The Politics of Reform & Revolution I. What is reform?

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The Politics of Reform & Revolution

I. What is reform?

II. What is revolution?

III. Why does revolution occur?

IV. The Reformer’s Dilemma

I. What is reform?

  1. Change in:

  2. public policies

  3. government institutions

  4. Speed:

  5. could be gradual or rapid

  6. Achieved via:

  7. working within existing system’s rules

  8. any new rules are written using the old rules...

II. What is revolution?

  1. A dramatic change in society driven by

  2. new government institutions

  3. new government leaders

  4. new public policies

  5. Speed:

  6. normally rapid

  7. Achieved via:

  8. working outside the system’s rules

  9. usually violence is used to overthrow old system

  10. NOTE: not a “normal coup” since coups usually do not try to transform society at all levels

III. Why do revolutions occur?

  1. A. Material Deprivation:

  2. revolution of the poor

  3. working-class alienation (Karl Marx)

  4. proletarian revolt ag. capitalist exploitation at an advanced stage
  5. peasant revolt (James Scott, Eric Wolf)

  6. often ag. capitalist changes in traditional forms of peasant security…
  7. modernization as necessary catalyst (Samuel Huntington)
  8. modernization per se not necessary (Ted Gurr) relative deprivation


  1. B. The “J-curve” (James C. Davies)

  2. revolution of frustrated expectations

  1. C. Weak Regimes (Theda Skocpol)

  2. revolutionaries are an important, but insufficient condition for a successful revolutionary takeover

  3. some regimes are less likely to resist effectively

  4. limited (& declining) military capacity

  5. tenuous (& declining) public support

  6. limited (often declining) int’l support

IV. The Reformer's Dilemma

  1. Demands for major change exist on one or more fronts:

  2. problems w/ political institutions

  3. economic problems

  4. a desire to expand/shrink government

  5. Reformers must move quickly enough to satisfy demands for change...

...but also slowly enough to placate supporters of status quo.


  2. What resources do reformers have to meet this difficult challenge?

  3. What strategies can they use?


I. The Century of Humiliation (1839-1945)

II. Maoist Revolution (1945-49)

III. The Bolshevik & Chinese Revolutions Compared

IV. Mao Zedong in Power (1949-76)

I. The “Century of Humiliation”

    • 1839-42 Opium War w/ UK

  1. opens up a series of foreign-occupied cities

    • 1861 Taiping Rebellion

    • 1900 Boxer Rebellion

    • 1911 Sun Yat-Sen & Yuan Shikai

  1. Sun’s Nationalist (GMD) movement pushes out monarchy but cannot control national territory

  2. Yuan supports a very modest reform agenda w/ unsteady backing of other regional warlords

    • 1927 Jiang Jieshi

  1. Sun’s successor as GMD leader forms a government with help from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)

  2. then rejects its Marxist version of anti-imperialism

    • 1931-45 War w/ Japan

II. Maoist Revolution

    • 1921 CCP established

    • 1927 GMD breaks w/ CCP & vice versa

    • 1934-35 the Long March

  1. around 5,000 of original 100,000 survived the 6,000 mile retreat that averaged 17 miles/day

    • Mao Zedong's “mass line”

  1. gradually gain the support of peasants & expand base

  2. the Japanese occupation in 1937 weakened the GMD government’s ability to force the CCP out of the country

  1. strategic defensive

  2. strategic stalemate

  3. strategic counteroffensive

    • 1949 “We have stood up”

III. The Bolshevik & Chinese Revolutions Compared

Q: Who was the better revolutionary: Lenin or Mao? Why & how?

    • A. West (industry) v. anti-West (peasantry)

    • B. elite (vanguard) v. mass line (guerrilla struggle)

    • C. NOTE: re: Skocpol’s theory that both defeated states were weakened by foreign war and internal disorder

  1. WWI & famine in Tsarist Russia

  2. Japanese occupation & regional warlords in GMD China

IV. Mao Zedong in Power (1949-76)

    • A. Consolidation (1949-57)

  1. steps to ensure military & political control

  2. landlord trials used to justify revolution

also used to intimidate potential opposition
  1. 1956 “100 Flowers Campaign”

identified divergent thought among revolutionaries & sympathizers
  1. 1957 “Anti-Rightists Campaign”

about 500,000 intellectuals lost their posts
  1. move to a command economy

  2. importation of Soviet technology

    • B. The Great Leap Forward (1958-60)

  1. labor-intensive industrialization

  2. effort to pursue a “mass line” industrial strategy amid tension & rivalry w/ Khrushchev

  3. “20 years in a day”

  4. human resource Problems

  5. motivational problems

  6. skill shortages

the 1958 “11 million tons of steel campaign”
  1. produced 8m tons, 3m tons were useless
  2. famine ensues amid declining agro sector & blight

  3. 30 to 50 million people died in the early 1960s

    • C. Soviet Economics & Maoist Politics (1961-76)

  1. Return to Soviet-style Industrialization

  2. The Cultural Revolution (1966-76)

  3. Mao unleashes the young as a check on

    • counterrevolutionary tendencies” found in the “four olds”

old thought, old culture, old customs, old habits
    • potential challengers to his own power

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