In recent years various dictatorships have collapsed or stumbled when confronted by defiant, mobilised people. Often seen as firmly entrenched and impregnable, some of these dictatorships proved unable to withstand the concerted political, economic and social defiance of the people.
Since 1980 dictatorships have collapsed before the predominantly nonviolent defiance of people in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Slovenia, Mali, Bolivia, Egypt and Tunisia.
The population has often been atomised unable to work together to achieve freedom hence a weak population lacking self confidence and incapable of resistance. People are often too terrified to think seriously of public resistance. In any case, what would be the use? Instead they face suffering without purpose and a future without hope.
What is to be done in such circumstances? The obvious possibilities seem useless. Constitutional and legal barriers, judicial decisions and public opinion are normally ignored by dictators. Understandably reacting to the brutalities, torture, disappearances and killings, people often have concluded that only violence can end a dictatorship. Angry victims have sometimes organised to fight the brutal dictators with whatever violent and military capacity they could muster, despite the odds being against them. These people have fought bravely at great cost in suffering and lives. Their accomplishments have sometimes been remarkable, but they rarely have won freedom. Violent rebellions can trigger brutal repression that frequently leaves the populace more helpless than before.
Whatever the merits of the violent option, however one point is clear. By placing confidence in violent means, one has chosen the very type of struggle with which the oppressors nearly always have superiority. The dictators are equipped to apply violence overwhelmingly. The dictators almost always have superiority in military hardware, ammunition, transportation and the size of military forces.
When conventional military rebellion is recognized as unrealistic, some dissidents then favour guerrilla warfare. However, guerrilla warfare rarely if ever benefits the oppressed population. Guerrilla warfare is no obvious solution particularly given the very strong tendency toward immense casualties among one’s people. Guerrilla struggles often last a very long time. Civilian populations are often displaced by the ruling government with immense human suffering and social dislocation. If the guerrillas finally succeed, the resulting regime is often more dictatorial than its predecessor due to the centralising impact of the expanded military forces and the weakening or destruction of the society’s independent groups and institutions during the struggle.
Coup d’etat against a dictatorship might appear to be relatively one of the easiest and quickest ways to remove a particular repugnant regime. Most importantly it leaves in place the existing mal-distribution of power between the population and the elite in control of the government and its military forces.
The answer lies in one fact. It is no use relying on the Government………You must only rely upon your own determination…Help yourselves by standing together…strengthen those amongst yourselves who are weak….band yourselves together, organise yourselves……..and you must win…
Against a strong self-reliant force disciplined, and courageous the dictatorship will eventually crumble.
THE “MONKEY MASTER” FABLE
A fourteenth century Chinese parable by Liu-ji, outlines this neglected understanding of political power:
In the feudal state of Chu an old man survived by keeping monkeys in his service. The people of Chu called him “ju gong” (monkey master).
Each morning, the old man would assemble the monkeys in his courtyard, and order the eldest one to lead the others to the mountains to gather fruits from bushes and trees. It was the rule that each monkey had to give one-tenth of his collection to the old man. Those who failed to do so would be ruthlessly flogged. All the monkeys suffered bitterly but dared not complain. One day, a small monkey asked the other monkeys: “Did the old man plant all the fruits and bushes?” The others said: “No, they grew naturally.” The small monkey further asked: “Can’t we take the fruits without the old man’s permission?” The others replied: “Yes, we all can.” The small monkey continued: “Then why should we depend on the old man: why must we all serve him?”
Before the small monkey was able to finish his statement, all the monkeys suddenly became enlightened and awakened.
On the same night, watching that the old man had fallen asleep, the monkeys tore down all the barricades of the stockade in which they were confined, and destroyed the stockade entirely. They also took the fruits the old man had in storage, brought all with them to the woods, and never returned. The old man died of starvation.
Yu-li-zi says,”some men in the world rule their people by tricks and not by righteous principles. Aren’t they just like the monkey master? They are not aware of their muddle-headedness. As soon as their people become enlightened, their tricks no longer work.”