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The Troubled Revolutionary Path in Egypt: A Return to the Basics

[Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq addresses his supporters during an election rally in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, June 14, 2012. Judges appointed by Hosni Mubarak dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament on Thursday and ruled that Mubarak's former prime minister can stand in the presidential runoff this weekend, derailing Egypt's transition to democracy and setting the stage for the military and remnants of the old regime to stay in power. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)] [Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq addresses his supporters during an election rally in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, June 14, 2012. Judges appointed by Hosni Mubarak dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament on Thursday and ruled that Mubarak's former prime minister can stand in the presidential runoff this weekend, derailing Egypt's transition to democracy and setting the stage for the military and remnants of the old regime to stay in power. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)]

While many in Egypt are mourning the “death of the revolution” and the ensuing “military coup,” it is time to highlight, or re-highlight some points:

1- To talk about a military coup in June 2012 is to assume that Egypt was run by a civilian government since the toppling of Mubarak, which is completely farcical. The coup, more or less, has been in effect since 11 February 2011, when revolutionaries managed to overthrow Mubarak, and he was replaced by his handpicked army generals.

2- The military junta from the start of the “transitional process” has been in control, and are using all their constitutional, legal, and political weapons to shape the process, and they did not hesitate to use bullets when their “soft power” failed. 

3- The military junta are the most keen among all the political players to “handover power” to a civilian government. As of the time of this writing, and over the past week, military APCs and trucks have been roaming the streets, handing out statements, and encouraging people to vote in the second round. Similar propaganda messages, both explicit and indirect, are aired continuously on the state-run TV. The junta wants to “leave,” head back to the barracks, with legal, political, and constitutional assurances that their position, privileges, control over the economy, and decision making, remain unchanged. In short, they dream of the old “Turkish model.”

4- No revolution gets settled in 18 days or 18 months. If we all agree that this is a war with the regime that will last for several years, then why everyone is suddenly panicking and saying it’s over? Did anyone expect that the revolution would be one linear curve of victories? We are definitely going through a catastrophic period, when the counterrevolution is on the offense, but by no means should we expect the revolution to be finished. How many times did we hear or read over the past year and a half, “it’s over! the revolution is defeated,” only to be surprised with a resurgence of street protests, occupations, and labor strikes that force the junta to retreat?

5- This revolution still does not have leadership, simply because none of the existing political groups has enough grassroot support on the ground to direct it. Hence, any political agreement between SCAF and any political force with the aim of diffusing street protests or labor strikes is futile.

6- Labor strikes, which embody the only hope for toppling the regime, never continue in a linear upward curve. Just like street protests, the strikes also ebb and flow. Yet, the fact remains: The strike wave has entered its sixth continuous year, with no prospects of seeing the industrial actions end, simply because the structural, objective reasons for the outbreak of strikes are still there, and no presidential candidate, nor a prophet can solve these problems as long as the neoliberal regime remains in place. 

7- The labor strikes, though not under a unified leadership, have witnessed repeated direct confrontations with the army, anti-military junta sentiments and chants, as well as friction with the Muslim Brotherhood or Salafi members of parliament who tried to diffuse industrial actions in their area, or did not bother to intervene to help the workers in the first place.

8- The Islamist opposition itself is full of contradictions and internal splits. The dismal performance in the (now dissolved) parliament, collaboration with the junta over the past year, and failure to achieve any concrete national gains for the people during the short lived defunct parliament, could only mean the process of disillusionment among sections of the poor and the youth in those groups has the potential to accelerate. 

9- There are good reasons to expect some rough months ahead of us. The (not really that) dissolved National Democratic Party apparatus had thrown its weight behind Shafiq in these elections, and party members felt comfortable to come out of the closet after disappearing from public eyes for a year. Mubarak’s security leaders have all been acquitted, and every day we receive news of more police officers and corporals acquitted of all charges related to killing protesters. Though the emergency law officially was lifted two weeks ago, the Justice Minister has granted military police and intelligence officers the authority to arrest civilians. Without a parliament or a constitution standing, the coming president Shafiq is expected to carry out sweeping security crackdowns on democracy activists, opposition groups, and revolutionaries, with the full backing of SCAF. 

10- This coming wave of repression will not finish off the revolution. Again, it will take several years for the dust to settle. The revolutionary camp lacks the essential tools to fight back, in other words, a national organization for the most advanced sections of the labor and youth movements, and a coherent united front that coordinates between the different revolutionary groups in the capital and the provinces. And in such tough times, when the counterrevolution is in full steam, the need for such an organization becomes more urgent.

3 comments for "The Troubled Revolutionary Path in Egypt: A Return to the Basics"

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i completely agree with you

magda amin wrote on June 15, 2012 at 09:13 AM
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With all due respect, we should reject not only the public narrative and terminology of the events in Egypt - but even the parameters drawn by the media (be it Al Jazeera, Al Arabaya or Channel One). 1. The crowd in Tahrir Square did not remove Mubarak. The military - by refusing to turn Tahrir into Tianamen - removed Hosni. As you correctly noted, they had no problems shooting protesters after Feb. 11. But for their own sake. Not Hosni's. 2. The coup didn't take place in June 2012. It didn't take place on February 11, 2011. It took place in 1952 and the same military junta has been in power ever since. Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak were all the same man. Regardless of policy, the military was not to be crossed. When they felt Jimmy threatening their lucrative grip on Egypt's resources, that's when they turned on Daddy Mubaraks. 3. There is no revolutionary leadership because there is no revolution. At best, there was an uprising by a small minority of the urban areas in Egypt. On the day of the largest turnout nationwide we did not see 3% of the Egyptian population in the streets. Compare this to the numbers throughout eastern Europe's post communism revolts. 4. From personal experience with the police in Tahrir in Nov. 2011, I can - with all confidence - say the same people have had control of the country throughout this production.

Tamer Ibrahim wrote on June 15, 2012 at 10:57 AM
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An article that elaborates the current situation from a realistic manner. I tottaly agree with Hossam and I do remember when the 2010 parliamentary elections were being faked and gamal mubarak was expected to succeed his father, a point at which the regime thought that they are on the eve of victory when in fact they were making people deepely frustrated and angry. Now people are angry and it's anger that triggers revolution. We are now approaching second wave of the revoloution, just get ready for it!

ahmed wrote on June 15, 2012 at 11:40 AM

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