Why do revolutions occur?
In French, Russian and Chinese revolutions, the uniformities were the yawning gap between the rich and the poor leading to class antagonism, an inept and corrupt ruling class, and the failure of the governments.
Francis Fukuyama in his treatise entitled The End of History had declared that “the dark forces, epitomised by fascism and communism have lost, whereas liberal democracy has won”, yet there have been turmoil, unrest, violent uprisings and upheavals emblematic of failure of the capitalistic system.
In this backdrop, two weeks have passed since the Tunisians started protesting against their government for its failure to control inflation and corruption, as a result of which President Zine El Abedin Ben Ali was forced to step down. The President fled from the country, while a unity government comprising his party and the opposition was formed. But the Tunisians did not want to see the same old faces return, and thus several members of the opposition withdrew from the Cabinet, which revealed the power of the people, who successfully rid themselves of a corrupt government.
Indeed, capitalism has evolved new strategies to counter uprisings and revolutions - globalisation being the latest one - but those on the receiving end are also thinking of new methods to resist the onslaught of imperialism and neo-colonialism. Though apparently a revolution in any single country looks impossible, yet its possibility cannot be ruled out as globalisation has hit the workers of both the developed and the developing countries. It has caused unemployment in the US and the West, as multinational companies dismantle factories there to shift to the regions where they can find cheap labour.
At the time of French Revolution in 1789, France practiced feudalism; the ruling elite enjoyed special privileges and were not obliged to pay taxes. Its economy was in dire straits, and it was difficult for the majority of the people to keep their body and soul together. The common people hated the privileged classes and were revengeful. Of course, the revolution had some ideological content, as the ideas and writings of enlightenment thinkers like Montesquieu, Voltaire, Didrot and Rousseau had inspired the people to revolt. The hungry Parisians, who had suffered from bad harvest, attacked the Bastille prison for political prisoners. And this was the beginning of the French Revolution that spread out to other parts of the country overthrowing the monarchy and absolutism. The French Revolution broke the chains of feudalism and despotism, but since an organised party did not exist that could have led the revolution, the country faced anarchy and civil war. Yet, it was a step forward because the Napoleonic Code was established in 1804, which did not allow privileges based on birth, ensured social welfare of the people, allowed freedom of religion, and allowed government jobs only to those on merit.
Nevertheless, one has to bear in mind that mere existence of contradictions, discrepancies and inequities does not stir a society, unless these are fed into the feelings and consciousness of the people. All flaws and hurdles in the development of a nation that exist in objectivity must enter subjectivity in order to cause movement among the people. In Pakistan, jagirdars, waderas and sardars still wield enormous power. They are master political strategists, who ride the tide and turn the surge to their advantage. But the hearts of patriotic Pakistanis bleed to find the nation divided on various planes, destroying the very fabric of national cohesion due to socio-economic injustice, corruption and the flawed policies of the inept rulers. The problem is that none of the political parties have the political will or capability to bring about a basic change in the system. “For a revolution to happen, it is not sufficient that the mass of the people is unwilling to go on living in the old order; it must have become impossible for the old order to carry on in the old fashion,” said Lenin. The Encyclopaedists had made it impossible for the old order to carry on in the old fashion. Then and only then tocsin began to ring on July 14, 1789, and the masses took destiny into their own hands.
Thus, Pakistan needs extraordinary measures to address the extraordinary situation. Unfortunately, the ruling elite only believe in cosmetic measures, for example, 10 percent reduction in the Cabinet that will only be a symbolic saving. If corruption is not stopped and the rich do not pay the taxes, besides those who have stashed their wealth in foreign banks and invested in steel mills, pharmaceutical companies and real estate abroad, Pakistan’s problems will never end. Some leaders talk of a bloody revolution, not realising that it would be against the ruling elite - jagirdars, industrial robber barons and the filthy rich, who amassed wealth through illegal means by using their clout or by defrauding the exchequer. Nonetheless, they have to understand that the name of the game is the delivery of services to a greater number of people to their greater satisfaction.
It is more than three years that no grand plan has been unveiled by the government to rejuvenate the sagging economy, without which no nation can advance and progress to become master of its own destiny. Besides, no innovative job creation scheme has been launched, and no industrial or agricultural development plan has been introduced. Though there are major cuts in development expenditure, yet last week PM Yousuf Raza Gilani laid a foundation stone for two new blocks of parliamentary lodges consisting of 104 luxury family suites for the lawmakers and 500 quarters for their servants. So far, unluckily none of the political parties have shown the will to end corruption, to set an example for others to lead an austere life. The “wretched of the earth” certainly becomes frustrated when they see their leaders living like kings. Recently, during a meeting between the PPP and the PML-N members in Islamabad to work on the 10-point agenda, one could see photographs in the media displaying elaborate arrangements of décor on the tables and flower-display as if it was a royal banquet. And mind that they were discussing reduction in expenditure to meet the economic challenge, which the country is facing.