Civil forces and revolution

Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Ibrahim Farouk, December 19, 2012.

In the streets surrounding Tahrir Square one senses a sudden rebirth of civil forces. They have been resuscitated, as if by a miraculous kiss of life. It’s there in the numbers and energy of the marches, and the reclaiming of the revolutionary slogan, “Bread, freedom, social justice”.

Everyone is jumping on the revolution bandwagon; political parties, coalitions, unions, artists and intellectuals, those with special interests, and people who do not profess any political affiliation and are mostly young Ultras (football fans). 

Marching in downtown demonstrations this non-partisan civil force is struggling to organise in the spirit of the January Revolution, repeating its demands for a civil state that works for a better life for every Egyptian. The banners and flags of one party or coalition or another are forever being hoisted — the Free Egyptians, Revolution Tomorrow, the Democratic Front, the Justice Party and Revolutionary Egypt. There are Nasserist parties such as Karama (Dignity), leftist and socialist parties such as Tagammu (Assembly), the Socialist Popular Coalition and the Organisation of Revolutionary Socialists.

Do these “civil forces” fall under the umbrella of political parties and the revolutionary coalition? Or is it that, despite the large number of political parties and coalitions that emerged after the revolution, swathes of public opinion have not yet found a home?
This 24 parties that operated under Mubarak were cartoon entities that orbited the regime. The ruling National Democratic Party headed by ousted president Hosni Mubarak was the only party that mattered, and it was disbanded on 16 April 2011.

Under Mubarak talk of democracy, pluralism, political diversity and effective civil society was nothing more than window dressing, fictitious slogans propagated under the aegis of a single party protected by security agencies and incorporating businessmen who featured prominently on the political and party scene under the pretext of representing different civil forces. The country was smouldering beneath the surface and eventually erupted.

Before the revolution a number of non-traditional and non-partisan civil forces had started to emerge, green shoots of a growing popular movement facilitated by the connectivity offered by modern technology and the Internet. There were 6 April, We Are All Khaled Said, the Ultras, youth groups and individuals belonging to movements such as Kifaya as well as liberal, socialist and leftist currents which supported these nascent youth movements and paved the way for the revolution among Egyptian youth that eventually became the revolution of the entire population.

These new civil groups represented a radical departure from traditional forces such as parties, unions and syndicates. They replenish one another and connect invisibly. There is little point viewing these new groupings through the prism of traditional civil groups.

They operate between revolution and more conventional political action. They occupy a space between the elite and the street and must be viewed within the context of the transition from a past in which silence was a strategy for survival and a present where shouting is the norm. What the future holds is a mystery, and a frightening one for the silent majority, the “Couch Party”, especially given the polarity between civil and religious currents. Meanwhile, political Islam bestrides the political scene. The president was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party.

Each camp dreams of a future from its own perspective: one aspires to make concrete the goals of the revolution and build an authentic civil state that conducts itself democratically, without discrimination between different groups and factions; the other seeks a factionally supported theocracy. It is the latter camp that now wields the power of governance, decision-making and even the law … //

… The heyday of coalitions has already passed. What counts now is action on the street. Even more important are the visions these civil forces project of an Egypt that can provide bread, dignity and social justice. The real weapon in the hands of civil forces is that they are part of the fabric of society, drawing on all its segments and age groups. The street’s consciousness goes beyond ideology and political agendas. If they can tune into this the momentum will be unstoppable.
(full text).

Links:

The rise and fall of SCAF, on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Ahmed Eleiba, December 19, 2012;
and Supreme Council of the Armed Forces SCAF on en.wikipedia: … SCAF is the governing body of 21[1] senior officers in the Egyptian military …;

The poisonous fruits of change, on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Khaled Amayreh, December 19, 2012;

Russian parliament approves ban on US adoption of Russian kids, on Russia Today RT, 22 December, 2012;

Russia: Duma gives first nod on foreign property ban for state officials and their families, on Russia Today RT, 21 December, 2012;

USA: FBI gun control database resembles Swiss cheese, on Russia Today RT, 21 December, 2012;

Engineers warn: Two US nuclear plants may cause new Fukushima, on Russia Today RT, 21 December, 2012.

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