In a short but hard-hitting recent post titled Our rotten state will be replaced, Richard Murphy advanced the thought that the economic impact of leaving the EU without a deal will be finally too great for many people to bear. Citing the example of Jacob Rees-Mogg he wrote:
The real opposition will come when people have simply had enough of the imposition upon them by a corrupt elite hanging on to power in an obviously illegitimate democracy that hands them authority in a way that society clearly does not want.
…peaceful demonstration that makes clear that those who have thought themselves able to rule must give way to those with the publicly backed authority to do so will become too strong to resist.
Murphy goes on to fervently hope that the revolution will be peaceful. I agree, but what I think he is getting at is not a revolution per se but ‘revolutionary acts’. This is why.
It is popular on social media for people to call for a revolution. But as the comments on Murphy’s post point out, revolutions have a very low success rate when it comes to delivering a comprehensive lasting transfer of power and improvement in conditions for the majority. Revolutions which involve mass popular uprisings are bloody affairs, Syria being an example. Although estimates vary it is likely that between 5% and 10% on the population was killed during the English (more correctly British) Civil Wats of the Seventeenth Century. That equates to between 3 and 6 million people in today’s terms. Alternatively, a revolution can come in the form of a coup enacted by a small powerful elite. But the chances of you or I benefitting are vanishingly small with a high risk of it resulting in a state which is tightly controlled and oppressive. Finally there is the almost guaranteed counter-revolution which may come very quickly or many years later. As examples look at the restoration of the English Monarchy while the American Constitution as sometimes regarded as a counter revolution which handed power back to a small elite following the egalitarian instincts of 1776..
So revolution is often associated with violence or open warfare. But a revolution means changing the way a country is governed. This implies we can consider ‘revolutionary acts’ as involving the transfer of power from one person or group of people to another larger and more inclusive group. In Britain today this would mean a transfer of away from those who have usurped it (a Government elected on a minority of the vote; powerful ‘too big to fail banks’, to take merely two examples) or inherited it (the aforementioned Rees-Moggs or the oft-overlooked British aristocracy) to genuinely accountable representatives.
I agree with Richard Murphy. Iceland, along with many other examples in recent history clearly shows that peaceful revolutionary change is possible. But it must start soon. Remember that our system is not broken. It is working exactly as intended. It simply never was set up to deliver real power to you or I!