Goldstone, J, A. (2014). Revolutions.

Goldstone, J, A. (2014). Revolutions, A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

A list of quotes from Goldstone’s book highlighting the causes of revolutions in different countries in different eras. The book is a very interesting read, with a wealth of information about the motivations behind the actions of well known historical figures. As always, the text in the square brackets [ ] are either paraphrases or text added to make a quote make sense. Enjoy the read.

Revolution is the forcible overthrow the government through mass mobilisation (well for military or civilian or both) in the name of social justice, to create new political institutions. 4

The most common acts that result in the forcible overthrow of governments our elite coups or coup d’etat (literally, blows to the state). They occur when one authoritarian leader small group of leaders take over the government without any large mass mobilisation possible struggle. 6

What gives revolution the distinctive role in history and in the popular imagination is the only revolutions combine all the elements of forcible overthrow of a government, mass mobilisation, the pursuit of a vision of social justice, and the creation of new political institutions. It is this combination that leads us to conceive of revolutions as the process by which visionary leaders draw on the powers of the masses to forcibly bring into existence a new political order. 9

Revolutions occur more often in the middle-income countries than in the very poorest nations. 10

Revolutions can occur when significant portion of the elites, and especially the military, defect or stand aside. Indeed, in most revolutions is the elites who mobilise the population to help them overthrow the regime. 11

It is relative deprivation that drives revolution. 11

deep inequality leaves the poor without the resources to create an effective revolutionary force. 11

What does poverty or inequality into motivation for revolution? It is the belief that these conditions are not inevitable but arise from the faults of the regime. 11

Rulers and elite usually enforced beliefs that justified their rule, while harshly punishing those who question their authority. 12

Rulers provided defence and services in return for taxes; elite provides support for rulers in return for prestige and political and material rewards; and popular groups engage in economic activities, raise families, pray in churches, and received protection in return for their economic activity and political obedience. 13

Elites act as critical intermediaries between the state and the populace, organising political, economic, religious and educational activities, reinforcing the existing beliefs and behaviour, and recruiting and training new elite members. 13

[when] most groups are invested in the status quo and would not take major risk to change it. 13

[when] Elites are no longer unified but instead have become divided into mutually suspicious and distrusting factions…  under such conditions, moderate or even a small disturbance can trigger spreading popular uprisings and heightened confrontation among elite groups. 15

Whatever their form, effective narratives of injustice highlight the terrible injustice of the current regime and create a sense of shared identity and righteousness among opposition. 18

What works best of vague or utopian promises of better times ahead combined with a detailed and emotionally powerful depiction of the intolerable injustice and in inescapable evils of the current regime. 19

Sustained population growth produces ever larger youth cohorts who finds difficulty obtaining suitable jobs and are easily drawn to the new ideologies and mobilise for social protest. 21

When most people see protestors as extremists, and they are isolated targets of state action, repression is usually effective. But when protesters are seen as ordinary members of society, then repression that is too broad or inconsistent can inflame elite and unpopular perception of the regime as dangerous, illegitimate, and unjust. 24

Scholars have identified two main patterns of state breakdown – central collapse and peripheral advance. 27       

The inaction of the military acts as a signal to the ruler, elites, and the population that the regime is defenceless. 27

Seizing power is the first step of the revolutionary process… a number of critical decisions soon need to be made by the revolutionary government. 29

[After the revolution different element within the revolution will have different approach] The revolution then enters the phase of post-revolutionary power struggle. 30

Whether it is the radicals and their heirs or new moderate rulers who succeed in power, the revolutionary regime becomes the ‘new normal’ government. People adopt ordinary careerism rather than ideologically driven passion as their approach to politics. 32

The Turkish Revolution, the Meiji Restoration, and the Nasser Revolution in Egypt all sought to replace traditional monarchies or empires with modern national states with constitutions and secular governments; but all led to eventual military regimes. 38

The European notion of nationalism as the right of ethnic communities to govern themselves later produced anticolonial revolution against European powers. 40

The Greeks recognised five forms of government:

Monarchy:  A royal family claimed hereditary rights to rule.

Aristocracy: A privileged elite held power.

Tyranny/Dictatorship: An individual gains power by force and rules in arbitrary fashion.

Oligarchy: A small group of citizens (usually the richest) make the laws and decision for all.

Democracy: Citizens join in making the laws and passing judgements. 43

Plato argued that the best society is ruled by an aristocracy based on merit and virtue, when aristocracies focus on money… they become ineffective, rival torn oligarchies, and will be overthrown by the people. 43

The Roman religion at the time of Augustus Caesar followed the Greeks in having many gods, so that taking on divine attributes made Augustus just another one of the many descendants of the Olympians who had been heroes or demigods on earth. However, when Christianity came to the empire, the only true God and his son Jesus Christ were considered to have given their divine authority to kings to rule over humanity as their earthly regents. 46

This may be one of the reasons why Jesus was nailed to the cross.

When injustice, popular suffering, and administrative crisis arose, the diagnosis was always that the ruler had departed from the traditional values of the past. In China, the phrase was that the rule had ‘lost the mandate of the heavens’ for failing to conform to Confucian virtues. 47

Under the early caliph, Islam spread across Middle East. The fourth caliph was Ali, Muhammed first cousin and son in law, and closest living relative. However, in 661 CE Ali was assassinated. After his death power was claimed by the governor of Syria, who founded the Umayyad dynasty. 48

Umayyad caliphs expanded Islamic control from Spain to Persia. Yet they faced many revolts, most notably by the followers of Ali. These partisans (in Arabic, Shi’a) of Ali claimed that the caliphate should remain in the direct descent from the prophet, and thus the Umayyad caliphs were not legitimate. 48

Alis younger son, Hussein ibn Ali, led a rebellion against the Umayyads, but in 680 CE Hussein was defeated and killed at the battle of Karbala. 49

Raising a military force in Persia, the followers of Abu al-Abbas (who claimed descent from the Prophet through an uncle) defeated the Umayyads in 750 CE. 49

A remnant of the Umayyads fled to Spain, where they established a rival caliphate in Cordoba. 49

All those who recognised the authority of the Abbasid and later the Ottoman Caliphate are known as Sunni Muslims. Yet a considerable fraction of Muslims did not recognise the Abbasid claim of descent from the prophet and continue to look for a saviour and future caliph from the line of Ali. They are known as Shi’a Muslims, and still commemorate Hussein’s martyrdom at the battle of Karbala on the holiday of Ashura. 49

In the sixteenth century the Safavid dynasty in Iran, seeking to justify its claim to power against its Ottoman rivals, adopted Shi’a as their official religion, producing a fusion of Iranian nationalism with the Shi’a faith. 49

After several generations, though, Jewish independence was ended by the Romans, whose general Pompey invaded and took control of Israel in 63 BCE. 51

The English Revolution was the first revolution in modern history to put king on trial and formally execute him. 55

The English Revolution came before the French Revolution.

[Charles was executed in the English Revolution] Charles son was welcomed back to take the throne as Charles II. [Charles II / Royalist dug up Cromwell body from its grave in Westminster Abbey, hung it in chains, and beheaded] 56

English Bill of Rights states: Excessive bails ought not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted. 59

The British Colonies of North America were founded in the early 1600s by commercial companies and religious groups seeking from British Society: Puritans in New England, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Catholics in Maryland, and plantation colonies in Virginia. 62

 British government played a key role in defeating the French and their Native American Allies in the French and Indian War (1754 – 1763) which secured the colonies claim of land east of the Mississippi. 63

The war was expensive, and the British government was determined to recover its cost from the colonialist by imposing new taxes on colonial trade and consumption. 63

[Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence] The Declaration stated that King George II was an unjust king who had violated Americans ‘self-evident… right]

Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness’. 64

France decided that it could avenge its defeat in the French and Indian War by helping the colonies against Britain, providing first financial support and then military support. 64

[In France there were three groups in society] The clergy, nobility, and commoners. 66

The clergy and nobility insisted on voting by Estates, so that their vote would always outweigh those of the commoners, known as the third estate. 66

Slaves and former slaves followed the proclamation that all men were equal and citizens and rose up to demand their freedom from the plantation owners and from France. 69

In 1852, the U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew Perry sailed a fleet of modern steam-powered warship into Tokyo Bay in an impressive display of force. Sweeping aside all resistance, he imposed a humiliating treaty on the Shogun. 71

The provisional government efforts to continue the war provoked the anger of the industrial workers of Moscow and Saint Petersburg and peasants throughout the country. Workers organised themselves into council (called Soviets) and were recruited by the communists. 76

Lenin followed the so-called New Economic Policy (NEP), which allowed the peasants and small private businesses to take their product to the market. But after Lenin’s death in 1924, a struggle for leadership arose between those who wanted to continue with the NEP, and those who sought to restore full communist control of all sectors of the economy. The latter faction, led by Joseph Stalin, won this battle. 78

Japan invaded Manchuria, forcing the GMD to turn its attention to defending China against the Japanese. Nonetheless, Chang remained determined to wipe of Mao’s forces. 81

In order to win more support, the communists turned to fight the Japanese. Building up their forces to several hundred thousands, from 1937 to 1945 they entered into a political alliance with the GMD against Japan. 81

The CCP with extensive help from the Soviet Union, built up a large conventional army. 82

The GMD government printed money with abandon, creating a galloping inflation. 82

Maos forces swept the GMD out of more and more areas. Finally, in October 1949, Mao entered Beijing and proclaimed the Peoples Republic of China. Chiang and the remaining nationalist forces fled to Taiwan. 82

[Deng] government made huge investment in infrastructure, housing, energy, and other construction, and encouraged stock sales and privatisation of state-owned enterprise. 84


In the 1950s, Fidel Castro raised a peasant guerrilla army and drew on support from sugar workers to overthrow the Cuban dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista and established a communist regime. 85

Sugar constituted 80 per cent of Cuba’s exports, and almost half of sugar production was by US owned firms. American businesses also had extensive holding in tourism, hotels, gambling, utilities, manufacturing, mining, and oil refining. 85

In March 1958, revolted by Batista’s violence and seeing Castro’s as a moderate nationalist leader, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower halted arms shipments to Batista. 86

On January 1, 1959, Batista Fled, and a few weeks later Castro entered Havana with enormous popular support. 87

After taking power, Castro nationalised foreign businesses operations and undertook land reforms. True to his work, he began national literacy and health campaigns, building thousands of new schools and clinics. 87

Castro encouraged thousands of his opponents to flee to the United States, where most settled in Florida. Those who remained in Cuba and dared to be critical of Castro’s regime, even once-fellow revolutionaries, ended up in prison or executed. 88

[In Mexico] Peasants saw their lands being swallowed by expanding commercial estates (haciendas). 91

The Shah spent and borrowed wildly to acquire the latest weapons (supplied by the United States) and to force modern reconstruction of his country. 100.

‘Black Friday’ on September 8, 1978, when the shah declared martial laws and his forces killed thousands of unarmed demonstrators. Workers responded with massive strikes that shut down the oil industry, devastating the economy. 102

In January 1979, after weeks of massive street demonstrations, the Shah departed for Egypt; in February, Khomeini returned to Iran. 102

In September 1980, fearing the spread Iran’s radical Shi’a republican ideology and thinking Iran had been weakened by the revolution, Iraq invaded. The crisis allowed Khomeini and the clergy to tighten their grip of power… But hundreds of thousands became martyr is a war that lasted until 1988. 102

Where a loyal and determined military supports a financially strong and independent government, nonviolent resistance will usually fail, succumbing to harsh repression. 105

Arab societies have one of the highest population growth rates of any middle-income regions. This produced a huge and ambitious youth bulge, while also reducing the land and available water to farmers. 118

Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria had all followed the pattern laid down by Arab socialist leader Nasser Gamel Abdel in 1950s, aiming to win support by providing generous subsidies for education, food, fuel, and other necessities, and promising government jobs for college graduates. But rapid population growth, combined with the highest dependence on grain imports in the world, rendered these programmes increasingly expensive and impractical. 118

Youth unemployment in the Arab nations was the highest in the world, at around 25 per cent. 118

[The Arab regime censored the media but didn’t bother to censor social media, allowing people to organise using that platform] 119

Gadhafi fancied himself an Arab socialist and nationalist; he provided subsidies for the poor and expanded secondary and university education. But as in other personalist states, he directed economic benefits mainly to his family and close supporters. 123

Gaddafi used his wealth to create a private army of mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa more than twice the size as large as the official professional army. 124

Assad family came from small and cohesive Shi’a minority, the Alawites – and Assad had packed the military with loyal Alawites officers. 125

Iran, determined to protect its supply routes Hezbollah in Lebanon and anxious to support a fellow Shi’a regime, intervened to support Assad, providing money, weapons, and military advisers. 127

Authoritarian leaders in the middle east, central Asia, and south and southeast Asia will become vulnerable when their natural resources and wealth grows too weak to support their patronage regimes. 132

In recent years, the number and quality of democracy in the world has been declining. 133

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