The Financial Express

Revolutions in the 21st century perspective

| Updated: October 27, 2021 20:20:09

Mutinous Indian Sepoys, 1857 Mutinous Indian Sepoys, 1857

Human species is revolutionary by birth. He is a born rebel. Since his earliest stage, he has been demonstrating the trait to express his dissatisfaction with the prevailing state he is in. It has seemingly made him superior to all his contemporaries. This unique progress from one stage to another has defined his long journey. Man has never felt comfortable either on being left alone. All along his march which began several thousand years ago, man has continued to be part of a community larger than the previous one. It is an ever expanding camaraderie which has defined his unique place on this earth. As part of a historical process, the spirit of helping the camaraderie alive became a part of human dialectics. Man's love for organised revolutions, thus, began taking root.

Man may not have come to this stage of progress without non-stop pushes coming from revolutions one after another. To put it briefly, human history is replete with the urges for change. In popular parlance, these very trends prompt revolutions. An irony also remains at work. It focuses on some people who resist all kinds of change. As part of the dictates of history, changes are anathema to large sections of people in every stage of human progresses. These forces purely represent retrogression. Social segments belonging to this category in society, or in the broader spheres of a nation, have always loved to remain stuck in the monolith of aversion for change. The invisible gusts of change have, however, swept the agents of sloth away. Those keep growing alongside the forces that bring about social changes.

Human beings are unique in this universe. That they want to see changes occur in every phase of history also demonstrates this uniqueness. Why particular groups in society call upon others to join a revolution? The reason lies in the mundane desire to live in happiness.  Helping a popular uprising occur has hardly been prompted by unfulfilled aesthetic or transcendental quest. These areas have little links to revolutionary spasms. The disciplines of aesthetics, philosophy or different branches of science have their distinctive ways of choosing newer paths. Once a theory of physics or a particular music notational evolution has been proven authentic and dependable, there are few scopes for rejecting them outright. However, there have been occasions when they undergo phases of evolutions. Isaac Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation and Albert Einstein' Theory of Relativity are expected to remain unchanged as long as this solar system remains in place. So are the cases for the compositions of Mozart, Beethoven or Bach. In a way, these compositions have attained the status of being completely unchangeable. Only a moron can think of altering or punching his own lines into Hamlet's long soliloquy. But in contrast, the means of a traditional socio-economic revolution has been witness to changes in forms. In most cases they couldn't achieve the desired goals without conflicts and bloodshed.

The coarse demands that man remain well fed and properly clothed, and have secure shelters, have been the sparks of revolution for ages. Along with the fulfilment of these prerequisites, it was also the strong human urge for freedom which had led to revolutions in different times. The first such rebellion is presumed to have occurred in Rome between 73-71 (BCE). It was called by the heroic gladiator Spartacus, a slave. That's why the revolt is also known as Spartacus Revolt. Dozens of rebellions and acts of revolt followed in the next centuries. Notable of them were the American Revolution that took place between 1765 and 1791 on today's US soil. It was followed by the world's first ever blood-smirched rebellion against the French royals and nobility by the plebeians. The French Revolution took place for almost a decade from 1789 to 1799. Regional rebellions followed in the world's colonised regions.

The mutiny that took place in the British empire-ruled colony of the Indian sub-continent against the imperial army stands out with its unflinching resolve. The rebellious Indian soldiers lagged behind the British colonial army in terms of military strength. But they were blessed by the solidarity they had developed between the peoples living throughout the length and breadth of the colonised India. The Indian mutinous soldiers miserably lacked the enemy's firepower, which led to their crumbling down in a short time. The Sepoy Mutiny may have failed, but in the annals of history of revolutions it was capable of carving out a distinctive place.

Unlike the revolutions organised in Russia, China, and replicated in many parts of the globe for creating a classless society, the earlier rebellions were free of set guidelines or dogma. Despite being fired by the urge to create an egalitarian society, the French Revolution didn't follow any 'guide book' delineating the dos and don'ts of a revolution. What they kept looking to was the writings of Voltaire, Rousseau et al. A so-called revolutionary spontaneity pervaded the globally watershed event.

The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and, much later, those in Cuba and a number of Latin American countries in the late 1950s to `60s were kept bound by the tenets highlighted by Karl Marx. Although the founder of the Russian socialism --- Vladimir Lenin --- followed the Marxist theory verbatim, he is also said to have improvised it at places suiting local needs. The people of the former Soviet Union led and guided by great Marxists like Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and many others have enjoyed the fruits of revolution in their humble ways. That the vast country with its rigid style of rule would crumble one day had, however, been a foregone conclusion. After all leaders are humans with all their virtues and shortcomings. The alleged excesses indulged in by the administrative honchos coupled with the creation of an oligarchic class and the highly exclusive pockets hastened the downfall of the Marxist state. Moreover, the ordinary people's disillusionment with empty shelves at collective shops and midnight knocks at the door, the dread of Siberian labour camps etc sapped out the giant state's inherent strength. The last nail was driven by its implacable rivalry with the USA. Despite the signs of a workable detente following seemingly endless peace offensives on the part of the two powers, the 70-year-old communist giant continued to weaken economically and socially to finally collapse in 1991. Surprisingly, China, the lone communist giant in the present world remained cautious from the very beginning.

Despite following Marxism, China called its system a home-grown one. Its supreme leader Mao Zedong and the others haven't followed the Russian path. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the communist China didn't forget its agricultural past. Only in the recent years in the 21st century, it entered the age of space expeditions. Revolutions' historical processes have not undergone much change. The 'world shaking' revolutions occurring in the 20th century were not supposed to falter noticeably. Whether they were able to offer the fruits of revolution to their peoples for a longer time or they failed miserably --- or they were compelled to make theoretical corrections to provide revolution with a solid ground is a different discourse. The vital point is humans have felt the need for changing society.  As a sequel, the pre-Christ world first saw the acts of sporadic rebellions and, finally, all-out revolutions in the 18th century.

Revolutions have many flipsides. The longing for remaining content in material life hardly dies. One may not agree with Lenin, Mao, Ho, Castro or Che Guevara and their ways of bringing change to society, but few will allow others to belittle these heroes' dreams.


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