Historical events are very much like a child’s kaleidoscope. It is possible to identify all of the shapes and colors of the bits of glass contained in the toy, but when they are placed in a mirrored tube, no one can accurately predict the exact patterns that will emerge when the tube is rotated. Historians can recognize the factors and forces that create change but can never predict exactly when or how they will combine, or what the effect of these combinations will be.
The coup, a seizure of power, has been a part of history for as long as man has been an organized social animal. The determined will attack the complacent, sometimes with success, and as often with failure. That which was successful in a disorganized and demoralized Imperial Russia might not be at all successful in another country at another time.
Intellectual curiosity was more likely the reason for the emergence of the subject, but the continued discussion about the bearing of arms by non-military citizens is much more interesting. The concept of the citizen army in the United States had its roots in the rural militias of the colonial period, when small communities, far from urban areas or standing garrisons, needed to protect themselves, their families and their holdings from attacks by hostile Indians. These militias grew in strength and eventually viewed the British Army as a more serious enemy.
That the first government of the United States viewed the citizen-soldier or the militiaman as an important implement of defense, is reflected in the Constitution where the subject is specifically addressed.
In one of his dinner table conversations, Hitler once said that the purpose of the police was to protect the citizen, not to intimidate him.
No coup or popular rising has taken place in times of relative stability. It is only when the great middle-class awakens to find itself and its institutions under attack and undefended that the thought of self-defense becomes valid. Violent upheavals do not begin without warning. Before a volcano erupts, there are nearly always ominous signs of the impending disaster and very often, clear though these indications may be, they are ignored out of the fear of radical change found in the complacent throughout history.
Trotsky very clearly recognized this fear of change and took swift advantage of it when he seized power in Russia. By the time the public was aware of what had happened, it was almost too late to react, and by the time the population, most of whom were only interested in survival and creature comforts might have reacted, the militants were in power and increasing their control on a daily basis.
A conservative government might be dull but it does not, in general, attempt to exert control over its citizens, other than to maintain law and order. A radical government, on the other hand, cannot feel safe in its power until it has established an ever-intrusive control over its people. Control of weapons is certainly a prime goal for such an entity and this would work in tandem with discrediting, and eventually destroying, any institution that might be able to mount an attack on it. The first target would be any religious group who might find a moral, and hence religious, fault with its goals or techniques. The second target would be any other organization that could conceivably organize against it.
In a monarchy, the people have little choice over the succession of rulers and a good king with a short reign can easily be replaced by a bad one with a long reign. In a republic, malfunction and mendacity are correctable at the ballot box. If this safety valve is shut down, an explosion will certainly result.
News can easily be controlled by those with the desire and ability to do so. Governments can exert great influence over nearly any media entity through their power in the granting of licenses or their control over entree to official information. By a de facto control over the reporting of news, an administration bent on complete domination can accomplish the implementation of their goals with relative ease, given a receptive and passive audience.
Faked opinion polls and heavily slanted pro-administration reportage might have had a strong effect on this audience when there were no other sources of information. But, with the advent of alternative information sources, such as the computer, the photocopier and the facsimile machine, propaganda is far less able to influence, dominate, and control public perceptions.
The concept of civil unrest is always abhorrent to the entrenched entities which comprise the leadership of the political and business factors of an urbanized and stable society. These individuals belong to the Order of St. Precedent whose motto is “Look Backwards,” and whose watchword is “That Which Has Not Been, Cannot Be.” Trotsky and his ilk knew how to utilize such blindness.