The following was originally published April 28, 2012 at
In her remarkable work on the sense, history, symbolism and aesthetics of the twentieth century major ideologies, Dreamworld and Catastrophe, American researcher Susan Buck-Morss, establishes that there is not a lineal road to progress, there is not a central capacity concentrated in an individual or in a small group of them, like the monolithical and authoritarian parties of the last century, capable of pushing humanity toward a pretended new world. There is not a Revolutionary essence that covers a whole nation, period of time or a world class of people that propels necessarily the change of society. On the contrary, there are hybrid possibilities, shadowy lines of action, reactions, hidden purposes, betrayals, and an expansive set of twists and tergiversations of the pretended original objective of a revolutionary action. In sum, Revolution is a myth.
In a post-Cold War analysis of the state of the revolutionary movements around the world, American sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein, points that: «The origins of so-called revolutionary upheavals in the modern world is a difficult and contentious question, and I for one am ready to concede that these upheavals have not represented, for the most part, spontaneous uprisings of oppressed masses seeking to transform the world, but rather, the seizing of opportunity —at least initially— by particular groups».
So, revolutions never were a one way road to certain goal, there was not a progressive dynamic with general participation of people; a straight arrow to the point blank of history. Instead, there has been the space to unleash so well delimited interests of class. The road to power of certain social groups; these groups want the power of state. Typically they are those that have certain social empowerment but desire more. In modern times the paradigmatic case was the bourgeois class, named people with certain education and economic level with the capacity to reunite conceptual and armored forces around a main social purpose, that is, the seize of power. The model was, of course, French revolution, where a very precise social class promoted, directed and got through the battle against the old regime. In the aftermath, they postulated that sovereignty was, from then, in people’s hands. And this has been one of our essential myths in western politics even now. However, actually, sovereignty lies only in that reduced group of people dedicated to manage (through law, politics, economics and so on), according to specific interests, the rights of the rest of society. The case of sovereignty exemplifies perfectly the metaphysical level of revolutions around the world; the operation of an ideological mechanism dedicated to convince, instruct and set up people’s minds in the terms of the power controllers in a certain nation.

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Revolution perverted: PEMEX Corporate skyscraper, built at the beginning of one of the worst Mexico's financial bankruptcies.

Therefore, in general terms, it’s possible to affirm that revolutions are just movements in the top of the social system. For example, let’s take the case of one of the most romanticized revolutions of the past century: Mexican revolution (1910-1920). Certainly there is a history of general uprising all through the country because the unsustainability of the old regime. Society was growing and Díaz’s dictatorship was shrinking. In consequence, when a group of smart bourgeois, leaded by Francisco Madero, decided to challenge the old political power, several other groups began to fight along with them; but the truth was that Madero wanted a process of slow change, proof of that was his determination to keep the old regime’s army.
Renown Mexican revolution historian, American researcher Friedrich Katz has said that one of the key points to the fact that since the end of Díaz’s regime, a century ago, there hasn’t been in Mexico another military dictatorship was that after Madero’s assassination, betrayed by general Victoriano Huerta, his successors in the pursuit of state power dissolved the ancient army and integrated a new one pretended popular. That’s true, but there’s a subtle fact: The main northern leaders of revolution —the ones that won the war— formed armies with several popular representations, former soldiers included, only to achieve their own class purposes. In fact, the revolution’s aftermath brought the constitution of another kind of dictatorship based on those supposed good qualities such as a “popular” army. The instauration of a state party, like PRI, was the beginning of the perversion of revolution.
Yes, defenders of those seventy years of PRI dominance in Mexico’s socio-political life, always remark that during that time, the country passed from an agrarian society to an urban one, that the whole territory was populated with schools, hospitals, roads, ports, airports; peace, an extended bureaucracy and solid political class. Partially this is true. But most of the pretended merits of the post-revolutionary “light” dictatorship of one party were due to the privileged geographic position of the country: an amicable superpower as northern neighbor and a set of weak southern neighbors, and the rest of the frontiers is the full ocean, to east and to the west; altogether, the country has potentially infinite natural resources, leaded by fossil fuels, like oil and natural gas. And there is, too, the hidden history of common people doing their work untiringly every day, assuming their compromise with their family, their country and themselves beyond political ideologies, historical conflagrations or world crisis. That’s the not yet told history of the men and women of street living their lives according with the opportunities of their age.

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Revolution lost: Carlos Salinas de Gortari (left) won the Presidency (1988-1994) by a massive fraud, gathered a new oligarchic regime and allowed the enormous expansion of drug trafficking.

Through time, the institutionalized Mexican revolution yielded a social pyramidal order according with the form of the midcentury massive state. Certainly there was an extensive middle class but its formation was due both to the technification of production everywhere and to the accelerated increase of population. To put it in old fashioned Marxist terms, post-revolutionary Mexican middle class wasn’t a social welfare space but an enormous reserve army of people to be exploited for the new class of privileged ones.
Of course, this social structure gave birth to a corrupt, cynic and negligent political class encrypted in the state party, PRI (Spanish acronym for Institutional Revolutionary Party) linked with different actors of power like the new bourgeois class, traditional landlords and transnational capital managers. Within this dynamics, revolution was completely perverted. And if since the beginning it was a revolt from the top in order to change certain aspects of a given status quo, then, at the end it turned into an oppressive and monolithic structure very similar to the one that was overthrown.
Some defenders of the old PRI regime (the same that nowadays want a return to the past in terms of a restoration period to come) have said that it was a legitimate way to rule the people and that the state party structure was formally democratic and akin to free speech and citizen’s basic rights. But that is not true. Beyond several particular examples of authoritarian interventions in civil life —both subtle and violent—, main proof of its totalitarian feature is that real political opposition to the party came in form of dissidence, being the most relevant (among the pacific ones) the one headed by former Michoacán state governor, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, who lead the country to a cathartic explosion of democracy desire in the endearing 1988 electoral campaign against the state party. As it’s known, those elections were fraudulent and the Revolutionary party stayed in power for another twelve years.

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Revolution end game: A man in full, dissident Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano (speaking to the crowd) and the dream of democracy at the end of an era.

Then, the truth is that the inception, growth and final decadence of an everlasting authoritarian regime in Mexico was the perfect example of the corruption of revolutions worldwide and the affirmation of their primal feature: there are violent movements to catapult a certain class of people to the nations’ drive. Revolutions probed to be false ways to change the social order from root to top, and instead they only produce new rulers and, in worse cases, new forms of dictatorships. Our times great challenge is to imagine new ways of social integration, sharing of welfare and political participation of the entire citizenship; otherwise, social unrest and new revolutions with their perverse logic could be again in the horizon.

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