Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Popular revolutions -aren't

The revived discussion of the Revolutionary War founders of the United States, has brought about a some discussion of potential revolutions today.
One problem at a lot of looks at revolutionary movements is that they tend to take a retrospective fix on movements that are successful.
But most movements aren't successful.  They don't even get to the stage where street protests, or armed resistance threaten the existing regime.
Most rebellions are unpopular, and fail.

Early Stage Rebellions Are Never Safe, Comfortable or Popular
Chris Hedges, Truthout, 25 February 2012 (hat tip: NC)
The White Rose has been lionized by postwar Germans—one of its members, Alexander Schmorell, was made a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church last year, and squares and schools in Germany are named for the resisters—but in the BBC interview Furst-Ramdohr curtly dismissed the adulation of the group.
“At the time, they’d have had us all executed,” she said in speaking of most Germans’ hatred of resisters during the war.
Although history has vindicated resistance groups such as the White Rose and plotters such as von dem Bussche, they were desperately alone, reviled by the wider public and forced to defy the law, their oaths of national allegiance, and public opinion. The resisters, once exposed, were condemned in vitriolic terms by most of the German public, and their lopsided trials were state-choreographed lynchings. Von dem Bussche said that even after the war he was spat upon as he walked down a city street. He and those like him who made a moral choice to physically defy evil teach us something extremely important about rebellion. It is, when it begins, not safe, comfortable or popular. Those rare individuals who have the moral and physical courage to resist must accept that they will be pariahs. They must live outside the law. And they must be prepared to be condemned.


PioneerPreppy said...

The problem I have with that particular theory is that it fails to combine some rebellions or revolutions together that should be linked.

A popular movement will go through many stages and in fact some stages can and do encompass more than one lifetime.

Popular opinion is a fickle beast. It changes rapidly and very often not due to any facts or reason. Many a revolutionary was just around at the wrong time only to be honored long after they were dead.

John D. Wheeler said...

Also, wasn't it true that roughly only 1/3 of the colonial population supported the American Revolution, with 1/3 being opposed and the remainder indifferent? Of course, afterwards those opposed went to Canada and the indifferent went along with the victors.

russell1200 said...

Pioneer: Yes that is true, as an example where they are linked is Russia and 1905 1917. But that still leaves a lot of time in between. Also, if you look at Russia, look at how many different revolutionary types there were: and only one very narrow group one. Also often the case.

John: That total is stated a lot, but certainly couldn't be true or events would not have played out that way. The more likely number BY 1775 is close to 50% support for rebellion (not necessarily Independence) and something like 10 to 20% pro-British. One noteable aspect to the American Revolution is that it brought a number of revolutionary groups all into one big tent. A pretty good sign of just how inept the British were at controlling events leading up to the war. The loyalist policies tended to play into the rebels hands and force people to choose sides. Combined with policies like the early British use of Indian allies, and to a lesser degree the Hessians, tended to push people toward more extreme anti-British views. Of course it still took a series of well timed battlefield victories and European support to keep the ball rolling.

John D. Wheeler said...

Ah yes, I think the numbers I quoted were for independence; if roughly only half the anti-independence crowd was actually pro-British and the other half supported rebellion but didn't want complete independence, they add up to your figures.

russell1200 said...

John: They could agree if you counted the people who were willing to stay British if the British Government had been willing to make concessions that were never going to happen.