The Early Days of a Better Nation

Thursday, February 03, 2011

This is not 1979 ... or 1989

Like many others I've been following the Egyptian Revolution in real time, flipping back and forth from Twitter (#Jan25 #Egypt #Tahrir are the hashtags to watch, and journalist Mona Eltahawy's tweets and retweets, along with the frontline reports (and amazing photos - and now live images!) of socialist journalist Hossam el-Hamalawy, who also blogs here, are good ones to follow) to the Al Jazeera live coverage.

Just two comments for the moment. In yesterday's Guardian, Jonathan Freedland writes on Israeli official reactions to the revolution:
They recall that the Tehran crowds which won western hearts 31 years ago also looked secular and modern – only to be rapidly displaced by a dictatorship of the ayatollahs.
The Tehran crowds of 1979 did not look secular and modern - the streets were a sea of black chadors - and almost the only western hearts they won were those of people on the left who were assured by their Iranian comrades - godless and feminist to a man and woman - that what looked like a movement to put the ayatollahs in power was really something quite different underneath. This was true to an extent. But:
In the period leading up to the February insurrection, the left as an independent tendency within the mass movement did not exist. It simply merged with the Khomeini dominated movement, tail ending the reactionary leadership.
Juan Cole gives a very clear analysis of why nothing like that is happening in Egypt today, or is at all likely to.

So, not another 1979. 1989? Yes, in the sense that the revolution reverberating across North Africa and the Middle East is a geopolitical earthquake - with the difference that the regimes under threat are more repressive, and more far strategic for the Western powers than the East European regimes were for the USSR. And yesterday's and today's terrible events are a grim reminder that these dictatorships are, for a multitude of reasons, far tougher to crack than the bureaucratic socialist shells that collapsed under the weight of the crowds in 1989.

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I've seen more of a comparison with the collapse of the US supported Central American dictatorships.

Good stuff, Ken. "Geopolitical earthquake" - can I use that in class?

Well James, it's hardly original, not my coinage as far as I know, so go right ahead!

But it does make me think of 1848 . . .

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