The changing dynamics of revolution in the 21st century
Eric Hobsbawm states, "[I]f humanity is to have a recognizable future, it cannot be by prolonging the past or the present. If we try to build the third millennium on that basis, we shall fail. And the price of failure, that is to say, the alternative to a changed society, is darkness."
When considering revolutionary history we need to look at how the state responds to and receives the demands of that particular revolution. For the sake of clarity we are segmenting revolution into new and old, new being in the third millennium or post year 2000. Old revolutions being, the French revolution of 1789, English revolution of 1688, Russian Revolution of 1917, American Revolution of 1776, Spanish anti fascist revolution of 1936, Cuban Revolution of 1953 and Iranian Revolution of 1979. Post year 2000 we have our new revolutions, to name a few; the yellow vest French Revolution, Russian anti Putinist revolution, Hong Kong Revolution, Brazil trade union protests, Spanish revolution, Arab spring consisting of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen.
In the past, revolutions were treated by the state as intolerable and outside the periphery of usefulness to the state. Previously revolutionary figures and movements could only direct their demands to the state they were opposing. Spheres of influence have shifted from the individual state to global organisations like the UN, International criminal court, NGOs and the interconnected digital media sphere like Twitter, where revolutionaries can get their message not only to people on the ground but to the great powers and elite decision makers around the world.
In considering the yellow vest movement in France, two things have happened; the actual movement has been compromised by radical elements from the far right whose leader is Marine Le Pen and despite this, the movement as a whole has undermined and isolated the Macron regime. As of now international press has moved on to the next soundbite but the yellow vest movement is still in play and protests continue.
The most difficult and actively suppressed current day revolution is the Russian anti Putinist revolution. We hear nothing of it with only small snippets of information making it through social media which is heavily filtered by the Putin regime. International media has a complete blackout on the Russian people's struggle for democratic change. This being said, Putin's foreign policy outside the confines of the former Soviet Union's machinations has seen successful outcomes, for example, Putin's special relations with Syria, Iraq, Oman and Qatar have safeguarded the region from shady terrorist organizations and Israeli aggression.
The current Hong Kong revolution is a legacy of the recent umbrella revolution of 2014. Previously, the umbrella revolution had the ground support of the Occupy Wall Street Movement in New York. What has become of the current Hong Kong protests is quite different. The protesters have gained the attention of modern British politics headed by Boris Johnson, in that, a former colonial power is siding with a righteous cause which is to prevent China from having extradition powers in a business hub (Hong Kong) open to the west. China has reacted by arresting young protest leaders and amassing troops on the Hong Kong border. Because the Hong Kong protests have gathered so much momentum globally, China under the Xi regime are in a stalemate scenario.
If they attack and arrest protesters they will lose a hard earned win in terms of their tolerance propaganda which they have been carefully building on for the past 20 odd years. If they do nothing they will also be under scrutiny by hardliners in China. The only solution is to strike a deal with the UK, for the UK to reenter the hub and formerly position themselves in Hong Kong again. This will quell the discontent of Hong Kong citizens who attended the protests in their millions. China must pivot to the United Kingdom instead Trump's US agenda. Xi should make the deal and step down in order to shift China's position away from totalitarian to a global friendly China.
And what of the Arab Spring? The Tunisian revolution is a fragile success, the Egyptian revolution got rid of Mubarak but eventually got replaced with someone just like him, the Libyan revolution was successful in gaining international support from NATO, France, UK, US and the African Union all stepping in to help the Libyan people to get rid of Gaddafi but they are experiencing post revolution growing pains, where a general by the name of Haftar wants to seize power with support from unknown western backers. But the west would do well to support a civilian government instead of military junta, if they wish to stay in line with Hobsbawm's third millennia success story. On the sidelines of the real Arab Spring a fake Arab spring was launched in Syria. Essentially, a complex dirty war backed by Saudi and Israel to destablize the Assad government was thwarted by Syrian forces backed by and supported by Russia, Iran and Lebanon. Another fake instance of revolution was thwarted in Iran by the name of the 'green movement'. The Iranian population came out in force to oppose that uprising as a foreign interventionist attempt to overthrow the successful revolutionary government of Iran.
To conclude, every instance where great powers have supported a righteous revolutionary movement, it has been successful for their respective interests and that of the people. Revolutions in the modern era have ground support, have global social media and established media support, they have NGO support and that of the UN. In order to do well in the 21st century, it would be foolish to ignore genuine movements which have in them the very fabric of positive change this century needs in order to survive and prevent new major wars, like the two world wars of the previous century which seriously damaged the power structures we all know and live under.