Legacy of the Ruling Class and the Recent Crisis in Egypt

Milad Ali moradian & Dr. Mohammad Nazrul Bari for BeyondHeadlines

A self immolation of an unknown man due to harsh condition of his life in Tunisia led to a great chain of revolutions all over Arab countries, mainly those who were suffering from lack of liberalism and democracy. However, the successful revolution of Tunisia became a path for other Arab countries in the Middle East and that unknown man became the symbol of resistance. The name of this great man is Mohamed Bouazizi. The people of this region put up a social demonstration against their harsh condition. But all these countries did not have the same result of prosperity. Tunisia and Libya became free from their rulers while Bahrain and Egypt did not. Meanwhile the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Jordan became aware of their situation and gave more political, financial and social freedom to their people. Even the king of Jordan joined the waves of demonstrators and raised his hand for more democracy; a very bitter jock in the history of democracy. In fact all those countries which faced these waves cannot be categorized in the same pattern and each one has its own elements. The important point to note is that those who got free from their rulers are suffering from internal chaos. Moreover, the history of Egypt is on another path and must be analyzed by its own elements.

Mohamed Morsi, the only legally elected President in the history of Egypt sentenced by  death penalty by the court. Not only him but almost 100 people of Muslim Brotherhood were awarded death penalty by court. After the 2011 Revolution and debacle of government of Hosni Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood could become the main powerful actor in the political field of Egypt. Having a historical organizational structure was one of   the reasons for this achievement of this group. Another one was   the absence of the majority of people in the presidential election in 2012. However he was elected as the fifth President of Egypt but remained in that office for only one year. One of the main purposes of Morsi was to reduce the power of armed forces. He tried to send them back to their military bases and always emphasized that the only role of armed forces is national defence. During his tenure he could not fulfill his duties and the majority of the people protested against his general policy.  Finally on 3rd July 2013,  he was removed from his office by a coup of  military and  armed forces. After a year Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; another general of armed forces was elected as the President of the country.  This act simply explains an important fact that the military group was never  deleted from the field of politics of Egypt after 2011. In fact it remained as observer and silent for some moments. Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is the main player in this field, whose head is Sisi. This council is the reformed body of the Revolutionary Command Council (junta) of the free officers’ movement.

Before 19th century the political structure and culture of Egypt was in a unique traditional form. It was not unitary but powerful. After this period the ruling class of Egypt turned his face towards the Europe. They found the prosperity of the west in an united political system which was in paradox with their traditional system. According to Abdollah Shahbazi, a historian by training that the reformation in Egypt was not based on the pattern of French Revolution and had no interest in liberalism but was more inclined towards powerful totalitarianism of European nations. In fact the dictatorships of European countries were the core interest of Egypt rather than a democratic system. The result of choosing this pattern minimizes the role of middle agencies between the state and the people. It reduced the power of feudalist and limited the power of religious community and the common Muslim groups as non-governmental structures.

The result of this consequence led to the establishment of ruling military class. In the view of Charles Wright Mills, ruling class differs from power elite. In fact ruling class has more social structure but power elite is related to family heritage. However, this ruling class of Egypt was nourished from the meal of military dictatorship and this type of totalitarian state remained till present day.

In the view of popular historian, late Stanford J. Shaw, this political despotism started by Mahmud II,  the 30thSultan of Ottoman Empire and he encouraged new elites of the society. The result was heavy handed suppression of various local ruling classes which had the role of middle agency between the people and the Court of Sultan. The second phase of this wave was started by Muhammad Ali Pasha (4 March 1769 – 2 August 1849) the Wali of Egypt and Sudan. This process continued in his dynasty by his successors till Egyptian Revolution of 1952(23 July Revolution) mainly known as coup military of Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Helen Anne B. Rivlin rightly describes the role of Pasha in three phases. First he opened the gate of Egypt for European merchants and made it a part of European economic circulation under their influence and therefore created a depended market based on European system. Huge metropolitan cities emerged; new powerful families emerged based on this norm and the power of empire was reduced gradually. The second phase reduced the power of Islamic communities which had a socio-historical engagement with different layers of society. This community always played an important role for the protection of the people in Egypt. The third phase had focus on traditional landlords. He took their land and gave it to his own family and people. This is important to be noted because he tried to make an industrial country but failed in vain.

This military state got its real form in 1952 by the military coup of Egyptian armed forces. A group of nationalist officers in the armed forces of Egypt and Sudan known as free officers involving in the concept of pan Arabism, were the leading group. They first wanted to remove the FaroukI of Egypt (the king) from his court but later abolishing of constitutional monarchy and aristocracy of Egypt and Sudan became their agenda. Soon, the king was removed from his power and his son became the successor. Sudan became a free state and within a short period time the new king faced the destiny of his father and was dethroned; the result was the formation of Republic of Egypt and separation of Sudan. Muhammad Naguib became the first President of Egypt but his prosperity could not last for a long time. His disagreement with Nasser led to his forced removal from office and subsequent 18 year house arrest until his release by President Anwar Sadat in 1972. The core of the issue was the role of military and its participation in the state. Naguib believed that the military should not interfere in politics. Unlike him, Nasser was on the opposite side and accused him for supporting Muslim Brotherhood. Within a short time Muslim Brotherhood became outlawed and it remained an illegal political organization until the Revolution of 2011. Nasser tenure ended in 1970 by his death. His policy was neutralist foreign policy during the Cold War, co-founding the international Non-Aligned Movement and nationalization of Suez Canal. Consequently his Prime Minister; Anwar Sadat became the next president of the country till his assassination by Egyptian Islamic Jihad in 1981. He was the first Arab leader who   signed a peace treaty with Israel. After the death of Sadat, Hosni Mubarak became the forth president of Egypt till 2011.

We hope the western nations would change their policy in Middle East and make it a peaceful place of the globe. Though NATO forces in the name of establishing democracy created havoc all around the world. However where ever they went they spread the idea of neo colonialism.

(Milad Ali moradian is an expert in international relation and national security, Iran and Dr. Mohammad Nazrul Bari is associated with Department of History, School of Social and Behavioral Sciences of Central University of Karnataka, India)


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