Saturday, March 29, 2014

Revolution -- Book

Marx saw reform and compromise as futile and in many respects illusory. In his view progress was ultimately possible only through revolution. Society needed a social upheaval, a revolution, to promote certain perceived interests, workers interest, and eliminate other interests, the capitalists. In his view this process was natural and inevitable where the learned like himself had only to participate and be its shaman, the wise one. As time passed he became more frustrated with his own prognosis while piling on theoretical constructs.

For Marx organizing took on a secondary role and he even abandoned building of a party. In this respect his disciples, as upholders of any religion do, give lip service to the master's premonitions. For them the revolution became a more romantic endeavor. An intellectual perception that you had to work toward and sacrifice for, as a religious devout does for his rapture. Attempts of Marx for a scientific understanding in the turmoil's of the industrial revolution, turned into a radical intellectual endeavor for itself.

Many political transformations have been called "revolutions", but the most romantic ones for the café intelligentsia or in a way the most dramatic ones are the ones that society enters a turbulent period and for a period of time the lowest strata of the society take the center stage and the leaders of the other strata of the society lose their footings, at least for a while. One of the glaring example of this type was the Great French Revolution of the 18th century. Others, a more recent one is the upheavals in Egypt and a few decades back the 1979 upheavals which brought Khomeini to power and made the clergy as the axis of state power.

In many ways these revolutions are like any other natural disaster. It uproots the people, breaks the "normal" social relations and heightens the opportunistic senses.  In these revolutions the social standing of the individual becomes precarious, the same way as when a flood uproots a community, each member tries to hang on to the smallest float for survival. As much as revolutionary romantics would like to believe revolution does not dig a new path for progress, the same way that a torrential flood does not pave a six lane highway. It throws up everything where radical ideas of the past find an opportunity, mostly in an opportunistic sense, a space for expression, to create a "new" order. It becomes the test ground of those radical ideas and mostly they will fail.

Compared to the American Revolution all the other revolutions, since 1776, have been a failure. None created lasting institutions that the society at large could identify with them. None had Institutions that could respond to the pressures of the contending social interests and forces. None could support the dynamics of the interactions of different interests and none could create a strong society.

All revolutions that have tried to push a particular class or interest as the controlling agent at the helm of the society has failed miserably. All of the supposedly socialist revolutions which made such an attempt all failed. Islamic revolution in Iran is another variation in this futile attempt. It recognized the failure of the communist politics and claimed that the ascendency of a different class, clergy, would solve the problem. This attempt based on a more backward social strata, the mullahs, does not even need as much contemplation as the Marxists experiments. It has been a bigger fiasco from the get-go.

The American Revolution succeeded because it was not of the type of revolutions that I mentioned above. It was a reform movement that was forced to go to war with Britain, as the colonial power was becoming more and more an external element in the social relations emerging in the colonies. Maybe this particular characteristic of the American Revolution explain why this revolution had less appeal and was less romantic, for the intelligentsia of the undeveloped countries, than the Great French Revolution or the October Bolshevik insurrection.

American Revolution was a conscious attempt to take into account all the social interests and molded institutions for this purpose. While slaves were not explicitly excluded in the American Constitution and the founding documents they were not considered as part of the society. At the time slaves were not a social force and lacked any form of political expression as it developed later. Some consider this as a blight on the American Revolution. To me that type of characterization is a form of preaching to the past. It is even more useless than preaching to the present.

American Revolution created enduring political institutions to encompass different interests in the society and these institutions were flexible to grow with the dynamics of the existing social interests and did endure with the emergence of new interests. In contrast, all other major known revolutions were ideological, confessing fidelity to a particular interest and social strata. I think the record is clear about the different states emanating from these revolutions. The later has failed in its test.

Socialist movements of Europe enamored with the failed French Revolution were looking for a way to make such a revolution successful. Some looked into communes to create "égalité" by example. Marx's conclusion was that the French Revolution's problem was that it lacked "proletariat". Marx's proletariat was a different kind than the one French were familiar with its usage in their language. Marx invented one from the cloth of his economic doctrines. Marx claimed that the new proletariat, the industrial workers will do the job, it has to, it is "inevitable".

The Bolsheviks victory proved that Marx's inevitability was a fiction, but the precursor to the Bolshevik coup, the February 1917 revolution that overthrew the czar, was a torrential flood that provided a test ground for preconceived radical ideas.

All the revolutions and transformations in the undeveloped countries in one way or another have been influenced by this Marxist experiment that began with the Russian revolution. All have tried to sever their precarious ties with the advanced democratic countries and all these societies have been harmed, retarding their development at great costs. Obviously the upheavals in the undeveloped societies marked the growth of new political forces that demanded restructuring and needed some form of resolution. But wherever these restructurings were influenced by the Marxists and the leftists they were moved headlong toward an overall failure.

Experience of the last 100 years has shown that infatuation with revolution propagated through the experience of the Russian revolution is quite different from the path to progress and anathema to it.

Revolution is almost as inevitable as natural floods are, and we have to deal with it when it descends upon us. We have learned and are learning more every day in how to deal with floods without cherishing it, we are learning to do the same with revolutions.
The above piece is part of a book that I am developing. If you would like to follow, please read the blogs titled "Perspective..." and then read all the blogs which the title name ends with " -- Book". As you might have guessed, you have to read from the earlier posts moving to the present.

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