For around 400 years the world has seen many revolutions by and in the name of "the people". Some worked, some did not. Some were disasters. Some were colossal successes.
What determines success and failure ? Sometimes ingerence* - interference from foreign neighbors - causes a collapse. [*Word of the Day] Such was the cause of the failure of the 1791 revolution in Poland led by Tadeusz Kościuszko , which was crushed by armies of Russia and Prussia.
The quality of the leaders - usually a singular leader in both senses of the word "singular" - determines if the revolution will evolve into a positive state of government, or devolve into a tyranny. And for revolutions in current times, how do we decide what is happening ? Our information is usually very, very fragmented and imperfect.
One crucial factor seems to be a necessary condition for success, and a sufficient condition for failure. Will the leader permit a peaceful transfer of power, or will he resort to any means to hold on to power ? The answer to that single question seems to link historical failures to each other and obversely to link successful revolutions also.
Here are some examples of success and failure.
Cromwell - he never again held free elections in England after taking power, becoming an unpopular tyrant. His puritanical revolution died when he died and the issues of power in England had to be re-fought (peacefully) in 1689 in the "Glorious Revolution".
Washington - he resigned his command after winning the Revolutionary war and caustically rejected calls for his kingship. Recalled to power eight years later, after two terms as President he then refused to run for a third term, relinquishing power peacefully again. The American revolution went on to succeed for hundreds of years.
Lenin - His Bolshevik party resorted to a killing spree in 1919-1922 rather than share power with other social revolutionary parties. That is documented in historical records and numerous first hand accounts by truly dedicated revolutionaries such as the books by Emma Goldman and Angelica Balabanova. The Communist revolution in Russia became the killing ground for Stalin and the eventual oppressor of eastern Europe for 45 years.
Hitler - that sordid tale is well known. After taking power in 1933, no free election was held in Germany until the Nazi regime was crushed in World War II.
Castro - After seizing power in the 1959 revolution, no free election was ever held. Castro's own sister has documented in a recent book how he began to imprison and kill any opposition leader, no matter how moderate, so that he could retain power.
De Gaulle - after being President, commander in chief and then Prime Minister of France during and after World War II, he left power peacefully in 1946 when political conflict rose. Later in 1958, he led a restructuring the the French government to create the Fifth Republic and became its President. He led strongly, but did not create a party to hold power regardless of opposition. He left office peacefully in 1969. France is a strong nation today, one of the leaders in Europe.
Wałęsa - After leading the "Solidarity" revolution to victory in 1990 and being elected to the Presidency of Poland, he did not try to consolidate power into a dictatorship. He was defeated in the 1995 election and left power peacefully. He is still active in Polish politics. Poland is a political and economic success story in Europe.
The answer: A revolution succeeds when the leader is not blinded by fanatical desire for power. A revolution fails when it is betrayed by its own leader whose lust for power consumes all reason. That is the acid test of a revolution. Revolutions are betrayed by their leader.
What about now ? How do some current leaders shape up on this standard ?
Post-communist Russia - Yeltsin and Gorbachev both left power peacefully. Putin is questionable, as he installed a crony, Medvedev, into the Presidency. However, he did not change the constitution to permit another term for himself - that does show a "bit" of self-restraint. Unclear for now -very risky position.
Venezuela - this is easy - Chavez has changed innumerable rules to retain power. He's evolving into, or is, a tyrant.
Honduras - easy, Zelaya wanted to change the constitution to retain power. He was a potential tyrant, stopped for now by the Supreme Court of Honduras, its Congress and loyal military. Obama and Hillary are ignorantly on the wrong side of this controversy.
Red China - easy, the Communist Party permits no political opposition. It's an oppressive military dictatorship. Whether it returns to its past Maoist butchery is unknown. Red China could easily revert to the darkest side again.
Iran - another betrayal as the current clique of mullahs cling to power using any means. The recent oppression of electoral protests proves Iran is a oppressive dictatorship.
I bought more S&P Dec. call options yesterday on a couple of dips in the post Fed volatility. I have 3/4 of my planned position. This is a risky play on an improved jobs number being reported Friday that could lead to an new leg up in the market. I could lose 50% of the speculation if wrong or make 300% if right.
Word of the Day
"Ingerence" - noun [$1000]; and "Ingere" - verb, obsolete, rare.
Ingerence means bearing in upon, intrusive; interference. Often used in diplomatic of affairs of nations.
Ingere means to carry in, put or push in, obtrude; (reflexive) to thrust oneself in, to obtrude oneself, to intrude, to presume.
Sentence: (I) see * above in the second paragraph of this post. (II) Why does the US government seem compelled to ingere itself into the business of almost every nation on Earth ? The US is neither the world's policeman nor its nanny. Let's leave them alone.