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|From: Church & State: Editorials|
|Date: July, 2013|
Egypt: Hardly A Coup ?
|Egypt had undemocratic liberal government for almost a century and a half, with a short interlude in the middle of that period. For about seventy years it was undemocratically governed by Britain. Then, following an interlude of a kind of national democracy, it had a couple of generations of military dictatorship supported and paid for by the West, mainly the United States.
Britain invented political Egypt of modern times. It cut it out of the Ottoman State in the 1880, recognised it as an independent country around 1920 but continued governing it until the early 1950s. Egypt was in Constitutional fiction an independent country. In Constitutional fact it was under British government. The fiction was maintained by having a puppet Government which acted on the advice of the British Ambassador. It was the diplomatic adviser who had the guns. Egypt therefore took part as an ally of Britain in both World Wars.
The pretence of Egyptian independence required the pretence of an Egyptian Army. A group of officers in the pretend-Army plotted to end the pretence. The pretence was ended and the puppet King (Farouk) was sent into exile in 1952. In 1956 Britain, France and Israel invaded independent Egypt. The British Prime Minister declared that the Government of Colonel Nasser, which was sustained by popular rallies of national enthusiasm, was Fascist.
The invasion was conducted slowly and ponderously. It was ended by an American threat to wreck the British economy financially. Egypt then moved into the American sphere.
In 1967 Israel launched a "pre-emptive" war on Egypt. That is, it defended itself against an attack that never happened, and occupied Egyptian territory up to the Suez Canal.
In 1973 the Egyptian regime launched a retaliatory attack on Israel. It succeeded in placing an army across the Canal, and was pressing the Israeli Army hard until America came to Israel's support. Then the Egyptian Army was driven back across the Canal with the Israelis following it. The Israelis were recalled east of the Canal by Washington.
Egypt and Israel had become client States of the United States. In 1979 the Egyptian regime was compelled to recognise the Jewish nationalist colonisation of Palestine, and its expansion beyond the borders set for the Jewish State by the 1947 Resolution of the General Assembly, as legitimate. This affronted Egyptian national opinion. At that point the military regime, which had been substantially in harmony with popular opinion, became a dictatorship committed to the suppression of popular opinion.
Under the dictatorship, the Muslim Brotherhood, functioning as a welfare organisation, made life tolerable for the millions. It has been said in defence of the recent military coup that electoral democracy failed because the dictatorship had prevented the growth of civil society. In fact, a very effective civil society organisation had developed under the dictatorship—the Muslim Brotherhood.
The dictatorship, run on American money, fostered the growth of a Western-oriented, secularist middle-class. It was not a middle-class in the literal sense, nor was it an elite in the proper sense, but there are no other words for describing it. It was not part of the structure of an organic society, a middle class lying between upper and lower classes and connected with both. Neither was it a elite in the sense of a vanguard of social development. It is an exclusive hot-house development, an enclave, under a dictatorship sustained by Western power and Western money.
It lived its liberal, secular life as an enclave, a gated-estate. Its mental and cultural world was Europe and America. But it lacked the trappings of political power as displayed in its lands-of-heart's desire where well-established bourgeois hegemony ensured the acquiescence of the masses under conditions of apparently unrestricted freedom. So it demanded democracy. It went on the streets and demanded the right to elect the Government. And it demanded that the Dictator be put on trial for his crime of depriving them of their rights for so long. And Mubarak, who created them under the shelter of his dictatorship, had every reason for regarding them as spoiled brats.
Well they got their democracy. And the only responsible body in the society won the election and began to govern in accordance with its culture and philosophy. And then they began to squeal that this was not what they wanted at all. It was unfair. What they had wanted was what should have happened. And why did it not happen? Because the Brotherhood had hijacked "the Revolution" and imposed a dictatorship worse than Mubarak's.
And the elected Government was, of course, worse than the dictatorship for them, because it brought the opinion of the majority to bear on the conduct of the State.
They had insisted on leaving their hot-house. And then they complained of the cold.
So they came out on the streets again, demanding the overthrow of the elected Government. They were articulate and English-speaking and attuned to the Western media. And the Western media was attuned to them. Suddenly everybody understood that democracy has hardly anything to do with elections.
And the Army understood completely. It flew its helicopters in the streets above the demonstrations and dropped leaflets of encouragement. It arrested and imprisoned the Government and hundreds of its active supporters. It closed newspapers and broadcasting stations. And everybody was happy again.
Crimes were attributed to the imprisoned Government. On the few occasions when representatives of the Brotherhood got on the Western media they asked for the crimes to be specified. They asked for the names of some of the political prisoners of the democracy. The interviewers then lost interest in the matter.
Human Rights Watch had fed the persecution mania of the ersatz middle class on the streets. But, when it came to giving factual details, in justification of the coup as a defence against persecution, it did not deliver.
The Irish Times, the long-standing supporter of liberal elitism against democracy in Ireland, has of course welcomed the restoration of the dictatorship. But it prefers to quibble semantically when doing so:
"…this was hardly a coup in the normal sense. A few tanks on the streets, not a shot fired, no seizing of public buildings, and limited arrests. A society at tipping point, whose people in unprecedented numbers were out demanding change, whose incompetent government had lost political authority and clung desperately to an evaporating electoral legitimacy, was tipped by a general's tweet, the straw that broke the camel's back. Little more. Hardly a coup.
The Army could arrest the Government without a battle because the governing party was committed to the electoral process and did not have its own military force. The Army was not committed to the electoral process. It was the unreconstructed Army of the dictatorship. The Judiciary, which participated in the coup was, likewise, the Judiciary of the dictatorship.
The Army and the Courts are never politically neutral. They are always part of a system of state, specific to that system. The Brotherhood tried to conduct democratic government in conjunction with the Army and Judiciary developed by the dictatorship.
That is why the Army and Judiciary were able to come to the assistance of the ersatz liberal elite, with a view to restoring for them their lost world of the dictatorship.
There was no Revolution. There was only an election held under the State apparatus of the dictatorship.
As to the unprecedented numbers on the streets—the highest claim puts them at no more than ten per cent of the population. And it can be assumed that virtually the entire ersatz elite was out on the streets.
As to "evaporating electoral legitimacy": the most authoritative book on that subject published in Ireland is 1922: The Birth Of Irish Democracy by Professor Garvin of University College, Dublin. Garvin said that the electoral majority got by the Provisional Government in the confused election of June 1922 gave democratic sanction to all that was done subsequently by the Free State to impose the Treaty system. An electoral majority is democratically good, regardless of the circumstances under which it was gained.
Active opposition to the Treaty at its lowest point was considerably more than ten per cent. We wonder how he will comment on the Irish Times view of the right of a minority with a superiority complex to overthrow an elected Government.