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So it can be said that Lenin used the poverty issue in Russia to his own advantage in order to gain political favor. Two main things emerge from this assumption. The first being that Lenin and the Bolsheviks were the main reason for the violent revolution in 1917 and secondly that Lenin’s main tactic was to capitalize on the relative deprivation theory in order to overthrow the government. However these weren’t the only two reasons for the violence and revolutions that took place in 1917.
Russia was very weak. 6 The Tsar’s government lacked power over the people, the size of the Russian empire also made it hard for there to be a tight knit community, the economy was mainly made up of peasants in the countryside who were still using techniques that went out of date tens of years ago. The Tsars willingness to oversee the war himself also hurt his reputation among the Russian people. The weakness of the government made it possible for the Bolsheviks to take control.
The First World War was also draining Russia form it’s precious resources that were needed at home, this was essentially a distraction for the government who could not clearly see what was going on in their own front yard. In turn all of these factors contributed to the violence and revolutions in 1917. No matter how much of a primary role Lenin had in the Revolutions it is safe to say that without the relative deprivation theory at play it would have been impossible for him to take control but in turn it is also unclear to what would have happened if Lenin was not in control of the Bolsheviks or there was no Revolution.
In order for a revolution to take place according to Marxist theory the political ideology has to be spread across the globe until the globe has been taken over by this ideology. 7 Thus is can be argued that the revolution in 1917 was a process that lasted only until 1991 and thus not completed. Whilst the relative deprivation theory had an impact on the revolution of 1917 the period in between 1917 and 1991 can be seen as part of the revolution that only had phases of a relative deprivation theory in play.
One could then argue that the relative deprivation theory according to the Marxist theory only had a minimal affect on the revolution as whole in the Soviet Union. Then again one could also argue that the eventual fall of the Soviet Union was due to a gradual buildup starting from the 1917 revolution however this counterargument is easily put down by the fact that the Soviet Union endured regular phases of prosperity in their nation.
In Andrew Heywood’s Politics book there is a theory by Alexis de Tocqueville that states that Revolutions rarely occur from absolute poverty or deprivation but when a government relaxes its hold on their people and society after a strong controlled rule. 8 In a sense this can counter or favour the relative deprivation theory. An example is that of the Ottoman Empire during the 17th century. 9 The Ottoman Empire was politically and militarily very strong at the time and it had a tremendous grip over its people and institutions.
However the economy was in decline and inflation was high, this made people dissatisfied in certain areas of the empire and rebellions were taking place but as the military and power holders were strong they were easily able to crush these rebellions and the Empire thus went through a recovery and was able to advance it’s hold on the nation for more than two centuries. Albeit this is a heavy argument for how even if the relative deprivation theory is in play, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a revolution will take place or even lead to violence.
It shows that violence in a nation and the risk of a revolution is dependant up on how strong the government as a whole is militarily, and politically. Although, the relative deprivation theory was at play in the eventual fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1917; in 1876 the Sultan granted a constitution and allowed for a parliament to be set up after long protests and demands for one however he quickly dissolved parliament and carried on with a more autocratic stance until 1908 when the sultan granted the restoration of the 1876 constitution and re-opened the parliament.
10 This in turn reflects how the relative deprivation theory was at play in the fact that the nation and people in it were starved from having a say in the daily running of their nation. It also demonstrates the fact that how the sultan was forced to take these steps as the pressure of the people below him was starting to get more fierce. These actions by the sultan can be seen as an example of Alexis De Tocqueville theory that I explained earlier; the release of grip by the sultan on his country after a long period of tight control militarily and politically.
The growing demands of the nation as the sultan began to loosen grip got up to a point where the sultan was forced to abdicate his country and thus a new Turkish Republic was created. The primary reason for this being that there was a strong Young Turk movement and the leader of the Turks was a man named Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who was a very gifted military and political tactician and a born nationalist.
Thus the relevance of the relative deprivations theory on the impact it has on revolutions and violence is entirely dependant up on other factors at play, meaning that different revolutions have the relative deprivation theory at play but the influence it has is variable. A recent example of the relative deprivation theory is the revolts that have been taking place in Tunisia. 11 They started because of a young unemployed man setting himself on fire because he was not allowed to sell his produce without a permit.
One of the main reasons for the upheaval is because of the dictatorship that has been limiting the freedom of Tunisians for over 23 years. The stagnant economy and the suppression of political freedoms were the two emerging factors that contributed to the revolts and violence that has taken place. The violence and protests eventually led to the abdication of president Zine al-Abidine Ben to Saudi Arabia. Thus the people from under were the main reason for the abdication of the dictator that has ruled the country for 23 years.
This statement supports the fact that the relative deprivation theory was the leading factor in the revolts that took place. Some people in the country also believe that this is a revolution in process however this is disputable as Marxist theory on revolutions mean that in order for it to be classified as a revolution a substantial change in the way the economy is run needs to happen, which currently has not. In conclusion it is credible to say that using the relative deprivation theory, as an explanation to the causes of violence and revolutions is solely dependent on the circumstances of one nation at a given period of time.
As I have discussed a revolution can only happen if a government is weak enough to be toppled and there is a strong enough military force to ensure there is a revolution. The weakness and strength of the two variables are possibly the defining cause to whether or not violence can take place or even a revolution. As seen in the Russian revolution Lenin and the Bolsheviks strength and superior tactical abilities meant that they were able to use the relative deprivation to their own advantage in order to take power.
In the Ottoman Empire there was a similar process by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who used his own ideals of nationalism to enlighten the people and secure their confidence in him. However the difference as with the 17th century in the Ottoman Empire, the relative deprivation of a select group of people cannot be a sole reason for violence or revolutions.
Bibliography BBC,”Q&A: Tunisia crisis”, Updated 19 January 2011, <http://www. bbc. co. uk/news/world-africa-12157599> (accessed 19 January 2011). Bell, J. Bowyer. On Revolt – Strategies of National Liberation, London: Harvard University Press, 1976.
Clare, John D. “Why Was There A Disaster in 1917? ” <http://www. johndclare. net/Russ3. html> n. d. , (accessed 5 January 2011). Fitzpatrick, Shelia. The Russian Revolution, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982. Gurr, T. R. Why Men Rebel. Princeton, N. J. : Princeton University Press, 1970. Heywood, Andrew. Politics New York: Palgrave, 2007. Kinross, Patrick Balfour. Ataturk – The Rebirth of a Nation. New York: Morrow, 1992. Kinross, Patrick Balfour. The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise And Fall of the Turkish Empire. New York: Morrow: 1975. Marx, Karl. “Relation of Wage-Labour to Capital”, n. d. http://www.
marxists. org/archive/marx/works/1847/wage-labour/ch06. htm (accessed 4 January 2011). 1 Ted R. Gurr, Why Men Rebel (Princeton, N. J. : Princeton University Press, 1970) 2 Karl Marx, “Relation of Wage-Labour to Capital”, n. d. http://www. marxists. org/archive/marx/works/1847/wage-labour/ch06. htm (accessed 4 January 2011) 3 J. Bowyer Bell, On Revolt – Strategies of National Liberation (London: Harvard University Press, 1976) 4 Shelia Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982) 5 Shelia Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982)
6 John D. Clare “Why Was There A Disaster in 1917? ” <http://www. johndclare. net/Russ3. html> n. d. , (accessed 5 January 2011) 7 Andrew Heywood, Politics (New York: Palgrave, 2007) 8 Andrew Heywood, Politics (New York: Palgrave, 2007) 9 Patrick Balfour Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise And Fall of the Turkish Empire (New York: Morrow, 1975). 10 Patrick Balfour Kinross, Ataturk – The Rebirth of a Nation (New York: Morrow, 1992) 11 BBC,”Q&A: Tunisia crisis”, Updated 19 January 2011, <http://www. bbc. co. uk/news/world-africa-12157599> (accessed 19 January 2011)
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