In similar fashion it can be determined that in Arab Spring nations, counter-revolutionary forces have comprehensively succeeded in regaining control. But the questions thrown up by the Arab Spring are now firmly on the table. They arose from the awareness that changes to the political structures in the Arab world are now imperative and that the constant failure of nations must be brought to an end. These questions were never previously posed with such vehemence, not even during the era following the devastating defeat of 1967.

The genie is out of the bottle

The Arab Spring revolutions have confronted the Arab world with questions that pose existential challenges. For example, concerning the relationship between rulers and the ruled, or the establishment of conditions in which the populace can genuinely act with confidence. But also the situation of women in Arab societies and the overcoming of all the forms of discrimination they are subjected to.

Also presenting itself is the question of a prudent economic policy to free Arab societies from their reliance on sources of revenue such as oil and remittances from labour migrants abroad. Not least, the revolutions have also thrown up the question of the role of religion in the public sphere.

Egyptian historian Khaled Fahmy (photo: private)
Prominent Egyptian historian Khaled Fahmy was formerly head of historical sciences at the American University in Cairo (AUC). He currently lectures at Harvard

Ruling regimes have always claimed to have an answer to all these questions. But with the outbreak of the Arab revolutions in 2011 it became clear that these claims were nothing more than lies and idle talk. And furthermore, that any promises made by counterrevolutionary forces to restore stability and security are just an illusion.

The Arab revolutionaries are the only protagonists that have made any serious effort to address the structural crisis currently facing Arab societies. The regimes, on the other hand, continue to limit themselves to the deployment of raw, excessive violence and acts of retaliation against their enemies. That said, the genie is out of the bottle and despite all their desperate attempts, Arab regimes will not succeed in driving it back in.

Khaled Fahmy

© 2018

Translated from the German by Nina Coon

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Comments for this article: Failed revolutionaries?

"In Egypt, the counter-revolution under the leadership of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi would not have been possible without generous financial support from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates," writes Khaled Fahmy. Well, and have not major Western powers, especially the US, Britain, Canada, supported the Egyptian regime and kept channelling arms to Egypt and Saudi Arabia? Today, the dominant forces in the world are the Western powers and Western-dominated international institutions such as IMF and NATO. How come that an analysis such yours does not include the role of the major powers, their geo-strategic interests? Are they part of the revolutions or the counter-revolutions? The Russian regime is also a player in affecting the outcome of the Syrian revolution. Furthermore, is it outdated not to speak of classes in these revolutions? Shouldn't a comparison with 1848 include social classes?

Nadeem07.12.2018 | 18:25 Uhr

I also have one more question regarding the use of the term "reactionary". In a few "democratic" countries, the level of inequality has become almost unprecedented, in a country like England some businesses even do not allow unions, in many businesses, and even in universities, the pay gap is between 11 to above 30 percent... a media controlled by private corporations (e.g. 80% of newspapers in Britain are owned by 6 families). A global Dutch company doesn't recognise a union in Bangladesh. What we call "democracies" sell weapons to monarchies and dictators, some of them destroyed Iraq, have supported the Israeli colonial settler state, they have welcomed Arab rulers in their cities and received huge sums of money and investments ... On what basis we do not call those regimes with such features, and that are friends with reactionary regimes, reactionaries?

Nadeem07.12.2018 | 20:52 Uhr

Firstly, I don't think that this is accurate: "Even the flight of millions of people from the Arab world to Europe to escape Islamist terror can also be seen as resulting from this failure." Millions? The millions are in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan. If we count that 800,000 were accepted in Germany, we cannot speak of millions who entered Europe. Also, in the case of Syria, most of those who fled fled because of the regime's terror. Secondly, why do you put "The Spring of Nations" in inverted commas, but not "The Arab Spring". The latter was coined by a Foreign Policy magazine journalist, not by the Arabs or Arab historians? Thirdly, like Trump supporting Haftar, or Macron shaking hands with Sisi and selling arms to Saudi Arabia, the major powers were willing to see the Syrian regime overthrown. Obama quickly released aid to Egypt. There are a few other examples. Why don't you include them in the counter-revolutionary camp along with Saudi Arabia and the UAE? Fourth, and more importantly analytically, when comparing 1848 with 2011 shouldn't one compare the structures of the social formations? One society was industrialising. The other was not. Is a capitalist society different in its structure, class, politics, development, its people's aspirations, etc to a pre-capitalist one?

Nadeem10.05.2019 | 20:12 Uhr