Revolution is in the air - globally. At least, the first wave of revolutionary fervour has struck the world, commencing from unlikely Tunisia, spreading through dormant Egypt, toppling the Libyan strongman to the North African-Arabian Peninsula rejoiced in the Arab Spring. Yet, the Occupy Wall Street and Western world change-seekers are even more dramatic. Striking at the heart of capitalism, the affluent Western world is reeling under the unprecedented onslaught. The global anti-elite revolution is spreading at a time when its socio-economic system is in disrepute.
The monopolistic elites in most parts of the world control the bulk of the wealth, power and resources, leaving a paltry or marginal part for the masses or the majority. Keeping this in view, the traditional have-nots are being joined by a large segment of the middle classes against an elite culture increasingly demonised in the information age. In the Middle East, besides economic equality, political, social and cultural equality drives the protesters. In the USA and the EU, it has more to do with economic equality, as political, social and cultural restrictions are relatively few.
The French Revolution was followed by numerous revolutions in the Europe of 1848 - once the Metternich’s Conservative Order was challenged in multiple states. While revolutions were a historical occurrence, the Russian in 1917, the Chinese in 1949 and the Iranian in 1979 became more notable on the geopolitical account. Similarly, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Revolution entered history books with the fall of Berlin in 1945.
Francis Fukuyama in his book, entitled The End of History, proclaimed the death of communism and the victory of capitalism. Today, however, capitalism is under attack in its own bastion. If the Soviet communist order lasted from 1917 to 1991, the capitalists’ victory over Marxist Leninists also appears to be short-lived. From 1991-2011, a 20 years period was the glory of capitalism. Though, of course, ‘pure unbridled capitalism’ will be under severe strain in future and that this has happened in the West should be no surprise. The German philosopher, Karl Marx, while writing Das Kapital clearly had Germany in his mind, and, of course, the classic Mother of all Revolutions in 1979 was French!
The Marxist Revolution was initially meant for the rapidly industrialising ‘Deutschland’, rather than the serfdom-based ‘Mother Russia’. The irony of history, geopolitics and the First World War helped usher in the March and October 1917 revolutions in Moscow. Till then, Germany was still revolution prone, but the rise of Hitler deflected it into nationalism and racialism. Still, the word ‘Nazi’ stood for ‘national socialists’!
Today, revolution is globally becoming a household word. It seems that the USA, the EU and large parts of the world will experience the most radical revolutionary upheavals. The most ironic part of the tale is that America may be ripe for a ‘Second Revolution’. The First American Revolution commenced as the war of independence from the British Crown, followed by numerous reforms that followed and later expansion that created the modern USA. There are several reasons for the ‘Second American Revolution’. The American economy is in decline; at least, its share of the global GDP is shrinking. Washington’s endless wars and outrageous expenses could put the most notorious spendthrift in history to shame. Also, wealth within the US is monopolised by the elite. So long as the lower and lower middle classes were in the financial comfort zone, no one thought of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Now, even Ron Paul, the American politician, himself talks about revolution.
By 2020, China’s economy may supersede the USA. Washington’s policy of containing Russia (with the world’s largest land space) and China (the world’s future largest economy) may not be doable. In fact, America’s super expensive wars of the previous decade have already ruined its economy. The cumulative effect of all this would inspire the good-hearted, charity giving, god-fearing, and amiable folks in America for a real change. Amazingly, Washington supported the Arab Spring movement that was, in fact, the right thing to do, but it seems that the chickens are coming home to roost! (A Libyan revolutionary banner said it all - “today Libya, tomorrow Wall Street”.) According to one analysis, the USA is among the most unequal societies.
The environment on the European continent is even more bleak for the present economic order. The European economic malaise and the EU interstate disparities are further aggravating its crisis. The Euro crisis is not simply a financial matter. It also has nationalistic, socio-cultural facets at work. For instance, Germany and Greece have not only different economies, but also have different people. It faces both intra- and inter-European economic issues. The EU may manage its issues, but the future remains uncertain. After all, Europe was the birth place of modern revolutions and revolutionaries. The word radical, recently reflective of militants/terrorists, may be realigned with traditional anarchists and revolutionaries.
The situation in countries like India, Pakistan and others are even worse in terms of equality. India with its inequality-based ethos may not see a revolution, but rather face civil war and turmoil. The Brahman inspired Delhi order would strive to crush all such movements or term them as ‘terrorists’! (The most popular word in India.) The world’s richest and poorest people live in India. Even while New Delhi wastes money as the world’s biggest arms importer, millions of Indians live in abject poverty. There are more hungry people in eight Indian states than all of Africa. Against this backdrop, the Maoists and other revolutionaries are fighting the Indian system and have been termed as the biggest internal threat by Delhi.
Pakistan, of course, is getting ripe for a revolution because a corrupt, foreign influenced and incompetent elite monopolises most of the wealth and delivers little. The people are losing faith in an unresponsive political system prevailing in Pakistan. More so, the economic meltdown further emboldens the militants, anarchists and miscreants. A reform revolution is the only solution to Pakistan’s predicament. A new welfare state model and not a monopolistic elite-based system is the need of the hour
The world yearns for peace and prosperity. An end to wars and fair distribution of wealth within nations and societies would lead to a better world. This may have sounded utopia yesterday, but is the roadmap for tomorrow.
n The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army and has authored the book Gwadar on the Global Chessboard.