Class and the revolution

Nader Fergany , Sunday 23 Jun 2013

The quest for political change should not rely on a specific social class. New movements like Tamarod are examples of cross-class alliances that will change the Arab world

As pressure by the masses mounts for early presidential elections that give the final word to the people — the sole source of sovereignty and master of all powers — voices from the “Islamic” right are warning against the repercussions of this democratic move. They claim it would trigger instability, because even if the sitting president is overthrown the tenure of any other president who is elected after him would not last long.

In good faith, we will set aside the possibility that the aim of these cries is to abort the democratic process aiming at early presidential elections, especially after Tamarod (Rebel) collected 15 million signatures demanding the incumbent president step down and hold early elections after a short transitional period under the rule of the High Constitutional Court.

It is notable the number of signatures gathered is far more than all the votes cast in the presidential election that the current president won, and not just the ballots in his favour.

Understandably, the “Islamic” right is very worried about the rise of the peaceful opposition to power to replace their botched tyrannical rule, but we are most concerned they are resorting to threatening instability — just as the regime the revolution rose to overthrow (but has yet to succeed) did in its final days but failed. Perhaps they too are in the final days of their rule.

Let us discuss the issue of stability, and whether it is an advantage in all instances.

On principle, progress never occurs with stagnation and standing still or without a change that replaces the bad with better. When authoritarian regimes do not have any achievements to flaunt they bluster about maintaining stability, and use that as an excuse not to respond to pressure by the people to reform the ruling system and improve the lot of the people. But throughout human history, stability with despair is a condition that triggers unrest in society that often feeds into progressive liberation movements.

Stability accompanied by human despair is superficial stability that is more like immobility or stagnation with a low rate of human welfare. It is stability imposed on the people in various forms of soft power (bribes in countries of abundance, controlled media) and aggressive power (police brutality, oppressive laws).

It is a form of oppressive stability that restricts freedoms and basic rights by resorting to police brutality when necessary and intentional impoverishment. This occurs by marrying power, wealth and monopolistic rule of unrestrained capitalism that leads to the spread of unemployment, poverty, mal-distribution of power and wealth in lands of destitution.

It also orbits the world of power, wealth, restricting basic freedoms and monopolistic rule of unrestrained capitalism that leads to mal-distribution of power and wealth in countries blessed with financial abundance.

Nonetheless, authoritarian regimes flagrantly boast the long duration of this stability although it means weakening the political dynamic and aborting the people’s potential renaissance. This is accompanied with human rights violations, especially civil and political rights.

In the abovementioned social composition lies the core of discontent among the majority of the people under authoritarian rule, namely the injustice of brazen disparity of distribution of the two faces of might: power and wealth. In destitute countries, add to this sustained impoverishment of the vast majority of people that undermines minimal decent human existence for most. This feeds into a potion that is more toxic than poverty and oppression caused by unfair disparity alone, which triggers the possibility of rebellious unrest against authoritarian rule.

In the current case of the Arabs, I believe the combination of impoverishment and oppression of the people at the hands of authoritarian regimes has weakened the potential role for change by the middle class. This potential role is almost entirely obliterated by the problems of major urban centres in Arab states, such as overcrowding, congestion and pollution, that limit the possibility of success for group activities.

But the intrinsic dynamic of the people always produces forms of peaceful and democratic mass action through innovation and creativity that are impossible to suppress in a great people with a glorious cultural heritage such as Egypt. This is where a movement such as Tamarrd gains its value, just as Kifaya had a few years before the great people’s revolution and paved the way for it.

I believe the march of freedom/renaissance in the Arab world cannot and should not rely on a specific social class. On the contrary, I believe every social class has active elements, especially among the youth and others that are dormant in terms of their sense of nationalism and desire to fight for freedom, or their ability to endure its hardships and costs.

Accordingly, the working and middle classes are in serious crisis about playing a role for change that almost destroys their potential input, as seen in the long and dreary stability of failed Arab authoritarian regimes who remain in power while maintaining a low level of freedom and human welfare for the majority of the people in this region by destroying the environment that nurtures forces of change in the working and middle classes.

I believe a greater potential for liberation lies in a vertical alliance among social strata between active elements in all social classes. Effective use of modern information and communications technologies could play a role in connecting across vertical social divides through networking that is not limited to traditional hierarchal models.

For example, Kifaya in Egypt (especially at the beginning), 6 April Movement (especially its key role in the success of the 6 April 2008 strikes) and the emergence of a new political dynamic that promises much hope for the youth in Egypt. I believe these are two examples of cross-class alliances, especially among the youth, and use of modern information and communications technologies.

The most recent and current example of this is Tamarod that was born from suffering attempts to abort the great people’s revolution. It is perhaps the most important in the foreseeable future.

The people’s uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, then Libya, Yemen and Syria, as well as some countries in the Gulf, Arab Peninsula, Jordan and Morocco, confirmed the success of this model and its dynamics. It will continue to grow until it achieves the goals of the Arab liberation tide seeking freedom, justice and human dignity for everyone on Arab land.

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