A few days back, we discussed how, generally, the American people have failed to export our concept of liberty – the object of “The American Revolution” (more accurately The War of American Independence or the War of American Secession).
We noted that the American experiment was not the only one which has had little success in being exported. Let us discuss that now, as we finish the first week of July. Noting that we are less than a week from Bastille Day – that celebration of another revolution. And also, a revolution that was systematically exported time and again – and generally failed.
Let us consider first the Brits. We know that about a half-dozen peoples of different origins and histories combined (at least to some degree) to form modern Britain and the modern “British Race.” The various Gaels and Picts, a smattering of Latins, Saxons and Angles, later Danes and other Norsemen (including those from Normandy with their strong early French traits) all together make up the five or six distinct British peoples today: English, Welsh, Scots, Irish (Prod and Catholic), and perhaps some unique Celtic or Gaelic groups: Manxmen and Cornish come to mind.
They’ve had a whole bunch of revolutions which molded their history: we can start with the events leading up to the Magna Carta, then add the English Civil War – definitely revolutionary – and its follow-up, the Glorious Revolution. And perhaps a few more. All of which the Brits (not just the English) tried to export.
And mostly failed. Those Commonwealth nations that HAVE imitated and generally succeeded (so far) to imitate British institutions have a majority of their people, culture, and society derived from British origins: Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the Falklands, Bahamas, etc. Those that do NOT – or in which the British background was overwhelmed by other influences (South Africa, Rhodesia, Jamaica, India, Pakistan) have fallen into disarray and worse in some degree.
Those countries which HAVE imitated Anglo-American institutions and ideals did so with admiration and voluntarily. Most important, they had a strong moral and spiritual foundation of their own – or one brought by missionaries and immigrants – and even then it has been tough going: Korea, Japan, Germany, Philippines, Singapore, Malta, and others might be examples. Yet the flaws are even greater than we see in this former federal Union founded more on principles than heritage or common ancestry.
Moving on. As mentioned above, the French Revolution of 1789 was almost immediately exported to as much of Europe as they could reach. And pretty much failed to take root – even in France itself, at first. Far more a revolution than the American one – although both overthrew kings over at least part of their domain – it still did not succeed at first, although perhaps we should compare Napoleon’s Imperial ascension as somewhat similar to the replacement of the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution of 1787.
Indeed, long term, France failed to export its revolution successfully even to its colonies with the possible exception of Quebec (which was already lost to Britain before the French Revolution). Could someone argue that Louisiana was almost a successful export? But certainly not any part of Africa or South and Southeast Asia. On the Continent, the closest success MIGHT be Switzerland. At least to some degree. (Of course, some could argue that modern Europe may be more French-revolutionary (though with strong German overtones) than anything else.)
Moving on: the next “great” revolution was that of Lenin in Russia, in 1917. Once again, almost immediately they attempted to export it, starting with Post-Armistice Germany and such delightful places as Mongolia and all the ‘Stans. And of course, during and after WW2 to Eastern Europe. (Where we still see the bitter results.) And to a large extent, unlike France and even the US, they did it with help from foreign sources: Germany, the UK, and the US. Yet, barely seventy years later, their revolution failed both at home and in most of the places they exported it. North Korea, Albania, Cuba, and Vietnam are hardly sterling proofs of success. And China? Mao and his successors are hard to see as true heirs of Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev.
But WHY did efforts to export their revolutions, their political and governmental systems, their social norms fail?
Here are a few thoughts – and hopefully readers will have more:
- Cultures and heredity are greater influences than most people are willing to admit: each revolution was founded on and resulting in things that were unique to those nations and peoples. It is not physical heredity (genetics) that we speak of here, but the inheritance of customs, ideas, and thought.
- Inevitably, the revolutions are corrupted and twisted in ways that are easy to see but difficult to understand. Often producing something worse than they had. The corruption comes from both the grassroots and the leadership: however that leadership gains power.
- The revolutions promise human liberty and an improvement of the human condition but generally fail both quickly and spectacularly to achieve those things – because of both corruption and past baggage. AND the interference of the parasites who are quick to jump ship and put on new clothing to blend in and take control.
- The first generation of revolutionaries is not just corrupted but is quickly replaced by the next generation or two, who fail to understand and apply the principles for which their fathers and mothers suffered and fought.
So, what kind of revolution MIGHT succeed, both at home and abroad? My thought is that it is one which has very high ideals, and is willing to nuture those ideas in themselves and their children before attempting to export them. And principles that are both simple and clearcut and identifiable: principles and ideals of human liberty and the responsibility that accompanies it. A constant return not just to basics, but to sound basics.
What do you think?