Civil wars invariably follow revolutions. The Arab Spring of 2011 did not result in a peaceful transfer of power as happened in Eastern Europe in 1989, which indicates that the Fall of Communism was just that. Communism fell and the consequent power vacuum was mostly peacefully filled from the dissident population, or lapsed Marxists expert at pulling the right levers at the right time. The ‘Velvet Revolution’ was velvety, but not actually a revolution.
It is possible that what we are experiencing here in the UK is a civil war following a revolution. Because we are British, and thus quite civilised, this is a war of words. The pen (or keyboard) is mightier than the sword in this country.
The revolution itself took place on 23 June 2016 in a very orderly fashion. The popular uprising was peacefully conducted in the booths of polling stations up and down the country. In the small hours, the extent of the vote was clear. The insurrection had been a success.
David Cameron was obliged to resign. When a government is forced by events to execute a drastic policy change, the government itself has to change first, as Marshal Petain, Winston Churchill, Marshal Badoglio, Admiral Dönitz and Boris Yeltsin will testify. To their cost, John Major and Norman Lamont ignored this rule after Black Wednesday caused a reverse of Conservative economic and currency policy in September 1992. The Conservatives were out of power for 13 years, 18 if the coalition is not included.
The new revolutionary government of Mrs May is faced with the challenge that faces all such governments. The losing side does not always accept defeat, if ever. Thus we are experiencing internecine warfare, which has unevenly divided both main parties. The division is also reflected on the streets, where friends, associates, and relatives are now persona non grata if they voted for the ‘wrong’ side. However the opprobrium is only one way. Leavers may be ostracised and victimised by Remainers, but the reverse is not happening. The winners in this revolution see no need to lord it over the losers – well, not too much – while the losers are trying to forge a chimeric moral superiority, even though they failed to present a coherent offer convincing enough to win over a majority of the electorate, and are still failing to do so.
So the Remainers have taken to the metaphorical hills and are sniping away at the victorious Leavers, while making spectacular opportunistic attacks against the weak points of their opponents now and again. This is the fate of all revolutions. They are always disputed, even if the new regime has seized power. Consolidation of that power is a time-consuming process, especially considering that no one in power at the time in this country expected the result.
Do counter-revolutions or civil wars ever result in the revolutionary side losing? Someone else will have to work this out. But the ‘big’ revolutions, Ireland 1916, Russia 1917, Germany 1918, Spain 1936, would indicate that they don’t, even after a civil war.
British politics suffered a major upset in the summer of 2016, from which it has not fully recovered. Not even the snap election has calmed things down. As in Russia and Spain, foreign powers have been sucked in, although they do not favour the revolutionaries this time.
As I pointed out last year, revolutions and the consequent civil wars take a very long time to work themselves out. Brexit will not be fully settled by the end of next decade. We are living in very unstable times. More than two hundred years ago, the French journalist Jacques Mallet du Pan said that revolutions devour their young. He has not been proved wrong in the intervening time. It is to be hoped that Brexit does not become a feast for Jeremy Corbyn.