When the chief of the Egyptian Army, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, appeared on the TV screen in Tahrir Square, and said:
“The armed forces, based on its insightfulness, felt that the Egyptian people are calling for help, not calling on it to hold the reins of power but to answer the demands of the revolution,…”
the vast crowds at Tahrir Square responded with joy and showed their full support with fireworks, waving flags and blowing vuvuzelas.
The mainstream media in the West generally celebrated the Egyptian “coup d’etat”, many didn’t even name it as a coup. Much of the Left in Egypt welcomed the coup against the Islamist, and increasingly authoritarian rule of Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. Much of the Left/Liberal groups/ and leading intellectuals in the West either hailed the military coup, or turned a blind eye. Some have started debating whether the Egyptian army’s intervention amount to a full-scale military coup or not. After all, they claim that the army simply responded the rightful, democratic demands of a large section of the Egyptian people, at least in the key urban areas! Some so-called revolutionary groups, both in Egypt and abroad, labelled it as a “revolutionary” military coup! Some other socialists claimed that Morsi was “removed by revolutionary movement”.
Ahmed Shawki, editor of the International Socialist Review, wrote in the Socialist Worker that “military stepping in to push Morsi aside…” A similar opinion was expressed by Sungur Savran, editor of the newspaper Isci Mucadelesi (Workers’ Struggle) in Istanbul, Turkey:
“through its coup the army has averted, at least for the moment, an impending civil war …”(4 July 2013)
What is missing from all this coverage and “Left” interpretation(s) of the recent events in Egypt is any sense of history. Egypt is a country awash with military interventions with a long history of cracking down on civilian regimes. The top leadership of the Egyptian army has its own class interests in initiating the coup d’etat. The corrupt military high command is an important part of the Egyptian ruling classes. They control enormous amount of wealth in industry and commerce. The army’s officer corps have their own schools, hospitals, prestigious clubs, holiday camps, and many other prestigious benefits of which most of the Egyptian people couldn’t even dream of. This privileged elite is of course determined to maintain this privileged position. The military regime, whatever it is called, will be a deeply reactionary regime, fully dedicated to protect the interests of the US in this strategic region, and determined to pursue harsh neoliberal policies at home.
The recent protest movement was originally led by Tamarod, a genuine mass democratic movement. But soon, a matrix of old Mubarak-era elite (judiciary, top-level bureaucracy, and parts of the security and intelligence apparatus- “deep state”) joined the campaign. There were liberal and pseudo-left forces too within the Tamarod coalition.
Months before the recent mass protest movement started, there were indications that the army was waiting for a pretext to intervene and oust the Morsi regime. When the first set of protests started at the end of June, many offices of the Muslim Brotherhood were fire-bombed by shadowy figures. Many observers have claimed that these events had the unique stamp of the same informal interior ministry/ army networks (“deep state”).
So, the path to this sad state of affairs had started by legitimate mass protests, and in a way the military coup was triggered by this popular movement, but it is still a coup, all this does not make it any less reactionary. Given their past record, the army in Egypt can scarcely represent the interests of the Egyptian people. Unfortunately, the recent military coup is the beginning of another dark page in the troubled history of Egypt.