Hesham Sallam has a brilliant piece in Jadaliyya on the fate of workers under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Small strikes and demonstrations have been ongoing. But any insurrectionary actions calling for economic redistribution – christened fi’awi – are considered illegitimate by the government. Three months ago, on March 23, Prime Minister ‘Isam Sharaf issued a law banning strikes, assemblies, and protect that obstruct public and private businesses.
The worthless Muslim Brotherhood, the reactionaries’ ace-in-the-hole, has described the fi’awi as damaging the national consensus and expressed “understanding” for the army’s position. So much for the Muslim Brotherhood. The house organ of the “liberal” Wafd part has agreed, claiming that calls for economic change could roll back the revolution’s gains. The petty bourgeoisie wants the country to get back to business. However, I don’t like the rhetoric of “crony capitalism” that Sallam uses. Capitalism has always been rife with cronies.
What the rhetoric unintentionally invokes or suggests is a return to a pre-lapsarian age when capitalism worked for the common folk, when people gathered in the souk and exchanged what they needed with each other, perhaps under the umbrella of a custodial state. It works by recalling an imaginary, never-existent capitalism unblemished by massive corporations that have captured state power and use it to increase their own accumulation. Such a conceptualization gets capitalism backwards. Not only are concepts like the “free market” and the “economy” mythical, capitalism itself is an anti-market. As Braudel wrote, “capitalism only triumphs when it becomes identified with the state, when it is the state.”