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[liberationtech] MEMRI: Chronicle of a Doomed Uprising

Pranesh Prakash pranesh at cis-india.org
Mon Feb 7 08:56:12 PST 2011


Dear all,
Here's an interesting counter-narrative on "the real adversary" in the 
revolt, as well as the role of social media.  It is not so much a 
counter-narrative in terms of the uses/effect of social media, as much 
as a counter-narrative to the uni-dimensional positivity ascribed to the 
bottom-up leaderless uprising that the social media enable.  While I 
don't necessarily agree, it makes for interesting reading.

Cheers,
Pranesh

http://goo.gl/DGHIi

February 7, 2011
*Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.663*
# Chronicle of a Doomed Uprising: The Egyptian Revolution as a Microcosm 
of the Arab Masses' Quest for a Share in Power and Resources

By: Y. Carmon, T. Kuper and H. Migron

## Introduction ##

In January 2011, the peoples of the Middle East began their march 
towards seizing a share in the leadership and resources of their 
countries, following centuries in which they were deprived of this share 
by various ruling oligarchies. This uprising, which broke out in 
Tunisia, spread to Egypt. However, just like the European peoples' 
struggle for a share in power, this campaign against the total hegemony 
of the ruling elite is bound to be a drawn out, multi-phased historical 
process, with numerous setbacks and crises. This first round – the 
present uprising in Egypt – will not be without some achievements, but 
it is ultimately doomed to failure, in that the Egyptian military 
establishment will retain its grip over power and resources in the 
country.[1]

The following analysis examines the uprising in Egypt as a microcosm of 
the process in the Arab world at large, and argues that the Egyptian 
protests are less a cry for democracy and freedom than they are a bid 
for power by a disenfranchised middle class.

## The Direct Triggers and the Underlying Cause of the Egyptian Uprising ##

The current wave of protests in Egypt was triggered by three factors:

1) A deterioration in the economic situation of the masses as a result 
of the global rise in food prices (while this was a central factor in 
Egypt, it was even more pivotal in Tunisia);

2) The total exclusion of the opposition from the Egyptian parliament 
following the last elections, in which the ruling NDP party took 460 
seats while the opposition (not only the Muslim Brotherhood, but all 
opposition parties) was granted no representation at all;

3) The protests in Tunisia, which provided the Egyptians with a 
successful model of popular uprising.

In-depth scrutiny reveals, however, a more fundamental cause underlying 
the Egyptian uprising – a bid by the people to wrest power from the 
military oligarchies that have been ruling Egypt and controlling its 
resources for centuries.

 From the Middle Ages, Egypt was ruled by Mamluk military oligarchies 
and dynasties. In the early 19^th^ century, the Ottoman-appointed 
governor of Egypt Muhammad 'Ali wiped out the ruling Mamluk elite and 
established his own dynasty, which dominated the country well into the 
20th century, wielding power even under British occupation. This dynasty 
was overthrown in 1952 by the Free Officers' Revolution, which set up 
its own oligarchy and established a joint military and civilian 
infrastructure. This oligarchy dominates the country and wields total 
control over its resources to this day.

Over the years, a middle class has emerged; however, it lacks any share 
in the country's resources and centers of power. Today, this middle 
class consists mainly of young people with high rates of unemployment 
and no hope for the future, but who possess education and a familiarity 
with the democratic world – especially thanks to the modern information 
and communication revolution.

Given all these circumstances, the present uprising was only a matter of 
time.

## Doomed from the Start ##

The failure of the Egyptian uprising, however, is equally inevitable. 
Three factors conspire to prevent its success.

First, the masses are up against a well-entrenched, united and 
all-powerful military establishment which reigns supreme over the 
centers of power and the country's wealth. Moreover, its popular image 
is one of the "defender of the homeland," and its veterans are perceived 
as war heroes. Most of the youth does not even realize that the army is, 
in fact, the real adversary, which has shrewdly placed the police in the 
front lines in the confrontations with the protesters, allowing itself 
to retain an image of being at one with the people.

Second, the protesters lack a leadership. Had events taken their natural 
course, a leadership would have emerged gradually from the middle class 
and would have been forged in gruelling battles against the dictatorial 
regime. However, due to the opportunities offered by today's mass 
communications – particularly, the Internet and the social networks, as 
well as Al-Jazeera, which played a pivotal role – the deprived masses 
were able to "skip a stage," moving directly to the revolution itself. 
Consequently, only now, in the midst of the uprising, are they trying in 
vain to form a leadership.

True, existing political oppositionists are trying to jump on the 
bandwagon. These, however, do not represent the protesters, and are in 
fact sabotaging the revolution by their willingness to negotiate with 
the regime. This is especially true of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is 
seeking the legitimization that has been denied it for decades. It 
should be noted, in passing, that this bid for legitimacy has been 
abetted by the U.S., which has been pressuring the Egyptian regime to 
talk to all opposition forces, including "the non-secular" ones.

Third, the Egyptian uprising is also doomed to failure for economic and 
practical reasons, because it is impossible for a population of 80 
million to maintain a revolution that brings life to a standstill for 
any substantial period of time.

## The Expected Achievements of the Initial Phase of Uprising ##

Though doomed to fail in achieving its declared goals (the ousting of 
Mubarak and the removal of the regime), the initial phase of the 
uprising will not be without achievements. It is already evident that 
Egypt will enjoy more freedom of information and demonstration, and 
there may even be constitutional amendments and a partial repealing of 
the long-standing emergency law. Future elections will yield greater 
representation for the opposition in parliament. President Hosni Mubarak 
will not run again – in fact, he may even step down before the last day 
of his present term in office – and will not be able to pass the 
presidency to his son Gamal.

All these changes notwithstanding, one constant will remain: the 
hegemony of the military elite. Those who might be called the true sons 
of Mubarak – Omar Suleiman, Ahmad Shafiq, Sami Anan, Hussein Tantawi, 
and many other generals representing the military establishment – will 
remain in power and will retain their grip over Egypt and its resources. 
The failure of the revolution is bound to lead to violent outbursts on 
the part of the frustrated protesters, but the military establishment 
will find the means to deal with all its civilian rivals – by 
democratic, or less-than-democratic, means. Until the next uprising.

*Y. Carmon is the President of MEMRI; T. Kuper and H. Migron are 
research fellows at MEMRI.*

Endnote:
[1] As a matter of fact, one might say that the first round of uprising 
in the Middle East was not the current wave of protests but rather the 
Palestinian intifadas against the Israeli occupation, in 1988 and 2000. 
In these intifadas, apart from the terror attacks by the armed 
Palestinian organizations, there was massive participation of the people 
in resistance against the Israeli military. Though this was a struggle 
for national liberation (rather than a struggle among sectors within a 
single nation), one could nevertheless term it a struggle for hegemony 
and resources against the Israeli ruling power. The intifadas forced 
Israel to make certain political concessions, yet Israel remained the 
hegemonic power.

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