The Class That Ruled Egypt Under Mubarak Remains in Power
The security forces and the police are their tools, and the fight against ISIS has simply emboldened them, says Professor Seif Da’na (pt. 3/3)
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.
This is my third segment with Professor Seif Da’na. He is professor of sociology and international studies at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside. And earlier in our second segment, we were talking about developments to date in terms of what has happened to Arab Spring.
In one such event that has taken place that has really derailed the revolution is the counterrevolution that is going on in Egypt. And in this segment, we are going to discuss the counterrevolution and the character of it.
Thank you for joining me.
Professor Da’na, you referred to the military being in control. And with the increased efforts to fight back the ISIS, they are also in control of a large part of the resources in the country. Who else is in power that is controlling, I guess, the politics and the resources and the finances of Egyptians?
SEIF DA’NA, CHAIR, SOCIOLOGY & ANTHROPOLOGY, UWP: Well, the business class, the businessman class that were actually ruled during Mubarak’s era is still the ruling group, actually, in Egypt. So they did not go away. As a matter of fact, it will be interesting, because, as I mentioned earlier, the election, the registration for elections and the open for candidacy will begin on February 8. I think it’s Monday or Sunday. And we will see–and we already actually heard some names around–that we will see some of the old faces actually running for elections in the parliament, especially that the major opposition force in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood will not be allowed to run for the elections. So we will see some of these original Mubarak faces coming back to the political scene.
But Egypt’s economy is–Egypt’s economy and politics is to a large extent controlled by the same class, the same elite class, the businessmen. And both the military, in this case, which actually doesn’t serve any external purpose, they’re actually being challenged by ISIS in Sinai. And we’re talking about one of the most powerful countries in the region. That is, Egypt cannot solve the problem of ISIS in a small section of Egypt. And the military and the security forces are actually the tools the elite have always used. They were weakened to some extent, the security forces, as I mentioned, during the revolution and after the revolution, but they’re coming back now with full force doing what they have always done, violations of individuals’ and citizens’ rights, torture, and even killing, like the case of China, we heard at the beginning of the show.
And so, yes, nothing’s changed. And that’s why I said the original demands of the revolution were socioeconomic demands. And none of the regimes dared to deal with this issue. They continued the same old policies, but with new faces. The democratic transition era or the transitional period enabled not only to produce the regime with new faces, but, unfortunately, we’re going to see, I think, starting Sunday, with the preparation for the elections, some of the old faces also coming back.
PERIES: Right. And earlier, Professor Da’na, when you referred to the counterrevolution, what did you really mean by that?
DA’NA: Well, counterrevolutions basically are social forces and social groups that will–were kind of benefiting from the old regimes, and they did not want any change. And so they launched an onslaught on the revolution. Some of them actually joined the revolution as a way to defuse and steer the revolution away from its original demands. And I think to some extent they succeeded. And we see all these forces everywhere, really, from intellectuals to media personals, to everywhere, essentially, and state officials.
But one of the things we need to know about the counterrevolution is we’re not really facing a classical kind of counterrevolution here. I mean, if people imagine just a counterrevolution in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution, you’re talking about the Red Army facing the White Army in that case.
Now, the onslaught was mainly ideological, despite all the violence that is targeting the people. But the onslaught is mainly ideological, and they managed to get these ideas, like the transitional period, democratic transition, to reproduce, to reproduce the regime.
But another aspect of the counterrevolution, though, is that it’s not really only domestic forces, ’cause not only domestic forces benefited from the old regimes or the existing regimes, but also regional and international forces. We know for sure that some international powers and some regional forces would be harmed if any serious and real change take place, for example, in Egypt.
PERIES: What do you mean by that? What do you mean by that? Who? Who? What are the forces?
DA’NA: Regionally, Egypt, in Egypt for example, we’ve seen the Saudi Arabia and Israel voicing their criticisms of the president Barack Obama after, when Obama refused to intervene in favor of Mubarak. Although the U.S. did not really favor–and people in the region, many people the region accused the U.S. of a significant role in the counterrevolution, but essentially they understood in the U.S. that Mubarak’s time was over and they tried to work with the next group, basically.
And one of the reasons the Muslim Brotherhood are very hated in many circles, in many areas in the Arab world, is simply because they are seen at this point as an American tool, or they were seen when they came to power as an American tool, to reproduce the same old policies, but instead of having the old regimes, having the Muslim Brotherhood. And even there were talks about deals between the West generally, the U.S. in particular, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Whether this is true or not, we know that the U.S. foreign policy depended for a very long time on two principles. Unconditional support for Israel. That was one. And the second one: supporting dictatorships, because they thought this was the way to guarantee stability in the region, and also to guarantee American interests. We’ve heard so many statements about choices done by the Arab people might not really suit the American interests in the region. When people have democratic choice, they will not choose governments that might actually work with the U.S. the way the U.S. perceives the region and U.S. perceives its interests. So we have these forces. Saudi Arabia particularly, supporting counterrevolutions with money and also ideologies. Israel did play a significant role in that. And the West generally and the U.S. in particular are seen in the region as part of, if not directly involved, indirectly involved in counterrevolutions.
PERIES: And what are the internal forces that are collaboratives of these external forces?
DA’NA: Well, there are vested interests for the military. They’re controlling a section in Egypt. For example, they’re controlling about 10 to 15 percent of the economy, because essentially Mubarak, since that and after that, but particularly under Mubarak in Egypt, the military does not have any really state job, because after the political agreement with Israel, the military was restructured, was submitted to demands by the U.S., simply after the U.S. support for the military, the annual support for the military came with conditions, did not come for free, and one of these conditions of course maintaining the peace accord with Israel. And, basically, the military orientation changed significantly. And it started having working in having control over a section of the economy, about 10 to 15 percent, factories, bakeries, and things like that, which militaries don’t usually do.
But we also have the most powerful group in Egypt, I guess. It’s the group of the businessmen, whose interest essentially in dominating the economy and controlling the economy is in maintaining the same neoliberal policies in the country. And they are basically representatives of the West in Egypt and in the rest of the region and representative of this international economic policy that is imposed by the World Bank and the IMF, and by foreign powers as well. So they don’t have any interest in any change, not only as a group, but even as individuals on a personal level–they would lose, while the majority of the people would win in this case. And that’s why they were fighting the revolution from the very beginning.
One of the most famous events in the Tahrir Square during the January 2011 revolution was the camel episode, in which a group of thugs actually were hired by one of those businessmen, actually, attacked the protesters in the Tahrir Square on camels and horses with knives and swords and trying to disperse them, because the police was not available at that time. So they would go as far as it takes to protect their interests. They were controlling the whole country, they were controlling whole economy, the whole society, and they were using the security forces as their own tool. And the January 25, 2011, revolution was actually threatening all that.
Now comes the July 30, 2013, military intervention in the form of a coup, and the whole dynamics changed, basically. And many forces were repositioned, and we have a new scene in Egypt. And the scene is changing, actually, very fast. So I guess we’ll see something on Sunday or Monday with the beginning of the election process. And by the time we get to the election, we’ll have a different scene in Egypt as well.
PERIES: Right. Professor Da’na, I thank you so much for joining us today.
DA’NA: Thank you.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
DA’NA: Thank you.
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