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I recently heard a claim made that no major revolution or uprising (barring a few, which unfortunately were not listed) was able to come to its conclusion and achieve its goals until an armed group came into play that was sympathetic/allied to the revolutionary cause (regardless of whether this group was formed by the revolutionaries, or was a third party that joined their cause).

NOTE that the presence of the armed group doesn't necessarily mean that the uprising was violent and bloody, but rather that the threat of force helped to impose the new social/political changes that the revolution demanded (in the same way that the "threat" of a police force forcing you to court and possibly prison helps to ensure people obey the law).

Is this true? If not, I'd be interested in seeing examples of successful revolutions/uprisings where there was no threat of force on the side of the revolutionaries.

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Interesting question, but asking for lists (aka examples) or sources is a no-o on this site. Would you care to rephrase your question a bit to avoid this? –  Pieter Geerkens Dec 16 '13 at 3:29
@PieterGeerkens - he's asking for a counter example, not for lists. –  DVK Dec 23 '13 at 13:22
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closed as too broad by Samuel Russell, American Luke, Kobunite, Steven Drennon Dec 17 '13 at 14:50

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2 Answers

This looks a lot like an invitation to a No True Scottsman argument. For example, I could point out that The Velvet Revolution, The People Power Revolution, The Tunisian Revolution, the Egyptian Revolultion of 2011, and many many others were all carried out almost entirely by non-violent means.

However, revolutions are messy things, with thousands of players and often very imperfect restults. So it wouldn't be real hard for a committed debater to pick apart each one and find a way to argue it away via the simple expedient of comparing it unfavorably to some of the more mushy words in his thesis (eg: "major", "threat", "support"), or in extreme cases by ammending the thesis slightly.

For example, in Tunisia I've seen it argued that the Ben Ali's hold on power was only due to the popular misconception that the USA was backing him. When a Wikileaks leak showed this wasn't the case, the uprising became possible. In fact you could "invalidate" every revoultion I listed above using a discovered lack of US or Soviet support for the regime as your hammer.

In other words, I disagree with that thesis because it is either invalid many times over (see my list above), or too mushy to be of much use in a predictive capacity.

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Sorry, -1 for including Egyptian revolution. That didn't resolve itself till the Army decided to stop backing Mubarak. I didn't delve too much into Tunisian one but would be heavily surprised if that wasn't the pattern as well. Philippines was more complicated - there were decisions by military not to fire on protestors, which can be seen as choosing sides. Velvet revolution was again complicated: Military wasn't ordered to do much; and especially secret police chose not to do much. It was also a unique circumstance in terms of being driven by overall Warsaw block collapse. –  DVK Dec 23 '13 at 0:10
@DVK - You're proving my point. –  T.E.D. Dec 23 '13 at 2:46
Sorry, I'm not. I'm saying that the thesis holds true - without explicit military decision (on at least a part of military) to either back the revolution, or at least not to fight it; no revolution can win. No True Scotsman would be if I didn't call these "revolution". I'm merely stating that your examples actually fit the pattern (except for Tunis where I just don't know enough to opine). –  DVK Dec 23 '13 at 13:03
... I might be ready to take Velvet Revolution as counter example, except that for them, we simply don't KNOW what the military would have done if ordered to fire on protestors - as they weren't ordered (they claimed they would have, but that was top brass, who had incentive to look good in front of party leaders. What would the actual army units do? No data). And we DO know that state security chose not to act against them, so based on that piece of data, again we fit into pattern. –  DVK Dec 23 '13 at 13:04
Just to clarify - No True Scotsman is when someone (say me) takes your 4 examples and says "they aren't real revolutions, so you can't use them as counterexamples". In this case, the objection wasn't that they weren't revolutions, but that they fit the rules and thus can't be counterexamples (except Tunis, but you didn't provide proof that it was 100% without military making choices not to interfere, and based on the rest of Arab Spring, I would be skeptical that your assertion is true unless proof is supplied) –  DVK Dec 23 '13 at 13:18
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I concur with @T.E.D; the question is a "no True Scotsman" bar bet.

That said, there is one counterexample:

When the US Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation, this was a revolution. One goverment passed away and a new government was instituted without any use of force.

The only concievable "use of arms" was used to pacify a mob beseiging the delegates in Philadelphia. However (a) the existing civil government deployed police forces (and, if I recall correctly, booze) to defend the delegates who were forming the new government and (b) the police forces were there to prevent a riot, not to affect the revolution.

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-1 for falling into the same logic pit as TED - nobody (including him or OP) rejected a single example on the basis of "this isn't a real revolution", which is what No True Scotsman fallacy would be. +2 for finding an actual valid counterexample (according to commongly accepted definition - which is pretty precise - that transition CAN be classified as revolution ) –  DVK Dec 23 '13 at 13:15
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