Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Velvet Revolution

From "Velvet Revolutions and the Logic of Terrorism" by Frederick Turner at Tech Central Station via RealClearPolitics

Thirty years ago it looked as if the totalitarian state was solidly established, successful and immortal. Democratic capitalism had been stopped in its tracks. The nuclear-armed socialist dictatorship could not be attacked or defeated; it could at best be contained, and none of its incremental marginal conquests could be rolled back. Marvelously, however, a new strategy emerged, invented by the world's middle-class populations, that could bring down the totalitarian state: the velvet revolution. Totalitarian governments rely on elites to govern and control the people and defend themselves against outside ideas. Those elites must reproduce themselves, creating a property-owning educated class with great power but without the revolutionary ideology of their parents; and to remain economically viable the state must produce a skilled artisan class, like the shipbuilders of Gdansk, with the capacity to unionize. Out of these materials, generated by totalitarianism itself, comes the velvet revolution.

The velvet revolution (also named the orange revolution, the purple finger, the rose revolution, the cedar revolution) has swept the world. In different ways, nonviolent, non-ideological middle-class and skilled-worker mass movements have unseated tyrants and established democracies in an amazing range of countries: Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Bangladesh, South Korea, Indonesia, the Baltic states, Mexico, Serbia, Albania, Georgia, the Ukraine, the Philippines, Lebanon, even Palestine, all fell to the regimes of popular sovereignty. China nearly fell in 1989, with the Tiananmen protest, and will become a democracy some time in the next twenty years. If there is one defining event that characterizes the end of twentieth century political modernism, it is this one.

The suicide bomb, with the mass terrorism it epitomizes, is the weapon of choice against the velvet revolution. The target is not, as well-meaning critics of terrorism say, indiscriminate: it is exact and precise. The target is any population that might organize a velvet revolution, the potential sovereigns of a democratic state. It is people who are not ideological, who are willing to let others believe what they want, who want to make a living and be independent, and who want a say in their government. Even in Israel, where it was the citizens of an already-established democratic state that were being attacked, the true target, as we are now coming to understand after the death of Arafat, was the nascent democracy of Palestine. By killing Jews, Arafat could continue to oppress and defraud Palestinians.

Global terrorism is not a revolution, but an attempt to suppress a revolution. What is being defended by suicide terror is not Islam, not traditional moral culture, not the ethnic nation yearning to be free of the colonial oppressor, but the principle of totalitarian rule -- the sovereignty of the dictator or the ayatollah, promoted as national self-identity and independence, or as the will of God. It is the last gasp, historically, of the ancient system by which the huge majority of human beings were ruled since the Neolithic agricultural revolution.

Read the whole thing here.
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