The Function Of Political Ideologies
Pretend that you are an anthropologist from another planet, one considerably more advanced than our own. Your notion of time is also different, as you live thousands of Earth years and one hundred of these is equal to about a week of your time. You arrived three weeks (300 Earth years) ago in a place called Europe and immediately began looking for signs of civilization. At first there were none. Humans were divided into two groups, masters and slaves or near-slaves who were cruelly treated by their overlords. Women and children had no rights whatsoever, and no one cared a bit for the animals and forests. Then you discovered a tiny group who thought slavery an abomination and sought to eliminate it. "Ah, the first spark of civilization", you thought.
As your days rolled by, humans struggled in new directions, for the rights of women, for the right of the worker-slaves to organize. At the end of three weeks these human creatures had accomplished a great deal, but were far from reaching a civilized state. There were wars, people starved, the environment was devastated and vast inequality reigned. However, there was a substantial minority who yearned for the type of life that you and other ET's now almost took for granted. These civilizing factions formed different groups and called themselves reformers, eco-activists, feminists, socialists and anarchists.
Looking back on the three weeks of changes, as a social scientist, you could not help but notice that a process was occurring. Progressive change involved a number of stages and the participants played differing but effective roles in this process.
Change occured this way: A minority, either from the worker-slaves or advanced thinkers from the upper classes, have a break-through idea, such as "Let's abolish slavery." or "Let's form a workers' union." They promote this idea through speeches, press and small demonstrations and large numbers of people are won over. The mass increases the agitation and the rulers resist making any changes. They attack the reformers and mass demonstrations, riots and strikes ensue. Ultimately, the rulers cannot stop the desire for change. At this point a group within parliament takes up the issues, often modifying the demand in the process. But they are in a minority. Finally, after an immense amount of pressure from below, which often involves people using direct action to make the changes parliament or no parliament, laws are passed which put into practice the new way of being. i.e., slavery is abolished, women are recognized as persons, workers can unionize without being jailed, etc.,
You conclude that all effective change among the Earthlings comes from below, from the masses, even though a minority might have the initial ideas. The main action takes place outside of the governmental realm and the groups who function best in this are the populists, revolutionary socialists and anarchists. Anthropologically, this is their function within Earth society – to push for mass and direct action. The final step, a form of legitmation through parliament, is the result of the parliamentary socialists and reformers. This is their anthropological function.
You soon recognize that this process only occurs within societies flexible enough to allow change. Societies that are too rigid or in a severe crisis, can only be changed through revolution. In such a situation, the mass movement from below and the ideologies related to it are even more important than before. The difference now, is that since the old system cannot continue, a new system of governance and economy has to be introduced. The populists, revolutionary socialists and anarchists are involved in the promotion of these new ways of being and defending them from those who would re-institute the old system. This is their new function. The parliamentary socialists and reformers are now a brake on such a movement and will be pushed aside if they don't stand down and join the masses. The parliamentary group no longer has a function.
Revolutions are quite rare on Earth and are usually usurpted by new rulers. But this is not inevitable, you conclude, and is only a function of the underdeveloped nature of Earthling society. Earth society is on a knife edge and could either become truly civilized or fall into complete destruction. With a sigh, you hop aboard your space craft and head home to where despotism, war and inequality were abolished thousands of years (your years) ago.