Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Ruling Class Alliance In An Agitating Egypt: One Year After Mubarak’s Ouster

Class collaboration between the Egyptian military junta and their neo-political allies, the Muslim Brotherhood, now confront the people standing for democracy. One year ago, the matrix of collusion was not evident to many. One year ago, the actors on the Egyptian political stage had different robes.
Mass protests for 18 days in the most populous Arab country brought Mubarak’s three decades of autocratic rule to its end on Feb. 11, 2011. To many, it was part of a spring sweeping the Arab jaahaan. But in countries of the region, it turned a cold, reactionary winter.
With a new ruling class alliance and deployed extra soldiers and tanks by the generals Egypt now is fomenting with protests. On the opposite, there are plans for waves of strikes aimed at forcing out the generals from power. The generals’ council, the protesting forces claim, stands opposite to democracy, social justice and individual freedoms. The planned strikes show confronting position of liberal and leftist social forces and the alliance of the generals, Islamist politicians and religious leaders. The strike planners say: The “people must show duty to the nation and spare its tattered economy fresh damage.” On the contrary, the religious authorities have called on to scrap the planned strike. The first strike planned from Saturday, Mubarak’s overthrow anniversary, would close universities and factories, cancel trains and stop public services. A statement by 39 youth groups said: “The strike is just a beginning to carry the revolutionary battle forward, to link political and democratic demands with social and economic ones.” The Muslim Brotherhood has refused to back the strike. Mahmoud Hussein, general secretary of the MB, said in a statement: “This call is very dangerous […]”
“I appeal to you”, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Egypt’s highest Islamic authority Al-Azhar, said in a message, “not to disrupt work even for one hour.” “Civil disobedience”, Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III said in a statement, “is not accepted by religion and the state does not accept it and there are many verses in the Holy Book that talk of following the ruler.”
Protest and violence regularly overshadow Egypt. Last December experienced protests as military police assaulted demonstrators challenging military rule, and in turn, protesters hurled Molotov cocktails at the parliament building. There was violence around ballot-counting that compelled hundreds of judges monitoring the parliamentary elections to announce threat to quit over.
The parliament is acting as subordinate to generals, employees on the payroll of people. The legislature now holds a promissory note given by the generals to turn over power to the people, the generals’ employer, by the end of June 2012, after the ratification of a new constitution and the election of a president. There are basic and burning problems in today’s Egypt.
The hulking problems

Dire economic reality with springing up frustrations over poverty overwhelms every aspect of life in the country. Inflation climbed to 9% in November, a 2% rise over the previous month. Food and beverages prices jumped further. With spiraling prices of staples the rising living cost comes as an increasing number of people are struggling to find work. Foreign exchange reserves have fallen down to around $18 billion in January from $36 billion. There is a drop in state income. The tourism industry, one of main sources of revenue generating about 10% of GDP, has taken a downturn with revenue for the year stood at $8.8 billion. In 2010, it was $12.5 billion. Standard and Poor’s has downgraded the country’s creditworthiness to B+, four levels below investment grade. This will increase borrowing costs. (Oxford Business Group, “Egypt: Facing economic challenges”, Jan. 30, 2012)
A stagnating economic growth under the shadow of a financial crisis and virtually dried up foreign investment have coupled with an annoying 12% official unemployment rate. The youth unemployment rate is at least double that official figure. Heavily pressurized exchange rate for the currency and mounting debts has increased the worrying load. A further devaluation will increase food prices stimulating already smoldering grievances. The legion of jobless and underemployed reinvigorates legitimate grievances that can renew social unrest. The government has announced plans to cut down about $4 billion from the deficit of more than $30 billion. Energy subsidy is being cut as negotiations with the IMF over the terms of a $3.2 billion loan have been reopened.
The great divide – the rich-poor – is there. Intact is the illogical distribution system that feeds and fattens only the rich, who are also powerful. The new masters at the helms will not address these problems. Their class interest can’t allow them to move into that territory.
The volte-face
The Muslim Brotherhood, the ruling class alliance component, after denouncing Western colonialism for decades, now supports free markets, an inefficient, undemocratic tool in efficient hands of capital to hook people. The political actor also feels the urgency of subsidy reform, and is befriending the IMF. Now, the MB is also having an understanding with the Empire, its old arch enemy. Political alignments for unhindered raging of neo-liberal compact are thus being ensured. Wealth distribution question is being ignored.
The standard bearers of “democracy” and the generals have united in a compromise on a legal system no more Islamic than the earlier one. The compromise is assuring for major internal and external stakeholders in Egypt. The MB and the military negotiated, and the MB is finding out ways to help the generals to exit with immunity.

In November, the MB was assuring public that they would challenge the military over its right to continue appointing the prime minister and the cabinet until a constitution is ratified and a president is elected. Weeks later, the great giver of assurance said it would leave the military-appointed government until June. A number of MB leaders said the constitution should be drafted on the military’s preferred timetable, before the election of a president. Till then, the generals will retain control of the government. “We will cooperate with everyone, the people, the Parliament, the cabinet and military council”, Essam el-Erian, a MB leader, said. He said the group was putting off a confrontation with military rulers, and hoped that the US would continue to support the country financially. With the biggest share in the parliament, it is giving confusing and contradictory signals there.
At the same time, MB is standing opposed to the people demanding ouster of the generals, who have no mandate. The MB prevented hundreds of protesters from reaching parliament on Jan. 31. The protesters were demanding the end to military rule. An AFP news report quoted an MB member: “We are standing here as a human shield, because if the protesters go any further, they will clash with the police.” The report quoted an anti military protester: “The Muslim Brotherhood youth are blocking all roads to the parliament, preventing the anti-military protesters... They are […] standing […] like militias.” The march to parliament was called to press the newly-elected parliament to implement the goals of the popular upsurge.
Protesters accuse the Islamists colluding with the generals: “Badie, you are selling the revolution!” they chanted, in reference to Mohammed Badie, the Islamist movement’s supreme guide. On the first anniversary of the anti-Mubarak upheaval, political activists accused the Muslim Brotherhood of a deep compromise with the generals. Their slogans said: “You sold out the revolution.” It is a deal with common interest.
While the protesters were calling on the generals to quit immediately the MB tried to keep the anniversary demonstration upbeat, US press reports said. After getting surrounded by protesters in a Cairo demonstration the MB “speakers attempted to join the crowd by leading chants of ‘the people want the fall of the regime’ and ‘down with military rule’. But the protesters appeared unconvinced. The speakers retreated [.…T]he crowd […] began chanting, ‘Get off! Get off!’ to Brotherhood officials on the stage. Another sound system […] in the square boomed: ‘No Brotherhood, no officers! Down, down with military rule!’”
The military
Now, a year after the popular upheaval, Egypt is still under martial law. The 19 generals leading back-to-past staggering continue cracking down on pro-democracy activists. Thousands of democracy activists are being sent before military tribunals and jailed. A brutal crackdown left at least 40 demonstrators dead on the eve of the first round of parliamentary elections.
The parliament remains subordinate to the generals. Jimmy Carter holds not much hope. After discussions with the generls including Field Marshal Tantawi, Carter doubted the general shaaheebs would fully submit to the elected authority the rulers with batons had promised to install. Armed with all encompassing police power they deploy draconian measures to silence critics, ban strikes, and are accused of human rights abuses. The generals find foreign interference behind demonstrations for democracy.
The US-dependent generals, part of the ruling elites, wore a mask on their face. The smiling sober mask created a non-political assumption: they would help install a democratic government. Political novices kept their belief: it is a secular shield against Islamists. Islamists rightly banked on it to secure their dominance. Basing on class allegiance it ultimately secures the Empire’s interests in home and in the region as $1.3 billion flows in annually in military aid to Cairo from Washington. And, the elites’ alliance depends on the Empire’s world system.
The Empire
Reversing its position the US has forged closer ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. A complex geo-strategic equation for the Empire!
The US financing of NGOs to promote its agenda is an old tale. But it took a new turn with the generals’ tactical move. In late 2011, an investigation into foreign financing of a number of NGOs, and police raids into offices of four NGOs including the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute that promotes US agenda made the scene tricky. US citizens including Sam Lahood, local director of the IRI and son of US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood were banned from leaving Egypt. The NDI and IRI activists took refuge in the US embassy. The situation enraged a number of Congress members and the US State Department. But actually the general’s stroke against the NGOs was aimed at Egyptian people, not the Empire. To cast away confusion, Egyptian officials went to the US, and met military officials and congress members there.
Not a defeat
After appeasement and compromises by the same class elements, to some, last year’s Egyptian uprising appears a defeat. But in a broader socio-historical perspective, it’s not a defeat, rather, part of a longer process. Despite prospects of temporary failure, initiatives of resistance and rejuvenation are getting organized.
The Egypt Revolutionaries' Alliance demands Tantawi, the de facto ruler, and El-Ganzouri, the interim prime minister, to step down. The political alliance and students are planning to start civil disobedience against military rule on February 11, the one-year anniversary of autocrat Mubarak’s ouster.
The ERA, umbrella of over 50 political groups, workers and students, has made seven demands. The principal demand is the immediate handover of power from the generals to a civilian administration in the People's Assembly, the lower house of the parliament. Other demands include: Immediate dismantling of the incumbent interim government, and appointment of a national salvation government, whose members to be selected by the People's Assembly; immediate holding of presidential elections; forming an investigation committee to investigate all crimes and massacres committed by the ruling authorities; establishing “revolutionary tribunals” to try all former regime figures found guilty of involvement in crimes committed after the January uprising; immediate dismissal of the prosecutor general; and purge and overhaul of the Ministry of Interior. In a statement, the ERA asserted that civil disobedience “has become a valid means for expressing […] demand for the handover of power to a civilian administration in light of the recent deterioration of domestic circumstances. […The generals have] failed to live up to its promises and Egypt continues to suffer a chronic security vacuum.”
There are other acts of protests by broader populace in Egypt that signify journey for democracy by the undaunted Egyptian people, which may be long, painstaking and complex with possibilities of set backs as there is weakness in grassroots organization. But ultimately it will move as the dominating class alliance is failing and will fail to fulfill people’s demands that go against the interests of the ruling class alliance.

A German Satire On A Greek Stage

Germany is staging a satire in burning Greece. While school children there go unfed and homeless increases in number bankers punish the exhausted Republic by imposing harsh, humiliating conditions to take last cents away from the bankrupt capitalist state in Europe.
“Socialist” Koutsoukos, the Greek deputy labor minister resigning in protest to the EC, ECB and IMF dictated package, accused the troika of “shameless extortion” in its policies towards Athens while Karatzaferis, the extreme right leader and coalition partner, spoke of national humiliation and Greece “under the German boot”. Samaras, the New Democracy leader, said “Today we are in danger of losing our freedom and independence.” With the power of trampling sovereignty bank capital unites “socialists” and far-right in humiliation, subservience and anguish. A satire with a German lead role it seems.
As riot police clashed with protesters on Athens streets five ministers resigned in protest at the scale of the spending cuts and police ringed the parliament building to secure it from citizens’ wrath. Finance minister Venizelos said an unruly default would take the country to the brink of civil war and the country would be bought under colonial terms. He was scared of “total dissolution of the economic, social and institutional web of the country.” This led prime minister Papademos and former prime minister socialist Papandreou to sell out their right and left hearts! The price is a new support package, a haircut of debt, and a population’s plight.
But the rescue cash is not at sight. Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, demands more. Days back, Merkel, the German Chancellor, turned impatient with her Greek debtors. It is time, she said during a joint press conference with Sarkozy, the French president, for Athens to accept the tough austerity measures being demanded as a condition for a second bailout package. Should Greece reject the demands, she almost threatened, insolvency and an exit from the euro zone could come quickly. Sarkozy lent his tough voice: “They have no choice.” The bank bosses told bluntly: No new bailout unless there are further budget cuts, on top of the already promised austerity measures. Otherwise, Greece will go bankrupt. The Greek government agreed.
On the austerity program, EU demands signed, irreversible, binding pledge from the three coalition partners, regardless of winner in the next election. The austerity-pledge includes chopping out 150,000 public sector jobs, cutting down the minimum wage by 22%, and reducing pensions. It is, in summary, people are to pay, pay for plunder and wrong doings of elites, pay for inefficiency and accounting corruption of dominating interests.
With an emerging underclass, the Orthodox Church feeding 250,000 people a day, 20.9% unemployment, 48% youth unemployment, all Greek families hit by joblessness, 20,000 shelter less citizens, more than 10,000 on Athens pavements, park benches, in metro stations and shopping arcades, doorways and cars, 25% “new homeless” – evicted from home, 27.7% of Greek citizens staying on the brink of poverty and social exclusion, and hard-hit middle class having no savings an acute social crisis is brewing up. Among social groups, Crete Gazette reports, pensioners suffer most from low income and high cost of living while 33% of poor are over 65. Almost 60% of Greeks are afraid of falling into the poverty trap in the next few years. According to the Hellenic Statistical Authority the country’s manufacturing output contracted by 15.5% in December from a year earlier and industrial output fell 11.3%.
Press reports say “[e]ducated professionals, too shamefaced to want to speak, now stand in line with immigrants from developing countries waiting for food handouts from the town hall.” Citing relevant source McClatchy said: In the relief organization Doctors of the World’s Perama clinic more than 80 patients seek help three days a week. To cope with demand, the DW plans to operate the clinic seven days a week. The number in the clinic has quadrupled in the past two years. Eight in 10 patients now are Greeks, four times what it had been. The Greek chapter chief of the DW told McClatchy “The state doesn’t know who’s poor or who’s vulnerable. People used to be able to get money and find a doctor. Now everything is breaking down.” Citing a teacher BBC said: “In schools we didn’t have books up to the middle of the school year and not only that - we have children that do not really care about the lessons, because of all the problems at home.” The narratives, it seems, are from Third World or from any failed state. Helena Smith in a report in The Guardian describes a desperate, unhappy father, life in mess, deep in debt, owing money to butcher, baker and grocer “took the decision to put in an official request for three of his boys and one daughter to be taken into care.” “The crisis had killed us. I am ashamed to say, but it had got to the point where I couldn’t even afford the two euros needed to buy bread,” the father said. The local Deputy Mayor and director of social works said: “Requests for support have shot up. Last year, we sent food to 400 families [..] This year, 1,200 asked for help and they weren’t […] low-income people. Many had good jobs until this year when their shops and businesses closed, but to be asked to take children away was something new.” The deputy mayor visited the poor father’s home and “saw the situation […] the third-world conditions, the poverty and filth, [that they] couldn’t believe […]” Charities, doctors and unions suggest this is not a single case. […] “People are going hungry, families are breaking up, instances are mounting of mothers and fathers no longer being able to bring up their own kids,” said […] general secretary of the civil servants’ union ADEDY. “Until now, there has been a conspiracy of silence around the tragic effects of the austerity measures the IMF and EU are asking us to take.” From cases of newborn babies wrapped in swaddling and dumped on the doorsteps of clinics, to children being offloaded on charities and put in foster care, the nation’s struggle to pay off its debts is assuming dramatic proportions […] (“Poverty in Greece forcing parents to give up their children”)
Archbishop Ieronymos, the country’s spiritual leader, in a letter to the prime minister, a rare public intervention, said: “Homelessness and even hunger […] have reached nightmare proportions. The medicine we are taking has proved fatal for the nation.”
The situation is breeding protest, even from part of the ruling machine. A Bloomberg report said: The Greek Police union called for arrest warrants to be issued for EU, ECB and IMF officials negotiating austerity measures. In an open letter to the troika the police union said: “[W]e warn you that you cannot make us fight against our brothers. […W]e will issue arrest warrants for […] legal violations [including] blackmail, covert abolition or erosion of democracy and national sovereignty.” Mighty bank capital demolishes all barriers and unites all including priest, police and people. Athens braced a 48-hour strike fringed with violent protest, petrol bombs. It’s not only an economic crisis. It’s also a social and political crisis, a crisis in democracy a republic practiced with its dominating class mooring. The dominating interest is now passing over its burden of failure on the people.
In response to these human sufferings the dominating interests now have two memorandum agreements made between the Greek government and the troika, or imposed on the Greek people in a finance-democratic way: The 51-page Greece — Memorandum of Understanding on Specific Economic Policy Conditionality, Feb. 9, 2012, and the 31-page Greece — Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies, Feb. 9, 2012. Still there will be fresh conditions from financers that Greek people and their elected representatives have to meet before the bail-out is endorsed. Juncker, the Luxembourg prime minister and head of the euro group, did not find “all necessary elements on the table to take decisions […] In short: no disbursement before implementation.” The ECB, as Mario Draghi, the bank’s boss, feels, would not step in to ease Greece’s burdens through a tricky debt swap with private creditors. The Greek republic now has to negotiate a debt relief agreement with private creditors worth 100 bn euro if it is to receive the EU-IMF aid package. If not, Greece could default as early as next month, when 14.5 bn euro in Greek government bonds turn due. The financers are demanding greater sacrifices from Greece, ultimately the people.
The Greek government has urged the ECB to forego profits on its Greek bond holdings. The bank’s governing council discussed the issue. But the ECB sustaining any loss has been ruled out. Profits on Greek bonds would have to pass on to governments when they are realized. The financial bosses are concerned with the issues of “tensions in euro area debt markets and their potential spillover to the euro area real economy.” It is their problem.
In fifth straight year of recession in Greece, a Reuters report said: Protesters compared Greece’s plight to its seven years under military dictatorship. Then, the fact comes to light: money is not less mighty than military, and domination is not only made with weapons; there are mighty arms of money and market to dominate and stomp down democracy, even money’s system of governance.