It is not uncommon to witness scenarios where two or more different groups, usually affiliated to politics, struggling to get power. Sometimes, the struggle for power result in confrontations and protests that cause tension and unrest. Two films, October: Ten Days That Shook the World by Sergei Eisenstein and Danton(1983) by Andrei Wadja illustrate clearly how a protest and confrontations are inevitable when two or more opposition groups seek to clinch the top position. In addition to the cases of power struggle presented in the films, the study identifies other scenarios where different groups have clashed for power, with some ending in conflicts and misunderstandings. The study seeks to answer questions such as whether dissatisfaction in the current leader’s leadership style or/and the desire to take over leadership prompt some individuals and groups to engage in power struggles. The position of the paper is that a power struggle emerges when the subjects feel that their current leader or leadership fails in certain aspect or when the insurgent group seeks to disrupt the activities of the reigning body and take over power.
Describing Power Struggle
In political context, power struggle refers to a scenario where two or more groups or people compete for dominance or influence. A power struggle ensues from such competition, and the victor is the one or side that makes their structure to triumph (Arendt, 1963). A power struggle would ensue when another group feels that it is their time to assume leadership, or when one side feels that the leading team or regime is incompetent, unfair, or not considerate (Arendt, 1963). Those struggling to get power aim at being in a capacity where they influence the conduct or behavior, beliefs, and actions of others. However, power struggles may deter the achievement of a socially approved or legitimate power that the society and its structures acknowledge.
Cases of power struggle are not unfamiliar and a historical analysis reveals that various nations have experienced such confrontations. For example, Salvador witnessed a power struggle in the early 1980s following the emergence of the Salvadoran Civil War that lasted from 1979 to 1992. Meislin (1982) informs that what emerged to be a political power struggle in El Salvador between the right, represented by political groups affiliated to the conservative wing and the center, that comprised of Democrats, mainly Christians, is something that could become dangerous and more complicated. The power struggle that emerged due to loss of confidence in the leader (José Napoleón Duarte)whom they blamed of being associated with many cases of human rights violations that were conducted across the nation during the reign of the final junta that comprised of Duarte as its leader as well as other influential people such as Gutierrez Avendano and Avalos Navarrete among others. The power struggle according to Meislin (1982) was inevitable in a country where military coups, unscrupulous deal-making, and fraudulent elections have been the conventional way of installing and getting rid of governments.
Another example of power struggle was witnessed in the Democratic Republic of Congo between the current president, Felix Tshisekedi, and his predecessor, Joseph Kabila. The two leaders had until the recent past worked as partners in a wavering power-sharing deal, but Tshisekedi has since gained the power to make decisions without being limited by the person who installed him into office (International Crisis Group, 2021). However, the key concern is whether Tshisekedi will run the government without interference. Initially, Kabilla had ruled DRC for nearly two decades but agreed that he would step down before the 2018 debated elections where Tshisekedi triumphed against Kabila’s preferred successor (International Crisis Group, 2021). The two leaders opted to establish a coalition where Tshisekedi became the president and Kabila retained control over state ministries and the parliament. Kabila also retained control over security forces, which enabled him to safeguard his large business empire and political ambitions (International Crisis Group, 2021). However, the indications of a power struggle were always present and the agendas Tshisekedi tried to bring forth were constantly opposed by the Kabila-led team.
Two years into power, Tshisekedi has embarked on diminishing Kabila’s influence, who has continued to steer operations in key arms of the government since quitting active politics in 2018. Tshisekedi adopted recent actions to enhance his position, encompassing appointing three of his close allies as judges in the Constitutional Court and terminating the partnership with Kabila (International Crisis Group, 2021). Tshisekedi now has a suitable chance to create a reshuffled parliamentary majority, which will in turn permit him to make military and ministerial appointments with restrictions and freely focus on the reforms DRC direly needs. But the likelihood of conflict with Kabila’s team still reigns in the air (International Crisis Group, 2021). Furthermore, even as the current president promises a raft of changes, some close allies or those who purport to support him focus on misusing government funds and misappropriating public property, thus aggravating the constraints that have ruined DRC and invited past revolts and protests. Armed groups continue to cause havoc in the eastern part of the country (International Crisis Group, 2021). It is apparent the power struggle between Tshisekedi and his predecessor may augment the issue as the two camps could bring in rebels to intimidate opponents or instigate conflicts.
Power Struggle in the Selected Films
A film that serves as a reference in this case and helps to understand how power struggles happen and their possible causes is Eisenstein’s October: Ten Days That Shook the World (1928). The film dramatizes the happenings of the October Revolution, also known as the Bolshevik Revolution, which marked the second and last significant period of the Russian Revolution that happened in 1917 (Eisenstein, 1928). The major happening of the Revolution was the seizing of power in Russia by the Bolshevik Party. However, the film describes some of the other major events that happened before and during the revolution. The buildup to the uprising in October was marked by a series of events including relentless demonstrations in April and July 1917 (Eisenstein, 1928). In one particular instance (1917), the army disperses demonstrators who turn out in large numbers to express their displeasure against the rule of Tsar Nicholas II, and instead advocated that Bolshevik Vladmir Lenin gets out of exile and take control of the country. Bolshevik received a major boost in October 1917 after the Bolshevik Committee approved through voting that Lenin was free to revolt against what he termed bad leadership (Eisenstein, 1928). Lenin takes full control of the revolt as of October 24 where together with his team they send messages to people that a provisional government will assume power in the meantime. He leads protestors to the Winter Palace that served as the residence of Emperors in Russia beginning 1732 to 1917 and demanded for the leaders’ resignation (Eisenstein, 1928). The tussle nearly turned bloody but the Mensheviks, which was one of the three facets of the Russian socialist movement intervened and advocated for an end to the conflict where people must not shed blood. The film ends on a lighter note with a new government establishing a new state in October 26, 1917, calling for peace across the land (Eisenstein, 1928). Hence, it is apparent that the film presents a case of power struggle.
The film is based on a true incidence where Lenin’s Bolshevik Party led the Revolution that had much influence in the greater Russian Revolution (1917-1923). The October Revolution was instrumental in the emergence of the Russian Civil War (Lenin, 1918). It also marked the second major revolutionary transformation of government in Russia in the year 1917 (Lenin, 1918). The event captured in Eisenstein’s film is a buildup of the February Revolution that also happened in 1917. The revolt in February ousted Tsarism that was characterized by intense autocracy paving way for a provisional government to lead Russia (Lenin, 1918). The film, therefore, serves a critical purpose because it reminds viewers of a fundamental time in Russian history when ensuing power struggles resulted in the adoption of more democratic leadership approaches.
A similar case of power struggle is evident in State of Siege (1972) directed by Costas-Gravas. Incorporating the interrogation of a counterinsurgency agent from the United States as a background, the movie explores the outcomes of the contention between the Tupamaro guerrillas who termed themselves leftists and the government of Uruguay. The government deploys death squads and uses all available means to suppress the revolutionary group that it feared could topple its leadership (Costa-Gavras, 1972). The film that provoked Americans and raised much criticism regarding its intention is based on a true historical event when an American state official was abducted and killed in the capital of Uruguay. The main lesson from the film is that it is possible to experience power struggle when a party or group feels that the reigning team is not doing enough to manage the country, and unless effective mitigating measures exist the tussle could result in physical confrontation.
Examining the Common Cause of the Power Struggle
An analysis of the various cases of power struggle reveals that they have almost common causes. One of the possible causes for power struggles is the intention to safeguard one’s credibility or authority. This usually happens when one is already in power and is not willing to let go. Another major reason why power struggles emerge is when an opposing team emerges against the ruling body and starts demanding for the top position. In October: Ten Days That Shook the World (1927), it emerges that the power struggle results from the fact that an insurgent group wanted to take over leadership from an existing reign that it deemed less effective in meeting people’s demands (Eisenstein, 1928). Lenin and his supporters gang up against Tsar who deployed autocratic forms in his leadership forms. The Russian case is a perfect illustration of where conflicting groups are clashing for power, which results in conflicts and confrontations (Eisenstein, 1928). In this case, both sides seek to safeguard their interests with regard to retaining power, and deploy mechanisms that they think will help them to achieve their aspirations. Seemingly, the Lenin-led team carries the day because it manages to take Tsar out of leadership and suppress the autocratic forms that its administration deployed to rule people. On the other hand, the State of Siege (1972) represents a case where a single side is power aggressive on retaining power, which leads it to use suppressive forms against the other (Costa-Gavras, 1972). The government in this case takes advantage of its resources and manpower to silence those aligned to the leftist movement. Whereas both forms show cases of power struggle, one depicts a case the opposition groups appear to be attacking each other on nearly the same basis while other shows an instance where one is more dominant than the other. Nonetheless, despite causes of the power struggle the fact remains that conflicting groups have diverse views regarding who should assume power, which result in conflicting ideologies.
The same causes are evident in the power struggles that occurred in Salvador and the DRC. Examining the case in Salvador keenly reveals that parties with almost equal forces counter each other with the objective of clinging to power. The great influence the advocators had against Jose’s government that was equally influential suggests that parties with equal forces had interest in taking power. The same case applies in the DRC where Tshisekedi and Kabila can be seen as opposing parties with almost equal forces. However, a similar feature in nearly all the identified power struggles involve parties whereby one is currently holding power and the other is seeking to take over the country’s leadership. The competing interests is what causes conflicts, which can escalate when the supporters of both sides join the tussle.
The study describes some of the reasons that results in political power struggles. It shows that conflicting groups may engage in tussles in quest for power when either of the group feels that the reigning leader is not competent enough or does not serve in accordance with people’s wishes and desires. Rivaling groups may also power struggle when either of the sides what to take over leadership to safeguard their desires. The study refers to two films that help to understand how the idea of power struggle works. It refers to October: Ten Days That Shook the World (1928) and State of Siege (1972) where conflicting parties want to seize power from an existing authority and seek to maintain their governance, respectively. Consequently, the research contends that power struggle either seek to take or retain power. However, findings from the film and the analysis of secondary data present some insight into how to deal with such concerns in the future. Future researchers should provide more appealing reasons as to why power struggles may occur, and based on their guidance it would be easier to enact measures that prevent such disruptions that could result in wastage of time and resources, destruction of property, and even death. Overall, the study requires political leaders and groups that have the potential to oppose government operations to practice caution as they address issues of national governance. Much caution is needed because emerging conflicts and revolts cause much destruction and affect people in many ways. Nonetheless, failing to take effective measures when addressing issues of power could cause scenarios such as those witnessed in Russia and Uruguay.
Arendt, H. (1963). On revolution. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
Costa-Gavras. (1972). State of Siege. France: Cinema 5 Distributing.
Eisenstein, S. (1928). October: Ten Days That Shook the World. Soviet Union: Sovkino.
International Crisis Group. (2021). Stabilising the Democratic Republic of Congo after an apex power struggle. Retrieved from https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/central-africa/democratic-republic-congo/stabilising-democratic-republic-congo-after-apex-power-struggle
Lenin, V.I. (1918). The state and revolution the Marxist theory of the state & the tasks of the proletariat in the revolution. Collected Works, 25, 381-492. https://www.marxists.org/ebooks/lenin/state-and-revolution.pdf
Meislin, R. (1982). Hazards of Salvador’s power struggle: New analysis. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1982/04/28/world/hazards-of-salvador-s-power-struggle-news-analysis.html