Egyptian Disaster and the Failure of Revolutionary Politics

Gowhar Fazili is a Research Scholar at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi.

The disaster in Egypt should make us seriously reassess revolutionary politics and not just in Egypt.  Why did the broad alliance between Egyptians of various ideological and ethnic denominations, built for the particular objective of ending the dictatorship not hold beyond the collapse of the regime?  Why did the public consensus not hold till an alternative mechanism for democratic governance that would consolidate the gains of the revolution was put in place?  Did the components of the alliance assume that the change in dictatorial regime would result in complete vindication of their particular ideal even while the Egyptian society is so diverse and fractured around divergent ideological and political interests?   The precariousness of the situation warranted greater maturity among the leadership of each ideological formation.

Cartoon by Carlos Latuff

Cartoon by Carlos Latuff

Morsi would have done well to consolidate a broader consensus after coming to power and understood that the framing of the constitution is not like ordinary politics. A constitution is meant to be a mechanism to protect the minorities against the threat of the majoritarianism of those in power in exchange for their support and cooperation in governance, and not a means to threaten the minorities and dissidents with religious chauvinism and blackmail.

Curfew being imposed. This pic shows military vehicles at entrance to oct bridge downtown cairo. Image: Sherine Tadros/Al Jazeera

Curfew being imposed. This pic shows military vehicles at entrance to oct bridge downtown cairo. Image: Sherine Tadros/Al Jazeera

On the other hand, the left, liberals, minorities and women’s groups should have helped push Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in that general direction rather than aim to bring the entire house down after the MB had won majority in the elections.  The exigencies of democracy are likely to have tempered MB over time or in case of complete failure, exposed their ineffectiveness for all to see.  The hasty support for the military coup and virtual condoning of the state violence that followed, the opposition has blatantly surrendered the very ideals for which the revolution once stood.  Besides this it has created deep fissures and mistrust in the Egyptian society that will be hard to heal. 

The military as a rule can never bring democracy. Neither MB nor the various other political forces in Egypt are going to vanish any time soon. It will however be hard to build consensus in Egypt for any meaningful socio-political change in the near future.  It is likely that politics will henceforth be articulated through underground violence and bloodshed since all possibilities for peaceful democratic negotiation have been violently shut.  The mindless internecine violence that is likely to follow will not be productive.

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