MADRID – How revolutions unfold depends on many factors, including a country’s socio-economic structure, its particular historical traditions, and sometimes the role of foreign powers. So the Arab Spring was never expected to be a linear process, or a Middle Eastern version of Central Europe’s non-violent democratic revolutions of 1989. Egypt is a case in point.
The structure of revolutions in non-industrialized societies has almost invariably comprised a succession of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary waves. The toppling of the old regime under the weight of a popular upsurge is usually only the beginning of a struggle for control of the revolution’s direction.
The leaderless movement of angry young Egyptians that occupied Tahrir Square in February 2011 was motivated by two major grievances: decades of humiliation under autocratic rule, and a general impatience with the promise of a “democratic transition” based on a tortuous process of reform that never affected the underlying power structure.
Likewise, the renewed turmoil in Egypt’s major cities reflects popular indignation at the army’s hijacking of the revolution, and at the humiliating tutelary “transition” overseen by Egypt’s Military Council under Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. The masses in Tahrir Square sought a revolution in February 2011, but it now seems clear that Egypt’s officers staged a coup d’état. They sacrificed former President Hosni Mubarak to safeguard the old power structure – of which the army was a central pillar.