Muslim Brotherhood

SWP Backs ‘Revolutionary’ Moslem Brotherhood and Faces Torrent of Criticism.

This is a cross post from Tendence Coatsey

The Moslem Brotherhood: What a Logo!

“Socialists cannot give support to the Islamists either. That would be to call for the swapping of one form of oppression for another, to react to the violence of the state by abandoning the defence of ethnic and religious minorities, women and gays, to collude in scapegoating that makes it possible for capitalist exploitation to continue unchecked providing it takes “Islamic” forms. It would be to abandon the goal of independent socialist politics, based on workers in struggle organising all the oppressed and exploited behind them, for a tail-ending of a petty bourgeois utopianism which cannot even succeed in its own terms.”

Chris Harman. The Prophet and the Proletariat. 1994.

Controversy has been growing on the left about the SWP’s present support for the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood. Many are familiar with its history of vicious anti-Semitism, hatred of the workers movement, religious bigotry, anti-communism, anti-feminism, and opposition to secularism.

In Socialist Appeal Alan Woods said that the SWP’s Egyptian co-thinkers (Revolutionary Socialists Group) had issued a statement giving qualified support for Mohammed Morsi of the MB.

“This article is so scandalous that I had to read it twice and look up the SWP website to make sure it was not a hoax. But no, it is not a hoax. The Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists (Cliffites) are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in the second round of the elections and calling them to form a broad national unity government against “fascism”.”

The Alliance for Workers Liberty has said this (Neither Plague nor Cholera),

The MB is not a new, fluid formation created by the uprising against Mubarak. Far from it. It has a long history, going back to 1928. In 1946 Tony Cliff, who would later found the SWP, called it “clerical-fascist”: that is how most left-wingers thought of it.

In the 1960s, with the contribution to its ideology of Sayyid Qutb, it became more, not less, insistent on imposing the rules and institutions of an imaginary ideal Islamic past on workers, women, lesbians and gays, free-thinkers, and religious minorities.

Illegal or semi-legal for many years in Egypt, and well-rooted now in the wealthy classes, it has learned canniness and tactical flexibility. It knows when and how to display itself as “moderate”.

They conclude,

Neither Mubarak’s henchman, nor the Muslim Brothers, but independent working class politics!”


But the SWP has continued on the path 0f aligning with the MB.

They announced this week that,

The Muslim Brotherhood represents the right wing of the revolution. It is not the counter-revolution.

It saw the fall of Mubarak as an opportunity to work with Scaf so the Muslim Brotherhood could take a role in government.

So since 11 February 2011 the Brotherhood has been a conservative organisation. But Shafiq is the counter-revolution.

That is why we are mobilising for protests against the military coup alongside the Brotherhood. Most political forces are taking part.

Says Socialist Worker.

Counterfire’s John Rees similarly talks as if the Muslim Brotherhood are some kind of (partially misguided) allies,

The left must now say to the Muslim Brotherhood that the time for turning every event in the revolution to their electoral advantage, no matter what the effect on the fate of the revolution as a whole, is over.

The revolution is at stake and it will take more than a vote for Morsi to defend it. Now is the time for all those who are genuinely in favour of the revolution to make a stand. And that stand must begin in Tahrir. Now.

Jack Conrad of the Weekly Worker (A blunder of historic proportions) says,

“Voting for the Muslim Brotherhood was a vote for a party of counterrevolution, not the revolution.”

He  traces the background to this stand by the SWP.

What was the basis of their call to vote for Mursi?

Sadly, for the Socialist Workers Party the choice was immediately “clear”: Mohammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood had to be supported. “A vote for Mursi is a vote against the legacy of Mubarak and for continuing change in Egypt. Now it is time to put Mursi to the test – and to continue struggles over jobs, wages, union rights and for radical political change,” wrote Socialist Worker’s Phil Marfleet.

Conrad  offers a fine analysis of the founding figures of the MB such as Hassan al-Banna (1906-47) – Tariq Ramadan’s grandfather. Under him the “MB was run according to the Führerprinzip (‘leader principle’) and Al-Banna openly expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. He looks at its purist ideology and  political history. Conrad says, “Winning hearts and minds has always been seen as a necessary precondition for re-establishing the caliphate: first in Egypt and other Muslim countries, eventually over the whole globe.”

This is a strategy, we have argued, with echos on the European Nouvelle Droite, of a Gramscianism of the Right. That is  struggle for hegemony in civil society in order to create a coercive society from ‘micro-powers’ that will regulate first the faithful, and then all society.

For the Weekly Worker, the “MB pays lip service to democracy. However, a fully consolidated MB regime would be an MB dictatorship with all that that would entail for independent trade unions, a free press, women’s rights, the Coptic minority, etc. Moreover, almost needless to say, an MB regime would not combine Islam and socialism, but Islam and monopoly capitalism. MB voices advocating egalitarianism have been bureaucratically silenced over recent years. Mursi explicitly pledged himself to preserve the so-called “free market” and rescue the tottering Egyptian economy by drawing on the $3.2 billion International Monetary Fund loan facility (agreed with MB participation). Naturally, MB’s present-day economic ‘renaissance’ would involve restructuring according to Islamic principles – in truth that can only mean further privatisations, further cuts and further suffering by the Egyptian masses.”

Our own analysis parallels this (The Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Constitutionalism 2011)

After looking at various tendencies within the MB and their developing positions on democracy,  the conclusion is that,

“The modernised, Constitutional Islamism they represent is not fundamentally democratic, it is bounded by the limits of the Divine Message. One can see the importance this plays in the MB’s priorities by their absence from the workers’ struggles that have been waged against the economic projects of the Mubarak regime, aimed at furthering the liberalisation of the economy. This is equally the case for the liberal opposition, which indeed has pushed for an even more aggressive turn to the privatised market-state. Those liberals, who originate from the Judges’ Club, and those MB members committed to a democratic framework, are temporary partners with the left, on the great issue of Egyptian revolutionary reform. Any convergence, as Yassamine Mathar argues,  is temporary. They are not allies on the substance of a social republic, which is both open to all, and secular, and the bearer of the rights of the people and workers against the sovereignty of god and the market. Worse, such collaboration in Egypt stands in the way of the international labour and socialist movement, whose interests are opposed to Islamism in all its forms.”

Comrade Conrad answers those who admire the Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘charitable’ activities, that make part of the Egyptian population dependent on their religious good will,

“thanks to their wealth and Saudi patronage, MB can provide a non-state, alternative system of healthcare, social security, religious education and source of credit in Egypt.”

In other words, the MB uses money to bind people to not just faith but its project of protecting the source of that wealth: capitalism.

His alternative?

“The forces of the working class, socialism and communism are pitifully weak in Egypt. But to have called for a vote for Mursi and an MB-dominated government can do nothing to strengthen those forces. The working class cannot gain strength by opting for the lesser evil – let alone tying itself to MB in the hope that it will, almost in spite of itself, create the benign conditions needed to continue the fight for better living conditions, trade union rights and radical democratic change.”

The SWP’s support for Islamism in Egypt may have little practical effect on the country’s politics. Major conflicts are taking place there and it would perhaps, in our view, be best to support, simply and modestly, the demands Comrade Conrad suggests. That is putting democracy and the labour movement at the centre. We might, if we are on the democratic Marxist left, consider the independent  revolutionary bloc said to be forming – completely 0utside the Muslim Brotherhood – around the Nassarist Hamdeen Sabbah.

But what of the wider implications of the SWP stand? Does this mean that in other conditions the SWP is prepared to support right-wing Islamists? In Europe? Are these part of a potential ‘revolution’? Can we ignore their anti-democratic character because in some fashion they are part of a ‘movement’ against the state? Against ‘imperialism’?

Looking at the rich backers of the Moslem Brotherhood and other Islamists – including the most ‘radical’ Salafists’ – and we can see that this is an alliance with pious Islamic capitalism. Not a united front that has anything to do with workers and progressive movements.

Unkind people may apply Conrad’s analysis of submission to Islamic law to the SWP’s subordination to the MB,

psychologists have long claimed that sadomasochistic pleasure can be gained from submitting to and/or enforcing authority: “the first defining trait of a sadomasochistic dynamic” being the “existence of a hierarchical situation”.

Nobody else gets much joy out of this stand.

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