This is an attempt to develop an analytic toolbox for assessing the balance of social power, whether contemporary or historical. It is developed for the purpose of revolutionary strategy, i.e., assessing and identifying the relative strengths and weaknesses of progressive and reactionary actors. It should be tested for its utility with reference to historical struggles.
The Four Arenas of Social Power
1. Military/physical force
Trying out the Assessment - Haitian Lavalas
(I need to do more research on this movement, this is an sketch to indicate the potential of the model.)
Haitian Lavalas movement had massively inferior military strength than the dictatorship, the bourgeoisie and their allies. Some use of force was employed for movement self-defence (necklacing, most infamously), but these became less favoured. Once in political power, Aristide was able to disband the army and decrease the disadvantage somewhat. This was undermined by the reactionary infiltration of the Haiti National Police, the under-resourcing of the HNP, the imperial support for brutal raids along the Dominican border, etc.
The movement had inferior economic strength due to the parlous state of the Haitian economy and high unemployment. It achieved some strength in factory and peasant organisation, but not much. Dependence on international aid meant that donor nations could exert political power through this economic weakness.(Not sure about this, mainly a guess)
The movement used its massive support to gain political power through the various elections. This was hampered by the economic power of the bourgeoisie and the US (through its agencies) and the threat of military force, which disrupted the capacity for taking effective political action.
The movement had massive legitimacy and support in popular consciousness. This was transformed into political power through the Lavalas parties (OPL & then Fanmi Lavalas). Consciousness was affected through popular radio stations, sermons, etc., which spread the Lavalas message. The bourgeoisie made little attempt until the coup (and especially the 2000 coup) to fight for support among the people.
Ultimately the movement made a pragmatic decision to limit fighting where it was massively inferior and try to increase its strength through political action. This latter was insufficient, as the opposition were quite happy to disrupt the democratic process and maintain military dominance through other means. Both economic and military weakness are a legacy of imperialism, and cannot be solved easily.
Signs of Hope – A continuing series
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