The fall of Morsi wasn’t a military coup, but the danger is that it will lead to one, says John Rees
The June 30th demos shook the tree, but the army picked up the apple. The demand of the Tamarod (Rebellion) movement was not that the army should take power. It was that there should be fresh elections. That prospect is in danger of receding.
The massacre of over 40 Muslim Brotherhood (MB) supporters who were protesting at the Republican Guard HQ in Cairo in the early hours of this morning shows that the army want to use the persecution of the MB to cement their own power. They judge that this is popular because of the mass resentment against the failed policies of the Morsi presidency. But while that resentment is fully justified, not least by the MB policy of grovelling to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), if SCAF get away with this it will be to the detriment of the whole revolution.
If SCAF get away with shooting the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood today then will feel confident that they can shoot supporters of the revolution in Tahrir tomorrow.
It was right to overthrow the MB. The army could never, and would not have been able to, act without the unprecedented mobilisation of June 30th. But power did not pass to the masses when Morsi fell. The revolution has no organs of popular power which could govern in place of Morsi.
So the danger is now that the MB and the army fight a battle in which the revolution will be the loser. SCAF are working to put effective control of the streets into their own hands. There are now roadblocks appearing across Cairo in the wake of the shootings this morning.
Meanwhile in establishment politics SCAF is promoting another neoliberal government to replace the MB neoliberal government. Former arms inspector Mohammed El Baradei is tipped to be appointed as Vice President. He has a record of opposing Mubarak, but he had to drop out of the Presidential race a year ago for lack of support. He is a free marketeer and he will effectively head an administration of technocrats with as little chance of addressing the ‘Bread, Freedom and Social Justice’ demands of January 25th as the Morsi government had.
There are at least three things needed to lead revolution. Firstly, those heading the process need to be a revolutionaries; secondly, they need a programme adequate to the task of the revolution; thirdly, popular support among the masses is essential. The El Baradei government lacks all three.
This immediate moment of polarisation is between SCAF and the enemy they most want, the MB. The MB are unpopular, and rightly so. But the SCAF regime also led to the murder of protestors, and to torture and imprisonment. It will do so again if SCAF are allowed to use the unpopularity of the MB to engineer their own return to full power.
This prospect needs to be pushed back by renewed popular mobilisation against what is now the power in the land: SCAF. This would allow the best sections of the MB to be drawn away from their discredited leadership and into joint action with the revolution. If the present danger can be overcome then the revolution must deepen and produce its own organic leadership and the institutions of popular power through which this leadership can arise.
Tamarod are right to call for people to go back to the squares and force through a transition, that is, to keep the revolutionary process going.
Only this can ensure that power does not revert solely to SCAF and the civilians they trust not to endanger their power, a power that lies right at the heart of the ruling institutions of Egyptian society, the power that produced Mubarak and still defends the social structure over which he held sway.
John Rees is a writer, broadcaster and activist, and is one of the organisers of the People’s Assembly. His books include ‘The Algebra of Revolution’, ‘Imperialism and Resistance’, ‘Timelines, A Political History of the Modern World’, ‘The People Demand, A Short History of the Arab Revolutions’ (with Joseph Daher) and ‘A People’s History of London’ (with Lindsey German). He is co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition.