Accuracy of the statement of John Naisbitt, a celebrated author of Megatrends and New York Times bestseller that “the new source of power is not money in the hand of the few, but information in the hand of many” can no longer be under scored. Information age has turned the world into a global village. Unlike the past when it takes almost forever to disseminate information, in today’s technology, information travels with the velocity of light; thereby easing communication and breaking the barriers of distance. Particularly important is the internet technology; which has successfully condensed the hitherto distance that separates family and delay communications between nations.
The advent of information age has simplified information sharing among people and nations of the world. Its effect has not only avails information to the other party; it has made it available in a timely manner. In the present dispensation, information about politics, religion, economics, arts and sciences etc., are distributed with effortless ease. This to a very large extent dictates and influences the reactions of the people across the globe.
The resent success and failure of the revolts in North African countries and part of the Middle East were initiated and promoted through information technology, specifically the internet services.
It started with the information of suicide behavior of a frustrated 24 year old unemployed Tunis who electrocuted himself by touching a high voltage electrical pole after shouting “No for misery”, “No for unemployment”. The ensuring unrest was a sign of the frustration and despair felt by the country’s youth.
According to Carnegie Middle East Center, an organization that is known for its Social, Political and Economic analysis of the Middle East, Tunisia has one of the highest unemployment rates among Arab states: more than 14 % of overall and 30% among those between ages 15 – 29. Many unemployed launch small business in the informal sector or migrate to other countries legally or illegally. Sadly, suicide behavior has been chosen by the Tunis youth to protest their deplorable situation and call the attention of their government and the international communities to their deplorable condition.
Continuous insensitivity of the government promotes and increased the rate of suicide behavior; especially among the youth. This in a sense expressed a deep sense of despondence and less chance of been able to live a qualitative and dignified life.
The condition of the youths in Tunisia is not isolated of other African countries. Bad government that is characterized by despotism, poor economy that is orchestrated by bad management, high level of corruption, devastating private and public sector, deplorable health and epileptic education system, abysmal human rights abuse, unstable power supply, bad roads, paralyzed agriculture, etc. All this transforms to nation of hopelessness, where the future of the youth and the upcoming generation are completely bleak and in jeopardy.
The Tunisia uprising forced its leader President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to abdicate the throne and fled to Saudi Arabia for asylum. This unexpected success encouraged and catapulted the erstwhile repressed reform advocates of the Egyptian neighbor; they renewed their demand for political reform as well as the resignation of President Mubarak from office. The octogenarian fragile dictator after unsuccessful negotiation bowed to the wish of his people and “stepped aside”.
The duo success of this pseudo-revolutionary advances quickly moved to the boarder of Libya and Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately it was curtailed. The reform advocates quicken the regimen of Moamar Gadhafi’s monstrous innate and he did not hesitate to declare a reign of terror on the advocates and their supporters. Consequently, umpteen Libyans were massacred through military bombardments.
Inversely, Saudi Arabia government, in what appeared to be a passive aggressive response sounded a warning that any individual that initiate, advocate or sponsor any reform uprising in the kingdom will have his hand amputated. With this proclamation, the appetites of the reform advocates were cushioned and the dynamics and progression of the uprising punctuated.
Never the less, it is important to review the uprising in these 4 countries and reflect on their success and failures and learn whatever lesson it offers. To this end, the following questions needed to be answered:
. Why was the uprising successful in Tunisia and Egypt but failed in Libya and Saudi Arabia?
. Why did the Tunis settle for a replacement of President Ben Ali with his Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi?
. Why did the people of Tunisia and Egypt unable to consolidate their revolt gains and transform it into revolution?
. Why did Colonel Gadhafi’s repressive approach to quell the reform uprising in Libya did not attracts immediate intervention of the international community or continue deviance of his people?
. Why did Saudi Arabia government’s warning cushioned the possible reform uprising?
Answers to the above questions will sharpen individual’s perception on “revolution”. This will facilitate a comparison between individual definition; and revolution as postulated by notable Political -Economists such as Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels. Consequently, a clarification of distinction between “revolution”, “revolt” and “uprising” would be spell and how one can lead to the other.
What happened in Tunisia and Egypt was not a revolution. It was an uprising, or if you like a revolt of the people who demanded political reform of their government. The people wanted a change. They were tired of a repressive regime that has nothing to offer than human depravity. They wanted an open system where citizens can be heard and respected. Their advocacy for change was not originally intentioned to force President Abidine Ben Ali, and Hosni Mubarak to relinquish power.
In Egypt, the people’s strategy to demand Mubarak’s resignation was predicated on his jittering affect and slow response to the people’s demand; which quite frankly was unlike him. The people cleverly capitalized on the seemingly fatigued and confused leader and insisted on his exit. Whereas, in Tunisia the 82 years old Ben Ali realized that he has lost touch with the socio-economic and political reality of his people; and it was not only face saving but logically necessary for him to escape the wrath of an angry Tunis mob.
In these two situations, the demonstrators did not have the plan to change the quality of government. They were just tired of living as a subjugated human being, under the dictatorship of a stern looking fascist. There were no concerted and organized revolutionary bodies to hijack the political power for the purpose of changing the existing political order that benefits the few rich and enslaved the majority who are poor. What is apparent here was a demonstration of what Karl Marx described as the “material requisite for revolution” but it lacked “the spirit of generalization and revolutionary ardor”.
Karl Marx argued that in order to correct the socio-economic inequality between the wealthy few (bourgeoisie) and the poor majority (proletariat), proletariat revolution is inevitable. He concluded that when a successful proletariat revolution takes over government, all the necessary socio-economic and political reforms would be put in place for the benefit of the poor majority (the working class); and the means of production will be controlled by the state for the good of all.
Saudi Arabia and Libya are examples of closed autocratic and theocratic states. The state controls the press and regulates the lives of the people through obnoxious policies and secret policing system. Rights are recognized to the extent that it does not question the status-quo or challenge the constituted authority. Access to conscientizing information or radical ideology is strictly censore
d, restricted or outlawed. It is therefore easy for the government to identify and single out reform advocate for vilification and sometimes complete obliteration.
The missing link in this uprising that significantly prevented its transformation into a revolution is what Karl Marx called “revolutionary ardor”. That is, inability to transition enthusiasm into political will, and non-existence of an organized body that has been prepared to hijack and control government machinery for the good of the masses.
According to Napoleon Bonaparte, “A revolution can neither be made nor stopped. The only thing that can be done is for one of several of its children to give it a direction by dint of victories”. The uprising as seen in Tunisia and Egypt lacked clear leadership and sense of direction. Though the people were united in their demand, but they lack the strategy to control political power. Therefore it was easy for member the same government which they opposed to take advantage of the success of their struggle and retain political power. This amount to effort in futility. It spells changes in the leadership of government business without corresponding change in policy and philosophy. History indicated that when political power changes hand between members of the same ruling elite, possibility of the people’s centered and responsive government is further compromised.
The lesson for the youths, trade unions, labor unions, students unions, and other democratic associations in a repressed polity is to educate their members about the need to understand the basic revolutionary ingredients needed to change power from the hand of the few oppressive elite into the hands of people centered democrats. Secondly, it should be noted that struggles cannot be personalize nor its value compromised. It require careful organization and cooperation with other legitimate democratic bodies that share its goals and have political zeal to wrestle power from the oppressive ruling class in a systematic struggle. Thirdly, there is no end to revolution. Once power is controlled, the new ruling body should waste no time to begin to restructure the government and address the problem that makes their intervention inevitable, failure to which can weaken the comrade cohesion and erode government legitimacy – a phenomenon that would necessarily attract counter revolution.
In the final analysis, problem identification is not alone important in the struggle for socio-political and economic transformation; having structures ready to replace the overthrown regime, zeal of reform loyalists and sympathizers, an agreeable political philosophy to guide the direction of new government among others are compulsory. Comrades and advocates should not satisfy themselves with a successful uprising but endeavor to transition it to a formidable revolution.