Against World Revolution – Constructively!


Johan Galtung, 14 Jan 2013 - TRANSCEND Media Service

From Alicante, Spain

“Unemployment in Spain Tops 6.1M” – Unemployment rate is 26.6 percent; for those under the age of 25, 56.5 percent; all growing, all EU records.  “Bank of Spain inspectors pen damning report about wrongdoing in Spanish banks: look the other way” was the reaction, while the government spends billions of Euros to bail out those banks. (El País, early January 2013).

And this: “300 Madrid health chiefs resign over privatization”; “Locksmiths in Pamplona refuse taking part in evictions involving families with young children”; “Theater chief sells carrots at 13 Euro as entrance ticket” – value-added tax down from 21 to 4 percent for food; “Mothers strip for erotic calendar to drum up funds for canceled school buses”. A country rapidly de-developing, into low Third World levels, even in health.  A country not only saving banks rather than people but also letting the banks get away with crimes. A country reacting with mini-revolutions, nonviolence, civil disobedience against such glaring injustices. A country where the class war is over for the time being; capitalism won and more particularly the bankers and their servants, the politicians, and even more particularly the finance-speculation capital.  And this in a Spain close to 40 years into democracy after 40 years of Franco dictatorship. Constitution + democracy + elections + human rights (also to property) + parliament vs finance capitalism. Weak vs strong.

What is Spain, and EU heading for, what is further down the road?

Rather obvious: “more of the same”.  There will be not only poverty but also widespread misery; people with capital by and large will survive intact. But then, Spain–like the USA, the model–is heading for a divided society, one part for the well-to-do, the other for the rest, from upper-middle class down to crime and prostitution. Like the 19th century societies in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Marcel Proust, sharply divided between those who lived off capital–including land–and those who worked for a living.

The former had receptions, balls, travels, card games and culture, busying themselves and marrying their offspring into wealthyer families. The latter served them, busying themselves with survival. The rich will live more and more in enclosed security communities, as larger amounts of taxpayer money will be spent on secret and open police and military.

This cannot and will not stand. There is already a dialectic of resistance, some of it very creative.  And below and beyond that a very old debate takes shape.  The big-bang violent world revolution (in 2017, around October?), building a new system from scratch?  The slow evolution relying on the time tested institution of democracy?  Or – a third way, many nonviolent revolutions on behalf of humanity?

This column favors that third way in a crisis-ridden system with untold millions suffering alongside impotent institutions.  But let us first argue against the violent revolution based on maximizing the contradictions, with no piecemeal evolutions or revolutions: the Big-Bang.

Given the right moment, after a natural or social catastrophe, what is left of a dying system can be destroyed.  History may become plastic, ready to be molded: a tabula rasa, waiting for a new Creator.  But is our species–with good intentions–omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent enough to play God? The suffering from direct violence may exceed that of structural violence and not affect those who benefit from the pathologies; they know how to protect themselves. But there are two strong arguments against the Big, not only the Bang.

First: we humans are numerous and diverse, social formulas are few and simplistic; some humans will always find some shoes pinching. If not today, for sure tomorrow; we forget what fits, not what pinches.

Second: the problem is not an abrupt, radical change from an old to a new reality, but ushering in a new world for everybody everywhere forever. The more we create God in our own image, the more it becomes obvious that we are not up to it.  Some other species, perhaps; not us.

Three countries presented their revolutions as iconic for the whole world: France for modernity, the USA for capitalism and Russia for socialism; one supposedly canceling the other. Look at them today. Fortunately, large parts of the world do not suffer the pathologies in the wake of their pretensions: for Russia a counter-revolution, for the USA the full weight of the crisis of capitalism. And nearly two centuries after Waterloo Napoleon’s gloire is fading, even in France.

They all suffered from the Western God-complex: erasing others through invasion and imperialism, imposing their own formulae. Yet, even they did not have the power to change the whole world into their own image. Nobody should have that power. There are many options between the omnipretension to change everything and a stagnant evolution.

Take four approaches to democracy–rule with the consent of the ruled: multi-party national elections; dialogues to consensus based on transparency-information-education; referenda local-national-global on basic issues; petition democracy with critical-constructive proposals. All of the above, none of them.  Who is to say what the answer is?  Rather than imposing majority rule on a dialogue-consensus culture (West-UN in Cambodia) a range of options for here and now, not for everywhere forever.  Experimenting on behalf of humanity (Sartre).

Take five approaches to the economy: capitalism, socialism, social capitalism, localism, Japanese-Chinese capi-communism; all of the above, none.  Who is to say what the answer to livelihood is?

At the end of socialism in Eastern Europe there were debates about alternatives: “one country, both systems”, “two ways to socialism in the same country”, “private cooperative, not state, ownership”.  But all disappeared in capitalism or socialism.

And China?  One country, two systems?  Converging, combining the best of both–or the worst?  To be watched; a huge country that could experiment with more than two systems.  Like Spain should, right now.


 Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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3 Responses to “Against World Revolution – Constructively!”

  1. […] Originally published by Transcend Media Service […]

  2. satoshi says:

    I read Prof. Galtung’s editorial every week. The above editorial is one of the most interesting editorials I read recently. He writes it from a vast perspective.

    God created human beings according to his image. But who created God’s image? We, human beings. Prof.Galtung’s insight is interesting, deep and sharp: “The more we create God in our own image, the more it becomes obvious that we are not up to it. Some other species, perhaps; not us.”

    Prof.Galtung refers to Eastern Europe near the end of the editorial. Let me add:
    – Eastern European and the Balkan countries are in the transition period. Of what? To become economic colonies of Western countries. Western companies, backed (directly or indirectly) by their own governments and are purchasing local companies, including banks and relevant financial companies as well as other major companies.
    – So, what will be happening? These countries have the sovereignty but their money (economy and business) is de facto controlled by Western countries. “Open market” of the Eastern European and the Balkan countries means to open the road toward the “economic colonies”. Needless to say, these countries suffer from heavy national and foreign deficits. The “so-called financial assistance from the West” works as the bite (or the fish net) for the suffering countries.
    – No more political colonies. But a new era of economic colonies has just begun. Human rights are highly respected. Therefore, people in these countries enjoy “freedom” and fundamental human rights. But their money is controlled by the West. What kind of “freedom” is it?
    – Economic rights in relevant human rights instruments do not solve these newly emerged problems. These conventional economic rights stipulate the relation between the government and people. The newly emerged problems on economic rights, however, relate to the relation between the investors (i.e. the Western countries) and the invested (i.e. those Eastern and the Balkan countries). A new understanding of economic rights or new types of economic rights might be necessary.

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