From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 February
Relations between Egypt’s ruling military government and the US remain fraught, as the government has barred six US ‘human rights’ workers from leaving the country. To avoid arrest, at least three of them have taken refuge in Cairo’s US embassy, while the US threatens to withhold its $1.3bn annual military aid to Egypt unless the government stands down on its objection to so-called ‘pro-democracy’ groups from abroad operating in the country.
In the meantime, the severe economic difficulties that lay behind the Arab spring uprising have continued to worsen. Unemployment stands at at least 15 percent, (but much higher among the young), half as high again as it was when the uprising started. Tourism has declined 30 percent and construction work has come to a standstill.
To avoid a devaluation of the Egyptian pound that would send food prices spiralling upwards, the Egyptian government has been spending $2bn a month in a losing battle to prop it up. According to the New York Times, foreign currency reserves have, as a result, fallen to about $10bn, from about $36bn before the revolt. Clearly this is unsustainable. (See ‘Economic crisis adds dangers on Egypt’s new political path’ by David D Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Sheikh, 24 January 2012)
Nor is the government able to raise money from Egypt’s banks to finance its expenditure, even at an interest rate of 16 percent, because the banks are fearful that the state will be unable to repay them. Another drain on its resources are energy subsidies, which cost it $15bn a year (one-fifth of all government spending), but the government cannot afford to reduce the subsidy as to do so would infuriate the Egyptian population still further.
In the circumstances, the Egyptian government has had to go back cap in hand to the IMF to ask for a $3.2bn loan – after having refused an offer of aid of $3bn only last June because it would have excessively compromised Egyptian sovereignty. In the meantime, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party controls over half the seats in Egypt’s new parliament, has pronounced itself in favour of IMF borrowing, free markets and abolishing subsidies.
With regard to relations with the IMF, the New York Times pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood’s position was a “stunning reversal after eight decades of denouncing western colonialism and Arab dependency”. The crisis is making many such organisations reveal their true colours, which can only advance the understanding of the masses.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 3 December
Tahrir Square is once more open for business – the business of overthrowing dictatorships, that is.
Throughout most of November, after the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) proposed to guarantee the military budget against any scrutiny, while also giving itself the power to veto the new constitution due to be finalised next year, hundreds of thousands of people returned to Tahrir Square, erected tents and vowed to stay there until power was definitively handed over to a civilian government, for, as David Blair so graphically expressed it, “the central paradox remains: everything has changed in Egypt, except the country’s rulers”. (‘Will Egypt’s generals listen to Cairo protesters now?’, Telegraph, 22 November 2011)
The response of the authorities to these protests has been brutal. At least 41 unarmed protesters have been murdered in cold blood, with over 2,000 injured (eg, losing their eyes to rubber bullets). In one case the police have been seen dragging the dead body of a protester to a rubbish heap.
Far from intimidating, such brutality has only served to fan the flames of revolutionary fervour. The protesters are more determined than ever to save their revolution, to safeguard the honour of the Egyptian masses and get rid of the present continuers of the Mubarak regime.
They have succeeded in securing the resignation of the entire civilian cabinet, including Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, only to see the military replace him with the 78-year-old former Mubarak lieutenant and tool of the military council Kamal el-Ganzouri.
In the meantime, Egypt has held its first post-Mubarak elections and it would appear that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has emerged as the largest party. Banned under Mubarak, they are not about to defer when in power to those who were only yesterday responsible for suppressing them.
However, the Muslim Brotherhood has indicated willingness to uphold the undertakings made by Anwar Sadat to US imperialism under the Camp David accords, which includes safeguards for Israel.
If that is indeed the case, then US imperialism is as happy for the Muslim Brotherhood to run Egypt on its behalf as it previously was for the generals to do so. The only difficulty is that popular public opinion in Egypt is thoroughly opposed to the Camp David accords, and if free and fair elections are going to predominate in Egypt, all political parties hoping to get themselves elected are sooner or later going to have to make concessions to that public opinion.
The US government’s current tactic, however, is to call on the Egyptian military to hand over at the earliest to a civil administration, in an apparent show of support for the protesters. Its motivation, however, is simply to retain control of the situation.
Helen Cooper of the New York Times has correctly noted: “The Obama administration appears now to be openly hedging its bets, trying to position the United States in such a way that regardless of who comes out on top — the army or the protesters — it will still maintain some credibility, and ability, to influence the government and ensure a level of stability in Egypt, and to continue to uphold the Egyptian-Israeli peace deal, which the United States views as central to stability in the region as a whole.” (‘For US, risks in pressing Egypt to speed civilian rule’, 26 November 2011)