In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

The Egyptian revolution: the lessons for Britain

Posted by seumasach on February 5, 2011

Cailean Bochanan

5th February, 2011

There is quite a lot of hype going around the British left in the wake of the dramatic events in Egypt. That great revolutionary upheaval is being seen as a possible model for Britain where discontent is growing as economic conditions deteriorate and  the coalition government, already seen as lacking legitimacy, seeks to impose draconian cuts in a vain attempt to prevent a full-blown sterling crisis and in the process has provoked a student rebellion.

According to this template revolution is the the universal panacea to be applied at all times to the ills of humanity. No one rejoices more than I do in seeing these events unfold and no one seeks more to draw lessons for our own benighted country. However, the context is crucial to determining what these lessons are.

Let’s draw some contrasts between Egypt and Britain:

Egypt is part of what used to be called the Third World, it is a developing country: Britain is a senile imperial power, engaged in a last-ditch and utterly futile project to fulfil, together with our American partners, the 1992 Wolfowitz programme for global domination.

Through its great revolution Egypt is throwing off its yoke: we are very much part of that yoke as our response to the Egyptian movement has illustrated far more eloquently than pages of historical analysis. The British ruling elite fears the unfolding events in Egypt and are undoubtedly working with both Washington and Tel Aviv to stem the tide of people power and maintain a pro-Western dictatorship in Cairo.

The British people have benefited greatly and continue to benefit greatly, although not for much longer, from Britain’s global power projection. In the last 20 or 30 years we have been able to run up huge debts and run a ever growing trade deficit on the basis of the status of the pound sterling as a privileged  currency, one of the constituents of the IMF’s SDRs. By way of illustration, China holds 5% of its currency reserves in sterling accepted in payment for Chinese exports to Britain and reinvested in UK government bonds. Thus, despite the destruction of Britain’s industrial base, the real economy, Britain has continued to enjoy a good living standard: we have conjured wealth out of nowhere, seemingly. In fact, we have found a novel and generally unnoticed means to continue to extract wealth from the rest of the world.

The case of Egypt is the complete opposite: it’s people seem to gain little from their unending sweat and toil. Not for them to enjoy the fruits of their own labour in an economy geared to foreign interests. An explosion at a pipeline has just brought attention to an arrangement for the sale of cut price gas to Israel which could be seen to typify this state of affairs

The Egyptian revolution has made as its symbol the national flag judging by the scenes in Freedom Square. Can we imagine a British revolution under the union jack? That would be scary! The union jack is a symbol of empire, not a national flag proper, Great Britain or the UK being an unusual combination of nation states or bits of them.

Egypt is a dictatorship whereas Britain is a … well, a much more complicated dictatorship dominated by City of London, miltary-industrial, intelligence corporate, media and Zionist interests linked through open and hidden networks and revolving doors. But George Galloway was right to point out on Press TV on Thursday that we do at least have elections which offer a potential for change were we able to exploit them.

The point I wish to make is this: the events are a new beginning for Egypt but an endgame for us. That’s why the British people aren’t coming onto the streets en masse to support the Egyptian people. Our response is bound to be ambivalent: we have so much still to lose. Historical parallels show that declining imperial peoples are not given to revolutionary elan. However, we should not be fatalistic: imperialism now belongs to the past and those who advance a programme of change based on this recognition must eventually win out

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