‘Tis the Season to Revolt

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.


Revolution by moonlight… how romantic!

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…

Rebels in Yemen: What are They Fighting For?

Earlier this evening, when searching for a topic to write about, I came across the recent events in the Arabian Peninsula.

For anyone unaware of what’s happened, an insurrection has been carried out in Yemen by rebels known as the Houthis, sending a shockwave through the nation.

The Houthis are a Shia-orientated rebel organisation in, devoted to an area of Shia Islam known as Zaidism. Originating in the north of the country, they have been active, combatting Al-Qaida forces in the region, for years. Recently, however, they have claimed a far greater prize: as of the events on 21st January, Houthi rebels have overthrown the Yemeni government.

What actually occurred is as follows: as BBC News stated, in late January ‘rebels stormed the presidential palace complex and put the president under house arrest’, despite the signing of the peace deal on the 21st September, after the rebel movement’s occupation of Sana’a, the capital. Since then, president Hadi has resigned, and plans for the creation of a new government are underway.

President Hadi at the Pentagon in June, 2013

The causes of such a revolution are not specific, but the country has undergone years of corruption, political and economic instability, and violence, and since the rebels (alongside their supporters) claim that the government which has arisen to challenge such turmoil has failed, the rebellion may seem a rational move. I, however, am about to argue the opposite…

According to the Latin Post, after the Houthi insurgency, ‘Thousands gathered in the centre of the city with placards calling for “Death to America, Death to Israel”’. The source also states that such a slogan has apparently become a Houthi trademark, and if this is the case, then it certainly gives the superficial impression of a radical and merciless band of fighters, representative of the Jacobins in France or the Bolsheviks in Russia. After some research, however, it seems to me that the reality is somewhat different.

In studying the Houthis, I have found nothing which truly demonstrates an ideological or even political position. Their hatred for Zionism, Sunni Islamism and American capitalism, alogside their devotion to what appear to be necessary tasks of the moment, is evident, yet this is to say that other than their attitudes towards certain conceptual ideas and their want for immediate change, only their religious devotion is obvious.

On this topic, I did gather various information on their appeal within the country: Ian Black’s article in The Guardian newspaper references April Alley, senior Arabian Peninsula analyst for the International Crisis Group, who commented the following; ‘Supporters of the movement see the Houthis as correcting the wrongs of the country’s 2011 transition agreement, which preserved the power and corruption of old regime elites.’ The article also references her stating that ‘They (supporters) praise the movement’s willingness to confront corruption, combat al-Qaida, and fill a security vacuum left by a feckless government.’

In my opinion, however, this is not enough, for we must not forget that the transition agreement occurred only three years ago, and that further unrest may well do as much to destroy its results as to preserve them. Even if the situation is exactly as the Houthis portray it, Hadi rose power after the events of 2011, yet apparently this only led to circumstances similar to those which existed beforehand, and we have no reason to believe that the Houthis will not oversee the same occurring for a second time. In actual fact, there are reasons as to why Hadi may be the appropriate choice forthe country: according to the source ‘Middle East Eye’, the UN Security Council ‘backed Hadi as “the legitimate authority based on election results” and called on all parties and political actors in Yemen to stand with the government “to keep the country on track to stability and security.”’

In any case, I do not believe that the Houthis, which seem to lack ideological basis or clear and specific direction, have a better claim to power than Hadi, whose intended transition to national ‘stability and security’ may be just as effective or perhaps even more so than that of the rebel movement, especially since the former has been given only three years to prove himself.

The Featured Image was provided by 0ali1 from Wikimedia Commons. Below is a link to the photo (first) and the photo’s lisence (second)


Russia, Crimea and Putin’s Intentions 

Have you ever considered the reasons behind the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

What drove Putin’s order for the annexation of Crimea?

Why did rebels in the east of the country attract Putin’s attention?

Why, when less than twenty-five years ago the Kremlin granted Ukraine its independence? Feel free to disagree, but I here’s how I view the situation: The old KGB agent Vladimir Putin is now the president of a once-revolutionarily-heroic, progressive and promising nation at a point when the country could be viewed as directionless. Putin enters the stage after the collapse of the hope communism once provided. Since 1991, though a great deal has probably improved, the country no longer even has a dream to hold onto.

I’ll be honest. When I began this entry, the title I had in mind was ‘Imperialism in the Russian Federation’. I was adamant that this entire issue was a matter of imperialist attitudes within ‘mother Russia’. However my viewpoint changed today, when I read an article titled ‘Ukraine and Crimea: what is Putin thinking?’ on ‘theguardian.com’ about an hour ago, explaining that ‘Some have seen Putin’s actions in the context of a post-imperial complex’, saying that ‘There may be a flicker of truth in this, but the reality is more complex, according to those familiar with the Kremlin’s decision-making over Crimea in recent weeks.’ This got me thinking…

I came to the view that, regardless of the purely ideological perspectives one may view these events from; regardless of whether or not they ought to be labelled as ‘imperialistic’, one thing can’t be denied: Putin needs Crimea for reasons outside the usual motives for occupation. The materialistic necessities for resources, the tactical necessities of territory to provide an advantage in battle, or perhaps the desire for the establishment of freedom or equality that drove the initial invasions of the Russian satellite states constituting the early Soviet Union – what could be seen as ‘usual’ motives for occupation, are not applicable to the situation.

It’s clear that a state of this size and capability does not require Ukrainian influence

What I can make from the events is this: Russia needs something to hold onto in the aftermath of communism. Alongside the desire to remind the west of their capabilities and their superiority, and a victory in Europe may provide a temporary solution to the air of dissatisfaction which has clouded the skies over Moscow since 1991. Obviously, without ever living in the country or having any real knowledge of the ideological perspectives within Russia, I can’t say for definite, but the obvious benefit of the ‘communist dream’s’ collapse seems to be the fall of the autocratic Communist Party. Since then, however, one autocratic regime has been replaced with another, yet I think it’s fair to say that the loss of an ideological dream has not been accounted for.

To provide a broader perspective on the situation, the article I’d previously mentioned mentions the internal events in Ukraine, and the fact that Russia’s influence on Ukraine was ceased by internal revolution, referring to one individual (Gleb Pavlovsky) who said that “Putin hates revolution, he’s a counter-revolutionary by nature.” In response to this, I’d say that obviously he wanted to re-establish his influence and did so by means of using and possibly assisting rebels (this is a matter open to debate), as well as annexing territory. I can’t comment on Putin’s own views on the concept of revolution, but I can say that I don’t believe the Russian influence in Ukraine is truly necessary to Putin, and that the measures he took to secure it are, whilst a response to recent events, driven by internal desperation.

This is the conclusion I’ve come to: In a Russia devoid of the hope socialism provided, but with a still-stormy relationship with the western powers, and the autocracy communism is so often blamed for preserved, Putin’s actions were rooted in his own desire to hold onto what he could. Thus, despite whether or not it was truly necessary in the long-term, his influence in that region was one he was not prepared to give up. I suppose, to see the truth (if we ever will), we’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out.

The Featured Image was provided by Kremlin.ru from Wikimedia Commons. Here is a link to the photograph’s licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en, and one to the photograph: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ceremony_signing_the_laws_on_admitting_Crimea_and_Sevastopol_to_the_Russian_Federation_1.jpg