Joe Boyles , Guest Columnist
What is happening on the streets of Cairo is seismic. The revolt which began in Tunisia has spread eastward and may soon engulf far more Muslim nations across North Africa and the Middle East. It is hard to stay in front of fast-changing events like these.
Revolutions are sometimes like wildfires – once begun, they quickly spread and are difficult to contain. It began with the American Revolution in the late 18th Century. Actually, our revolution was really misnamed since there was never an intention to overthrow the English government but rather, to secede from its control.
On the heels of our revolt from English rule came a real revolution in France … and it was a mess. The people took to the streets to protest their horrid living conditions, stormed the central jail (Bastille), and soon forced the monarchy to step down. What ensued was bloody and out-of-control. In the early 1790s, more than thirty thousand lost their heads in a bloody rampage that eventually consumed the revolution itself. What emerged was military rule under Napoleon, twenty years of war across Europe, and a fallen empire. The French Revolution was an ugly chapter in man’s yearn for liberty.
The Russian Revolution during World War I is a classic study in the danger of a popular revolution being hijacked. The seeds of anarchy in Czarist Russia had been underway for more than three decades when the popular uprising overthrew Nicholas II. The moderate Kerensky government was in control for nearly a year when the Communists under Lenin and Trotsky wrestled away control. Lenin’s movement was small but well organized. They used terror to restore order and quickly subverted the opposition. In essence, Lenin hijacked the Russian Revolution and made it his own. The result was tyrannical rule and the death of tens of millions over the next seventy years.
A few years after the rise of the Communists in Russia, the National Socialists under Adolf Hitler attempted an unsuccessful coup in Southern Germany. Hitler learned his lesson and over the course of several elections, gradually took power by democratic means. Once in control, he brutally crushed the opposition and consolidated his stranglehold on industrial Germany. What followed was arguably the darkest chapter in the history of civilization.
Following World War II, the Soviet Union extended its control over Eastern Europe and installed friendly, puppet governments. When first Hungarians and later Czechs revolted against their oppressors, the Soviets brutally suppressed the revolts. But sooner or later, dictators tire and opposition can only be quelled for so long before the simmering pot again boils over. In the late 1980s, when labor unrest in Poland led to the fires of liberty throughout Eastern Europe, Soviet backed governments and eventually, the Soviet Union itself broke apart.
In South Vietnam, the Kennedy Administration tired of President Diem and sanctioned his overthrow in late 1963. What ensued was a revolving door of governments that never again established confidence or continuity with the Vietnamese people. What passed for a government could not withstand the pressure from their northern communist cousins.
In the late 1970s, unrest against the regime of the Shah of Iran boiled over. The Iranian Revolution turned out to be a theocracy that plagues the world to this day. Many blame President Jimmy Carter for not properly handling the events that unfolded in Tehran. Some of that criticism is hindsight.
In looking back over the history, it seems that revolutions turn out badly more often than not. It is a dangerous period. The people of Egypt and elsewhere have a legitimate gripe against the tyrannically governments which repress liberty and human rights. The danger is when opportunists hijack the revolution and replace the hated regime with something that often proves worse and far more dangerous.
Follow-up: To those who weighed in both pro and con to madisonfloridavoice.com under the question, “Why does Joe Boyles hate teachers and women?” I would simply respond that my article in the Carrier on January 26 (Public Sector Unions) never mentioned education and was gender neutral. Many members of my family are and have been teachers, and I have the greatest respect for their contributions to education including my own. Those who truly know me appreciate that I hold women in the highest regard. And thanks to everyone for reading and considering what I have to say.