Revolution and the Millennium: China, Mexico, and Iran

By James F. Rinehart | Go to book overview
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This study represents a cross-cultural, cross-historical analysis of three non-Western revolutionary societies that were profoundly impinged upon by European and American imperialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The revolutionary experiences in China, Mexico, and Iran were not identical, and in many ways their variations are noteworthy. For example, in only two of the cases -- China and Iran -- were the revolutionary millenarian movements successful, as defined by their accession to power and afforded the opportunity to implement their revolutionary programs. In the Mexican case, the social revolution sought by the Zapatista movement became an aborted one largely because of the assassination of Emiliano Zapata in 1919 and the successful co-optation of many of his former generals and ideologues by President Obregon in the 1920s.

The length and severity of these revolutions varied significantly. The actual transfer of power in Iran occurred over a relatively short period of time during the fall and winter of 1978-1979, and was much less bloody than the other cases. The Chinese and Mexican experiences were protracted upheavals lasting many years and resulted in the death of tens of thousands of people.

Finally, the primary impetus for the Chinese and Mexican Indian cases came from the rural peasant regions and eventually spread to the cities. In contrast, the Iranian Revolution was strictly an urban event in which the rural areas played little or no part. This diversity dispels the common notion that millenarianism is a uniquely peasant-driven phenomenon.


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