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Book Review: The rise and fall of the 6 April Youth Movement

Mahmoud El-Wardani, Monday 5 Dec 2016
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Sinaat Al-Ihtigag wa Al-Thawra (The Protest and Revolution Industry) by Dr. Sayyid Faris, Dar Rawafed Publishing, 2016. pp.502

This is an unprecedented book that historicises, documents and analyses the different stages of the 6 April Youth Movement.

It tackles the role this movement played in the protests, strikes, sit-ins and electronic battles since its inception in 2008 until its fall in recent years, which came as a result of defections and divisions, as well as the detention of a considerable number of its leaders after the ouster of Mohamed Morsi.

Faris presents the reader with an important theoretical foundation for new social movements, analysing theories which emerged in Western Europe in the eighties and looked at the origins of the anti-war movement, environment movement, women’s movement, students’ struggle and civil rights movement.

These movements came into existence starting from the 1950s as logical responses to new social formations of the post-industrial, post-modernist society.

In this section Faris relies heavily on a large arsenal of European and American references, while his Arabic references are extremely few.

These movements replaced traditional movements based on the class struggle, according to Marxist theory. The members of these social movements mostly belong to the new middle class world, and work in non-manufacturing production sectors.

These movements don’t aim at establishing official and bureaucratic bodies but rather prefer loose, flexible bodies, and tend to have more supporters than members.
Moreover, they also tend to accept diversity, decentralisation and wide participation of their base. Furthermore, these movements are preoccupied with and engaged in political and social struggle, rather than the economic disparities in society such as workers’ movements.

It is noticeable that the ideologies of the new movements are hugely diverse; some are revolutionary, some radical, some oppositional, and some reformational.

The tactics of these movements vary significantly, including confrontation, boycotts, blocking work, occupying buildings and stopping traffic in streets along with assembly, demonstrating and legal suits.

In addition to his enormous theoretical effort, the researcher chose the 6 April movement as a case study.

Faris asserts that this movement was birthed by the Kefaya movement, which was founded in 2004 and was one of the earliest movements demanding change.

It was this movement extracted the right of peaceful demonstration after decades of prevention and repression during the rule of Hosni Mubarak.

The 6 April movement was established by Ahmed Maher after the former regime targeted Kefaya members with thugs and police.

The movement derived its name from its participation with the Mahalla El-Kubra workers, who launched a general strike on 6 April 2008 to demand an increase in wages and protest against rising prices.

Since its foundation, this group has played an extremely important role in the movement of the masses through strikes, demonstrations and protests as well as utilising the internet.

For example, the movement participated massively in solidarity protests after the killing of Khaled Said by police in 2010.

The movement also engaged in alliances with movements and currents supporting Mohamed ElBaradei following his return to Egypt demanding change.

It was also a cornerstone of the National Association for Change which was founded in 2010, and certainly its call for going to the streets on the 25 January 2011 was one of the strongest and most influential calls.

This backing of the revolution continued until the Muslim Brotherhood nominated its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, for the presidency.

This was one of the 6 April movement’s fatal mistakes: siding with the Brotherhood.

It justified this stance by arguing that a vote for General Ahmed Shafiq, the other candidate in the final stages of the presidential elections in 2012, would mean the revolution had failed and that the Mubarak regime had returned in full.

When the Brotherhood president issued a constitutional declaration granting all his decisions legal untouchability, the movement changed its stance and stood against the Brotherhood with all its might.

However, differences emerged between the movement's wings. Soon the movement witnessed a split, materialising in what's called the Democratic Front, headed by Tarek El-Khouli, who ran as a candidate and won a parliamentary seat in the last legislative elections.

El-Khouli also declared that the front is starting procedures to transform itself into a political party.

At the same time, many affiliated with the wing of Ahmed Maher were arrested, including Maher himself, and were tried according to the law that criminalises protests that haven’t received police sanction.

The splits, mutual accusations of receiving foreign funds, and acrimony within the movement has led to its decline. 

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