Paths of Revolution, by Sherif Younis, Cairo: Al-Ain Publishing house, 2012. 210pp.
A mere day before the revolution broke out, Sherif Younis – the author of this book – argued with his friends on Facebook regarding the decision that January 25 should be the day. Incredulously he asked, “Can we set a date for the revolution?” Amazingly enough, the revolution did start on the pre-set date as planned. Younis himself responded to the calls for protests from day one; he was to write a series of articles analysing the political conditions as they were happening on the ground. Taken together, the articles present a complete view of the Egyptian revolution, mixing analysis and theory with lessons learned, proposals and plans for the future. Yet all the while Younis stays close to events as they unfold, registering the reality of the moment and leading to conclusions which, though specific to that moment, but also help to draw up the paths of the revolution from a unique left-wing standpoint.
The author, who is a professor of history at Helwan University, had already written a number of important sutudies on – among other topics – Sayed Qutb and Islamic fundamentalism, national identity, the Nasser cult and the independence of the judiciary. Such “theoretical” contributions, however – accomplished between 1999 and 2007 – deal with matters of the past, while the new book is about an unfolding, almost live event.
The book is divided into three sections, starting with a journal of the 18-day sit-in as the seed of a much longer process. Particularly remarkable is its immersion in events. For example, Younis comments on the rumours that spread on 10 February, before Mubarak stepped down, about the coming of a military coup – following Omar Soliman’s statements that the alternative to reform by Mubarak is a coup. Younis comments that this statement reflects a partial bias of the army to the uprising, using its “temporary legitimacy through a constitutional declaration based on the ‘values of the uprising’ to be followed by a clearing of the most corrupt figures of the regime, in preparation for a new constitution”. And this is precisely what happened a few days later, testifying to the accuracy of Younis’s analysis. Younis insists that his analysis was based on discussions with friends who took part in the revolution, naming in particular Mohamed Naeem, Amr Abdel-Rahman and Mohammed El-Baaly, his “participatory authors.”
In the second section, “The Meaning of the Revolution”, the analysis continues until 25 June, concluding that the revolution isn’t the pure light that came from the depth of darkness but rather that it has inherited the long history of oppressive authoritarianism, and adding that the Arab uprisings amount to the official announcement of the death of an era that had already died without embracing the values of the new era. No nation enslaved to the notion of identity can have freedom. Younis contends that we haven’t completely freed our minds from the past, and the heavy legacy of poor management was enormous; it results in people rushing to Tahrir Square when in danger and leads to the destruction and burning of police stations. “We’re still figuring out our first steps to freedom, struggling to plant the first seeds of a political sphere to replace the security sphere that has ruled us for long.”
The third and last section is dedicated to the daily struggle between the revolution and the counterrevolution, extending the analysis to the period between 29 March and December, following the elections and the rise of the Islamists, and presenting suggestions to save the revolution.