Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A revolutionary what if?

You say you want a revolution, well you know, we all want to change the world — sang Lennon. But do revolutions really change the world? Or do they run out of steam, spiral and turn? Lennon wanted to be counted out when you’re talking about destruction. And much like an omelette can’t be made without breaking an egg, so with revolutions without violence and destruction.

When do you support a revolution? This is not a rhetorical question in Pakistan. But if a revolution sweeps away Musharraf, will that cure Pakistan’s ailment? I don’t worry that Musharraf will be replaced by mad mullahs or the ISI. Mad mullahs and ISI are already in power. A revolution will probably replace Musharraf with another general, much like how Yahya replaced Ayub in 1969. What will a revolution achieve then? Is it perhaps not better to cut a deal that allows Musharraf an exit strategy? Similar debates are raging in Bangladesh?

What is a revolution anyway? When the existing order collapses, and rival factions fight it out until the most organised/cruellest/luckiest one comes to power — isn’t that what the fellow travellers romanticise as a revolution? Isn’t that what happened in Russia in 1917 or Iran in 1979?

Lennon probably thought about revolutions this way. Gandhi definitely wasn’t a believer in this kind of revolution. His was all for internal revolution: the truth force and moral regeneration, and a good dump in the morning. This is why, when it turned violent in February 1922, Gandhi didn’t hesitate to call off the non-cooperation movement.

What would have happened if he had not? Would there have been a revolution, as defined above?

Probably not. The movement probably would have run out of steam. Gandhi’s promise of Swaraj in one year was already stale when the Chauri Chaura incident happened. It’s possible that had the movement continued, it would have just gradually degenerated. But what would have replaced it? Intifada in Palestine has been replaced by asymmetric war in the form of suicide bombing. Would we have witnessed something similar in Desh?

If that happened, how would the British have reacted? Perhaps they would have sought out an exit strategy. Perhaps they would have cut a deal with moderate leaders like Jinnah, Motilal Nehru and CR Das. Perhaps these leaders would have founded a genuine federal republic.

Perhaps it would have been so, or perhaps not.

Perhaps the asymmetric war would have been met by violent repression. Perhaps the British would have matched, the Japanese empire in terms of oppression. Perhaps the British and the Japanese would have become allies in Asia. Perhaps the counter-insurgency violence in Desh would have warmed the British to Hitler. Perhaps there would have been a London-Berlin Axis.

Perhaps it’s in such a bleak world brother A-A-A would have lived?