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
Ye gods. Ye freakin' gods.
? 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.