One of Two Things Necessary for a Successful Revolution

Mubarak in PrisonHeadlines today are saying that deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak may soon be released from prison.  It is difficult to see how anything but disaster can ensue.

What we’re seeing unfold in Egypt is a bright and shinning testimony that it is not enough to desire to throw off a despotic government in order to produce an orderly and free society. Successful revolt requires one of two things:  1) Some overwhelming power or leverage that will harness or suppress the will of the people, or 2) A social consensus that can produce an orderly replacement to the displaced system.

The Bolshevik Revolution had option number one.  While it is true that there was consensus for the revolt itself, the revolution would never have held without the ability to crush descent afterward.  The poor and oppressed suffered the ravages of Communism, not because they continued to believe in the party and its rulers, or even its ideals, but because they chose to suffer rather than engage the monster they or their forbears had created.

The French Revolution collapsed into utter chaos, like so may of the revolts in the Arab world over the last few years, because there was no adequate social consensus on how the new society was to function.

The American Revolution produced a stable society that has continued through good times and bad because there was a sufficient consensus and core philosophy capable of holding it together.  The core philosophy has morphed over the years but were it to dissolve the U.S would be buried under the rubble of a forgotten dream.  What Abraham Lincoln called the “last best hope of earth” would be no more.

This is true, not only of violent uprisings but also of political transformations of any kind.   From the smallest adjustment, to the grandest renovation, to the violent revolution, the only way to insure successful change without oppression is to win in the public marketplace of ideas, to erect a common system of values which the people honestly hold in common. Those who drive radical change without that consensus only lay the foundations of despotism through the creation of chaos.  Political movements that are driven only by what they are against rather than what they offer in return will ultimately fail.

Please hear this clearly.  Consensus to revolt or even bare political victories are not sufficient to insure success.  There must be a design, or at least a foundational set of values in the minds of the populace from which they can bring forth a society capable of maintaining freedom in order or the revolution will fail.  When it fails, despotism will take its place because no society can long endure chaos.  Those who wish to redirect or transform any trend must first win the hearts and minds of the public.  Without that, they are only sowing seeds of destruction.