In my last piece, I compared the Hong Kong democracy movement to other nonviolent freedom struggles, focusing on three ultimately successful ones, the Indian independence struggle, the US civil rights movement, and the eastern European fight against Communist dictatorship. While these movements are today regarded retrospectively as successes, we noted that what they have in common is that 1) they took decades to accomplish their aims and 2) they required a deus ex machina beyond their control as a catalyst for realization of their aims (respectively, World War II, Lyndon Baines Johnson and Gorbachev). The conclusion drawn from the comparison is that freedom struggles are often long, hard and uncertain, and rarely are freedom struggles powerful enough in themselves to accomplish their aims; they usually need other forces to align with their interests. Those struggling for freedom must persevere even when the outcome appears highly uncertain and distant. They must continue to exist until the opportune moment.
Today I look at some ‘failed’ freedom struggles, namely China ‘89, Iran ’77-‘79, Burma ’88-’90, and Egypt ’11-present. Note that all four of those countries are still ruled by authoritarian regimes.