What are the optimal conditions for revolution?
If asked this question, most Marxists would probably point to a strong, militant working class, an exploitive bourgeoisie to revolt against, and perhaps a period of warfare or hardship to initiate suffering of a kind sufficient to spark rebellion. There’s reason behind this, for these were the conditions imagined by Karl Marx himself, which were present prior to many revolutions throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century, from the Paris Commune in France to the 26th July Movement in Cuba. However, whilst I wouldn’t argue with any of these ideas proposed, I believe that it’s worth considering the question from other perspectives, for the circumstances of class and society are only the social conditions desired; they ignore whatever role the natural world may have in this process.
Though it may seem unlikely, evidence does suggest that our environment shapes our behaviour in a variety of odd ways, even creating circumstances where riots, rebellions and thus even revolutions are more likely to occur. It is known, for example, that rioting is more likely to occur in Summer, when the air temperature is hotter and the population more agitated. An example would be the London Riots of 2011, which took place primarily in the summertime as a reaction against police violence. Now, whilst short-lived and not in any way successful, it was a movement of considerable significance; not only was the wave of aggression a large-scale revolt which gained attention nationwide, but it was even thought as revolutionary by certain people on the left. Yet what happened when the season turned? The tensions cooled off with the weather, and the spirit of rebellion went out like a lightbulb.
Whilst these all effectively demonstrate how the weather can affect behaviour in this way, they are only one of multiple instances, for the coincidence of rebellion and hot weather is seen throughout history; the English Civil War broke out in the summer, just like the war in former-Yugoslav Slovenia, and the Tambov Rebellion in Soviet Russia. Perhaps the best exemplary country would be France, which has experienced much violence and revolutionary action in the past three centuries – a great deal in the summer months – from the Storming of the Bastille and the June Revolution to the events in Paris in 1968. And though the revolutionary or rebellious movements in England, France and Russia and Yugoslavia don’t have a great deal in common, all follow a similar pattern, suggesting some correlation between hot weather and dissidence. Obviously, this tendency isn’t consistent (the Russian October Revolution, for example, occurred at night during late autumn in a particularly cold part of the world) but it nonetheless supports the idea that a correlation exists.
Yet it isn’t just the weather, for various other occurrences in the natural world may actually contribute to the likelihood of revolution, an example of which being the evidence that suggests crime is increased by the full moon. Two theories I’ve read suggest this to be because more people are out on the streets during the bright nights it provides, or possibly because the sky is lighter, making criminal behaviour more likely. It could also be a random correlation with the moon having no actual role in stirring up criminal or rebellious behaviour, but it’s worth considering. If it helps, the October Revolution occurred on the night of a bright moon, as did the spontaneous violence of Kristallnacht in Germany and the SA’s rampage that sparked the Night of the Long Knives. The BBC News also stated that various police departments have despatched more officers on full moon nights, in anticipation of increased criminal activity.
Many other factors will undoubtedly be involved, but take these as an introduction, a brief outline of the natural world’s effect on revolutionary activity. It goes without saying that the social conditions, of class, suffering and oppression are far more important and far more likely to spark any kind of uprising, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the right lighting and climate, alongside additional variables, may assist the rebellious cause. So, next time you’re planning on initiating revolutionary war on capitalism, remember to plan the uprising during the summer months, and in case the struggle continues through the night, pick a time with the moon’s full. After all, if the conditions around them were different, many key failures in military history may have been successful.
The photo (not the caption) depicting the moon was provided by Frode Steen from Wikimedia Commons. Here is a link to its licence:
The featured image (rioters in London, 2011) was provided by Raymond Yau from Wikimedia Commons. Here is a link to its licence:
I won’t post on the following two Fridays, as I’m away for three weeks, but will continue blogging when I return…