Revolution and War

In the history of the world, few events need attention, such as Revolution and War. For many centuries, the revolutionary transformation has resulted in some of the most disastrous wars. Also, some pieces of literature have tried to show how Revolution and War are interrelated. Gross (2018), indicates revolutionary regimes have for a long time extracted resources and later convert them into military strength. Also, he suggests that Revolution comes with transformative ideas to expand national boundaries, which makes one regime undermining the capability of the opposing regimes to compromise their boundaries in favor of the superior revolutionary regime. These are just a few of the speculations that most literature use to justify that revolution influences war. This paper will look into detail what Revolution and War entail and give more evidence showing why there will always be a mutual influence amid Revolution and War.

War and Revolution

According to Gross (2018), War is looked at as a coherent implementation of all means to bring adequate adherence to the country’s will in the international arena, which results in armed conflict only if other means fail. Revolution, on the other hand, is described as a transformative and turbulent event that tries to change a nation, region, society, or the world. Revolution has played a vital part in the formation of the contemporary world in which there have been different forms of revolutions that have happened over history that range from “industrial revolution” to “sexual revolution.” However, Rosenberg (2018) describes Revolution from a historical point of view as a movement in a country, often violent, to overthrow an older regime and result in complete alteration in the central building blocks of society. This definition goes to show that there is an interrelationship of War and Revolution. In this, when a revolution happens, it is almost inevitable to avoid conflict, which then results in War.

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From a Marxism point of view, debates do not favor the definite opponents of all forms of War. Instead, the objective is usually to attain a socialist system of society by eliminating social classes and exploitation of man by man or nation by nation, thus eliminating the possibility of War. However, in the fight to attain a socialist system of society, it is likely possible to encounter conditions that may lead to War, which is conditioned is by a particular class struggle (Gross, 2018). Therefore, the possibility of revolutionary wars cannot be disregarded in Marxism perspective. According to Baker (2015), class struggles can be looked at as the motor of social change and eventually Revolution which is a concept that is also included in Marx’s theory of “bourgeois revolution.” Marx viewed Revolution as the outcome of socio-economic conflicts. This realization is supported by Baker (2015), where he points out that everyone who writes about social revolutions knows that they usually start with political crisis. However, he goes on to describe that the political crises that lead to Revolution are incidental triggers of strain in the social structure of the old regime. This strain is what may lead to War, mostly when the old regime does not want to surrender, and the new one is persistent for change. For instance, the French Revolution in the 18th century helped overthrow the monarchy and tried to change society. The French Revolution was a result of a series of military conflicts between 1792 up until 1802. Lawrence (2014), also identifies that the Revolution led to modern concept of nationalism. Therefore, the War had to happen for nationalism to take root. In this context, nationalism was the Revolution.

In Lawrence (2014), this revolutionary period is described as “That epoch of unanimity, that holy period, when a whole nation, free from all distinction, as yet a comparative stranger to the opposition of classes, marched as one beneath the flag of brotherly love. Nobody can behold that marvelous unanimity, in which the same heart, beats together in the breasts of twenty millions of men, without returning thanks to God. These are the sacred days of the world.” After the French Revolution, many people believed that modernity could be attained through violence and total change. Also, the motivation for most 20th century revolutions was the Russian Revolution of the 1917 which was led through Marxist Communism ideals (Kouvelakis, 2018). Marx had a firm belief that Revolution was needed to transform societies from one historical point to another, and this formulation improved his view of Revolution to a common and unavoidable process in the history of the world. For more than half the century, the Russian Revolution gave future revolutionaries in different parts of the world the layout for socio-economic transformation and political Revolution. Arendt (1990), states that it has even become a norm that the end of War marks the introduction of Revolution and the only cause that would probably validate it as the revolutionary root of freedom. Therefore, whatever the result of the present predicaments can be, it is likely that Revolution, in distinction to War, will remain.

Three revolutions instances can act as excellent examples of the relationship between War and Revolution. The first would be the American Revolution. The Revolution began in 1763 when the British leaders started to tighten the imperial reins. This act resulted in conflict as Britain’s land policy banned West settlement which then annoyed colonies. At the time the biggest issue was that there was a need for money that would help maintain the empire. However, the efforts through the Stamp Act, Townshend Act as well as the Sugar Act to raise funds instead of controlling trade met a lot of confrontationfrom the British colonies (Rosenberg, 2018). As a result tension increased after Parliament approved the Coercive Acts and Congress took the first step to independence from Great Britain. The process of attaining independence (Revolution) was followed by a series of wars led by General George Washington (Gross, 2018). Much more than the freedom from British regulations and taxes, the American Revolution is considered to be the first modern Revolution. This is because it this was the first time in history in which people took steps to gain independence for their countryunder the foundation of universal principles that included the rule of law, popular sovereignty and constitutional rights (Gross, 2018). The second example is the Greek War to independence between 1821 and 1831 which is also referred to as the Greek Revolution. According to McLean(2017), the Ottoman Empire had ruled most part of Greece except for the Ionian Islands in the course of the 14th and 15thcentury. However, in the 18th and the 19th centuries, as the revolutionary nationalism increased across Europe, partly because of the French Revolution Ottoman Empire’s influence declined. However, it is crucial to note that the Greek Revolution had previous failed attempts at attaining independence all through history. For instance, in 1603 there were attempts in the Peloponnesos to regain the Byzantine Empire and all through the 17th century there was resistance from Turks (McLean, 2017). Nonetheless, War was waged by the Greeks for Greece to attain independence from the Ottoman Empire. The Revolution in this context was the independence which was granted through the Treaty of Constantinople in 1832 when Greece was identified as free nation. According to McLean(2017), the Greeks were the first subjects of the Ottoman Empire to gain the recognition of a sovereign power.

Lastly, the English Revolution was a time where conflict as well as political disorder was common in the 1600s that pitted parliament supporters against the Crown (Stone, 2017). This duration marked the trial and execution of Charles I, the commonwealth of England replacing the monarchy, the rise of Oliver Cromwell to dictatorship and the gradual reinstatement of the empire. The result of the Revolution was the end of the divine right of kings to rule, the conviction that parliament had the final say inpolitical matters and that the monarch had to rule based on constitutional agreement. This period was vital in the creation of concepts on freedomas well as the momentary collapse of suppressionin the 1640s which saw the outburst of political pamphlets where groups such as Levellerssupported liberty based on individual rights, particularly the right of self-ownership as well as private property.Parliament had the freedom to debate about crucial matters such as press liberty, rule of law, religious freedom as well as the restrictions on the King’s power (Stone, 2017). Even though the Revolution brought military dictatorship in the form of Cromwell and later resultedin the reinstatement of the Stuart Empire, it created the basis for a new type of empire that was different from the “absolute” monarchies that had a lot of influence on the bigger part of Europe. After 1688, the empire that emerged in Britain was one that was limited by the constitution (Stone, 2017). Also, it formed a body of ideas that were significant in the expansion of the Anglo-American constitutional and political thought in the 18th century.

Furthermore,Gross(2018) argues that Revolution and War are often the two formative process of society where history of revolutions are repeatedly combined with different aspects of War to a point where wars resemble revolutions. For the revolutionaries, the relationship between Revolution and War is that War is more of an instrument for the revolutionary attainment of power. According to Gabaccia (1994) after the Napoleonic Wars a form of Revolution was seen in the 19th century in the form of mass migration that led to the development of an international market of labor. The Napoleonic Wars entailed a series of global conflicts during the imperial rule of Napoleon Bonaparte over France between 1805 and 1815 (Fisher, 2013). The wars revolutionized European armies and artillery together with the military systems. At this time French power quickly rose and conquered most of Europe and rapidly collapsed after the catastrophic invasion of Russia where Napoleon’s empire suffered military defeat (Fisher, 2013).The Wars brought significant amount of change in Europeand by the end of the Napoleonic Wars, France was no longer influential in Europe. The 19th century immigrants resulted in the path of imperial expansion, industrial growth as well as capital investment. During these mass migration communities such as the Italians occupied a significant niche of the 19th century world economy. Italians also found work in commercial agriculture and earned money as harvester golondrinas (migratory birds) in Argentine wheat fields; Southern French vineyards, and the Australian, Louisiana and Central American sugar cane fields (Gabaccia, 1994). Therefore, this brings out the idea that if the Napoleonic Wars would not have happened then the Italians may not have benefited in making their lives better and instead they may have remained in their nation and continued to face oppression. Gabaccia (1994), Revolution not only benefits a single community but instead aids in the development and advancement of the world or nation as well. For instance, the largest group of Italian immigrants offered labor of the creation of capitalist infrastructure. The migrants’ efforts led to the construction of railroads, tunnels, cities, factories, streets, sky scrapers and canals. The work that the Italian immigrants did in the U.S. resembled much of their work in France, Germany, Canada, Australia,as well as Austria (Gabaccia, 1994).

In some historical revolutionary cases there are aspects of nationalism. In this, nationalism is the movement and ideology that tends to promote the interests of a nation with the aim of maintaining and gaining the country’s sovereignty. Therefore, nationalism catalyzes Revolution and it the regimes are not in agreement then War is the outcome. In countries like Japan that have been isolated from the outside world between the mid-17th and the 19thcentury it is evident that nationalism is predominant among the citizens. According to Wilson(2013)this characteristic is one of the most widespread shorthand explanation for Japan’s involvement in the Second World War.

So far it is apparent from most pieces of literature, Revolution is at most times associated with conflict that brings violence and War. Arendt (1990) indicates that the aim of Revolution is not to overthrow the old regime but to facilitate its restoration. However, for this restoration to happen there are high chances that war or different forms of violence may happen. An excellent example of modern day revolution was the legalization of same sex marriage. This Revolution happened after the Stonewall Riots which roused the gay rights movement. The case started with a law student and a librarian who applied for a marriage license in Minnesota.  However, the application was rejected on the grounds that they were a same-sex couple which was at the time not recognized by the law and thus illegal. After a series of court battles and riots in 2000, Vermont became the first state to legalize civil unions which is a legal status that offers most of the state-level benefits of marriage (Johnson, 2017). However, in 2003, Massachusetts then became the first state to make gay marriages legal after the Supreme Court in Massachusetts ruled that same-sex couples could marry in Goodridge V. Department of Public Health which was a law that could not be overturned by voters (Johnson, 2017). As a result the state introduced the United States to gay marriage when it started giving out same-sex marriage licenses in 2004. This example shows that even in modern day’s War and violence to some extent leads to Revolution.

Arendt (1990), also supports the idea of War and Revolution by stating thing that the as much as violence is associated with Revolution it is not adequate to define the phenomenon of Revolution than change. In this, Arendt (1990) shows that violence is often used to bring about the creation of a new political body in which the liberation from oppression tends to aim at the composition of freedom and thus lead to Revolution. This can be seen in nations such as Hong Kong where the administration has been trying to limit democratic reforms. Since June 2019, Hong Kong has been involved in one of the worst political crisis in decades. There have been a wave of protests that were started by the controversial extradition bill in which people can be sent to China for trial. The protests are becoming a wider and increasingly violent anti-government movement as violence amid the police and democrats get out of control. According to Ip(2016), this attitude tends to catalyze movements in the country to fight for democracy. It is also clear that when the people are tired of oppression then violence is the last outcome where Ip (2016) indicates that even if the police arrest 1,000 people the fight will continue as the frontline are constantly being replaced. Anger amid the public in this case is fuelled by the government’s refusal to completely withdraw from the suspended extradition bill, the police use of violence as well as the failure of government to create an independent body to investigate the wrong doing of the police. This brings out the realization that when the administration abuse power and face no consequences then a revolution is justified.


Most revolutionaries not only want to attain independence but to also change their societies. In the 20th century most people believed that for a society to become modern old hierarchies needed to be eliminated and then create new and more equal social relationships. However, this change meant that the nation would face some conflict as the old regime may be adamant to change. Therefore, change is a motivator for Revolution and when there is miss understanding in change then violence is an outcome of the revolutionary process. Rosenberg(2018) puts it clear by indicating that Revolution is an outcome of War and no war is without violence. He goes on to add if violence can lead to changes then it is deemed necessary. These different experiences as well as understandings of “revolution” tends to underline the significance of political and social Revolution over the course of history. Also, historical events have resulted to the current society. Therefore, the same historical events may happen to different societies in modern time who are in pursuit of freedom and thus Revolution. Countries like Hong Kong, Iran and some countries in Africa are facing their revolutionary moments at this era which entail a lot of violence. This is evident enough that when even in modern times and in the future as long as one regime is adamant to change or improvement then the people will stand to speak and when they are not heard then violence is the outcome which then leads to Revolution.















Arendt, H. (1990) On Revolution Introduction, chapter 1 and 2: pp. 11-58. London: Penguin.

Baker, K. M. Dan Edelstein, eds. 2015. Scripting Revolution: A Historical Approach to the Comparative Study of Revolutions.

Fisher, T. (2013). The Napoleonic Wars: The Empires Fight Back 1808-1812. Routledge.

Gabaccia, D. R. (1994). Worker internationalism and Italian labor migration, 1870–1914. International Labor and Working-Class History45, 63-79.

Gross, J. (2018). War as Revolution 1. In The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Europe, 1944-1949 (pp. 17-40). Routledge.

Ip, E. C. (2016). Constitutional Conflict in Hong Kong Under Chinese Sovereignty. Hague Journal on the Rule of Law8(1), 75-99.

Johnson, D. K. (2017). The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle.

Kouvelakis, S. (2018). Philosophy and Revolution: from Kant to Marx. Verso Trade.

Lawrence, P. (2014). Nationalism: History and Theory. London/New York: Routledge.

McLean, D. (2017). The Greek Revolution and the Anglo-French entente 1843–4. In European Politics 1815–1848 (pp. 115-127). Routledge.

Rosenberg, W. G. (2018). “Beyond the Great Story” of War and Revolution.  History45(2-3), 231-272.

Stone, L. (2017). The causes of the English Revolution 1529-1642. Taylor & Francis.

Wilson, S. (Ed.). (2013). Nation and nationalism in Japan. Routledge.

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