"Bread, freedom, social justice”; “Down, down with Hosni Mubarak”; “We’re not leaving, he must leave”; “The people want the downfall of the regime.” It is difficult to reflect on the famous slogans that awakened the consciousness of an entire nation four years ago and view them as anything but a distant memory. For advocates of transformative change, the fourth anniversary of January 25 Revolution is perhaps the most painful one to date. It comes at a moment when its strongest partisans are in prison, exile, or, in the best-case scenarios, politically isolated and contained. Meanwhile, the revolution’s fiercest enemies are thriving inside presidential palaces, media outlets, and positions of influence inside and outside of government. Expressions of political dissent have become more curtailed than ever, thanks the state’s restrictions on speech and political activism through draconian legal measures and the chronic use of deadly violence. Egypt under Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi shows no trace of the promise that January 25 held four years ago.
Nonetheless it is a mistake to assume that the stagnation of the revolutionary struggle means the success of the current regime and its allies to secure their rule indefinitely and impose their will on Egyptian society. Whereas Mubarak and his successors among Egypt’s military rulers have long tried to claim that the country’s political system leaves room for dissent and genuine political competition, al-Sisi, in contrast, has set for himself a much more difficult task. He has adopted the indefensible claim that dissent does not exist in Egypt, and that competition is irrelevant given the unanimous societal consensus that is allegedly backing his rule and so-called vision. That is, Field Marshal al-Sisi has clearly abandoned the long-standing ambitions of his predecessors to project the façade of democracy through managed political competition and liberalization. Instead, he has sought to project the façade of consensus, hence the return of ninety-niner-percent national polls, and expected return of rubber-stamp legislatures.
Yet the unavoidable truth is that myth of national unity rests on a fictitious narrative that is not only unpersuasive, but also that is becoming more and more absurd by the day: there is no opposition in Egypt, just terrorists and foreign agents; the national uprising against Mubarak was a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy conceived in partnership with foreign actors; security forces are not guilty of murdering protesters during the 2011 eighteen-day uprising, despite audiovisual evidence that suggests otherwise; forcing an elected president out of office against his will is not a coup; the murder of thousands of protesters is not a massacre; rule of generals does not constitute military rule; and, most absurdly, military scientists actually developed a cure for AIDS and Hepatitis-C. The proliferation of farcical rhetoric among the regime’s supporters is perhaps a testament to the reality that the regime of Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, having expended all its political resources and credibility, now rests on nothing but coercion and fear. That is, the coercion of an undisciplined and politically uncalculating security apparatus, along with the fear that many Egyptians have of the dreadful alternatives to the status quo.
The revolution may be falling short, yet the counter-revolution has hardly prevailed.
The following articles are part of Jadaliyya`s commemoration of the January 25 Revolution:
- “Old People Are Not Revolutionaries!” Labor Struggles Between Precarity and Istiqrar in a Factory Occupation in Egypt by Dina Makram-Ebeid
- Is Cairene Graffiti Losing Momentum? by Mona Abaza
- Mubarakism on Steroids: Jadaliyya Co-Editor Hesham Sallam Interviewed on the Anniversary of the Revolution
- الإخوان من الجماعة إلى الفرقة by Ibrahim el-Houdaiby إبراهيم الهضيبي
- تقييم حالة الإعلام الخاص فى مصر by Rania Makram رانيا مكرم