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January tragedy, June farce

The difference between Gamal Abdel Nasser and Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi is as the difference between Napoleon Bonaparte and Napoleon III, or Louis Napoleon as he was called. One can also make a similar comparison when looking at Thawrat Okasha and Tawfiq Ahmed Okasha. It is the same as the difference between the time of Aziz Al-Masri and Sama Al-Masri.


One can juxtapose dozens, if not hundreds, of historical figures especially when considering renowned philosopher Freidrich Hegel’s theory that if one looks at all movements in history, “all great world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice”. Yet, as Karl Marx pointed out later in his book, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, Hegel forgot to mention that “history repeats itself the first time as a tragedy and the second time as a farce”.

Marx discussed the exciting historical events that took place in France between the Revolution of 1848 and the coup in December 1851, an interval of only three years, which is only a few months longer than the time between Egypt’s January 25th Revolution in 2011 and the coup in June 2013.

Both the Egyptian and French experiences share many similarities despite the 160 years separating the events. According to Marx, “The February revolution was a surprise attack, a seizing of old society unaware, and the people proclaimed this unexpected stroke a deed of world importance, ushering in the new epoch. On December 2 the February Revolution is conjured away as a cardsharp’s trick, and what seems overthrown is no longer the monarchy but the liberal concessions that had been wrung from it through the centuries of struggle. Instead of society having conquered a new content for itself, it seems that the state has only returned to its oldest form, to a shamelessly simple rule by the sword and the monk’s cowl.”

If one compares the historical picture that was painted by Marx to the events that took place in Egypt, I believe that there are not that many differences especially when considering the “clash of the sword and monk’s cowl” that was very much present on the stage of Al-Sisi’s coup. The supporting roles in this great spectacle were embodied by figures such as the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the head of the Egyptian Church and, of course, the sword that was hiding behind the buttons of his military uniform while giving the impression of great and arrogant force. These secondary roles were not only limited to big figures in the church but were also played out by smaller politicised religious symbols.

In both cases, the masses served as the fuel for the conflict and the catalysts that enabled these malicious imposters to succeed. They tickled the people’s acute sense of hunger and fear and stirred their awareness of the hell that comes with frightening class struggles. This has been exploited to the point where the entire region finds itself immersed in its own biases and blinded by the manifestations of selfishness that plague human societies.

Marx was adamant that it was wrong of the French to claim that they were taken unaware by events. “Nations and women are not forgiven the unguarded hour in which the first adventurer who came along could violate them. Such turns of speech do not solve the riddle but only formulate it differently. It remains to be explained how a nation of thirty-six million can be surprised and delivered without resistance into captivity by three knights of industry.”

This very same question is exploding blatantly in our faces as well; look at what is happening in Egypt. The only difference between the two situations is that the Egyptian elite, which hijacked the revolution, seems to be gullible when believing its own lies. If January was a tragedy then June was definitely a farce.

I suppose we will try to answer these questions tomorrow…

Translated from Al Araby Al Jadid 27 April, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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