Contextualising the ‘Arab Spring’
“At the start, it is important to realise that per capita real income growth in the Arab region in the 70s and 80s was zero, according to statistics published by the World Bank, while in comparison it was seven percent in East Asia, five percent in Southern Asia, and 3.5 percent in South America,” states Amin, contextualising Egypt’s revolution two years on. Only Sub-Saharan Africa had similar zero growth in this period.
“Real per capita growth in the Arab region remained by far the lowest in the world in the 90s and during the past 10 years, and this includes economic performance in oil rich countries like Iraq, Algeria, Libya and even Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.” Indeed, during this period the region ranked below Sub-Saharan Africa.
The “social disaster” that resulted from this situation, according to Amin, was primarily the result of Arab adoption of neoliberal economic policies (privatisation, reduction of state subsidies, trade liberalisation, monopoly of multinationals, deregulation of the financial market, etc). “The uprising in the region was no coincidence, then,” Amin asserts.
“These developments were not due to dictatorship but [were primarily a reaction] to the neoliberal logic implemented over the years,” Amin says. The uprisings, however, both in Egypt and Tunisia, did not manage to change these policies, and thus did not bring about an actual change in the regime, at least yet.
Under Muslim Brotherhood rule
“The rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Brotherhood’s Nahda Party in Tunisia continue to apply the same principles and thus we (the Arab countries) will remain at the bottom of the list [in real income per capita],” Amin warns. The IMF loan being negotiated by Egypt, worth $4.8 billion, should be seen in this context, says Amin.
“It would have been expected that any government that comes after the people’s uprising would reject such a loan. However, the Brotherhood are liberal economically... They are not just a conservative party.”
“The Brotherhood are against any increase in wages or any change regarding workers rights," which Amin blames on what he describes as their "conservative" and "reactionary" interpretation of Islam, asserting that Islam can be interpreted differently.
“What was required after the revolutions in both Egypt and Tunisia was to escape privatisation, to build a national project and protect it from the negative impacts of globalisation. That is not what the Brotherhood project supports ... The Brotherhood argues that capitalism is not the problem, nor is the market.”
US strategy, post-revolution
The main goal of the US after the revolution is to protect its interests by maintaining economic neoliberal policies in the region, Amin says, explaining US support of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Whether by a semi-democratic state, an Islamic state, a military dictatorship or a dictatorship ... these are all tools [for the US] to reach the same goal, which is to guarantee the continuation of neoliberal policies in the region.” Hence, he explains, the US decided to bet on the Islamist group.
“The US bets on all parties, whether democratic, fascist, Islamist or secular, as long as it accepts neoliberal economic policies.”
However, the US decided to bet on the Brotherhood rather than on other groups because they are more capable of implementing neoliberal policies and they have a regionwide organisation that can protect US interests, Amin opined.
The opposition and the fascist threat
While a large sector of the democratic forces that oppose the Brotherhood on other grounds, whether political or cultural, also accept neoliberal policies and principles, the opposition in Egypt needs to unite against what Amin describes as a “fascist threat.”
“A big part of public opinion in Tunisia and Egypt believe, like the Brotherhood, that the negative conditions (that prevail in our region) were due to corruption and the personal power of Mubarak or Ben Ali, which is not true,” as such effects could also be seen in countries that did not suffer the same levels of corruption or concentration of power.
“Nevertheless, as the [democratic] situation in Egypt is much worse than its counterpart in Tunisia, it forces those opposing neoliberalism and those supporting it to join forces (against the project of the Brotherhood).”
Amin believes that the Brotherhood has been able to monopolise power in Egypt in a "fascist" manner.
“The Brotherhood project in Egypt seeks to destroy any form of democracy — bourgeois, liberal or socialist. In Egypt’s circumstances, therefore, there is a need to create a front such as the National Salvation Front, which brings together different forces, some critical of capitalism and neoliberal regimes and others not — all agreeing that it is imperative to stop the Brotherhood project to monopolise power in Egypt.”
People will not accept the continuation of neoliberal policies, Amin says. Although Amin believes that the revolution was not successful in changing the regime, he is confident it has changed the people.
“The people will no longer accept [economic] liberalism.” Neoliberal regimes will therefore face a very strong resistance.
Moreover, the current crisis in Europe, the US and Japan will also play a role in setting the region’s fate, for it will further increase the negative impacts suffered by Egyptians, as it is likely to make more difficult the export of Egyptian goods to the global north.