The Egyption Revolution

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

The Egyptian revolution of early 2011, the most famous of the Arab Spring revolutions, fits most closely to the model of 1848 France, Randall Collins says:

Egypt took longer to build up to the tipping point — 18 days instead of 3; and there were more casualties in the initial phase — 400 killed and 6000 wounded (compared to 50 killed in February 1848) because there was more struggle before the tipping point was reached.  Already from day 7, troops sent to guard Tahrir Square in Cairo declared themselves neutral, and most of the protestors’ causalities came from attacks by unofficial government militias or thugs. By day 16, police who killed demonstrators were arrested, and the dictator Mubarak offered concessions, which were rejected as unacceptable. On the last day of the 18-day revolution, everyone had deserted  Mubarak and swung over to the bandwagon, including his own former base of support, the military. This continuity is one reason why the aftermath did not prove so revolutionary.

Again, honeymoon did not last long.  By day 43, women who assembled in Tahrir Square were heckled and threatened, and Muslim-Christian violence broke out in Cairo. Tahrir Square continued to be used as a symbolic rallying point, but largely as a scene of clashes between opposing camps. Structural reforms have not gone very deep. The Islamist movement elected in the popular vote relegated to a minority the secularists and liberals who had been most active in the revolution. President Morsi bears some resemblance to Louis Bonaparte, who rose to power on the reputation of an ancestral movement — both had a record of opposition to the regime, but were ambiguous about their own democratic credentials. The analogy portends a reactionary outcome to a liberating revolution.

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