ISE board member Saladdin Ahmed has an insightful new article on “The Significance of the Sudanese Revolution” up at Telos. Telos has been an important journal of critical theory since 1968, introducing a wide variety of Frankfurt School and French radical thinkers to U.S. audiences as well as publishing occasional articles by ISE co-founder Murray Bookchin. Ahmed’s article argues that the uprising in Sudan is a hopeful development that might suggest a new direction out of the familiar deadlock between nationalist authoritarianism and reactionary Islamism in the MENA region.
“The ongoing Sudanese revolution has emerged at a time when most of us had already given up any realistic hope for what has become known as the Arab Spring. Yet, if anything, the revolutionaries in Sudan have the best chance yet of simultaneously defeating both nationalist dictatorship and religious fundamentalism. This would be no small feat; it would arguably mark the most significant historical turning point in the struggle for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) since World War II.
Since the protests began in Tunisia in late 2010, the Arab Spring has repeatedly failed to deliver on its promise of democratic governance. I argue that this is primarily because the protest movements have simply not been revolutionary enough to break free from the dominating orbit of the retroactive forces of nationalist dictatorships and religious fundamentalism. Under these circumstances, the non-violent, mostly liberal movements were quickly neutralized, demonstrating the degree to which the death of the Left has left contemporary societies at the mercy of fascist forces.
… Sudan represents a middle ground between the rejected Other and the dominant players in the Arab world. By virtue of being in the margins, there is reason to hope that the revolutionaries in Sudan will, like those in Rojava, succeed in establishing a revolutionary alternative. In rejecting a regime that is both a military dictatorship and ideologically Islamist, the Sudanese revolution is already well on its way to accomplishing what all other uprisings of the Arab Spring have failed to do. The military generals tried to appease the revolutionaries by ousting Al-Bashir, but the revolutionaries are not to be fooled by such theatrical moves. They continue to insist on the complete removal of the old regime and the establishment of a democracy based on civil rights for all.“
Along the way, the wide-ranging text offers provocative insights about the death of the left in the region, the pitfalls of postcolonialism, and the role played by seemingly oppositional ideologies like anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism in legitimating local authoritarian regimes by redirecting popular anger elsewhere, a process often aided by critical intellectuals. Read the full article here.