Friday, August 16, 2013

Egypt Doesn't Need Pharaohs, It Has Generals

Fascism and the will of the majority often go hand in hand.  Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany are the best examples.  The fascists may not rise to power on majority support but the majority come to embrace and support them once they have seized or consolidated power.

Now it's the Egyptian people who have embraced facism.  Leon Weiseltier sums it up in just a few lines in The New Republic:

For weeks now people have been puzzling over the liberals of Egypt and their enthusiasm for a violent coup. Perhaps the confusion was semantic. It is time to stop calling these people liberals. A military dictator supported by the masses in the streets: there is another name for such a phenomenon, which is not unfamiliar in the annals of modern politics. Its name is fascism.

They have met the possibility of one dictatorship with the reality of another dictatorship. The Egyptian revolution now seems to have been a contest between two forms of authoritarianism: a religious kind, sectarian, intolerant, and incompetent, which was brought to power in a democratic election, and a secular kind, bent on the persecution of a minority in the name of the majority, which was brought to power by the gun. It is a delusion to think that these strongmen will now give up power. They equate democracy with Muslim Brotherhood rule. Moreover, they are creatures of power, not creatures of justice, and they have returned Egypt to the system of power that characterized it for three decades. Their counter-revolution is a restoration.


Anonymous said...

Not sure if I agree with this. The Egyptian people want a democracy, and a government that reflects the will of the people.

They opposed Morsi because he was consolidating power, but most people do NOT want a military-appointed puppet government.

Change is agonizingly slow. The elites haven't left the levers of power, the underlying power structure of the country hasn't changed much since Mubarak was ousted-- the outer rind has changed, the OVERT power has changed, but the covert structure that sits beneath the surface is still much the same.

These things take time.

The Mound of Sound said...

Oh sure it will take time but we have to deal with the foreseeable future and there's not much reason to expect democracy within that window.

We tend to see the Egyptian military in the context of their economic power but they're also big players in the Egyptian economy, like Pakistan's generals. They've got powerful political and economic interests in maintaining control.

I was watching an Egyptian journo the other day who repeated what others have said. If the generals do what Morsi failed to do - end Egypt's crippling food insecurity - the crisis will evaporate. It's food shortages that links the dissident groups and fuels their collective unrest.

Once the generals have quashed the Muslim Brotherhood they won't hesitate to turn on the pro-democracy activists.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree, they won't hesitate at all.

Another thing that annoys me a lot about all this is the media story most people here have access to: The evil Islamic fundamentalist Morsi who consolidates power and the massive support for ousting him. --- Not the fact that the military is conveniently back in control (and still receiving billions in US military aid, with broader regional implications), and killing hundreds (soon to be thousands) of demonstrators.

We've seen all this before.

Anonymous said...

9:30 AM Things take time. We as Canadians seem to think every nation in the world "takes time" to make changes. Indeed, it doesn't happen over night but applying Canadian snail pace to other countries isn't where it is either. Have any of you lived in a foreign country for a period of time in order to know a little about it? I'm not talking about the US either. Anyong

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, Anyong, you're not the only one who has experience living in other countries and I wouldn't exactly take South Korea as the poster boy of democracy either.

Purple library guy said...

While your point about food is very true, their problem is they pretty much can't do that. The Muslim Brotherhood could have but didn't because they have no economic vision and didn't think deeply enough about the problems that led to their taking power in the first place. Or maybe they had just looked at the forces and the interests of those forces and concluded solving the people's problems wasn't worth having the national and international IMF elites on their butts. It was a mistake; if they'd moved aggressively to create jobs and distribute food the people would have tolerated a whole lot more moves to consolidate power; they might have been able to sack the Mubarak judiciary or dilute it with new appointments, and with that power moved to put people they didn't like all nice and legal. If the military went for a coup they'd have had to do it in the teeth of mass popular opposition rather than under cover of mass popular support.

But the military, yes, has a good deal of economic power, own big chunks of the economy. So they represent a capitalist class, are deeply intertwined with it. Plus they have a longstanding close relationship with the military-aid-providing United States. There is no way they're going to decisively dump Washington consensus neoliberal economics just so the proles can eat. I don't think they can conceive of doing that.

So it's very likely the problems are just going to get worse. Coming out into the open like this is probably something they'd have preferred not to do. The behind-the-scenes "deep state" is increasingly being forced to act as its own front-man and take the heat. I'd bet within six months the new government will in turn have decisively lost legitimacy in the eyes of the people as failing to deliver.
It may not be so long before we see an alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood and many of the groups that so recently were protesting Morsi's government, against the military. And the military upper echelons' hold on its rank and file is by many accounts not completely secure. I wouldn't discount the Egyptian masses too soon.

Anonymous said...


I'm the same anon at 10:21 and at 9:30. fwiw, I've actually lived more of the past decade outside Canada than inside, not in the US/Europe/Australia/whatever either.

You need to remember that transformative change of the system that a country exists in is not a simple matter of coming up with a new set of rules or a shiny new government. Civil society, large domestic economic entities, the non-profit sector all exist in a kind of interconnected ecosystem. When we're talking about governance, the internal rules/regulations/relationships between all these entities and the individuals that make them up is what structures a country. A government sits on top of and inside this web. The fact that things are unstable in Egypt means that things are transforming. The fact that Morsi was ousted is EVIDENCE that things take time, and that you need to look at the entire picture, not just who sits on the throne.

On top of all that, the collective CONCEPTUALIZATION of a country is probably the most important long term driver of how a country will be structured. If people all agree that they live in a dictatorship, they will live in a dictatorship because they build structures/associations that assume a dictatorship.

People in Egypt have known that things are changing for quite a long time, we're starting to see the outward manifestation of it, but the change in how people viewed their relationship with government/society was the forerunner.

I don't think it needs saying, but I should add that this has nothing to do with living in Canada, it's true everywhere.

Anonymous said...

For your information Mound, I have lived in other Asian countries as well and I know for a fact you know very little about South Korea and its democratic government. It doesn't take them 10 years to impliment change nor China, Thailand or even little o Mongolia as it does in this country.Anyong

kootcoot said...

"The fascists may not rise to power on majority support but the majority come to embrace and support them once they have seized or consolidated power."

At the risk of seeming hyperbolic, I must say this makes me think of Harper's Canada!

The Mound of Sound said...

Anyong, how can you say it didn't take Korea ten years to implement change? That's laughable. Following the Korean War who held power there, how was it held and for how long? You seem to have a fanciful notion about that.

From that repressive and murderous bastard Syngman Rhee to the military coup that commenced the rein of the equally repressive strongman Park and his successor, Chun, South Korea evolved as a model fascist state.

Thailand, you really want to wave that flag? Seriously? China? Any place that governs from the end of a barrel isn't one in which I see much to emulate. You obviously see these things quite differently.

Anyong said...

8:21 AM Auguts 17, 2013. Who said anything about S. Korea before S. Korea became a democracy in 1993. I repeat, it does not take the S. Korean government 10 years to make changes for the good of the population and the country unlike Canada. It needs to be remembered S. Korea is a 1st world country living in the 21st century unlike Canada, and, is much more innovative with 21st thinking unlike Canada. One of the classes I taught was Korean History in English so I know something about Korean History and do not deserve protracted speech marked by intemperate, vituperative, or harshly censorious language. So, don't suggest our slow manner in reaching an objective upon other nationalities.