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So What Makes A Revolution End Well?
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So What Makes A Revolution End Well?:

 1 Game Chainsaw, Tue, 27th Dec '11 1:26:35 PM from sunshine and rainbows!
The Shadows Devour You.
There's an awful lot of talk of revolution, violent or otherwise, on this forum, and an equally big (in fact bigger) backlash against the idea. History is littered with examples of regimes and ideologies being overthrown. A few have ended up with a better society. Far more have ended in new problems or utter catastrophe, sometimes... leading to more revolutions.

With this in mind, what makes a successful revolution? As in, one that leads to a system better than the one it replaced?

For the record, as the American Revolution is bound to be cited as one of the good revolutions, consider the effect on the Native Americans. Britain had deals with the native tribes not to attack them. This protection was lost when we were kicked out. Manifest Destiny and the Trail of Tears may never have happened had Britain won the war. So, while the result may have been the worlds first democracy of the modern era for the white settlers, one must always consider the consequences of even the most benevolent looking revolutionaries.
 2 Flyboy, Tue, 27th Dec '11 1:29:27 PM from the United States
Decemberist
What makes a revolution end well?

Luck, mostly.
"Shit, our candidate is a psychopath. Better replace him with Newt Gingrich."
 3 Aceof Spades, Tue, 27th Dec '11 1:34:17 PM from The Wild Blue Yonder Relationship Status: Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free
Well, the basic idea was the white settlers didn't like that Britain made that decision (and various others) without the settler's representation. But, I think a major thing about revolutions is that you have to have a solid plan for what to do afterwards, and people who are inclined to work together in order to make a stable government afterwards. Which is what the Founding Fathers had. They had a fairly good idea of what they wanted to do, and had formed pretty good ties with each other during the war. And had been discussing their options since before they declared war. The people involved in the French Revolution... not so much. They sort of cannibalized each other.

Much of the problems we have today is that various factions that worked together no longer see a reason to do so and start power grabbing. (Which is far from a new problem.) A lot of the planning for what happens afterwards needs to be done during the revolution itself, so that people can start getting on the same page. It's important to consider what will happen after instead of just waiting till it happens.
Unchanging Avatar.
The leaders of the revolution have to be willing to give up power, as well as creating a good, sustainable system.

And the American Revolution was clearly a successful one. The victimization of the Native Americans was terrible, but hardly a consequence of the way the American Revolution turned out, except in the sense that the US was formed at all. The Native Americans were basically doomed. They had a lot of land, they weren't at all modernized or organized, and they weren't European. Look at Britain's track record. Given enough time, they would have broken that treaty. Linking it to the outcome of the American Revolution is not really a fair connection to make.
Except for 4/1/2011. That day lingers in my memory like...metaphor here...I should go.
Three-Puppet Saluter
Oh, and also: don't push the revolution after it is clearly over. Your odd guerrillas are allowed to be counter-revolutionaries worthy of punishment. People who disagree with you but don't try to kill you are not. And most of your opponents would probably just like to surrender, thanks.

Seriously, I think that's been the downfall of every single revolution that did have a significant downfall.
Hail Martin Septim!
 6 Game Chainsaw, Tue, 27th Dec '11 1:45:08 PM from sunshine and rainbows!
The Shadows Devour You.
[up][up]True. There's every reason we could've turned out as badly or worse, over the course of time.

edited 27th Dec '11 1:45:41 PM by GameChainsaw

 7 Flyboy, Tue, 27th Dec '11 1:51:58 PM from the United States
Decemberist
Not killing everyone in the former government might be a good idea, too. Many probably didn't have a choice in serving the government, and you can't rightly run a nation properly if you don't have a shit clue how do to do it and everybody who does is dead thanks to your short-sightedness...
"Shit, our candidate is a psychopath. Better replace him with Newt Gingrich."
Well, I think there are two factors that you must have for a revolution to work.

1) You need a stable system to implement that the people agree with after it's over.

2) Your leaders must be willing to step down and give up power once their time is up.

Without either of those, a revolution is doomed.

 9 Game Chainsaw, Tue, 27th Dec '11 1:58:06 PM from sunshine and rainbows!
The Shadows Devour You.
You also need a guarantee that an external power isn't going to come in and screw everything over. Look at France; it was promptly dogpiled.
 10 The Earth Sheep, Tue, 27th Dec '11 2:25:46 PM from a Pasture hexagon
Christmas Sheep
Ideally, there'd be no killing or death, but that would never work pragmatically.

What it really takes is an intelligent leader at the helm. Look at Washington, or the guy from the French Revolution that I cannot for the life of me remember the name of. Lenin was very intelligent, and his revolution turned out great. It wasn't until Stalin that things started to suck, and Stalin was a moron.
Still Sheepin'
 11 Flyboy, Tue, 27th Dec '11 2:30:20 PM from the United States
Decemberist
Lenin was very intelligent, and his revolution turned out great.

If I remember correctly, Lenin slaughtered a fuckton of people himself before Stalin was even noteworthy, including the entire Russian royal family (not just, you know, the important people, but the whole damn thing, children and all).
"Shit, our candidate is a psychopath. Better replace him with Newt Gingrich."
Pro-Freedom Fanatic
Being done by a coalition of anti-regime forces instead of by a single monolithic faction helps, provided that the groups forming the bloc don't hate each other's guts.

That way, after the revolutionaries overthrow and obliterate the former regime, there's still a certain degree of pluralism... And member groups are likely to want some checks and balances in place to guarantee that the other Reb groups don't go for them next.

[up] Pretty much. Lenin and Trotsky weren't as evil as Stalin, but they were perfectly willing to oppress and crush other working class left-wing groups. The USSR become a dystopian hellhole because the Bolsheviks chose to use the civil war as a chance to suppress the Mensheviks, the Social-Revolutionaries and the Anarchists, thus turning a proletarian revolution into a single-Party totalitarian dictatorship.

There's simply no excuse for persecuting other left-wing groups: When bonafide revolutionaries try and suppress each other, they ain't actually fighting the dominant classes, but establishing an autocracy of their own. Lenin was right in the notion that the proletariat must exercise "dictatorship" (violent class domination) over the burgeoisie... But establishing a dictatorship of the party over the proletariat ain't the recipe for revolutionary success: It's taking the fast lane straight to 1984.

edited 27th Dec '11 2:41:36 PM by SavageHeathen

You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
 13 Octo, Tue, 27th Dec '11 2:39:10 PM from Germany
Prince of Dorne
It does seem that the two options for a successful revolution are to either coopt the majority of the old regime, or simply ruthlessly kill them all, the good ones with the bad ones.

Which is a really depressing though.
Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken.

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 14 Game Chainsaw, Tue, 27th Dec '11 2:42:53 PM from sunshine and rainbows!
The Shadows Devour You.
You don't necessarily have to preserve elements of the old regime, but whatever you remove you have to be ready to replace. And the further down the chain of command you go, the more complicated the roles you are replacing get. Replacing a head of state is less complicated than replacing an entire legislative system which is less complicated than re-establishing the higher-level bureaucrats and high-ranking generals, which is in turn less complicated than if you have to literally rebuild the entire bureaucracy and military of the nation.
 15 Aceof Spades, Tue, 27th Dec '11 2:42:55 PM from The Wild Blue Yonder Relationship Status: Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free
Well, the American Revolution didn't so much co-opt or kill the old regime as simply kick it out of its yard. The Loyalists were pretty much free for tarring and feathering, but they couldn't exactly reach the king and his family. The distance between countries, as well as England's other conflicts, were factors that contributed to the success.
Unchanging Avatar.
@Sheep: Robespierre? Are you serious?

Seriously, look the guy up. Then come back and tell me his revolution turned out well.

Edit: Wow, that turned out really hostile. Sorry. I didn't mean it to sound that way.

edited 27th Dec '11 3:18:31 PM by Ultrayellow

Except for 4/1/2011. That day lingers in my memory like...metaphor here...I should go.
 17 Octo, Tue, 27th Dec '11 3:22:01 PM from Germany
Prince of Dorne
Well, it turned out successful for a while. Not for himself, of course, but the foreign interventions were beaten back and all that, so the revolution was saved until the Corsican Ogre usurped it.

Now, good... not really. Though I must admit I always had a sort of sympathy for the devil like view on Robespierre. Did you know his first speech in the National Assembly was on abolishing the death penalty? Yeah...
Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken.

Unrelated ME1 Fanfic
Pro-Freedom Fanatic
Things That Help:

  • Pluralism among revolutionary groups. (It prevents tyranny)
  • Thorough dismantling/destruction of the former regime's police force and military command. (It prevents counter-revolution)
  • Internal democracy in the revolutionary movement.
  • Quick redistribution of wealth. (As long as the working classes get their share from the plunder, they won't riot)
  • Dismantling of counter-revolutionary institutions (It renders counterrevolutionaries voiceless and irrelevant).
  • An anti-authoritarian ethos.
  • A hands-off attitude about people's personal lifestyles.

Things that Don't Help At All:

  • A dogmatic, monolithic, authoritarian vanguard party.
  • Compromises with the dominant classes.
  • Allowing elements of the former regime to retain any power, status or influence whatsoever.
  • Suppression of divergent schools of thought amongst the revolutionaries.
  • Mutual hatred among revolutionary groups.
  • Delays in going through with the revolution's program: It demoralizes the masses real fast.

There's a long list of stuff on both sides, but I think it's book material: Can't do justice to it all in a single post.

edited 27th Dec '11 3:52:10 PM by SavageHeathen

You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
 19 Flyboy, Tue, 27th Dec '11 4:02:37 PM from the United States
Decemberist
Well, the question here is semi-faulty, because it doesn't specify what type of revolution we're going for here. It could be a communist bloodbath, as Savage so desires, or a military coup, or any number of other types of revolution, each of which is quite different.
"Shit, our candidate is a psychopath. Better replace him with Newt Gingrich."
 20 Aceof Spades, Tue, 27th Dec '11 4:05:04 PM from The Wild Blue Yonder Relationship Status: Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free
There's also the fact that material resources are necessary for a sustained victory. If you can't successfully feed people, or have a plan to do so quickly, you're going to have chaos and dissatisfaction on your hands very quickly. If you can't keep your army armed, then your military coup falls apart real fast. You have to have some plan to keep the economy going once you've gained control. And you have to have a way to wield your authority (however much you decide the rulers should have) in an effective manner.

edited 27th Dec '11 4:06:10 PM by AceofSpades

Pro-Freedom Fanatic
True: If you go all Khmer Rouge in the productive infrastructure, you're going to have mass famine real quick. Unfortunately, if the counter-revolutionaries apply scorched earth tactics to deny the Revolution resources, it's also possible to get there through no fault of your own.

At any rate, a modicum of technical and economic competence (enough to get production, transport and communications going) is needed to prevent starvation and misery.
You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
 22 feotakahari, Tue, 27th Dec '11 8:16:34 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
Allowing elements of the former regime to retain any power, status or influence whatsoever.

I note that other Tropers mentioned this as one of the things that does help a revolution end well. I understand that not doing this was one of the reasons the overthrow of Saddam Hussein went so badly, so I'm a little suspicious of the accuracy of your statement.
That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
 23 Flyboy, Tue, 27th Dec '11 8:27:53 PM from the United States
Decemberist
Well, the two lines of thought go like this:

  • You can give no ground and slaughter/imprison/marginalize absolutely anybody in the old regime or connected to it and (attempt to) force them to capitulate through any means necessary.
  • You can try and compromise with the old regime or the less unsavory elements of it (assuming you're fighting an authoritarian dictatorship or some such) and build a new coalition government to try and build trust.

Both of them have issues, and are situationally useful, though the second is more ideal than the first.

edited 27th Dec '11 8:36:55 PM by Flyboy

"Shit, our candidate is a psychopath. Better replace him with Newt Gingrich."
Pro-Freedom Fanatic
[up][up] There wasn't a domestic revolutionary movement to hand power to, so nothing in the administration worked at all. Had there been a revolutionary coalition (like in Libya), it would've been possible to just hand power to them outright.

Long story short: If you have a functional replacement for administering the infrastructure, you can show no quarter. If you don't have it, you've gotta make concessions towards the less unsavory elements of the old regime (those who defect early, that is).

edited 28th Dec '11 5:21:08 AM by SavageHeathen

You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
It depends; what are the criteria we're laying out to decide if any given revolution has ended well? Positive criteria, I mean, not just things like "doesn't oppress the people" (which is a good thing, yes, but does very little to show what the revolutionary government should be doing).

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