I am getting very sick and tired of the Western Media spinning what's happening in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab region as "a revolution." So for the edification of those who now loosely throw around a word that hitherto drew rabid shrieks of Left-wing/Communist leanings, I intend to offer a crash course in what's a revolution and why what is taking place in the Arab world is certainly not one.
To start with a revolution takes place at an historical moment in time when BOTH objective and subjective conditions in society converge into a "revolutionary moment" and when the ruling class can no longer rule. When all of these conditions are met the society experiences a "leap forward" on its evolutionary path and a revolution is born. That's the science. The definition of a revolution can be broken down to a deep, sharp and fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.
Greek philosopher Aristotle theorized that there are two types of political revolutions: (1) a complete change from one constitution to another and (2) modification of an existing constitution. While that is true, revolutions take place and occur in the context of the nature of a particular society, its social and economic development, and other internal dynamics. With all due respect to Aristotle, revolutions are not a one-size fits all and certainly do not follow some prescribed format in terms of how and when they unfold.
For example, the American, Russian and Chinese revolutions although having as their fundamental goal the overthrow of the political system and "throw off the yoke" of oppression, all unfolded and developed very differently, were sparked by very different sets of internal conditions and had very different outcomes.
In the context of the now gloated over Egyptian Revolution it is not only a complete misnomer but also a misinterpretation of the changes, their causes and motive forces. It is no revolution. The novelty of limited mass, disorganized and spontaneous street demonstrations and protests is easy to be mistaken for a genuine unfolding revolution. But on closer examination while mass protests did shove a military dictator from office, they did very little at all to change the fundamental class, social and economic relations in the country.
Moreover, these protests and demonstrations are the agitation of a particular class and social strata in the Egyptian towns. This group is incapable of bringing this struggle to its ultimate end. It is not able or capable to force deep, sweeping and revolutionary change that alters forever the class, political, social and economic relations in Egyptian society. It has not involved the Egyptian peasantry in the countryside or other layers of the laboring classes that have remained so far aloof and alienated from the struggles in the towns and cities. These are necessary pre-conditions for any revolution to happen.
And while there is the mistaken belief that we can have a "Facebook Revolution" all that this new social media phenomenon is about is that unlike the days of underground newspapers and other propaganda tools used to fight dictatorships, modern day vehicles like Facebook, Youtube et al, only help to embarrass the ruling class -- not remove it. Yes, these social media tools can help in mobilizing, informing and keeping the protests alive but in the final analysis it is the OVERTHROW of the system and REPLACING it with a superior and more just one that benefits the laboring classes that will win out the day. No amount of Facebook, Youtube or Twitter feeds can bring about a genuine people's revolution.
Egypt is as far from these necessary conditions as Mars is from earth. There is still an entrenched, well-armed military (and privileged upper ruling class) that has removed Hosni Mubarak only because he was unpopular and jeopardizing their own present and future class interests. He had outlived his usefulness to the military and becoming a social and political liability. The military did not remove him because of the limited noisy street protests by disenfranchised youths. And it still is capable of crushing the protests but chose a deliberate tactic of keeping it CONTAINED to one square in the city.
The end result is that the protests make interesting news and video postings. But nothing else. The protests have not morphed or transformed themselves into a vanguard party that organizes, leads and defines the goals of the angry masses and acts in their interests. Missing is a party of a new type. And the Muslim Brotherhood, the most organized political organization in Egypt, cannot lead this protest and transform it into a revolutionary movement.
In countries like Bahrain and Yemen the situation is even worse. Tribalism, factionalism, social backwardness and an entrenched privileged ruling class that will use its long political experience to appease these spontaneous street protests have exploited these differences even as they crack down on dissent. They are a very long way from even developing a revolutionary, progressive movement that is capable of challenging these governments.
These protests and demonstration are ideologically impure, immature and diverse in a way that creates internal confusion and retards the development of genuine progressive movement. Hard won concessions from these governments are designed to quell public noise and dismantle the demonstrations -- not enact deep, progressive changes.
If Egypt is to seize a revolutionary movement that will come out of the present existing conditions then a number of things must happen, and happen fast , BEFORE the ruling class and its enforcers have time to recover and reorganize to kill the street dissent. The Military Junta now ruling Egypt is playing for time while it divides the masses by carefully and simultaneously easing and tightening its grip.
First, the protest has to become far more organized and transform itself into a party that is capable of articulating, agitating and confronting the military junta. It must get organized -- quickly. Next, the first order of business is to simultaneously educate the broad masses as to what the party's goals are, solicit its support and widen the scope of the protest and make it truly national in scope -- not simply contained to a square and a few cities.
Next, this new party must continue to call for the military to go back to its barracks and for sweeping constitutional reforms that remove the kinds of antiquated and dangerous clauses that allow military (or other ones) dictators to remain in power for life. The reform of the electoral system to one that does not disenfranchise voters must form part of this revolutionary platform.
Social and economic relations that create and ensure a large permanent exploited and disenfranchised underclass of Egyptians has no place in the 21st century and must be abolished and abandoned in favor of an inclusive society that values all its citizens equally. There must also be a revision and reform of the role of women in Egyptian society.
These are tall orders but taken as a whole they fulfill the subjective elements necessary for a deep and radical societal change -- in short a revolution. Objectively, Egypt's ruling class has already demonstrated its inability to rule or lead. And while removing them from power will take some doing, if protesting and demonstrating is all that this limited mass movement has then the struggle will be long, protracted and violent.