Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Bouazizi Spark: The Beginning of a Long Revolutionary Process

By: Gilbert Achcar

(This lecture was delivered in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia on 18 December 2011 by invitation from the Committee for the Commemoration of the First Anniversary of the 17 December 2010 Revolution.)

"It is great honor for me to join you in celebrating this first anniversary of the beginning of the Tunisian revolution in this very city of Sidi Bouzid, the city of Mohamed Bouazizi, from where the first spark of the revolution was ignited that spread like a wildfire throughout the Arab world, wonderfully illustrating the famous Chinese saying, “a single spark can start a prairie fire.”

I was pleased to notice in the invitation letter from the Committee for the Commemoration of the First Anniversary of the 17 December 2010 Revolution that the group chose to name the Tunisian upheaval the “December 17 Revolution” after the day of the first spark, instead of naming it the “January 14 Revolution” after the day when the despot Ben Ali fled.

In the discussion now developing in Tunisia about which of these two designations is the most appropriate — excluding the misleading and Orientalist “Jasmine Revolution” already used for Ben Ali’s coup in November 1987 — I am strongly in favor of naming the revolution after the day it started, just as the Egyptians named their own revolution the “January 25 Revolution.”

My preference is due to the same reason that led me to characterize what we are witnessing in the Arab region as a long-term revolutionary process, not a completed “revolution” that some people would like to reduce simply to the ousting of the old regime’s chief......

Socioeconomic bases of the Revolution

To be sure, my assertion that we are facing a long-term revolutionary process does not stem from any propensity to project the French model upon the ongoing Arab revolutions. I very much hope that our own revolutionary process will not lead to coups by the likes of Bonaparte, though such outcomes are possible indeed in a part of the world that has seen so many military coups in contemporary history. Rather, my insistence on the long duration of the process is based on a fact that should be obvious to anyone who contemplates the current uprisings – that they are fundamentally driven by deep-rooted socioeconomic issues, even in countries where the popular movement fought or is still fighting for democracy and political freedoms against a despotic regime...."

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