Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Why do revolutions turn into autocracies?

For some time, I have been considering today’s blog title. Yesterday’s blog already put this question in a broader perspective. Still, it seems that any revolution leads to an autocracy (eg, Cuba, Nicaragua, Russia, Venezuela). At the other side of the political spectrum, coup d’états usually also turn into autocracies (eg, African continent).

Initially, I assumed that revolutions become “sacred” and need to be defended – at all cost. There is, however, a clear downside to celebrating revolutions because it will remind the people of their (political) power. I suppose this is a reason why the Russian President did not attend the 100th celebration of the Russian Revolution of 1917 (eg, FT-2017).

Unlike political parties in a parliamentary democracies, revolutionists are individuals without a (shared) political program. Only the present is relevant. After a revolution, major differences of opinion will emerge between the many fathers of a victorious revolution.

The default playbook of any revolution then appears to include (i) a purge amongst the fathers of the revolution (eg, Che Guevara, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky), and then (ii) a Great Purge amongst the people (eg, Cambodia, China, Cuba, IranRussia, Turkey 2016-onwards).

Such a purge results in absolute power, albeit for a moment in history. A famous 1887 quote from John Dalberg-Acton a.k.a. Lord Acton on absolute power states:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”

It’s no longer the revolution that needs to be defended but the absolute power resulting from it. Hence, absolute power is what turns revolutions – or coup d’états – in autocracies. Today’s examples include: China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Turkey, Venezuela. Trump’s USA is clearly longing for this absolute power (eg, Atlantic, NBCNYTWaPo).

The last step in the revolution’s playbook is establishing dynasties in order to consolidate absolute power (eg, North Korea). This is where an autocracy turns into a pathocracy, “in which individuals with personality disorders (especially psychopathy) occupy positions of power and influence” (eg, pathocracy). This may explain Trump’s uncanny friendship with Kim Jong-un.

Absolute (1984) by Scritti Politti 

artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Absolute, on power drive 

I need you so to keep me alive 

Absolute, I long for you

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise


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