11 06 2012


The Arab Spring Continues with Increasing Uncertainty

When the uprising in Tunisia began, no one had predicted that it would set off a domino process for North Africa and the Middle East. However, the self immolation of a street trader in Tunisia has had a “butterfly effect” on a great geography. The deposing of Mubarak and the lynching of Gaddafi took place at an unforeseeable rate. But it is harder to predict what will come next.

Developments have shown that whether a party or movement acts as a catalyst the masses can claim the streets when social explosion and economic collapse reach a critical point. Perhaps this situation may be summarised as the discontented outnumbering the contented.

In the colourful revolutions in Eastern European countries a party, political movement or trades union always led society. Colourful revolutions came and went with the coordination of non-governmental organisations, foreign support and big budget productions.

Yet it seems that a significant number of these factors were lacking in the Arab Spring. The opposition of course made use of the internet, social networking sites and mobile phones. However the methodology was not the same. They undoubtedly had external support, but not of the same nature as that enjoyed by the colourful revolutions.

The Arab Spring essentially targets the prefabricated states that were set up in the post-colonial period. The leaders that have been deposed had come to power under the circumstances of the Cold War and have aged ideologically.

As London, Paris and Rome withdrew from North Africa and the Middle East, they split the land they left behind into various states. They thus ensured that Arabs would become internally differentiated and that the interests of different Arab societies would clash. As a result the Arabs lost the chance at being united. Israel which was placed in the region served as the pin under the saddle for the entire Arab world.

Democracy, rule of the law, separation of powers, freedom of thought, human rights and women’s rights never became prominent concepts in Arab countries. Most did not have a state tradition, experience and established functions. the countries were preoccupied with distribution in general, foreign investment, development aid and privatisation projects in particular. The leaders, cadres and regimes aged inevitably.

In Arab countries, due to their peculiar negative circumstances, opposition that was powerful enough to topple the regime was generally not the case. Any groups with such aspirations avoided attracting the wrath of the regime.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt did not join the uprising initially. While at first signalling that they desire the continuation of the Mubarak regime, the Muslim Brotherhood later supported the military council which had taken over the running of the country. Right and leftwing groups in Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon currently continue to support the Bashar Assad regime in Syria.

Although pan-Arabism might not be a very prominent phenomenon, it made its presence felt during the Arab Spring. The Arabs had formerly had dreams of pan-Arabism. What was missing was a lack of trust in the ideological framework and the interests of the states participating in such a project. Various ideas such as “the sacred Arab land”, “fraternity of the soil” and the “alliance of the oppressed” were put forward to this end. Possibly with some help from the global crisis, those groups who live in different Arab countries but face the same injustices, inequality and oppression have come to understand each other better.

There is also another detail which should not be overlooked: a “revolution” should completely transform the political and economic structure in a country. Revolutions have leaders and cadres. They also have an ideal basis. An ideological target and a philosophical outlook are essential. These cannot be found in the Arab Spring. It will likely be followed by instability, disorder and the lack of a system.

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