News came in this morning that Mohamed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, won the election over Ahmed Shafiq, the candidate of the old regime and SCAF. These are just a couple disorganized thoughts in the form of responses to misconceptions I have seen in various news stories, Facebook, and personal communications with comrades – I will reserve a longer post until things are somewhat clearer, as events move so fast that by last post on the elections was out of date practically before I posted.
1. I have seen reference by comrades to this article from Ahram Online containing details about a possible behind-the-scenes deal with the SCAF to allow Morsi to take office. The presumption being that the election victory is a result of said deal. I think if you read the article, it becomes pretty clear that the deal was based on the SCAF’s demand that Morsi not declare himself the winner, and to pull his supporters from Tahrir and the other squares. To my knowledge as of today, neither of these two things has happened, making it unlikely that a deal was struck in which the Brotherhood was able to back down on nothing considering the SCAF’s recent approach to them – one of trying to abjectly humiliate the leadership and force them to accommodate themselves to a similar position to the one they occupied under Mubarak.
2. Under these circumstances, I think it is most likely that the SCAF decided that it was simply too much of a provocation right now to try and steal the election for Shafiq after a long series of open provocations by themselves and the wholly owned courts to both the Brotherhood and the revolutionary masses, from the dissolution of Parliament, the stacking of the Constituent Assembly and the acquittal of most of Mubarak’s former henchmen. They are most likely hoping to let Morsi have the presidency as a sop to the Brotherhood’s leadership and its base, as well as to the revolutionary forces who would have seen through a Shafiq “victory” immediately.
3. Therefore, I think it is absolutely a great victory for the revolution that Morsi and not Shafiq won today. This is important because, first of all, the power of the revolutionary masses remain strong enough to cause the military to doubt its power to roll back the revolution immediately, which after a Shafiq win would have been all but certain. The office of the presidency has been stripped of almost all meaningful powers at this point, but the election of Morsi is a powerful victory for popular sovereignty in a country which has rarely approached anything of the sort. It is to the credit of the revolution and revolutionaries that a year and a half after the Arab Spring, a president of a popular force has been elected in the key country of the region, if for no other reason than as a sign that the revolution continues.
4. Of course it should have been taken as given that the second Morsi’s victory was declared, the Western establishment’s media would start harping on how his victory will change Egypt overnight into a country like Saudi Arabia, where women will have the niqab forced on them and Christians will be slaughtered in the streets. This, of course, ignores the fact that the division between Muslim and Christian was exploited fully by the old regime, that sectarian attacks such as church burnings were perpetrated by NDP thugs almost as soon as Mubarak fell as a way of disrupting the victorious revolution.
As for any of you who believe even a bit of that, shame on you, especially if you claim to be a leftist of some kind. In the current situation in Egypt, the key link right now is rolling back the power of the SCAF, the main obstacle to the revolutionary forces. Insofar as the Ikhwan tries to capitalize on the election as a mandate to enforce sharia on the streets (they have nowhere near the power they would need to make such laws) they will be opposed by all the true revolutionary forces. As Gigi Ibrahim of the Revolutionary Socialists said, “This is the best thing that could’ve happened in this very shitty situation..Aside from my differences with Ikhwan and my deep opposition to their politics, I am very VERY happy that Shafiq lost!! We will oppose Morsy and may the revolution prevail always and forever!”
5. This, of course, does not preclude a deal being struck at some point between the military and the Ikhwan. It would be to the great advantage of the Egyptian ruling class, Washington and Tel Aviv if the Brotherhood could be absorbed into the state apparatus as a junior partner to the military on the condition of some concessions being made along the lines of Islamic law, etc. Perhaps the fact that they allowed the election of Morsi could indicate that some in the SCAF hope for such a settlement, but it is unlikely to happen as long as the regime wants to deny the Brotherhood leadership’s claim to a greater share of the pie. To any leftists who say that the Brotherhood is likely to betray – well, obviously. They have already done so on several occasions – we might note only quickly their attempted negotiations with SCAF and their aim to continue the neoliberal policies of the old regime, including the suppression of strikes. In this case, it will be to the advantage of revolutionaries who have been in the streets alongside the rank and file of the Brotherhood to approach them by saying, this is neither what you want nor what we want, and continuing the revolution now depends on your willingness to break with your own leadership. Such, of course, is precisely the purpose of the united front.
6. Two quotes from sources on revolutionary strategy that hopefully most leftists will find credible:
Prior to the downfall of tsarism, the Russian revolutionary Social-Democrats made repeated use of the services of the bourgeois liberals, i.e., they concluded numerous practical compromises with the latter. In 1901-02, even prior to the appearance of Bolshevism, the old editorial board of Iskra (consisting of Plekhanov, Axelrod, Zasulich Martov, Potresov and myself) concluded (not for long, it is true) a formal political alliance with Strove, the political leader of bourgeois liberalism, while at the same time being able to wage an unremitting and most merciless ideological and political struggle against bourgeois liberalism and against the slightest manifestation of its influence in the working-class movement. The Bolsheviks have always adhered to this policy. Since 1905 they have systematically advocated an alliance between the working class and the peasantry, against the liberal bourgeoisie and Tsarism, never, however, refusing to support the bourgeoisie against tsarism (for instance, during second rounds of elections, or during second ballots) and never ceasing their relentless ideological and political struggle against the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the bourgeois-revolutionary peasant party, exposing them as petty-bourgeois democrats who have falsely described themselves as socialists. During the Duma elections of 1907, the Bolsheviks entered briefly into a formal political bloc with the Socialist-Revolutionaries. Between 1903 and 1912, there were periods of several years in which we were formally united with the Mensheviks in a single Social-Democratic Party, but we never stopped our ideological and political struggle against them as opportunists and vehicles of bourgeois influence on the proletariat. During the war, we concluded certain compromises with the Kautskyites, with the Left Mensheviks (Martov), and with a section of the Socialist-Revolutionaries (Chernov and Natanson); we were together with them at Zimmerwald and Kienthal, and issued joint manifestos. However, we never ceased and never relaxed our ideological and political struggle against the Kautskyites, Martov and Chernov (when Natanson died in 1919, a “Revolutionary-Communist” Narodnik, he was very close to and almost in agreement with us). At the very moment of the October Revolution, we entered into an informal but very important (and very successful) political bloc with the petty-bourgeois peasantry by adopting the Socialist-Revolutionary agrarian programme in its entirety, without a single alteration—i.e., we effected an undeniable compromise in order to prove to the peasants that we wanted, not to “steam-roller” them but to reach agreement with them. At the same time we proposed (and soon after effected) a formal political bloc, including participation in the government, with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who dissolved this bloc after the conclusion of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and then, in July 1918, went to the length of armed rebellion, and subsequently of an armed struggle, against us.
– V.I. Lenin, Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder
We Marxists regard Brüning and Hitler, Braun included, as component parts of one and the same system. The question as to which one of them is the “lesser evil” has no sense, for the system we are fighting against needs all these elements. But these elements are momentarily involved in conflicts with one another and the party of the proletariat must take advantage of these conflicts in the interest of the revolution.
There are seven keys in the musical scale. The question as to which of these keys is “better” – do, re, or sol – is a nonsensical question. But the musician must know when to strike and what keys to strike. The abstract question of who is the lesser evil – Brüning or Hitler – is just as nonsensical. It is necessary to know which of these keys to strike. Is that clear? For the feeble-minded let us cite another example. When one of my enemies sets before me small daily portions of poison and the second, on the other hand, is about to shoot straight at me, then I will first knock the revolver out of the hand of my second enemy, for this gives me an opportunity to get rid of my first enemy. But that does not at all mean that the poison is a “lesser evil” in comparison with the revolver.
Leon Trotsky, “For a Workers’ United Front Against Fascism”
7. Lastly, two links I have found insightful:
The most recently translated statement by the RS on the elections, and
An article by Hossam el Hamalawy, also of the RS, detailing the history of the united front with the Islamists.