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Saturday, January 22, 2011


In a previous post, I asked how many dreaming-of-revolution communists actually exist in this country, outside the fevered imagination of Glenn Beck and his fellow neo-Birchites. A reader pointed me to an interview with Ted Rall, the noted cartoonist, who has now called for revolution in a new book called The Anti-American Manifesto.

Rall is not a communist, although he does call himself a socialist. The teabaggers see no difference, but educated people do. Here's Rall:
I want to be very clear that even though the book is a call to arms and a call to get rid of the cur­rent gov­ern­ment, and it does def­i­nitely defend the use of vio­lence (I would say that there is no such thing as non-violent rev­o­lu­tion; no rad­i­cal change has ever taken place with­out vio­lence or the cred­i­ble threat of vio­lence), but I think there is a ten­dency to sen­sa­tion­al­ize the vio­lent aspect of the book. Most rev­o­lu­tion­ary activ­ity is inher­ently non-violent actu­ally. It’s just that vio­lence is part of the revolutionist’s tool­box; it has to be, oth­er­wise there is no way to cred­i­bly remove the state. The rich and the pow­er­ful don’t give up wealth and power vol­un­tar­ily so you can’t fight it non­vi­o­lently with­out effec­tively tying one hand behind your back.
This is silly. Lots of revolutions have occurred non-violently. Of course, much depends on how you define the word "revolution." For my part, I would say that FDR's New Deal was revolutionary, as was the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. Nazism was a revolutionary doctrine; although preceded by years of street violence and assassinations, the actual Nazi takeover occurred more-or-less legally. The granddaddy of all bloodless revolutions was the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which saw the downfall of King James II of England.

History gives us the many iffy situations. Was the collapse of the Second Empire a non-violent revolution? It took place during the Franco-Prussian war, right after Napoleon III was captured at the battle of Sedan. His government, run by his wife, might have stayed in place, had it possessed any popularity. It did not. The Empress ran off to England a few days after the battle and a Third Republic was proclaimed -- with no shots fired, at least not in Paris.

You could argue that the establishment of the Second Empire was a bloodless revolution: Napoleon III, having been elected head of state, decided that he liked the job so much he would just, you know, keep doing it. Nobody mounted an armed challenge, although a lot of people reacted as though the whole thing was in terrible taste.

The Civil Rights movement? Interesting case. Martin Luther King was, beyond doubt, an apostle of non-violence. But much of his power derived from the unspoken realization that if King failed, those favoring violent approaches would step forward. (Of course, everyone knows that violence was employed by those who despised what King stood for, but that fact isn't relevant to our present argument.)

One could say something very similar about Gandhi. His passive resistance worked. But many would say that what the British really feared was the threat posed by non-pacifists, such as the Indian National Army.

Well, one could go on and on along these lines. Discuss among yourselves. Let's go back to Rall (with paragraph breaks added to increase readability):
We are talk­ing about a gov­ern­ment that can’t even get it together enough to improve the effi­ciency of auto­mo­biles. I mean we’re talk­ing about a gov­ern­ment that passes a health care reform plan that actu­ally makes health care more expen­sive and harder to obtain for most Amer­i­cans, so how are they going to pro­vide social­ized health care. We are talk­ing about a demo­c­ra­tic pres­i­dent who issues an exec­u­tive order grant­ing him­self the right to assas­si­nate Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, so how is that pres­i­dent going to increase per­sonal free­doms and civil rights and so on.

I am forty-seven years old, I have seen a con­stant down­ward tra­jec­tory and I came to the con­clu­sion more in sor­row than in anger that the sys­tem had become unreformable.

It was one par­tic­u­lar event how­ever that proved it per­fectly for me: the bank bailouts. When Obama decided to con­tinue them in Novem­ber of 2008, the process that Bush had begun in Sep­tem­ber and Octo­ber of 2008, I knew that the sys­tem was unre­formable, because we are talk­ing about using an eco­nomic cri­sis that called for jobs cre­ation as an excuse for lin­ing the pock­ets of major cor­po­ra­tions; in other words, busi­ness as usual. Yet the sit­u­a­tion was any­thing but usual, it was the full blown col­lapse of the of the global eco­nomic sys­tem and the only solu­tion to keep polit­i­cal sta­bil­ity going was mas­sive job cre­ation stim­u­lated by the gov­ern­ment. But they did not and could not and would not do that.

When Obama refused to be the new FDR I knew that, Obama being about the best most pro­gres­sive, smartest pres­i­dent we were gonna get out of this sys­tem, I knew that the time had arrived to call for rev­o­lu­tion.
While I agree with much of this analysis, I come to a very different final conclusion. Perhaps it's a matter of age. Rall is 47, while I am a bit (just a bit!) older, old enough to recall LBJ. The Democratic party has had to deal with bad Democratic presidents before. We can survive this.

Besides, many of us understood in 2008 that Obama was hardly the "most progressive" alternative.

What we need is not a nationwide rebellion against our constitutional system. Any such upheaval would inevitably lead to secession and the triumph of forces so reactionary as to make Ronald Reagan look like a pinko.

We need a revolution (sans gunfire, thank you very much) within the Democratic party. Which is -- a-HEM -- the very course of action I have proposed with my New Deal scenario (to which I shall return as soon as my new east coast life settles down).

Suppose Rall gets his way. Suppose his revolution takes place. What then?

Rall has no concrete ideas about what happens next. This was Marx's great problem. Uncle Karl and his pal Freddy had a genuine talent for writing about the deplorable conditions besetting the working man of their day, but they left only a few Delphic clues as to what should occur once the Establishment was overthrown. Can Rall guarantee that a new American revolution will not be commandeered by a new Robespierre, a new Stalin, a new Pol Pot?

Revolution is a young man's game. Alas, most of America's young people are dumber than concrete. They may, I fear, be ineducable.

Socialism? They don't know what the word means. They don't know that socialism comes in different flavors and strengths. They don't even know what liberalism is -- which is why so many of them have allowed the the ultra-conservatives to define those terms.

In an environment of ignorance, how could Rall's proposed revolution possibly come to a good end?

To demonstrate the point, let us consider the popular film Zeitgeist, which has become an internet phenomenon. Many naifs consider this film a left-wing or liberal work, and some have even labeled its maker, Peter Joseph, a "liberal film-maker." What rot! This pseudo-documentary is, in fact, a product of the anti-Semitic right.

Like many other post-war far-right conspiracists, Peter Joseph cleverly takes the arguments offered by Nazi-flavored rabble-rousers and offers them up chunk by chunk -- right up until the point where Jews get mentioned. He gives you every slice of the sausage until that bit at the end. As long as he doesn't mention the J-word, Joseph thinks he can sucker in disgruntled kids who might lean leftward or who do not yet have a political philosophy.

(Milton William Cooper was a master of this trick. So were most JBS writers.)

The "Jesus myth" section of the film, which is filled with unsourced hooey, derives largely from the writings of Bruno Bauer, whose fervent anti-Semitism made him an attractive figure to some fascist writers. (Oddly, Bauer befriended Marx, until the two men had a heated falling out.) The 9/11 section of the film derives, ultimately, from the work of such neo-Nazis as Eric Hufschmid. The "banking conspiracy" section is filled with right-wing garbage -- it even approvingly quotes anti-Semitic Congressman Louis McFadden, who supported Hitler.

And yet, in today's environment, Zeitgeist is taken for a left-wing statement!

Ye gods. Ye freakin' gods.

A revolution? Ted Rall really thinks that we should mount a revolution while slogging through this kind of rancid ideological soup? The guy has got to be kidding.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The only revolution that stands any chance of succeeding in this country is a fascist revolution -- and that's one which I do not want to see. We need evolution, not revolution.
I personally think a revolution is needed and justified. However I do not believe there is a chance of it succeeding in the near future.

That said, I dont see the processes that are resulting in the slow immiseration of the american people stopping. They will just get worse. Those benefitting will never give up their gains without a fight. So some kind of violent revolution is inevitable, some time in the next 20 years.

Wow! Joe you been busy since landing in Balmer.
The last time I was here was your travel posting.

I'm still reading your posts and the comments but I wanted to add one thing. If Loughner had a radio he had to hear the ranting of the right wing talk show hosts and their callers.

One other thing I've been saying since 911. If the SCOTUS hadn't stopped the recount and the attacks happened under an Al Gore administration House Republicans would have been calling for his impeachment 912.

PS: Another parting of the ways a TC.
Forgot to add:
Any plans on meeting up with Bob Somerby of the Dailyhowler?
omg, if Somerby and Cannon meet up, they should sell tickets.

I like this post a lot, Joseph....I like Rall, too, but maybe the two of you should meet up and get this revolution on track.

I love this from Rall, tho he left out the freaking disenfranchisement of women as citizens: "I mean we’re talk ing about a government that passes a health care reform plan that actu ally makes health care more expensive and harder to obtain for most Americans" ---should be slapped in the faces of Obots daily.

Give me strength. Serenity now!
Agreed, Joe. (And I'm so glad you're back.)

I think that armed revolution--while appealing, perhaps, on paper--could only turn out very very badly--replacing a bad regime with a much worse one. It's very unlikely--the 60s student protests are a good example--that the police/military forces would turn to support a people's revolution (unlike what's being reported in Tunisia, which is pretty extraordinary).

And without police/military support, I'm afraid that a leftist revolution would be quickly annihilated.

[Not to mention that most lefties that I'm acquainted with are pacifist and would find using a gun a pretty revolting prospect--myself included.]
Preventive Counterrevolution.
Since 1917.
->Antibolschewistische Liga.
Eduard Stadtler.
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