On July 5, I wrote the following to an old antiwar movement friend about events in Egypt:
Well, the military was badly burned by its experience of direct rule and happy to retreat into the background, provided they could preserve all their power and privilege–which the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] was happy to go along with so long as they could clamber into office. Morsi, the army, and the US had worked out a modus vivendi, but the MB fucked up, combining incompetence, lack of reform, and offensive power grabs. The felool (old regime supporters) conspired against Morsi from the beginning, but the Tamarod movement obviously struck a deep chord–the June 30 protests were truly gigantic. So I don’t think the military had this planned from the day one of the Morsi administration (although they obviously knew what was going to happen in advance, as evidenced by how smoothly they’ve staged things).
That said, I do think this is a coup–albeit one with popular support–and if the army has any brains, they will seize the opportunity to suppress not just the MB, but the society as a whole. (This is why they’re allowing violence to go on the boil, to intervene later as the “saviors of society.”) I suspect that the revolutionaries in Egypt made a very serious mistake in agitating for the overthrow of Morsi–not because he didn’t deserve to fall, but because only the army had the power to oust him and take control of the process. The revolutionaries either openly relied on the military and/or didn’t think things through, fooling themselves with the mythologies of “anti-power” and the notion that people can just keep overthrowing governments until a “good one” comes up. It’s Occupy politics taken to its most extreme and dangerous conclusions. The left should have formed a militant opposition, developed a program of deep reforms (a “transitional program” in the Trotskyist argot), and worked on building its institutional bases (political parties, intellectual/cultural centers, trade unions, etc). The left needed a long-term revolutionary strategy rather than a campaign to topple a government that would, if successful, inevitably result in military rule.
I hope I’m wrong.
Unfortunately, I was right. I quote myself from six weeks ago not to claim any peculiar powers of political prognostication; actually I claim quite the opposite: if I foresaw the development of things, it is only because their development was actually very easy to foresee. (I have quoted my entire original message, without adding or subtracting anything save the two words in square brackets.) I was open about my views and shared them with many comrades even before June 30, but I regret not writing about them publicly. I knew that I should have, but I chose not to because I felt that I lacked the “standing” to publicly criticize the Egyptian comrades; I was also, frankly, shy of the fight that it would have inevitably set off. That is a shabby attitude unworthy of Marxism.