Mexico. These new forms differed from earlier millenarian movements in three
important ways. First, each movement articulated a clear program of solutions for
the problems of their societies. Their goals were well-defined, organized, and
purposeful. Second, rather than looking back to a previous Golden Age, these
movements were forward-looking. Progress was inevitable, they believed, and the
program they espoused would chart their course. Third, these movements placed a
great deal of responsibility for the manifestation of heaven on earth in the hands of
the people themselves.Through strict morality, rigid discipline, egalitarianism,
community of property, and the rejection of corrupt (i.e., foreign) ways, humankind,
they believed, was capable of achieving a perfect world. These movements sought
utopia and were willing to utilize violence in order to achieve it. They thoroughly
rejected the existing institutions of society and sought total sociopolitical transformation. In this sense, these movements became aborted revolutions, not simply
The ancient concept of millenarianism, in all three cases, was transformed
largely in accordance with the needs of these societies. Much like its transmutation
in the West, millenarianism moved from a magical source of origin in the eyes of
its believers to that of a more human source. As a result, the notion of social
transformation was converted from an exclusively God-induced process to one that
was largely in the hands of the people. This transformation of millenarianism
prepared the way for revolutionary violence in these societies.
Eric Hobsbawm refers to such millenarian forms as "pure." See his Primitive Rebels, 57.
To add to this argument at the level of the individual, it is important to note the not so
insignificant number of revolutionaries and revolutionary ideologists who were strongly
influenced by religious doctrines early in their lives. Stalin was an Orthodox Christian
seminary student in his youth; Marx was descended from a long line of rabbis on his mother's
side, including his grandfather; Castro was educated in private Catholic schools in Cuba and
greatly influenced by Spanish priests; in his early years in the Spanish military, Francisco
Franco possessed a mystical belief in the destiny of Spain; Gandhi was deeply influenced
very early by the asceticism and discipline of Jainism; Malcolm X was introduced to the
Nation of Islam while in prison in his twenties and became a devout follower of Elijah
Muhammad; and, in our present study, Khomeini was descended from a line of religious
scholars and, of course, was himself an ayatollah, while Mao was, as a youth, intensely
affected by the devout Buddhism of his mother.
Ranger, Connexions between 'Primary Resistance' Movements and Modern Mass Nationalism in East and Central Africa," 635.
Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels, 59.
Abrahamian, The Iranian Mojahedin, 105-25.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Revolution and the Millennium:China, Mexico, and Iran.
Contributors: James F. Rinehart - Author.
Publisher: Praeger Publishers.
Place of publication: Westport, CT.
Publication year: 1997.
Page number: 103.
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