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Recent protests in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as protests a decade earlier in East Central Europe, have peaked public interest while raising concerns about the potential for democracy protests to catalyze major reforms in governance. Although the number of protests that occurred in these periods was remarkable, democracy protests are not a new phenomena, but rather have come and gone throughout history. In some cases, the potential of these protests has been realized and significant reforms have resulted, while in others, the protests have been repressed and hopes of a more democratic future have been crushed. To shed light on these issues, the five Ws of democracy protests—namely what are democracy protests, who organizes and participates in these protests, when and where are democracy protests more likely to emerge, and why do these protests matter—are discussed.

Article

Sudan has had an unstable relationship between soldiers and civilians since shortly after it came to independence in 1956. This has resulted in three military coups, in 1958, 1969, and 1989, all of which gave rise to successful, peaceful civilian resistance seeking democratic government in 1964, 1985, and 2018. In the south of the country, two lengthy civil wars started under periods of military rule and resulted in separation and the creation of South Sudan in 2011, in which the very definition of “soldiers” and “civilians” is central to continuing conflicts.

Article

The 1992 Salvadoran peace accords ended a 12-year civil war and forced modest democratic reforms on a state long dominated by a ruthless oligarchy and military. However, the new system represented a shallow version of democracy that remained largely unresponsive to the population. For two decades the far-right Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (Nationalist Republican Alliance [ARENA]) party held the presidency and used it to enact pro-business economic policies of austerity, privatization, and deregulation. In 2009, the left-wing opposition party, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), won the presidential elections for the first time. Yet despite winning some notable progressive reforms, the FMLN did not seek, much less achieve, a radical break from the neoliberal policies of previous administrations. FMLN leaders opted to continue a number of pro-capitalist policies while pursuing reforms to ameliorate the worst symptoms of the system, not overthrow it. The FMLN’s shift away from revolutionary socialism is attributable to several factors: a political and media terrain that still heavily favors the right, the continued influence of the United States government, and private investors’ control over the economy. These constraints were vitally important during the tenures of FMLN presidents Mauricio Funes (2009–2014) and Salvador Sánchez Cerén (2014–2019). El Salvador’s political trajectory since 1992, and especially during the FMLN’s decade in the presidency, offers insights into the constraints facing various left-of-center governments elected across Latin America in the early 21st century.

Article

With the victory of Hugo Chávez in the 1998 presidential elections, Venezuela became the first country in the Latin American “pink tide.” Up to then, mainstream political analysis had considered Venezuela a stable liberal democracy. Little attention had been paid to the country internationally. Former army officer Chávez was met with suspicion by the international left, which knew little about the Venezuelan left and the contemporary history of the country, and the right thought it could persuade him to act in its interests. The process of social transformation launched, named the “Bolivarian Revolution” after Venezuelan independence leader Simón Bolivar, became radicalized rapidly and was soon declared socialist. Internal policies were characterized by popular participation, expropriations, and redistribution of the oil wealth. Internationally, Venezuela took an active role in promoting regional integration and South–South cooperation. Chávez and the social transformation process in Venezuela rapidly gained strong sympathies among social movements and the radical left throughout the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region; for the same reasons, Venezuela came to be the number-one enemy of the Latin American right and the United States, which supported several attempts to overthrow the government. After Chávez’s death in 2013, his successor, Nicolás Maduro, faced an increasingly violent opposition, a severe economic crisis, growing hostility from the United States and the European Union (EU), and a regional context in which the rise of right-wing governments reversed the “pink tide.” Since early 2019, the situation has escalated because of sanctions by the U.S. and EU countries; the recognition of a self-proclaimed “interim president” belonging to the opposition, by the United States, most EU countries, and the right-wing governments in Latin America; coup attempts; and the open threat of U.S. military intervention. The unfolding of the Bolivarian Revolution, the forces at play, and the main points of conflict need to be analyzed in their historical context.

Article

Knowing Cuba’s past is crucial in making sense of the present; that’s especially true when it comes to the question of race. Racial slavery, with its peculiar Latin American characteristics, set the stage upon which the 1959 revolution began. All of the practices and ideas associated with the institution that disadvantaged Cubans of African origin had to be challenged. That task was combined with the overriding one of making Cuban sovereignty a reality for the first time. Important gains were made for Afro-Cubans that proved qualitatively favorable in comparison not only with their pre-1959 status but also with that of their cohorts in the United States. As Cold War realities intervened, conscious and explicit attention to the issue began to fade, often in the name of unity in the face of the threat from the north. And when those continuing gains began to be undermined owing to the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies in 1989, the race question was forced back onto the national agenda. Fidel Castro, as was so often the case during the revolution, took the lead in addressing the issue. For the first time since the early years of the revolution, conscious attention began to be paid to race, the all-important unfinished business that had begun in 1959. Not all Cubans began on an equal footing in the commencement of that project, thus special attention now needs to be paid to those of African origin to fulfill its egalitarian quest. It should be acknowledged that while progress has been made, much remains to be done.

Article

Regimes change constantly. Revolution, reform, and resilience are not discrete phenomena, but rather different modes in a common process. This means that change is not a distinct outcome to be explained, but an ongoing process to be traced over time. This requires a shift in focus from why change happens to how it actually unfolds. Social competition is the main driver, as social realists like Pierre Bourdieu indicate. Yet complex and continuous social interactions are impossible to account for in their entirety. Various aspects should be tackled in separate, complementary studies. One of those is power relations within the ruling bloc; the oscillation between conflict and collaboration between political, military, and security institutions. These three state institutions are necessary to govern society. But their relative weight shapes regime type. Security domination produces a police state, the most resilient form of authoritarianism. Egypt in 2011 provides a good example. Military guardianship has been, historically, more susceptible to piecemeal reforms, and can evolve to limited democracies. Turkey after 2002 is one instance. An overbearing political institution with weak military and security organs is vulnerable to revolutionary overthrow. The Iran of 1979 is archetypical. And the reason why relations within this “power triangle” remain tense and volatile is that while these three institutions share an interest in regulating society, they espouse different institutional agendas. They reinforce each other when their interests overlap, and clash when one institutional logic must be prioritized over the other two. And it is these recurring moments of discord that keep the path to regime change open.

Article

Mario Roberto Morales

Guatemala is one of the most complicated countries in the Latin American region, especially because of the interethnic dimensions of its historical processes. Its history goes back 35,000 years, when the territory was first populated. Thereafter, it saw the development of the most advanced culture in the Americas: The Maya civilization. No less interesting is its colonial history. The years of the war of conquest and the centuries of colonial rule by the Spaniards are the very matrix in which all of the complicated ethnic differences among its peoples originated. These differences give an ethnic face to the economic, political, social, and cultural powers and events in everyday life. The name Criollos (Creole) was given to the sons and grandsons of Spaniards born in the Americas. The formation of a Creole or Criollo motherland in the hearts and minds of the descendants of the conquistadors quickly developed because of the feudal land ownership imposed by the invaders, which provided the Criollos with a love of private property. Land ownership disputes among the Criollo elites gave way to wars that led to a failed attempt at Central American unity by liberals against the conservative forces representing the interests of the Catholic Church in matters of state. In the end, a liberal “modernity” was imposed, but this modernity contained a basic contradiction that remains alive to this day: A feudal land tenure as the basis of a supposed democratic liberal state that, oddly enough, often took the form of military dictatorships. The impossibility of modernity characterizes the Guatemalan 20th century. An authoritarian state and army represented the oligarchic Criollo power throughout the first four decades of that century until a civic and military movement overthrew the dictator in charge, General Jorge Ubico. Democracy was established, thus modernizing the state and all public affairs, and the foundations of a “democratic Capitalism” (as President Jacobo Arbenz called it in his inauguration speech) were laid through a land reform affecting only public lands and buying private non-cultivated properties at a fair market price. In the midst of the Cold War, this meant defiance against the U.S. government. In 1954, the CIA, the local oligarchy, the Catholic Church hierarchy, and a faction of the National Army, perpetrated a coup d’état that ended Guatemala’s path toward real economic, political, and cultural modernity. The country went back to where it was: Oligarchic and military rule and the overexploitation of the landless campesino workforce, especially in the indigenous communities of Maya ascent. In the early 1960s Guatemalans experienced the emergence of a guerrilla socialist movement inspired by the Cuban revolution that unleashed a war that lasted 36 years until peace accords were signed in 1996 by a militarily defeated guerrilla force and a triumphant National Army. This “peace” was the local requisite imposed by the corporate transnational capital on the local oligarchy to install a neoliberal regime in the country. Immediately after the peace accords were signed, the oligarchic government of Álvaro Arzú began to privatize public assets like the electric and telephone companies. The effect on the popular sectors and the middle class was devastating. The state abandoned its development plans, and this responsibility was shifted to international funding agencies. The resultant non-governmental organizations (NGOs) began to call themselves “civil society” and still do today. This simulacrum of a civil society was composed by well-funded groups of ex–left-wing militants and sympathizers that soon embraced and advanced issues related to multiculturalism, following the international agenda of the funding agencies. Class struggle was totally abandoned by these politically correct NGOs, which soon became “new social movements.” Public powers were absorbed by illegal private powers now in association with drug trafficking and many other forms of organized crime. Neoliberalism became the national economic paradigm. And when public corruption was incontrollable, the United States intervened, waging a “struggle against corruption and impunity” that led to a “color revolution” and a soft coup d’état in 2015.

Article

The history of the military in Ethiopia is a social history. There is no surprise here. Military institutions are social constructs whose structure and functions in each society can only be understood contextually. Because the Ethiopian military has emerged as a relatively independent institution after World War II, its nature, and role in the political order, has been impacted by structural conditions—including the interplay between tradition and modernity, the rise of the middle class, authoritarian culture and political makeup, interethnic tensions, chronic economic problems, and geopolitical conditions. Nevertheless, while being constrained by these factors and processes, the military, like other political actors in the country, has not acted as a passive spectacle; instead, members of the military have played an essential role in the perpetuation and unmaking of political regimes. Within the three administrations that have surfaced during the last nine decades, the role of the Ethiopian military in the political order has ranged from soft to active intervention. However, in all these regimes, military power has invariably undermined people power. The most extreme of all the regimes was the military establishment of 1974–1991. Under this palpably authoritarian government, to the extent that the distinction between military and civilian rule was blurred, the army was involved in politics more than its due share. During the imperial era (1930–1974), on the other hand, the emperor, who cherished his power (with no pretense for democratic governance) more than his outspoken commitment to the idea of progress, made the military subservient to his bidding while forcing it to remain politically indifferent. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime (1991–present) shared similar attributes with the imperial government in its recognition (at least theoretically) of the distinction between military and civilian rule. Here too the military was the strong arm of the incumbent. Despite its fervent claim for political and cultural pluralism, the EPRDF used the military to defend its “democratic” authoritarian interests. The lesson to be learned from this social history of the military is clear: Ethiopia needs a proper military–civil relationship, along with institutional mechanisms that counterweight against the military’s detrimental intervention in political affairs, for it to materialize the potential of its people and create a well-ordered, just society.

Article

Bolivia is in the process of consolidating 36 years of democracy amid important reforms and challenges. Despite a history of colonialism, racist oppression of the indigenous majority, and a national revolution and military reaction, the democratic transition to civilian rule and “pacted” electoral democracy among traditional political parties was established in 1982. The governments of pacted democracy failed to fully incorporate all of Bolivia’s citizens into the political process and imposed a severe neoliberal economic model that disproportionately disadvantaged the poor and indigenous. The constitutional popular participation reforms of 1994–1995 altered the party-dominated pacted democracy and opened up the political system to the unmediated and direct participation of indigenous organizations and popular social movements in local and national elections. Grassroots political mobilization and participation by previously marginalized and excluded indigenous groups and social movements, and the election of their candidates into office increased significantly. Indigenous and social movement protests erupted in the Cochabamba Water War in 2000 against the multinational Bechtel Corporation, and in the Gas War in 2003 against the export and exploitation of Bolivia’s natural gas. These mass demonstrations resulted in the turnover of five presidents in five years. The social and political agitation culminated in the game-changing, democratic election in December 2005 of Juan Evo Morales Ayma, as Bolivia’s first indigenous-heritage president. In office for 14 years, longer than all previous presidents, Morales and the Movement Toward Socialism party launched the “Refounding Revolution,” and passed the new Constitución Política del Estado (CPE), the progressive reform constitution that established a multicultural model of plurinational democracy. The Morales-MAS administration provided unprecedented continuity of governance and relative stability. However, amid charges of interference, relations deteriorated with the United States. And disputes erupted over regional and indigenous autonomy, and extractive economic development in the protected lands of native peoples, especially over the proposed road through the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (Territorio Indígena Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure, TIPNIS). These conflicts pitted highlanders against lowlanders, and divided indigenous organizations and social movements, and the government’s coalition of supporters. Contested term limits for the presidency created another acute and ongoing challenge. President Morales’s determination to run for re-election in 2019, despite constitutional restrictions, further tested the process of change and the resilience of Bolivia’s indigenous and social movement-based democracy.

Article

David Darchiashvili and Stephen Jones

The balance between civil and military structures is central to understanding the development of Georgian statehood since the beginning of the 20th century. The first modern independent Georgian state was established after the 1917 Russian Revolution. The Democratic Republic of Georgia declared its independence in May 1918. In February 1921, the young republic was incorporated into the Soviet state and had no separate army of its own. Since regaining its independence in 1991, Georgia has experienced multiple administrations, and despite significantly different policies on the military, the overall pattern has been one of civilian (though not always democratic) control. Georgian militias and paramilitaries, between 1918 and 1921 and again between 1991 and 1995, played important roles in determining political power at times of revolutionary or constitutional crises. Since 1991 there have been three presidents - Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Eduard Shevardnadze, and Mikheil Saakashvili - with strong executive authority. In 2013, the position of president was made semi-ceremonial and a prime-ministerial system was instituted. Since 2013, there have been multiple prime ministers. Bidzina Ivanishvili was the first and the most powerful. All of Georgia’s leaders have shifted from a Soviet to pro-Western orientation. Since the second half of the 1990s, the relationship with NATO has grown closer, which has had a major impact on the structure of the Georgian armed forces and on their relationship with Georgia’s civil authorities. The 2008 war with Russia had a major impact on the Georgian military, and, since then, the level of professionalization of the Georgian armed forces has increased dramatically. Samuel Huntington, Eric Nordlinger, and other Western students of civil-military relations have pointed to the important balance required between civil and military authorities for a stable democracy. Georgia still displays continuing features of nepotism, clientelism, corruption, and dominant political personalities, which has significant consequences for the independence of the Georgian military and for civil-military relations more generally. Western states such as the United States and Germany, and international organizations like NATO continue to urge reform and provide training to the Georgian armed forces

Article

Cuba in the second decade of the new millennium remains as interesting as ever, commanding a place on the world stage much greater than its small size would indicate. Fidel Castro passed away in November 2016 after 10 years of retirement from public life, during which time his brother Raúl assumed the leadership of the country and led Cuba through some very important political and economic changes that are still being played out. In 2011, a long delayed Communist Party congress mandated the scaling back of government employment and the re-creation of a services sector of the economy dominated by private economic activity. These market mechanisms have threatened the island’s vaunted egalitarianism but have moved the economy forward after years of stagnation. In 2013 Raúl declared the political reform of a two-term limit on the presidency and in 2018 Miguel Diaz-Canal, a man in his fifties, assumed the presidency, signaling a shift of political control to a generation born after the revolution triumphed in 1959. The final results of these political and economic reforms, especially in the face of continued hostility from the United States, are not clear, but if they succeed it will not be the first time that Cuba will be an inspiration to those in the world seeking a successful model of social justice.

Article

In early 2014, a series of dramatic crises in Ukraine generated headlines around the world. Most scholarly attention was placed on the tensions between the West and Russia, and the emergence of a new Cold War, especially following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and its military incursion in eastern Ukraine. The relations between Ukraine and the European Union (EU) have often been reduced to debates on whether the EU was to blame for the conflict, having “sleepwalked” into the Ukraine crisis by focusing on technical trade issues and failing to recognize the delicate geopolitical context. Other analysts pointed to the EU’s pursuit of regional hegemony, which has failed to recognize Russia’s legitimate geopolitical and economic interests in Ukraine. In practice, Ukraine-EU relations have been more complex and nuanced, certainly when considering that Ukraine already declared its ambition to “return to Europe” and to seek EU membership with its proclamation of independence, in 1991. Ukraine-EU relations are perhaps best understood along four levels of inquiry. The first is domestic dynamics in Ukraine. Since the end of the Cold War, all Ukrainian governments have underlined the “Europeanness” of Ukraine and have also by and large followed a pro-EU course in their foreign policies, including the government under pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. However, Ukraine’s European choice has often been limited to foreign-policy declarations. Even the pro-European and reform-oriented governments that led Ukraine after the 2004 Orange Revolution and the 2014 Maidan Square protests struggled to introduce far-reaching reforms because of the power of the “iron triangle” of oligarchic rule, corruption, and financial instability. The second line of inquiry concerns Ukraine-Russia relations. Since gaining independence, Ukraine’s strategy has been one of limited participation in Russia’s post-Soviet regional integration initiatives in order to safeguard its independence. However, Russia always used “sticks and carrots” vis-à-vis Ukraine to further its own policy objectives, ranging from offering gas-price discounts to cutting off gas supplies, imposing import bans on Ukrainian produce, and, since 2014, threatening and using the military to force Ukraine to acquiesce to its demands. A third line of inquiry is the EU’s policy toward Ukraine, based on bilateral relations and cooperation through the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership. The EU has approached Ukraine as one among several neighbors in its attempt to build a ring of well-governed countries along its borders. Although the EU’s enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe generated more interest in Ukraine, member states have consistently ruled out EU membership for Ukraine. A fourth theme of inquiry is that of EU-Russia relations in the wider international context. Throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s, the EU clearly prioritized good political and economic relations with Russia over its relationship with its neighbors in the East, including Ukraine. Even when Russia annexed Crimea and when evidence of the role of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine had become impossible to ignore, the EU struggled to find a common stance on Russia.

Article

Jeffrey Kaplan

The wave theory refers to the “Four Waves of Modern Terrorism,” which was published in 2004 by David C. Rapoport, Professor Emeritus at the University of California Los Angeles and a founding editor of the journal Terrorism & Political Violence. Wave theory made a unique contribution to the study of terrorism by positing a generational model that linked contemporaneous global terrorist groups based on their shared characteristics of ideology/theology, strategy/tactics, and visions for the future. Although wave theory is focused on the modern period, from the late 19th century to the present day, it is built on a thorough grounding of the history of terrorism, which dates from the 1st century ad.