Monday, June 22, 2009
Every successful revolution starts when the troops will not fire on their own people. That was true in France in 1789 and in Russia in 1917. Trotsky has a moving passage describing how the people crawled under the bellies of the Cossack's horses to get to the demonstration at one point and the soldiers did not fire. At that moment the Old Regime was finished. Our host has noted this happened also in the Philippines. In China in 1989 the people of Beijing co-opted the local military units and the CCP brought in the Mongols and other provincials to clean our Tien an Men Square. The Iranians are now students and possibly clients of China. They have brought in the out of town bully boys from the sticks. Will this work over time or will the military units break and defend the people? Partly this is complicated by the fissures within the regime. It is true that all the leading figures, Mousavi, Rafsanjani, Khameni and Ahmadinejehad are tied to the legacy of Khomeneism. That does not mean that we should not assist as possible in the development of a revolutionary space. The concrete has to crack before a flower can grow. Charles II's entrance into London was made past the serried ranks of General Monck's troops from Parliament's New Model Army.
The point about using outside forces to control the cities does not imply that the majority of the rural population supports the regime. What is important is to ensure the reliability of the force used to suppress the people. To do that they must be drawn from another community. They must be Others. This Otherness can be achieved through various means. For a small elite a rigorous program of indoctrination can sever the bonds between a cadre and the community they become a parasite on. In Eastern Europe they had the institution of the Barracks Police. The defining characteristic of which was that they were recruited from social rejects. The Chinese move military units around and replaced the local forces when they proved unreliable in 1989. In ancient Athens the town was patrolled by Scythian archers.