Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Mentality: The opposition’s most important tool | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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According to the statements of unnamed [political] activists, the Arab regimes have begun to adopt a new policy. This policy is one whereby these regimes themselves are responsible for driving the political opposition movements, and indeed any accompanying terrorist acts and social unrest, utilizing this as a pretext to accuse others.

According to this logic, political opposition has completely declined and decayed, to the point where it is no longer able to elicit popular sympathy or support, whilst bombs are exploding in our streets. As for the opposition media, this is also weak and incapable, whilst the regime is solely concerned with defending itself and remaining in power, taking increasingly stringent security measures in order to do so.

Historically speaking, opposition parties would begin political operations by announcing their opposition [political] program, and continue to inform the public regarding their views and activities, in order to gain popular loyalty and support. However when the opposition is prevented, or unable, to do so, the only result is chaos, and there is no chance of changing the situation in the country, whilst the opposition become increasingly extremist and isolated.

This is a strange situation, based on strange logic that results in a strange and estranged [political] opposition. There is no use here in saying that the reason for the regime’s isolation of the opposition is to ensure it does not have to take harsh security measures against the people, for the regime is the first to know who its opponents are! In this case, the opposition might ask, what is the point of political operation and participation if our views must remain secret and our activities underground? Particularly as during such cases, the people remain neutral, neither supportive of the government, nor of the [outlawed] opposition.

As for popular opposition, and particularly oppositional political parties, the most effective party is the one that announces its [political] program and promotes its oppositional activities in order to win popular support for itself. As for when the opposition is denied this avenue, this only results either in chaos and unrest, or the inability of the opposition parties to increase their support. This is indeed the strangest mentality in political operations, whether public or underground. If there is a popular tendency to accuse and criticize the regime, then this may create a new popular tendency to accuse and criticize the opposition, and the most prominent criticism is this respect is that the opposition is not effective, and this is an accusation that is most often made by the opposition groups themselves.

Those groups that oppose regimes, and particularly those regimes that are accused of being dictatorships, must announce their [political] program and explain the reasons for their opposition and their objectives. When they fail to do so, it is the opposition parties themselves that suffer the most, whilst the only alternative to this is to resort to clandestine violence. This is something that has a long history in international political operations, beginning with assassinations, for example, and ending with such groups becoming purely underground movements, as they soon find themselves unable to interact with the public, or obtain popular support. Such groups end up outside of the game of politics, carrying out underground and often terrorist operations.

There is a long history of political parties undertaking clandestine terrorist operations, and anybody who proof of this need only look at the period of violence and assassination carried out by the opponents of the Russian Tsarist Empire, prior to the formation of the Soviet Union. One can also look at the writings of political ideologues who have long explained the difference between popular political action and terrorism. When political groups undertake terrorist operations, this is almost always met with popular revulsion and retreat; in other words the political group is obliged to hide from the eyes of the state and its security apparatus. Such groups often eventually disappear from popular consciousness altogether after they lose touch with the people, and they are no longer able to rejuvenate their ranks.

Arab opposition parties and groups suffer from a number of negative phenomenon, including:

Firstly, they often put forward theoretical goals that are impossible to achieve on the ground. For example, if the opposition group is made up of a small number of people, let us say dozens or even hundreds, it announces that its primary objective is to completely oust the regime! It does not call for reform, or even gradual work towards an objective, but rather it immediately goes to the final objective, which it is inherently incapable of achieving on its own strength or merits, and so it moves from failure to failure.

Secondly, many such groups lack leadership figures that can convince the public that the opposition group can achieve its objectives, and that they will be better than the present leadership.

Thirdly, there is their means of political operations and activities. In the history of politics, the dissemination of political opposition views and information has played a prominent role, whilst modern technology grants political opposition today an even greater capability to reach the public, almost on an international level. The most important thing here is for the opposition to have something to say, and for it to have a clear political program, otherwise all that is left is empty accusative slogans. As for the online activists, they are now capable of reaching thousands of people at the touch of a button, the question is: do they have anything informative or interesting to say? That is the question, and the challenge.

The most dangerous thing that can occur as a result of the negative political phenomenon outlined above is for the political opposition to feel as if they are incapable and ineffective, in which case they might think of resorting to other means, namely violence. Many political parties and popular groups, in many countries around the world, reached this cross-road and occasionally followed the path of resorting to violence. However the results of this are always negative; for popular political operations, by their very nature, have lasting impact, whilst violence only has short-term impact. In addition to this, violence harms the reputation of a group, and so the ultimate effectiveness of this is always in question.

Political participation requires discipline and hard-work, not to mention the creation of an organized and popular leadership, and this is something that requires a great deal of patience. However sometimes, a small group of people might get together to achieve what they can, and upon seeing their joint-weakness and ineffectiveness to bring about the political changes they desire, they move immediately towards the antithesis of all they previously believed in, namely violence. In the beginning, such violence might be attractive to those practicing it, but in the end it represents a wall they cannot surmount [to reach power].

The most prominent and important point remains: what is the program of change that we want? Do we want to express a state of anger and rage, or do we want to reach the greater objective, namely serving the people’s interests?

I will now put forward the conditions that are required for this, and there is no point beginning political work if these are not in place.

Firstly, the call for reform must be made, and this must be successful, because this represents engaging with people’s needs and providing services to the general public. The opposition party must speak out about the interests of the people in a way that is attractive to the general public, not in a manner that they find unappealing. This is where the role of the political party’s mentality comes in. Mentality is the catalyst, and so the political opposition’s mentality must be positive and sincere, otherwise they will not achieve anything. This is why political operation and participation is so difficult, and it explains the importance of looking at the kinds of people who are involved in politics; not every angry youth is capable of leadership, and anybody who seeks such responsibility must have the requisite political awareness and maturity.

As for the other political mechanisms and means, most notably violence, they may create a great tornado, but this tornado will destroy everything in its path without consideration.