Articles > > FROM PHASE TO PHASE

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2019-04-05
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

As Algeria exits the 'revolutionary legitimacy' phase, it seeks to enter that of 'democratic legitimacy' contingent on the ballot box and nothing else.
 
The first phase lasted nearly six decades (1962-2019), which is more than enough to transition from the post-revolution period to the state-building phase. A revolution represents a historical juncture aimed at abolishing the old order and paving the way for the new to emerge. In Algeria, the 'new' order represented doing away with the long-lasting, bitter French colonialist scourge, and eradicating its remnants and foundations. This was largely, if not fully, achieved. 
 
But no people can live in a state of constant revolution, or 'permanent revolution', as Leon Trotsky called it. At some point down the road, a revolution must come to an end and give way to the collective, painstaking work of rebuilding the state's institutions and its political, economic, and social system. That is the natural order of things. 
 
Is there a lesson to be learned from the Algerian experience, especially for our Iranian brethren? I think so. There are significant lessons at hand. I addressed them prior to the latest developments in Algeria, and I will address them here again today, but with greater confidence in light of the Algerian experience whose chapters have unfolded with astonishing speed before our very eyes. 
 
Let me begin by saying that, unlike Algeria, Iran did not revolt against a colonialist power, but an internal foe. The Iranian Shah maintained friendly relationships with the West, and the U.S. in particular, but he was not a puppet in their hands. He led a mid-size regional imperialist project, and he drove Iran towards industrial modernization, urbanization, diversifying income sources, and the nuclear age. In Algeria's case, transitioning from revolution to state-building may be much more difficult than in Iran, especially because it was under a particular form of long-lasting colonialism aimed at annexing it and destroying its national, religious, cultural, and linguistic identities alike. 
 
Both revolutions' rhetoric shares a fundamental religious dimension. In Algeria, Sunni Islam has been an integral component of its national identity, and there is no distinction between Algeria's Arab and Islamic character. However, the nationalist/patriotic dimension dominated the Algerian revolution's discourse, policies, and practices, and did not leverage its Islamic character into an entry point for 'exporting' the revolution. Algeria's support for national liberation movements in Africa and Asia has not been a form of revolutionary 'export' at all, and it cannot be framed in those terms. 
 
In Iran, revolutionary rhetoric took on a Shiite Islamic character, and religion became one of the primary engines of change and a foundation for forming its unique political, vilayat-e-faqih (rule of the jurisprudent) system. More importantly, it constituted an entry point for the notion of 'exporting' the revolution, playing on religious minority tensions so as to extend Iran's regional influence and maintain a strategic balance in the struggle with other competing capitals and axes belonging to the Sunni majority in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Iran's task in transitioning its revolution to the state-building phase seems more difficult than Algeria's by all standards. 
 
Algeria's move from the era of revolutionary legitimacy to the era of state institutions, regulations, and laws has taken a long time, in part due to the Black Decade [1991-2002 Algerian civil war], the spread of fundamentalism, the Bouteflika-era recession, and the role played by generals and munitions. 
 
It is still too early to judge whether Iran will need six decades, like Algeria, or more, or less, to achieve this transition, but the Iranian interior certainly seems reluctant to comply. External pressures may either accelerate or delay Iran's transitional journey from revolution to state.
 
"But one thing is for sure: There are plenty of Algerian lessons to help the Iranians facilitate this transition and achieve it with as little cost and sacrifice as possible – as long as they have the will and awareness to do so....but will they do so?.