Egypt, my Egypt

I am clicking “Publish” in a rush … I suspect I will come to regret this later.


The popular mobilisations in Tunisia, Egypt and a swath of authoritarian North African and Middle Eastern states are interesting and important for more reasons than can be named, let alone examined, here.

But the aspects that have fascinated me are the over excited “I told you so!” claims of pundits, politicians and much of the Twitterati.

And not just the assertion that they had this right all along, but that they somehow understand the clattering Nasserite dominoes better than anyone and would just like to point out that it’s coming to get you. Yes, you (insert name of political opponent here), the revolution is coming for you.

There are literally hundreds of “takes on the crisis” I would like to poke fun at and take to task over this absurd conceit, but there is one I will look at (only slightly) more seriously.

Blunt Blade’s Bollocks

Blade Nzimande takes George Galloway’s excellent communist tirade in his column in the Morning Star (read it, it is also bollocks and brutal and crass but has enough thought and truth in it to warrant a second look) and turns it into the obscure and rambling  “Tunisia and Egypt: The deepening crisis of US imperialism and neo-liberalism“.

Where are the South African communists of yore who could always be relied upon to lift the veil, expose the skull beneath the skin and see the ape within the man? Oh yes, they are all dead or helping run the Department of Transport or become  bloated and insecure plutocrats … hmm, is that everyone?

Blade has it that Tunisia and Egypt are manifestations of a series of crises in capitalism “and its contemporary neo-liberal ideology”.

In short (in as far as I can understand Nzimande) the USA as the global representative of the corporate/capitalist machine has fostered dictatorships in the Arab world because they have agreed to leave the USA’s good friend Israel in peace.

So far so good, but then things start to unravel. Political upheaval in these Arab and North African countries sets back the USA’s task to reproduce the conditions of capitalist accumulation – through an amazingly complex web of dialectical causality. Thusly, the selling of upsized McDonald’s meals to the American guest workers rebuilding (if they work for Haliburton) and de/restabilising (if they work for Blackwater USA) any countries the US has recently invaded is threatened, because democratic governments are more likely to take a hard line on Israel … eh … oh goodness, there goes the thread.

You cannot successfully characterise Tunisia and Egypt as “crises of capitalism” unless you take an amazingly complex and interlinked world and reduce it to a childish little model that even the crudest Marxists would reject as ‘reductive’ and ‘over-deterministic’.

If  the term “capitalism” means the totality of international relations between states, global trade, the activities of local and international corporations and the shaping effects of culture, history and technology, then it is less than useless to characterise Tunisia and Egypt as “crises of capitalism”.

If the term “capitalism” refers (as I suspect it does, when used by Nzimande) to the secret set of rules in a secret club of greedy Americans who seek to control the world to protect and deepen their wealth, then I am sorry, but you can’t really be expected to be engaged with.

There are powerful and organised interests at play in North Africa and the Middle East and only a fool would not look to the USA for the sources of some of those forces. But there is also chaotic human activity and chance and rapidly unwinding and reforming complex systems that are part of what is happening and the blunt scalpel of Blade Nzimande’s theory takes us nowhere.

I would still recommend Galloway’s piece (as more insightful and the source of any interesting thoughts in Nzimande’s words on the subject) because part of what is happening in the Middle-East and North Africa is the unravelling of another mystifying US strategy to define, protect and advance its “national interests”.

What I wish the communists would give more attention to is not the greedy and rapacious aspects of US imperialism, but rather how it is often profoundly misconceived and poorly executed.

In my view human society should not be conceived of as “shaped” by particular forces or of being set on a certain “trajectory”. The totality of human existence is not an object (plastic and/or in motion). The totality of human existence – including the bits of it in Tunisia and Egypt – must be conceived of as a system so complex that making predictive statements is not hugely useful. Also, attempting to reduce the complexity to make it more understandable is a worthwhile endeavour only if undertaken with extreme caution and care.  Cooking it up as proof that your side is winning adds no real value.

In as far as the statement: “what is happening in the Arab world is a failure of US imperialism” is true, I suspect the reason is that successive US administrations have misconceived both the nature of history (as has Nzimande) and the nature of their own interests – not an error Nzimande appears obviously to have made.

6 thoughts on “Egypt, my Egypt

  1. Thanks for this excellent post.

    The Middle East seems to represent not so much a crisis of “capitalism” as a crisis of the rentier state.

    The IMF WEO of October 2008 carries an excellent chart showing the fisal cost of subsidies of food and fuel: no surprise that Middle Eastern and North African economies are serial subsidizers.

    That smacks of mass opiate and co-option strategy, and is the antithesis of the “neo-liberal” agenda.

  2. Sorry but if it is as you say ‘If the term “capitalism” refers (as I suspect it does, when used by Nzimande) to the secret set of rules in a secret club of greedy Americans who seek to control the world to protect and deepen their wealth, then I am sorry, but you can’t really be expected to be engaged with.’ – then won’t history look back at the ANC with their
    Access to Information bill etc be classed as a secret club of cadres looking after their own interests – at the expense of the nation and the poor who reside in that nation – the ANC [whilst in power] history is going to likened to Janus!!

  3. Nic, it’s definitely a crisis of imperium, in the sense of a cross-class coalition of Egyptian social forces no longer willing to tolerate a corrupt and vicious police state that does the bidding of its foreign patron but has nothing more than violent contempt for its own people. But in Egypt’s case, there very definitely is a classic “capitalist” dimension — a major ingredient in the protest movement were the strikes that have raged, wildcat style and at great risk, in most of industrial Egypt over the past two years. The April 6 youth movement, one of the core elements on the Square, was formed directly out of that. Some of the union activism has come from traditional left types, some even from the Brotherhood (whose youth wing, invariably, is more progressive than its elders). And if you go back to the moment that things turned for the regime, you’ll see it was the outbreak of a kind of mass strike early last week.

    Right now you have middle class opposition groups, such as Google Boy Wael Ghonim but even the Brotherhood, or at least it spiritual mentor Sheikh Qaradawi asking people to go back to work, but for working class elements that’s not necessarily an attractive option.

    In short, the Egyptian crisis was not a “crisis of capitalism” because that’s not a very useful analytical term, and the factors that drove the political outcome that we’ve seen now are far more complicated than such old boilerplate language allows. But there shouldn’t be any doubt that capitalism in Egypt is in crisis, the consequences of which were certainly felt in the arc of the protest movement (and possibly a reason it won’t easily be replicated in less developed societies of the Middle East – looking at Egypt, it seems like Italy or Spain in the 1950s or so, to my untrained and schematic eye…) And more importantly, the economic and social crises that are going to face any new regime are pretty profound…

  4. Capitalism and Communism are two sides of the same coin. And the coin is the ‘Beast’ of Revelation who had the number 666.

    HEADING – CAPITALISM (The Deutsch ‘Mark’ in hand) and COMMUNISM (‘Marx’ism in forehead), which followed Hitler’s world war, is the beast (system) of Revelation.

    This is a brief analysis of the beast of Revelation who had the mark in the hand or forehead and the 666, which demonstrates that it is the current socio economic systems, which started soon after the Second World War.
    Hitler was an Ashke’nazi’ (fake) Jew, and was a front man for people, whose aim was world domination by deception.

    With reference to Revelation 13:11-17 ( )

    The miracles that he performed, was the advanced technological warfare.

    The deception was that the aim of the Nazis and their backers, was to destroy as much of the world as possible, including Germany and to rebuild thereafter on us-versus-them lines, while implementing mechanisms to control human beings and wrest maximum power from them. This is an old technique of Satan’s, which is to divide-and-conquer.

    The (Deutsch) Mark in the ‘hand’ is capitalism and the Marx(ism) in the ‘forehead’, is communism, which were also physically divided by the Berlin wall and politically by the Iron curtain. Capitalism had/has too much of everything while being ideologically depraved. And communism has too little of everything while supposedly being ideologically altruistic, creating the required tension and therefore distraction between the two. Now that communism is supposedly dead (?), new enemies are being manufactured, notably the Muslims.

    The beast/economic/social systems of both capitalism and communism require tracking of humans by birth registrations, ID’s, passports, asset ownership registrations, title deeds, licenses, etc., and lately with advanced body surveillance and tracking. Demo(n)cracy is the subtle form of dictatorship (which has now been given to the communist countries), with us-versus-them political parties to keep people distracted, and communism is overt dictatorship, while the humans of each system are both being thoroughly sown up and tied in with full body and asset identification, tracking and surveillance, and punishment enforcement systems (police(y) enforcers, human law courts, prisons, etc.).

    Any significant purchasing within either system is not possible without those tracking identification numbers and registrations and the legal systems of each.

    The systems cater extensively and exclusively for the human side of the human+being, making them physical or human based as opposed to ‘being’ or spirit based (as in human+being), as confirmed by the number of the system; the 666. Man/human was created on the sixth day (Genesis), so the number is man in the beginning, man at the end and man everywhere in between; human/physical based as opposed to spirit. Christ’s message was spirit based and therefore the beast (socio economic) system is anti-Christ.

    The beast-system produces mass poverty, mass raping of earth’s resources, mass destruction of habitat, mass pollution and waste, maximum injury to the earth’s climatic conditions, mass consumption (capitalist system) for the senses (the depravity) and therefore body sickness, extensive wars to keep refueling the supply demand engine, and they/it will drive humans and the planet eventually to extinction, which is why Revelation issues strong warnings about it.

    The real issue is not whether Capitalism or Communism is better. They both belong to the same honcho. They are both evil.

    18:4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, COME OUT of her, MY people, that ye take not part in her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues (punishment).

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