Dr Farrukh Saleem
What, why and how of revolutions. What is a revolution? In the simplest of terms a revolution is a “drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving”. In essence two operating terms: thinking and behaving. These drastic, far-reaching changes generally pertain to three things: culture, economics or socio-political institutions.
Why do revolutions occur? Three of the most popular theories are: First, the ‘frustration-aggression theory’-revolutions “occur when frustration leads to collective, often aggressive behavior.” Second, the ‘severe-disequilibrium theory’ asserts that an acute lack of equilibrium—whether economic, social or political—leads to a revolution. Third, the ‘interest-group-social-conflict theory’, which is a Marxist-based postulation, regards revolutions as a consequence of a “power struggle between competing interest groups.”
How do revolutions take place? To begin with, there has to be a ‘motivating ideology’. Secondly, one or more leaders that symbolise that ideology. Lastly, a ‘critical mass’ from among the population that supports both the ideology and the leader(s).
Revolutions are generally of three types: socio-political, cultural or economic (and often all three are merged into one). China’s ‘Great Proletarian-Cultural Revolution’ changed the way the Chinese thought and behaved both in social and political modes. The ‘Islamic Revolution’ in Iran brought in a theocracy in place of a monarchy, bringing in a vilayat-e-faqih in place of a monarch. Iranian thought process and behavior would be the same never again. The storming of the Bastille brought in a radical democratic republic in place of a monarchy—French thinking and behavior would be the same never again.
Question: Is there going to be a revolution in Pakistan? Answer: Highly unlikely. Yes, there is plenty of frustration and, yes, that frustration could lead to collectively aggressive behaviour. But, there is no common motivating ideology, no leader and no indication of the formation of a critical mass. Plus, the counter-revolutionary forces are way too strong and include the PPP, PML(N), MQM, ANP and the Pakistan Army.
The ‘lawyers movement’ had at least some essential ingredients of a revolution—potential leaders in the making and the formation of a critical mass around them. But, all that had a limited objective of “restoring the CJ”. The movement’s leaders somehow failed to stitch in a revolutionary motivating ideology meant to change the way Pakistanis think and behave. Lo and behold, we are back to square one.
Let’s also try to understand anarchism. Anarchism as a political philosophy is a “doctrine advocating the abolition of the government”. The theory of anarchism is that “all forms of government are oppressive and undesirable and should be abolished.” The operative term behind anarchism is the denial of social control over an individual by a central authority.
Anarchist societies are meant to be self-regulating and contrary to popular belief are often well-regulated. Between the 18th and the 20th centuries, French, Italian and Spanish anarchists took control of physical terrain and ran small but successful self-and well-regulated commune-type entities. Anarchists in Spain, for instance, took control of Barcelona and ran collective farms in rural Spain.
Question: Are we heading towards anarchism? Answer: Definitely not. No one is advocating the abolition of the central government; change of the government may be but certainly not its abolition.
Two more things about revolutions: One, revolutions are not made of ‘rose water’ produced on High Street, Edgware. Two, ‘revolutions are not made; they come.’
Neither a revolution nor anarchism. Then what? Aren’t we a ‘study of men in chaos in search of frenzy?’