This situation in Egypt, but I will be wary of judging the situation from a distance, is not particularly surprising, and a little perspective on history, and the legacy of revolutions, shows immediately what is going on, and what happened: the arrested outcome is the same ‘1848’ effect that has been all too common since the revolutions of that celebrated year tokened the end of the era of the French Revolution and the beginning of a new one: the long march through and beyond the form of modernity cast in capitalist mode. The early critics of capitalism and its revolution saw the obvious point: revolution would deadlock around the questions of economy, and class. Sounds obvious, but it is not usually obvious in practice. One result is the ambiguity, and equivocation, over ‘revolution’ as democratic revolution, and revolution as ‘economic/class equalization’. The place of capitalism can’t be simply taken for granted in a fight for democracy, and, well, read the tale of Marx/Engels in 1848 and the situation in Egypt is not strange. All the symptoms and phenomena are present in classic form, with, to be sure, the added factor of religious formations, the Elephant, in the middle of the theatre of operations.
The point bedeviled Marx/Engels in 1848, and the Russian revolutionaries in 1917/18. The Bolsheviks claimed to know very well the lesson of the above paragraph, but fumbled the ball: and the question remains, how break the deadlock. Marx/Engels never quite answered that question, as you might be surprised to realize, because after 1848 they changed their tactics: their lifetime effort was not actually revoluton but labor formations as electoral gambits. The tactics of Lenin could be said to have broken ththat deadlock, but at the price of democracy, and with not real solution to the economy question, other than Stalinist industrialization.
The problem was thus understood by successors to 1848, but somehow the understanding still missed the real solution, which is…?? We don’t know: but it is clear that a sense of the problem animated those who came through 1848. But did they draw the right conclusions. In any case, we need a successor revolution, one that deals with the issue of democracy and economy at once. The solution is not, pace Lenin, to sacrifice democracy to solve the economic problem, and it is more than just a question of democracy which simply empowers the economic domination of the majority. Whatever the case, the situation in Egypt is the classic 1848 revolution manque…