Revolutionary turmoil and revolutions are complicated and lengthy historical processes. Each has its ebbs and flows of sentiment, opportunistic progress and defeats, memorable events, turning points, martyrs and tyrants.
The process evolves over many decades, even centuries. So the story is difficult to fully comprehend, at the time or even afterwards. Like all history, the events and their significance shift subtly to suit the present in which they are described.
This taxonomic account of political transition only aims to give a simplified schematic sense of the psychological and social factors relevant to political control.
If a revolution replaces one set of elites by another, then no political maturation has occurred. Some reforms may well be introduced. But, in the bigger picture, it was a futile revolution for the people. They died in order to become exploited by a different group of elites.
Russia—where the Czarist regimes were replaced by Communist regimes. The authoritarian brutality and elitism of Stalin was comparable to that of the Czars, possibly worse.
Thailand—a legislature run by Bangkok-centred elite classes has alternated regularly since 1932 with military rule introduced via coups. There have been numerous constitutions. It is evident from the press that everyone knows that the political elites are there to line their own pockets. Currently (2014), there is a stand-off between a populist billionaire family of Thaksin Shinawatra with police support, and the ammart complex including royalists, military, senior bureaucrats and judges. Neither appears to show much concern for the wider public good.
A: Possibly, if the culture enables this.
Such a change is unlikely because one person—the dictator or a king—however enlightened, is rarely free to decide to turn the class system upside down.* The large elite groups around that political figure have a great deal to lose, and are psychologically unable to recognize that the demands for justice by the people are reasonable.
The mass of people are less cultured and usually less educated, so the idea of letting them run the country (even with the best will in the world) does not seem credible or sensible to the elite.
From the perspective of the general public, successful revolution, whether peaceful or bloody, whether partial or total, signifies the emergence of the If it does not, the revolution is unsuccessful—violence yes, new regime yes, new faces yes—but nothing has changed. The fundamentals of in the society have not matured.in .
Once revolution widens the access of certain groups to government, even in a limited way, the path is open. It becomes far easier in the future to provide civil and political privileges and liberties to disadvantaged groups. However, like their forerunners, they too must vigorously stand up for themselves and protest intelligently and forcefully to get their legitimate benefits.
*Nevertheless, this seems to have happened in Bhutan in 2008 with a transition from an absolute monarchy to a multi-party democracy: time will tell.
Originally posted: July 2009; Last updated: 27 Jan 2010