Political report to the Central Committee of Da’am (ODA), Jan. 22, 2012
The year 2012 is upon us, and we see a wave of historic developments in the Middle East and around the world. In October 2011, Europe suffered an economic crisis which brought far-reaching political changes in Greece, Italy and Spain. The effort to escape bankruptcy brought down the governments in all three states. Meanwhile in Tunisia and Egypt democratic elections took place which led to a sweeping victory for the Muslim Brotherhood. Influenced by the Arab uprisings, the Syrian people continue their intifada for freedom, paying a heavy price in blood.
The Arab Spring in Islamic clothing
The elections in Egypt were the greatest and most significant achievement of the January 25 uprising and the Arab Spring. The elections decided the struggle between the revolutionaries and the army over the character of the future regime and the role of the military. Without the elections, Egypt could easily have succumbed to a military coup due to the development of anarchy and the inability of political forces to agree among themselves and fill the vacuum left by the old regime.
The high turnout (more than 60%) reflected the Egyptian people’s hunger for democracy and their desire to participate in shaping their own fate. Though the Muslim Brotherhood victory was expected (they received some 40% of votes), the rise of the Salafi party Al-Nour with 20% of votes was a big surprise. This party has not yet played any significant part on the political stage. Some choose to see the empty half of the glass – the rise of Islam – and not the other half, which heralds the start of a new chapter in Egypt. The thirst for democracy and the burial of the dictatorship make up the spirit which will guide Egyptian political life. This is the clear message to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis: power has been granted to them temporarily, and they can continue to hold it only by fulfilling their promises to the voters.
The Muslim Brotherhood understands the complex situation it is in. Today it faces three demanding forces: the people who elected it and who hope to see improvement to their lives; the young, secular revolutionaries who led the uprising; and the army, which will not willingly relinquish the privileges it enjoys (it holds 25% of the economy) or its influence on the state. A policy of withdrawal from the world, or religious coercion and the adoption of Sharia law instead of the principles of civil democracy, will isolate the Islamic forces and lead to an economic embargo which will make it impossible to solve the problems facing the Egyptian nation.
The Muslim Brotherhood wants to integrate into the global capitalist economy by encouraging foreign investment to power the Egyptian economy, and thus douse the social unrest spreading throughout the country. They know they do not have much time, and that the people expect to see immediate tangible improvement. The Brotherhood faces an enormous wave of strikes in all economic sectors. The central demand of these future strikes will be wage increases. But the Brotherhood must also manage the private sector, which controls important branches of the economy. Private factories, unwilling to raise wages, are even bringing in migrant labor from India and other states. The Brotherhood will also have to cleanse the state of corruption and bring to justice those responsible for repression, torture and murder. These are enormous tasks, and it will be difficult to carry them out.
The religious discourse characteristic of the Islamic movement and its slogan “Islam is the solution” are in direct contradiction with the movement’s need to govern the state. Openness towards the capitalist market requires dialogue with the US, which demands that Egypt uphold the Camp David agreements. The Egyptian army, which receives some $1.5 billion each year from America, is also subject to American strategic interests in the region, especially concerning Iran. Therefore the Muslim Brotherhood’s decision-making freedom is limited, despite fiery speeches about the “Jewish and American infidels.”
The Left in Egypt took part in the elections as part of a left-wing coalition called the Revolution Continues Alliance (RCA). Although it received some 3% of the votes in the first round, its leaders enjoy public credibility. The Alliance introduces the discourse of socialism as an alternative to the Brotherhood’s capitalism. Now it must work on presenting an economic program as an alternative to free-market and privatization policies. The workers’ strikes on one hand and the revolutionary shabab’s general demand for a civilian, democratic constitution on the other form the main axis for the Left’s activities. The Left’s task is to organize the workers, support their struggles in the trade union arena,