[News] What is a Revolution?

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Sep 4 12:59:03 EDT 2013

September 04, 2013

*A Total Mess*

  What is a Revolution?


Ever since the beginning of the Arab Spring there has been much talk of  
revolutions. Not from me. I've argued against the position that mass 
uprisings on their own constitute a revolution, i.e., a transfer of 
power from one social class (or even a layer) to another that leads to 
fundamental change. The actual size of the crowd is not a determinant 
unless the participants in their majority have a clear set of social and 
political aims. If they do not, they will always be outflanked by those 
who do or by the state that will recapture lost ground very rapidly.

Egypt is the clearest example in recent years. No organs of autonomous 
power ever emerged. The Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative social force, 
that belatedly joined the struggle to overthrow Mubarik, emerged as the 
strongest political player in the conflict and, as such, won the 
elections that followed. Its factionalism, stupidity, and a desire to 
reassure both Washington and the local security apparatuses that it 
would be business as usual led it to make several strategic and tactical 
errors from its own point of view. New mass mobilizations erupted, even 
larger than those that had led to the toppling of Mubarak. Once again 
they were devoid of politics, seeing the army as their saviour and, in 
many cases, applauding the military's brutality against the Muslim Brothers.

The result was obvious. The /ancien/ /regime/ is back in charge with 
mass support. If the original was not a revolution, the latter is hardly 
a counter-revolution. Simply the military reasserting its role in 
politics. It was they who decided to dump Mubarik and Morsi. Who will 
dump them? Another mass mobilization?  I doubt it very much. Social 
movements incapable of developing an independent politics are fated to 

In Libya, the old state was destroyed by NATO after a six-month bombing 
spree and armed tribal gangs of one sort or another still roam the 
country, demanding their share of the loot. Hardly a revolution 
according to any criteria.

What of Syria? Here too the mass uprising was genuine and reflected a 
desire for political change. Had Assad agreed to negotiations during the 
first six months and even later, there might have been a constitutional 
settlement. Instead he embarked on repression and the tragically 
familiar Sunni-Shia battle-lines (this divide a real triumph for the 
United States following the occupation of Iraq) were drawn. Turkey, 
Qatar and the Saudis poured in weaponry and volunteers to their side and 
the Iranians and Russians backed the other with weaponry.

The notion that the SNC is the carrier of a Syrian revolution is as 
risible as the idea that the Brotherhood was doing the same in Egypt.  A 
brutal civil war with atrocities by both sides is currently being 
fought. Did the regime use gas or other chemical weapons? We do not know.

The strikes envisaged by the United States are designed to prevent 
Assad's military advances from defeating the opposition and re-taking 
the country. That is what is at stake in Syria.

Outside the country, the Saudi's are desperate for a Sunni takeover to 
further isolate Iran, strengthened by the semi-clerical Shia regime in 
Iraq created by the US occupation. Israel's interests are hardly a 
secret. They want Hezbollah crushed. Whatever else may or may not be 
happening in Syria, it is far removed from a revolution. Only the most 
blinkered sectarian fantasist could imagine this to be the case.

The idea that Saudia, Qatar, Turkey backed by  NATO are going to create 
a revolutionary democratic or even a democrat set-up is challenged by  
what is happening elsewhere in the Arab world. The democrat Hollande 
defends and justifies the Moroccan autocracy, the Saudis prevent Yemen 
from moving forward and occupy Bahrein,  Erdogan has been busy with 
repression at home, Israel is not satisfied with a PLO on its knees and 
is pushing for Hamas to do the same (Morsi might have helped in that 
direction) so it can have another go at Hezbollah.

The region is in a total mess and most Syrian refugees in Lebanon and 
Jordan are only too well aware that US strikes will not make their 
country better. Many of the courageous citizens of Syria who started the 
uprising are in refugee camps. Those at home fear both sides and who can 
blame them.

/*Tariq Ali* is the author of The Obama Syndrome 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1844677575/counterpunchmaga> (Verso)./

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