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History in a Broader Context

     Tim Brown asks us not to be misled by the word "revolution". He says:
     To me a political revolution reverses the polarities of power. This happened in the American, English, and French revolutions, from monarch down to people up. In the so-called "revolutions" of the last century this was the alleged objective but the polarities of power were never reverse. before the people have power they must be enfranchised and have a voice in their own destiny.
     In the cases of so-called 'revolutions" by Marxists, Djilas had it right. Marx was an upper-upper class oligarch; Mao and Ho Chi Minh Mandarins; Castro an oligarch from one of Cuba's biggest land-owning families whose properties have still [2000] not been confiscated [his older brother Ramon runs them still]; Mexico's revolution became governance by the PRI, which in turn became an unrepresentative co-opted partner of the traditional oligarchy; the Sandinistas were just a clique of the traditional Conservative patriarchy. In each of these cases what was labeled a "revolution" was really just a changing of the palace guard.
     The historic tradition was and is top down arbitrarily governance of the many by the arbitrarily self-selected few. That definition fits monarchy, "socialist" revolution, or any dictatorship, hereditary or self-perpetuating. It does not fit representative or direct democracy. In the U.S., U.K., and France arbitrariness was replaced by openness. In Russia, Cuba, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua their revolutions simply replaced one set of arbitrary rulers with another set of arbitrary rulers. And, to me, that makes all the difference.

     My comment: I don't think it is so black and white. Even in the United States, power spread slowly down from the property-owning classes to the whole population. The general view today is that in this country, without the backing of people with money, an election cannot be won. On the Cuban side, my guess is that, if a free election were held, Castro would win. Larry Diamond, an expert on democracy, disagrees with me. Whose crystal ball is better?

Ronald Hilton - 2/8/00