Monday, May 9, 2011

Chaos and counter-revolution

There is concern among Egypt's youth and secular movements amid speculation that the Brotherhood may take power.

A Good Analysis
Mark LeVine

""It's chaos," explained one of Egypt's most perceptive sociologists. "But of course it's a good thing in and of itself that people are getting involved. To see young bourgeoise college girls waking up early in the morning to go to working class and poor neighbourhoods and distribute money and aid to families of the killed or of the detainees is so heartening."

Of course, the continuing murderous attacks on Coptic Christians and the sectarian violence that rocked Egypt over the past weekend reveal a much darker side to the chaos. These attacks could easily derail the messy process of political change by giving the army an excuse to crack down hard on all forms of dissent and protest, not just on armed violence. This is one reason why the lack of organisational and ideological coherence among these forces worries the more secular and progressive activists - the backbone of the eighteen days of protests......

With the latest violence fresh in mind, it's not surprising that activists feel, as one of the leading figures of the youth movement explained, that "we're moving towards Algeria". The army will let the Brotherhood gain power, and then use this as an excuse to crush democracy, he explained, recounting in his mind the events that led to the Algerian civil war in 1992.

Ahmed Ezzat, a human rights lawyer and founder of the recently established Workers' Democratic Party, most eloquently summed up the frustration these activists feel towards the Brotherhood: "They switched from revolutionaries to counter-revolutionaries in the space of 24 hours." [They were never revolutionaries, they have always been opportunist reactionaries.]

Almost as soon as the protests ended, the movement began to play a role increasingly at odds with the goals of the youth and workers' movements.......

But however culturally and politically at odds the Brotherhood leadership remains from the youth movement that led the protests, the fear of a religious takeover of Egyptian politics and society are most likely exaggerated. The religious tendency is far from unified, ranging from hardcore conservatives to progressives. The Brotherhood's newly created Freedom and Justice Party is putting up a moderate front, while hardcore Salafis are intensely disliked by everyone from moderate Islamists to secular forces and, crucially, the majority of Egypt's peasantry, whom they have long tormented for their supposedly improperly Islamic behavior.

The split in the religious forces extends to within the Brotherhood as well. Older leaders might have a middle class conservatism and willingness to cut a deal with the military to increase their power. But as Ezzat point out, the increasingly important younger cadre of Brotherhood activists "are like most other young guys: they have educations and can't find jobs." If forced to choose between articulating a religious identity with their politics and supporting a party that actually focuses on the empowering workers against a still unequal and oppressive economic system, Ezzat is betting they will choose the latter, especially if the workers' movement does its job at educating people.

This process began before the uprising, as several leading young Brotherhood members moved away from the movement in the period before the recent unrest. From this perspective, the most important thing the Brotherhood can do to demonstrate its democratic credentials would be to stand firmly and publicly against the violence against Christians - which many in Egypt blame at least partly on the religious-political ideology rooted in the Brotherhood's past......."

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