On 24 September The Way of the Revolution Front -a new group made of old faces that include Alaa AbdelFatah, Ahmed Maher, the socialist revolutionaries and various ex-MB activists– was created, in an effort to create a political “revolutionary” third option that rejects both the MB and the military, and aims to focus on achieving the goals of the revolution. While it sounds good on paper, upon close inspection, one could easily see why it didn’t generate the excitement that it should’ve theoretically generated amongst the 25 January crowd, and why many- including me- openly dismissed it as a serious political or revolutionary endeavor. This article will try to articulate as concisely as possibly why that is.
The easiest and first objection comes from the supposed name and purpose of this group, which aims to co-opt, once again, the Revolution- in name and objectives- as the property of one group, and their supposed political vision as the “way of the revolution”. Not only is this bumptious and imperious, it is incredibly offensive given the political history, positions and decisions of the individual members, the supreme majority of which backed Morsi in the presidential elections as the “revolutionary candidate”, which was the most devastating blow to the 25 January revolution and the turning point as to why we are here in this political mess today. In layman’s terms, to claim that yours is the way of the revolution when the supreme majority view you- justly and fairly- as the main source for its derailment is an insult to the other revolutionaries and the revolution itself.
The second objection comes from the fact that this group’s modus operandi is counter to its announced aim and serves the security apparatus’ agenda to boot. The tired rhetoric used in describing its objectives wouldn’t be such a problem if the Front aimed to do any real or effective work on the ground, but given that five of the six ways a new member can help this front are all Media related, with only the last one aiming at grassroots work and activism, this doesn’t seem to be the case. As any two-bit Egypt political analyst would tell you, the last thing the political or revolutionary spectrum needs is yet another political group that exists mainly, if not only, in the media.
Add to that its members and messaging as the supposedly united revolutionary front, and you can easily see how this meets the security apparatus’ goals. Given that the main worry of the security apparatus is not the Islamists, but rather the non-Islamist revolutionary youth who consider it their mortal enemy, what better way to misdirect or waste their energy than having such a media creation to absorb and lead them to the state of reactionary revolutionary political limbo that its members excel at? Hell, the creation of this entire front is nothing but yet another reaction to the current political situation, one to be added to the founding members’ long and illustrious history of short-sighted, reactionary and ultimately disastrous political positions, the consequences of which we all suffer to this very day.
The third and final objection to this front is directly linked to its raison d’être, which can be summarized as follows: to create an entity that aims to capitalise on the eventual and inevitable disillusionment of the general public with both the MB and the military by positioning itself as against them both while touting text-book populist rhetoric as the champion of the workers, impoverished and disenfranchised so that they will support it and line behind it. Newsflash: they won’t. This is because of the third objection: this entity is not genuinely revolutionary in any way, and even they can see that.
To be revolutionary in this point in Egyptian history, you have to realize that there are three forces that make Egypt the mess that it is: 1) The security state- represented in the military, police and intelligence apparatus, 2) The religious authority- represented by Al-Azhar, the Coptic church, religious leaders, Salafi movements and the MB, and most importantly 3) The Egyptian society itself, with all of its norms and “values”, that sustains the two aforementioned forces. Thus, if one claims to have a revolutionary vision, it will not work without advocating and pushing for radical changes in the social and cultural fabric of this society. They do not, partly because of their fear of alienating those future imaginary masses that will supposedly line up behind them, and partly because this front includes many ex- and non-MB activists who will never advocate or accept those “radical” positions as their own. So we are left with this: a revolutionary group in name, centrist in proposed social values and approach, while pushing for so-called radical socio-economic “reforms”- which they know they can’t deliver or implement- in a cynical ploy to gain support from Egypt’s largest group, the poor. In short, an abomination.
Anything I have to say to them is exactly what I said to a young female activist who told me that her cause is workers’ rights: “What about your rights? When are you going to fight for them?” It baffles my mind. How do you hope to fight for someone else’s rights when you won’t even fight or push for yours? And why aren’t you fighting for yours in any way? For example, at a time in which the public immediately ignores anyone who tries to use religious rhetoric to sway them, why aren’t you pushing for the complete removal of Sharia and all religious articles from the constitution? Or why aren’t artists, moviemakers and actors pushing for the elimination of the censorship board? What? Too radical? It won’t get supported by the public? So what?
I thought you were revolutionary, so why do you care about the public’s approval? If you end up with 1,000 supporters who genuinely stand for what you stand for, it’s much better than having millions of supporters that will only join you because you are against the other political players. If anything, this is the time for stunts like the ones pulled by Alia Al Mahdy in 2011, pushing society’s limits on freedom of speech and expression, not ones that tow its narrow line. That girl got attacked for posing and protesting naked by women’s rights and freedom of expression activists- the same people who should‘ve defended her- out of fear of being criticised by Islamists for being for the same things that they supposedly stand for. Pray tell, what kind of change one hopes to achieve if they are too scared to push society’s limit? What kind of freedom is one fighting for if they are afraid to free themselves?
If you are a politician, then your game is economics; but if you are a revolutionary, your aim is social upheaval. The Front says that it draws its inspiration from the 25 January Revolution’s call to arms, “bread, freedom and social justice”, while pushing for a programme that focuses mainly on the “bread” part, which will never come true if they don’t focus on the “freedom” part, because how will you feed them if you won’t free them from the very forces that keep them starving? You won’t, which is why this front will fail and those masses will never stand with it, just like the workers never really stood with all those who advocated their rights for years, without securing their rights as individuals first. If you want to be revolutionary, then stick to freedom, or stop wasting everybody’s time in order to simply derive a sense of purpose for yourselves. It got old last year.
PS: In 10 years, most of the factories in the world will have robots instead of workers because it’s cheaper and more efficient, so good luck with that. As to the whole bread thing, the only front that is actually providing it to the people right now is the military. Just a friendly reminder.