ALL AH WE IS ONE: Egypt Round 2
On August 15 2011, out of a deep concern that the Egyptian revolution had been usurped by the army, I wrote the following in this column.
“It would be an ‘aborted’ revolution, if the only achievement of the 18 days of sustained protest was the removal of Mubarak as President. A central demand of the protesters was for the creation of unfettered and genuinely democratic institutions and practices which would signal a definite break with the authoritarianism of the past. One of the ‘contradictions’ of the revolution, therefore, was that in the midst of the push for democracy, all eyes turned to the Army – the least democratic of state institutions – as the saviour of the future.”
Today, it is clear that the revolution in Egypt has refused to be aborted. The Arab Spring continues, well into winter. The hasty celebration of the Egyptian revolt as a mere uprising against authoritarianism is now proving premature. Those who sought to reduce the Egyptian revolt to a movement against Mubarak and his cronies were deliberately missing the point.
It was an attempt to deny that there were more fundamental structural and economic issues fuelling the youth revolts in the Arab world. This reduction of the revolts to a “struggle for democracy” is a typical response of the West, which would deny that economic issues and deeper challenges to the entire political and economic edifice may be at play.
What is more, by reducing the Arab Spring to a revolt against authoritarian regimes, Western ideologues have been seeking to drive a wedge between what is taking place in the squares of Egypt, Syria, Libya and Tunisia, and the events by the Occupy Wall Street Movement in the United States, and other revolts in other capitals.
Indeed, some conservative commentators have been trying to suggest that the Arab Spring were “good” revolts since they were for democracy, whilst the OWS revolts are “bad” since they are against democracy.
No amount of simplistic reactionary reductionism can escape the truth: that what we are witnessing is a round of global revolution, in which neo-liberal capitalism and its attendant political institutions, both local and international, are being challenged.
Equally important is the fact that these revolts, whilst in the process of unfolding may make victims of the authoritarian rulers of the undemocratic world, it would be foolhardy to see this as the beginning and end of the revolts. They are too global in nature, too uncannily similar in their spontaneity, and too persistent in their mobilisation, to be brushed aside as episodic moments.
Very soon, however, the Egyptian and global revolts must move to the next stage. Shouting “leave, leave, leave”, is only the background music of the revolution.
The time will soon come, for the presentation of new political institutions and economic arrangements.