Samir Amin reflects on Egypt

Interview with Samir Amin published on Pambazuka News, by Beifang/China, Sept 5, 2013.

On 15 July 2013 Samir Amin was interviewed by Beifang, China. He expressed his views that the action of the army was not a coup d’etat as well as the tasks facing the popular movement in Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood rule lasted just over a year, why did the collapse come so soon?

  • AMIN: The fall of Morsi and of the rule of Muslim Brothers came as expected. Firstly, the government of the Muslim Brothers has been pursuing the same neoliberal policies as that of Mubarak, and even worse. It could not solve any problem faced by the Egyptian people.  
  • Secondly, Morsi was elected through a gigantic fraud. The Muslim Brothers were mobilized to occupy the voting places and made impossible for others to vote, to the extent that the Egyptian judges who usually followed the election were disgusted and moved out and gave the election to the Brotherhood. Despite that, the US Embassy and Europe declared the election was perfect. This is how Morsi was elected.

Shortly after the fall of Morsi, you released a short statement and claimed it an important victory of the Egyptian people, however, Morsi was ousted by the army, not directly by the demonstrations of the people. To what degree can we say it was the victory of the people?

  • AMIN: After a few months, it has been proven that Morsi was continuing the same policies rejected by the people. The movement of Tamarod started a campaign of signature, asking for the removal of Morsi and a new, real election. 26 million signatures were collected, which is the true figure. Morsi did not take an account of this campaign. So it was decided on 30 June, which is exactly one year after his inauguration, there would be a demonstration. And the demonstration has been gigantic, the widest in the whole history of Egypt. 33 million people moved onto the streets of Cairo and all Egyptian towns, including small towns. When you say 33 million people out of the total population of 85 million people, it means everybody. Just compare, imagine for China there are 500 million people demonstrating on the same day in all towns.
  • But Morsi replied to the demonstration by saying, oh, we are not accepting the civil war. There is no danger of civil war, because you have 90 percent of the people who are anti-Morsi and Morsi was not able to mobilize, even distributing a lot of money, more than a few hundred thousand people, which means an imbalance against him. The western media are continuously repeating the words of Morsi ‘we are moving to a civil war’, but this is ridiculous.
  • Facing the situation, the army operated in a very wise, intelligent way. They simply deposited Morsi and controlled him; the presidency was transferred to the President of the Constitutional Court, which is the normal way to replace a president which is removed. We shall see what the new government will do, if moving out of the policies of Morsi or not, but the movement is completely mobilized to respond.

The fact that Morsi was removed by the military force has been interpreted in very different ways. Some welcomed the change, some condemned it’s a pure military coup. What do you think of that?

  • AMIN: Such an action of the army is not a coup d’état. The western press said it was a coup d’état, but it is not, it is a wise action to answer the demands of the Egyptian people. I don’t want to go into details that I don’t know. The top leadership of the army has been, during the 30 years after the death of Nasser, controlled by the US and corrupted by the money of the US and the Gulf countries; and they accepted the polices of submission of Mubarak and Morsi. But everybody should know that the Egyptian army is not only the top leaders, also thousands of officers who remain patriotic; they are not necessarily progressive, nor socialist, but they understand that the people don’t want Morsi.
  • The new prime minister, Hazem Al Beblawi, I knew him personally. He was a brilliant student of economics. I don’t know what his mind is today; but he’s a clever man, able to understand the continuing of neoliberal policy is a disaster. We shall see.

As you said, the Egyptian army has been corrupt and has close connections with the US, but this time they stand together with the people. Can we say the army has changed in nature?

  • AMIN: It’s the question we are all asking ourselves. We suspect the top leaders of the army are pro US, I don’t want to go into the secrets that I don’t know. Who is Sisi? Sisi is not necessarily the worst among them, I don’t know. Anyway, we judge the people by actions, not by this or that we don’t know. But I can assure you that many officers have shown their sympathy by moving among the people quite spontaneously. When the soldiers moved out onto the streets, standing with the people, it was also quite spontaneous. We should not consider the army as a whole is simply the instrument of the US.

Please tell us something about the movement. It seems very wide, who are joining the movement and how much in common do they have? … //

… What role did the US play in the change?

  • AMIN: The US supported Mubarak to the last minute. They also supported Morsi to the last minute; they continuously repeated ‘the elected president’. But when the leaders of the army took action to deposit Morsi, then the US accepted it, they understood. Of course they exercise strong pressure on the new government to continue neoliberal policy, submitting to IMF and the World Bank. But the people on the street shouted the slogan, ‘we don’t want IMF, we don’t want the World Bank.’ But there are pressures; those working with the management of finance are spontaneously conservative and pro neoliberalism. So there is a need for a struggle against them.
  • On one hand, we can say the US accepted and supported the army and the new government, but on the other hand, they tried to put pressure to bring back reactionary political Islam, not through the Muslim Brotherhood but through the Salafist. This is the plan of the US, which is not to help Egypt out of the crisis, but to use the crisis to further destroy. Because Egypt is considered by them a dangerous country, it has a long past, it has been the first emerging country since the beginning of the 19th century, and one of the Third World important emerging country in the time of Nasser and Bandung, in line with China, the Soviet Union, and other countries of the third world. It played an important role in the liberation of all Africa. An independent Egypt with a sovereign, popular, progressive project would be a danger to the influence of the US, not only in Egypt, but in the Middle East, in Arab countries, and in all Africa. It will limit the expansion of Israel to Palestine. It will also put an end to the influence of the Gulf countries.

Egypt is now in another transition which is not peaceful; the clashes have cost hundreds of lives. What do think of the bloodshed? What will be the future of the transition?

  • AMIN: Of course it is not peaceful, but it’s not a civil war. The people are highly politicized, everybody is discussing politics on the street every day. People are active. Therefore different opinions appear, they discuss in some cases correctly and in other cases less correctly. But there is no danger of civil war because the common front is very wide.
  • The US is using another weapon in addition to economic and financial pressure. The US are supporting small armed groups operating as real terrorists. These groups are coming from Libya. Since Libya has been destroyed by the western military operation, Libya has become the base for all kinds of Jihadists. There are Jihadists with strong arms including missiles coming from the desert, this is the real danger. Also in the Egyptian peninsula of Sinai small Jidahist groups supported by Israel and the Gulf countries are operating terrorist actions. This is made possible by the so called ‘peace agreement’ between Egypt and Israel which puts a limit on the number of Egyptian soldiers stationed in Sinai : 700 to 2000, very small figure for this wide area. On the 4 July after Morsi was removed, I wrote a paper, the last sentence of which says now the danger is from imperialist US, Israel and Gulf, using criminal mercenaries, coming from Libya, and from the province of Sinai. This is what is happening now : terrorism , not civil war.

(full text).


Samir Amin on en.wikipedia with it’s External Links: … (born 3 September 1931) is an Egyptian Marxian economist. He lives in Dakar, Senegal;

His articles: on; on openDemocracy; on ZNet; on Monthly Review.

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