Egypt is in the midst of the biggest crisis since the revolution toppled Mubarak in 2011. Last month somewhere between 12 and 20 million Egyptians took to the streets demanding the removal of the Islamist President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, who came to power after winning Egypt’s first democratic elections after the revolutionary process began in 2011. Afterfour days of mass protests the Egyptian army intervened and removed Morsi from power, as well as imprisoning other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and shutting down pro-Morsi media outlets.
The removal of Morsi has left a power vacuum in Egypt, which the military has filled. It has traditionally been a key political force in Egyptian politics, dating back to the coup that brought Nasser to power in the 1950s. It has also forged close links to the United States: since the signing of the Camp David accord in 1979, the Egyptian military has been the second highest recipient of direct US military aid after Israel and since the 1970s it has played a distinctly reactionary role in Egyptian politics. The military’s role in ousting Morsi has led many to condemn the action as a coup.
The reality, however, is more complex and represents the many contradictions of the revolutionary process, for revolution is a process and not a single event. Millions of Egyptians, including the organisations of the left and working class, trade unions and revolutionary formations, clearly demanded that Morsi be removed, primarily for ‘betraying’ the revolution by continuing and even deepening the same neoliberal economic policies that were a major reason for Mubarak’s downfall. Morsi also forged closer links to the US and Israel and did nothing for the Palestinian struggle. His leadership style was considered authoritarian by many and the threat of creeping Islamism within the Egyptian state was real.
One can be both opposed to the military and be supportive of the Egyptian masses. The question now is, will the military continue to hold power in Egypt and will that lead to further bloody confrontations with the Egyptian masses? Will the military and the Muslim Brotherhood be locked into a struggle for power in Egypt, while the working class suffers? Or will the working class be able to continue the revolutionary gains? Whatever the case the Egyptian masses need urgent solidarity.