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T THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY of the Egyptian Revolution of January 11, 2011, labor historian Joel Beinin provocatively posited that: “The January 25
Revolution is not over. Rather, it has not yet occurred” (Beinin, 2013). He argued that the popular uprising had been swiftly outmaneuvered by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Muslim Brotherhood. The state apparatus
remained largely intact, and there was no fundamental change in the political and economic relations of power. Beinin refrained from categorizing the January 25 insurrection as a “revolution” because its outcomes appeared all but transformative. This “consequentialist” historical perspective echoed Theda Skocpol’s classical definition of a revolution as a process that not only entailed “class-based revolts from below,” but also “rapid, basic transformations of a society’s state and class structures” (Skocpol, 1979, 5). Thus, a particular outcome of the revolutionary process is turned into a primary determinant of its categorization as a “revolution.” This means, on the one hand, that a process can only be discerned as a revolution post factum, and, on the other, that the notion of a failed revolution becomes problematic, since its success SS the conquest, break-up, and transformation of state power (cf. Lenin, 1976) SS becomes a precondition of its definition. In the case of Egypt, this would imply that the successes of the counter-revolution are evidence that there is no genuine revolution unfolding. However, it was not social scientists who first defined the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings as a ”‘revolution,” but the protagonists themselves. As a concept
3 it emerged spontaneously from the ranks of the protesters who tried to make sense of their own collective and collaborative mass activity. Shifting the focus of analysis from outcomes to agencies, the substance of revolution appears as: “the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny” (Trotsky, 2001, 17S18). This subject-centered concept of revolution places the punctuated and non-linear development of subaltern self-determination, self-consciousness, and selforganization at the heart of its analysis. From the perspective of the subaltern classes, revolution is the process through which they (attempt to) reconfigure the existing “historical bloc”1 to their advantage. The January 25 insurrection thus constituted an explosive and salient moment within a protracted, molecular process of “economic” strikes and “political” protests that stretched back to the early 2000s (ZDB, 2012). Conversely, the dynamic of counterrevolution is shaped by agents whose practices, strategies, and discourses aim to protect and consolidate the status quo. Despite the conceptual clarity of these ideal-typical struggles, the actual processes of revolution and counter-revolution are intersected, on the one hand, by hegemonic2 relations between ruling and subaltern groups, and, on the other, by 1 Gramsci’s concept of “historical bloc” has two dimensions. First, it points to a “vertical” coherent ensemble of political and economic forces. Second, it represents a “horizontal” alliance of classes and groups under the umbrella of a national-popular will (Morton, 2007, 96S97). 2 Whereas for Lenin the notion of hegemony served as a category in the analysis
4 political fights internal to these factions. By itself, the simple dichotomy between “revolutionary” and “counter-revolutionary” forces cannot function as a complete analytical framework to understand the complex patchwork of political projects and alliances in Egypt today. In order to understand the unfolding process of postinsurrectionary transformation in Egypt, it is necessary to grasp precisely why certain political powers are able to exert leadership over the masses. Drawing on a Gramscian framework, I explore the historical lineages of the military “soft coup” that deflected the spontaneous uprising of January 25. Gramsci’s concepts of “passive revolution,” “Caesarism,” and “transformism” offer interpretative instruments for an understanding of the current process as neither a victorious revolution, nor a triumphant restoration.
of proletarian strategy (Morton, 2007, 88), for Gramsci it became a key concept in the theory of state formation. The historical development of the modern, bourgeois “integral state” contained the internal differentiation of civil and political society. The class rule of the bourgeoisie was based on both “domination” and “hegemony.” Whereas domination is “naked” and “topdown” class rule, whereby the ruled is the passive object of the integral state, hegemony is the active consent to the ruling class’s leadership because of its prestige, its directive capacities, its cultural aura, its ability to “manage” society and resolve societal problems, etc. For the bourgeoisie, hegemony was the capacity to present itself as a progressive and leading force in society and to represent its own particular interests as the general good.
5 The Nasserist Lineage On Thursday, February 10, 2011, for the first time since the beginning of the January 25 protests, the military emerged as an explicitly autonomous participant in the revolutionary process through the “Supreme Council of Armed Forces” (SCAF), which consisted of the Defense Minister, the Chief of Staff, and other high-ranked officers of all military services, districts, and departments (Kandil, 2011). The mere fact that the SCAF convened independently from the president was proof that a “silent coup” was taking place. CNN quoted an anonymous senior Egyptian official: “It’s not a coup, it’s a consensus” (Guardian, 2011b) SS a growing consensus among Egypt’s capitalist class fractions and foreign allies, such as the USA, that Mubarak’s days were numbered and that the military was the only stable sphere of the state apparatus able to contain the revolutionary flood (cf. Amar, 2011; Shenker, 2011). Curiously, despite the critical attitude of organized activists vis-à-vis the role of the Armed Forces, the broad masses cautiously welcomed the intervention of the military, embracing and kissing soldiers and conscripts, giving them flowers, food, and drink, talking and discussing with them, and demanding “that our brothers in the national armed forces clearly define their stance by either lining up with the real legitimacy provided by millions of Egyptians on strike on the streets, or standing in the camp of the regime that has killed our people, terrorized them and stole from them” (Guardian, 2011a). Opposition figures such as el-Baradei called upon the army to “save the country now” or it “will explode” (Guardian, 2011c).
6 These interpellations of the Armed Forces as a potential revolutionary ally for the masses were not only the product of a simple naivete towards the real interests of the military, or, conversely, a calculated pragmatism not to confront the armed bodies of the state; they also represented deeply entrenched historical expectations of the army as a national and popular force for change. This lineage was firmly rooted in the Nasserist experience of the 1950s and 1960s, which still resonates in contemporary Egyptian politics.3 Fragments of Nasserist ideology were still
entrenched within popular common-sense notions about social justice, relations between “state” and “economy,” and anti-imperialism. For many Egyptian workers and farmers, the historical figure of Gamal Abd al-Nasser remained an icon of liberation because of his domestic redistributive and social welfare politics and his prestigious role in the non-aligned movement. In the eyes of leftist political activists and intellectuals, however, the Nasserist heritage was much more ambiguous. The novelist Alaa al-Aswany offered an intuitive glimpse of the contradictions that operated at the core of the Nasserist 3 For example, in the post-Mubarak presidential elections of May 23 and 24, 2012, Hamdeen Sabahi, leader of the neo-Nasserist al-Karama (Dignity) party, surprisingly came in third, with 20.72% of the votes, after Muhammad Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq (Ahramonline, 2012). In militant Alexandria, Sabahi even won the first round with 34% (Ali, 2012). Sabahi’s popularity among Egypt’s working classes was only partially derived from his implacable opposition toward the Mubarak regime from the 1970s onward, and his humble background as a fisherman (Ibrahim, 2012).
I do not think it was a coup, rather a coup supported by a real revolution. Nasser was a great leader and he did very positive things for Egypt. . . . many Egyptians had, for the first time, the opportunity to enjoy a good education, health care, food, because of Nasser’s revolution. . . . But also we shouldn’t forget that the current dictatorship and regime is based on Nasser. Everything: the security state, the control system, the elections . . . everything is based on this regime. The irony is that he established a dictatorship while he didn’t need it. Nasser was supported to the extent that in any free elections he would have easily gained a majority. That was not the case with the presidents who came after him. He was the one who built the dictatorship machine. And the problem with this machine is that everyone can use it. Everything is ready for the dictatorship, the security, the torture. If you are in the driving seat you just push the button and the regime will keep on running. (Personal communication with Alaa al-Aswany, November 26, 2010.)
Despite the 1919 anti-colonial popular uprising, the emergence of militant trade unions from the 1920s onward, and huge movements of students and workers after World War II, it was the Nasserist episode that consolidated a particular, and arguably distorted, concept of “revolution,” which was understood as a particular process of radical decolonization, economic and political modernization, social justice, and nation building in Egypt and the Arab world. Already in the 1960s’ and
8 1970s’ academic narratives of Nasserism, the military was presented as a relatively progressive, transformative force (cf. Hurewitz, 1969; Vatikiotis, 1972). In
contradistinction to the conservative ruling elites, which were tied to the interests of foreign colonial capital and domestic landed property, the military and its leading petty-bourgeois stratum in particular (cf. Halpern, 1963) appeared as a modern and national political agent that acted as a substitute for the absent archetypical bourgeoisie. From the 1970s onward, the developmental and democratic failures of the “Arab socialist” states provoked a critique of these perspectives (Picard, 1990, 198S9). Some of these analyses even rejected the transformative capacity of the military, regarding the nationalist coups as forms of premodern continuity rather than modernist change (cf. Perlmutter, 1974). Others recognized the (failed) modernization efforts of the regime, but denied any revolutionary character of the military dictatorship, citing its violent and authoritarian politics vis-à-vis workers and farmers (Beinin, 2013). In order to understand these contradictions, authors operating within a Gramscian tradition have categorized the Nasserist intervention as a form of “passive revolution” (e.g., Cox, 1987, 210; al-Shakry, 2011). However, as I argue below, this “regime label” creates more problems than it solves: by itself, it cannot explain in a satisfactory manner the complex interdependency between popular masses and state elites, nor the transformative shift from Nasser to Sadat and Mubarak. Thus Gramsci’s notion of “Caesarism” appears as an additional, yet indispensable,
9 conceptual tool to understand the contemporary dialectic between subaltern actors and ruling groups.
Passive Revolution The term “passive revolution” was first deployed by Gramsci to understand the Risorgimento as a process of revolutionizing, but non-revolutionary formation of a modern Italian state (Thomas, 2009, 146). Italy’s road to modernity differed from the archetypical trajectory of France, in which the bourgeoisie led the popular masses to a revolutionary overthrow of Ancien Régime forces. First, the Italian
modernization and state formation process was molecular and gradual, instead of consisting of explosive ruptures. Small reforms and concessions deferred or
deflected far-reaching structural transformations (Gramsci, 1971, 109). Second, the old ruling classes were not removed from power, but renegotiated positions of governance within the newly emerging political and economic relations (Sassoon, 1982, 132). In addition, the moderate modernizers, such as Cavour, were able to absorb the radical vanguard, personified in Garibaldi and Mazzini, into their own ranks. Gramsci denoted this process by the term “transformism” (Gramsci, 1971, 58S59). Third, Italy’s modernization was based on a “weak,” “limited,” or “restricted” hegemony. Whereas hegemony presupposes coercion as one of the extensions of its substance as class direction, the reverse holds true for passive revolution, where political leadership is peripheral to its primary determination of domination
10 (Gramsci, 1971, 59). The moderates did not exercise leadership as the bourgeoisie over the other classes, but as a class fraction they dominated the Italian bourgeoisie as a whole. By leaning on the state apparatus, the moderates solved the riddle of class leadership in a bureaucratic and technocratic way (Gramsci, 1971, 104S6). Fourth, Gramsci understood the self-consciousness SS or lack thereof SS of the actors involved as an important determinant of the capacity for passive revolution. A fundamental reason why the Italian moderates succeeded in absorbing the radicals was that “whereas Cavour was aware of his role (at least up to a certain point) in as much as he understood the role of Mazzini, the latter does not seem to have been aware either of his own or of Cavour's. . .” (Gramsci, 1971, 108). Passive revolution is then possible when (a particular fraction of) the ruling class has a deeper selfawareness of its historical role than its antagonists. Gramsci expanded passive revolution as a criterion to cases of state formation beyond Italy, “. . . to those countries that modernize the state through a series of reforms or national wars without undergoing a political revolution of a radical Jacobin-type” (Gramsci, 1996, 232). Passive revolution characterized the process of capitalist transition after the failed revolutions of 1848, when the revolutionary optimism and radical Jacobinism of the bourgeoisie was shattered by the uprisings of the subaltern classes that had once consented to its rule. The revolts revealed the particular interests behind the bourgeoisie’s “universal” political project, but the subaltern subjects were unable to forge a hegemony of their own, leaving the ruling
11 classes in power. Passive revolution was thus understood as the cynical mode of governance of a class, whose rule was not based on a rousing ethico-political project or universal liberation myth, but on the disorganization and fragmentation of its oppositional forces. Gramsci also indicated that the concept of passive revolution was useful for the interpretation of the political economy of capitalist restructuring (Buci-Glucksman, 1979, 222) SS indeed, of “every epoch characterized by complex historical upheavals” (Gramsci, 1971, 114). In his writings on Americanism and Fordism, the Italian Marxist discussed the gradual yet total restructuring of the capitalist social formation as a passive revolution aimed at fighting the falling rate of profit (Gramsci, 1971, 279S280). At this point, the meaning of passive revolution is almost interchangeable with that of “reformism” (Forgacs, 2000, 428). Italian Fascism also incorporated an aspect of passive revolution as it offered an answer to the problematic, particular to Italy, of both capitalist restructuring and transition by expanding and reinforcing the direct role of the state in the process of surplus extraction. From a criterion of interpretation of the historicalSparticular process of Italian state formation, the concept of passive revolution came to denote the methodology of restructuring political and economic relations within a historical and global framework of capitalist crisis (Morton, 2007, 71) SS the reconstitution by elites of what Gramsci called a “historical bloc.”
12 The Nasserist CoupSRevolution As Omnia al-Shakry (2011) indicated, the Nasserist episode shared many similarities with Gramsci’s notion of passive revolution. From a bird’s-eye
perspective, Egypt’s colonial and semi-colonial historical bloc had been in crisis since the mass revolts of 1919. Throughout the three decades following Egypt’s formal independence, the “indigenous industrial bourgeoisie” was not able to develop itself as a coherent class-for-itself, but it remained a fragmented, amorphous collection of economic actors, subjugated to domestic landlords and international capital groups, and thus incapable of leading an anti-imperialist hegemonic bloc (Clawson, 1978, 21; Farah, 2009, 31). Up to 1952 strikes, protests, riots, and revolts SS especially by workers and students SS destabilized and disorganized central state power. The development towards revolution from below was “deflected” (Marfleet, 2011; cf. Cliff, 1963) by the coup of the Free Officers on July 23, 1952, which initiated an authoritarian transformation from above. Nasserism quickly revealed itself as a particular elite methodology of politicalSeconomic transition towards capitalist modernity. As the main predicament for the nation’s development was grasped as the twin evils of imperialism and feudalism, the military clique sought to create a new historical bloc that subjugated these social and political forces to their rule through industrialization and full sovereignty. At first, the Nasserist state saw its role merely as the midwife of “spontaneous” industrial development by private capital groups (Beinin, 1989, 73;
13 Johnson, 1973, 4). However, the domestic and foreign industrial capitalists that were courted by the state proved to be fickle allies for economic development, which led to an expansion of the state into the domain of industrial accumulation. The Socialist Decrees of 1961 nationalized, in one stroke, large-scale industry, banking, insurance, foreign trade, utilities, marine transport, airlines, many hotels and department stores. The public sector became the dominant industrial producer and investor (Aoude, 1994). In order to subsume the population under its modernizing project, the state had to create the terrain of a modern civil society in the shape of mass trade unions, professional syndicates, public companies, universities and schools, women, youth, and children organizations, cultural clubs, peasant associations, etc., which drew, for the first time in Egypt’s history, the majority of the population into the activity of mass civil institutions. However, the Nasserist state regarded these structures rather as instruments of popular mobilization than participation (Bayat, 1993, 66). The “people” was conceptualized as a passive source of legitimacy, instead of an active, self-determining force. The process of politicalSeconomic transformation was supported by transformist politics and “coercive consent.” At first, the Nasserist state tried to absorb industrial capitalists into its emerging bloc. The reluctance of domestic entrepreneurs and Western financial actors to invest in the state’s industrialization schemes stimulated the “socialist” turn of the regime. Nasserism proved more successful in absorbing subaltern groups and the communist opposition
14 through subsequent waves of coercion and integration. Farmers were integrated through land reforms, but their own spontaneous occupations of landed property were violently suppressed (Marfleet, 2011). Mass education and guaranteed state employment granted working-class graduates a stable future. Nasserist domination over the workers’ movement was secured by a combination of unilateral and farreaching social reforms, high wages, repression of leftist activists and intellectuals, and state-led corporatism (al-Shakry, 2011). Strikes and independent worker actions were prohibited, but, from 1957 onward, proletarian bargaining power was secured by the state-controlled General Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions (GFETU) (Bayat, 1993, 68). The radicalization of economic policies in the 1960s and the rapprochement with the Soviet Union stimulated the integration of leftists as loyal personnel into the state apparatus SS e.g., expressed in the formation of the Arab Socialist Union (ASU) in 1962 and the Egyptian Socialist Youth as a Marxist cadre school in 1965 (Johnson, 1973, 4). When in 1964 communist prisoners were released, the two biggest communist organizations voluntarily dissolved themselves into the ASU (BL, 1987, 583-4). The Egyptian Left struggled to grasp the class nature of the Free Officers and their societal transformations. The failure to understand this “false friend” stimulated both opportunist and sectarian politics vis-à-vis the Nasserist project, which expanded the capacity of the state to absorb the fragmented leftist opposition. This sketchy narrative seems to confirm the interpretation of Nasserism as an
15 almost classical case of passive revolution. One crucial element is missing, however, which could serve as an explanation for the enduring vigor of the Nasserist tradition today. For Gramsci, passive revolution was the ability of the bourgeoisie to reform political and economic structures in an epoch where its ethico-political legitimacy had been compromised. He considered the transformation of the Italian and German social formations in the 19th century as “revolutionSrestorations,” because they were presided over by a cynical capitalist class lacking a radical “Jacobin moment” (Thomas, 2009, 147). Contrariwise, the Nasserist transformation constituted a politicalSeconomic act of Jacobins who were not supported by their own bourgeoisie. Despite its authoritarianism, the Nasserist project SS expressed by its “strong” political leadership, its cultural prestige, and its vanguard role in the Arab nationalist and non-aligned movement SS radiated a strong ethico-political dimension up until the 1967 Six Day War. From a globalShistorical perspective, Nasserism was not a part of the cynical retreat of European liberalism in the 19th century from its revolutionary myth of freedom, equality, and fraternity, but one of the driving forces of the national liberation movement in the Third World. Unlike the 19th-century Italian Moderates, Nasser’s top-down politics of transformism and coercive consent did not serve to scaffold a crumbling hegemony; rather, it merely complemented a broad, bottom-up popular consent to his rule. Alaa Al-Aswany stressed that “Nasser was supported to the extent that in any free elections he would have easily gained a majority” (personal communication, November 26, 2010). The perceived capacity
16 of the Nasserist state to lead the nation and defend the common good was of central importance to the continuation of military rule. Moreover, the mass movements that disorganized state power in the run-up to the 1952 coup constituted both a springboard and an obstacle for the Free Officers. By leaning on the spontaneous uprising and the trade unions, they were able to “hijack” the movement in order to conquer state power for themselves, but the mobilization of workers, students, farmers, and lower-middle-class groups also generated a historical debt to these subaltern forces. Thus, the absorption of subaltern actors into the Nasserist integral state was not only the result of regime policies, but the negotiated outcome of an enduring political and economic struggle. In other words, the interpretation of Nasserism as a passive revolution successfully reveals the contours of its substance as an authoritarian project of modernization, but it conceals the historical social and political relations that determined its “populist” and even socialistic character. In order to understand Nasserism as a “revolutionSrestoration” initiated from above, but supported from below, Gramsci’s concept of passive revolution has to be complemented by his notion of “Caesarism.”
Caesarism In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx (2009) discussed a situation of societal crisis in which a state or state-faction bereaves the ruling classes
17 of its direct and formal political power. The state appears to balance between the classes and gains a level of autonomy vis-à-vis its constituent class. However, it still articulates the interests of the ruling class and acts as its diligent guardian. Gramsci elaborated upon the concept of “Bonapartism” through his concept of “Caesarism,” which “can be said to express a situation in which the forces in conflict balance each other in a catastrophic manner; that is to say, they balance each other in such a way that continuation of the conflict can only terminate in their reciprocal destruction” (Gramsci, 1971, 219). The stalemate is solved by the intervention of “a third force . . . from outside, subjugating what is left. . .” (Gramsci, 1971, 219). To the common interpretation of Bonapartism as an essentially right-wing phenomenon, Gramsci added that there were “progressive” and “reactionary” forms:
Caesarism is progressive when its intervention helps the progressive force to triumph, albeit with its victory tempered by certain compromises and limitations. It is reactionary when its intervention helps the reactionary force to triumph SS in this case too with certain compromises and limitations, which have, however, a different value, extent, and significance than in the former. (Gramsci, 1971, 219.) Moreover, the Italian Marxist distinguished between the “classic,” military form of Caesarism in nations without a fully developed civil and political society, and the modern type that can be brought about by the financial and political power of small groups or individuals (Gramsci, 1971, 220). Finally, he discussed the difference
18 between “quantitative” and “qualitative” Caesarism. Whereas qualitative Caesarism changed and developed the form of the state, its quantitative variant was content with a mere continuation of existing state practices (Gramsci, 1971, 222). In Gramsci’s writings, the conceptual relation between Caesarism and passive revolution is not immediately clear. Robert Cox, for example, understood Caesarism as the “instrumentality” of passive revolution (Cox, 1987, 192). Because of its populist character, he labeled Nasserism as a “radical Caesarism” (Cox, 1987, 243). However, Cox’s intellectual deployment of the concepts of passive revolution and Caesarism established a typology of state forms, while Gramsci stressed that these categories were, respectively, “a criterion of interpretation” (Gramsci, 1971, 114) and a “a generic hypothesis, a sociological schema” (Gramsci, 1971, 221). Whereas the notion of passive revolution draws attention to the contradictory unity of reform and restoration in the capitalist age, Caesarism highlights the direction, pace, and class nature of the process. In Egypt, factions of the military constituted a semi-independent, “external” social force, which was able to “solve” the protracted and undecided power struggle between the nationalSpopular forces and the semi-colonial ruling bloc of landlords, the Palace, and British capital. Nasserist Caesarism was relatively progressive, because the Free Officers took the side of the popular masses against feudalist and imperialist forces. Although the Free Officers had delivered the death blow to the old semi-colonial bloc by using military force, they did not base their rule solely on
19 coercion. Similar to the French bourgeois state that emerged triumphantly from the revolution of 1789, the Nasserist project contained an ethico-political dimension, which mobilized and inspired the masses. This progressive aspect did not wane, but was strengthened in successive waves of nationalization, social legislation, and absorption of communist and trade unionist individuals and groups into the state apparatus. In addition, Nasserism was a qualitative Caesarism, as it transformed the Egyptian social formation in a revolutionary way. Ironically, Nasser’s “Arab
socialism” proved to be the most efficient way to appropriate and embed precapitalist social forms in capitalist relations of production.4 A nuanced reading of Nasserism is not only important to understand its contemporary ambiguous legacy, but also to differentiate between Nasser’s passive revolution and the transformation that was initiated by his successors Sadat and Mubarak. Both entailed authoritarian, top-down reforms, but represented opposed class interests.
Acknowledging the progressive aspect of Nasserism does not entail a denial of its counter-revolutionary role. While the state was heir to the class forces that generated it, the Free Officers’ regime was a military dictatorship that subordinated the subaltern classes to its rule. In the same way, Gramsci recognized the “progressive” and “qualitative” element in Italian Fascism SS i.e., a methodology to overcome the organic crisis of bourgeois rule through mass mobilizations and far-reaching reforms SS without labeling the movement as a revolutionary emancipatory force (Forgacs, 2000, 248).
20 From a Neoliberal War of Maneuver. . . Gramsci remarked that the difficulty in analyzing forms of passive revolution was not to discern elements of reform and restoration, but “to see whether in the dialectic ‘revolution/restoration’ it is revolution or restoration which predominates . . .” (Gramsci, 1971, 219). In this sense, the transition from Nasserism to the historical blocs of Sadat and Mubarak could be interpreted as a shift from a progressive and qualitative Caesarism to a reactionary and quantitative process of restoration by counter-reforms. From the 1960s onward, there was a contradiction between the state’s political “populist consumption policy,” oriented towards generating consent from the masses, and the economic “investment demands of developmentalism,” which necessitated productivity, low costs, and labor discipline (Cooper, 1979, 482S3). It became obvious that the system could not sustain both capital-intensive industrialization and high levels of consumption (BL, 1987, 459). Prices and taxes were increased; the workweek was increased from 42 to 48 hours without compensation; forced savings were deducted from monthly wages; paid holidays were cancelled; and so on (Posusney, 1996, 219). The economic malaise and the Six Day War defeat shattered the dream of “Arab socialism” and weakened Nasserist hegemony. The Nasserist bloc was forced to change its accumulation strategy and to recompose its class alliances. Under the rule of Sadat in the 1970s, Caesarism consolidated its civil, reactionary, and quantitative turn.
21 Since the coup of the Free Officers in 1952, the army had become the ruling stratum of Egyptian society. The Armed Forces became a patchwork of semiautonomous and contending spaces within the state SS the Army, Air Defense, Air Force, Navy, Intelligence Services, Republican Guard, Ministry of Defense, etc. SS which were ruled by their generals as small fiefdoms. After the Six Day War, Nasser himself began to sidetrack the role of the Armed Forces in political society, shifting the balance of power from the Ministry of Defense to the Ministry of Interior, and moving towards a dictatorship of the police rather than the military (Springborg, 2009, 10). President Sadat’s “democratic revolution” consolidated this
demilitarization of the ruling stratum and the state apparatus (Tucker, 1978, 6). In 1974, his political position strengthened by the October War of 1973, the President announced the Infitah, a program of economic liberalization and reintegration in the world market, aimed at attracting foreign investment (Bayat, 1993, 77S8; Farah, 1986, 22S4; Lachine, 1977, 4S5). The Open Door policy signaled a new accumulation strategy that reoriented Egypt’s domestic economic structure towards neoliberal changes in the global economy (cf. Cox, 1987, 218S44). After the Camp David negotiations of 1978, the Armed Forces not only lost their central political role, but also their military function within the new bloc. The USA helped to transform the post-Nasserist military into a stable and reliable state structure that could be directly domesticated and contained through military aid. To appease the officers, Sadat granted them economic concessions: “to run shopping
22 malls in Egypt, develop gated cities in the desert and beach resorts on the coasts. And they are encouraged to sit around in cheap social clubs” (Amar, 2011). From Caesarist overlords, the generals degenerated into petty capitalists, whose mediocre surpluses were artificially shielded from private and public competition. In this manner, from a dominating class fraction, the generals evolved into a subaltern ally of a newly emerging transnational ruling bloc consisting of state bureaucrats, public sector managers, powerful landlords, subcontractors, new and traditional layers of the domestic bourgeoisie,5 foreign capitalist investors, and the USA. Sadat’s Caesarism was a qualitative transformation of Egypt’s social formation, embedded within the global passive revolution of “neoliberalism.” Egypt, together with Pinochet’s Chile, constituted the vanguard of this anti-popular reconfiguration in the Global South (Callinicos, 2011). Such a radical reconstitution of the existing
Under Nasser, Egypt’s economy had never been fully nationalized and pockets of private accumulation continued to exist in agriculture, trade, and some industrial sectors. Because domestic trade was left relatively free and prices of consumer goods were only influenced through subsidies, commercial capitalists flourished (Cooper, 1979, 499). The industrial bourgeoisie developed new activities to accumulate capital, especially as subcontractors for the government. Without the full liquidation of the private sector, the growth of the public sector stimulated a proportional expansion of the subcontracting companies (al-Khafaji, 2004, 247). State capitalism strengthened private capitalists within its protective womb (Marfleet, 2011), who, ironically, favored more liberal economic policies (Cox, 1987, 243).
23 political and economic relations required an offensive “war of maneuver”: sweeping changes to the historical bloc SS by a confrontational class struggle instead of “war of position” of “molecular” or “quantitative” transformation, e.g., by a broad strategy of “transformism” (Cf. Gramsci, 1971, 243). Despite Sadat’s attempts at establishing Islam and bourgeois democracy as new ideological forms, his hegemonic project could not generate a convincing and mobilizing ethico-political dimension. Whereas the “progressive” moment predominated in Nasser’s passive revolution, Sadat’s attempt to radically reconfigure the populist historical bloc along neoliberal lines was quickly revealed as a cynical process of restoration that excluded the demands of subaltern allies such as workers and small-scale farmers. The rule of Sadat and his successor Mubarak was no longer determined by their “positive” hegemonic leadership and prestige, but by their “negative” ability to maintain their political opponents and subaltern classes in a fragmented or “economicScorporate” state (cf. Thomas, 2009, 152). The repression of the 1977 “bread riots” insurrection and the Camp David negotiations increasingly alienated even its new Islamist allies from the Sadat state (Farah, 1986, 126). The failure of the state’s transformism of political Islam eventually led to the President’s assassination in 1981.
. . .To a War of Position SS and Back Even though Sadat’s politicalSeconomic project was designed as an offensive
24 passive revolution, it was turned into a defensive process of transformation due to an unforeseen reconfiguration of its economic base and the specter of mass revolt (Bayat, 1993, 76S8; Beinin, 2001, 157). From the second half of the 1970s, a steady stream of revenues from migrant workers’ remittances from the Gulf region, foreign loans and diplomatic, military, and economic aid, and tariffs from the re-opened Suez Canal, oil, and tourism, rendered a confrontation with Nasserist industrial relations unnecessary. Despite a process of deindustrialization and the collapse of the political consensus, the public sector continued to expand until the mid-1980s and the state was able to sustain its redistributive polices (RW, 2008, 190). The spontaneous emergence of a semi-rentier economy shifted the accumulation strategy of the ruling strata from dispossession (and thus class confrontation; cf. Harvey, 2003) to rent seeking (and thus governance by means of state redistribution of external revenues among the population) (Roccu, 2012, 12). The defensive turn of the passive revolution entailed a softening of the coercive dimension of the regime. Political prisoners were released, civil rights such as freedom of press and association were reinstated to a limited degree, and parliamentary elections were held. The political “détente” of the Mubarak 1980s constituted a tactical retreat of the dictatorship, leaving limited spaces open in civil and political society for contentious politics that remained subordinated to the interests of the state. The Emergency Law, banning of strikes, demonstrations, parties, and critical newspapers, and military courts safeguarded the state’s
25 domination over the political opposition (Marfleet, 2011). Mubarak’s political transformism was successful, as it absorbed opposition parties such as the leftist alTagammu and the liberal al-Wafd, and, to a lesser extent, movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood. The actions of the workers’ movement in this decade were primarily defensive and apolitical, aimed at achieving particular economic demands and restoring the strong bargaining position of the working class towards the redistributive state (Beinin, 2009, 23S4). Mubarak’s quantitative passive revolution and molecular reconfiguration of the ruling bloc extended the life-form of Nasserist hegemonic relations in the workplace, encouraging workers to display their economic productivity and political loyalty to the state in exchange for material concessions (Posusney, 1996, 233). Thanks to the economic base of rent accumulation and distribution, Mubarak temporarily succeeded in the formation of a new “postpopulist” bloc: a gradual reform of political and economic relations by a state that included rather than excluded class allies and opponents in its project, although they remained in a subaltern position vis-à-vis the ruling class fractions. However, from the second half of the 1980s onward, rental income decreased and the state prudently began to push for neoliberal reform. Worker actions and the resistance of the corporatist labor bureaucracy postponed harsh measures until the beginning of the 1990s (Beinin, 2001, 159). The foreign debt rose to more than $38 billion (US) and the budget deficit increased to over 20% (RW, 2008, 225). The Gulf
26 War of 1991 led to the return of many migrant workers, who flooded the domestic labor market. It also resulted in the collapse of tourism, compounding the fiscal crisis (Mitchell, 2002, 276). The dry spell in rental income, combined with the reluctance of state and private capital groups to invest in the productivity of agriculture and industry, necessitated a new strategy of accumulation that would drive up the rate of profit by increased exploitation and dispossession. The domestic crisis of rent-based accumulation and foreign pressure by the USA, IMF, and World Bank forced the ruling classes’ war of position back to an offensive passive revolution (Farah, 2009, 41). In 1991 Egypt accepted an Economic Reform and Structural Adjustment Program (ERSAP) inspired by the neoliberal paradigm of the Washington consensus (Bush, 2007, 1599). The ERSAP aimed to contain and decrease foreign debt and inflation, by cutting state subsidies on consumer goods, privatizing public companies, liberalizing markets and prices, freezing wages, commercializing agricultural lands and implementing a flat tax. The new and aggressive accumulation strategy required a political reconfiguration of the post-populist bloc; i.e., the exclusion of subaltern forces, the absorption of new allies, and the subduing of fractions of the capitalist class (Roccu, 2012, 16). The offensive turn of the passive revolution was not supported by a strengthening of the ruling clique’s political prestige and leadership, but it combined antagonistic class struggle with limited hegemony. In fact, the ruling bloc was further restricted instead of expanded, and already absorbed allies and opponents
27 were alienated and ejected instead of consolidated. First, the higher echelons of the Armed Forces saw their political and economic power within the bloc diminished (NLR, 2011). The generals began to feel a deep resentment towards their foreign, especially American, donors (Amar, 2011; Kandil, 2011), and towards the rising faction of neoliberal “crony capitalists” around Gamal Mubarak, the President’s son (Amar, 2011). This marginalization of the military within the ruling bloc accelerated the trend initiated by Sadat’s civil Caesarism. Second, workers and farmers were increasingly excluded from the neoliberal bloc. The ERSAP restored economic growth and the rate of profit by decreasing wages and benefits, by exploiting workers in the private sector, by expropriating farm lands and increasing the prices of land rent (Farah, 2009, 41, 44; Mitchell, 1999, 463). Third, the limited spaces for opposition within the political and civil spheres were further restricted. From 1990 onward, state control over elections and
parliament was increased. In 1999 government passed a law that decreed that all NGO-type organizations had to reapply for a license to operate legally in Egypt. NGOs that engaged in political activities were banned (Mitchell, 1999, 465). Such measures severely restricted the capacity of the state to absorb political opponents. Various movements and struggles prepared the way for the January 25 uprising in the two decades that preceded it. Throughout the 1990s new groups, centers, parties, and movements emerged, which organized and educated a generation of activists with fresh ideas and methods of struggle. Street politics was
28 reborn in the 2000s, with the demonstrations in solidarity with the Second Palestinian Intifada in 2000; the sit-ins against the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon; and the Kefaya (Enough) movement against presidential rule. These civilSdemocratic movements were entwined with the “economic” protests and the struggles of workers, farmers, slum-dwellers, and villagers against the violent accumulation strategy (cf. De Smet, 2012; ZDB, 2012). Here I will not dwell on these antecedents of the revolution, nor on the dynamic of the January 25 uprising itself, but immediately “jump back” to the intervention of the Armed Forces in the revolutionary process.
January 25 and Caesarism The exploration of the Nasserist lineage above renders the successful intervention of the SCAF SS and its relatively swift demise SS in the revolutionary process intelligible. Already a few months after the uprising, scholar Bassem Hassan claimed that “the way things have been unfolding since last January resembles more Gramsci’s notion of caesarism than the scenario of a victorious popular revolution" (Hassan, 2011, 4). Moving onto the political scene, as if in a historical drama they were doomed to repeat, the Armed Forces halted the spontaneous uprising by presenting themselves as a Caesar able to solve Egypt’s Gordian knot with a stroke of their sword. For the SCAF, a Caesarist intervention was necessary, because, just as in 1952,
29 the best way to halt the independent development of the revolutionary process was to lead and thus control it. A Caesarist intervention was possible, because, just as in 1952, the Armed Forces were perceived as a national force defending the general good, instead of as a state structure with particular interests of its own (Hassan, 2011). Ironically, the military was able to play the part of Caesar, not because of its strength, but because of its forced retreat from political society, which had inoculated the institution from popular criticism of the escalated state domination, oppression, and exploitation over the preceding two decades. In contradistinction to the civil institutions of the Mubarak regime SS apart from the judiciary SS the Egyptian Armed Forces had retained their nationalSpopular aura. However, the political and economic circumstances of the Caesarist intervention of 2011 differed fundamentally from those of 1952. The Free Officers of 1952 elaborated a progressive political and economic vision of fighting feudalism and imperialism, achieving social justice, and developing the country. This ethicopolitical and nationalSpopular dimension lent their Caesarist intervention a progressive and qualitative character. The SCAF, however, was pushed into the role of Caesar, which it only reluctantly played to save its own particular interests. The political and economic interests of the generals did not fully coincide with those of the “crony capitalists,” the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), or the Ministry of Interior; but neither did they correspond with those of the revolutionary masses. The civilSdemocratic demands also threatened the remaining privileges of the Armed
30 Forces within the neoliberal bloc. The SCAF eventually became caught up between the defense of its own particular interests and the expectations of the masses. Taking the lead in the revolutionary process agreed with the dominant sentiment among protesters that the “Armed Forces” were on their side. Conversely, the generals were pressured to act because the interpellation of “the people and the army: one hand” started to affect the rank-and-file soldiers. To open fire on the largely peaceful protesters would have broken the spell that conjured the image of the Armed Forces as defenders of the nationalSpopular interest. In order to prevent solidarity between soldiers and protesters, the SCAF had to take the lead in deposing the President, which satisfied the expectations of both popular masses and soldiers (cf. Stacher, 2011). By sacrificing the Mubarak clan and dealing blows to the “neoliberal capitalists,” the NDP, and the Ministry of Interior, the SCAF hoped to renegotiate a stronger political and economic position for itself within the ruling bloc (Springborg, 2012). The SCAF had no interest in reinforcing the public sector, which became evident in its opposition to court rulings in favor of workers wanting to renationalize some of the privatized companies. Concessions to workers, instead, constituted an ad hoc political tactic of dealing with their social movements, than a fundamentally new economic policy. Egypt’s debt cycle and the interventions of transnational capital SS which continued to push for neoliberal reforms SS severely limited the space for political and economic reforms (Maher, 2011). In the end, the generals
31 were not against “neoliberal” reform in itself, but they despised the fact that they weren’t the main beneficiaries of the accumulation by dispossession (Ambrust, 2011). Deploying the Gramscian criterion, the military Caesarism of 2011 appeared as essentially reactionary and quantitative: a restoration that, because of the strength of the revolutionary wave, could not be but a kind of distorted revolution itself. Many analysts stressed that the SCAF genuinely desired a swift “transition of power” in order to continue its economic and military activities. However, Joshua Stacher observed that “one should not . . . mistake the army’s reluctance to govern for aversion to rule” (Stacher, 2011). The Caesarist intervention had thrown the burden of political leadership upon the Armed Forces, and while the generals wished to fortify their economic and political clout within the ruling bloc, they had neither the capacity nor the will to develop hegemony over the whole of society. Instead, the generals preferred to rule by “civil proxy.” Yet, once in control of the state apparatus, the SCAF was loath to abdicate in favor of any of the “civil” forces, which it could not trust with the task of securing its political and economic privileges. Especially with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, the military caretakers developed a loveShate relationship, which reflected both their desire for a stable, powerful, and conservative civil ally, and their anxiety of losing grip over the post-insurrectionary “transition” process, i.e., the top-down passive revolution that had to replace the “active,” bottom-up revolution of the masses.
32 Islamist Caesarism? The purely military phase of the post-insurrectionary period was short-lived, as the March 19, 2011 constitutional referendum, parliamentary elections, the writing of the constitution, and the presidential elections shifted the counter-revolution towards a civil form. Instead of representing a genuine process of revolutionary democratic change, elections and referenda constituted formidable weapons of restoration. First, they reoriented revolutionary politics from the spontaneous and bottom-up spheres of the street and the workplace to the restricted and top-down controlled domains of the state. Moreover, the focus on elections strengthened the growing divide between the narrowly defined “political” fight for democracy, and the “economic” struggles of workers, farmers, and the urban poor. Second, by atomizing the collective subject of the protesters into individual “voters,” the “qualitative” majority in the streets was reduced to a “quantitative” minority in the polling booths. The voices of the active vanguard were drowned in the silence of a passive majority that had not (yet) drawn the same revolutionary conclusions as the militant layers.6 6 Trotsky discussed this predicament with regard to the Russian Revolution of 1917: “A minority of the revolutionary class actually participates in the insurrection, but the strength of that minority lies in the support, or at least sympathy, of the majority. The active and militant minority inevitably puts forward under fire from the enemy its more revolutionary and self-sacrificing element. . . . But the situation changes the moment the victory is won and its political fortification begins. The elections to the organs and institutions of the victorious revolution attract and challenge infinitely broader masses than
33 Third, the rapid pace and repetition of elections not only demobilized the streets, but they also channeled the time and energy of activists into centrifugal and tiresome discussions and negotiations about party programs and alliances SS while there existed an urgent need to connect the political vanguard to its mass base of workers, farmers, and the urban poor (Kandil, 2011). Fourth, elections and referenda became moments in which the spontaneous and popular demands of the uprising SS bread, freedom, and social justice SS were pushed into the background, and new political themes, such as religion, came to the forefront. The shift to “identity politics” especially fortified the position of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists. During the first days of the January 25 insurrection, Muslim Brotherhood leaders had been fearful of state repression if they were to participate in the protests, and suspicious of the autonomous dynamic of a mass movement they could not control. However, the Brotherhood was drawn into the demonstrations, because, on the one hand, its rank-and-file members had already joined the uprising (Alexander, 2011, 544), and, on the other, the organization recognized the insurrection as an opportunity to renegotiate its position within the ruling bloc. Muslim Brothers stood side by side with the other protesters and were often among the most militant and resilient demonstrators and occupiers. After the fall of Mubarak, the attitude of the leadership changed, however, as it cautiously supported the SCAF’s “soft coup,” calling upon protesters to leave Tahrir Square and start negotiations with the military
those who battled with arms in their hands” (Trotsky, 2001, 186).
34 council (cf. Alexander, 2011). The explosion of worker strikes, which, at first, had been welcomed as an integral part of the democratic revolution, was now condemned by Brotherhood leaders as “destabilizing” and “particularist” (personal communication with Hisham Fouad, March 13, 2011). In the period leading up to the parliamentary elections of November 2011, the Brotherhood leadership chose to play the humble part of power broker between the generals and the popular masses (Alexander, 2011, 536). However, the
Brotherhood’s landslide electoral victory in the parliamentary elections of autumn 2011, and the abject failure of the SCAF to provide political leadership, encouraged the Brotherhood to go on the offensive. Within political society there emerged a situation of “dual power” between the Islamist-dominated parliament and the Ministry of Defense. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists had argued for swift parliamentary elections in order to cash in on their organizational and discursive advantage vis-à-vis other opposition forces. At the beginning of 2012, however, they realized their victory was a pyrrhic one, as parliament was still governed by the old constitution that did not even grant them the right to form a cabinet of their own choice. A race began between parliament, which established a committee to write a new constitution that would expand its powers, and the executive SS i.e., the SCAF SS which began legal proceedings to contest the constitutionality of parliament. On June 14, 2012, the High Constitutional Court dissolved parliament, and the SCAF took over legislative powers SS preparing the outcome of the final round of the
35 presidential elections that were held on June 16 and 17, 2012. The electoral run-off between Muhammad Morsi, the formal candidate of the Brotherhood, and Ahmed Shafiq, widely perceived as the candidate of the SCAF and the “old regime,” represented a choice between two wings of the counter-revolution: for or against “Islamic fundamentalism” or “military dictatorship.” However, because the elections were presented as a constitutive element of revolutionary transformation, both factions had to articulate their particular interests in the universalist language of popular revolution and the “common good.” Both Morsi and Shafiq displayed Caesarist tendencies, as they claimed to be the only revolutionary force able to contain the danger of military or fundamentalist counter-revolution. Morsi’s victory gave momentum to the “civil” turn of Caesarism. After a year in power, the SCAF had become a select and self-centered clique that was unable to affirm its domination over the whole Armed Forces, let alone the other ruling class factions, or society at large. Within the Armed Forces, a growing number of officers was dissatisfied with the ham-fisted political leadership of the SCAF. The apparent repetition of the Nasserist tragedy ended up as a short-lived farce. Rather than a profound demilitarization of the state, Morsi’s constitutional declaration of August 12, 2012 SS which retired the SCAF generals and granted the President their executive and legislative powers SS signaled a deal between the Brotherhood and oppositional officers, offering a division of labor within the unfolding passive revolution: in exchange for a protection of the military’s economic interests and
36 privileges, the Armed Forces would leave the reorganization of the state to the Brothers. This consensus was affirmed in the new constitution of December 26, 2012, which shielded the defense budget from parliamentary oversight, and asserted that the Minister of Defense was chosen from the ranks of the Armed Forces. The Brotherhood succeeded in replacing or absorbing the personnel of most state institutions, except for the judiciary, which had always enjoyed relative independence vis-à-vis the executive and legislative branches of power (Springborg, 2012; Wagih, 2012).
Crisis of Caesarism The Muslim Brotherhood faced the conundrum of building a post-Mubarak historic bloc that integrated the interests of its own business elites with the concerns of the military generals, the radicalSconservative agenda of the Salafists SS who pressured the organization from the right SS and the revolutionary demands of the popular masses, who had catapulted the Islamists into power. The Brotherhood’s inability to offer political leadership and forge a national consensus around the constitution, to democratize the so-called “deep state” SS the civil and military state structures that grew out of the Nasserist dictatorship SS and to solve the economic crisis, constituted obstacles to its ambition to become the core of a new, hegemonic, ruling bloc. Moreover, even though the division of post-insurrectionary politics along sectarianSreligious lines had steered the political debate into a discursive domain
37 dominated by Muslim Brothers and Salafists, it also made it much more difficult for those forces to present themselves as the universal expressions of the national, Egyptian interest. On November 22, 2012, President Morsi issued a new constitutional declaration, which temporarily granted him absolute executive and legislative powers. The declaration was a pre-emptive strike, shielding the Brotherhood’s crumbling presidency from any attack within political society until a constitution was ratified that offered a stable legal framework to continue the Islamist-led passive revolution (Wagih, 2012). Although Morsi’s decision called tens of thousands of concerned Egyptians back to the streets, unlike the unity of “the people” against “the regime” during the January 25 uprising, this time around the mass sit-ins and demonstrations were divided between popular forces protesting the rise of a “new Mubarak” or “Pharaoh,” and Brotherhood sympathizers supporting the President’s firm decision to “protect the revolution.” In Caesarist fashion, Morsi did not dispute the opposition’s charge that political power was increasingly centralized and concentrated into his hands, but he claimed that this was necessary to defend the “democratic transition” against those who wanted to sabotage reform. In the eyes of his followers, Morsi’s claim was not without base, as the presence of so-called “feloul” elements SS supporters of the former regime SS within the antiBrotherhood camp weakened its claim to represent the genuine subject of the January 25 Revolution (Wagih, 2012). Despite its claims to constitute a
38 revolutionary “third way” between the Brotherhood and the “deep state,” the oppositional National Salvation Front (NSF) united semi-feloul rightists such as Amr Moussa, liberal democrats such as Muhammed al-Baradei, and leftist Nasserists such as Hamdeen Sabahi under one broad umbrella of vague “civil” politics. At best, the civilSdemocratic coalition only advanced a political critique of Mubarak’s passive revolution’s practices of domination, coercion, and exclusion, and did not reveal the connection of these superstructural forms to historical and recent transformations in Egypt’s economic structure. The entrenched stand-off between the Muslim Brotherhood and these “civil” opposition forces indicated Morsi’s failure to act as a Caesar, transcending the contradictions in the political sphere, or even to absorb his opponents in an Islamist transformism. Yet, the dominant dichotomy also emphasized the success of the capitalist classes and the “deep state” in deflecting popular revolutionary demands for democracy and redistribution of wealth. Islamist, military, and civilSdemocratic elites were able to subsume political activists, intellectuals, and subaltern groups under their discrete political projects. These “vertical” hegemonic alliances cut through attempts of grassroots revolutionaries to forge “horizontal” ties between subaltern actors: workers, farmers, unemployed youth, urban poor.
The Burden of Past Generations Since the uprising against Hosni Mubarak on January 25, 2011, initial and
39 often naïve hopes for a swift “democratic transition” have turned into a cynical pessimism, due to the (lack of) concrete outcomes of the process. However, the success of the counter-revolution should not be confused with the absence of a revolutionary process. In order to understand the current dialectic of
“revolutionSrestoration,” an analysis of the various actors and their contemporary and historical relations is in order. Here I focus on the lineage of military rule, because of the key role the generals played in deflecting the insurrection and initiating a passive revolution. The core of my argument is that the “soft coup” of the SCAF was accepted by the revolutionary masses because of the Armed Forces’ enduring aura as a national, progressive and transformative institution, derived from the Nasserist era. Due to the military’s gradual loss of real political and economic power in recent decades, it had been largely inoculated against the growing criticisms of “the regime.” However, the contemporary generals had different interests than the anti-imperialist and antifeudal Free Officers of 1952, faced a strong and confident revolutionary movement, and were unwilling and unable to combine their authoritarian rule with the inclusion of subaltern actors in the ruling bloc. Facing increasing discontent, the SCAF was kicked out of government by its civil ally, the Muslim Brotherhood, but the fading into the political background of the military apparatus did not mean that it gave up its ambition to rule. At the conceptual level, Gramscian notions of passive revolution,
40 transformism, and Caesarism serve as criteria of historical interpretation, rather than as archetypical political forms. Gramsci’s “shades of Caesarism” enable an
understanding of the qualitative difference between Nasser’s and Sadat’s passive revolution, the changing position of the military, the relation between domestic and global transformations, and the exclusion of subaltern actors from the reconfigured historical bloc. The dynamic of neoliberal passive revolution as a “war of maneuver” in the 1970s and 1990sS2000s stands in contrast to Mubarak’s “war of position” in the 1980s, and connects to strategies of accumulation, coercive consent, transformism, and subaltern forms of resistance. This Gramscian interpretation renders both the revolutionary January 25 insurrection and its counter-revolutionary appropriation intelligible as alternating moments of one and the same process. It also reveals the historical and
contemporary constraints of revolution and restoration within the Egyptian social formation. If the substance of the January 25 revolution is a subaltern “war of movement” against the aggressive reconfiguration of the post-populist bloc along neoliberal lines, then it can only succeed by overthrowing the existing domestic and transnational class alliances and their strategy of accumulation by dispossession. The democratic revolution cannot succeed except by a fundamental reform of the economic structure, and the economic structure cannot be reformed unless political power is captured and appropriated by a subaltern counter-bloc. However, the current political class collaboration among social-democrats, communists, liberals,
41 right-wing nationalists, and Nasserists in the face of a “greater evil,” be it the Brotherhood or the “deep state,” renders a radical subaltern coalition and hegemony impossible and only serves to reinforce the current process of restoration.
Department of Conflict and Development Studies Ghent University Universiteitstraat 8 Gent, Belgium 9000 firstname.lastname@example.org
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