14 October 2010

Non-violent revolution

In my critcism of the Nobel Peace Prize, I didn't address the point that Liu Xiaobo is an advocate for non-violent democratic change in China.

That was because it is irrelevant. It is the violence after the government falls that bothers me, not before.

The Tsar of Russia was removed non-violently, by strikes and demonstrations - the more democratic regime that replaced him lasted a few months, a different gang replaced it, their enemies started a civil war... Long story.

The exemplar of the non-violent revolutionary is Gandhi. He succeeds, the British hand over power, there are rival factions and interests sharing it out, a partition results, social unrest - 5 to 10 million dead.

Both those revolutions might nevertheless have been good things; that's not the point. The point is that either way, the non-violence of the first stage is pretty much insignificant. A non-violent revolutionary is only harmless if he fails.


Paul Lockett said...

The Tsar of Russia was removed non-violently, by strikes and demonstrations - the more democratic regime that replaced him lasted a few months, a different gang replaced it, their enemies started a civil war... Long story.

A counterpoint to that would be the Velvet Revolution. The Czechoslovakian communist regime was removed non-violently by strikes and demonstrations, the country split peacefully and the democratic regimes which replaced the old order have been operating fairly well without any sign of civil war for 20 years.

A non-violent revolution can lead to a violent power struggle, but it doesn't always do so.

A Nonny Mouse said...

This reminds me somewhat of a comment I read in the Jewish Chronicle, where someone said that as all criticism of the state of Israel was obviously based on antisemitism, there was no point in listening to it. It is a wonderful ideology for inuring yourself to all criticism, but in the long run individuals and collective entities who adopt this thought process are liable to come to grief. The very purpose of existence is to reconcile the glowing opinion we hold of ourselves with the appalling things that other people think about us.

Equally there is something here of the classical fallacy, that which holds that the older version of any phenomenon is the correct one, and all innovations are wrong. If Liu Xiaobo is wrong to want change in China, and the existing government is right, then surely the existing regime was wrong to overturn the previous one where Madame Mao and the Gang of Four worked their special magic on the state. That they did so semi-non-violently is irrelevant: think of the consequences.

A Nonny Mouse said...

Looking at the list of peace laureates I find that China has twice been victim of this provocation, inasmuch as the Dalai Lama has already received the prize. But the award is not indicative of what Western Governments think, as Martin Luther King received it in 1964. The laureates are a weird bunch, many of whom have done absolutely nothing to advance the cause of peace, but Nobel's specifications probably are not calculated to make much sense.

The error in your thought, as far as I am concerned, is that you seem to think that there is such a thing as democracy which Western Governments have and other regimes do not. The idea of democracy obviously exists, most regimes wish to be thought of as democratic, but there are always vested interests which do not wish to suffer the inconvenience of being voted out of existence. So it becomes necessary to keep them in power by a variety of weird enactments, involving overt and covert restrictions of the suffrage, deportations and the drawing of new and illogical borders.

Notorious black spots of this nature are the treatment of the American Negro (which is why Martin Luther King and Barack Obama count for two NPPs), South Africa (NPPs to Tutu and Mandela), Israel (2 awards here) and Northern Ireland (2 awards here as well).
China is a people's republic: it is not ruled to suit an Emperor with concubines: members of the Communist Party from all over China assemble and vote on how to administer the country. It is therefore not that different from any Western County in that there are people with power and those who are currently impotent, but feel that if things were done differently they would be in a better position.

Thwarting democratic rule is a very important part of any vested interests agenda. I can think of two good examples. In an American state the authorities placed a polling station in a bus. When voters of the wrong complexion were spotted approaching, it drove away and was chased through the state by the opposition in their cars. This was reported in Private Eye. A much earlier case occurred in Belfast when the electorate was relatively small. A Nationalist who had business in Dublin that day was known to be coming home to vote, so the Unionist signalman delayed the train until after the polls had closed, securing the seat.

Equally, thwarting the operation of the free market is an important part of the strategy of any corporation, even one which has achieved its position by virtue of the free market.