For the final part of my cultural revolution evaluation, it is absolutely important to look at history. Not all revolutions necessarily lead to a positive outcome for the citizenry. As part of this evaluation, I have decided to ignore some of the more famous revolutions of the past including the American Revolution, the Mexican War of Independence in the early 1800s and the Mexican Revolution of the early 1900s, the French Revolution of the early 1800s, The Nigerian Civil War, the two Boer Wars, and the Cuban Revolution. The American Revolution and Mexican War of Independence led to the creation of the United States and Mexico as independent nations from England and Spain. The Boer Wars were interesting as it was a successful independence movement in the 1880s that eventually led to another war twenty years later where the British Empire took back control of the South African region. The Nigerian Civil War was also a failure as the independent republic of Biafra which seceded from Nigeria would eventually be beaten and brought back under the control of the Nigerian state through brutal tactics that led to international outrage. The closest to the three revolutions I will be analyzing would be the French Revolution, the Mexican Revolution, and the Cuban Revolution. All three were rebellions against existing dictatorships and power structures caused by lack of opportunities and increased poverty that ended up creating over time, the same corrupt power structures (The French Revolution after destroying the monarchy and dealing with multiple Constitutions, wars with other nations, and internal rebellions ended when Napoleon came to power. The Mexican Revolution helped lead to the creation of the PRI, a political party that ruled the country for multiple generations, and the Cuban Revolution which led to the rise of an authoritarian Communist state run by Fidel Castro.) Instead, we will focus on three revolutions that occurred during the 20th Century, the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, and the Chinese Cultural Revolution which had similar origins to the latter three listed above. The one difference between these other revolutions revolved around a new ideology that exploded in popularity in the early part of the 20th Century, anarchism.
If you have been watching these ANTIFA and BLM protests, you have probably seen the universal symbol for anarchy spray painted on streets and the side of buildings. But what does that symbol stand for? If you ask a good portion of our population, anarchy is rebellion against the existing system often through violence. Politicians often use the term ‘anarchy’ to create a negative connotation towards rebels and protestors. But the actual truth of the matter is that anarchism spawned out of the 19th Century as a philosophy and belief in the idea of voluntary cooperation that does not believe in an existing ‘power structure’ to regulate and control peoples’ lives. These power structures can be seen as any entity that tries to create an aspect of societal control, governments, corporations, or religious institutions.
The Russian Revolution is an interesting case because it can be broken down into two revolutions that occurred in 1905 and 1917 and was started by the anarchist labor movement. As the Tsars continued to rule Russia as a monarchy, the various wars that Russia fought in Crimea and Japan in the late 19th Century started taking a toll on the population leading to severe food shortages and poverty. When the protests came, Tsar Nicolas the 2nd responded with violence leading to the Sunday Massacre of 1905. This led to many workers taking control of the production of factories all over the country. Crippling strikes broke out everywhere. By the time the Tsar regained control of the country around 1907, the workers had gained some representation in his government through a parliamentary arm called the Duma. Then, World War I broke out and the Russians aligned with the Serbs. It exacted a terrible toll on the Russian military and led to massive inflation and food and fuel shortages. As Nicolas was off fighting the war, his wife ran the country which led to the murder of her advisor, Grigori Rasputin, and the dissolution of faith in the Russian system. After Nicolas dissolved the Duma parliament, the workers started joining with the radical left, the Bolsheviks, which led to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The first aspect of this Revolution was called the February Revolution. Protestors took to the streets backed by huge amounts of industrial workers. The protests worked as the demonstrators did not back down despite the military violence. These actions led to the Tsar Nicolas II abdicating his throne and creating a provisional government that reinstated the Duma and adhered to liberal rights including freedom of speech, equality, and opposition to violent revolution. But the provisional government made one fatal mistake. They continued the fighting in World War I which led to more internal problems inside of Russia. As the radicalization of the Russian population continued, Vladimir Lenin led his coalition of soldiers and workers in the October Revolution to capture the Duma and overthrow the provisional government which he opposed due to the existence of bourgeoise capitalists leading it. This led to the Russian Civil War which led to the exit of the Russians out of World War I, the Romanov royal family being murdered and the conquest of the country by the Bolsheviks in 1923 which led to the creation of the Soviet Union, the first communist country. In our current revolutionary times, some of the aspects of this revolution seem familiar to what is occurring on American streets right now. That is why knowing the history of this revolution is so important.
Many maybe aware of the independence movement going on in Spain revolving around the region of Catalonia. Catalonia has always had a fiercely independent spirit dating back over 100 years. One of the most notable historical time periods revolved around the Spanish Civil War from 1936 -1940. This war is probably best memorialized in George Orwell’s book Homage to Catalonia where Orwell mostly reflects the point of view of the POUM (The Worker’s Party of Marxist Unification), the militia that he was fighting with in Spain. The war started when Fascists supported by Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy launched a coup and took control of the Spanish government in 1936 after the previous conservative president, Niceto Alcala Zamora was ousted and replaced by the left-wing Manuel Azana. But what happened next is actually one of the best historical examples of anarchism in a major European country (If we exclude various ethnic tribes that have been practicing a form of this idea for centuries in small groups). Small left-wing militias began fighting back and capturing large sections of Spain as well as uniting when necessary to defeat the fascists. Not only this, but the sections of Spain where these worker groups took control created an anarchist economic system that had tremendous success. The unraveling of this success did not take long. Four of the strongest militias joined and formed a group called the PSUC (The United Socialist Party of Catalonia) which the other anarchist groups (Like the CNT and Orwell’s POUM) rejected due to the reformation of social titles and hierarchies. As the PSUC aligned with Soviet Russia and the unwillingness of these other groups to raise arms and risk their lives to defend their way of life, the PSUC took control of the left wing, corporatist movement and eventually lost to the fascists led by Francisco Franco spiraling Spain down into thirty plus years of dictatorial control. Again, a revolution founded on ‘good intentions’ ended up leading to a strong man who repressed left wingers and anti-Catholics during his reign.
Finally, I can not end this post without discussing the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Mao Zedong lived his life as an anarchist revolutionary looking to create a socialist environment inside of China. Before he took control in 1949, Zedong lived on the outskirts of society for decades leading various failed attempts to unify workers. Two things changed which led to his control of China. First, World War II and the Japanese conquest led to strong nationalist sentiment inside the nation. During this time, Mao ended up becoming the leader of the Chinese Communist Party and aligned with the Nationalists to defeat the Japanese. After this war ended, the battle for power began with Mao defeating the Nationalists and becoming premier. As a leader, Mao made a ton of mistakes revolving around his people. His economic system launched with the Great Leap Forward led to systemic poverty and starvation throughout the country when he collectivized the means of production in his country. The Soviet Union, who helped Mao not too long after he attained power, ended up rejecting him and destroying his industrial base which they helped establish which led to the Great Famine. After these failures, Mao initiated the Cultural Revolution which continued his war against his perceived enemies, the educated elite and capitalist influences that had to be crushed for the good of China. As this Guardian article states, “Chinese students sprang into action, setting up Red Guard divisions in classrooms and campuses across the country. By August 1966 - so-called Red August - the mayhem was in full swing as Mao’s allies urged Red Guards to destroy the “four olds” - old ideas, old customs, old habits, and old culture. Schools and universities were closed, and churches, shrines, libraries, shops, and private homes ransacked or destroyed as the assault on “feudal” traditions began. Gangs of teenagers in red armbands and military fatigues roamed the streets of cities such as Beijing and Shanghai setting upon those with “bourgeois” clothes or reactionary haircuts. “Imperialist” street signs were torn down. Party officials, teachers and intellectuals also found themselves in the crosshairs: they were publicly humiliated, beaten and in some cases murdered or driven to suicide after vicious “struggle sessions”. Blood flowed as Mao ordered security forces not to interfere in the Red Guards’ work. Nearly 1,800 people lost their lives in Beijing in August and September 1966 alone.” After this Cultural Revolution, the strength of the Chinese Communist Party became absolute. This same party evolved to embrace statist capitalist ideas inside of a Communist authoritarian system in the present day.
The main reason for posting about these three specific revolutions revolves around how they started. Food and fuel shortages, government incompetence, war, authoritarian structures, and inflation inside of an unfair system will often lead to citizen rebellions. These are the exact problems affecting the United States political and economic systems presently. As in the case of Mao Zedong (And as we are seeing in the United States presently), students and the youth can be used to achieve the agenda of an ideological group. You can also see remnants of the current Democratic Party telling local leaders and police forces to stand down which has similarities to the Chinese Red Guard rampage. When a country’s citizens decide to engage in a revolution, it is absolutely vital that the motivations of the rebels are analyzed and scrutinized. Because for every revolution that leads to increased freedom for a population like the United States and Mexico, there are horror stories like what occurred with Russia, Spain, and China. Stay informed and may peace be with all of you.
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