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A revolutionary wave or revolutionary decade is one series of revolutions occurring in various locations within a similar time-span. In many cases, past revolutions and revolutionary waves have inspired current ones, or an initial revolution has inspired other concurrent "affiliate revolutions" with similar aims.[1][2] The causes of revolutionary waves have become the subjects of study by historians and political philosophers, including Robert Roswell Palmer, Crane Brinton, Hannah Arendt, Eric Hoffer, and Jacques Godechot.[3]

Writers and activists, including Justin Raimondo and Michael Lind, have used the phrase "revolutionary wave" to describe discrete revolutions happening within a short time-span.[4][5][6]


Mark N. Katz[7] identified six forms of revolution;

These categories are not mutually exclusive; the Russian revolution of 1917 began with urban revolution to depose the Czar, followed by rural revolution, followed by the Bolshevik coup in November. Katz also cross-classified revolutions as follows;

Central and subordinate revolutions may support each other militarily, as for example the USSR, Cuba, Angola, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and other Marxist regimes did in the 1970s and 1980s.[9]

A further dimension to Katz's typology[10] is that revolutions are either against (anti-monarchy, anti-dictatorial, anti-capitalist, anti-communist, anti-democratic) or for (pro-fascism, pro-liberalism, pro-communism, pro-nationalism etc.). In the latter cases, a transition period is often necessary to decide on the direction taken.


There is no consensus on a complete list of revolutionary waves. In particular, scholars disagree on how similar the ideologies of different events should be in order for them to be grouped as part of a single wave, and over what period a wave can be considered to be taking place – for example, Mark N. Katz discussed a "Marxist-Leninist wave" lasting from 1917 to 1991, and a "fascist wave" from 1922 to 1945, but limits an "anti-communist wave" to just the 1989 to 1991 period.[11]

Pre-19th century

Revolutions of 1848

19th century

20th century

Protests against the Vietnam War in Vienna, Austria, 1968

21st century

In Marxism

Marxists see revolutionary waves as evidence that a world revolution is possible. For Rosa Luxemburg, "The most precious thing… in the sharp ebb and flow of the revolutionary waves is the proletariat's spiritual growth. The advance, by leaps and bounds, of the intellectual stature of the proletariat affords an inviolable guarantee of its further progress in the inevitable economic and political struggles ahead."[21] The need for a world-wide socialist revolutionary wave for the survival of a socialist state has and continues to be a topic of controversy between Marxists, most notably between Trotskyists and mainline Marxist-Leninist.[22]

Potential revolutionary waves

Mark Katz theorises that Buddhism (in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indochina, Burma, Tibet) and Confucianism (to replace Marxism in China and promote unity with Chinese in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia) might be the revolutionary waves of the future. In the past, these religions have been passively acquiescent to secular authority; but so was Islam, until recently.[23]

Katz also suggests that nationalisms such as Pan-Turanianism (in Turkey, Central Asia, Xinjiang, parts of Russia), 'Pan-native Americanism' (in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay) and Pan-Slavism (in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus) could also form revolutionary waves.[24]

See also


  1. ^ Mark N. Katz, Revolution and Revolutionary Waves, Palgrave Macmillan (October 1, 1999)
  2. ^ Nader Sohrabi, Revolution and Constitutionalism in the Ottoman Empire and Iran, Cambridge University Press, 2011 pp. 74, 83, 87, 90, 94, 96, ISBN 0-521-19829-1, ISBN 978-0-521-19829-5
  3. ^ *Colin J. Beck, Dissertation submitted to Stanford University Department of Sociology graduate Ph.D program, March 2009, "Ideological roots of waves of revolution," ProQuest, 2009, pp. 1-5, ISBN 1-109-07655-X, 9781109076554.
    • Note: Colin J. Beck also wrote The Ideological Roots of Waves of Revolution, BiblioBazaar, 2011, ISBN 1-243-60856-0, 9781243608567
  4. ^ Justin Raimondo, "The Revolutionary Wave: Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen – is the West next?",, January 28, 2011 - "The revolutionary wave now sweeping the world will not exempt America, in spite of the myth of 'American exceptionalism.'".
  5. ^ Frank B. Tipton, A history of modern Germany since 1815, University of California Press, 2003, p. 82, ISBN 0-520-24049-9, ISBN 978-0-520-24049-0 Chapter 3: A Revolutionary Generation: The 1840s and the Revolutions of 1848 - "A rising revolutionary wave?"
  6. ^ a b Michael Lind, Vietnam, the Necessary War: A Reinterpretation of America's Most Disastrous Military Conflict, Simon and Schuster, 2002 p 37 ISBN 0-684-87027-4, ISBN 978-0-684-87027-4 - "The revolutionary wave effect produced by the fall of Saigon in 1975 was far more significant than the regional domino effect in Southeast Asia proper. [...] Mark N. Katz has identified a 'Marxist-Leninist revolutionary wave' that peaked in the 1960s and 1970s, along with an 'Arab nationalist revolutionary wave' that began with the [1978-1979] Iranian Revolution. Samuel P. Huntington has identified a 'democratic wave' that began with the defeat of the Soviet bloc in the Cold War. [...] The Marxist-Leninist revolutionary wave associated with the Vietnam War saw 'affiliate Marxist-Leninist revolutions' come to power outside of Indochina in the Congo (1964, 1968), Benin (1972), Ethiopia and Guinea-Bissau (1974), Madagascar, Cape Verde, Mozambique, and Angola (1975), Afghanistan (1978), and Grenada and Nicaragua (1979)."
  7. ^ Mark N Katz, Revolutions and Revolutionary Waves, St Martin's Press, 1997, p4
  8. ^ Mark N Katz, Revolutions and Revolutionary Waves, St Martin's Press, 1997, p13
  9. ^ Mark Katz, Revolutions and Revolutionary Waves, St Martin's Press, 1997, p 86
  10. ^ Mark N Katz, Revolutions and Revolutionary Waves, St Martin's Press, 1997, p12
  11. ^ a b c d Mark N. Katz , "Cycles, waves and diffusion", in: Jack A. Goldstone, The Encyclopedia of Political Revolutions, pp. 126-127
  12. ^ Gates, Charles (2003). "19: Rome from its origins to the end of the Republic". Ancient Cities: The Archaeology of Urban Life in the Ancient Near East and Egypt, Greece and Rome. London: Routledge (published 2013). p. 318. ISBN 9781134676620. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  13. ^ Ober, Josiah (1996). The Athenian Revolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press. pp. 32–52. ISBN 9780691217970. OCLC 1241099836.
  14. ^ Michael D. Chan (1 December 2006). Aristotle and Hamilton on Commerce and Statesmanship. University of Missouri Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-8262-6516-6. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Colin A. Beck, "The World-Cultural Origins of Revolutionary Waves: Five Centuries of European Contention", Social Science History, vol.35, no.2, pp.167-207
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilson, "What Makes a Revolution?", Ceasefire, 30 September 2014
  17. ^ Mark Katz, Revolutions and Revolutionary Waves, St Martin's Press, 1997, p 22
  18. ^ Michael M. Seidman, The Imaginary Revolution: Parisian Students and Workers in 1968
  19. ^ Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, IB Tauris, 2000, chapter one
  20. ^ Mark Katz, Revolutions and Revolutionary Waves, St Martin's Press, 1997, chapter 4
  21. ^ Rosa Luxemburg, Gesammelte Werke (Collected Works), quoted in Tony Cliff, "Rosa Luxemburg, 1905 and the classic account of the mass strike" in "Patterns of mass strike", International Socialism, vol. 2, no. 29 (Summer 1985), pp. 3-61.
  22. ^ Carr, Edward Hallett (1900). Socialism in one country, 1924-1926. Internet Archive. Harmondsworth, Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-021040-8.
  23. ^ Mark Katz, Revolutions and Revolutionary Waves, St Martin's Press, 1997, p 138
  24. ^ Mark Katz, Revolutions and Revolutionary Waves, St Martin's Press, 1997, p 139