Sunday, 17 April 2016

Is This The Revolution?

We can read an entire novel, then discuss a single word in its text. Dominic Flandry says:

"'I'm against revolutions...'"
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 320.

Here, Flandry means by "revolution" a military, or more specifically a space naval, uprising intended to replace one Emperor with another and I agree with him although I would call that a coup.

Skida Thibodeau says:

"'This no gentlemon war, dis de Revolution. All or nothing.'"
-Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling, The Prince (New York, 2002), p. 836.

I disagree with Thibodeau. If her movement were revolutionary, then her aim and therefore also her means, would have to be different. A qualitative transformation in the lives of the population would have to be a political goal, not cynical rhetoric. Lives cannot be transformed by knowingly spreading disinformation or by deliberately provoking the authorities so that they increase repression. Thibodeau's goal is merely to change the people at the top of society.

The American Civil War was a social revolution because it transformed slaves into free workers.

15 comments:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I fear I have to disagree with you yet again! That is, I am totally skeptical that many, if any "revolutions" are worthy of idealism. Which means I lean more to Flandry or even Thidbodeau's view of revolution. The French, Russian, and German revolutions merely replaced flawed and defective regimes with vastly worse ones. And EVERY single communist revolution or coup in China, Vietnam, Cuba, etc. has been just as nasty and bad.

    No, I have to agree with what Flandry said in THE GAME OF EMPIRE about revolutions, because the price paid in lives, treasure, the disruption of socio/political structures, etc., was too high.

    And, of course, Thibodeau and her hencemen were far worse than King Alexander, his co-king, Crown Prince Lysander, and their friends and supporters.

    What you said about the US Civil War is true, but I have to ask: was the price paid for ridding itself of slavery too high? Was it worth a million men dead, the ruination of large parts of the southern US, embittering of relations between "races," etc.? I would far rather slavery had peacefully died out without a civil war.

    Sean

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  2. Sean,
    To me, slavery peacefully dying out sounds too much like slavery lingering on and on. Could it have still existed today? Remember the Draka. However, I know that things got really bad in the Southern States after Abolition. But then free men were able to oppose discriminatory laws, prejudice etc.
    Paul.

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    1. Kaor, Paul!

      Certainly, I agree. The embittering of relations between "races" after the US Civil War eventually led to nasty things like the "Jim Crow" laws. And hence, eventually, to persons like Rosa Parks.

      But it is possible for bad things like slavery or Russian style serfdom to peacefully died out. Because that was exactly what gradually happened in post Roman Europe and Tsar Alexandr II's abolition of serfdom in the early 1860s. And, of course, the British Empire abolished slavery during William IV's reign.

      I still think, absent other factors inflaming relations between the states of the US, that slavery might have peacefully died out by around 1890. If only because slavery was so wasteful and inefficient.

      Sean

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    2. Sean,
      Inefficiency was certainly a reason for slavery to be abolished. You know a lot more history than I do.
      Paul.

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    3. Kaor, Paul!

      Thanks! And I had Edward Crankshaw's account in THE SHADOW OF THE WINTER PALACE of Alexander II's maneuvering, bargaining, and compromising with powerful Russian vested interests which led to them being persuaded to accepting serfdom's abolition. Pity something like that didn't happen in the US.

      Sean

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    4. Historians have argued back and forth about whether slavery was inefficient, and how much so. It seems to me, though, that even if the South had a owed per capita GDP than the North, so what? You might have persuaded a Southern planter to use improved fertilizer and crop rotation for the sake of efficiency, but he would not have been likely to support emancipation, even to make his state's per capita GDP as high as Connecticut's. Give up his way of life, his prestige as a member of the slave-owning gentry, his absolute authority over several score men and women, admit that blacks were fit to be free citizens -- no, I can imagine him saying, "Suh, thee are some things moah important than per capita GDP."

      Best Regards,
      Nicholas D. Rosen

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    5. Kaor, Nicholas!

      I'm not sure what you meant in your second sentence. It seems incomplete, missing a word or two.

      And, yes, you are right, there were emotional, non rational reasons for why so many Southerners clung to slavery, despite its many disadvantages. Those reasons also played a role in the events leading to the Civil War. I would only insist that many Southerners disliked, even loathed, slavery. Such as Robert E. Lee himself.

      Sean

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    6. Kaor, Sean!

      I meant "lower per capita GDP", not "owed per capita GDP". Curse the spellchucker -- except when it really corrects my mistakes, of course.

      Best Regards,
      Nicholas D. Rosen

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    7. Kaor, Nicholas!

      Yes, "lower per capita GDP" makes sense of what you wrote, clarifying what you meant. And I too have had my difficulties with typos and the idiot savant spell checker! (Smiles)

      Best regard, Sean

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  3. There MUST be someone out there who disagrees with BOTH me and Sean? (Surely?)

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    1. Kaor, Paul!

      I'm hoping SOME persons, British or Americans, will toss in their own two pennies! I've been PINING for more people to comment here! (Smiles)

      Sean

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  4. Paul and Sean:
    Here's a quote from an article by journalist Tom Wicker, considering the consequences if there'd been no Emancipation Proclamation. The full article appears in the book *What If? 2* edited by Robert Cowley.

    "Of all the consequences of a less salutary course of events in the 1860s--no compelled emancipation, no Union victory--the worst might be the knowledge of the 12 percent of Americans who are black that their forebears were NOT freed from bondage by crusade, by the willingness of a generation 'touched by fire' to sacrifice its lives and futures, by the greatness of a leader martyred not least for his proclamation of brotherhood. Instead they would live with the knowledge that the forces of bondage and oppression had prevailed--perhaps far into the twentieth century, if not permanently.
    "If black Americans could not take at least small satisfaction in what, in historical fact, DID happen more than a century ago, what faith could they have in a nation to which their race was borne in chains? In a 'democracy' that had failed, in its most fundamental test, to strike off those chains? In freedom itself, so long denied their ancestors, so boldly and belatedly won for themselves, from a reluctant and grudging majority?"

    You ask if the war was worth it? I ask, as Wicker did: if black people didn't have the memory that significant numbers of white people were willing to DIE, if need be, in setting them free -- how could they then ever trust white people for ANYTHING?

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    1. David,
      Thank you. And, of course, a relevant sf work in BRING THE JUBILEE by Ward Moore.
      Paul.

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    2. Hi, David!

      Many thanks for your comments! And I agree Mr. Wicker makes a good argument for believing the longer range consequences of the US Civil War were more beneficial than not.

      However, I still think there are times and places when slavery or serfdom can be abolished by better means than a civil war. After all, I listed three examples of its non violent abolition, two of them in the 19th century. And there were other nations which managed to abolish slavery without violence in the very same century. So, I'm not entirely satisfied with Wicker's argument.

      Your quote from Wicker's article reminded me of how Winston S. Churchill, NO LESS, speculated in his alternate history article "What If Lee Had Won At Gettysburg?" on what might have happened if the South had won the war. Far too briefly, Churchill speculated that Lee, well known to dislike slavery, would have gained so much prestige and popularity that he was able to persuade a victorious Confederacy to voluntarily abolish slavery.

      And, of course, there were factors which helped lead to the War Between The States, such as the quarrels over protective tariffs. Absent these, secession and war might have been averted. What the consequences, good or bad, might have been it's impossible to say.

      Sean

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