Understanding the counter-revolution

Bouharoun, Jad

Publisher:  International Socialism
Date Written:  03/01/2017
Year Published:  2017  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20597

A review of Gilbert Achcar, Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising (Saqi, 2016).



This book will prove of much use to anyone seeking to understand how the Arab uprisings’ initial hopes and victories have made way for chaos, war and repression. Fundamentally, events are proving that Achcar is right to argue that the region will need radical change to its social structure if it is to know stability. Certain sections of the book in particular are very informative, like the one depicting the historic relationships between Bashar al-Assad’s regime and various jihadist groups. Achcar also provides a good account of the slide by Hamdeen Sabbahi, a prominent figure of the traditional Egyptian left, towards ultimate collusion with the military coup of 30 June 2013.

However, there are a number of problems with Achcar’s “two poles” thesis of the counter-revolution, not least with its practical implications for the left. This review will argue that the state is the only force capable of driving the counter-revolution in the region. The Islamists do not constitute a coherent counter-revolutionary pole, and mass organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood are subject to tensions arising from their contradictory class composition. Their collusion with the core of the state during the early stages of the Egyptian Revolution, like that of the liberals and the traditional left at a later time, can be traced to their reformist agenda rather than to an inherently anti-democratic, counter-revolutionary nature. The revolutionary left’s strategy should include carefully thought out, tactical united front alliances with the various sections of the reformist opposition—and this necessarily includes some of the Islamists—without compromising on its core values; chief of which is the ultimate necessity to overthrow the existing state in the process of bringing about revolutionary change from below. From that point of view, any collusion with the state, however temporary, should remain out of the question.

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