Revolution day

This day – October 23 – has been declared by the new Libyan government to be ‘liberation day’, the day on which the uprising against the now deceased dictator was completed. Although this is probably not much on the minds of Libya’s National Transitional Council, October 23 is a date with all sorts of revolutionary associations, with exactly the kind of mixed results and messages that one might expect. It is the date (at least according to some calculations) on which Russia’s October Revolution began that quickly brought the Bolsheviks into power. Ironically it is also the day on which, in 1956, Hungarians began an uprising against the Soviet occupiers, a revolution that was crushed a couple of weeks later on November 4. However, Hungary actually announced its new post-communist Republic on this day in 1989.

Purely statistically, most revolutions in history were quickly followed by dictatorships or tyrannies. What might however give the Libyans hope is that this longer historical trend may not apply in quite the same way today. The revolutions in Eastern Europe of 1989 have on the whole produced working democracies, and while the jury is still out on the impact of this year’s ‘Arab Spring’, it may well be leading to much greater freedom in the region. While the bloody events of the last few days might give a little cause for concern, it is possible that the relationship between revolution and terror is being broken. Certainly Libya deserves a chance to succeed.

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4 Comments on “Revolution day”

  1. When a revolution follows a dictatorship, will a dictatorship follow as well? You would hope not, given that the people have realized just how bad a dictatorship can be, since they threw a revolution!

  2. John Carter Says:

    Ferdy, I can see you struggling for grounds for optimism here.

    What surprised me was how suddenly Gaddafi became ‘a brutal dictator’. I calculate about two weeks before NATO started bombing.

  3. anna notaro Says:

    A couple of very personal observations with regards to recent events in Lybia. First of all, it looks like most modern dictators end up in some sort of hole in the ground (it was the case for Saddam before Gaddafi), that same ground where soon they will be buried (?) and secondly, for most Italians (at least the ones with some historical memory) the images of Gaddafi’s (or as we spell it Gheddafi) body covered in blood and diplayed brought back memories of Mussolini’s corpse hung upside down in a Milanese square in April 1945 ( The media technology to document the event for posterity might be different, black & white photography then, mobile phone footage and digital pictures now, however what such visual representations capture is the ‘evidence’ that the tyrant is dead, his blood acquires an almost cathartic, symbolic value from which a whole new, *better* form of government *should* emerge. No ‘pietas’ is shown for the tyrant, he did not show any to his victims and yet one cannot help wondering what is there to celebrate (looking at the tabloids’ headlines which have accompanied such graphic pictures) from depriving any human being, not matter whether a tyrant or not, of his dignity in death.
    Maybe the images of the death of the tyrant which circulate on youTube, TV screens and newspapers alike are the contemporary equivalent of the pictorial allegories of medieval times. Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s frescos ‘Allegory of Bad Government’ is one of the most impressive examples, a still valid warning for the citizents of XIV century Siena as well as for the global citizens of today of how easy it is for good government to become its devilish opposite, for a ruler to fall prey of pride and vain glory, to become hell-bent on power regardless of cost.

  4. Vincent Says:

    I’ll be far happier this day next year if things develop peacefully. And this day five years if another emir hasn’t emerged.

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