Saturday, January 18, 2014

Year four: The seasons turn on the Arab Spring

Revolution, counter-revolution and counter counter-revolution. 

"The promise of the Arab revolution was - and remains - a break with repressive authoritarian and totalitarian regimes to pave the way towards an era of freedom, dignity and prosperity," writes the author [Reuters]
 Marwan Bishara
Inasmuch as a revolution is a break with history, the Arab peoples' revolution broke with history three years ago this December. But inasmuch as a revolution is an evolutionary process, the revolution has entered its 4th year.
The Arab revolution is a long time in the coming. It has been incredibly shocking, largely unpredictable but hardly surprising. There is no point, therefore, in trying retroactively to figure out why or how it was missed.
And while the Arabs share a common political history, geography and culture, the multiple uprisings that started in Tunisia and made their way through Egypt to other parts of the Arab world, while diverse, are, in fact, part and parcel of one Arab revolution and one mega Arab spectacle. Nonetheless, each Arab country has acted and reacted according to its own particularity and circumstances, defined mostly by the nature of the relationship between regime, society and state.
In retrospect, the revolutionary wave which swept through Tunisia and Egypt was breathtaking but also "too good to be true". Democratic revolutions require radical, mostly painful changes to succeed, the undoing of old structures and institutions, reining in the old regimes' bloated and unchecked power, and unseating their resourceful benefactors.
This revolution, in all likelihood, was going to face a stubborn counter-revolution. In fact, one indicator of the democratic nature of the Arab revolution was its allowing for old powerful and conservative forces to compete fairly, overcoming old habits and archaic politics.True that revolutions open the way for the emergence of new forces to represent and fulfil people's aspirations, yet, these forces take time and effort to organise into democratic parties with comprehensive agendas.
And inasmuch as the revolution dominated the first year, counter-revolution, in all its forms, has made a comeback in the second phase. Today we are witnessing the rise of new forms of counter counter-revolution. Some are peaceful, others violent and if left unchecked, will further destabilise the region.
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