Thursday, August 22, 2013

On the Destruction and Revival of the Egyptian Revolution

At Pandaemonium, Kenan Malik publishes a superb piece that locates the 3 July military coup that overthrew the government of Muhammad Morsi, and Al-Sisi's crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood, within the long history of the Muslim Brotherhood's treatment at the hands of Egypt's series of military-backed regimes since Gamal Abdul Nasser.  

He sums up:

So what of the future for Egypt?  What the past few weeks have revealed is the weakness of all sides.  The Muslim Brotherhood is being crushed without too much resistance, exposing its lack of popular support. Liberal secularists, organizationally weak and politically incoherent, having failed to topple on Morsi on their own, have put faith in the military to do the job for them. The USA, and other Western powers, have discovered that they no longer possess much leverage over Cairo.  The power of the Egyptian military has certainly been entrenched, but largely because of the weakness of other social forces.


The revolution might have been strangled, but the yearning for democracy and freedom remains. If that yearning is eventually to be harnessed to help create a new, democratic Egypt, revolutionaries must learn the lessons of the current debacle. The real destruction of the Egyptian revolution did not come when the military seized power. It came when liberals and secularists backed the coup and justified the repression that followed. Democracy and freedom cannot be wielded in a sectarian fashion. And no one but the people themselves – not the military, not a foreign power – can be the harbinger of change.

Indeed.  But it has been well noted that Hosni Mubarak's overthrow by "the people" in 2011 was "allowed" by the military, who were concerned that he was grooming as his successor his son Gamal, whose penchant for neo-liberal economic reforms would have imperilled their well-entrenched domination of parts of the Egyptian economy.  Now "the people" need to regroup if they are to have any hope of reviving their revolution.  Yet the Islamist element of "the people" have been labelled "terrorists" and are being systematically crushed by al-Sisi and his junta - as Malik notes, largely courtesy of liberals/secularists who'd two years ago been their compatriots in Tahrir Square.  It stands to reason, does it not, that if they now - very belatedly - try to organize against the junta, the liberals/secularists will in their turn be smacked down.

So much for that "harbinger of change"?


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