FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What is a Revolution?

by TARIQ ALI

Ever since the beginning of the Arab Spring there has been much talk of  revolutions. Not from me. I’ve argued against the position that mass uprisings on their own constitute a revolution, i.e., a transfer of power from one social class (or even a layer) to another that leads to fundamental change. The actual size of the crowd is not a determinant unless the participants in their majority have a clear set of social and political aims. If they do not, they will always be outflanked by those who do or by the state that will recapture lost ground very rapidly.

Egypt is the clearest example in recent years. No organs of autonomous power ever emerged. The Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative social force, that belatedly joined the struggle to overthrow Mubarik, emerged as the strongest political player in the conflict and, as such, won the elections that followed. Its factionalism, stupidity, and a desire to reassure both Washington and the local security apparatuses that it would be business as usual led it to make several strategic and tactical errors from its own point of view. New mass mobilizations erupted, even larger than those that had led to the toppling of Mubarak. Once again they were devoid of politics, seeing the army as their saviour and, in many cases, applauding the military’s brutality against the Muslim Brothers.

The result was obvious. The ancien regime is back in charge with mass support. If the original was not a revolution, the latter is hardly a counter-revolution. Simply the military reasserting its role in politics. It was they who decided to dump Mubarik and Morsi. Who will dump them? Another mass mobilization?  I doubt it very much. Social movements incapable of developing an independent politics are fated to disappear.

In Libya, the old state was destroyed by NATO after a six-month bombing spree and armed tribal gangs of one sort or another still roam the country, demanding their share of the loot. Hardly a revolution according to any criteria.

What of Syria? Here too the mass uprising was genuine and reflected a desire for political change. Had Assad agreed to negotiations during the first six months and even later, there might have been a constitutional settlement. Instead he embarked on repression and the tragically familiar Sunni-Shia battle-lines (this divide a real triumph for the United States following the occupation of Iraq) were drawn. Turkey, Qatar and the Saudis poured in weaponry and volunteers to their side and the Iranians and Russians backed the other with weaponry.

The notion that the SNC is the carrier of a Syrian revolution is as risible as the idea that the Brotherhood was doing the same in Egypt.  A brutal civil war with atrocities by both sides is currently being fought. Did the regime use gas or other chemical weapons? We do not know.

The strikes envisaged by the United States are designed to prevent Assad’s military advances from defeating the opposition and re-taking the country. That is what is at stake in Syria.

Outside the country, the Saudi’s are desperate for a Sunni takeover to further isolate Iran, strengthened by the semi-clerical Shia regime in Iraq created by the US occupation. Israel’s interests are hardly a secret. They want Hezbollah crushed. Whatever else may or may not be happening in Syria, it is far removed from a revolution. Only the most blinkered sectarian fantasist could imagine this to be the case.

The idea that Saudia, Qatar, Turkey backed by  NATO are going to create a revolutionary democratic or even a democrat set-up is challenged by  what is happening elsewhere in the Arab world. The democrat Hollande defends and justifies the Moroccan autocracy, the Saudis prevent Yemen from moving forward and occupy Bahrein,  Erdogan has been busy with repression at home, Israel is not satisfied with a PLO on its knees and is pushing for Hamas to do the same (Morsi might have helped in that direction) so it can have another go at Hezbollah.

The region is in a total mess and most Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan are only too well aware that US strikes will not make their country better. Many of the courageous citizens of Syria who started the uprising are in refugee camps. Those at home fear both sides and who can blame them.

Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso).

 

 

 

More articles by:

Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso).

CounterPunch Magazine


bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

August 23, 2017
Richard Moser
Reclaim the Discourse on White Privilege
Andrew Levine
Will Nothing Rid Us of President WTF?
Dick Reavis
Amid the Tumult in Durham
Michael Barker
A “New Dawn” for Fascism: the Rise of the Anti-Establishment Capitalists  
Christy Rodgers
Total Eclipse Retrospective
Ralph Nader
Barack Obama: What’s He Waiting For?
Dean Baker
China-Bashing is the Dangerous New Sport of US Elites
Robert Fisk
From Dublin to the Somme: How the Death of an Irish Priest Exposes the Tragedy of Brexit
Binoy Kampmark
Statues in Defeat: the Confederacy, Treason and History
Colin Todhunter
Soil, Monsanto and the Agribusiness Giants: Conning the World with Snake Oil and Doughnuts
Ezra Kronfeld
Americans, Criminals, and Thelma & Louise
Martha Rosenberg
Stop Suicide By Helping Big Pharma, Says Shady Suicide Prevention Group
Arthur Wyns
Countries Underwater: the Looming Crisis of Climate Migration
August 22, 2017
Paul Street
“Deep State” Rules on Beneath CNN Mock Shock at NapoleDon BonaTrump
Edward Hunt
The U.S. is Fanning the Flames of Violence in Mexico
James Bovard
My Antiwar Awakening From a Boozing Baltimore Vet
Richard Greeman
Racism: North and South
Gregory Barrett
The Karma of Terror
Robert Fisk
Pig’s Blood Bullets: Trump’s Big Lie About the Philippines
Howard Lisnoff
The Streets: the Only Place Where Democracy Lives
Michael J. Sainato
Police Have Made No Arrests Over Charlottesville Assault of 20 Year-Old Deandre Harris
Dan Bacher
Winnemem Wintu, Fishing Groups Sue to Block Ecosystem-Killing Delta Tunnels
Monica Bond
A Wildlife Hero Lost, But His Legacy Lives On
Binoy Kampmark
Target Finding for the Empire: the NSA and the Pine Gap Facility
Dana Cook
Encounters With Dick Gregory: From Malcolm X to Howard Zinn
Tom Gill
Italy’s Water Crisis is a Private Affair
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Another Palestinian-American Deported: the Case of Rasmea Odeh
Vern Loomis
Blood and Soil: Hey Joe, Where You Goin?
August 21, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
A Plea for Nonviolence: Fighting Fascism in Trump’s America
Robert Hunziker
The National Climate Assessment and National Park Neglect
Matthew Hoh
The Lies on Afghanistan 
Kenneth Surin
Narratives of Decline Among the US and UK Elites
Timothy B. Tyson
The History We Leave Out of Our Public Spaces
John Laforge
“We Burned Down Every Town in North Korea”
Gary Leupp
Trump and the Impending Statue Battles
Dave Lindorff
The Virtues of Tearing Down Statues Depends on Where They are Standing
Susan Babbitt
Why the Surprise About North Korea’s Resistance?
Uri Avnery
The Egg of Columbus 
Andre Vltchek
The World Remembers 64th Anniversary of the West-Sponsored Coup in Iran
Jimmy Centeno
The Gentrification of LA: Fight on Boyle Heights
Raouf Halaby
To Remove or Not to Remove?
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s Collapsing World
Victor Grossman
Charlottesville and Thuringia
Lydia Howell
Racist Masks Ripped Off in Charlottesville
Nyla Ali Khan
The Woman Question in South Asia
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail