Two years ago, when I was in the Occupy movement, my comrades and I argued about revolution. Was revolution necessary? What is it? The split that destroyed our movement, as it did the Left during the Sixties, pitted revolutionaries against reformists. The most frustrating part of the debate, however, wasn't ideological. It was linguistic. Even on the Left, few Americans know what revolution is: the violent overthrow of the ruling classes. In a revolution, everything, beginning with the power structure, changes. The Tahrir Square encampments that led to the ouster of Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak were a huge influence on Occupy. But we couldn't agree about what they meant. was Tahir a "revolution"? No doubt, the 2011 Arab Spring was a powerful mass movement. Everyone agreed about that. For reformists, people who want to fix the system rather than replace it, Tahrir Square was a perfect example to emulate: a peaceful people-power transition that changed things for the better without shedding blood. Cut-and-paste the same phenomenon from Cairo to the United States, convince millions of peaceful demonstrators to camp out in American cities to demand change and you'd get similarly dramatic results, reformist Occupiers urged. "Egypt had a peaceful revolution," they said. Revolutionaries--people who want to get rid of the existing system and start from scratch, countered that the Arab Spring uprisings were not revolutions at all and were thus insufficient. "Tunisia and Egypt," I said, "were merely personnel changes." The system, the way society, politics and the economy are organized, remained unchanged. As recent events prove, the resignation of a president does not a revolution make. In all the ways that matter, post-Mubarak Egypt remains the same. Those who were rich before are still rich, the same-old poor are the brand-new poor. Egypt's generals, awash in billions of barely-audited American tax dollars and high-tech military hardware, continue to call the shots. Egypt's military brass is a canny lot. Corrupt and autocratic, they tack left and right along with the winds on the dusty streets. When Tahrir got big, they called back their rapists
of demonstrators and told Hosni it was time to take a powder. When Mohammed Morsi won the election, they golf-clapped until Mo's numbers fell. Then it was his turn to varnish into house arrest. The crowds in Tahrir cheered as fighter jets streaked overhead. Applauding their own oppressors. Fools. The proles get their concessions. The figurehead performer everyone thinks runs the show, the big star who plays Mr. President on TV, gets fired after he turns stale. Yet, no matter how chaotic the politics, regardless of how much blood flows, spilled by projectiles made in the U.S.A., the real bosses, the military. their business cronies, the publishers and owners of state media outlets, remain in charge. Which now is plain as day. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew Morsi in a coup that dare not speak its name in Western countries, whose quaint 20th century human rights laws would otherwise require the severing of lucrative weapons contracts that benefit major campaign donors, has apparently gotten so caught up in the serious business of slaughtering members of the Muslim Brotherhood that he's completely forgotten to pat lip service to restoring democracy.