Weatherhead Scholars Program Seminar with Killian Clarke
"Revolutionary Violence and Counterrevolution"
Abstract: Counterrevolution represents one of the most serious threats to new revolutionary regimes. What types of revolutions are most likely to succumb to these threats? I argue that revolutionary violence is a key determinant of whether a new regime will be overthrown: revolutions involving more violence are more resistant to counterrevolutions, whereas nonviolent revolutions are more likely to be reversed. I substantiate these arguments with an original dataset of counterrevolutions worldwide from 1900 to 2015. Statistical analyses reveal that counterrevolutions are significantly less likely following revolutions involving more violence – as measured by deaths during the revolution, whether revolutionaries used arms, and whether the new regime had its own coercive force. Further analyses shed light on the mechanisms behind this relationship: they reveal that violence reduces the likelihood of counterrevolution not by destroying the coercive capacities of the former regime, but by building up the strength of the new one. I further elucidate these mechanisms with a brief paired comparison of two revolutions in Cuba: the nonviolent 1933 uprising, which was overthrown by a counterrevolution after 100 days, and the violent revolution of 1959, which successfully weathered at least two counterrevolutionary threats. The study contributes not only to our understanding of revolutionary regime change and counterrevolution, but also to a rich set of debates about the effectiveness and impact of nonviolent versus violent resistance.