Kapuściński: On Revolution IV

From Ryszard Kapuscinski’s book Shah of Shahs (about the last Shah of Iran):

History knows two types of revolution. The first is revolution by assault, the second revolution by siege.

All the future fortune, the success, of a revolution by assault is decided by the reach of the first blow. Strike and seize as much ground as possible! This is important because such a revolution, while the most violent, is also the most superficial. The adversary has been defeated, but in retreating he has preserved a part of his forces. He will counter-attack and force the victor to withdraw. Thus, the more far-reaching the first blow, the greater the area that can be saved in spite of later concessions. In a revolution by assault, the first phase is the most radical. The subsequent phases are a slow but incessant withdrawal to the point at which the two sides, the rebelling and the rebelled-against, reach the final compromise.

A revolution by siege is different; here the first strike is usually weak and we can hardly surmise that it forebodes a cataclysm. But events soon gather speed and become dramatic. More and more people take part. The walls behind which authority has been sheltering crack and then burst. The success of a revolution by siege depends on the determination of the rebels, on their will power and endurance. One more day! One more push! In the end, the gates yield, the crowd breaks in and celebrates its triumph.

I love that – this book was written in 1982 – and he was basically describing what would eventually happen in his home country (and had already begun happening in the early 80s) – with Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement – a revolution by siege.

This entry was posted in Books and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *