I normally frequent Worldbuilding StackExchange, and I recently asked a question about werewolves attempting to declare themselves an independent, sovereign state in the American West. However, this led me to consider another question which is more applicable to human history in general. In general, do revolutions need the support of the populace to achieve long-term success? I mostly ask this because in the werewolf scenario by definition you would have a small minority of the population imposing their political will over the majority. You have a group that would be basically going from a marginalized underclass (follow standard urban fantasy Masquerade rules) to installing themselves as the ruling class. I'm pretty sure the average human citizen in the American West would neither consent to their state/province seceding from the United States/Canada against their will nor being ruled by werewolves (which would by implication be an oligarchic government where they have reduced power since they are...not werewolves). This is something that could easily be applied to human geopolitics throughout history minus the werewolves.

This lead me to wonder if a revolution led by a minority of the population was even feasible from a historical perspective. I can't think of any examples where a historically marginalized minority group overthrows the majority and installs themselves as the ruling class. However, I'm not a history expert and I'm more knowledgeable about pre-Industrial history than post-Industrial history, so I'm not sure if I'm overlooking something. When a country is run by a minority population, it's usually because that group has control of the military or superior technology that acts as a force multiplier they can use to impose their will on the majority (e.g., Ptolemaic Egypt, the Mongols, the Spanish New World colonies, etc.). Additionally, these groups typically have backing from far-off powers who can support these groups with the numbers of soldiers necessary to back up claims of dominance (again, Mongols, Spain to the Spanish colonies).

I can think of many cases where an oppressed underclass overthrew the ruling class and became the dominant class, but in those cases the underclass actually significantly outnumbered the previously dominant class. And indeed the fact that the ruling class could not maintain power in the face of a disgruntled populace seems to support the idea that governors cannot maintain power without at least tacit approval of the governed (or else superior firepower). Revolutions in general seem to be dependent on the support of the common people, as that is where the revolutionaries get their supplies from since they cannot rely on government infrastructure to supply them with the arms and supplies that they need to fight a revolution.

So given this, are there any historical situations where a political/ethic/socio-economic minority that did not belong to a rich aristocracy seized control of a nation-state at the expense of the majority? The closest example I can think of is the case of the American Revolution where 45% of the colonists were patriots and 15-20% of the population were British loyalists. However, that's still 80-85% of the population who are supportive or at least neutral to the revolutionaries. I'm not sure if there are situations where a group who was disliked by the masses got into power via a revolution.

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    This question can be answered without reference to the contents of the documentary record of the past; it can effectively be answered by its own tautological theorisation: it is a social science other than history question. It also looks suspiciously like bait with reference to Middle East nationalist politics. – Samuel Russell Jan 3 at 21:35
  • @SamuelRussell The question does provide an argument, but at the same time this is based on assumptions that could be wrong and there could be historical case studies that demonstrate it is so. If a theory is based on tautologies it is likely to be fallacious, and if my question is so I'd like to poke it full of holes. If this does not fall under the scope of the history stack, is there a social science stack for which this question would be more appropriate? – user2352714 Jan 3 at 21:51
  • @SamuelRussell As to the potential Middle East issue, I was more asking the question with regards to the inconsistencies you see with the commonly used "secret world" trope in the urban fantasy genre (namely you have a group of people with supernatural abilities that give them an advantage over other people yet never seek out political power), which seems at odds with how people generally behave. I was looking to see if there were parallels in human history. I.e., why Vampire the Masquerade and not Dracula, politically. – user2352714 Jan 3 at 21:52
  • @SamuelRussell The Middle East only came up because it is the most recent well-known case of asymmetrical warfare, but the same arguments could be applied to any case of asymmetrical warfare throughout history (e.g., the American Revolution, the IRA, etc.). It wasn't intended to be a statement or comment on any IRL group's politics (apologies for the long comments) – user2352714 Jan 3 at 21:55
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    The Russian Revolution of 1917 which brought the Communists in power is a counter-example to your assumption. They remained in power for decades without the support of most of the population. – Barry Jan 3 at 23:08

In general, do revolutions need the support of the populace to achieve long-term success?

No. Not at all. It's a nice bonus. Nothing more. Plenty of dictatorships ruled with very little popular support. Thailand is not an exception to the rule. It only happens more often than elsewhere.

I can only say: welcome to Thailand! In the 25 years that I live here about 3 successful (military) coups have been committed and several failed (civilian) attempts. In the west children look in winter for the weather forecast, hoping the school might be closed. Thai children watch the news. Perhaps another coup closes the school!

Since 1932 at least 40 coups have been committed. All 'in the name of the people'. Conveniently forgetting the previous military government did exactly the same thing. In Thailand, it is usually the army (sometimes the police, rarely any other branches) who commit coups. The support they have comes from the army. And of course, some of 'the political elites'. Definitely not the people.

Actually, the coup that ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 was the first coup in Thai history where the coup-makers gained widespread popularity!

Thaksin himself was the first Thai politician who kept most of his electoral promises to gain popular support. That in itself was unique in Thai history. He was, and still is, very popular amongst the (mainly rural) people. No other politician had done that before him. (Nor after him, for that matter.)

The first coup, the revolution that abolished the absolute monarchy in 1932, was committed by princes and ranking nobles who felt passed over for promotions. All in the name of the people, of course.

The current "civilian" government is the previous junta, who all retired from the army. Premier Chan-o-Cha committed his coup in 2014. He postponed elections many times until 2019. He's ruling 6 years with many to come. Pretty long by Thai standards.

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    What you describe sounds more like a circle of the same stuff repeating itself, not like a string of revolutions. – Jan Jan 4 at 0:29

I am not really sure what your definition of "revolution" is. If what you want is the take-over of power by a formerly marginal minority, then the classical circle of dynasties described by Ibn Khaldun fits quite well.

Basically he describes that people from the margins of an agricultural society (e.g. nomads, people living in unproductive mountain areas - the have-nothings that every proper citizen looks down upon!) have greater social cohesion and are more used to hardship and thus are more effective in combat. When a ruling dynasty grows weak and a charismatic leader emerges, they will overthrow the incumbent regime and install their own one ... which will also grow weak at some point.

Examples include the conquest of the Middle East by the Arabs, the conquest of China and Central Asia by the Mongols, the conquest of China by the Jurchens (twice), and lots of North African and Arabic dynasties mentioned by Ibn Khaldun.

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