Al-Ahram Weekly Online   15 - 21 September 2011
Issue No. 1064
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


Those million man marches!

By Salah Eissa

The sad way in which the "Friday of Returning to Course" ended tells us a lot about the pitfalls of our revolution. The first pitfall is that since day one this has been a spontaneous revolution, lacking leadership and short on political experience. Had it not been the fact that Egyptians are mostly a pacifist, riverside- dwelling people, the spontaneity of the revolution could have ended in chaos and bloodshed, not that we've been spared that awful prospect altogether.

The second pitfall is that the revolution brought together disparate and sometimes irreconcilable forces. The pioneers of the revolution were Facebook users who believed in freedom and a civil state. They were soon joined by Islamists who want a religious state, perhaps even a Sunni-based caliphate. And the revolution also attracted large crowds of poverty-stricken and marginalised classes whose needs are more economic than political in nature. The three agreed on one thing, which is the removal of the regime. But once this happened they parted ways, each following their own agenda.

This leads us to the third problem, which is the inability of the revolutionaries to agree on a common agenda. So far, the Facebook crowd remain reluctant to join the new parties, opting instead for million man marches to make their point. The Islamists react with million man marches of their own.

The problem with million man marches is that they lack cohesion. You start with one goal, and then once you're out marching, the goals tend to shift. Common goals are hard to come by, and even those are often lost once the crowds get going.

Take, for example, what happened last Friday. The declared goal of the march was to change the elections law. This goal was soon lost in a flood of competing demands. Before the march was over, it had spawned three more demonstrations, each with its own agenda. One group was intent on pressing the demands of the judges. Another wanted to wreak vengeance on the Ministry of Interior, for reasons known to the football Ultras. A third still went to the Israeli embassy to break down the wall surrounding it and to attempt to storm the building.

Perhaps spontaneity is overrated. Perhaps what we need now is to get organised, agree on common goals, and go easy on the million man marches.

* The writer is editor-in-chief of Al-Qahera weekly newspaper.

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