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[liberationtech] MEMRI: Chronicle of a Doomed Uprising
pranesh at cis-india.org
Mon Feb 7 08:56:12 PST 2011
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.
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
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
## 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.*
 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
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