Chapter Thirteen: Ideas and the Revolutionary Process
When a society is utterly exhausted, revolution is for it the most recommended detonator to spark off a crisis so as to set in motion the wheel of its destiny. But is setting the society's forces, thus liberated, in motion all that is needed?
The history of revolutions in the world shows how precarious and risky their destiny is after their launching. The Muslim world itself has seen many revolutionary experiences before and during the phase of de-colonization. At this very moment, it is living the Palestinian revolution in respect of which it is sufficient to only remember that it has so many heads (such as the one named George Habache) in order to realize that we still do not possess the means of control that would save us against the errors of judgment in this field.
The phenomenon of revolution is yet to be submitted to a normative science that would subject its process to strict control. In fact, we are indebted to Marxist thought, especially as it has matured in Beijing, for a method of analysis that to a certain extent permits certain a postenori control. In brief, this method consists of detecting and remedying those errors once they have occurred, not of a warning system that immediately alerts the society's defense system whenever an error is in prospect.
Marx analyzed the errors of the Commune of Paris so that they should not be repeated in other revolutionary processes. If they are repeated in different forms, then there is only one way to face them,that is, to resort to an emergency operation called "cultural revolution". But, in no Muslim country, including the set of proclaimed revolutionary ones, has such a debate been opened as if things were all well in the best of worlds! While it so happens that in many a Muslim country people find themselves, after the events of a revolution, in a situation worse than the pre-revolution stage. They may even find themselves dominated by a totally alien ideology in which the martyred heroes would not recognize the ideas and ideals for which they died. It is as if, during the revolution, the latter's engine and guiding ideas start, at a given moment, running backwards.
What is abnormal here is that such situations develop up to the end of the revolution without apparently anyone realizing the reversal of values. It is even more abnormal that when after the revolution people realizing such problems, certain self-styled sages would appear who believe that such anomalies would disappear by natural extinction, counseling that things should be left to pan out all right. I wonder how such pragmatists would envisage the extinction and panning out of anomalies such as the insertion of a certain George Habache into the Palestinian revolution, while it is already clear that such a phenomenon will not disappear before stripping the revolution of its soul and spirit.
With such abnormal revolutionary situations the problem will undoubtedly remain unsettled. The classical Marxist method does not seem to be able to solve it. If Marx had analyzed such situations, he would certainly have done so based on the logic of a dialectic whose constituent elements were all part and parcel of one and the same cultural universe that was his own universe. In contrast, in the colonized and ex-colonized countries, such situations are the complex result of a dialectic obtaining in an original cultural universe as well as of the dialectical relationship between the latter and an alien cultural universe, that of colonialism. Just like the dialectic between the inductor and the induced electrical current, so too there are induced phenomena in social matters.
In Muslim countries, a revolutionary process may from the beginning be born in the form of a counterrevolution to preempt the genuine revolution. It may also be born in the form of a genuine revolution that gradually gives way to a counter-revolution that would use its name and visible attributes as well as its means in order to kill it and take its place while still preserving its appearances. These appearances would serve as the curtain behind which the inversion of things and values would be carried out in the post-revolutionary era.
Moreover, Marxist thought was shaped within a cultural climate in which ideas can stand on their own without any crutches. On the contrary, ideas in the post-Almohad Muslim society in general have to rely either on an object or on a person in order to establish their validity. In fact, the abnormal revolutionary situations of Marx's time and milieu were so simple in the sense that a revolutionary idea had only to face a set of ideas belonging to that same milieu, that is, to its own cultural universe. Under such circumstances, the analysis could easily have control over the errors arising directly from that very universe which is the inductor of ideas.
In post-Almohad Muslim society, on the contrary, we have to face "induced" errors originating from another different cultural universe, which serves as an inductor. The phenomenon George Habache/Abbane Ramdhane insinuated in the Palestinian and Algerian revolutions respectively is not an inherent error. Rather, it is induced from outside and is, therefore, an induced error. This is exactly the characteristic aspect of our "revolutionary anomalies." Explaining what he considers as the five conditions of revolution, Jean-Francois Revels wrote the following: "A revolution cannot be an improvisation... The true revolutionary spirit follows the method of planned invention that always leaves the door of initiative open to all, but in which the implementation is always rigorous, technically competent and never approximate".
It is such appearances that constitute, therefore, the crux of the problem in any revolutionary critique. If we were in front of an illusionist's scene, we already know that his illusions are mere appearances, which are possible only owing to his dexterity and knowledge of our normal reflexes. Here we have before us a political scene in which the illusionist is called colonialism. To understand what kind of illusions the latter may produce on our senses, we need to indicate what we, as psychological specimens, are in its master's eyes and what, in turn, the illusionist represents in our eyes in relation to both our moral and political excitations.
It is not difficult to define the problem with regard to the second point. In the eyes of every Muslim, colonialism portrays the character of Satan. However, it must be added that the masters of colonialism know this fact very well. They also know so many things about us, of which we are ourselves ignorant, particularly the automatisms of our own behavior. For example, they know that when Satan says that "two plus two equals four", Muslims will say: "this is not true because it is Shaytain that states it!" On the contrary, if a voice regarded as 'truthful' states that "two plus two equals three", Muslims will say "this is true since it is a 'truthful' voice that says it!"
This predisposition of Muslims to formulate their judgments according to the criteria of the world of human beings rather than those of the world of ideas is perfectly known to colonial powers. Their activities on the political scene constantly make use of facts pertaining to a psychological map. This is the basis of the entire technique of induced errors. The results of this technique are almost infallible in a world in which the idea has to rely either on an object or on a person in order to "go well".
The virtuoso illusionist situated on the stage, indeed not completely on the stage but in the prompter's box so as to be hidden from our sight, needs only to produce as many illusions as he wishes in front of an audience whose psychological attitude has already been conditioned. The procession then unfolds from the east to the west of the Muslim world wherever the necessity arises to launch a counter-revolution under the pretense of a genuine one.
The present Muslim world has seen many deviations of this sort. For example, Pakistan owes its very existence to such a genre of deviation, that is to say, to an error induced in the psyche of a conditioned Muslim conscience hypnotized by a zaim. The zaim does not only serve to divert the revolutionary forces set in motion, but he also serves to break off any unifying ideological current incompatible with the political strategy of balkanization being applied to the Muslim world.
For all that, it is not necessary that the zaim "be in the know". Thus, Messali Hadj had certainly inadvertently played his role and his behavior was simply in conformity with the colonial designs. In his school a multitude of petty leaders were brought up who finally killed him and betrayed the revolution, which he himself renounced out of arrogance. On the contrary, Abbane Ramdhane was undoubtedly aware of his role. His prying attitude leaves no doubt in this regard. Until the last moment of his life, he had voluntarily accepted to play the role of the illusionist so as to rob the revolution of its true direction as launched on the first of November 1954 and usurp its power and try to use it against the revolution itself.
It may also happen that the politician in the Muslim world is not such a petty ambitious and mercenary person playing the part of the calm on the political scene. One has only to be a trustworthy leader capable of promoting a great idea that exerts on the masses the irresistible attraction of a noble and grandiose goal.
It is natural that specialists of the ideological struggle would from the beginning subject such an idea to accurate evaluation. They would also subject the personality of the leader embodying it in the eyes of the masses to the most detailed analysis with the view to detecting all his flaws and weaknesses. Colonial powers will then put such fissures under the control of their valve-like system so as to pursue a double goal. On the one hand, they aim at preventing not only the radiation of the idea but also the leader's personality from reaching the people's collective conscience. On the other hand, and above all, they will isolate the real image of the idea's career from the leader so that he becomes unable to follow effectively his course of action and come up with the needed correctives and clarifications.
The struggle would then go on with no 'radar' that would instantly provide the leader with the full information required by the situation, whenever the idea and the person of the leader himself are confronted with the realities of such a struggle. Finally, the leader may become prisoner of his own system, the latter transformed into a mere valve-like system controlled by the colonial powers. Similarly, the leader is driven into self-destruction by means of a mechanism he believes is under his own control but which rather controls him.
This self-destruction is not always, nor even often, a physical end of the leader. It is rather a political fall brought about gradually so that the idea embodied through his errors and defects is devalued and subsequently drawn out. In other words, the idea is actually devalued by "induced errors" which are introduced into the leader's politics by means of the valve-like system. The end of a certain Soekarno or that of a certain Nkrumah was but a painful self-destruction; however, they are only two cases among so many others. In brief, the valve-like system functions on behalf of colonialism a-s a mechanism that generates the "induced errors" and stands, if need be, as a protecting system for those errors against any vague attempt or desire for criticism.
In the political life of Muslim countries, no room is allowed for criticism, especially when it is a question of maintaining a counterrevolution which is under way in the darkness necessary for its unfolding, or of keeping its causes secret in case it has already occurred. Indeed, darkness and silence are the best allies of both the masters of the ideological struggle and the abortionists of revolutions Curiously enough, the watchword circulated amongst the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (GPRA) in Cairo was: "Silence!
Keep quiet! Colonialism is eavesdropping." This is but a masterpiece of the masters of the ideological struggle, a touch of artists who cleverly know how to maneuver our sensitive strings.
On a different occasion, a few days after the breakdown of the Syrian-Egyptian Union," I was listening to a critique, which was, I believe, broadcast by Aleppo radio. Everything was all right in such a manner that one could hear every word so long as the criticism was directed against the idea of the union itself in order to devalue it and undermine its basis. However, as soon as that critique touched on the problem of the valve-like system which served to introduce in Arab politics the fatal "induced errors" of the idea of union, the words disappeared in the fog, as broadcasting interference took them away. Whether this perturbation was coming from the American Fifth Fleet or directly from Tel-Aviv does not matter here.
How long is this situation going to last? There is no room to venture any prophecy, which is more often than not belied by actual events. It is, therefore, not a question of predicting that one event or another is capable of bringing such a situation to an end. We should rather trace it to its psycho-sociological causes and show how it will consequently come to an end along with those causes.
We have already pointed out the two types of errors that may affect our revolutionary process: the inherent and induced errors. Their root cause is, however, one and the same. It lies in our psychology: our minds and souls are subject to the despotism of both the object and the person. As soon as the authority of ideas is restored in out cultural universe, this cause will ultimately disappear. Consequently, our judgments in general and in the political field in particular will acquire or recover their systematic and generalizing character. This will enable us to integrate the multitude of details in a unified and comprehensive whole and to cast them in a consistent synthesis.
Plagued with atomism, the post-Almohad mind in its attempt at systematization does not proceed by integrating the respective facts. Atomism, in fact, is the flea-jump from one detail to another, which never permits one to perceive in a given host of details a certain situation that reflects in a precise manner the problems of one stage of the revolutionary process. Similarly, every detail remains isolated from and independent of the objective situation surrounding. It will rather be added to the rosary of our dreams.
How many amber beads the masters of the ideological struggle have added to the rosary of our dreams! The names of Abbane Ramdhane in the Algerian revolution and that of George Habache in the Palestinian revolution are only some such beads! It is not so long ago when the masses demonstrated in the streets of Cairo, 1919, shouting: "Protectorate with Zaghlul better than independence with Ali Pasha!" Such heresies will happen again and again so long as our cultural universe is under the twofold domination, of the object and the person.
The masters of the ideological struggle are well aware that it is easier to come to terms with an idol than with an idea. Their local followers are of the same opinion. They, too, know it is easier to tamper with people than with ideas. The most important thing for both groups is to prevent a revolutionary process from being centered on an idea. One can perceive the instant of relief which both of them enjoyed with the publication of Franz Fanon's book on the Algerian revolution, for he reduced the image of the revolution to a mere "act of violence"! Without perhaps being aware of it, he liberated both the zaim and zaimmillous from any concern to think and rid them, more particularly, from the guilt complex towards the betrayed ideas.
Yet, the betrayed ideas take their revenge, and their nemesis is very obvious in the Muslim world!
 Messali Hadj is considered the father of Algerian nationalism.
 Bennabi explains atomism as a mind incapable of making generalizations.