-- Published: Friday, 4 November 2016 | Print | Disqus
By Jeff Thomas
In every country where a revolution has taken place (whether it be a “soft” revolution, or a violent overthrow), those who are part of the winning team make a point of glorifying the revolution and all the “good” that it has brought. For this reason, the inhabitants of most countries where a revolution has taken place at some point in their history, will believe that the revolution was positive. In countries where that revolution was opposed, the people will most likely regard the revolution as negative.
As an example, Frenchmen tend to praise their revolution of 1789, in which the aristocracy were overthrown. Since then, the emphasis has been on “the little man.” The little man would not only be treated equally to the aristocrat, he would receive preferential treatment. Not surprisingly, this devolved into the socialism that dominates France today. In spite of the dysfunctionality of the French system, most Frenchmen fondly praise the revolution and the “freedom” that it ostensibly created for them.
And then we have the Cuban revolution of 1959. Its stated purpose was to overthrow the aristocratic Batista Regime and a replace it with one that favoured the campesinos. The aristocracy was removed and ownership of most everything moved to the state. There is most certainly greater equality in Cuba today (albeit at a very low level), and yet we’re taught to regard the Cuban revolution as having been destructive, as it devolved into socialism. Although the current system is largely dysfunctional, the Cuban people, even today, speak of the freedom that the revolution created for them.
These two examples are similar, and yet Westerners are taught to regard the French Government as an enlightened body of men and women who spend their waking hours legislating for ever-increased goodness for the French people, yet we’re equally taught to regard the Cuban government as tyrannical rulers over an oppressed people.
The perception of the results of the respective revolutions would seem to have little to do with the reason for the revolution, it’s immediate outcome, or its eventual outcome and have more to do with whether the leadership of the country is “on our side” or not. Those countries where the leaders align themselves with our own country are good and enlightened, whilst the leaders who do not align themselves with our country are tyrannical dictators. The true level of freedom for the people is not really at issue.
“We’re Not Going to Take it Anymore”
So, let’s take a thumbnail view of revolutions. The premise behind the desire for revolution is always the same – a segment of the population feels that the government (and very possibly their cohorts) have become oppressive and should be overthrown. When the history is written by the victors, they will endeavour to create the impression that the entire population had risen up; however, this is never the case. A dissatisfied minority succeeded in taking over.
So, what, then, of the majority? Well, prior to the revolution, they sat along the sidelines and tolerated whatever perceived injustices the former government imposed upon them. During the revolution, they often sat on the sidelines, hoping to have as little involvement as possible and, after the revolution, they generally sat on the sidelines, hoping to benefit from the new regime, or at least avoid being victimised.
In Russia, in 1917, a relatively small number of people overthrew the aristocracy, and were then faced with the problem of taking over. They had no experience in this and didn’t know where to begin. Enter Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin, who had little to do with the revolution itself but, through funding from London and New York banks, were able to pay the Russian military and police to establish order to a cursory degree. Once this was achieved, they used the military and police to establish order to a ruthless degree. (Not exactly “saving the little man from the oppression of the aristocracy”.) As Mister Lenin himself said,
“One man with a gun can control one hundred without one.”
In the aforementioned France, in 1789, the aristocracy was overthrown by a relatively small number of revolutionaries and, again, the victors had no real experience in running a country. Enter Maximilien Robespierre, a lawyer with a flair for control and a contempt for the hoi polloi. However, he was good at rhetoric, and the people cheered as he lopped off heads. This, in spite of the fact that he most certainly did not deliver “freedom” to the French people, only the illusion of it. As he himself stated,
“The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”
Meet the New Boss – Same as the Old Boss
And so it has gone, in one revolution after another. Whether it be a soft revolution, or a violent one, it’s generally followed by a disorganised and often violent period, where commerce, social stability and freedom suffer, at the very least, for as long as it takes the new management to pull it all together, and, in most cases, long thereafter. From Juan Peron in Argentina, The Shah in Iran, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and countless others, revolution has meant diminished liberty and hard economic times.
Meet the New Boss – Worse Than the Old Boss
In some cases, such as Mao Zedong in China, Idi Amin Dada in Uganda and Pol Pot in Cambodia, conditions worsened considerably after the revolution had “freed the people,” sometimes for decades.
It should be said that there have been a few cases of both soft and violent revolutions in which the new leaders were truly visionary and ushered in an era of greater freedom, such as the American revolution of 1776, Corazon Aquino in the Philippines and Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Yet, even in these cases, the rot set in almost immediately through individuals within the new governments who sought to re-create authoritarian power within an otherwise positive takeover.
Be Careful What You Wish For
The American revolution notwithstanding, violent revolution almost never ends well. The odds are poor that you’ll get a more just leader or the greater freedoms that the revolutionaries have promised.
Today, we’re observing the deterioration of the world’s most prominent capitalistic countries, all at the same time. Each has devolved into a fascist state. Again, to quote Mister Lenin,
“Fascism is capitalism in decline.”
Quite so. And, like many Russians in the early days of the twentieth century, we see an increasing number of citizens of the former “free world” realising that the decline of their countries is baked in the cake; that things are not likely to improve in their lifetimes.
And so, many fantasise that a revolution of some sort will occur. They hope for a soft revolution (virtually no chance of that happening), or a violent one – possibly generated by the millions of gun-owners across the country. Unfortunately, no amount of handguns and assault weapons will equal their government’s arsenal of tanks, drones, chemical weapons, etc. A revolt could occur and spontaneous nationwide guerrilla tactics could make it difficult to put down, but the likely outcome would be years of strife and bloodshed, followed by dramatically-increased authoritarian rule.
A third option might be to accept that, yes, the decline into fascism is a dead end, but then, so, in all likelihood, is revolution. That being the case, those who see two possible negative outcomes and no positive one, might take the simpler step of internationalising - moving to one of the many countries that are not presently on the ropes.
Jeff Thomas is British and resides in the Caribbean. The son of an economist and historian, he learned early to be distrustful of governments as a general principle. Although he spent his career creating and developing businesses, for eight years, he penned a weekly newspaper column on the theme of limiting government. He began his study of economics around 1990, learning initially from Sir John Templeton, then Harry Schulz and Doug Casey and later others of an Austrian persuasion. He is now a regular feature writer for Casey Research’s International Man (http://www.internationalman.com) and Strategic Wealth Preservation in the Cayman Islands.