In today’s world, the accumulation of vested power in the hands of the individual has paved the way for popular movements that can mature into active revolutions. History stands testimony to the fact that revolutions occur when frustration and repression of the masses crosses a certain boundary. The effects of a classic revolution , depending on the strength of its foundation, can last for decades if not centuries. The French revolution with its empowerment of the common citizen against the elite is an excellent example whose reverberations can be felt even today. Similarly, the Russian revolution and closely linked Chinese revolution continue to shape lives across the globe. What are revolutions? Are these revolutions a natural response to injustice? When do they occur and what are the factors that determine the success and failure of these socio-political reactions? The answers to these queries have much to offer considering the growing inequality and resentment among people of different parts of the world as of 2017.

Revolution , as the word emerges from revolve, among a group of people, is a kind of balancing action that circles the irregularities of improper circumstances. In the context of political science and sociology, revolution is a change in the socio-political regime through a popular movement in an aggressive fashion that alters the power structure, culture and outlook of a society. This explanation needs to be adequately correlated to a historical illustration.

The French Revolution that took place between 1789 and 1799 is rightly called the “mother of all revolutions” of recent history. Inspired by philosophers, artists, poets and writers and implemented by soldiers, labourers, farmers and the common public, the French Revolution raised its head in Europe but spread to the whole world. Reasons behind the revolution are still being debated but a few factors are considerably agreed upon. In the 1700s, France was being ruled by an absolute monarchy. The kingship was being maintained by the wealthy elite who were in control of vast swathes of land and property. A long line of kings of France had made the mistake of spending a ridiculous amount of resources on wars with the English. The pinnacle was France’s involvement in the American Revolution wars against British colonisation. Supplying the army raised national debt which was compensated by charging excessive taxes from the common public and the farmers in general. These taxes coupled with a bad harvest for three years in a row tipped the balance towards public outrage. The catalysts in the process were artists, poets, writers and philosophers. The Enlightenment ideals challenged the traditional views on authority and power. After bitter turmoil, massive killings, civil war and rebellion the monarchical authority was abolished and most of the elite and aristocrats were executed. Estimates range to almost 40,000 deaths. Finally, there was complete end of feudalism, abolition of privileges of noble birth and establishment of fierce equality among people of all walks of life. The French Revolution gave birth to liberal and secular philosophies across Europe. It can be safely concluded that the French Revolution initiated many modern day republics and democracies all over the world. It was one of the turning points in human history without a doubt. A socio-political movement from one part of the world foretold a balancing act in many other countries of the globe. Such is the power of revolutions.

Another elucidation of a classic revolution is the Russian Revolution of 1917 that ended in the rise of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). This time the violent protests were sparked by the Czarist autocracy and their hand-picked parliamentarians called “Duma”. There was widespread famine and degradation among the masses. The Russian engagement in the First World War and the misery it brought to the Russian cities led to protests and mutiny within the ranks of the Russian soldiers and public alike. This was the external agent. War is much more a matter of money than it is of courage. The economic downfall aggravated the labour and working classes. This went hand in hand with the socialist philosophical movement of Karl Marx. His famous concept of “materialistic interpretation of history and surplus value” greatly influenced popular leaders like Vladimir Lenin. As a comparison, the role played by artists, poets and writers in the French Revolution was played by philosophers like Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky in Moscow. After fierce fighting, the Russian Empire collapsed and Emperor Nicholas II abdicated in the eventful year of 1917. The second struggle was between a provisional democratic government which was successfully opposed and thwarted by the worker’s Bolshevik party under the leadership of Lenin. The peasants had finally become the masters.

The Chinese Red revolution had analogous prospects. Intellectuals in China regarded the Russian Revolution as a ground breaking event, and they were utterly sure that it would change the face of China forever. Lenin’s absolute success in 1919 led to public support in his favour in China and it was in 1921 that the first meeting of the Communist Party of China was held in Shanghai. The Government under Chang-Kai-Shek turned violent towards the communist party and a bloody battle ensued. Later on, during the Second World War, the National Government sought an alliance with the communists to give a joint battle front against the Japanese Invasion. After the war, the Americans actively supported the democratic National Government while the Soviets provided active assistance to the communists. On October 1, 1949, Chairman Mao Zedong initiated a full blown war against the nationalists and defeated them after heavy casualties on both sides. Afterwards, Mao with the help of the revolutionaries completely overhauled the Chinese society. His reforms and campaigns ended in the deaths of millions, the numbers are still debated but it did give rise to the superpower that is China today. There is not a single aspect of life in China that the revolutionaries did not alter. This particular setting of reform and change was triggered in the sub-continent as well, but was met with a different outcome.

Applying the same context to Pakistan, a revolution seemed probable in lieu of close proximity to China and Russia. As a counter strategy, the Western powers swiftly hampered communist progress in the region. At the very outset, Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan was made lucrative offers and he readily cancelled his trip to Moscow and opted for Washington instead. Moved by security concerns against a hostile India, the Pakistani foreign policy demonstrated an absolute tilt towards Western capitalism. In return, a membership with SEATO, CENTO and military assistance substituted for carrying out anti-communist activities. In order to check the repression and economic depravity that becomes fodder for a revolution , the American aid that went into construction of dams and food for peace programs played a key role. The temporary economic boom dissuaded the masses from demanding an overhaul of the system. Simultaneously, revolutionaries like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Major Ishaq and General Akbar among others, were jailed in bogus plots like the Rawalpindi conspiracy. Another realization came to during the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and then creation of Bangladesh out of Pakistan in 1971. Once again, the effects of insecurity and economic downturn began to show. In this scenario, military rule and acquisition of nuclear weapons addressed these concerns and the Government actively dealt with revolutionary forces in the country. Assurances of safety came in the form of cricket diplomacy of 1984 when General Zia vehemently warned that if there was any attempt to jeopardise the borders of Pakistan, the army would resort to a full scale nuclear war killing the majority of the Hindus in the world, i.e., India. After Zia’s rule, ineffective political parties with nefarious designs to acquire and maintain power once again brought the country to its knees. But the damage had already been done. The revolution had been weakened through armed interventions. However, militancy and separatist movements could not be prevented. Now, Pakistan is at the cross roads of its history. CPEC and OBOR and active collaboration with a rising China is set to open the doors to a new kind of revolution in Pakistan, hopefully, one of peace and economic progress. With its success, the path to chaos and a bloody revolution will be blocked for good.

 

n             The writer is the Chairman, Jinnah Rafi Foundation.

In the context of political science and sociology, revolution is a change in the socio-political regime through a popular movement in an aggressive fashion that alters the power structure, culture and outlook of a society.