Once again world public opinion faces a most bizarre political event:
an alliance between political forces on the extreme Right and the Left,
including collaboration between NATO regimes and Marxist sects.
The apparent ‘unity of opposites’ is a response to alleged policy and
institutional changes made by center-left and center-right regimes, which
adversely affect both economic and political elites as well as the popular
The circumstances, under which this unholy alliance takes place, vary
according to the type of regime, its policies and the class orientation
of the opposition. The best way to analyze the left-right alliance
is to examine the cases of Egypt and Argentina.
Egypt: The Alliance between Mubarak-Appointed Judges, Secular Liberals,
Leftist Intellectuals and Disenchanted Workers
To understand the alliance between the corrupt remnants of the Mubarak
state apparatus and their former political victims from the center-left
and secular-right, it is essential to examine the political context, which
has evolved since the overthrow of the Mubarak dictatorship in February
While Islamist and secular democratic forces played a major role in mobilizing
millions of Egyptians in ousting the hated US-Israeli client, Hosni Mubarak,
it was the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and their fundamentalist rivals, the
Salafis, who won the majority of votes in the subsequent elections and
formed the first democratically-elected government in Egypt. In
the beginning, the Muslim Brotherhood was forced to share power with the
‘transitional military junta’, which had seized power immediately after
the ouster of Mubarak. Subsequently President Mohamed Morsi, from the
Muslim Brotherhood, convoked elections to a constituent assembly and nominated
a commission to write a new constitution. This was backed by a majority
of the newly-elected Egyptian parliament. Reflecting the Muslim Brotherhood’s
electoral victory, the constitutional commission was dominated by its
supporters. Many secular liberals and leftists rejected their minority
status in the process.
Aside from his work on the constitutional front, Morsi negotiated a financial
loan package of $4.5 billion with the IMF, $5 billion from the EU and
an additional one billion dollars in US aid. These aid agreements
were conditional on President Morsi implementing ‘free market’ policies,
including an ‘open-door’ to foreign investment, ending food and fuel price
subsidies to the poor and maintaining the humiliating Mubarak-era treaty
with Israel, which included Egypt’s participation in the brutal blockade
While the despised US-Israel-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak may have been
ousted from power and a new democratically-elected legislature had taken
office (temporarily) along with President Morsi, Mubarak supporters continued
to dominate key positions in the ministries, the entire judiciary, military
and police. Thus powerfully ensconced, the Mubarak elite strove
in every way to undermine emerging democratic institutions and processes.
The Minister of Defense, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, shielded the police
officials and paramilitary forces responsible for the jailing, torture
and murder of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators. Mubarak-appointed
judges arbitrarily disqualified legislative and presidential candidates,
invalidated democratic elections and even ordered the closing of parliament.
They then moved to outlaw the elected constituent assembly and the commission
set-up to draft the new Egyptian constitution.
In other words, Mubarakites, embedded in the state apparatus, were engaged
in an institutional coup d’etat to retain power, destabilize and paralyze
the democratically-elected Morsi regime and create political disorder,
propitious for a return to their dictatorial rule.
It was the Mubarak-appointed judges’ power-grab that eliminated the separation
of powers by imposing arbitrary judicial decisions and powers over and
above the hard-won electoral rights of Egyptian citizens and their elected
legislature. The judges’ self-proclaimed assumption of legislative
and executive supremacy was a direct assault on the integrity of the emerging
When President Morsi finally moved to counter the Mubarak-allied judges’
dismissal of legitimately-elected bodies by assuming temporary emergency
powers, these judges and their cheerleaders in the Western media accused
him of subverting democracy and violating the ‘independence’ of the judiciary.
The Western ‘liberal’ outcry at Morsi’s so-called ‘power grab’ is laughable
given the fact that they ignored the naked ‘power grab’ of the judges
when they dismissed Egypt’s parliament, its free elections and the writing
of its new constitution under the leadership of Egypt’s new president.
These cries of ‘democracy’ ring hollow from a judiciary, which had shamelessly
legalized countless murder, tortures and dictatorial acts committed by
Mubarak for over 30 years.
The judges’ democratic posturing and cries of injustice were accompanied
by theatrical walkouts and protests aimed at mobilizing public opinion.
Apart from a few thousand die-hard Mubarak holdovers, these judges managed
to attract very little support, until secular liberals, leftists , trade
unionists and sectors of the unemployed decided to intervene and try to
win in the streets what they lost at the ballot box.
The popular protests, in contrast to the judges’ defense of Mubarak-era
privilege and their blatant power grab, was based on Morsi’s failure to
tackle the problems of growing unemployment and plummeting income, as
well as his acceptance of IMF demands to end public subsidies for the
poor. The secular-liberals joined forces with Mubarak-era judges
in their clamor against ‘authoritarianism’ and pushed their own secular
agenda against the Islamist tendencies in the regime and in the drawing
up of the constitution. Pro-democracy youth sought to exploit the legislative
vacuum created when the right-wing judges dismissed the parliament and
put forward a vague notion of ‘alternative democracy’ … presumably one
which would exclude the votes of the Islamist majority. The
trade unions, which had led numerous strikes after the fall of Mubarak
and remain a force among factory workers, joined the protests against
Morsi, rejecting his embrace of the corporate elite. Even some Islamist
groups, disgusted with Morsi’s accommodation with Israel and the US, also
joined took to the streets.
The US and the EU took advantage of the judges’ protest to step in and
warn Morsi to abide to a ‘power sharing’ agreement with the Mubarak officials
and the military or lose financial aid.
Washington has been playing a clever ‘two track policy’: They support
Morsi when he implements a neo-liberal ‘free market’ domestic agenda using
the Muslim Brotherhood networks to contain and limit popular protest among
Egypt’s poor while threatening US aid if he vacillates on Mubarak-era
agreements with Israel to starve Gaza. The White House insists that
Morsi continue supplying cheap gas to Tel Aviv, as well as backing ongoing
and future NATO wars against Syria and Iran. But the US and EU also
want to keep the old reliable Mubarak power centers in place as a check
and veto on Morsi in case a powerful anti-Zionist, populist urban movement
pressures his regime to backtrack on the IMF program and the hated treaty
The constitution, presented by the commission, is a compromise between
Islamists, neo-liberals and democratic electoralists. This constitution
undermines the judges’ power grab and allows the Morsi government to prosecute
or fire the corrupt Mubarak-era officials; it guarantees the primacy of
private, including foreign, property; it privileges Islamic law and provides
‘space’ and possibilities for Islamist leaders to restrict the rights
of Egyptian women and religious minorities, notably the Coptic Christians.
A democratic vote on the constitutional referendum will test the strength
of the pro and anti-government forces. A boycott by secular, liberal
and populist-democratic forces will only demonstrate their weakness and
strengthen the reactionary coup-makers embedded among the Mubarak-era
officials in judiciary, police, military and civilian bureaucracy.
The Left and democratic-secular movements and leaders have formed an opportunistic,
de-facto alliance with the Mubarak elite: a marriage of ‘the police
club’ with its former victims, ‘the clubbed democrats’ of the recent past.
The progressives overlook the danger of the judges’ creeping coup, in
their blind effort to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood and the Morsi regime:
It’s one thing to oppose Morsi’s reactionary agenda and the anti-popular
votes of a reactionary legislature; it’s something totally different to
promote the ouster of a democratically-elected legislature by hold-over
judges pushing for the return of despotism. Undermining the democratic
process will not only adversely affect President Morsi and the Muslim
Brotherhood but also the democratic opposition. The prime beneficiaries
will be the rightwing forces encrusted in the State.
The anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators, who are the clear losers in
democratic elections and a minority in the country, burned and trashed
the offices and meeting places of the Brotherhood and assaulted their
supporters in the worst traditions of the Mubarak era. The self-styled
‘pro-democracy’ activists’ assaults on the Presidential palace and their
rejection of Morsi’s call for dialogue has opened the way for the return
of military rule. The military command’s thinly veiled threat was
evident in their pronouncement that they would intervene with force to
maintain order and protect the public if violence continues. The
coincidence of prolonged street disorder and assaults on electoral politics
with military overtures to take power have a distinct smell of a barnyard
confabulation. The right-left alliance makes it difficult to decipher
whether the violence is a staged provocation to bring the military back
to power or an expression of leftist rage at their electoral impotence.
For strategic, pragmatic and principled reasons, the Left should have
denounced the Mubarak-appointed judges the moment they outlawed the elected
legislature. The Left should have demanded the ouster of these judges
and military leaders and combined their demands with a campaign against
Morsi’s ties with the imperial West and Israel and a repudiation of the
IMF program. By backing these corrupt judges, progressives gained
the short-term support of the Western media and governments while strengthening
their strategic enemy.
Argentina: The Right-Left Alliance
President Cristina Fernandez is representative of the center-left regimes,
which predominate in Latin America today. Her recent resounding
electoral victory is a product of the popular uprisings (2001-2003), the
social reforms and independent foreign policy pursued by her predecessor
(and husband) Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007) and several popular reforms
implemented under her Presidency.
But like all center-left regimes, President Fernandez (2008-2012) has
combined conservative, neo-liberal and populist progressive policies .
On the one hand, Fernandez has encouraged foreign mining companies to
exploit the Argentina’s great mineral resources, charging very low royalty
payments and imposing very few environmental restraints, while, on the
other hand, she nationalized the abusive Spanish multinational oil company,
Repsol, for non-compliance with its contract.
The government has substantially increased the minimum wage, including
for farm workers, while opening up the country to overseas land speculators
and investors to buy millions of acres of farmland. The government
has allowed highly toxic-chemicals to be sprayed on fields next to rural
communities while increasing corporate taxes and controls over agro-export
earnings. The government passed legislation to restrict monopoly
ownership of the mass media promising to expand media licensing to local
communities and diverse social groups, while doing little to limit the
power of big agro-export firms. President Fernandez has supported
Latin American integration (excluding the US) and welcomed radical President
Chavez as a valuable partner in trade and investment and diversified markets.
At the same time Argentina has grown increasingly dependent on a narrow
range of agro-mineral (‘primary goods’) exports to the detriment of domestic
manufacturing. Presidents Fernandez and Kirchner encouraged trade
union activity and, until recently, supported hefty increases in wage,
pension and medical benefits, drastically reducing poverty levels - but
they did so while maintaining the wealth, land, profits and dividends
of the capitalist class.
The Argentine President was able to support both the economic elites and
the working class as long as commodity prices and international demand
remained high. However, with the economic slowdown in Asia and decline
in commodity prices and therefore state revenue, the President is being
squeezed from both sides. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century,
the elite attacked the government more ferociously, led by the big and
medium-size landowners and exporters. They demanded the government
revoke its increase in export taxes and currency controls. The upper-middle
and the affluent middle class of Buenos Aires, backed by supporters of
the previous military dictatorship, organized mass marches and demonstrations
to protest a medley of government policies, including limits on dollar
purchases, inflation and inaction amidst rising crime rates.
Around the same time, conservative and radical leftist trade unionists
organized a general strike - ostensibly because wage increases had failed
to keep up with ‘real’ rates of inflation (double the ‘official rate’
so they claimed). The major media monopoly, Clarin, organized
a virulent systematic propaganda campaign trumpeting the demands of the
economic elite, fabricating stories of government corruption and refusing
to comply with the new government legislation in hopes of staving off
the dismantling of its huge media monopoly.
The US and EU increased pressure on Argentina by excluding it from international
capital markets, questioning its credibility, downgrading its ratings
and promoting a virulently hostile anti-Fernandez mass media campaign
in the financial press.
The destabilization campaign has been orchestrated by the same economic
elites who supported the brutal seven-year military dictatorship during
which an estimated 30,000 Argentines were murdered by the juntas.
Elite opposition is rooted in reactionary social and economic demands,
i.e. lower taxes on exports, deregulation of the dollar market, their
monopoly of the mass media and a reversal of popular social legislation.
The ‘left opposition’ includes a variety of movements including Marxist
grouplets and trade unions who demand salary increases commensurate with
‘real inflation’ as well as environmentalist demanding tighter controls
over agro-chemical pollution, GM seeds and destructive mining operations.
Many of these demands have legitimacy, however some of the Marxist and
leftist groups have been participating in protests and strikes convoked
by the rightwing parties and economic elites designed to destabilize and
overthrow the government. Few if any have joined with the government
to denounce the blatant US-EU credit squeeze and imperial offensive against
This de-facto Right-Left alliance on the streets is led by the most rancid,
authoritarian and neo-liberal elites who ultimately will be the prime
beneficiary if the Fernandez regime is destabilized and toppled.
By joining general strikes organized by the far-Right, the left claims
to be ‘furthering the interests of the workers’ and ‘acting independently’
of the economic elite. However, their activities take place at the
same time and same location as the hordes of wealthy upper middle class
protestors clamoring for the ouster of the democratically elected center-left
regime. The left grouplets maintain that they are in favor of building
a ‘workers state’ as they march abreast with the rich and militarists.
Objectively, their capacity to catalyze a revolution is nil and the real
outcome of their ‘opportunism’ will be a victory for the agro-export elite
mass media monopolies US-EU alliance. The ‘leftist’ workers
protest is mere window dressing for the destabilization of a social-liberal
democracy and will help return a far-right regime to power!
The majority of the workers, pensioners and trade unionists reject any
participation in the bosses’ general strikes even as they voice their
legitimate demands for better pay and the indexing of wage rates to the
real inflation rate. However they join with the government in rejecting
the international creditor demands and US judicial rulings favoring Wall
Street speculators over Argentina’s social interests. Nevertheless,
the left-right protest resonates with many rank and file employees, especially
when export revenues decline and the Fernandez regime lacks the funds
to maintain the social spending of the past decade.
The political challenge for the consequential Left is to defend democracy
against this opportunist ‘Left’-Right onslaught while defending workers’
interests in the face of a decaying center-left regime bent on pursuing
its contradictory program.
Conclusion: The Dilemmas of Capitalist Democracies
The capitalist democracies of Egypt and Argentina face similar Left-Right
alliances, even though they differ sharply in their socio-economic trajectory
and social bases of support. Both Argentina and Egypt have emerged
from brutal dictatorships in recent years: Argentine democracy is
nearly 30 years old while Egyptian democracy is less than a year old.
Argentine democracy, like Egypt, has been confronting powerful authoritarian
institutions leftover from the dictatorial period. These are entrenched
especially in three areas: the military and police, the judiciary
and among sectors of the capitalist class. They all benefited from
the special privileges granted by the dictators.
In Argentina, over the past decade, Presidents Kirchner and Fernandez
succeeded in purging the state apparatus of criminals, murderers and torturers
among the military, police and judiciary. In Egypt, the Morsi regime,
in its short time in office, hesitated at first, but then moved forward
replacing some Mubarak military commanders and promising to investigate
and prosecute those Mubarak-appointed officials involved in the killing
and torture of pro-democracy demonstrators. The Egyptian reactionaries
struck back: Mubarak-appointed judges denied the legality of the democratically
elected legislature and constituent assembly. In Argentina, powerful agrarian
interests and the rightwing mass media conglomerate, which had backed
the dictatorships, struck back as the government moved to end the corporate
media monopoly and tax concessions to the agro-export elite. The
conflict between the dictatorial right and the democratic center-left
in Argentina and the conflict between the Mubarak judiciary and the Islamist
neo-liberal elected regime is partially obscured by the active involvement
of leftists, secular liberals and other ostensibly ‘pro-democracy’ forces
on the side of the Right.
Why has ‘the left’ crossed the line, joining forces with the anti-democratic
Their opportunism arises primarily from the fact that they did so poorly
in the elections and do not see any role for themselves as an electoral
opposition. By joining with the rightwing protests, the left and
secular liberals mistakenly imagine they can revive their faltering support.
Secondly, the Left senses the economic and social vulnerability of the
elected regimes because of the global and local crises, exacerbated by
declining export revenues. They hope to attach their political demands
to those of the upper and middle class protestors who have been mobilized
by the Far Right.
Thirdly, by joining forces with the Right, allied with the US and EU,
the leftist protestors hope to gain international (imperial) support,
recognition, respectability and legitimacy … temporarily. Of course
if the Right succeeds, the Left will be marginalized and discarded as
The imperial threats to cut off credits, loans and markets to both regimes
should logically have led to a united front a tactical alliance between
the Left and the embattled regime, especially in the case of Argentina.
In the case of Egypt, secular liberals and leftists should have joined
with the Morsi regime to oust the remnants of the brutal Mubarak regime.
They should have supported the elected legislature, even while challenging
Morsi’s pacts with the IMF, the US, EU and Israel. Instead, secular
liberals appear to agree with the regime in its reactionary socio-economic
policies. Worse, by joining with the reactionary judges in totally
rejecting the referendum vote on the new constitution, the Left missed
an opportunity to mobilize and challenge the regime and educate the public
about its specific reactionary clauses.
By opposing the progressive democratic process as well as the regime,
the Left has opened the door for the Right to return. By forcing
incumbent presidents to ‘make a deal’ or compromise with the elite, the
left is further isolating themselves. Both Morsi and Fernandez are
vulnerable to leftist pressure and, over time, popular and class-based
movements could find themselves in a position to pose a real alternative….
if they clearly and honestly reject the authoritarian and imperialist
right. By joining in opportunist alliances to score some small victories
today, they foreclose any possible role in the near future of forming
progressive democratic leftist governments. By burning government
offices and destroying the electoral offices of the Muslim Brotherhood,
the self-styled ‘democrats’ are creating the basis for the seizure of
state power by the military.
In the parliamentary
elections the two major Islamist parties polled over 27 million votes
(18 million for the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi), the liberal-left opposition
received approximately 7.5 million votes and the Mubarac-era parties got
2 million. The Islamist parties totaled about two-thirds of the
electorate, which translated into the same proportion of elected legislators
(358 out of 508). The liberal-left parties received slightly over
26% of the vote and the Mubarak parties got about 8%. The anti-Morsi
rioters are a clear and decisive minority and their violent assault on
the governming regime is, by any measure, an attempt to impose minority
rule, denying and marginalizing the nearly 18 million voters who elected
the Morsi Government and Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Congress.
Cristina Fernandez was first elected
in October 2007 with 45.3% of the vote, a 22% lead over her nearest rival.
In the most recent elections in October 2011, she was re-elected with
54.1% of the vote, a 37.3% margin over her nearest competitor.