Friday, 19 March 2010

Lessons From History

All political systems are flawed – This creates a fundamental problem when attempting to beat a path thought a dense thicket of societal inequality. Idealistic notions of cooperation between men, intellectual advancement and the slicing of society’s cake into equal pieces are dreams of any would be revolutionary.

Throughout history one problem has remained for those who desire to dismantle what is: the overthrowing of the state requires by default a need to defend oneself from the inevitable backlash, by the use of force – in other words, to become what you have opposed. Marx’s prediction that the state would ‘wither away’ has thus far in our history not proven to be a natural inevitability. More odiously, secrecy and ruthlessness have soon appeared on the revolutionary stage before the final piece of bunting has even been removed.

This paradoxical mirror imaging of the enemy is of course a matter for one to digest and rationalize in whatever way fits - One man’s revolutionary is another’s terrorist after all. Thus, what’s a budding Trotsky to do when faced with this seemingly intractable dilemma? He can sit on his hands and dream about a future that will never come, or puff out his chest, clear his throat, and embrace the unavoidable – it’s a do or don’t situation.

The reason for all this talk of subversive is this: as soon as night gives way to day tomorrow the sauna like streets of Bangkok will be shimmering with renewed revolutionary intent. The dramatically diminished numbers of UDD protestors would have had even the tightest fisted of gamblers laying his mortgage on a red free Bangkok by the weekend, but tens of thousands are to come from the Northern and North Eastern provinces tomorrow. For all those involved in grass roots politics, a collective tilt of the hat must be given for this admirable organizational feat that in reality gives the red shirts their last bite at the revolutionary cherry.

The potent whiff of violence is in the air once again - As long as the UDD’s mass gathering fails to achieve the dissolution of the lower house, there is a real possibility that the group could change tactics in favour of disruptive or even violent direct action. The blocking of main thoroughfares and shutting down the cities sky train system are the most likely cards to be played in tomorrow’s showdown.

Prime Minister Abhisit has now called for talks with the red shirts leadership on at least two occasions, both of which have been vehemently denounced from the stage at the main demonstration in central Bangkok – an amicable solution looks increasingly unlikely.

Within a democratic system the prize of protest is dialogue. This has been rejected by the red movement and could prove to be terminal to the group’s future. Participation in a process could have cemented the way for possible alliances with more minor parties in the coalition. In Democratic terms, changing the balance of power by these means has more weight when compared to a rushed stick-em-up job, which could end in tragedy.

As the history of revolution has clearly shown, disposing of the status-quo is a business in which idealistic intentions quickly become dogma. The political freedom that opposition grants dissolves frantically into a despotic and dangerous mirror image of what came before; like Siamese twins, inseparable in terms of action. The red shirts refusal to speak to the government may come back to bite them if violence takes centre stage tomorrow.

There is a fine line between agitation and violence, likewise democratic means and undemocratic means; therefore for the UDD to remain a credible political force they need to tilt their heads towards the past and learn form the succinct lessons that history has to offer.

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