Our responsibility toward the revolution

Many Egyptians now stand unsure of what to do next, while more are frustrated by the outcome of the revolution — a regime that is still in place, a movement that hijacked power leaving those who sparked the revolution empty-handed, a turbulent transition period — it all seems to most people like a catastrophic outcome to a very hopeful revolution. I, on the other hand, believe it is the best course for the revolution, if we as revolutionaries become aware of our reality and take advantage of the recent turn of events.

To come to this realization, we need to consider two points. First is that Mubarak’s regime persistently marginalized the middle class, rendering political life in Egypt obsolete; thus we as secular revolutionaries — liberals, leftists or social democrats — lack the very basics of political experience and democratic practice, let alone knowledge of how to manage state affairs; our conduct in its entirety has merely been that of a protest movement, not of a political body that can assume and wield power. The second point is that some people do not care about revolutions as much as they care about the tangible gains of these revolutions; they would, therefore, turn their backs on the revolution and the revolutionaries if they do not see it changing their lives positively.

Considering these two points, it is rather frightening to imagine what would have happened if the revolutionaries assumed power a year ago, with the revolutionaries lacking experience in politics or state management and the masses waiting for the fruits of the revolution — this would have been an ensured failure and burial of revolution in its infancy.

Though many will dispute this dark image I portray, the outcome of the recent elections is enough to realize this truth: we were not ready by any means, not organizationally nor structurally, and we have no political expertise or cadres that can carry the responsibility. Political parties were searching for revolutionaries to put on their lists for the elections but with no success. It was a disgrace that new, pro-revolution parties had to add remnants of the former regime to their party lists. Even more disgraceful, some left-wing parties claiming to support workers' rights could not find any workers to field on their lists.

The fact is, the revolution, which has an abundance of revolutionaries, did not have a reserve of politicians able to fill the power vacuum, and if that revolution had ascended to power, it would have quickly oppressed the people, as it would have failed in providing the people with what they await from the revolution — much like the African regimes that turned into dictatorships by the force of arms, not the rule of law, following very hopeful liberation movements in the middle of the 20th century.

I expect this to happen to the political Islamist movements that recently ascended to power, as they have little to offer during the current economic crisis. Sooner or later, people will realize that they are hollow vessels, holding promises they have no means to fulfill, and will at some point resort to repression to maintain their political gains in the face of the people’s legitimate demands.

So where does this leave us? Where do you go from here? Keep trying to mobilize people and organize protests to bring down the regime? Should we accept the unbearable reality of military and Islamist dominance? Should we continue an already exhausted revolution or become involved in a crippled reform process?

The fact is that the answer to these questions lies in the essence of the revolution itself: breaking down of a regime and building up better one. The answer lies in the revolution's goals, which we have forgotten: dignity, freedom and social justice. This can be achieved through the establishment of a democratic state; modern democracies require sound partisan life that includes strong parties that are actively present in the community and give the voters alternatives and options; parties engage with voters to get a feel for their and needs before offering them solutions; parties that strive to build a society aware of its interests and capable of choice in order to have a successful democratic experience.

The truth of the matter is that whether we choose to go forward as radical revolutionaries or soft reformists, in both cases we must strive to create an entity capable of bearing the demands of power and working toward the achievement of the revolution's objectives. 

What the Egyptian democratic experience currently needs is parties, for without powerful civilian, liberal, leftist or social democratic parties, the outcome of any democratic system based on parliamentary representation will be total dominance by political Islamists. And in order for these parties to become strong, effective and able to stand as formidable opponents in the upcoming elections, they must work on three axes: Building an effective, organized internal structure, rooting the principles of democracy and freedom into the consciousness of Egyptian society, and fighting corruption at all levels.

As for building an effective, organized internal structure for these political parties, I see five main points which we do not possess and that distinguish the Islamists from us: organization and management; effective structuring; party members who have political experience as a result of continuous party work; technocratic cadres that can translate party platforms into realistic projects that can be implemented and can conduct scientific public administration studies to manage state institutions and bureaucracy; and a popular base and grassroots presence cultivated through daily interactions with the masses — understanding their problems, serving communities through providing food, clothing, health care, education and legal support — as well as being capable of actually competing in legislative and local council elections because of practical experience with the masses.

This does not mean ending our revolutionary activities and focusing only on partisan work, but rather that revolutionary actions must be coupled with partisan work that builds up an entity or entities that reflect the revolution's principles and can carry the responsibilities that come with power when the revolution prevails. Our current situation is the direct result of the lack of existence of such entities.

The most important gain for our revolution is that water runs again in the river of politics after it had long been dry; many of the middle and lower classes and even the bourgeoisie have mobilized for the achievement of freedom, democracy, and our legitimate rights as citizens. If these people return to their previous disinterest in politics, the revolution will have truly died.

If we are genuinely striving for the establishment of democracy, freedom, liberty and social justice, then it is our duty and responsibility toward this revolution to work on building the political parties that we are currently criticizing and ridiculing from the comfort of our seats in the audience.

If we do not volunteer and exert every possible effort in building these civilian parties so they can have a fighting chance and role during the revolution's coming period then we can blame no one but ourselves if political Islam once again sweeps the upcoming elections.

In building these civilian parties and rooting revolutionary principles in their every aspect, we are building the foundations of a democracy that aims at achieving the revolution’s goals. Partisan work is not only politics — it depends on organizational, administrative and community work as well, not to mention the political education you will receive while working to build your party, which in turn will enable you help those around you.

If we get tired and go back to the sidelines, not only are we giving up our revolution, but we are betraying it as well. If we only continue to protest and work toward toppling the regime without creating a powerful alternative, then we are helping our opponents win once again. Therefore, I invite all those who participated in the revolution to join a party that represents their political beliefs and to volunteer a little time and effort in building civilian parties, for this is our responsibility toward the revolution.

Alfred Raouf is a software engineer and a political activist. This article was first posted in Arabic on his blog: http://thinkbank.kemety.net/?p=107

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