Jul 19 2013
I had the pleasure of conducting this interview with Wael Gamal, one of the more reliable and informed journalists who addresses critically political-economic variables in Egypt. In this interview, Wael addresses the less discussed dire social and economic situation that spurred the 30 June protests and the immediate aftermath, first under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and recently under an anti-Brotherhood loose coalition that is unfolding at the moment. Paramount in this interview is the role of military-business relations and prospects for change in social and economic policies in light of seemingly increasing influence of big capital.
The caveat that Wael repeatedly refers to involves the wider opportunity now available for various social forces to exert pressure on government and confront elitist economic policies. Yet, it is not a struggle whose outcome can be determined in advance. Wael addresses a number of indicators to watch for as the new government is formed, and as the battle for guiding Egypt’s political economy unfolds in relation to economic policies, IMF loans and “packages,” and the management of subsidies.
Wael recounts significant factors that augmented resentment against the Brotherhood during the two years after the ousting of Mubarak, and treats this resentment and opposition as a force that is likely to pressure whatver current government and alliances are formed in the direction of asserting the demands for social and economic rights for wide sectors of the population. He identifies significant and strategic relations between the military and big business in current potential ruling formulas, but does not discount the ability of the non-fuloul segments of the protest movement to push forth with its basic demands.
Wael Gamal is an Egyptian journalist at al-Shurouq newspaper in Cairo. He has written extensively on Egypt’s politics and society, with an emphasis on political economy.
Here are the questions i posed to Wael througout the interview, to which he provided lucid answers (the answers will be transcribed soon):
• Can you start by discussing the state of economic and social issues before June 30 (which have received short shrift hitherto), and their effect on the campaigns and protests we witnessed?
• Can we address the idea about how there are deep social and economic challenges that will have to be confronted regardless of who is in power? There seems to be a dearth of a serious discussion of such factors that will stand in the way of any power that be. Can you share with us your outlook in this regard in the coming months and years?
• There is a narrative that posits that the Muslim Brotherhood cooperated with significant parts of the bygone regime, including the military and big business, and were therefore quite reactionary in this this. However, there is another narrative that the current relationship between the military or the state and big business is even deeper and clearer than before June 30, or is likely to become so.
• What in your estimation are the forces among “Tamarod” or beyond that can confront such developments, especially that we seem to be entering into a three-way game with three centers of power: the remnants of the previous regime and their supporters, the Brotherhood, and those who seem oppose both. Can you comment on this?
• Considering the seemingly increasing proximity of big business to the state and to the military of late, can we say that the June 30 movement constituted a political, but not an economic revolution?
• If we take a look at the forces that might push in a progressive direction in reference to social justice, various freedoms, anti-repression, anti-racism, anti-classism, what do we see? Broadly, the forces on the scene are divided into the Brotherhood and other Islamists, the fuloul [remnants of the old regime], and liberals of all types. What we find is that those who are putting forth a truly progressive discourse opposed to all the above are limited [in number or effect]. Does this call for pessimism?
[The interview is divided into two parts and will be transcribed soon. The video is edited by the author]