Egypt's Liberation: The Philosophy of the Revolution
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Every revolution unleashes forces beyond the control even of those who stand responsible of pulling the trigger. Analogous with Clausewitz’s “fog-o-war,” the evolution and outcome of a particular revolution is blurred by the chaos it inevitably instils. To manipulate and navigate such forces so that the aimed goals of its initiators are ultimately met is an art itself for there is no rule guaranteeing victory for the instigators. Even the architects of the revolution may be swept away by the strength of its momentum. Developments of the recent Arab Revolutions, the hasty rise and swift fall of the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt and the Iran-orchestrated uprisings of Shia groups in Bahrain serve as examples.
Stirring up street violence and social unrest is one of an array of tools in the hands of those seeking power transitions. Although revolution may be a genuine expression of protest against authoritative and oppressive governments, various actors may seize the opportunity to fill power vacuums amid turmoil.
To navigate the forces of revolution to one’s political ends by manipulating both a state’s populous and the international audience is a strategy of power transition that characterises three revolutions in the history of modern Egypt: 1952, 2011 and 2013.
The Philosophy of the Revolution is an account on the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, (the 23 July Revolution) written by its master-mind, Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Like other propaganda, the flow of this work is predictable; it is clearly designed for the purpose of influence its audience immortalising its author and legitimising his actions.
Nasser’s seemingly “candid” account is but a piece of puzzle in his da'awa (indoctrination) of Pan-Arabism, a propaganda policy aimed at reshaping Egyptian society and reinforcing the dictator’s power-position. It is impossible to ignore the multitude of blatant hints suggesting that, likewise, the Marxist revolution in Russia was just one step on the path leading towards the ultimate triumph of communism, so the Egyptian revolution is the cornerstone of the Pan-Arab supremacy which is, according to Nasser, bound to ensue.
The book recognises individual stages of the revolutionary process. The first part is dedicated to the so-called ‘seeds of revolution’ and their origin. Nasser claims that the 23 July Revolution was a result of failures of those that preceded it, such as Omar Makram’s movement for the appointment of Mohammed Ali as Viceroy of Egypt and the 1919 Revolution. Since previous revolutions did not manage to fulfil the intended aspirations of the Egyptian people – self-determination, independence and a sovereign government free of imperialistic influence – the desire to fulfil these nationalistic ambitions remained under the surface waiting to erupt again to realise ‘that long-cherished hope.’
In the second part, Nasser reflects on the aftermath of the revolution that succeeded in overthrowing the “corrupt” government and describes a phase of the second—social revolution that follows. Nasser claims that there are always two revolutions. The first is a political ‘revolution of all’ against the enemy of which primary aim is to topple the regime. The second revolution is social, in which those who succeed to seize the power face challenges stemming from disintegration of values, disruption of principles, discord, suspicion and the perversion of egoism. In this social revolution, the new regime needs to overcome disunity of its nation and reinforce its power-position by winning the “hearts and minds” of the masses.
Nasser admits that it would have been easy at that time of the revolution or after to destroy any opposition by a use of brute force thus striking terror in the hearts of many of refractory elements and forcing them to ‘curb their passions.’ However, he was also well aware that in order to win both revolutions, political and social, he needed to maximise popular support and avoid a boomerang effect that would have followed after brutal crackdown.
The final part, unsurprisingly, calls for Arab unity. Nasser appeals to Arab unity based on common history, religion and geopolitics and emphasises that unity is a key to the Arab domination. The three sources of the Arab/Egyptian power are recognised: 1) Arab nations in the Middle East are claimed to be homogenous; 2) geopolitics, primarily strategic location of Egypt forming a land bridge from Northern Africa to the Middle East; 3) the possession and control over oil. Except the claimed homogeneity of Arab nations, the two remaining sources of power are still relevant today. In fact, they form a particularly volatile combination that renders the region a powder-keg, ready to explode.
The account of the philosophy of revolution is an unambiguous work of Pan-Arab propaganda and it is therefore soaked in idealism and the call for Arab unity and mobilisation against both “near enemies,” – the corrupted regimes in Arab lands – and the far enemy—the colonial powers. Nevertheless, this work presents a unique opportunity to glimpse into a master-mind who managed to emerge victorious amid the revolutionary turmoil and who succeeded to win both battles – to overthrow the old regime and to conquer and entrance the minds of the Egyptian street.
The context of the recent Arab revolutions made the work not only relevant but almost obligatory to read for it is often the understanding the past that makes us capable of comprehending the present. This unique account carries pieces of puzzle to the mystery of our own times since it may contribute to our understanding of the ever-relevant phenomenon of a revolution (not only) in the Arab world, its forces and contagion – a problematic that skyrocketed after the outbreak of the Arab Spring.
Revolution is a weapon beyond control of those who design it. Once triggered, it lives its own life. In order to fully comprehend events such as the so-called “Arab Spring,” events that have reshaped the political map of the Middle East, it is essential to unravel the mystery of the forces of a revolution. Only once we fully comprehend the mechanism of a revolution, its origins and development, we may objectively analyse the outcome and will not be easily manipulated by those who seize the opportunity amid chaos.