Islamo-Bonapartism Comes to Egypt


The true axis of the present government passes through the police, the bureaucracy, the military clique. It is a military-police dictatorship with which we are confronted, barely concealed with the decorations of parliamentarism. But a government of the saber as the judge arbiter of the nation – that’s just what Bonapartism is.

The saber by itself has no independent program. It is the instrument of “order.” It is summoned to safeguard what exists. Raising itself politically above the classes, Bonapartism, like its predecessor Caesarism, for that matter, represents in the social sense, always and at all epochs, the government of the strongest and firmest part of the exploiters; consequently, present-day Bonapartism can be nothing else than the government of finance capital which directs, inspires, and corrupts the summits of the bureaucracy, the police, the officers’ caste, and the press.

The “constitutional reform” about which so much has been said in the course of recent months, has as its sole task the adaptation of the state institutions to the exigencies and conveniences of the Bonapartist government. Finance capital is seeking legal paths that would give it the possibility of each time imposing upon the nation the most suitable judge-arbiter with the forced assent of the quasi-parliament.

Leon Trotsky, July 1934

A broad compromise alluding to the “principles” of Islamic law as a guiding reference, as in the current Constitution, seemed to have been reached earlier this month but disintegrated as Islamists tried to rush through the draft document, whose concentration of power in the presidency is worrying

Railroading a document of this importance is not an option. Egypt will split, investment dry up and unrest continue. Morsi must overcome his Brotherhood suspicions to forge a credible constitutional assembly including liberal opponents who, like Republicans in Congress, should now express patriotism through pragmatism.

New York Times one-percentrist columnist Roger Cohen, November 29, 2012

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Is anyone scratching their head right now as to why we aren’t hearing every neocon, every Zionist, and every bible-thumping militarist in Washington denouncing Mohammed Morsi’s Hitlerian power grab in Egypt? Save for John McCain’s Alzheimer’s-induced rants, it’s crickets. What explains the hegemonic power of this silence? For more than a decade, these American-Enterprise-Institute types have bombarded us with the specter of Islamofascism whenever some girl so much as showed up to school in a hijab. Yet today, Egypt appears to be actually on the verge of a faith-flavored post-Jacobin totalitarian nightmare, and the entire U.S. foreign policy establishment is unwilling to lift a finger. At best they say “play nice” and leave it at that.

To grasp the stance of Washington toward the events now playing out in Cairo, one would do well to remember President Obama’s reluctance to abandon Hosni Mubarak during last year’s January 25 revolution. Hillary Clinton, remember, assured us that Egypt was “stable” mere days before Anderson Cooper was dispatched to the Cairene barricades.


Joe Biden, meanwhile, told us that Mubarak was “not a dictator.”

It was only when Anderson got his precious little ass kicked by “pro-Mubarak supporters” and had to broadcast the next night’s news report from a bunker in an undisclosed location that our imperialist decision-makers realized the jig was up.

Immediately after arriving at this realization, they had no choice but to insist that what was happening in the world’s most populous Muslim country was not 1979 in Tehran but rather 1989 in Berlin.

Only Fox News failed to get the memo.

After all, millions of Egyptians had taken to the streets demanding liberal, democratic freedoms—the very things George W. Bush had told us we were fighting for in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. imperialism simply could not side with its client dictator of thirty years under such circumstances and continue to maintain the popular fiction that it was something other than imperialism.

Thus, after our dependable ally in the Middle East, a man who had maintained a desert with Israel for thirty years that Washington called peace, was overthrown by masses of farmers, factory workers, and other moochers who take more in government handouts than they contribute, even Bill O’Reilly had to concede that this man was “a thug and a criminal.”

In the new, post-Mubarak narrative of the global one percent, the Middle East and North Africa were in the midst of an “Arab Spring”—a term which evokes in the minds of those who study history the European revolutions of 1848 or the Prague Spring of 1968. Such an implied historical comparison is naturally comforting to parasitic bankers and politicians and their hangers-on the world over because the springtime, like all seasons, is finite—it always comes to an end. Furthermore, every revolutionary moment in history that has subsequently been labeled a “spring” has ended up being ruthlessly and violently repressed, and one or another parasitic, tyrannical regime came out triumphant in the end. Private property and finance capital always survived these springtimes unscathed.

So the “Arab Spring” was to be co-opted and channeled into yet another extension of the “End of History,” much like the fake color-coded revolutions that the Bush-Cheney administration engineered as part of their “global democratic revolution.”

Except that the reality on the streets of Egypt in 2011 was no different than the reality playing out in the streets all over the world—the End of History was beginning to end, the politics of open, zero-sum class struggle that these Washington dandies and toffs assumed had been dead and buried for good burst forth from it’s premature grave with a vengeance. Egypt and Tunisia were but the opening salvo in a relentless and ongoing assault on the global capitalist class from below in country after country, an assault that is to this day ongoing and indeed intensifying. This is no mere spring we are experiencing. It is permanent political climate change. No cosmetic replacement of ruler, no reshuffling of legislatures will pacify the hungry, indebted millions who now approach the gates of the McMansion.

And so in Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the imperialist West sees its last hope for “stability” and the only force standing between its “interests” in the region and utter, historic defeat. Like Napoleon before him, Morsi promises to crush this revolution in the name of saving it. He will stamp every aspect of the theocratic tyranny he seeks to establish with the brand of January 25 and Tahrir Square. He will govern exactly in the manner of the fictional brown-skinned Hitler the neocons scared us with tales of, and our leaders, at this moment trembling far more at the thought of fiscal cliffs and an electorate that demands wealth redistribution than childish ghost stories about a resurrected Islamic caliphate, could not be more grateful to him for it.

Nobody in one percent media land has yet dared to compare the political situation in Egypt over the past two years to Russia in 1917, but those who govern us know deep within their bones that were Egypt to go communist, were Egyptians to overthrow and smash not only Mubarak but also the Muslim Brotherhood and the military apparatus to boot, confiscate the wealth of the country’s rich without compensation, seize and nationalize all Western-owned assets in the country, and set a political example for workers and youth in Europe, North America, and the rest of the planet, the West’s only allies in Cold War II would be the same jihadi elements that helped us defeat the Soviets in Cold War I before turning on us and flying planes into our buildings. Because at the end of the day, Bush, Cheney, Bin Laden, Obama, and Morsi are all on the same side of the global class divide. If defending the institution of private property and the rule of capital requires the architects of Western imperialism to ally themselves with the “savages” who planned and executed 9/11, their justification will be “better dead than red.”

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Class War and Culture War

There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.

-Pat Buchanan, 1992

The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we’re seeing it in our society.

-Rick Santorum, 2003

The Cricket has thus far avoided making any commentary on Rick Santorum other than “huh huh huh, huh huh huh, he said Santorum.” It is now March 2012, however, and Not-So-Slick Rick has persevered in the GOP primaries for long enough that he has earned his place in the political-economic analysis this blog specializes in.

After the crash of 2008, it seemed that social conservatism had reached a permanent dead end, almost as though it had been a luxury that the country could only afford when the unemployment rate was at “reasonable” levels. With millions more suddenly out of work, nobody much cared who was smoking what or who was fucking whom and in what orifice. But now all of a sudden, we hear that the Obama feds are cracking down hard on medical marijuana, that American right has launched a “war against women,” among other things.

The culture war politics the Republicans have engaged in for the last several decades is at heart a small variation on their “Southern Strategy,” which dates from roughly the same point of origin. If the Southern Strategy said to white working class men: “Willie Horton just escaped from prison and he’s coming after your lily white daughter with a sawed-off shotgun in one hand and his big black dick in the other,” the culture war said to the same group of voters: “Your lily white daughter–and wife–are kind of turned on by Willie’s willie, your son just purchased that new Ice-T album with the song about killing cops, and your other son is a homosexual who also wants a piece of Willie’s magic johnson.” All of that–plus the fact that another Willie just signed NAFTA and now the plant you worked at all your life just moved to Red China–is the fault of . . . wait for it . . . the left!

That last part, about how the Democrats have been complicit in selling the American dream down the Rio Grande and ultimately the Yangtze River, has been absolutely critical to the success of the right’s culture war politics all these years. The truth is, it was the Democrats who abandoned the NASCAR dads and security moms, not the other way around. It was this class-blind third way neoliberal Clintonist bullshit, which substituted diversity for equality and told poor white people–collectively–to blame their own bigotry for their deteriorating circumstances instead of the greed of the one percent, that drove so many American workers into the arms of their worst enemy. (As an aside, it should be noted that Clintonism has increasingly, over the years, albeit subtly, told poor black people–collectively–to blame their lack of family values for their perpetually dismal circumstances–one might call this Cosbyism).

Rick Santorum is currently trying to capitalize on this culture war tactic, which has proven so successful year after year during our lifetimes. We are, however, living in a period of history unlike any that has existed in our lifetimes (unless you happen to be old enough to remember the 1930s). Because the capitalist system is beset by internal material contradictions, the ideological superstructure that the ruling class uses to maintain its popular legitimacy likewise is beset by contradictions. Chief among these ideological contradictions is the tension between saving and spending, between frugality and indulgence, between abstinence and ecstacy. A capitalist is compelled to constantly set aside a part of his profit for reinvestment instead of spending it all on limos and prostitutes and blow. The ultimate id motivating the capitalist to postpone gratification in the short run is the promise of even more limos and prostitutes and blow in the future.

Under the pretty fiction of equality under the law, workers really are capitalists, and their saving and spending habits are to be evaluated in the exact same manner. In reality however, the saving and spending habits of capitalists are a truly personal matter–if a certain capitalist overindulges too much, his business fails, the market punishes him justly, and another capitalist, with better self-discipline, takes his place, end of story.

The saving and spending habits of workers in the aggregate, however, are of interest to the capitalist class in the aggregate. The owners of capital–collectively–depend on as many workers as possible constantly spending, constantly indulging, constantly fulfilling their desires through the act of exchange, in order to stay in business. Each individual capitalist, however, wants his own workers to be as frugal as possible, to be good savers, to abstain from pleasure and excess. That way they can be paid as little as possible and still show up for work every day.

The serious strategists of capital understand that the system will not recover from the global crisis now afflicting it any time soon and that the means by which it recovers will not involve another speculative bubble, another mania where people start spending money with a ferocity worthy of a gay crystal meth orgy. The real “correction” that must take place before genuine growth can resume is the “deleveraging” of the American dream itself. For decades, the good times were kept on life support by easy credit, but now that bill is finally due, and there is no way out for America’s investor class other than to force American workers to be more “competitive” with workers in other countries. The “competitiveness” of workers is really a euphemism for their willingness to settle for less while producing more–to be more like those Chinese Foxconn workers who make your iPhone.

That the family values conservatism Santorum and his ilk preach seems so antithetical to the libertarian “freedom” talk that conservatives–often the same ones–also promulgate should not be so confusing once one understands that the former message is only aimed at and only really applies to the working class. The rich will continue to drink and smoke and fuck and do blow and have mistresses and father out-of-wedlock children and engage in all kinds of exotic homosexual acts and maybe even do “man-on-dog,” and Rick Santorum will never chastise them for any of it. In fact, the only reason the rest of society is being pressured by the top one percent to have stable, two parent families and not to have extramarital sex and not to enjoy any kind of sex for that matter and to spend our Sundays in church instead of, say, at the mall, is so that we may, by our sacrifice, by our abstinence, by our self-denial restore the economic conditions that permit that top one percent to resume both their literal and their metaphorical orgy.