This Saturday, Egypt’s authoritarian neoliberal state — sustained by the military and the old security apparatus of the Mubarak regime, with crucial support from the US government — once again displayed its violent nature. As tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters marched in Cairo to demonstrate against the ouster of President Morsi, security forces opened fire on protesters for the second time in just three weeks, killing over one hundred and injuring hundreds more. While there is still a major dispute over how the violence started, and whether or not armed Brotherhood supporters initiated the attacks by firing at security forces, independent witness accounts and international media reports seem to indicate that most gunfire ended up being directed towards a sit-in of peaceful protesters. No state officials are reported to have been killed in the clashes, which lasted for 8 hours and continued all night.
The events of the past year made it amply clear that the Muslim Brotherhood had become an obstacle to the realization of the revolutionary process that began on January 25, 2011. But the horrifying bloodshed following the ouster of President Morsi three weeks ago (which has so far claimed the lives of at least 200 people) reveals that the true oppressors have never truly been removed from power. Saturday’s mass killings demonstrate that the military command and unreformed Interior Ministry are not just renegade remnants of the Mubarak regime but constitute the very core of its continued hegemony. Through a combination of skillful political manoeuvring, thoroughly planned economic sabotage and a carefully crafted media campaign replete with quasi-democratic propaganda, the army has now managed to convince a large part of the population that it is acting as a guarantor of the 2011 revolution, and that “the people and the army are one hand.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
As the old regime seeks to co-opt the revolutionary stirrings of the streets while repressing the political aspirations of the Brotherhood, it now seems more important than ever to shed any remaining illusions. Even if they may be pretending to side with the people, the Egyptian military and security apparatus have an agenda of their own and cannot be trusted to guarantee the aims of the revolution for “bread, freedom and social justice”. One can be firmly critical of the Muslim Brotherhood and still abhor the violent dynamics at play within the Egyptian state apparatus. In fact, if we want to stay true to the aspirations of the revolution, we must be thoroughly critical of all forms of concentrated power and all forms of state violence. After all, the ongoing dynamic of repression against the Brotherhood — despicable in and of itself — will undoubtedly solidify into a new form of structural and institutional oppression in which any form of meaningful self-determination will eventually be nipped in the bud, if necessary through the indiscriminate use of deadly force.
The crimes of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces against the Egyptian people have not been forgotten. Before Morsi, the victims included Islamists as well as liberals and left-wing revolutionaries. Under Morsi, the victims were mostly liberals and left-wing revolutionaries. Today, the victims are the Islamists. Tomorrow, they may be any other group of the general population. To stand in defence of the revolution therefore means to resist any form of state violence — in particular those forms of state violence which are allegedly perpetrated in the name of the revolution itself. Now more than ever, the popular rebellion that brought down Mubarak and Morsi must be maintained and intensified to break the hegemonic position of the military and dismantle the authoritarian neoliberal state that was built up by Mubarak with the crucial financial support of the US government. As the Mosireen collective highlighted in a videographic analysis of recent events, the slogan of the 2011 uprising now seems more pertinent than ever: to win, the people must fight for the fall of the system.