remember, I did all I could to give people houses, hospitals, schools, and when they were hungry, I gave them food. I even made Benghazi in to farmland from the desert, I stood up to attacks from that cowboy Reagan, when he killed my adopted orphaned daughter, he was trying to kill me, instead he killed that poor innocent child. Then I helped my brothers and sisters from Africa with money for the African Union.

I did all I could to help people understand the concept of real democracy, where people’s committees ran our country. But that was never enough, as some told me, even people who had 10 room homes, new suits and furniture, were never satisfied, as selfish as they were they wanted more. They told Americans and other visitors, that they needed “democracy” and “freedom” never realizing it was a cut throat system, where the biggest dog eats the rest, but they were enchanted with those words, never realizing that in America, there was no free medicine, no free hospitals, no free housing, no free education and no free food, except when people had to beg or go to long lines to get soup.

No, no matter what I did, it was never enough for some, but for others, they knew I was the son of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the only true Arab and Muslim leader we’ve had since Salah-al-Deen, when he claimed the Suez Canal for his people, as I claimed Libya, for my people, it was his footsteps I tried to follow, to keep my people free from colonial domination – from thieves who would steal from us.

Now, I am under attack by the biggest force in military history, my little African son, Obama wants to kill me, to take away the freedom of our country, to take away our free housing, our free medicine, our free education, our free food, and replace it with American style thievery, called “capitalism,” but all of us in the Third World know what that means, it means corporations run the countries, run the world, and the people suffer. So, there is no alternative for me, I must make my stand, and if Allah wishes, I shall die by following His path, the path that has made our country rich with farmland, with food and health, and even allowed us to help our African and Arab brothers and sisters to work here with us, in the Libyan Jamahiriya.

I do not wish to die, but if it comes to that, to save this land, my people, all the thousands who are all my children, then so be it.

Let  this testament be my voice to the world, that I stood up to crusader attacks of NATO, stood up to cruelty, stood up to betrayal, stood up to the West and its colonialist ambitions, and that I stood with my African brothers, my true Arab and Muslim brothers, as a beacon of light. When others were building castles, I lived in a modest house, and in a tent. I never forgot my youth in Sirte, I did not spend our national treasury foolishly, and like Salah-al-Deen, our great Muslim leader, who rescued Jerusalem for Islam, I took little for myself…

In the West, some have called me “mad”, “crazy”, but they know the truth yet continue to lie, they know that our land is independent and free, not in the colonial grip, that my vision, my path, is, and has been clear and for my people and that I will fight to my last breath to keep us free, may Allah almighty help us to remain faithful and free.

Col. Mu’ummar Qaddafi, 2011/05/04
Translated by Professor Sam Hamod, Ph.D.
Copyright Col. Mu’ummar Qaddafi, – Mathaba.Net 

Will 2011 be 1968?

2011 – A year of mass struggle and revolutions
By Simon Hardy, of Revolution Socialist Youth group and the National Campaign Against Fees And Cuts. February 2011.

It is only February and already this year has seen mass protests and revolutionary movements bring down governments, defying dictators and the armed thugs that protect them. 2011 could be ‘one of those years’ like 1968 where the whole world seems to erupt in resistance to capitalism and oppression.

So why is it happening?
It all comes from class, the growing divide between the rich who run society and those of us who work, contributing our labour to create the bosses profit. In times of bounty when capitalism is booming the profits are privatised into the hands of the elite and powerful. The rest of us make do with the scraps. But when times go bad the losses are socialised, are forced upon us, rammed down our throats whilst the bankocracy bay for blood.

Everywhere the growth of inequality is apparent; it is a consistent and constant trend, the natural result of the market system that exercises such a dictatorship over all of us.

But people resist. They resist because they have to. And these acts of resistance are our response to their system, to the horrors that they inflict upon us. We fight back against the chronic problems, the poverty and the dictatorships. But we fight against the acute crisis, the recession, the cuts, the job losses and the lies of the capitalists.

The class nature of these attacks is clear – the people in power want the rich to get richer. They see it as a social good. It is part of their system – part of how they see the world and its workings that the poor must be made to suffer. They see us simply as the raw material for exploitation, not as people but as units, as objects, as parts of a machine that exists only to make them profit.

The movements that have emerged in many countries in Europe are a result of the massive austerity measures. The welfare state is under serious attack as the bankocracy and the captains of industry that run the economy and pull the strings demand that the cost of the recession be passed onto the working and middle classes. The struggles so far have won some small victories and slowed down a few of the measures but have been unable to stop the government and capitalists’ attacks. The reason for these must be debated and understood, which is why the Revolution Socialist Youth group does not shy away from criticising those who claim to lead the movement but who invariably lead it to defeat.

Yet the mood to resist has not gone away, and Europe will see more movements and strikes in the coming months. But protests and strikes can also emerge around defensive issues to do with workers rights as the recent events in Wisconsin prove. As part of an emergency budget Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has not only slashed public spending and cut jobs but has also scrapped collective bargaining for the state’s public sector employees. All of this is happening in a country where millions more Americans are on food stamps because their wages aren’t enough to feed their families.

“All dictators will fall”
Today all eyes are on the revolutions happening in the east. In North Africa and the Middle East millions of people live in conditions, which span across borders and across generations.

People suffering a lack of choice, unemployment, humiliation and a lack of dignity live in such conditions precisely because the western world lives in relative luxury. The imperialist nations suck the third world dry of resources, keeping most of the spoils in the hands of the ruling classes. This leaves the countries often under developed and unable to improve their economies substantially. There is little or no welfare, yet chronic structural unemployment. Low wages are the norm as multinationals encroach into the territories, demanding cheap labour and loose labour laws. Privatisation strips the nation of its infrastructure, the market commodifies everything and nothing is safe from the expansion and demands of capital to accumulate and control.

The conditions of life make the people restless, angry, they want change. But the capitalists can’t give it to them, not without threatening their own profits. The west sends some aid for food and other things, together with patronising charity from those with money to burn. But mostly we send aid in the form of guns and tanks.

Egypt gets $1.3billion a year. Bahrain, the poorest of the gulf coast states, gets $19.5 million a year; Yemen is given $35 million. Israel receives £3 billion, in order to police the Palestinians and act as the gendarme for imperialism in the region.

The imperialists take their futures and give them tyrannies. This is the injustice of the world we live in today – it is all transparent, it is all above board. It is signed, stamped and approved by a hundred governments. Every major world institution shapes this process and approves of the final result.

Half of the Middle East and North African population is under the age of 24. They are largely educated, but with no prospects for careers. Some try and go to the west to find work and to send money home, but the west is closing its borders tighter every year. Mohammed Bouazizi, the 23 year old graduate who burnt himself to death in Tunisia, launched the movement which toppled President Ben Ali. Bouazizi had no job, he was selling food on the street to try and make some money. He was a victim of imperialism’s brutality, and his despair drove him to suicide. How many others felt like him?

The chronic problems are compounded by the acute crisis of the world recession. But now all the discontent is connected through the new technologies. In countries that exercise strict censorship over the print media, the social media websites play a crucial role in networking, exchanging ideas, and creating the conditions for civil debate and mobilisation.

Bloggers: The new revolutionary pamphleteers
The blogosphere is the modern equivalent of the revolutionary pamphleteers of the European and American revolutions. Bloggers are the critical moles, burrowing away under the regime, spreading dissent, and daring to free their speech. They are brave, and can face imprisonment or worse. Navid Mohebbi – an 18 year old – was arrested, imprisoned and beaten for blogging on women’s rights in Iran. Kareem Suleiman in Egypt was imprisoned for 4 years for criticising Mubarak. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

But as the US journalist Thomas L Friedman said, referring to the Iranian Green movement in 2009, “Bang bang beats tweet tweet.” The power and might of the state cannot be overcome through Facebook or Twitter. Material force must be overthrown by material force – and only a movement involving millions can truly challenge the power of these military and religious dictatorships. That is what we have seen emerge in Tunisia and Egypt, the revolutions are in full flow, they have won important victories but there is still more work to do.

And the victories won so far in Egypt have given hope to millions across the region that they too can fight and win. The spread of these movements, their pace, their shared tactics and messages all stem from the shared conditions that people live under, whether they are Arabs or Persians, Muslims or Christians, on the gulf coast or in North Africa.

Every dictator trembles with fear at the thought that the protests will come to their country, bring down their regimes, and force them into exile. Everywhere they talk of security, they claim the protesters are not patriots, they mumble darkly about ‘outside forces’. This chatter cannot hide what is really happening. Revolutions are happening. This is not being conducted by the US or EU, in fact it is happening against their will. The Iranian regime will laugh at the downfall of a US stooge like Mubarak and praise the people in Tahier Square, but they will mercilessly try and destroy anything similar happening in their
own country.

The year 2011 will be a year of mass resistance and protest. It will shake the world and change it forever. Everything depends not on the capacity of the masses to struggle and sacrifice, that much has been proven already. It depends on whether a political party and programme can be developed which channels the energy and determination into a conscious assault on the very social relations which give rise to the crisis of the east and the west.

For a Fifth International
The importance of a Fifth international of workers and youth is demonstrated now more than ever. We must unite those in struggle and fight for workers power across the globe, based around a common programme and perspective. Everywhere the working class must be brought into the fight, must come to the head of the movement. This is not the idle dream of Trotskyists; it is the urgent task of today for billions. It is the difference between a world of barbarism, or one which is finally free from misery and oppression.

For more articles like these go to Revolution Socialist Youth web site: http://www.socialistrevolution.org
March with the Revolution Socialist Youth group on the March 26th  TUC demonstration.
Save Our Services in Surrey have arranged coaches to the demonstration, subsidised by Surrey Unison. Coaches are leaving from Guildford, Woking, Redhill, and Staines. Tickets are only £2.00 Rtn. You can buy a ticket on-line at www.saveourservic.es using a secure Paypal. -Or- Email:guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk
http://www.socialistrevolution.org/26march/