The Egyptian state responds to peaceful prayers in Cairo
One of the most stunning results of the Arab revolutions has been the exposure of the mechanisms of coercive control endured by the ordinary people of the region for decades. Far from the West’s backing of authoritarian regimes leading to a benign order, it was always predicated on the most horrific apparatuses of repressive violence.
It is no wonder, then, that the rapid removal through street protests of two entrenched dictators (in Tunisia and Egypt) has led to a celebration of the success of “peaceful revolution” and non-violent direct action. It has also led some supporters of the revolutions to feel despair as regimes have narrowed the space for such protest by cracking down with increasing brutality, including a bloody civil war and NATO intervention in Libya.
But how much have events really reflected the success or failure of non-violent strategy, and how useful is it as a guide for the Left?