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A Revolution Done Right

Amaya writes about the fact that the political process in many countries is extremely flawed and is failing their citizens [1] (although she doesn’t actually express it in that way). She asks how a revolution can be done right.

If we look at the historical record, after the French Revolution came the Reign of Terror [2], after the English Civil War Oliver Cromwell [3] took power – his actions are widely regarded as genocidal, and as for the Chinese and Russian revolutions – it seems that the majority of the population didn’t benefit much (if at all) from them. Generally it seems that the only times that a revolution seems to give a good result is when the situation was really bad before AND when the government failed basic measures such as ensuring food supplies.

The independence for the Indian sub-continent which derived from Gandhi’s work can be used as a counter-example. However the ongoing low-level warfare between India and Pakistan is due to a failure of the process.

It seems to me that the required first step towards changing a rotten political system with a minimum of bloodshed is to improve communications. If the majority of the citizens know what is really happening in their own country, how their standards of living compare with those in other countries, and what deals are made between their government and the governments of other countries then they can attempt to work out the best way to improve things.

The free software community is already doing a good job of facilitating communications. The key areas are to have computers that act on behalf of their users (not using proprietary implementations and Digital Restrictions Management to make them act on behalf of corporations and the state), to support strong encryption with public implementations, to be generally as secure as possible, and to run on the cheapest possible hardware so that everyone gets access.

Update: Corrected the spelling of Gandhi [4] – thanks Rick Moen.

4 comments to A Revolution Done Right

  • Russell,

    I couldn’t agree more – in fact, I have been working on something around the whole idea of ‘Revolution from the bottom up’. I was wondering if I could quote this post. I was also wondering if you are familiar with ‘Empire’ and ‘Multitude’ by Hardt and Negri…

  • if you can see past all the American propaganda, the Cuban revolution is one of the very few that was (and still is) beneficial for the population.

    unfortunately, it’ll probably fall over in a heap shortly after Castro dies, which won’t be long now. The American multi-nationals will be back in force within a few years of that and turn it into another third-world labour pool for themselves.

    but, on the whole, violent revolution has an abysmal track record – it generally makes things worse, much worse. Cuba, like India, is notable as an exception rather than the rule.

  • etbe

    Rob: Yes, you are free to quote extracts. I only object when people copy the entire text for commercial purposes (which includes Google Adsense).

    craig: Good point, I had forgotten about that one when writing this post. But given the number of revolutions with really bad results, hoping for a Cuban result seems unreasonably optimistic.

    As for falling in a heap, that depends on how things are going in the US. If enough people in the US realise that by many objective measures the Cubans are better off then perhaps they won’t try so hard to destroy it.

  • gandhigiri

    Here in India, the sensible among us feel happy at the way a comic/sarcastic wholesome/family movie series has been made on the essence of tolerance and non-violence. How these two reform a thug into a good samaritan. The movie makes you laugh quite often too.
    “Munnabhai MBBS” and “Lage Raho Munnabhai”.
    Gandhiji (roughly “Gandhi Sir”) appears to this goon and reforms him. Watch the movies. You’ll love them. You’ll thank me too :-P
    If you have the resources, dub or sub-title them.
    If you have links to more resources, nominate them for awards.
    Wonder why no leftists are actually using Gandhiji’s satyagraha philosophy of tolerant and dialogue-oriented approach. Political talks these days are fronts for personal loots or cartel deals. So, I’m not talking of that kind of dialogue. See, we’re human beings and human beings are supposed to have better instincts than animals who find physical violence the only way to settle disputes or differences of opinion.