Six years after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the protesters who took Tahrir Square are still plagued by an elusive feeling: the idea that “the matter is not yet closed.” The counter-revolution won a decisive victory in mid-2013, but still, “the matter is not yet closed.”
Thousands have been killed, tens of thousands have been hunted down, tortured and imprisoned, but “the matter is not yet closed.” A military dictatorship now controls all public spaces and stifles all opposition niches, even the mildest ones, but “the matter is not yet closed.”
It is neither magic nor a reflection of the pressure of the revolutionary forces. Rather, it is the testimony of a simple fact: The revolution, as a colossal mass movement, albeit incomplete, and — alas — technically defeated, has left the alliance of the myriad government forces and their state apparatus beyond repair.
The revolution failed to create a new political and social order, whether partial or total, direct or indirect. After two and a half years of countless uprisings and debates, the counter-revolution has regained control. But “the matter is not yet closed.”
Although the revolutionary challenge has subsided, it does not change the fact that the old government order, which regained power, is so rotten it cannot continue to govern with the old methods used successfully in its golden age.
The 2011-2013 Egyptian revolution was, in some ways, the culmination of a long drama that continues, which is the increasing inability of the old order.
The post-colonial independent state, founded by Nasser and his colleagues, suffered failure after failure, from the military defeat of 1967 onwards, until it reached its “historic limit” in the years before the revolution.
The heart of the matter is that all the tricks and games have failed to solve the most important and chronic problems suffered by the state and the Egyptian bourgeoisie: to achieve and maintain a high level of capital accumulation in the long term, which is necessary to transform Egypt into a strong capitalist economy.
The history of Egypt over the last 50 years has been characterized by an increasingly faltering center. Since the 1967 defeat, Egypt has lost its regional and international strength and its relative power one step at a time. The forces in power have barely managed to prevent this decomposition from becoming a complete disintegration.
In its deepest sense, the Egyptian revolution represented a hope to escape from this impasse in a human and progressive manner. The millions and millions of people who were shouting in the streets “the people want to topple the regime,” represented the vague awareness of certain sectors of the secular mass (not necessarily the majority of politicians and activists) that they needed to get rid of something bigger than Mubarak and his small clique. They needed to go deeper.
As we all sadly know, the revolution failed to do its job. Meanwhile, the counter-revolution has claimed that it will “finish the job” through the destruction of all forms of rebellion and opposition and “will make Egypt Om El Donia [the mother of the world] again.”
But after three years of counter-revolution, it is evident to large sections of the population, including those who still hate the revolution, that el-Sisi’s military regime is a huge failure.
Now Egypt is passing through an intermediate period. The revolution is reviled, but the counter-revolution is a failure. The people are furious but inactive. Fear is slowly disappearing, but hope is still far away. The regime’s weakness competes with the opposition’s weakness.
No one dares to say that a new revolution is around the corner, but most people agree that some form of political change is looming.
And though revolution is a hated word, a hated memory to vast sectors of the Egyptian population, the legacy of the revolution is not forgotten. In the back of their minds, in a deep corner of their consciousness, the people still reject a return to the humiliating pre-revolutionary subjugation.
We will need time and it certainly will be a tough path, but the unfinished business of the revolution will be completed one day.
Tamer Wageeh is an analyst and independent socialist activist.
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