Saturday, December 8, 2012

Egypt: Between revolution 3.0 and civil war

The current logjam between protesters and the Muslim Brotherhood-led government could lead to escalating tensions.

By Mark LeVine


Revolution 3.0
In the midst of unprecedented tension and even fratricidal conflict, how would one define a truly revolutionary new Egyptian Constitution? It would have to accomplish two things. First, it would lay the foundation for the fullest possible expansion of rights to all Egyptians regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity or other markers of social differentiation. Second and more profound, it would establish a political-economic system that controls the flow of power and wealth throughout society in such a way as to encourage the formation of competent governments willing to take on the deeply entrenched system of corruption and inequality - both its internal and external facilitators and benefactors alike - that have for so long characterised the political economy of Egypt.

Neither the present Constitution nor the emerging political system it's laying the ground rules for will achieve these goals. But while Morsi and the Brotherhood establish themselves more deeply within (and likely ultimately transform) Egypt's power elite, their Achilles' heel might well be developing at the movement's base among the very people presently serving as the movements, and the President's shock troops.

The simple fact is that the very strategy necessary to open space for the Brotherhood's ascendence to power - not challenging the military's prerogatives, following Washington Consensus policies demanded by the IMF regardless of their negative impact on the majority of Egyptians, and supporting, however quietly, US policies in the region - will move it further away from its core poor, working class and petite bourgeois constituencies. If the Brotherhood keeps moving towards neoliberal policies that will only reinforce the huge structural imbalances in Egyptian society, its hold over its base will weaken, opening room for dialog with the very political forces they've been fighting today.

A friend who returned to the Palace Thursday afternoon to talk with the Brotherhood supporters against whom he'd fought only hours before put it best, explaining that his opponents told him they'd come because they saw the Presidential Palace, the symbol of their own rise to dignity after decades of humiliation, under threat. "They came to protect the good of the country as they see it, just like we did. They were like the revolutionaries."

That sentiment should scare Morsi, the Brotherhood and the military-led deep state even more than the hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters who are ready to risk civil war to stop the upcoming Constitutional referendum. If and when revolutionary forces and the foot soldiers of the Muslim Brotherhood begin to move towards common ground, the Revolution will finally enter Phase 3."

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