Saturday, February 11, 2012

What the Aftermath of a Violent Revolution Looks Like

“Or Your Lying Eyes…” Truth and Fiction in the News Business by Alexander Cockburn.

Any struggle to overturn established power consists of two phases. The first is the struggle to overthrow that power. In this face, since the established power is strong and established, the only way it can succeed is if all the various opposition groups come together and struggle together. Its a Them aganst Us struggle of everyone trying to work to overturn a strong power that is fighting for its own continued existence.

Then, there's what comes next.

Mr. Cockburn quotes a NYT article as follows ....
“‘Nobody holds back the Misuratans,’ said Jumaa Ageela, an elder there. Bashir Brebesh said the same was true for the militias in Tripoli. On Jan. 19, his 62-year-old father, Omar, a former Libyan diplomat in Paris, was called in for questioning by militiamen from Zintan. The next day, the family found his body at a hospital in Zintan. His nose was broken, as were his ribs. The nails had been pulled from his toes, they said. His skull was fractured, and his body bore signs of burns from cigarettes.

“They’re putting themselves as the policeman, as the judge and as the executioner,’ said Mr. Brebesh, 32, a neurology resident in Canada, who came home after learning of his father’s death. He inhaled deeply. ‘Did they not have enough dignity to just shoot him in the head?’ he asked. ‘It’s so monstrous. Did they enjoy hearing him scream?’

“The government has acknowledged the torture and detentions, but it admits that the police and Justice Ministry are not up to the task of stopping them. On Tuesday, it sent out a text message on cellphones, pleading for the militias to stop.

“‘People are turning up dead in detention at an alarming rate,’ said Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, who was compiling evidence in Libya last month. “If this was happening under any Arab dictatorship, there would be an outcry.’”

The one sense I get from history is that it matters how you act during a revolution, and how you achieve your victory in a revolution. If the revolution is a peaceful, non-violent movement for change, then those are the forces that are powerful and respected in the chaotic aftermath of the collapse of the established power. It doesn't guarantee a peaceful and non-violent transition to a stable society in the future. But at least there's a chance it can happen.

On the other hand, if the struggle for change is a violent one, where the most violent and most ruthless of the rebels are the most successful, then these are also the people and groups who are most powerful and if not respected at least feared during the aftermath. And, since they are the ones setting the tune, the chances of a peaceful and non-violent transition to a stable society in the future are pretty much zilch.

On one hand, to achieve real change, what's needed is a mass movement of all opposition groups. But at the same time, it matters how a struggle is conducted, and what examples are set during the struggle. If the day that's remembered is the day that the people came together as a mass and who through their non-violent resistance overthrew a tyrant, then that's what's remembered in the future. That will become the legend.

On the other hand, if the day that's remembered is the day when people with guns fought with the forces of the tyrant, eventually succeeding and overthrowing him/her, then that's what will be remembered. It will be the heroes of that fight, often the most violent, callous and ruthless people, who become the heroes of the new state.. Which means they, and their violence, will likely be calling the tunes in how the new society is created.

Of course, the tyrant also has a say in this. A tyrant like Quaddafy who fights violently and brutally to stay in power, and who fights down to the last breath of the last fool that supports him, tends to force a final violent fight for power in their society, and thus create the sort of aftermath where the most violent and ruthless people who could fight to overthrow him become the creators of the next thing to happen there.

1 comment:

attack on iran said...

Thats a really good point about post-Quaddafi Libya. When there is a fight to the death in a society, it seems natural that the strongest will win. Unfortunately, it seems quite possible that the militias who overthrew Quaddafi will now battle for power among themselves.