Thursday, November 24, 2011

Egypt's tipping-point politics

In Egypt, the rush towards constructing a democracy is choking the country's current revolutionary ethos.

Larbi Sadiki

"Exeter, United Kingdom - Egypt is refusing to kill what I call the "revolutionary ethos". Only by grasping this dynamic, and its implication for changing politics, can we better understand the call of Tahrir Square.

In particular, the incapacity of the elites to relate and respond, much less accommodate, the revolutionary ethos is at the core of the return of Egypt's own indignés (rage-keepers) to the one site of bottom-up struggle where they fully possess the terms of the political: tipping-point politics.

From day one, the political relics that should have been swept away to history's dustbin were plotting the demise of the excluded and the containment of revolution in the Arab Middle East.

The relics from Riyadh to Damascus never looked favourably on the march of the excluded. They trembled and continue to do so at the rage, the passion, the sacrifice, the tenacity and the taking-over of public squares in many an Arab city.

In Egypt and Tunisia, containment of the Arab revolution is attempted by trying to make the revolutionary ethos submit to the democratic ethos.....

Towards an 'Arab Way'

Maybe there is a "fourth way" - re-defining the political in the post-authoritarian moment so that the revolutionary ethos and the democratic ethos work in tandem, inclusively and not through a process of mutual exclusion....

Political re-invention is the continuous exercise of people's power intended to keep competitive formal politics "honest". It is endowed with the inventiveness and mobilisational agency to produce tipping-point politics. The precedent is established in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen......

Revolution and democracy

The re-ignition of the revolutionary ethos through a return to Tahrir Square is brilliant. In the lead-up to the multi-stage elections planned for November 28, they do not disrupt the formal transition as much as erupt as an informal vox populi. What can be better in the midst of transition to hear from the people - the excluded and the protesters?

It is their brand of group, open, direct, immediate and spontaneous manifestation of political communication through protest. Had they all been absorbed by party politics, the revolutionary ethos would have died.

The dilemma today in Egypt is that while the established elites seek competition to bypass and transcend revolution, the excluded exercise revolution as their only democracy....

In both Egypt and Tunisia, formidable, durable and highly organised broad-based movements representative of the revolutionary ethos are yet to be formed. The foundations exist, but these are yet to be reified. But the revolutionary ethos is abundant.

Egypt's political elites have to re-learn politics so that they are sensitised to the dynamic of the revolutionary ethos and youth's capacity to protest endlessly, if need be....."

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