Samir Amin is a Franco-Egyptian economist, a member of the International Council of the World Social Forum and chairman of the World Forum for Alternatives. Samir Amin analyzes the political and economic crisis in Egypt.
This interview was conducted for the World Social Forum in Dakar by Rosa Moussaoui, special journalist/correspondent for ‘L’Humanité‘.
Question – Are the events that shook Tunisia and Egypt merely “popular uprisings” or are they a sign of the entry of these countries into the revolutionary process?
Samir Amin – These are social revolts which can potentially lead to a crystallization of alternatives, which in the long run may become part of a socialist perspective. That is why the capitalist system, capital monopolies on a global scale, can not tolerate the development of these movements. It will mobilize all possible means of destabilization, economic and finance pressure, going as far as to military threats. It will support, as it finds appropriate, either bogus fascist or fascistic alternatives, or the establishment of military dictatorships. Do not believe a word of what Obama said. Obama is Bush, but with a different language. There is a constant duplicity. In fact, in the case of Egypt, the United States supported the regime. They may eventually find it more useful to sacrifice the person of Mubarak. But they will not give up on the essentials: the military and the police. They may consider strengthening the military and police systems through an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, what the leaders of the United States have in mind is the Pakistani model, which is not a democratic model, but a combination of a power which can be called Islamic and a military dictatorship. However, in the case of Egypt, a large part of the popular forces that have mobilized are well aware of these designs. The Egyptian people are very politically aware. The history of Egypt is that of a country trying to emerge from darkness since the early nineteenth century, that was defeated by its own shortcomings, but mainly by repeated external aggression.
Question – These upheavals are predominantly the result of unemployed young people and college graduates who have not been able to find jobs. How do you explain this?
Samir Amin – Nasser’s Egypt had an economic and social system which could be criticized, but it was consistent. Nasser bet on industrialization to get the country out of the international colonial specialization which confined the country to the export of cotton. This system succeeded in maintaining a good income distribution in favor of the middle classes, and without a lowering of living standards for the poorer classes. However, this all changed in response to the military aggressions of 1956 and 1967 that mobilized Israel. Sadat and Mubarak worked more on the dismantling of the productive system of Egypt, for which they substituted a completely inconsistent system, based entirely on the search for profitability. The supposedly high Egyptian growth rates, proclaimed and lauded over the last thirty years by the World Bank, have no meaning. It is smoke and mirrors. Growth in Egypt is highly vulnerable, dependent on the external market and on the flow of oil capital from the rich Gulf countries. With the crisis in the global economy, this vulnerability was manifested by a sudden running out of steam. This slowdown was accompanied by an incredible rise in inequality and unemployment, which has affected a majority of young people. The situation was explosive and there was an explosion. What is now beginning, beyond the original demands for the end of the ruling regime and the establishment of democratic freedoms, is a political battle.
Question – Why is the Muslim Brotherhood now trying to present themselves as “moderates”?
Samir Amin – Because they are asked to play this game. The Muslim Brotherhood have never been moderates. It is not a religious movement but a political movement that uses religion. Since its founding in 1920 by the British and the monarchy, the movement has played an active role as an anticommunist, anti-liberal, undemocratic agent. This is the raison d’être for the Muslim Brotherhood and they make that claim clearly. They say openly: if they win an election, it will be the last, because the electoral system would be an imported Western form that would be against the nature of Islam. In this respect they have definitely not changed at all. In fact, political Islam has always been supported by the United States. They presented the Taliban in the war against the Soviet Union as the heroes of freedom. When the Taliban closed girls’ schools which had been established by the Communists, there were feminist movements in the United States who saw fit to explain the need to respect the “traditions” of Afghanistan. The United States is playing a double game. On the one hand, support. On the other, using the natural fundamentalist excesses in order to feed racism, the rejection of immigrants and thus to justify military aggression. In accordance with this strategy, the Mubarak regime has never fought against political Islam. Instead, it has been incorporated into the system.
Question – Has Mubarak subcontracted the Egyptian society to the Muslim Brotherhood?
Samir Amin – Absolutely. He has given them three basic institutions: justice, education and television. But the military regime wants to keep the management for themselves, the management that is claimed by the Muslim Brotherhood. The United States uses this minor dispute within the alliance between the military and the Islamists to ensure the docility of both. The essential point is that everyone accepts capitalism as it is. The Muslim Brotherhood has never considered seriously changing things. For that matter, at the big workers’ strikes of 2007-2008, their MPs voted with the government against the strikers. Faced with the struggles of peasants evicted from their land by large landowners, the Muslim Brotherhood took the side against the peasant movement. For them private property, free enterprise and profit are sacred.
Question – What are their long-time plans for the entire Middle East?
Samir Amin – All are very docile. The military as well as the Muslim Brotherhood accept the hegemony of the United States in the region and peace with Israel as it is. They all continue to show the kind of complacency that allows Israel to continue the colonization of what remains of Palestine.
Original text in French: Samir Amin sur la révolution égyptienne
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