I just finished an excellent book titled Revolutionary Rehearsals. The core of the book is a series of examinations of five different 'failed revolutions' (France 1968, Chile 1972-'73, Portugal 1974-'75, Iran 1979, Poland 1980-'81) and an analysis of the lessons to be learned from their successes and failures.
Despite the bleak subject matter there is an overall optimistic tone to the book, and I want to repost a few things from the final summary here.
None of this is copy/pasted. I had to type it up manually and apologise for any errors in advance. Obviously the brackets are my own.
How do situations of this kind arise? Much of the time, after all, social revolution appears a forlornly improbable and utopian hope. The dominant images of society emphasise order and continuity, mere reproduction. Socialists - and especially revolutionaries - are a small minority, whose view seem at best eccentric.[Skip ahead a bunch of pages]
In such a [revolutionary] situation there is an unleashing of what Lenin, writing on the 1905 revolution, called 'festive energy'. The term is apt. The development of a revolutionary situation involves a great change in the psychology of millions of people. New hopes emerge. Previous habits of subordination and deference collapse. A new sense of personal and collective power develops. The 'common sense' of class society suddenly falters. Normal everyday social relations are transformed. Historic hierarchies - in workplaces, in the state, in schools and college, in families - are threatened or actually tumble. Old divisions between different groups of workers, national and ethnic groups, among peasants, between men and women are shattered and re-shaped by the development of new solidarities. Ordinary people find them-selves performing tasks and assuming repsonsibilities from which society previously excluded them. New kinds of competence appear, new divisions of labour, new powers.
Popular Confidence and imagination advance by leaps and bounds. With them, practical intelligence also rises: nothing is so mentally numbing as the act of subordination. Every 'festival of the oppressed' involves a sudden release of collective pleasure [ewe]. Perspectives alter, the horizons of possibility extend.From personal experience, this was exactly what was beginning to happen during the Capitol Occupation in Madison a year ago.