Why Revolutions Stumble and Fall

Written By: - Date published: 12:28 pm, February 15th, 2011 - 25 comments
Categories: activism, capitalism, class war, community democracy, Deep stuff, democratic participation, equality, International, political alternatives, political education, Politics, socialism, unemployment, workers' rights - Tags: , , ,

When the regimes of Eastern Europe crumbled, it wasn’t surprising that no democratic alternatives to Soviet ‘one man’ management systems had been developed by the people prior to the collapse of the regimes. So there were no examples of democratic management or instances of democratically run organisations that could be expanded,developed and applied over society in general. Consequently, the peoples of Eastern Europe were powerless in the face of predatory western corporations and financial institutions.

Unlike the former dungeon states of the USSR that were ‘transitioned’ to capitalism via external influences, the Arab world has nowhere to transition to. They have been under the yoke of western interests for a long, long time.

That aside, as the regimes of the Arab world are subjected to pressure from below, the same problem exists there as did in Eastern Europe. The people have no readily available and substantive democratic options.

Some people in Tahrir Square may well be speculating how to run and maintain public transport systems democratically; or what a democratic medical system might look like and how it might be administered and run; or how to organise democratic workplaces; or how to develop communities democratically; or how democratic principles might interact with the building and maintenance of necessary infrastructure; or how policing could embody democratic principles; or how the army might be democratically structured. But since they have no experience of organising and acting democratically, any actions they might take will be overwhelmingly  informed by old ways of thinking and old habits.

So, in line with Eastern Europeans, Arabs may well achieve multi-party elections for parliamentary rule, but the foundations and framework of the old regime (financial, political and institutional) will remain in place.

Meaning that hunger will remain. And unemployment will remain. And former arrangements with foreign governments will be honoured by any incoming administration. For an example of crushed dreams or thwarted aspirations, one need only look at the so-called revolution in South Africa where the ANC’s political ambitions (and those of the people) were neutered by an old guard who secured themselves the real seats of power in the financial sector. It’s a case of “He who holds the purse strings…” and the Arab world, like South Africa or Eastern Europe is financially and firmly locked down and in place.

This is very different to the prospects for peoples in Latin and South America where experiments in substantive forms of democracy are well under way. These experiments involve developing institutions that will amass their own distinct institutional memories and allow the people of the region to gain knowledge and habits of democracy. And every step in the development of this new, substantively democratic culture is accompanied by a back step on the part of the old model of organising; a weakening in the hand of corporate and financial elites.

And so, if for some reason or other, the peoples of Latin and South America find themselves gathering in their own ‘Tahrir Squares’, they will have applicable and practical democratic alternatives in their armoury. And crucially, they will have the ‘hands on’ experience of behaving or acting democratically – experience that people across Eastern Europe lacked and that people across the Arab world lack.

In terms of our own situation, we might want to reflect on our own democratic experience and ask how we would or could move forward from our own Tahrir Square moment. There is no spontaneous ‘raising of consciousness’ that will allow us to suddenly act as fully functioning and empowered citizens in a democracy. It takes time. It takes practice. And in that space, if it is during times of crisis, traditional forms of power, informed by established thought processes and habits, will simply be reconstituted and re-asserted.

The fact of that matter is there for all the world to see at the moment in North Africa and the Middle East.

25 comments on “Why Revolutions Stumble and Fall”

    • Bill 1.1

      Jeez. An unsubstantiated statement and a link. If you think my analytical framework is stuffed, explain why rather than indulging in troll like behaviour.

      I did read the link. And by and large, the conclusions are the same there as in the post.

      • dave brown 1.1.1

        There is nothing in common between yours above and the Communist Workers League of Argentina’s article.

        First, the restoration of capitalism in SU, EE etc were counter-revolutions because the gains of the 1917 revolution were wiped out. Workers did have a democratic option which was to kick out the Stalinist bureaucracy that had usurped power and recover political control of state property. Unfortunately the uprisings against the Stalinists were steered towards ‘bourgeois democracy’ with the tragic consequences you note. But it is false to take the view that Tahrir Square can be put in the same category as the fall of the Berlin Wall. One is a revolution in process, the other was a counter-revolution.

        Second, the national revolutions in Africa that broke out immediately after WW2 went so far but as Fanon said, they succumbed to Western neo-colonialism and the assasination of socialist leaders such as Lumumba. There is a revolutionary history that can be uncovered in the current uprisings. So what we see in North Africa today are the continuation of these revolutions as the successor crony regimes are under attack by the masses. Will these revolutions again lead to a dead end of new dictatorships still serving imperialism, possibly, but not necessarily. Certainly not because there is no ‘democratic model’ to draw on. Revolutions produce a profound workers democracy as we saw in Tahrir square. The power of the working class which is only now being mobilised in Egypt can split the base of the army from the officer caste and take power. So the goal of the national revolution can be realised as a popular socialist revolution with its own workers democracy. The halting of the national revolution is not due lack of democracy but its suppression by the counter-revolution.

        Why is Latin America so different from Africa? The populist regimes that threw up nationalist leaders like Peron are no different in kind from say Nasser’s or Ben Bella’s regime. Latin America has yet to complete its national revolutions too. You could argue that the Bolivarian movement is an advance on anything that Africa can offer today but it still has to go a long way to go before the masses take control break the ties with imperialism and go all the way to socialist revolution.

        In each of the examples you use there are revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces interacting. How far the revolution goes is not decided by a lack of democracy, but by counter-revolutionary suppression of the unity and democracy of the working class and other oppressed classes. A closer look at what is still happening in Egypt and still building from Algeria to Yemen will show this to be true.
        http://www.arabawy.org/

  1. joe90 2

    A NY Times article about the use of social media to organise and rouse the youth of Egypt and Tunisia.

    They fused their secular expertise in social networks with a discipline culled from religious movements and combined the energy of soccer fans with the sophistication of surgeons. Breaking free from older veterans of the Arab political opposition, they relied on tactics of nonviolent resistance channeled from an American scholar through a Serbian youth brigade — but also on marketing tactics borrowed from Silicon Valley.

    • Bored 2.1

      Read that this morning: I was left with the feeling that the NY Times would say anything to give credit for events to the Americans…..cynical of me but…..

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        Although to be fair, the local Google exec who helped them (and who was put in solitary for 12 days by the authorities) made sure that they utilised all the latest branding approaches and viral marketing.

      • joe90 2.1.2

        Cynical…perhaps..yet impossible without the ideas and technology..

        • Carol 2.1.2.1

          Others give some credit to Al Jazeera for broadcasting, and posting online, images,videos and reports about the protests daily. AJ, though focuses on the role of social networking in the uprisings. I think there’s a bit of both.

    • Bill 2.2

      Getting people to gather on the streets using electronic means is…well, I don’t see what everyone gets so excited about. Putting up posters used to work just the same but was admittedly limited by cost and time constraints.

      It’s what happens once people have gathered, or after people have gathered, that matters. No amount of texting or twittering or whatever facilitates a roiling flow or exchange of ideas and/or experiences that can aid a better understanding or lead to better informed or democratically inspired actions.

      • joe90 2.2.1

        Sure Bill, perhaps social media is the new poster but this time they’ve been pasted up during daylight hours and won’t be torn down or painted over before anyone sees them.

        • Colonial Viper 2.2.1.1

          Plus harder to detain someone from over the interwebs 🙂

          And when you search them they aren’t carrying pails of glue and stacks of seditious posters 😀

  2. Bored 3

    Perceptive comments Bill, there are as you mention realities that transcend the euphoria of changing a regime. Looking at the French and Russian revolutions both, like Egypt’s were based upon the masses of the people suffering whilst an elite sat like fat cats untouched above. Common to all three was as you mention was a bread crisis, and behind that a financial crisis.

    Like you I noted that the reality the morning after you have celebrated the downfall of the regime (that you held responsible for your hunger) is that you are still hungry. It is this demand to alleviate conditions that warped the French and Russian revolutions into their respective terrors and tyrannies. Resolving the issues takes time and reorganization, and the demand is immediate.

    If the West and the US in particular wish (for reasons of empire etc) for the Egyptian revolution to avoid a fall into anarchy and terror they would be well advised to ensure that the masses are fed.

  3. Colonial Viper 4

    Our own Tahrir Square moment

    Funny, that’s what Trotter just wrote about

    http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2011/02/could-it-happen-here-scenario-inspired.html

  4. just saying 5

    In terms of our own situation, we might want to reflect on our own democratic experience and ask how we would or could move forward from our own Tahrir Square moment..

    If we are able to respond to the shocks of the various crises we face with far more trusting and interdependent involvement within our local communities, we might have a show. I know that’s my attitude and there are a number of like-minded people and groups moving in roughly the same direction. Hopefully momentum will continue to grow.

    Equally, we could become more belligerent, hostile, and suspicious, and we could live out a kind of Hobbesian nightmare. Or pockets of both.

    I fear we may lose you to Central or Latin America sometime soon Bill.

    I hope you find a way to keep on blogging, if you do.

    • Bill 5.1

      I fear we may lose you to Central or Latin America sometime soon Bill.

      Nope. Far too damned hot! Far more interested in developing and applying variations on the Bolivarian Revolution and from my own past experiences to build a ‘good example’ that fits a New Zealand context.

      There’s an embrionic post dealing with such a proposal gestating somewhere in my computer. It’ll get up to ‘the standard’ by and by.

  5. Draco T Bastard 6

    Some people in Tahrir Square may well be speculating how to run and maintain necessary public systems democratically;

    Yeah, I’ve been doing the same thing. The different levels from individual to local to national cause problems. There are a couple problems; 1) ensuring that people have access to the information they need and 2) ensuring that decisions are then made upon that information rather than them being made upon opinion as happens now.

    We don’t have a democracy ATM but a dictatorship with a veneer of democracy.

  6. rjs131 7

    “the Arab world has nowhere to transition to. They have been under the yoke of western interests for a long, long time.”

    As an example, can you outline what Western interests have been dominating Syria?

    • Bill 7.1

      1949: CIA backs military coup deposing elected government of Syria.

      And today, the US regards Syria as a pariah state and is generally antagonistic towards it.

      So although economic sanctions and banning any aid etc might not amount to ‘dominating Syria’, it certainly amounts to bullying….curtailing or setting parameters within which Syria can act.

      Remember 2007 when the Israelis (and I’d suggest they got ‘clearance’ from the US) bombed, what the west claimed was a nuclear facility in Syrian territory? An act of war that drew no military response because….?

      And without US meddling…advancing massive amounts of military ‘aid’ to a belligerent Israel, the US’s ‘cop on the beat’… do you not think that the Golan Heights would have been returned to or succesfully reclaimed by Syria by now?

    • Bill 8.1

      Thanks for that link. The following snippet offers what might seem a rather obvious insight.

      In Egypt, the military chose not to confront the demonstrators, not because the military itself was split, but because it agreed with the demonstrators’ core demand: getting rid of Mubarak. And since the military was the essence of the Egyptian regime, it is odd to consider this a revolution. (…)

      The crowd in Cairo, as telegenic as it was, was the backdrop to the drama, not the main feature. The main drama began months ago when it became apparent that Mubarak intended to make his reform-minded 47-year-old son, Gamal, lacking in military service, president of Egypt. This represented a direct challenge to the regime. In a way, Mubarak was the one trying to overthrow the regime.

      (my emphasis)

      • prism 8.1.1

        The idea of Mubarak’s son taking over was referred to in news reports – it immediately made me think of North Korea. But it sounds a very different situation. Yet if he reduced the power base of the Army that would have been a major change. But where was the son’s power base to come from? His father must have had devious ways of maintaining his position. He would not have underestimated the Army’s liking for control.

    • joe90 8.2

      Thanks kaarearea.

  7. randal 9

    in the history of revolutions none has succeeded unless it has had either the backing of the army or the police.
    skip the romantic bushwa.
    the above is the truth.

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Housing report earns Nats the red card
    National’s failure to acknowledge and fix the housing crisis will be their legacy. Labour will tackle the housing crisis head-on, says Labour Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    1 day ago
  • Sluggish growth reflects nine years of drift from National
    Today’s GDP figures reflect an economy that the National Government has allowed to drift along on the basis of growing population rather than improving productivity and adding value, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “It is important to recognise that ...
    2 days ago
  • National’s campaign of deception an affront to democracy
    Voters this week have a clear choice between Labour’s optimism and honesty, or rewarding National’s campaign of relentless lies, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Day after day National has been deliberately spreading lies about Labour, our intentions and what ...
    2 days ago
  • National’s economy scorecard: D for drift
    New Zealand’s economy is failing the very people it is supposed to uplift, characterised by stalled productivity, exports going backwards and a Government content to let it drift, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. “Voters have a clear choice ...
    2 days ago
  • Another day – another health crisis
    News today that the emergency department at Waikato has turned 180 patients away is another crisis for the Government and its besieged health system, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark. “It’s astonishing that the Government has had to rely on ...
    2 days ago
  • Labour will get tough on loan sharks
      Labour will take a tough stance on loan sharks and make sure that the Commerce Commission is properly resourced to protect Kiwi consumers, says Labour’s Consumer Affairs spokesperson Michael Wood.   “People on low incomes must be protected from ...
    3 days ago
  • GP letter more evidence of failure in mental health
      A letter of complaint by medical practitioners to the Ministry of Health and Capital and Coast District Health Board underlines how badly patients are being let down by mental health services in Wellington, says Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern.  “The ...
    3 days ago
  • GP letter more evidence of failure in mental health
      A letter of complaint by medical practitioners to the Ministry of Health and Capital and Coast District Health Board underlines how badly patients are being let down by mental health services in Wellington, says Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern.  “The ...
    3 days ago
  • Tax cuts when kids go hungry shows National’s lack of moral compass
    National’s campaign of tax cuts that give $400 million to the top 10 per cent of earners, at a time when 120 Kiwi kids every year are being hospitalised for malnutrition, shows they have lost their moral compass, says Labour’s ...
    3 days ago
  • Freight being shifted off planes as fuel crisis worsens
    Export freight is being shifted off flights because of the Government’s failure to manage the risk of disruption to jet fuel supplies, says Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson Stuart Nash. “It has been revealed to Labour that non-perishable export freight is ...
    3 days ago
  • Apologise now Jonathan
    Health Minister Jonathan Coleman must apologise for his part in a $2.3 billion shortfall that has contributed to delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark. “All the Minister could say in an interview this morning ...
    3 days ago
  • National’s health report card shows need for new plan
    From increased GP fees, to kids getting sick from cold homes, to denial of important surgeries, National’s underfunding of health has hurt Kiwi families, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern.   “It’s time to invest in the health of ...
    4 days ago
  • Eye clinic wait downright dangerous
    The fact that 9,500 Kiwis are waiting one and a half times longer than they should to get follow-up eye appointments is unacceptable and dangerous, says Labour’s Health Spokesperson David Clark. “These people are entitled to the reassurance that if ...
    4 days ago
  • National has serious questions to answer over Auckland fuel crisis
    Thousands of air travellers looking for answers to Auckland Airport’s fuel crisis should be demanding the National Government come clean over its failure to secure fuel supply for the airport, says Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern.  “There are serious questions the ...
    5 days ago
  • Come clean on trade before the election
    In the two days before the election, New Zealand MFAT negotiators will attend a negotiations meeting in Japan on the successor to the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), now called the TPP-11. The negotiations are shrouded in secrecy but we ...
    GreensBy Barry Coates
    6 days ago
  • National unravels on transport
    The release of extraordinary information showing that the East-West link could be the most expensive road in the world, at $327 million per kilometre, shows that National is fiscally reckless and out of ideas on transport, says Labour’s Transport spokesperson ...
    7 days ago
  • Saudi cover-up a perversion of democracy
    The Government has been exposed as dishonest after it was revealed that  they were wrong to claim they paid out $11 million dollars to a Saudi businessmen after legal advice, says Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Parker.  “OIAs revealed on ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour supporting Te Reo Māori in schools
    Labour will support a future where New Zealanders from every background will have the ability to use Te Reo Māori in everyday conversations, says Labour’s Deputy Leader and Māori Development spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “Labour will commit to a target that ...
    1 week ago
  • Is National planning a secret fuel tax?
    Sources suggest National is considering a secret fuel tax to fund its controversial Roads of National Significance (RONS) programme, says Labour’s Transport spokesperson Michael Wood. “While the Government keeps up its stream of lies about Labour’s tax policy, sources indicate ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour’s plan for West Coast prosperity
    Labour’s regional development plan for the West Coast will build on its strengths in engineering and tourism, while delivering a much-needed upgrade to the Buller Hospital, says Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern.  “Labour’s vision is for a thriving regional New Zealand, ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour committed to fair and progressive tax system
    Labour is committed to a tax system where everyone pays their fair share and where we start to address the imbalances that have fuelled the housing crisis, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson and Labour’s Revenue spokesperson Michael Wood. "Today ...
    1 week ago
  • A challenge to Bill English
    ...
    1 week ago
  • Flavell’s fake news an insult to Māori voters
    A desperate Te Ururoa Flavell has resorted to fake news about Labour’s position on his unpopular Ture Whenua reforms, says Labour’s Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri. ...
    1 week ago
  • National’s tax cuts reckless and irresponsible
    It is time for Bill English and Steven Joyce to stop the scaremongering and lies, and front up to New Zealanders about the impact of their tax cuts, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. “Bill English has no credibility on ...
    1 week ago
  • Calculator shows Labour’s Families Package delivers
    Labour has launched a new online calculator that show how much extra families with kids will get from Labour’s Families Package, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. “Families can go to www.labour.org.nz/calculator and see how much better off they ...
    1 week ago
  • Strengthening New Zealand’s identity through Labour’s media and film policy
    Labour has today launched its media and film policy aimed at strengthening New Zealand’s identity and providing sustainability for the industry, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour to invest in parents and babies
    Labour will fund an additional 100 Plunket and Tamariki Ora nurses to increase the help available for vulnerable parents and babies, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. “It’s so important that our children get the best start in life. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour to build affordable homes and state houses in Hawke’s Bay
    Labour will build a mix of 240 affordable KiwiBuild starter homes for first home buyers and state homes for families in need in Napier and Hastings, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. “In 2016, the populations of Napier and ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour pledges more for Whānau Ora
    Labour will strengthen the oversight of Whānau Ora and provide an extra $20 million over four years to improve outcomes for whānau and families, says Labour’s Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis.    “We’ve created a new position of Whānau Ora Reviewer ...
    2 weeks ago
  • National’s housing band aid
    Throwing subsidies at an under-supplied housing market is one last desperate bid by National to be seen to do something about the housing crisis, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “First home buyers have been the collateral damage of National’s ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Housing, families, education and environment top priorities in Labour’s first 100 days
    Labour will take urgent action in its first 100 days in office to expand support for families and students, make rental homes warm and dry, find solutions to the mental health crisis and accelerate efforts to clean up our waterways, ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour pledges to unlock funding for Te Hiku sports hub project
    The Labour Government will inject nearly $3 million into the Te Hiku Sports Hub project, to help realise a much-needed health and recreational facility for the Far North, says Labour Deputy Leader and MP for Te Tai Tokerau Kelvin Davis. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s plan to get job seekers into better work
    Labour will provide real support for people looking for work by increasing the amount of money someone can earn before their benefit begins to reduce, reinstating training incentives, and putting a renewed focus on upskilling and training, says Labour’s Social ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour sets strong target and plan for climate action
    Labour will set a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and take the necessary steps to achieve it, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern.  “Climate change is my generation’s nuclear-free moment. We have to take our place ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Are education cuts missing in National’s Fiscal Plan?
    National needs to explain why its plans for cuts to school transport have not been announced in its fiscal plan, says Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins.   “Buried in the Pre-election Budget update is a $5m a year cut to ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Joyce must come clean on Health and Education funding
    Steven Joyce needs to front up to New Zealanders and tell them whether he will fund health and education to meet increasing cost pressures, or risk seeing services cut and costs increase for parents, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson.  ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Housing crisis is National’s legacy
    Reports of tenants languishing in boarding houses for years because they cannot get a state house is yet more evidence National’s legacy is the housing crisis, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “We used to pride ourselves in this country ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour calls for release of report into civil defence flaws
    The National Government must stick by its word given to other political parties and release a technical report before the election addressing critical flaws in New Zealand’s civil defence capability, Labour Civil Defence spokesperson Clare Curran said today.  “Cross party ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Credibility shot as Government runs out of steam
    New Zealanders are witnessing the desperation of a government clinging to survival, evidenced by policy on-the-hoof, dodgy maths and dirty politics, says Labour MP Phil Twyford. “New Zealand had been hoping we’d seen the end of dirty politics, but what ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Steven Joyce must apologise to New Zealand
    Steven Joyce needs to front up to New Zealanders and apologise for his patently false and cynical attack on Labour’s Fiscal Plan, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Every respected economic commentator has come out and said that Labour’s Fiscal ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Bill English didn’t answer because the Oreti is badly polluted
    Last night Bill English was asked by Paddy Gower in the Leader’s Debate: “Which river did he swim in as a kid, and is it now polluted?” Bill English named the Oreti River, but did not answer whether it is ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Nats put out dodgy numbers – again
    National’s promise to increase the number of elective surgeries to 200,000 is bizarre, given Jonathan Coleman has claimed 200,000 electives are already being performed, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Prime Minister’s Award to encourage young people into trades training
    Labour will introduce a $2,000 award for the best pupil in vocational courses in each public secondary school, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. “We know there’s huge demand for trades workers, particularly in the building sector, where construction ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Not another Nick Smith wild goose chase
    Only the election on September 23 can save the country and the RMA from Nick Smith, say Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford and Environment spokesperson David Parker. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Government supresses Climate Change report
    The Government has deliberately sat on a critical Climate Change report for 5 months which they must now release, election or no election, says Labour’s Climate Change spokesperson Megan Woods.  “I want the report released immediately, so that New Zealanders ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Joyce gets it wrong on Labour’s Fiscal Plan
    Labour’s Fiscal Plan is robust, the numbers are correct and we stand by them despite the desperate and disingenuous digging from an out-the-door Finance Minister, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Steven Joyce has embarrassed himself. This is a desperate, ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Making renting secure and healthy
    Labour will move to make renting a more stable and healthy experience for families, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. ...
    3 weeks ago

Because it is now election day, all comments are disabled. In the morning certain posts will be enabled for comments - with full moderation. No comments violating the electoral act will be allowed. Normal service will resume at 7pm.