Sat Feb 24, 2024
February 24, 2024

The Strength of the Flag

We will publish as of today, news and analysis direct from Egypt, where is the correspondent for IWL-FI and PSTU, Aldo Sauda.

Cairo is again wrapped in its national flag. They are in the windows, the buildings facades and over the tents on Tahrir Square. They occupy all the spaces. It is highlighted the long and thin version of the mantle that, as a streamer, unites the different ends of the buildings, especially those surrounding the central square of the revolution. In Cairo, once again it reins the nationalism.

It is not the first time that the national flags flood the city, but it is likely that they now occupy the landscape even more intensely than on February 11, 2011, when the dictator Hosni Mubarak was overthrown by a palace coup, also concerted with the command of Armed Forces, amid a popular uprising.

For those who are truly communists, the hegemony of the national flag, inevitably bothers. But like anywhere else in the world, the patriotic exhibitionism that, once again, fills Egypt, carries progressive and regressive elements.

The local bourgeoisie, over the last few days, has wrapped herself on its flag. The patriotic song, of doubtful taste, is prevailing in the radio and on television. The Army obviously makes a point of unfurling the national mantle in all tanks that occupy the strategic points of the city. The ruling class, as it is to be expected, protects itself in the nation symbol in order to prevent the masses from advancing beyond it.

But the almost complete adherence of the Egyptians to nationalism, beyond the patriotic feeling inflated by the bourgeoisie, explains itself in its instrumentation for the battle of the moment, this time against the Muslim Brotherhood.

The loyalty of the brethren, at least in theory, is not paid to Egyptian nation state, but to a caliphate in alleged construction process. The Islamist movement carries, in its own way, peculiar and regionalist internationalism. Its intention, at least among the most radicalized sectors, is to unify Muslims in only one state run by Islamic law. Ultimately, the Egyptian flag is not the flag of the Islamists. In the political battles, the symbols are  also import.

Apart from the denial of the Brotherhood, there are also other elements clearly progressive in the masses calling. In Egyptian homeland there is room, at least formally, to Christians and Muslims, practitioners or not. In Tahrir, a large picture saluting the Coptic Pope is found next to the symbols of Islam. The Christian minority, which played an important role in the uprising that overthrew Mursi, protects themselves behind the national flag against Islamist fanaticism.

However there is also, in this clash of identities between ‘Islamists’ and ‘Egyptians’, ample space for a chauvinistic nationalism openly reactionary. The thought that the Muslim Brotherhood is an instrument of foreign manipulation, organized by Palestinians, especially the Islamist Hamas group, dominates the popular imagery. According to the storyline, the Islamists who run Gaza want to turn Egypt into a stepping stone in their struggle against Israel, something that the Egyptian masses, for now at least, have shown little concerned about. A clear campaign of hate organized by the bourgeoisie, aimed against the Palestinians of Gaza, is also starting to take place and becoming popular here.

Is there a Consciousness Setback?

Within the spirit of praise to the nation, there is also, perhaps more than ever, an act of praise to the Army. It is even more intense than when the army overthrew Mubarak and was received as a savior by the masses. Pictures of General Sisi, the Defense Minister who ended up by arresting the then President Mursi, are spread across the square. The sale of his poster is on high. The phenomenon, however, is new. Never since the beginning of the revolution, were the pictures of a general distributed massively.

Given the triumphant return of the Army, a crisis spreads among activists. The feeling of dejavu, of the history repeating itself in the form of farce, seems to bother everyone in the vanguard. After so much fighting against the Army, which until recently had been a primary ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, there is an apparent setback in the consciousness of the masses. It returned to the streets with an even greater illusion in the Army, with an even deeper attachment to national symbols.

Pessimism of this young people,who have sacrificed so much over the past two years in the fight against the army, is understandable, but the assessment that the masses have regressed seems wrong to us. In fact, the masses have never advanced so much politically speaking in Egyptian history as they are doing today.

For the first time in the history of the Middle East, and perhaps of the world, 17 million people took to the streets! In the heyday of Tahrir Square, when the youth and workers toppled Mubarak, we heard on four, five million people celebrating the victory of the revolution. On the anniversary of the President overthrow, when a part of the demonstrations was directed against the Army, which now returns to rule Egypt, we heard on six, seven million in the country’s streets. On June 30, which ended up in the Mursi’s overthrow, it was mobilized more than twice as much! We are talking about almost 40% of the adult population of the country. In terms of Brazil, we would be talking about more than 40 million people.

It is inevitable that the political buildup and the experience of these masses are not the same as the vanguard. Their political experiences are different. But when they take to the streets against a capitalist, reactionary and pro-imperialist government which capitulates to Israel, the masses, even deluded in the Army, fulfill a role that advances towards the revolution, and do not recede it.

The lack ofa revolutionary alternative of the working class is often distressing. However the impressionism when dealing with the mass movement tends to have harmful effects to the revolution. The masses alienation will be overcome by their own actions, by their own learning in the streets and by their own mistakes. It will only be so that a true alternative will happen. To do so, the more people on the street, the better. As opposed to what the pessimists want to persuade us, the spring continues.


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