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There are two stages to any revolution. Removal of the original existing government is sometimes time consuming and difficult, but once achieved, the revolution is not yet successful. The government must be replaced with a new system, hopefully something better, in order for the revolution to come of age. If you look, for example, at the Election of 1800 - a full 17 years after the Revolutionary War had been won, we had a peaceful transfer of power between political enemies after an election - Adams to Jefferson. At this point, our revolution had become successful.
One particular trait of successful revolutions would be the groundswell of public support. Revolutions which were able to accomplish a successful transferal of power did so with public consent. The American and French Revolutions, the Cuban Revolution, as well as other revolutions steeped in anti- Colonialism did so well in terms of meeting its goals because of the public support garnered. Revolutions which hope to be successful will only be so if the public accepts the premises of change. Revolutions that seek to engender "the hearts and minds" of its citizens stand a better chance of being successful.
If you define "successful" as "bringing long-lasting stability,"
then successful political revolutions tend to have the following characteristics:
- They must offer something truly new to the people of their country. Revolutions that do not offer this (like the Mexican wars of independence in the 1810s) do not tend to succeed.
- They tend to be fairly conservative rather than radical. This is one reason the US revolution was more successful than the French. The French was too radical and sowed the seeds of its own destruction.
- They are often led by elites rather than by the masses. However, the masses must be involved. You can see this in the US revolution where the leaders were all elite types but Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" was really important because it motivated the masses to participate.
A successful revolution is when those who of are the architects of the revolution succeed in their objectives. For example, if the goal of revolution is merely to get someone out of power, then success is the removal of that person. If the objective is not only to remove, but also to gain control, then success is measured by removal and control. Moreover, another measure is longevity.
As you can see, to measure whether a revolution is successful, one must start with the objectives. Let me give you an example of a failed revolution. When the conspirators killed Julius Caesar to restore the Republic, they failed miserably, because they failed in their objective. Instead of causing Rome to reestablish a Republic, they ushered in an emperor. Just the opposite of what they wanted!
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