14 August 2015
Exploring the usual options of struggle against a dictatorship
By Mike Smith
14th of August 2015
Elections are not available under full dictatorships. However, dictators know that elections can give them “legitimacy” to rule and endorse their hold on power. Therefore the dictator will use elections as a weapon to stay in power. This “legitimacy to rule” is one of the reasons why people obey and tolerate dictators. More on that later.
Therefore, one of the first things a dictator under pressure will do is to announce early elections then rig them to place civilian puppets in government offices and “legitimize” his continued rule.
Like in the former Soviet-dominated Eastern Bloc, dictatorships might go through the motions of elections in order to appear democratic. They might even call themselves “democratic” like in the former East Germany whose official name was the German Democratic Republic.
Those elections, however, were merely rigidly controlled plebiscites to get public endorsement of candidates already handpicked by the dictator.
Dictators are not in the business of allowing elections that could remove them from their thrones. A dictator and his regime are only interested in elections when THEY can win. In just about every case, from the Philippines to Zimbabwe, from the Balkan to the Ukraine, electoral fraud has been used to keep dictators in power.
That is why it is imperative not to accept new or early elections called for by a dictator and not to accept the obviously rigged results.
Under a dictatorship, and in the absence of a strong opposition, elections are futile and a waste of time.
Negotiations and the appeal to reason
There are still people who think that negotiations with dictators are an option.
For negotiations to be successful both parties need to be reasonable and have an understanding of the principle of “Give and take”. Both parties need to be open to accommodate and compromise.
Further one can only negotiate successfully from a point of strength. The opposition needs something to use as leverage or a force multiplier, otherwise negotiations are useless and a waste of time.
Usually the oppressed people have nothing. No political power, no military power and no economical power.
In South Africa, the whites still have some economical power, but most of the wealth is concentrated at the top in the hands of a few individuals who control the media and work together (for now still) with the dictatorship. The common man has nothing.
There is no reason why the dictator should negotiate with the oppressed. They have therefore no other choice but to sit down and shut up.
In the case of a Marxist dictatorial regime as in South Africa, experience at Codesa (also in Zimbabwe) has shown that one cannot negotiate with Communists. Communists are not reasonable people. They are psychopathic, narcissistic megalomaniacs.
Just the fact that you are willing to negotiate, is to them a sign of weakness, because if you had any power you would finish them off, not negotiate.
Before negotiations they will start off with a list of demands or pre-conditions that will have to be met before negotiations can even start. Most of these demands are points of negotiation in themselves, but when you refuse, you will be accused of the one being, “unwilling to negotiate”, “unwilling to compromise”, “de-railing negotiations”, etc.
They will also (hypocritically) accuse you in the media of being “dictatorial”, “authoritarian”, and (heaven forbid) being a “racist”.
Nobody wants to be known as “dictatorial”, “authoritarian” or “racist”. So you give in. By giving in to the pre-conditions and demands you have already lost half or more of what you wanted to negotiate about in the first place. The rest is a walk over for the Communist negotiators.
When the negotiation begin they will only give something up if they can get something bigger in return. They will lie and promise you the world to get what they want. All agreements will be broken by them afterwards, but then it is too late. You won’t get anything back that you gave up in the spirit of good negotiations.
Further, they want half of what you have and when you give in to their demands they see it as weakness to get half of what you have left and so on until they have everything and you have nothing at which point you become expendable. End of negotiations.
The point here is that negotiations are not a realistic way to remove a strong dictatorship in the absence of a powerful democratic opposition.
You do not negotiate with a dictator. You depose a dictator.
People living under a dictatorship have hope and they believe that only international help can be strong enough to bring down the dictators. A great nation like the USA or maybe the United Nations would come and save them.
Likewise those who have gone into exile to escape the immediate grasp of the dictatorship, do not believe that the oppressed can liberate themselves.
They expect that their people can only be saved by the actions of others. These people place their confidence in external forces and try to raise international awareness on social media and forums so that the UN, USA or somebody will see their plight and rescue them.
However, truth is that usually no foreign saviors are coming, and if a foreign state does intervene, it probably should not be trusted.
States do not have friends. They only have interests. They will only intervene when those interests are threatened and will change sides at the drop of a hat like the USA did in the Philippines in 1986 when they abandoned Ferdinand Marcos whom they previously supported.
In October 1956 Hungarian students revolted against the Soviet and Communist policies. The revolution spread quickly and within two weeks the Communist government collapsed.
When a large Soviet force was sent in to crush the revolution, the West (Including the UN) did nothing. At the time the Suez crises was unfolding and President Nixon said: “We couldn't on one hand, complain about the Soviets intervening in Hungary and, on the other hand, approve of the British and the French picking that particular time to intervene against [Gamel Abdel] Nasser”…So the Hungarians were offered to the Soviet Demon.
The soviets killed 3000 civilians, raped thousand of women on the streets of Budapest and 200,000 refugees fled Hungary.
In Zimbabwe in 1983/84 dictator Mugabe massacred 20,000 Matabeles for opposing him in the elections. The USA and the UN did not intervene.
In 2000 when Mugabe drove 4000 white farmers off their land, Tony Blair and his New Labour betrayed the farmers, neither the USA nor the UN came to their help and not a single white South African helped them either.
Examples are many. Another one is Uganda. During the 19th century Britain brought Indian labourers to East and Central Africa to build the railroads. In August 1972 dictator Idi Amin drove out 80,000 decedents of these Indians, seized their homes, businesses and other belongings. Most were lucky to escape with the clothes on their backs.
Did Mother India come to help them? Did the US, UK or UN send troops to save them? No.
Be clear. There will be no outside “saviours” coming to rescue South Africans from a dictatorship either.
In the past, short-lived, uncoordinated, protests have proved to have very little impact in trying to unite people against a dictatorship.
Further, these protests were usually poorly organized, badly led and too early. Therefore very few people turned up.
Mass protests and demonstrations are the apex of a campaign and the culmination of smaller efforts that have reached “critical mass”. Attempted too early it will end in disaster.
Cultural festivals or music concerts might have been held or may have occurred, but not part of a campaign and therefore, however noble the motives, such past acts of resistance have often been insufficient, to overcome the people’s fear and “habit of obedience”, a necessary prerequisite to destroy the dictatorship.
The use of violence
It is understandable why people have often concluded, mostly out of frustration and ignorance, that only violence can end a dictatorship.
However, this is wrong. By placing confidence in violent means, one has chosen the very type of struggle with which the oppressors nearly always have superiority i.e. military hardware, ammunition, transportation, and the size of military forces. Despite bravery, those who want a true democracy are (almost always) no match against the forces of the dictatorship.
When you use violence against the dictatorial regime you attack them where they are strongest, not where they are weakest, which is what you should be doing.
It is like climbing into a boxing ring with Mike Tyson. You don’t want to beat him at boxing. You want to beat him at chess.
I don’t care how strong or how good Mike Tyson is, but if he falls into the sea and cannot swim, a thirteen year old girl that can swim will beat him. All she has to do is to wait until he exhausted himself. She doesn't even have to hold his head under the water. If he has no support under him, she can watch how he will simply sink.
Guerrilla struggles often last a very long time and rarely, if ever, benefits the oppressed population or ushers in a democracy.
In the case of the Second Anglo Boer War after the Boer capitals were lost the Boers adopted a brave Guerrilla campaign with the attack on Sanna’s Post (on 31 March 1900) against the British. The guerilla campaign lasted until 31 May 1902, the end of the war.
Despite the bravery of the Boers and the excellent fight they put up, after 2 years, 7 months, 2 weeks and 6 days, they have lost the war.
Although the Boers killed more than double the amount of soldiers than they lost (about 8000 in combat) they lost themselves 4000 men in combat, 24,000 soldiers in prison camps overseas, and 34,000 Boer woman and children died in British concentration camps after the scorched earth policy of Lords Roberts and Kitchener.
We can thus see that violent rebellions can trigger brutal repression that frequently leaves the populace more helpless than before. The Boers lost everything and were impoverished and starving after the war. The war also did not stop for them seeing that the British tried to anglicize them banning their Afrikaans language in schools and churches after the war triggering a war for their language, culture and nationalism, the so called “Taalbeweging” or “Language movement”.
The guerrilla warfare is no guarantor against failure, despite supporting theory and strategic analyses and sometimes international backing. The Boers did have backing from Germany and hundreds of foreign volunteers from all over the world fought on their side, yet they still lost.
Therefore guerrilla warfare is no obvious solution, particularly given the very strong tendency toward immense casualties among one’s own people.
Military Coup d’état
A military coup d’état against a dictatorship might appear to be relatively one of the easiest and quickest ways to remove a particularly repugnant regime, but it can fail as easy as it succeed.
One needs military resources (human and otherwise) and absolute loyalty and secrecy for if anything leaks out (it only takes one traitor) the entire conspiracy comes crashing down. This risk of treachery from within one’s own ranks by planted agents, coerced or bribed individuals makes the military coup d’état an extremely risky option.
Further, after consolidating its position, the new clique may turn out to be more ruthless and more ambitious than the old one. Consequently, the new clique —in which hopes may have been placed — will be able to do whatever it wants without concern for democracy or human rights. That is not an acceptable answer to the problem of dictatorship.
The conclusion is a hard one and after considering the options above, the reader might feel even more hopeless, despaired and depressed. Liberation is not easy. It is not called a “Struggle” for nothing.
A liberation struggle is a time for self-reliance and internal strengthening of the struggle group. Liberation from dictatorships ultimately depends on the people’s willingness and ability to liberate themselves.
Nobody is going to send in the cavalry. No one is going to send us loads of weapons or money. It is up to us and our ingenuity to make a difference, nothing else.