I was chatting to my friend James last night. He made a point which, to begin with, I was quite dismissive of, but the more I think about it the more interesting it seems. James was saying that events currently unfolding in Cairo reminded him greatly of the 1917 Russian revolutions. I am instinctively very weary of such talk:
after all, history does not and cannot repeat itself, so supposing one event can be used as a template for another seems to me quite foolish. Yes the two cases are similar inasmuch as they both have two changes o government, one each side of the year. But pre-soviet Russia and modern Egypt are two completely different places, so I thought trying to compare the two would lead only to superficial conclusions at best.
Yet the more I think about it, the more I think James has a point; in retrospect he was being quite astute. As in February 1917, earlier this year Egypt’s long-ruling dictator was overthrown, and as in October 1917, we have a group as extreme as the Bolsheviks, the Muslim Brotherhood, eager to cease power. The question remains, however, as to how closely the transitional council in Egypt resembles Russia’s hapless and shot-lived provisional government. The former seems slightly stronger than the latter, and indeed has promised elections. Crucially though, the world is watching Egypt, ready to step in in a way it couldn’t in 1917.
I’m not saying James is wrong; his is a very good point, and the thing it implicitly predicts, that one autocrat will merely be replaced with anther, might well come to pass. Yet however interesting this debate is, it is ultimately only frivolous academic speculation. It might be interesting to discuss such parallels after a good dinner, but it is ultimately useless in predicting what is really going to happen in Egypt. That only time will tell.