Friday,20 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1149, 23 - 29 May 2013
Friday,20 October, 2017
Issue 1149, 23 - 29 May 2013

Ahram Weekly

How to rebel

The grassroots Tamarod campaign is already a stunning success, but more than signatures will be required to realise its stated goal of fulfilling the revolution, writes Abdel-Ghafar Shokr

Al-Ahram Weekly

Just as many people were losing hope in the survivability of the Egyptian grassroots movement, a group of young people announced the creation of Tamarod. This movement, which means “to rebel” in English, is a countrywide petition drive to withdraw confidence from the Egyptian president on the grounds that he has been remiss in his duty to address the fundamental problems of the Egyptian people.

The creation of Tamarod affirms several major facts. Firstly, the impetus of the revolution movement has not entirely dissipated. Rather, it experienced a temporary dip, made a rebound and regained the strength to progress. Secondly, Egyptian youth are still the driving force behind the revolutionary movement and they are still prepared to sacrifice themselves for its aims. Thirdly, this sudden initiative by on the part of young activists casts into relief a reality with regard to both the opposition political parties that had existed before the revolution or those that were founded afterwards. These parties have not yet forged themselves into real and effective mass leaders and are still groping for ways to connect with the people. The emergence of Tamarod independently of all these parties took them all by surprise.

Fourthly, the rapid impetus that Tamarod has acquired and the results it has achieved so far confirm, once again, that the Egyptian people have shed apathy and fear, so deeply are they motivated by the desire for substantial change. It further demonstrates that they are capable of translating this transformation into practical actions, to which testifies the enthusiastic popular response to the petition drive, which has already collected millions of signatures in record time.

Tamarod underscores yet another crucial fact, which is that youth activists have the ability to conceive and develop the means and methods of grassroots actions that are conducive to winning the people’s trust and active engagement. The Tamarod organisers presented their basic concept in a straightforward unambiguous manner. Rather than bogging their message down in weighty terminology and lengthy theorising, they simply stated that the goal of the movement in a simple slogan that summed up the drive to withdraw public confidence from Mohamed Morsi, thereby making it easier for people to respond to its calling, whether positively or negatively. The slogan encapsulates the idea that is of immediate essence to the public. It states: “The people feel that no progress has been made towards the realisation of any of the goals of the revolution since Mohamed Morsi came to power. These goals were bread, freedom, social justice, human dignity and national independence. Morsi has failed on all counts and he has proven himself unqualified to govern a country the size of Egypt.”

The people can judge for themselves the extent of the validity of the foregoing statement that forms the basis of the Tamarod movement’s call for a withdrawal of confidence from the president. After all, it relates directly to the circumstances and conditions that affect people’s daily lives.

Still, Tamarod has amplified on its central idea in simple and succinct terms in the petition it is circulating. Addressing the president, it writes:

“Because our streets are still not safe, we don’t want you.

Because the poor still have no place, we don’t want you.

Because we’re still soliciting money from abroad, we don’t want you.

Because the revolution’s martyrs have not seen justice yet, we don’t want you.

Because we and the country are still deprived of dignity, we don’t want you.

Because the economy has collapsed and is based on begging, we don’t want you.

Because Egypt’s still subordinated to the US, we don’t want you.”

As can be seen, the core ideas of the petition are worded in a way that would strike a profound chord with the people, as though they — not the Tamarod organisers — are the initiators of the movement. This spirit carries through to the petition’s central demand and its justifications, which are worded as follows:

“Therefore, I, the undersigned, declare with my full will and cognizance, and in my capacity as a member of the General Assembly of the Egyptian People, that I have withdrawn my confidence in the president of the republic, Dr Mohamed Morsi, and that I hereby call for early presidential elections. I also pledge to adhere to the goals of the revolution, to work toward their fulfilment, and to promote the Tamarod campaign among the Egyptian public so that together we can realise the society of dignity, justice and freedom.”

The petition, formulated in this manner, may come as a surprise to some, as it extends beyond a call for withdrawal of confidence from the president to a pledge of commitment to the aims of the revolution, which is to say, to the much loftier causes of freedom and justice. In other words, through this petition, Tamarod has declared that it is not a campaign limited to a single narrow objective, but rather that it is a broader movement dedicated to the continuation of the revolution.

Is Tamarod, in fact, in the process of becoming such a movement? Or is this merely an impression one gains from the inclusion in the petition of the pledge of commitment to the goals of the revolution? It is difficult to ascertain whether there was a conscious decision to evolve into a political movement dedicated to the continuation of the revolution and, thereby, to the regeneration of a youth movement that had been torn by discord and fragmentation among revolutionary youth forces. Yet surely Tamarod’s activities among the people and its success at gathering millions of signatures to its petition offer an opportunity to revive the spirit of the revolution. Surely this would stimulate resurgence in the confidence of the revolutionary forces and the masses in their ability to continue the revolution until it reaches its aspirations.

Before indulging in such expectations, which might generate a degree of over-optimism, it would be best to bear in mind certain observations.

First, the opposition political parties are still struggling to build themselves up as strong grassroots-based political forces. So far, they have not made much progress in this regard and the balances of power between the political forces are still skewed in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood. Until the other political parties succeed in establishing themselves as major grassroots forces, the hope of reviving the spirit of the revolution and its sustainability will remain questionable. Political parties are those entities that arise to pursue the peaceful rotation of authority through competitive elections. The political parties have yet to attain the grassroots strength to enable them to compete effectively.

Secondly, these parties were taken off-guard by the Tamarod campaign and its rapid success. As they were wavering in their positions towards the regime, the campaign began to snowball and suddenly they had to scramble to catch up by announcing their support and opening up their party headquarters to help collect signatories.

Third, Tamarod’s activities are still confined to collecting signatures. It has not engaged in the types of activities that mobilise people into a systematic movement that presses for realisation of its causes. If Tamarod seeks to do this, it must immediately organise a range of activities and events that establish and build a strong and effective relationship with the masses. What are needed to begin with are relatively small meetings in various villages, towns and popular quarters, in order to explain the ideas behind the campaign to withdraw confidence from the president and the relationship between this and the realisation of the revolution. These would combine with rallies in strategic locations to spread awareness and muster support, publicity campaigns of various sorts, as well as the creation of local Tamarod leaderships in every area.

With such strategies, the Tamarod campaign could build itself up into an organised grassroots movement that would be capable of following through on the drive that was laid out in the petition and the essential objective, which is to continue the revolution until it realises its aims.

 

The writer is head of the Popular Coalition Party.

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