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Movements Without Leaders

At times, the February 20 Movement in Morocco has been criticized for not having a coherent leadership or a clear set of demands. This gentleman, though he claims to support the movement’s goals, goes so far as to warn that the “pandemonium nature” of the movement could lead to “political and social chaos.”

A few observations from Syria, a far harsher crucible, may provide some encouragement.

    Not having a formal, organised, political opposition that can give voice to the protests was initially frustrating and extremely frightening for many Syrians, yet it was also quite liberating. For one thing it has shown that young and old Syrians are capable of taking control of their own destinies without the stale political opportunists and parties of the past….
    Young popular committees, deep underground in Syria, are liaising and organising among themselves. They are getting their voice to the outside world…and they have learned and adapted remarkably quickly….
    Syrian activists are beginning to find their own voice outside of the anachronistic players that have defined Syrian politics for a generation. As that voice gets stronger, the chance of a fresh new vision for Syria becomes ever more likely.

A movement without a clear leadership may be disconcerting to the authorities in both places, because they aren’t sure who to deal with to contain the dissent. It may also be a sign of broadening popular support. If the demands of either movement could be channeled through a few leaders, it wouldn’t be a popular movement. Conversely, if the demands are coming from the people themselves, there is no way to contain it except to engage the people as a whole.

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