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Revolutionary Cycles

by Ignacio Ramonet Thursday, Feb. 06, 2003 at 5:31 PM

The history of humanity teaches that people have always resisted when the social inequality was outrageous and blatant. The increase of criminality in the South as in the North is caused by the despair of the poorest in view of worldwide injustice.

Revolutionary Cycles

By Ignacio Ramonet

[This article originally published in: Le Monde diplomatique, November 15, 2002 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,,a0011.idx,1.]

After the events of September 11, 2001 and the Afghanistan war, citizens feel they are living in a world ruled by political violence and terrorism. For over a year, the media has been full of terrible pictures and reports. They tell of dreadful assassinations, murderous explosions and spectacular kidnappings, in short they spread fear and horror.

Every week the conflicts everywhere on the globe take a heavy toll of lives – in Israel, Bali, Karatschi, Moscow, Yemen and Palestine. The “war against terrorism” seemingly sweeps over the earth like a hurricane. The Iraq war then appears as a mere episode.

However this appearance is deceiving. Never was there so little political violence and never were the number of political rebellions and armed conflicts so few. As surprising as the diagnosis may sound – and whether it pleases the media or not -, the world is peaceful, quiet and largely satisfied. One only needs to compare the geopolitical landscape today with the conditions 25 or 30 years ago. Nearly all militant opposition groups have disappeared. Most high- and low-intensity wars in which tens of thousands of persons died every year have ended.

Almost all the trouble spots enflamed by the Marxist hope are extinct or die away. Violent conflicts now occur in Colombia, Chechechnya, Nepal and Kashmir, in the Basque Provinces, Sudan and the Middle East, the Ivory Coast, Sri Lanke and the Philippines. With radical Islamists, new disciples of the armed struggle appear in the limelight of media reporting. As spectacular as their actions may be, armed political struggle has become rare.

Today other forms of violence are at work – first of all the economic violence promoted by globalization. Social inequality has long reached unparalleled and scandalous dimensions. Half of humanity lives in poverty, over a third in destitution, 800 million persons suffer in malnutrition. Nearly a billion cannot read or write. One and a half billion are without drinking water. Two billion still lack electricity.

Whether one wants to believe or not, the damned of this earth are politically peaceful. One of the greatest paradoxes of our time is that there are more poor than ever and fewer revolting than ever.

This situation cannot and will not last. Since Marxism is exhausted internationally as a motor of social revolts, the world is in a kind of transition between two revolutionary cycles. While the injustices are more outrageous than ever, certain forms of violence have dramatically increased. The violence of the poor among one another can be cited as an example or archaic forms of social revolts like criminality and “vandalism” that assume characteristics of a “social war” not only in France.

When a young person gained possession of a revolver thirty years ago in Latin America or other world regions, he joined a political group that practiced armed struggle for the well-being of humanity. Today a young person who has a revolver thinks firstly of himself. He regards himself as a victim because the rulers have broken the social contract and for his part breaks the social contract by robbing a bank or a business. In Argentina, the rate of criminality has risen threefold since the beginning of the great economic crisis in December 2001.

In Brazil – a country full of inequality where the “candidate of the poor” Inacio “Lula” de Silva was elected into the presidential office – the social war reaches unbelievable dimensions. Between 1987 and 2000, more youths under eighteen were killed in Rio de Janeiro alone than during the armed conflicts in Colombia, former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine altogether. 467 youths were killed in these thirteen years in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. 3,937 youths were killed in Rio de Janeiro (El Pais, September 11, 2001).

Given the increase of this phenomenon that is called “uncertainty” in the media, more money is spent for this “social war” in Mexico, Colombia, Nigeria, South Africa and many other countries than for national defense. In Brazil for example, 2 percent of the gross domestic product supports the armed forces and 10.6 percent measures protecting the rich from the despair of the poor.

The history of humanity teaches that people have always resisted when the social inequality was outrageous and blatant. The increase of criminality in the South as in the North is unquestionably caused by the despair of the poorest in view of worldwide injustice. Up to now, political violence was not involved. The question is only how long this will last.

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