The revolutionary force was never as divided as it was over the dodged Ministry of Defense sit-in in Abasiyah. They were basically split between three groups.
The first believed that Hazem Abu Ismael’s supporters’ march from Tahrir to the MOD was a perfect opportunity for them to put pressure on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) even if Abu Ismael’s supporters’ demands revolved aroind their candidate (a.k.a their god). The second group said that past year’s events proved you can never trust an Islamist. You can trust an angry transsexual 57 years old prostitute, but you can’t put your trust in a political Islamist. They’ll always eat your flesh and throw away your bones after they take what they want from you. This group refused to join hands with Abu Ismael’s supporters, yet declared their willingness to stand by the protesters’ right to demonstrate if they were attacked by the army. The third group said that such an unpopular sit-in amounted to political suicide and they will not be joining anyway.
The way the MOD sit-in ended and the repercussions it will have on the revolution and the revolutionary force makes us ask these questions: what happened to the Egyptian revolution? Is it going through a period of demise and will eventually remedy itself? Yet the most important question in my opinion is: what did Egypt’s revolutionaries do wrong? We can never expect the revolution to remedy itself without self criticism from the revolutionary force.
In this blog post I will tell you about what I think the revolutionaries have done wrong during the past year.
Leaving Tahrir on February 12
Ask any revolutionary about the single most drastic mistake committed in the revolution and the answer will most probably be this: we left Tahrir right after Mubarak stepped down. The revolutionary force had so much momentum and public support back then, if they have stayed, they could have asked for anything. A constitution, a presidential council, you name it.
I am not a fan of Mohamed Hassanien Haikal, but he said something profound right after February 11 last year. “The revolutionaries reached the moon and asked for a kilo of kebab.”
Staying in the bubble
A tweep on twitter reported something very profound. She was sitting in a traditional cafe and she saw the people cheer right after SCAF announced they will impose a curfew over Abasiyah. I believe it was very clear the MOD sit-in had almost zero public support and revolutionaries who were drawn into it did not do the revolution any good. On the contrary, they further alienating the people and handed extra points to SCAF.
The revolutionaries are still living in their own self created bubble. They only talk to themselves, they rarely talk to the people on the street. They are all cocooned in their own meetings, facebook pages and on twitter. There has been very little attempt to burst this bubble and talk directly to the public; except the successful Kazeboon (Liars) and Masrena (our Egypt) campaigns that were carried out nationwide at the end of last year.
When I raise this point, fellow revolutionaries often confront me with this rationale: revolutions are done by the minority and we can never expect the majority to support us; they will only cheer when we win just as they did when Mubarak stepped down last year.
The above rationale is partially correct. While it is true that revolutions are done by the minority, and it is also equally true that millions of Egyptians had no problem to give Mubarak the few months he requested before relinquishing power, the revolutionaries who took to the street on January 25th needed the throng that descended on January 28th to break the police force and put Mubarak’s regime on its downward spiral. This throng, because of various post-revolution reasons, are not part of the revolution anymore. This is why revolutionaries are now fighting the might of SCAF alone and often against the will of the “street”. Revolutionaries need to understand that without recruiting this “January 28 throng” once again they will never move an inch towards achieving their demands.
Why did SCAF kill revolutionaries yet they never thought of attacking a demonstration by the Islamists? Because revolutionaries are much more dangerous to SCAF than the Islamists. SCAF could strike all sorts of deals with the valueless political Islamists yet they cannot do so with the revolutionaries. SCAF just cannot bring the revolutionaries around a table and negotiate something with them. These guys are hardcore. They are ready to die for what they believe in. Unlike the political Islamists, you cannot throw the revolutionaries a bone.
This staunch adherence to principles and their unwavering determination to achieve all the revolution’s demands prevented the revolutionaries from channeling their zeal into the budding political life of new Egypt. They tend to regard politics as an “unclean thing” that amounts to treason against the aim of achieving the full demands of the revolution.
Revolutionaries need to understand that Egyptians are currently tired of revolution. They might be revolting in their own factories and other workplaces, but I believe the vast majority are not willing to repeat a January 28th with all its associated repercussions. As a result, revolutionaries have little choice at the moment besides getting involved in the political life. This is definitely not a call to “abandon the square”, or to compromise on the revolution principles, but to put politics in parallel with the revolutionary activities. Fortunately, some revolutionaries have learned this and started to get more involved in politics whether through joining political parties or forming independent movements.
Revolutionaries will achieve very little without getting in touch with the street once again; without regaining the “January 28 throng”. Political parties and movements could be a viable vehicle to rekindle the relationship once again.
Down with military rule. OK. But then what?
“The people want the regime to fall.” That was the chant that characterized the 18 days of the revolution. Right after the first army baton fell on a protester days after victory day, the chant of the revolutionaries changed to “down down with military rule”. However, weary of the revolution aftermath, the masses did not rally behind this chant.
The revolutionaries failed to provide a way forward or a plan if military rule did indeed fall. I was once in a march and overheard a bystander react to the chant by asking a very logical question: who will take over if Tantawi fell?
The chant demanding Mubarak’s downfall on the other hand was more acceptable to the multitudes who joined the revolutionaries on January 28th. There were several scenarios back then that could have followed Mubarak’s demise. The vagueness and the uncertainty that accompanied the anti-SCAF chants made revolutionaries appear as if they were crying their lungs out in a completely different country.
While it was true that there were several initiatives to end military rule presented by the revolution force, they never materialized because of lack of public support and also because the revolutionaries where divided themselves over these intiatives.
It is crystal clear Egypt’s revolution force needs to ponder its future. Things just cannot go on as they are now. The revolutionaries cannot continue to be “sit-in and protest laborers”. Something much change and a new way forward needs to be derived. And it is better to start now before it is too late.