Revolution and World Politics: The Rise and Fall of the Sixth Great Power


Revolutions, as much as international war or nationalism, have shaped the development of world politics. In cause, ideology, and consequence they have merited description as a “sixth great power” alongside the dominant nations. In Revolution and World Politics Fred Halliday reassesses the role of revolution from the French Revolution to the Iranian Revolution and the collapse of communism.
Halliday begins by tracing the origins and evolution of the modern concept of ...
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Revolutions, as much as international war or nationalism, have shaped the development of world politics. In cause, ideology, and consequence they have merited description as a “sixth great power” alongside the dominant nations. In Revolution and World Politics Fred Halliday reassesses the role of revolution from the French Revolution to the Iranian Revolution and the collapse of communism.
Halliday begins by tracing the origins and evolution of the modern concept of “revolution” and placing it in historical context. Arguing that revolution is central to any understanding of international relations, he examines the internationalist ideology of revolutionaries who are committed to promoting change elsewhere by exposing revolution. In contrast with the claims of revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries alike, he sees revolutions both as part of an internationalist social conflict and as a challenge to the system of states. Chapters on the distinct foreign policies of revolutionary states are followed by discussions of war, counterrevolution, and postrevolutionary transformation. The study concludes with a reassessment of the place of revolution within international relations theory and in modern history, drawing out implications for their incidence and character in the twenty-first century.
Students and scholars of international relations, political science, sociology, and history will value this major contribution to understanding worldwide developments in government and society.
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Editorial Reviews

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“Fred Halliday is a lifetime student of revolutions. Here he offers a thoughtful, well-informed review of interactions between revolutions and international politics from the sixteenth century to the collapse of European communism. He also provides a number of side benefits in the form of fresh thoughts on international responses to revolutionary regimes, reports of his own observations in Havana, Tehran, and other revolutionary hot spots, insights drawn from interviews with pundits and world leaders, critiques of current theories of international relations, and more.”—Charles Tilly, Columbia University
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822324645
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 9/28/1999
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Fred Halliday is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics. He is the author of numerous books, including Islam and the Myth of Confrontation, Rethinking International Relations, and Arabs in Exile.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

An Alternative Modernity:
The Rise and Fall of

1989: The Cunning of History Returns

The year 1989 was a challenging one for the student of revolution. In it fell not only the two-hundredth anniversary of the French revolution of 1789, but the fortieth anniversary of the Chinese revolution of 1949 and the tenth anniversary of two of the most resonant upheavals of more recent times, those in Iran and Nicaragua in 1979. In the initial part of the year the battle lines seemed clear enough. For those sympathetic to revolution it was an occasion to proclaim the historical significance of these upheavals, and the legitimacy of at least some of the goals which they had embodied. For those hostile to, or embarrassed by, these events it was the occasion to reassert alternative verities, to warn of the dangers which revolution might bring, as a purported solution to social and political ills.

    By the end of 1989 a very different ideological picture had presented itself. While in Western Europe the French revolution, as predicted, was indeed celebrated amidst much political and academic dispute, in the East a contrary and contemporary verdict was being returned, as mass movements and state collapse that were widely regarded as themselves revolutionary precipitated changes against the major revolution of the twentieth century. Within the space of a few months the system of political power, domestic and international built by the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 was swept away, first in Hungary and Poland, then in the remaining East Europeancountries; although the impact on the USSR itself was somewhat delayed, this rejection of the communist model was then replicated in the Soviet Union itself, leading in the latter part of 1991 to the disintegration of the Soviet state and the removal of the Communist Party from power. Therefore, 1989 was a year which confounded both sides of the ideological divide: those who were sympathetic to revolutions seemed to have their expectations refuted by the disintegration of the communist system; those who had begun the year opposed to mass upheavals now found themselves endorsing a form of political action that they had themselves opposed.

    While the paradox of bicentenary should not attract too much attention, the events of 1989 challenged all students of revolution. In historical terms, they posed the question of whether the collapse of communism and the discrediting of an alternative social and political system marked the end of the longer period that had indeed begun in 1789. This was one in which revolution, as historical events, and `Revolution' as historical aspiration and myth, had appeared to be a possibility, desirable or otherwise, in modern society. As will be argued later, the real turning point, or moment of truth, was not 1989 at all, but had come one hundred and fifty years earlier, in 1848. It was then that revolution and `Revolution' failed to coincide: the emerging state structures of Western Europe held, but, in response to movements of social and national assertion, the states began a process of reform and accommodation. Therefore, 1989 can be said to have confirmed something that, in retrospect at least, had long been the case: revolution had ceased to be a viable option in Western Europe for a century and a half, since the failure of the upheavals of 1848. The last such upheaval in any European society had been 1917, its occurrence a result of the First World War, its later impact sustained not by the revolutionary upsurge across Europe that the Bolsheviks anticipated, but by military victory in the Second World War.

    In analytic terms, therefore, 1989 posed the question not only of how and why the communist system had collapsed so quickly, a chapter as fascinating as any in the annals of state collapse in modern times, but also of whether the events of 1989 could be regarded as a revolution at all and, if so, what the implications for theories of revolution were. Not least amongst the issues which any such analysis would have to include would be the role of the international — as a precipitant of change and as an element in any new, revised, theorisation of what constitutes revolution.

The Evolution of a Concept

If the events of 1989 posed a challenge to accepted definitions and theories of revolution they were far from being the first to do so. By looking at the development of this term we may discern something about the assumptions it embodies. Three dangers lurk on the edges of such a history of meaning: one is that of an etymological reductionism, that seeks to read into contemporary meaning residues of a semantic origin — such residues may prevail, but often do not; the second danger is that of a detached semanticism, a study of changing meaning that separates the history of such changes, and the import of words, from their social context; the third danger involves confusing the history of the idea with that of the history of the process itself — of, in this case, confusing `Revolution' with revolution. None the less, the endeavour of semantic history is possible and significant: revolution, as much as any other word in social science or everyday usage, has evolved over time and moved through several different meanings. If one can trace the changing meaning of other words common in modern political language — nation, class, race, economy, liberalism — then the evolution of the term `revolution', and the factors determining this development, can also be clarified.

    Such chartings of origin and meaning are central to much modern political philosophy, be it in the Begriffsgeschichte of Reinhardt Kosseleck or the works of Raymond Williams and Quentin Skinner that focus on context. Such histories have an important clarificatory, not to say secular, role: they show that terms do not have any essential linguistic let alone religiously inherent meaning. It is social change and political history that determine and alter signification. As much as with any of these other political terms, we can therefore show the way in which the term `revolution', located in one particular language, has shifted meaning over time is itself part of an international process: not only are the events which affect meanings in any one language drawn from a range of countries, but the definition in one idiom is affected by changes in others. Both event and term reflect a process of development within particular states or societies, but also within an international context.

    The history of political terms is, it can be argued, international in at least three senses: discursive, generative, paradigmatic. First, discursive: words, and symbols, themselves cross frontiers and are picked up, often with different meanings, far from their country of origin. Secondly, generative: this process is itself explained, in large part, by the very shared, internationalised experience of different countries, be this the travails of industrialisation or foreign domination, the tensions of that combined and uneven development which characterises the modern world. Thirdly, paradigmatic: revolutionary movements themselves see themselves, and are seen by others, as models. In this triple internationality — discursive, generative, paradigmatic — is to be found the explanation for the spread and influence of political terms around the world. The fate of core words of modern politics — state, nation, democracy, revolution — is one of such internationalisation. So too is the spread of symbols: the Phrygian cap was the symbol of republican revolt at the end of the eighteenth century, the tricolour became the standard emblem of liberal and nationalist revolt in the nineteenth century, the red flag and the hammer and sickle that in the twentieth, the nuclear disarmament symbol that of youth revolt in the third quarter of the century. Such diffusion did not stop words having very different, and often contrary, meanings: the term `republican' has meant very different things in, say, Germany, Italy, Ireland and the USA. History has also played cruel tricks with these terms: some of the most oppressive modern states have been termed `people's democracies', and the most potent symbol of communist collective action, `solidarity', became the symbol of the very national but spontaneously effective anti-communist workers' movement in Poland.

    At the core of the idea of revolution is that of some substantial and potentially violent change in a political system. In that sense an embryonic concept of revolution was present in classical Chinese and Hebrew and in what was most formative for the European political conception, classical Greek thought: Thucydides, the historian, talked of epanastasis, revolt, and the dangers of neoterismos, or innovation, and Plato argued that this process, to which he also applied the word neoterismos, was accompanied by violence. In his schema of degeneration from one political order to another, it denoted a negative process. Aristotle discussed metabole, change or transition, and stasis or unconstitutional change. Latin political thought contained no systematic discussion of political upheavals comparable to that of the Greeks, but the conception of substantial change was present, with an emphasis above all on the novelty of such situations.

    Although Aristotle's actual term stasis came later to be applied more to sedition than to the process of change itself, another aspect of his thinking was to influence later conceptions, namely the idea of a cyclical flow in history. Hence a radical change was above all something which returned to a previous era: it was for this reason that when in the early Italian city states there began to be discussion of such changes, the word revoluzione, meaning a turning round in a circle or turning back, began to be used. This Italian term was derived from the verb revolvere, meaning to turn around or turn back: it was distinct from the word revoltare, meaning to rise up against a ruler. As was also to be the case later, term and event did not correspond. The English events of the 1640s, which much later became known as a `revolution', were known at the time as `civil war' or the `great rebellion' (`rebellion', from the Latin word for re-starting a war, had long been used in a generally negative sense). Similarly, three other upheavals of the pre-1789 era, the German `Peasant War' of the early sixteenth century, the revolt of the Netherlands, and the American War of Independence, only later and retrospectively acquired the meaning `revolution'. It was in the sense of a change leading to a return that the word `revolution' was used of the events in England of 1688, which restored the Stuart monarch to the throne.

    In the eighteenth century the modern concept of `revolution' began to crystallise. Montesquieu wrote of it, in the context of warning that despotic as opposed to properly constituted monarchies were more likely to provoke an overthrow of the system. Voltaire in his Essai sur les moeurs et l'esprit des nations (1756) coined the phrase `la révolution des ésprits': he thereby introduced the concept of a radical change in intellectual and moral outlook, but without any necessary association with revolt from below or popular involvement. Rousseau used the term to denote radical changes in society, but, again, without any necessarily positive conclusion, or large-scale involvement from below. At the same time, the term acquired new scientific authority from the theories of astronomy, signifying the movement of the stars. While this was not a directly political meaning, it had the implication that such processes were inevitable, or as would later be said `determined', and that they involved a large-scale reorganisation of the units in the system. This suggested, as did contemporaneous concepts of a world being transformed by the ineluctable but hidden hand of the market and free trade, a process beyond human control. By the latter half of the eighteenth century the term had begun to acquire a sense of something unavoidable and transformative. This meaning was captured in the saying of Louis Sébastien Mercier in 1772: `Tout est révolution dans ce monde', and by Tom Paine's argument in his 1782 Letter to the Abbé Reynal that the American revolution was not, as the Abbé had argued, cyclical, but rather a fundamental change.

    It was with the French revolution that these earlier anticipations were combined and the modern sense of the word came to be fully articulated. As Krishan Kumar has summarised it so effectively:

No other event in the history of modern times has so powerfully aroused the sentiments of novelty, transformation, and the creation of a new order. As Alexis de Tocqueville later wrote, `no previous political upheaval, however, violent, has aroused such passionate enthusiasm, for the ideal the French Revolution set before itself was not merely a change in the French system but nothing short of a regeneration of the whole human race'. Edmund Burke, severely critical of its course as he was, was drawn to say that `all circumstances taken together, the French Revolution is the most astonishing that has hitherto happened in the world'. `How much the greatest event in the history of the world and how much the best', Charles James Fox greeted the fall of the Bastille. Goethe declared that the victory of the French revolutionaries at Valmy in 1792 marked a new era in man's history. And Hegel waxed ecstatic over the fact that the French Revolution had revealed the great secret of human history, as the progressive realization of Reason.

The incident at which the old and new combined is said to be when the courtier of Louis XVI, Count de Liancourt, was advising his monarch about the disturbances of 1789: when asked by the king whether it was a `revolt', he is said to have replied `Non, sire — c'est une révolution'. Unwittingly, perhaps, de Liancourt combined the earlier sense of a massive quasi-astronomical change with that of great political change; but he also initiated the association of the term `revolution' with new ideas that were current in the political vocabulary of the time and which did much to constitute `Revolution' as a central idea, or myth, of modern politics. In this process it was detached not just from its etymological but from its scientific origins. As Kosseleck has written:

Revolution congealed into a collective singular which appeared to unite within itself the course of all individual revolutions. Hence, revolution became a metahistorical concept, completely separated, however, from its naturalistic origin and henceforth charged with ordering historically recurrent convulsive experiences. In other words, Revolution assumes a transcendental significance; it becomes a regulative principle of knowledge, as well as of the actions of all those drawn into revolution ... All further characteristics of the modern concept of revolution are sustained by this metahistorical background.

    Kosseleck may overstate the degree to which the earlier scientific association, not of a circulatory, but of an overwhelming natural event, was now lost; but he is right in his identification of an idea that was fundamentally distinct and mythic, at once descriptive and normative, or, as he terms it, `metahistorical'. Its similarity in this respect to another idea emerging at this time, one that both described and prescribed `nation', is striking. Both terms acquired new meaning and resonance from their association with the political and socio-economic transformations of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: they were, in this way, inextricably linked to the onset of capitalist modernity.

    This diversity of emphases accompanied the translation of the term `revolution' into a variety of languages, through discursive internationalisation. The conception of revolutionary change was international in both its diffusion and its very meaning. While it arose from the French revolution, it soon spread throughout other languages as the ideas of the French revolution spread. Yet there was a choice, based on which aspect of `Revolution' the translation wished to stress. Some sought an etymological rendering, based on a variant of the idea of `turning' or `circulation'. Others chose the semantic rendering, translating the word into equivalents denoting `upheaval' and mass revolt. It is significant that even in European languages which strive to produce their own indigenously rooted terms for politics, such as German and Russian, variants of the same word — Revolution, revolutsiya — are used; the one notable exception is modern Greek, which retains the classical word, which captures the semantic import, epanastasis. The Finnish term, too, vallankomous, comprises the words for power and overthrow.

    As European political thought spread across the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries so very different languages and contexts yielded their own renderings, sometimes by using indigenous words partly in a new political sense and sometimes by producing new words believed to accord with the European term. Thus in Arabic there was a semantic rendering: the indigenous word thawra, meaning to revolt, was used to denote contemporary upheavals, blurring the distinction between revolt and revolution. Thawra too came to mean both event and post-revolutionary state. The word daula, which itself originated in a root dwl meaning to rotate, came to mean state: it thus prefigured the twentieth-century institutionalisation of the term `the revolution', to mean a post-revolutionary regime, and a claim to the legitimacy thereof. In Persian, an Arabic word inqilab, derived from the root qlb, meaning to revolve or rotate, was used, but in Arabic was used for a coup d'etat. The Iranian revolutionaries of 1978-9 had no problem in proposing an `Islamic revolution' (inqilab-i islami) but they did object to the term `revolutionary Islam', on the grounds that there could be no qualification of the faith. Ottoman Turkish also used the qlb root rendering it as inkilâp, and also the term ihtilal, from an Arabic root khll denoting disorder, but in contemporary usage the favoured word is devrim, derived from another Arabic root, dwr, meaning to turn. Maltese, a mixture of medieval Arabic and modern Italian, reflects both its origins: taqlib, for disorder, and rivoluzioni, for revolution.

    Classical Hebrew had at least four words denoting revolt or rebellion: mered, rebellion; kom, uprising; marah, revolt, in particular rebellion against God; and kesher, plot. For example, in describing the revolt of King David's son against him, the Bible uses the term derived from kom, hitkommimut. In modern Hebrew these were not used: instead three modern words, based on the root for the word to change or turn around, hpch, were coined. One, mahapecha, implies a radical change by force, as in Russia in 1917 and in Iran in 1979; a second, mahapach, denotes a change by peaceful means, and came into use for the major Israeli electoral upsets of 1977 and 1992; the third, haficha, denotes a revolt. Another example of the incorporation of both the etymological and the semantic is to be found in one of the more obscure languages deployed by modern revolutions, Quechua, the Andean language used by the guerrillas of the Peruvian Sendero Luminoso: the word revoluci¢n from Spanish is alternated with the indigenous works q'eqikuy and auqanchanay meaning rebellion. Hindi uses the word kranti, from Sanskrit roots denoting radical change and human agency, while Urdu uses inqilab. Of all the long-established languages Chinese is the one which has been the most consistent. In the I Ching, the Book of Changes, believed to have been composed about a thousand years BC, the term ge-ming, is applied to T'ang and Wu, the founders of the Shang dynasty in the seventeenth century BC. Its formulation of the problem contains advice that practitioners of the later modern concept could well comprehend:

Heaven and earth undergo their changes, and the four seasons complete their revolution. T'ang and Wu led insurrections according to the will of Heaven and in response to the wishes of men. Great indeed is the significance of such a time.
    Change of any kind is generally viewed by people with suspicion and dislike; therefore it must be instigated gradually. When change is necessary, it will only be approved after it has been seen to work. A proven necessity beforehand, and a firm correctness throughout: these are the conditions under which revolutions can be successfully brought about.

Ge-ming is a semantic rather than an etymological rendering: it combines the character ge, denoting change, and also removal from office, with ming, meaning life, fate, destiny, and the mandate of heaven. For its part, Japanese uses the same characters as Chinese, pronouncing them kakumei. However, as already noted, etymology has its limits: it is current usage, itself largely shaped by international factors, that has determined the meanings of `Revolution' since 1789.

The Metahistorical Idea

The post-1789 concept of revolution partook of the broader democratic spirit of the times, but there were four constitutive elements in this new idea of revolution: popular involvement, progress, a new age, and a total transformation. The idea of popular involvement, later embodied in the idea that particular social groups, including, in the Marxist perspective, classes, could `make' revolutions marked a break with both the astronomical and the purely constitutional associations of earlier conceptions. Equally, it brought to the fore something that had been present in much earlier political thinking and action, namely the legitimacy of revolt against the ruler. While. classical and earlier modern European writings, and, in a different vein, Muslim political thought, had allowed for revolt under certain conditions, the predominant view had been that revolt was not legitimate. This was especially so where monarchs had supposedly divine sanction, as they had in both mediaeval Christian and Islamic societies. With the rise of individual and democratic political thought in the seventeenth and eighteenth `centuries, this absolute right of the rulers had begun to be questioned, but in what was still a cautious and limited qualification. The idea of the sovereignty of the people, as distinct from their right in extremis to exchange one ruler for another, was very much a product of the latter half of the eighteenth century, expressed in the American revolution and, with greater impact in Europe, in the French.

    The idea of progress, of history moving in a linear, positive, direction, not in a circle and not being static, was given greater force by the social and economic changes of the time — an increasing understanding of nature, the discovery of the Americas, economic change — by indeed the concomitantly named `industrial' revolution. So much of post-1789 thought was dominated by this concept of progress, whether phrased in liberal, revolutionary or purely scientific terms: it was symptomatic that in the language of communist orthodoxy of the twentieth century the word `progressive' should have played such a central and vacuous role. With its ever unresolved combination of deterministic and voluntaristic elements, i.e. progress as something that happens and equally something that is achieved, `Revolution' was to underlie much of the optimism, and justify many of the crimes, of subsequent `revolutionaries'. The word `progressive' and its contraries, `conservative' or `reactionary', became central to revolutionary legitimation.

    The concept of revolutions as introducing a new age was, equally, a break with the earlier, circular or astronomical, conception even as it picked up on the Thucydides—Plato concept of neoterismos: revolutions were now the points of transition, or entry, into a new period. They marked not returns but movement along a line, a break with the constraints of the past, the traditional or established society. They allowed a new society, even a new world, to be constructed. This emphasis upon breaking with the past, the creation of something new, was to become a prominent strain in the appeals and self-justification of revolutions. Equally it was to form the basis of the opposition to revolutions. It was at the end of the eighteenth century that the terms `reaction' and `conservative' were coined to denote opposition, and at the end of the nineteenth, in 1891, Pope Leo XIII was to issue one of the most influential Papal Encyclicals of modern times, Rerum Novarum, `About New Things': it advocated a Christian transformation of society against the three `revolutions' — industrial, liberal capitalist and socialist — of the modern age.

    This legitimation by reference to `newness' did not preclude alternative, retrospective, historical legitimations and imitations. The Iranian revolutionaries of 1979 went further in invoking sadr-i islam, the `golden age of Islam', in particular the Prophet Muhammad's government of the seventh century, as their model, but they were an exception only by degree. Marx had expressed the hope that modern revolutionaries would not be shaped by those that had gone before:

The social revolution of the nineteenth century can only create its poetry from the future, not from the past. It cannot begin its own work until it has sloughed off all its superstitious regard for the past. Earlier revolutions have needed world-historical reminiscences to deaden their awareness of their own content. In order to arrive at its own content the revolution of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead.

Marx was, however, too precipitate, not least because, in a fine case of the reciprocity that characterises all revolutions, his successors would themselves look back to their own predecessors, international and national. All revolutionaries used at least some element of the past to justify what they were doing, be this as self-justificatory models for what they themselves were doing, or as part of an attempt to deploy a national and international past for current legitimation. Louis XIV's planners had termed Paris's main avenue the `Elysian Fields', after the Isles of the Blest, mentioned by the poets Homer and Hesiod, where special heroes, exempted from death, are transported. The revolutionaries looked to classical Rome for their models, a process in which they were encouraged by the neo-classical artists of the time. The Bolsheviks admired earlier Russian radicals (Herzen, Chernychevski, Kropotkin), as well as the Jacobins of the 1790s — Lenin inclining to Robespierre, Trotsky to Danton. The Chinese revolutionaries presented themselves as inspired both by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the warriors and heroes of classical Chinese antiquity and literature. The Latin Americans of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s invoked earlier nationalist radicals, such as Simon Bolivar, Jose Mart¡ and Augusto Sandino. The Viet Minh of the 1940s and 1950s combined Lenin and Robespierre with national heroes. This was evident, for example, in the nationwide uprising of August-September 1945 that first established communist power in Vietnam: in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh declared independence on 2 September by invoking the 1776 US Declaration of Independence and the 1791 French Declaration of the Rights of Man; the leader in Saigon, Tran Van Giau, consciously imitated Petrograd 1917 in launching the insurrection in the south.

    These exemplars drawn from the past were used not only as a source of personal modelling and inspiration, but also as a public and popular legitimation to justify the particular radical and complete break being advocated. While this `newness' was represented by the necessity, the `inexorability', the inevitability of the changes which were taking place, `Revolution' was a process that involved not just a change in the political or constitutional form of society, but also a change in economic structure, in values and beliefs, and even in dress, language, and systems of calculating time. We can gain some perspective on this concept by noting its two most common alternatives — `reform', denoting change that is more cautious or limited, and `evolution', suggesting change that does not involve a radical break with the past. Revolution was, to use another word that came to be associated with this process and its ideology, `total'.

Distinctive Events

The idea of `Revolution' produced by the French revolution was to define modern political discourse for two centuries. It developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through the work and actions of a range of thinkers. If this was most notably the case with Karl Marx and his theory of communist revolution, it was not specific to Marxism — anarchism staked an equally cogent claim. It was in the mid nineteenth century that it came to be seen as an irresistible, immanent and historical force, like some suppressed tidal wave that would sweep all before it. One can indeed argue that while it was 1789 which gave the idea its `metahistorical' content, it was in the 1840s that there took shape the idea of `Revolution', an inevitable historical force. In a Europe dominated by five great powers, Marx termed it `the sixth great power', the one that would overwhelm the other five. Marxism was to be the most pervasive embodiment of this, but perhaps nowhere was this better expressed than in the words of the Russian exile Alexander Herzen. Herzen was an aristocrat with a small following, but someone who in addition to reflecting the thinking of his own time was to influence later revolutionaries, notably Lenin. Herzen wrote in 1857:

We do not build, we destroy; we do not proclaim a new truth, we abolish an old lie. Contemporary man only builds the bridge; another, the yet unknown man of the future, will walk across it. You perhaps will see it. Do not remain on this shore. Better to perish with the revolution than to be saved in holy reaction.
    The religion of revolution, of the great social transformation, is the only religion I bequeath to you. It is a religion without a paradise, without rewards, without consciousness of itself, without a conscience.

In common with other Marxist ideas such as the critique of imperialism, this idea of revolution was to have a resonance far beyond the communist movement: as nationalism began to develop in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the ideas of national independence and of revolution came to be closely associated with each other. This was in part because it was argued that the very assertion of independence against entrenched foreign rule would itself be `revolutionary', would introduce a new age for the people concerned, and in part because it was argued that only through a revolution, i.e. a mobilisation and a radical transformation, could such independence be attained. However, this association of revolution with nationalism did not remove, even as it conflicted with, the term's internationalist associations: such internationalist commitment rested on the idea of the new nation as the bearer of revolutionary and potentially universal ideas, which others should follow. Equally inherent in the ideology of these national upsurges was an international model, the Mazzinian idea of a harmony of nations, a family of independent states, that would be produced by the attainment of freedom. For these reasons, the nationalisation of the idea of revolution did not preclude a continued association with internationalism: it was indeed the work of Marx and his comrades in the International Workingmen's Association, founded in 1864, which prompted the emergence of the term `internationalism' later in that decade.

    At the same time, and in part because of the attainment of power by revolutionaries, the very term `Revolution' began to acquire different, if related, shades of meaning, some of which at least merit attention. If revolution initially came to be associated with a particular event — the overthrow of the monarch in France, or, later, the communist seizure of power in Russia — it eventually came to denote a much broader process. Thus movements or organisations that aspired to come to power, and which claimed legitimacy in terms of alleged or real popular and historical support, called themselves `revolutionary' and their movement `the revolution'. And regimes that had been established through revolutions used the term to denote not just the events but the whole post-revolutionary period, and indeed the regime itself — so that `defence of the revolution' or `counter-revolutionary' came to be defined in terms not of a particular moment, but of the interests of that state.

    These shifts and multiple meanings also led to a devaluation of the term `revolution', or at least to increasingly loose usage of the term. Thus, in addition to mass upheavals introducing major changes, the term was now used by any movement or regime wishing to proclaim its historical and international importance: military coups, changes of political system, local uprisings, all called themselves `revolutions'. The Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party of Iraq, a dictatorial organisation which came to power in two army coups in 1968, designated these as thawratain timuz, `the two revolutions of July'. In an equally inflated denomination of the 1980s the Republican Presidencies of 1981-8 were called by their proponents `the Reagan Revolution'. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, and across the world, political organisations with dubious resonance in the population entitled themselves `revolutionary': dilution went hand in hand with diffusion.

The Communist Variant

The role of Marxism for the constitution of the modern concept of `Revolution' in the 1840s was decisive. By far the most influential and diffused conception of revolution was indeed that established by the communist movement, first in the writings of Marx and Engels in the 1840s and later in the writings of Lenin and his associates in the Russian revolution. Following the Bolshevik assumption of power in 1917 this idea came to be adopted by a range of movements across the world: at its height the communist movement counted eighty-one parties and was in power in over two dozen countries. This idea of revolution — as a seizure of power, as immanent social process, as international movement, as a regime to be defended and developed, and as a culmination of world history — was to dominate much of the twentieth century. If there were twentieth-century revolutions that were clearly separate from that of communism — most notably the Mexican revolution of 1910 and the Iranian revolution of 1979 — the great majority of revolutionary movements, successful and otherwise, saw themselves as in some way within this tradition.

    For communists, revolution was the means to achieve a break with the existing capitalist and imperialist society and to enter a new post-capitalist world. In such a post-revolutionary order the capitalist system of oppression, based on private ownership of the means of production, would be superseded. This conception began in the work of Marx and Lenin with an argument about the direction of history, that capitalism itself was preparing the objective basis, through accumulating contradictions, for its own collapse and supersession. This was the message of the canonical Preface to the Critique of Political Economy. It was therefore inextricably linked both to the idea of progress, as something desirable and inevitable, and to the idea of ruptures in history, moments of transition from one society to another. As Teodor Shanin has written, it was in the name of this progress that later Marxists, once in power, were to commit some of their most terrible crimes:

As to the dogma and the mask, of which we have already spoken, they are still to be found in the depiction of the future set out in the textbooks of Eastern Europe and the USSR. Socialism there is the beginning of the final state of unilinear ascent to an ultimate society of humans whose desires are all met and who, once the state has `withered away', like gods run themselves. To be a socialist is therefore to recognize the inevitable and to speed it up with the help of a scientific outlook and of a disciplined admiration for the leaders and prophets of socialism who marked out the future road. To be a socialist is to help remove obstacles from the road of inevitable progress, that is, to fight into the ground backwardness in institutions, backwardness in humans, and humans who are backward. This is why, in the words of Kautsky, `social development stands higher than the interest of the proletariat and of Social Democracy', an idea which Stalin executed according to his own lights. This is the frame in which the view that `freedom is recognition of necessity' made perfect sense. Ethics becomes but a recognition of and service towards the inevitable progress. Any other attitude to morality is upon sentimentalism and/or a legacy of pre-scientific thought and hence, of course, `petty bourgeois'.

Progress was, in the Marxist as in the liberal and other progressivisms of the time, not merely a matter of determinism: human agency had its role. While only possible when objective conditions favoured it, this revolutionary process had none the less to be completed, and the construction of the new society begun, by a conscious elite, the revolutionary vanguard who would appropriate and mould the state they had acquired. The connection between the rapidly changing character of capitalism, and the conscious action of a new emancipatory subject, the working class, was well captured in the (often partially quoted) words of Karl Marx: `All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.'

    Communist revolution was, in this perspective, not the rejection of modern society, but its culmination. Communism indeed defined itself as the most radical, and at the same time inevitable, expression of modernity, this latter understood as the social and ideological order associated with reason and with the emergence of industrial society. Central to the idea of progress was the idea of totality, of all social and political activity being interrelated. Hence under capitalism all was linked, aesthetics to economics, religion to property. Equally, post-revolutionary transformation would be total — in aspiration and capability. Once in power the revolutionary vanguard, with the support of the proletariat, would set about transforming society, `abolishing' the old society through expropriation, social engineering, ideological mobilisation and so forth and building a new social order. This was possible because communism was inevitable and in line with historical development: hence policy was designated as dealing with a set of `questions', inherited from the old regime, which would be `solved' definitively as the post-capitalist order developed. These included the economy, the agrarian question, the army, the law, education, religion, housing, hygiene and, at least, two other `questions' that capitalism could not solve, the `national question' and the `woman question'.

    In its more confident mode, which lasted until the 1960s, communism saw itself as able not only to outbid capitalism, and `solve' all these problems, but also to produce a distinctive natural science capable of assisting the emancipation of man. One of Lenin's least felicitous interventions was his attempt to intervene in debates on scientific method — Materialism and Empirio-Criticism of 1908. In Russia in the 1940s, for example, this took the form of Lysenkoism, the belief that a `proletarian science' could alter and improve human personality. In the 1950s this historic self-confidence appeared to receive confirmation in the successes of the USSR in space — sending the first manmade object into orbit in 1957 and the first man into space in 1961. In China, the success of the Communist Party in establishing control of a quarter of mankind led the leadership to believe it could radically short-cut even the Soviet experience of industrialisation and political change: the adventures, catastrophic in terms of human life and economic collapse for the Chinese people, of the Great Leap Forward (1958-61) and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1965-9) followed. In 1969 Mao's chosen successor, soon to die in an unsuccessful attempt to flee to the USSR, was to proclaim:

As a result of Chairman Mao's call to `grasp revolution and promote production', the great cultural revolution had promoted the revolutionization of people's ideology and spurred the rapid development of industrial and agricultural production and of science and technology.

Such broad statements, combining vapid historical claims with exhortation to a passive mass audience, were common fare in the China of Mao as they were in Stalin's Russia. It is easy, post-1989, to see these beliefs as mistaken. This was not how they appeared to communists and their enemies, at the time.

    The communist revolutions achieved much in the countries they ruled, most notably in terms of education and social policy. However, the costs of this gigantic human experiment were enormous in terms of human lives and in terms of the destruction wrought on their societies. While able initially to establish effective political control and galvanise economies, they were unable to continue these rates of economic growth, as will be examined in Chapter 10. They gradually became paralysed by the policy of central planning, itself a visionary rationalist myth, and by the incapacity to introduce technological and administrative reform. In a cruel reversal of the modernistic project of total transformation, the very goals of communism were themselves arrested and archaic — evident in the realm of design and art, as in attitudes to social problems and, most importantly, political rights. The vision of `modernity' that communism aspired to was a frozen product of the imagination of radicals of the 1900s.

    Most important of all, communism misunderstood capitalism: capitalism was, and is, revolutionary, but it revolutionises the means of production, and the technology and ideas associated with production, not the political system accompanying it. Not only was capitalism not digging its own grave, as the deterministic vision of Marx and Lenin had assumed, but it was itself changing and providing new forms of political, social and economic benefits to the populations living under it: the tide of history turned against communist `Revolution' in 1848, as the combined political and industrial revolutions unleashed at the end of the eighteenth century began to have their effects on West European society. If it was to take enormous social suffering, decades of capitalist authoritarianism and two World Wars for that potential to be realised, the opportunities for `Revolution', the myth, to become revolution, the reality, had begun to recede.

    Although 1917 appeared to mark a new stage in world history, it did not: if the vision of a world-wide and complete communist `Revolution' first ran into difficulties in the 1920s, with the failure of the Bolshevik revolution to expand to Germany and to the rest of Europe, and the consolidation of the Stalinist regime in Russia, it was to take another fifty years, until the 1970s, before the full import of this unrealism was to be realised within the communist regimes themselves. In the 1920s and 1930s millions turned to communism as the best antidote to the rise of fascism. While the majority of the population of the non-communist and developed countries later abandoned or never espoused faith in this alternative `Revolutionary' vision, it was only in the late 1970s that the leaderships of the communist states themselves were to lose faith in that utopian project. The fading of the Soviet experiment in Brezhnevite zastoi, stagnation, and the Chinese Four Modernisations of 1978 which opened China to the outside world, marked the final recession of a tide that had begun to turn a century and a half before.

Explicit Criteria: The Responses of Social Science

The definition and analysis of revolutions was, of course, too important to be left to the revolutionaries. Semantic diversifications of the word `revolution' were reflected in the response of the other body of writers on revolutions, social scientists. Historians were the first to chronicle revolutions as individual events — English, French, Russian — within specific societies. For all the claims of later writers, the classic historical accounts — Burke, de Tocqueville, or Trotsky — contain as much in insight as any of their more `scientific' successors. The first comparative studies tended to be by historians, as in the work of Pettee and Brinton. Griewank and Hatto traced the intellectual history of the concept. Here there was less concern with the theoretical analysis of the causes of revolutions, more with charting their course, discerning some regularities and identifying shifts of meaning. There is much in their work that remains perceptive and relevant. In the 1960s and 1970s a substantial academic literature began to emerge. Some sociologists analysed revolutions in terms of the breakdown of established norms of social behaviour, and looked in particular for the behavioural accompaniments of revolution: for such writers revolutions were part of a spectrum of violent actions and were seen in temporal sociological terms, rather than as moments in the historical evolution of societies. There was, however, always another body of literature in historical sociology that sought to link revolutions as social events with broader analysis of historical change in society: in the 1960s this yielded the work of Moore and Huntington, in the 1970s that of Skocpol and Trimberger, and in the 1980s that of Goldstone.

    In the work of these more recent writers on revolution three important points are underlined: first, revolutions are distinguished from other forms of political and social upheavals — from revolts, rebellions, palace coups and so forth; secondly, a distinction is made between political revolutions, changes in system of government or constitution, and the more profound social revolutions, which involve both political change and substantial alterations in economy, social relations and values; thirdly, revolutions are treated not as breakdowns, from which a society recovers by returning to normal, but as important, distinctive events in the ongoing history of societies. In the work of sociologists such as Moore and Skocpol, revolutions were to be understood above all as moments of rupture and transition within social systems: this reflected Marx's own view of them as the `midwives of history'. They were to be studied in a long-term time frame with regard to both the social structures that produced them, and the reasons for the breakdown of the political order, as well as in terms of the kinds of changes they introduced and the post-revolutionary systems they created. Most of the literature looked at causes, some, including Huntington and Skocpol, at the post-revolutionary consequences.

    For all the differences of theory and emphasis, this historical-sociological approach ascribed revolutions to their central place in the study of society in general, as much as it located them in the history of the individual countries where the revolutions had occurred. The historical sociologists also sought to provide a social science definition of revolution on which to base their analysis. For Skocpol this was as follows:

Social revolutions are rapid, basic transformations of a society's state and class structures; and they are accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below. Social revolutions are set apart from other sorts of conflicts and transformative processes above all by the combination of two coincidences: the coincidence of societal structural change with class upheaval; and the coincidence of political with social transformation. In contrast, rebellions, even when successful, may involve the revolt of subordinate classes — but they do not eventuate in structural change. Political revolutions transform state structures but not social structures, and they are not necessarily accomplished through class conflict.

    The criteria by which social revolutions are therefore to be assessed are laid out here: `basic transformations' of political and social structures; mass-based activity from below; the coincidence of political with social change. In similar vein, albeit without `structuralist' theoretical associations, Samuel Huntington defines revolution as `a rapid, fundamental, and violent domestic change in the dominant values and myths of a society, in its political institutions, social structure, leadership, and government activity and politics'.

    Such definitions of revolution are, like all definitions in social science, conventional: revolutions are not — anymore than are nations, classes, even events or dates — objectively given `things', waiting to be unearthed or identified like the objects of natural science. They are phenomena which human subjects choose to group, on the basis of criteria of significance and recurrence, into one category rather than another. The strength of this definition of social revolution is that it allows for the identification of a discrete set of historical events which can be studied in their own right: if the three great revolutions that Skocpol studies — France, Russia, China — are examples of such events the list may be extended to include the events that appear to qualify if not as social revolutions then as political ones, with social implications. A number of Third World revolutions of the post-1945 period, aside from that of China, would seem, without stretching the criteria unduly, also to be candidates: Vietnam, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua.

Implicit Criteria: Challenges of History

So far, so good, it would seem. The list of candidates for the title `revolution' is open-ended but certainly restricted. Yet there are other cases which pose difficulties not so much on the question of whether they do, or do not, merit inclusion in this group, but by the way in which they challenge the criteria themselves. They draw attention to the difficulty of criteria implicit in much discussion. The first such category are those events, subsequently termed revolutions, which preceded the French Revolution of 1789: the revolt of the Netherlands, the English Civil War, the American War of Independence. These involved mass revolt from below, including the use of violence, even if they did not carry out fundamental social change to the degree found in Skocpol's three classic cases. They were, however, far more than mere changes of political regime following on revolt, since in their political programme and in their social consequences they embodied very different principles to those of the regimes they overthrew. The shift in perspective following from 1989 may allow not so much for a depreciation of the importance of the classic revolutions of the preceding two centuries, as for a broader and more inclusive historical canvas: perhaps the main consequence of 1989 is not, therefore, the reduction in the importance of the Russian revolution, but the increased attention paid, as Hannah Arendt had urged in On Revolution (1963), to the American. Here she had, of course, been preceded by Tom Paine who in his Letter to the Abbé Reynal of 1782 had argued for the universal significance of the American revolution. There is no need to deny the distinctiveness of the post-1789 revolutions by excluding consideration of those upheavals that preceded them.

    A second category of uncertain location are what have been termed `revolutions from above', that is transformations of societies carried out not as a result of mass-based revolts from below, but as a result of changes, often quite radical and violent ones, in the composition of elites. Examples of this include the Meiji Restoration in Japan, the Kemalist regime in Turkey and, in the post-war period, the military regimes of Egypt, Peru and Ethiopia. If the criteria of the degree, the profundity of the transformations is taken as the criterion, then there is strong reason for, in a suitably qualified way, characterising regimes that do bring about such changes as revolutionary: the difficulty with such regimes is, rather, of a different kind, namely that of endurance.

    The third category of potential `revolutions' that pose difficulties for the historical-sociological criteria are, by contrast, those that appear to carry out fundamental changes in the society, but in a manner that does not fit any progressivist perspective. In one sense this problem applied to all revolutions: proclaiming freedom, they established coercive states; espousing the new, they ruled with many of the practices of the old. However, this problem was posed most sharply by two twentieth-century upheavals that seemed to reject all or much of the French revolutionary legacy — the Nazi experience in Germany and the Islamic revolution in Iran. The Nazis certainly aimed to transform the political system of their country, and acted with the support of a mass-based movement from below.

    One argument against admitting this regime to be revolutionary would be to say that, with the terrible exception of genocide, it did not carry out a fundamental change in the social, including economic, system of the country: in economic terms its changes amounted to little more than an increased level of state intervention; not that different from what the New Deal was accomplishing in the USA. But one cannot escape the sense that resistance to including the Nazis as `revolutionary' also stems from two other, less enunciated, criteria. The first is that the goals the Nazis proclaimed and the changes they did introduce went against any idea of progress or historical development, of the kind implicit not only in revolutionary ideology but in the theory of social scientists. The other is that the Nazi accession to power was in part directed against revolution: that of the Bolsheviks in 1917 and that which was threatening in Germany after 1918, a response to the Bolshevik revolution and the fear of the communist movement in Germany; in this sense, in its counter-revolutionary import, it challenged an assumption of linear progress. As will be argued in Chapter 8, Nazism was a counter-revolution, a movement against a change that was feared in Germany itself. In other words, the case of the Nazis brings out into the open two possible but usually unstated criteria for revolution — the `progressive' or otherwise character of the regime's goals and policies, and the degree to which it is consistent with, or opposed to, a teleological view of history and to other already established revolutions.

    These difficulties were posed with almost equal clarity in the case of a subsequent mass movement that abutted against the criteria for revolution, namely the Iranian revolution of 1978-9. This event certainly exhibited the features associated with other revolutions: the political system was transformed rapidly from monarchy to clergy-dominated republic; there was much mass involvement — indeed the largest opposition demonstrations ever seen in human history — and a political general strike that followed nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century European revolutionary models; there was a wide-ranging change in society, combining direction from on top with mass movement from below, and a pervasive `Islamisation' of the society. Moreover, for those who saw all revolutions, pre- and post-1789, as parts of a continuum of messianism, the expression of a vision with religious connotations and a religious goal, the Iranian might have appeared to be the least obscure of all revolutions: it embodied the call for a return to a religiously sanctioned past, and the proclamation of a new, divinely sanctioned, golden age. As we have seen, all revolutionaries, not just the Iranian, certainly invoked the past and had elements of visionary self-importance about them: but to detect a common retrospective element in upheavals of different times is not necessarily to identify a continuous phenomenon. The very concept of messianism as applied to modern revolutions is of nugatory value. In the other cases, such as the French or the Russian, the references to the past were instrumental rather than determinant features of these revolutionary regimes. In the Iranian, the past, and a past all of fourteen centuries ago, appeared to be ideologically central.

    Yet this question of messianism and retrospective legitimation aside, there was considerable reluctance to characterise the Iranian case as a revolution: as with the Nazi case, the first line of defence was to argue that it did not carry out wide-ranging socio-economic reforms, or, if these did occur, that they were the result of nationalising and redistributing the property of those who had fled after the revolution, or the ensuing eight-year war with Iraq. Another argument was to claim that it was not `organised': but this mistook the absence of Western-style mass radical parties for the absence of clerical, mosque-based, mobilisatory structures. Certain aspects of the Iranian revolution were indisputably in conflict with the legacy of 1789, namely their policies on gender which were, in the purest sense of the word, reactionary. There was, however, a deeper reason, echoing that of the German argument, namely that the Islamic upheaval in Iran could not be a `revolution' since its goals were conservative — establishing a system of government modelled on the seventh century, denying the sovereignty of the people and the emancipation of women, and asserting clerical authority over politics, law and the economy. Indeed, while other revolutions had betrayed the ideals they proclaimed and for which many people may have initially supported them, they had nonetheless held to some amalgam of the late-eighteenth-century goals: the Iranian was the first explicitly to reject these.

    There were, at the least, three broad lines of reply to this. The first was to argue that in domestic and foreign policies, and despite the appearance of rejecting the social and economic goals of other revolutions, the Iranian actually did much of what others had done — redistributing wealth, expropriating the economically dominant class, developing social services, mobilising the population and promoting revolution abroad. In the early stages of the revolution, this was also the argument which socialist and communist elements in Iran put forward as to why they were supporting the revolution. Secondly, the ideology of the revolution was not what it appeared to be: rather than being based on a seventh-century programme, it used texts and symbols of that foundational Islamic period to promote and deploy concepts all too familiar from the modern revolutionary tradition — revolution itself, popular revolt, redistribution of wealth, equality, anti-imperialism. Levels of education and of women's employment rose.

    It would, thirdly, be argued by supporters of the Iranian revolution that the Islamic revolution, in so far as it was distinctive, was more successful in promoting revolutionary change than the secular models to which it was being compared. Thus leaders of the revolution claimed their country was more independent, more democratic, and their women more free than in other countries. Long rivals of communist radicalism, the Islamic revolutionaries took heart from the collapse of communism in the late 1980s to proclaim that, atheistic revolution having failed, it was Islamic revolution which would now mobilise the oppressed of the world and present an effective challenge to Western capitalism. In th e statements of the revolutionary leaders there was a strong teleological vision of a world increasingly turning to Islam and to their revolutionary values, as the Soviet Union entered its terminal crisis, Khomeini wrote to Gorbachev, urging him to embrace Islam, while he and others talked of taraqi-yi islami, `Islamic progress'. To the economic anti-imperialism of most Third World revolutions, they added a strong `moral anti-imperialism', denouncing the West for its corruption and double standards. In sum, the Iranian revolution, for all its anomalies, was arguably a revolution on a par with other core cases.

The Collapse of European Communism

If these `revolutions' appeared to present anomalies for the definition of revolution, an even greater challenge was posed by the collapse of Soviet communism in the late 1980s and, in less spectacular form, by the transformation of Chinese communism after 1978. 1989 challenged not only those who believed in `Revolution' of a communist or related kind, and its concomitant theory of history, but also academic theorists of revolution. At one level, there did not seem to be a problem: a `revolutionary' change had certainly taken place, at least in the former USSR and Eastern Europe. There had been a dramatic change in the political system, followed by a comparable change in the economic system and in social values, and there was considerable mass activity from below. The fall of communism seemed to meet Skocpol's criteria. There was relatively little violence and this certainly posed problems for the explanation of why these militarised and autocratic states had collapsed: but this need not have disqualified the events from being characterised as revolutions. Others questioned the degree to which a real political and social change had occurred, how `basic' in Skocpol's words the changes really were. Here too, while recognising that many communist personnel and even partly reformed communist parties remained in power, few could doubt that the communist system had been destroyed. Equally few believed it could be repaired or revived. Indeed, precisely because communism was an international phenomenon, in terms of the military and political alliance that sustained it, and in terms of its own ideological legitimacy, it was not possible to sustain individual communist regimes in Europe once the system in general had crumbled: its survival and demise were international. The key moment, if one there be, was as international as any event could be: a speech by Gorbachev to the General Assembly of the UN in New York, on 7 December 1988, in which, formally confirming what his press spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov had already hinted, he pledged not to use force to maintain communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

    The analytic difficulties with accepting the collapse of communism as `Revolution' pertain more to other, less overt, aspects of the concept. First of all, there would seem to be a problem about categorising as a `revolution' something that overthrew a system that had itself been established and extended through revolution. Moreover, revolutions had hitherto been seen and had presented themselves as introducing something `new', this novelty being central to the French revolutionary conception of revolution. Yet the upheavals of Eastern Europe and the former USSR were not carried out in the name of anything new. They were, rather, carried out in order to reject the communist version of novelty and change, and in favour of conformity: instead of `new socialist man', they wanted political freedom and `new consumerist man, and woman'. They aspired to conformity with what were presented both with degrees of nostalgia and with varying degrees of accuracy as the `traditions' of the country in question, but equally conformity with what were seen as an international normality, as defined in the West. Time and again leaders and participants in the collapse of communism argued that they wanted their countries to be `like the West', `civilised', `normal' states, i.e. they rejected any suggestion of political or ideological innovation or challenge.

    There was certainly an idealist, even utopian, element in the movements, epitomised in the writings of the Czech leader Vaclav Havel and the Hungarian dissident George Konrad, and in aspirations in East Germany for a `third way'. There was, none the less, no new principle inherent even in the programmes of these movements, no challenge to the norms and ideas predominant in the rest of the world. The alternative and `anti-political' tendencies were transitional to another normalcy. Hence the argument of Jürgen Habermas about the `revolution of recuperation', die nachholende Revolution:

The revolution of recuperation, in so far as it is meant to make possible a return to constitutional democracy and a connection with developed capitalism, is guided by models that orthodox interpretations consider the revolution of 1917 to have made redundant. This perhaps explains a peculiar characteristic of this revolution, namely its total lack of ideas that are either innovative or orientated towards the future. Joachim Fest has made a similar observation: `these events gained their hidden, confusing centre ... from the fact that they did not emphasize the element of social revolution that has governed pretty well all the revolutions in modern history'. This is particularly confusing because it seems to remind us of a vocabulary supposedly superseded by the French Revolution: the reformist picture of the return of political regimes following one after another in a continuous cycle like that of the heavens.

It is easy to elude the implications of these difficulties by arguing that all will not turn out as those who led the anti-communist movements had hoped. There can be, and already have been, conflicts with the West over strategic and economic issues. The `Western' model is neither as one-sided nor as exportable as many had originally hoped. Successor parties to the old ruling ones remain influential in former communist states and have returned to power. But these are qualifications; they do not diminish the political and theoretical import of the events of the late 1980s. What these events challenged were not merely the explicit assumptions of what is involved in a revolution, as expounded in the criteria of a Moore, Huntington or Skocpol, but also certain implicit criteria, in particular: (i) that revolutions form part of a historical continuum; (ii) that they challenge prevailing international norms about politics and society; (iii) that, once `made', revolutions in some form or another leave irreversible legacies on the society in question, `gains' or `advances' that cannot be eradicated.

    Belief in the irreversibility of revolutions, linked to a teleological view of history, was not confined to practitioners. In the academic literature there was an echo of the belief of revolutionaries that their access to power is historically irreversible. It is because revolutions were seen as part of a continuum, `moments of transition' or pathways to modernity, that it seemed inconceivable that another revolution could then reverse it. Even those most distanced from revolutions wrote as if revolutionary regimes were especially well-entrenched and long-lasting and relatively invulnerable to pressures from within or without. In the emphases on post-revolutionary state capabilities, be this in models of `totalitarianism', in Huntington's association of revolutionary states with modernisation or in Skocpol's emphasis on post-revolutionary transformation, let alone in sympathetic literature on `the transition' to socialism or communism, one unarticulated assumption was essential: communist revolutions were irreversible.

    The lack of ideological originality or deviance in the revolutions of 1989 should not, therefore, conceal the conceptual challenge which they posed to our understanding of revolutions: what those of 1989 did was to force into the open hitherto relatively unacknowledged criteria — unilinear historical progress, international nonconformity, irreversibility. If 1917 had been the `revolution' against Das Kapital, 1989 was the revolution against a nineteenth- and twentieth-century scientistic concept of progress and historical teleology, linked to mechanistic views of mass mobilisation. It did not, of course, preclude the retention of other, less utopian, concepts of progress, for which the evidence remained rather strong.

    The myth of `Revolution', as it was formed in the French revolution and has pervaded much of political thought and history since, would appear to have been confounded by the collapse of communism. Not only did revolutionary regimes fail to achieve their goals and fail to meet the aspirations of those who participated in, and also led, them, but the very regimes they established proved to be more vulnerable and transient than many, whether sympathetic or hostile, had imagined. Revolutions were a product of the tensions of a developing modernity, of the combined and uneven spread of that modernity across the world; but they were also constrained by that process and, in the communist variant at least, ultimately overwhelmed by it. To present revolutions as either one or the other — either the highest form of modernity, or as criminal aberrations from it — is to miss the contradictory character of that relationship.

    Whatever the longer-run implications, the collapse of communism both identified and confounded some of the underlying premises upon which much advocacy and study of revolutions has been based. This collapse also poses an interesting challenge for all those concerned with the study of states and their capacities: they may have to revise their estimates of the strength of states in the light of the collapse of communism. Equally, the manner and speed of the collapse of communism raise interesting questions as to the factors, including those of international character, that led to this outcome. To revolutions as events, and their implications for the location of revolutions within the overall pattern of world politics, we shall return in later chapters. First, the story of revolution and the modern international system, in its ideal and real terms, has to be told.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Revolutions and the International 1
Pt. I The Internationalist Engagement
2 An Alternative Modernity: The Rise and Fall of 'Revolution' 27
3 Internationalism in Theory: A World-Historical Vision 56
4 Internationalism in Practice: Export of Revolution 94
5 The Antinomies of Revolutionary Foreign Policy 133
Pt. II Revolutions and the International System
6 The International as Cause 161
7 Revolutions and International History 192
8 Counter-Revolution 207
9 War and Revolution 234
10 Systemic Constraints: Revolutionary 'Transformation' and Autarky 261
Pt. III Conclusions: Theoretical and Historical
11 Challenges to Theory 293
12 Revolutions in World Politics 323
Notes 339
Select Bibliography 378
Index 396
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