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.”

Ron Paul: The Highest Stage of American Exceptionalism

“In the United States, the imperialist war waged against Spain in 1898 stirred up the opposition of the ‘anti-imperialists.’ the last of the Mohicans of bourgeois democracy who declared this war to be ‘criminal,’ regarded the annexation of foreign territories as a violation of the Constitution, declared that the treatment of Aguinaldo, leader of the Filipinos (the Americans promised him the independence of his country, but later landed troops and annexed it), was ‘jingo treachery,” and quoted the words of Lincoln: ‘When the white man governs himself, that is self-government; but when he governs himself and also governs others, it is no longer self-government; it is despotism.’ But as long, as all this criticism shrank from recognizing the inseverable bond between imperialism and the trusts, and, therefore, between imperialism and the foundations of capitalism, while it shrank from joining the forces engendered by large-scale capitalism and its development-it remained a ‘pious wish.’”  (Vladimir Lenin, Spring 1916)

“Simply put, freedom is the absence of government coercion. Our Founding Fathers understood this, and created the least coercive government in the history of the world. The Constitution established a very limited, decentralized government to provide national defense and little else. States, not the federal government, were charged with protecting individuals against criminal force and fraud. For the first time, a government was created solely to protect the rights, liberties, and property of its citizens. Any government coercion beyond that necessary to secure those rights was forbidden, both through the Bill of Rights and the doctrine of strictly enumerated powers. This reflected the founders’ belief that democratic government could be as tyrannical as any King.” (Ron Paul, February 8, 2005)

What are we to make of the ideological oddity that is Ron Paul? The Texas congressman, who is by many accounts slowly and steadily attaining frontrunner status as a candidate for president in the GOP primaries, in spite of the media’s willful ignorance, wants to end U.S. imperialism in the Middle East and beyond–along with the military-industrial complex that supports and profits from it–and then remove every last governmental restraint on the ability of America’s ruling capitalists to reinvest the “peace dividend” in what he promises will be productive, socially beneficial endeavors. He wants to dismantle the expanding Homeland-Security police state at home and force cops to actually give a shit about the Bill of Rights, even presumably in the ghettos, which he tells us can do without taxpayer-funded “welfare-state” provisions like public schools and hospitals. He wants to restore America to its purer, more noble past, a throwback utopia that emerged historically straight out of the heads of Jefferson, Madison, and the rest of the crew. If he is unreasonable, it is only because he is incorruptible.

We are living in a time of universal corruption in government and in private commercial life. Indeed, as the two grow ever more corrupt, they appear ever more inseparable. Obama and the “serious” GOP candidates this time around don’t even seem all that interested in engaging with that teeming mass of unwashed known as their constituents. They know the jig is up. They know that American politics has at long last declared independence from the stultifying, deceptive analytical paradigm peddled incessantly by the Wolf Blitzers and David Gergens of society. These official gatekeepers would have us believe that Barack Hoo-sane Obama is the best the working class could ever hope for and that Ron Paul is the worst it has to fear. History has not yet come back from the dead for these reasonable, pragmatic adults in the room. They are clinging desperately to Fukuyama’s opium dream of a world where each of the billions of exploited wretches on the planet wants to be like Michael Jordan or Bono or Bill Clinton eating a Big Mac while getting his dick sucked. If Mitt Romney can be said to have any base at all, it is these Bourbons of the Beltway who have recently stepped down from their lofty political perches in order to smear Mr. Paul as a “racist” or worse.

Because mainstream debate has never taken seriously even the remote possibility of a Ron Paul presidency, nobody it seems has given any real thought to how a Ron Paul administration might actually govern. American history is filled with presidents who built their political careers advocating one thing only to do a complete 180 when they got to the White House. Jefferson started out as a fierce opponent of American territorial expansion but his greatest legacy as president was the Louisiana Purchase. Lincoln opposed the further expansion of slavery as a candidate in 1860 but went out of his way to disavow abolitionism during the campaign. Wilson kept us out of World War I until he didn’t. Reagan told us government is the problem and then presided over the most astronomical deficit expansion to date at the time. Obama . . . nuff said.

But no candidate for president other than Ron Paul has ever been so committed to an idea as to be seemingly indifferent to who his base is. Like some silver-tongued Roman orator, Paul speaks of a republic lost and an empire in decay and promises to return us to our former Ciceronian virtue by demolishing both the “warfare state” that the left so despises and the “welfare state” that the right professionally loves to hate. In doing so, he has made the strangest of bedfellows out of a remarkably diverse coalition of white boys, from young college kids, to rural armed survivalists. To publicly support Ron Paul is to be personally at least tolerated by all of the politicized sections of the 99 percent, from the Tea Party to the Occupations and everywhere in between. Put this guy in the oval office, and there’s no telling, it seems, what he would try to get away with, much less accomplish.

America (more specifically, the United States thereof) has for most of its young history been exceptional in following ways: it is a country that began just as the industrial revolution was accelerating in Europe and the capitalist system was consolidating itself as the dominant mode of production around the globe, but its vast, “uninhabited” lands enabled its people to postpone the social reckoning that the contradictions of that system caused in Europe for over a century. For nearly a century after the closing of the frontier, the United States further postponed this reckoning by being the economic beneficiary of two world wars that obliterated the productive capacity of the rest of the industrialized world while leaving American capital untouched. When the rest of the world finally caught up economically beginning on the 1970s, and American wages began to stagnate (they still are!), the U.S. ruling class postponed the reckoning even further by extending easy credit to working class households so that the same extraordinary consumption patterns could continue. A little over three years ago, the party ended, and the reckoning is right now upon us.

When people say that “socialism never took hold” in the U.S. because of some essential cultural attribute of its people, or that Americans are distinguished by their tendency to value “pragmatism” over “ideology,” they obscure–whether inadvertently or willfully–the exceptional material circumstances that have historically allowed Americans to put off the inevitable confrontation between labor and capital. This kicking of the can down the road has occurred with little interruption for so long that we have fallen accustomed to believing that we really are different, that we really are immune from the laws of history that govern other countries, that we can work it out, just like John Lennon promised.

Ron Paul’s capital crime as a candidate, for which the media will now lynch him, is not his advocacy of a radical “left wing” foreign policy platform or a radical “right wing” approach to domestic spending. It is the more general ideological narrative he is promoting on the campaign trail, a narrative that portrays the actually-existing United States as just another imperialist welfare-warfare state instead of the liberal-democratic “city on a hill” that the 1-percentrists on CNN have told us it is all throughout our lives. By forcing us to critically confront the actual words and thoughts of the same founding fathers that our rulers so incessantly fetishize, and by forcing us to compare those ideals to the endless wars, mounting police state, and exploding social crisis this country now suffers from, Paul invites ordinary Americans to fantasize that we can continue to be exceptional, that we can continue to prosper without resorting to class struggle like they do in other countries–at the expense of their “liberty.” That we need not concern ourselves with what socialism is really all about.

The problem is that the material circumstances that have made America so exceptional for over two centuries have now been exhausted, and like fossil fuels, they can never be replaced. A Ron Paul presidency (or even merely an Obama-Paul general election) would force this realization into the forefront of the American political debate because the litany of government evils Paul has spent his career railing against are, as a material historical fact, absolutely vital to the survival of the very capitalist system Paul has spent his career defending.

Ron Paul’s platform, taken as a whole, does not, indeed cannot, consistently represent any one person or constituency’s interests. At best, it represents our aspirations as a people. But these aspirations are informed not by our future but by our past, and as such, they can never be realized in our present. The sooner these anachronistic aspirations are put to the test and exposed for the fantasies they are, the sooner the more culturally conservative layers of the American 99 percent will get serious about the historical duty they share with the rest of us in the coming global confrontation with capital.