Over at Not George Sabra, Malik Little criticises Tariq Ali’s orientalist take on the Arab revolutions.
“What is a revolution?” asks Marxist Tariq Ali in a recent article. He answers, “a transfer of power from one social class (or even a layer) to another that leads to fundamental change.”
Ali never gets around to defining what exactly constitutes “fundamental change,” but he knows for sure that whatever “fundamental change” is, there has been none of it in the Arab world since 2011.
Does the end of the Ben Ali dictatorship in Tunisia and the destruction of its secret police count as “fundamental change“? For Ali, no. After decades of a life of comfort and privilege in West, it seems Ali has forgotten what it is like to live under the thumb of a police state and murderous military rule. He has forgotten what a “fundamental change“ it is to be ruled by elected institutions and politicians rather than tyrants and generalissimos.
Since Ben Ali was ousted, there have been two general strikes called by the main union federation.
For Ali, this is no big deal. How do we know? He never mentions Tunisia or its people even once in his half-assed self-serving overview of the Arab Spring’s non-revolutionaryness, a double oversight since Tunisia is why the Arab Spring happened in the first place.
Instead, Ali goes on to ‘analyze’ events in Egypt where the counter-revolution has triumphed. He uses this triumph to deny that a revolution ever happened. Woe to V.I. Lenin who continued to write about the Russian revolution of 1905 even after it was smashed by the Tsar and Karl Marx who continually referred to the lessons he learned in the abortive German revolution of 1848-1849 for failing to match the insightful wisdom of Tariq Ali, a man who knows a revolution is only a revolution when it succeeds!
The next stop on Ali’s “nothing to see here” tour is Libya:
“In Libya, the old state was destroyed by NATO after a six-month bombing spree and armed tribal gangs of one sort or another still roam the country, demanding their share of the loot. Hardly a revolution according to any criteria.”
No mention of course of the General National Congress election of 2012 that went off without a hitch to the immense jubilation of the long-suffering Libyan people. Mentioning inconvenient facts like this might make Westerners sympathetic to the their difficult struggle to build institutions out of the ashes of 42 years of one-man rule by a deranged tyrant. No discussion of what class rules Libya today is necessary. Better to talk up “armed tribal gangs” in true Orientalist fashion. Who better than a brown man to play on the fears peddled by the white man to convince Westerners that there’s no revolution in Libya for them to solidarize with? Ali knows that if there’s anything Westerners love to hate, it’s Muslims.
Throwing up gang signs.