The Arab winter and the revolutionary illusionists
Hannes HOFBAUER | 24.01.2013 | WORLD

The Arab winter and the revolutionary illusionists

One question is driving us in the face of the Arab revolts: how to assess it? The answer requires a sober view of the events.

Let's start with Syria. Nearly two years ago an opposition movement has been formed, which was run over by history in a very short time. Different internal and external interests converted social dissatisfaction into a fiercely civil war. Cui bono? The question must be allowed.

There is no sign of a revolution (any more). The whole region is in the midst of a territorial and economic process of transformation. And with the help of a golf-monarchical detour, the Western states are dynamizing the situation, to their advantage. This is valid also for Tunis, Cairo, and Tripoli, where more or less secularly oriented autocrats were removed to pull the «Islamic card» as a «political reserve». This «Islamic card» first appeared on the geopolitical landscape as a partner of the United States in the early 1980s during the war against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Today the different political wings of the Muslim Brotherhood represent the most effective mass expression of this «Islamic card».

The European critical perception of the "Arabellion" has to be blamed because of two major shortcomings: the belittling of the external factor and the underestimation of a lacking social-economic programmatic of the uprising forces. One thing is for sure: the broad opposition movement rooted in homemade political discontent: the autocratic system, which aggravated multiple social blockades and the social impact of the global economic crisis in the periphery. The latter is of course also due to external influences.

The logistic and financial potential of external actors is often ignored, when we speak of oppositional mobilization throughout the world. Let’s talk about the big so-called Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) first: National Endowment for Democracy, National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Westminster Foundation ... the vast majority of these institutes carry the «N» of «NGO» wrongfully. Since Bill Clinton supported local Serb groups such as «Otpor» («resistance») against unpopular dictators, a veritable industry of civil society interventionists has developed. These «N»GOs travel from hotspot to hotspot, their accounts filled with money, identify local discontentment, organize seminars and recruit opinion leaders, who are sympathetic towards US- und EU-restructuring plans. Their common goal is named regime change. Where civic warriors do not fulfil the task to bring forward liberal democracy as a guaranty for economic liberalism sufficiently, the means of civilian interventions are complemented military. This happened (and still happens) against the only two secular regimes with socialist remnants, Libya and Syria. It shows quite openly the political direction of the external interventions, when military forces are used in the cases of Libya and Syria and not even considered in the cases of Saudi Arabia or Yemen.

As any observer of the "Arabellion" could easily see, but nevertheless it is ignored most of the time: the missing socio-economic program of the uprising. Bashar al-Assad was right when he stated at the Damascus Opera beginning of January 2013 not to see any «Arab revolution», because a revolution would need an idea. Such an idea is actually lacking.

Now you may argue formidably about the concept of revolution. Whether an uprising deserves the adjective «revolutionary» does not depend on how igneous or chaotic or planned it is, but a revolution must suffice at least its Latin etymological root: it aims at a social and – as society is conducted by economy –economic turnover. Revolution must change social and economic circumstances. Merely reforming some political elements would not bring the circumstances to dance.

In this sense, we miss – apart from relatively insignificant small groups – revolutionary ideas in the Arab opposition to transform society towards more social and economic justice. At best cultural programmatic can be seen, if one understands Islam as a cultural identity. Instead of revolutionary innovations for a better, a more egalitarian society, the rebellion is caught by a single consensual thought, which points at regime change.

Who is the brain child of the Arab turn around, that takes place 20 years after the transformation in Eastern Europe? After almost two years of upheaval, it can be seen more and more clearly: the Muslim Brotherhood with all its nuances and internal strife leads the project of transformation. Left and Western-bourgeois forces may initially have participated in the uprisings, but they did not succeed to become profiteers of the situation. The winners are ultra-conservative groups, which can put off the masses by means of godly ideology to a better afterlife. By the way: it is not astonishing that leading families of the Muslim Brotherhood, for example in Egypt, dispose of appropriate financial means.

The actual geopolitical role of the Muslim Brotherhood seems comparable to those of reserve players on the bench, which are used because the autocrat was injured, let’s say by social discredits. They are supported by international financial institutions and global capital groups because they are willing to subordinate themselves to Western plans of transformation. Their own economic interests as elites guarantee the continuation or even the extension of the four freedoms of capitalism, which are: free movement of capital, goods, services, and (quoted) workers. In this regard, the rebellions from Tunis to Cairo worked: nowhere new economic regulation are carried out, on the contrary: each country which in recent decades operated with state-properties and measures to protect local producers from international competition – they may have sailed under socialist or nationalist flags, however perverted and full of elements of corruption – after the so-called Arab spring has to open their markets radically and runs through a tough transition period in terms of new owners… Therefor – similar to the changes in Eastern Europe – a special alliance of a more compliant diaspora, internationally operating capital and well established media was formed. It seems to succeed even in redefining traditional terms like «revolution» and «solidarity» as means of economic transformation for the global players.