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Revolution Basics #1: Who cares what you think?

2011 October 7
by Ian Welsh

Once upon a time, a man informed George Bush Jr. that he didn’t like the President’s policies.  Bush then said “who cares what you think?”

Bloomberg and Wall Street may not like Occupy Wall Street, but they aren’t going to negotiate in any meaningful sense.

Why should they?

What are the consequences, for them, of not cooperating?  They have to see some noisy people.  Does it appreciably reduce their income?  No.  The men or women they get to sleep with?  No.  The amount of power they have over DC? No.  Their actual physical safety, or the safety of those they care about?  No.

For Occupy to be successful, on its own terms, will require shutting down Wall Street and probably all of NYC.  There must be so many people on the street that it is impossible to arrest them all or to get rid of them without resorting to a lot more than a whiff of grapeshot.  The elites must be be faced with a decision tree “negotiate or lose a ton of money and be massively inconvenienced or shoot hundreds of thousands of people and build mass detention camps.”  That will require two or three million people occupying New York City.

Remember, modern elites are trained to think in terms of cost-benefit analyses.  If the cost to them of not giving in is less than the cost of not giving in, they won’t give in.  It took trillions of dollars to bail out Wall Street.  They take home billions of dollars in personal bonuses.  You must cost them, personally, more than that, for them to want to give in.

If you want politicians to take out Wall Street for you, it has to be worth their while.  Either the Koch Brothers have to pay them to take out one part of the elite on behalf of another part of the elite, or they have to know that not only will they lose their positions if they don’t do it (remember, the Soviet Politburo had more turnover than the Senate does) but that they will never have a good job afterwards, that whatever monied interests they have served either will not be able to give them a good life afterwards, or they will be unable to enjoy that good life.

You want a velvet revolution?  A revolution in which you never so much as throw a punch?  You’re still going to have to make the elites decide to give you what you want, or you will have to have the unilateral power to remove those elites and replace them with your own leaders.

Rephrase Bush’s “who cares what you think?’ as “Why should I care what you think?”

Don’t bother trying to appeal to shared morality, ethics or fellow feeling.  These people were selected because they are functional sociopaths.  They do not care about your suffering.  Their ideology labels you as worthless eaters and them as the only truly productive people in society.  Everything they have is because they earned it, and everything you have is because you sponged off your betters.  That is what they believe.

They will not give you what you want, whatever that is, unless they either have no choice, or you make it rationally their best choice (and then they’ll screw you on the reverse side, everything they give you they will take away again, which is what you get for thinking you can cut a deal with such people).

88 Responses
  1. Pepe permalink
    October 7, 2011

    The USians are fairly supine, so it’ll have to get worse before they get there.

  2. Ghostwheel permalink
    October 7, 2011

    Amazing post. So true.

  3. John Casper permalink
    October 7, 2011

    Evidently, you missed the women’s suffrage movement and the U.S.’ Civil Rights movement in the 60′s. Prior to the latter, white supremacy was legal. With impunity, people could be denied jobs, places to live, access to credit, education, health-care, counsel,…. It wasn’t just African-Americans who suffered from legalized white-supremacy. Native Americans, Jews, Italians, the Irish, and the Poles were likewise targets.

    Another issue is that it’s international. People in Egypt got it started. Then Madison followed. Then it reverberated into other countries in the Middle East. Another issue imho is that this “surplus labor.” These people have no where else to go and they can take turns demonstrating. The jails don’t have enough room to hold them.

    Elements of “Occupy,” are very de-centralized and diversified. It’s providing an identity for the 99% and attacking Jay Gould’s insight: “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”

    The low hanging fruit is the Middle Eastern Occupations and legalizing pot. Plenty of right left support for both.

    They just told Moveon.org to “expletive”-off. That’s a step in the right direction.

    It may not “work,” but I think it’s way too early to throw in the towel.

  4. Ian Welsh permalink*
    October 7, 2011

    You were dealing with a different set of elites back then. In the suffragette movement, very rich women were chaining themselves to the White House fence, those people are not doing so do today; the elites were split.

    In the 60s you were dealing with legislators who were racist and felt bad about it, you were also dealing with elites who still remembered serious labor strife: general strikes and men organizing and fighting off the military and the cops. They didn’t want it to get to that.

    They also still felt they needed a mass mobilization society and were seriously worried about the communist threat (maybe they shouldn’t have been, but they were.)

    This set of elites does not believe you have what it takes, and don’t think they need you.

    I guess post #2 on revolution basics will have to be “this is not then, for those of you think you remember but don’t understand.” If I feel like bothering.

    Tahrir square, to the extent it worked, worked when they marched on the President himself and forced the army to choose whether to shoot at them or not (which is what I said had to happen, and I said it in advance, this is on the public record). There were a million people involved in a country with a much lower population than yours.

    And it is not clear that they won anything significant. So far they exchanged one dictator for an army dictatorship. And that’s with magnitudes more participation.

    Libya was won because outside powers bombed in support of the revolution.

    Also the Arab spring is happening because of the increase in food prices, which is driven by US monetary policy.

    Telling people what must be done is not “writing something off” it is telling them what they have to do to win. They are free to not do it, that’s fine. I have no moral mission for saving the US, it uses 25% of the world’s resources, and uses them badly, while people die from causes which could be ameliorated for a trivial amount of money. But if your disenfranchised want to come to a modus vivendi with the current set of elites, this is what it’ll take.

    I could be wrong, of course. Those who have bet against me in the past have generally lost, but sometimes I’m wrong, and maybe this is it. Maybe your elites have a conscience to be appealed to. Go to it. Prove me wrong. I’d love to be wrong.

    But I wouldn’t bet your life on it, although many of you are.

  5. eliza black permalink
    October 7, 2011

    I’m such of my generation that I still have a crush on John Doe, arguably too old to fuck.

    Anyway, I’m with the kids, and with the idea that maybe an open social media won’t crush you if you care enough to completely disallow totalitarian control.

  6. Celsius 233 permalink
    October 7, 2011

    As much as I’d like to see this succeed (OWS/ODC/OEveryfuckingplace); I’m with Ian on this. It’s the whole enchilada or nothing.
    IMO, failure should not be an option; because if this fails, things will be even worse, and it’ll be unlikely we’ll ever see another mass movement; without a huge amount of blood flowing in the streets.
    “Why should I care what you think?”
    Good question without a good answer.

  7. jcapan permalink
    October 7, 2011

    Depressing how much I agree with the post. Being optimistic would require a good deal of imagination at this point.

    “This set of elites does not believe you have what it takes, and don’t think they need you.”

    Until proven wrong, yes.

    Massive, sustained, peaceful protest and civil disobedience. The Velvet Revolution blew up from 200,000 to a half a mil overnight when the police opted to use force against peaceful students. If OWS etc. is taken more seriously as a threat, state violence is to be expected. One can only hope that if such a concussion takes place, a greater awakening is the result.

    And JFC, Ian: “One thing I should have learned over the last 8 years it that you can’t tell anyone shit.”

    Most of your readers agree with you, at the least.

  8. October 7, 2011

    This sobriety is extremely important, and I thank you for expressing it.

  9. BDBlue permalink
    October 7, 2011

    This is true and it’s just basic negotiation these days, especially when you have such a united opposition (and you can tell they’re united because the only thing they really “fight” over are things like vaccines for HPV).

    In the short run, I suspect OWS will fail in that it won’t accomplish what is necessary to win any meaningful concessions or, really, any concessions at all. But large mobilizations of people don’t just spring up, they build over time. That is something that’s been true in the past – and while I agree with you, Ian, that we’re no longer in the past and so it’s of limited use – however, the reason for the slow build still exists because in any era it takes time to get people to 1) understand how truly fucked they are; 2) overcome some unwillingness to unite with the “others” (the elite are so good at creating splits among the rest of us); and 3) organize. Tahrir Square — and I agree it’s not clear how successful in a larger sense it actually was — built on efforts that go back years, if not decades. It didn’t just spring up, no matter what the media leads us to believe.

    I think the best we can hope for in OWS is that it starts a process – a process of people organizing, of joining together, or recognizing and expressing how fucked we all are. That it provides building blocks for the future. The longer it goes on, I think the more likely it succeeds on that level. But there will still be a very long way to go.

    I just started reading “Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression”. It’s, of course, on one level incredibly depressing as it documents the human toll of this country’s economic policies for the last 30+ years. Having said that, it’s clear that Americans are a lot tougher than I think those of us softened by upper middle class lifestyles sometimes give them credit for. A lot of people have been struggling for decades and while some of them are just beaten down at this point, others have shown remarkable resilience and toughness. I think the elite may be misjudging a large swath of the population in this regard. Sure, their executive VPs or even administrative assistants may be “soft”, but I’m not sure the former autoworker who now pays his bills by doing odd jobs (and hard, physical jobs) is. I suspect he’s mostly just beaten down emotionally and mentally. The issue is whether he (or she) will stay down. Efforts like OWS may make it less likely that they stay down. There’s a lot of truth in the line “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”. There are a lot of people in this country who have nothing left to lose.

  10. StewartM permalink
    October 7, 2011

    Ian Welsh:

    In the 60s you were dealing with legislators who were racist and felt bad about it, you were also dealing with elites who still remembered serious labor strife: general strikes and men organizing and fighting off the military and the cops. They didn’t want it to get to that.

    I also think you had to factor in international politics into the Civil Rights equation. With the US and the Soviets competing for allegiance in the Third World, we trying to convince brown-skinned peoples that we were truer friends to them than the Soviets when said discussion couldn’t be taking place in an Alabaman lunch counter didn’t sit too well. It embarrassed us, and it’s one of the reasons why the Federal government came down like it did in favor of Civil Rights.

    Now, the plutocrats have no competing world ideology to content with. When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 90s, me and a coworker mused what the reaction of our social betters would be. My coworker mimicked what he thought their response would be by rubbing his hands together as if in glee and saying “We can get away with ANYTHING now!!” I remember that episode because it has been proved prophetic.

    -StewartM

  11. someofparts permalink
    October 7, 2011

    For decades now we have had countless people who are dying slowly and horribly of wasting diseases like diabetes because we can’t get civilized health care. If the choice is to sit by helplessly while diabetes destroys my eyesight and my legs, or to walk into Jamie Dimon’s office with explosives strapped to my back …

  12. John B. permalink
    October 7, 2011

    I think we are moving towards a tipping point. I think Ian’s basic point is correct, namely that the MOTU fuckers don’t give a shit and think they don’t need to…all true, but I am with BDBlue on this, partly hopeful that this is a major step in a process and rasing general awareness and also that politically most can see how spineless and craven the Dems are in wondering if this movement is something thay should support, or not. They are basically proving their worthlessness every day. So be it. I am done with them. I stand with the folks in the protest.

  13. karen permalink
    October 7, 2011

    I wish I disagreed with any of this, but I don’t. However, I have seen, here in my northern corner of the world, a growth of community that I find heartening. There is a large, active group of young people who are taking care of each other, they are doing Food not Bombs, they are establishing collective farms, they are speaking up and demonstrating all over the place about pipelines and tankers and coal bed methane. They are educating themselves and they are reaching out to the whole community and these young people travel, and they do itinerant summer work that brings them together with thousands (no, not millions) of like-minded young people from all over the world. What I wonder is if there is not some way to work together and build something to which the 1% is entirely irrrelevant? If one day Wall Street were to wake up and find that it meant nothing?

  14. cathyx permalink
    October 7, 2011

    I agree that the only way anything will change is to hit them where it hurts. Here’s a way to do it:

    http://lafiga.firedoglake.com/2011/10/06/bank-transfer-day-remember-remember-the-5th-of-november/#comments

  15. October 7, 2011

    There’s people with no consciences, the true sociopaths, and there’s people whose consciences have been talking into abeyance. I think many of the financiers are in the latter group, and they can be reached, though it will take great efforts.

    Occupy Wall Street directly cannot do it, but Occupy Wall Street is catalyzing other movements, and enough other movements can do it. Ultimately, the MOTUs rely on other people for their day-to-day needs; reach those people, and those people can reach the MOTUs. The predilection of our rulers towards abuse of the law, even to violence, works against them in this: every attack on OWS gains OWS more supporters.

  16. zot23 permalink
    October 7, 2011

    As the great sage Billy Ray said:

    “Seems to me Winthorp that the way to hurt rich people is by taking away all their money.”

  17. October 7, 2011

    This is what has bothered me about protest chic for quite some time. Protests are flashy and reporters love them. But let’s not forget that what took down segregation was not morality, was not protests, but, rather, that it was bad for business. Mega-corporations only care about one color — green — that’s it, and being told they had to leave 20%+ of their profit on the floor in the South because of legally or socially enforced segregation forcing them to turn away black patrons had always chapped their ass in the post-WW2 period. The purpose of the Civil Rights marches and such was primarily to give them cover to do the right thing (for their profits). And yes, MLK Jr. understood this. Economics was something he used both as a carrot and a stick when he was talking with elites. Remember that the whole point of getting Rosa Parks thrown in jail was to give the black community a rallying point for a strike against the bus companies that enforced segregation, it was never about being arrested as an end in and of itself, the way it is with today’s protest chic street theater.

    Similarly, Mubarak got kicked out by the military not because the military agreed with the protesters, but because of a general strike — the entire economy was basically shut down for weeks, costing the military (which owns a lot of the Egyptian economy) a lot of money. The protests were important in rallying support for the general strike, but in and of themselves were just theater.

    So anyhow, do Americans have the balls to shut down their economy to get rid of these cold-blooded lizard people from planet Sociopath who are in charge right now? I’m not seeing it. Things just aren’t bad enough for that yet. You’d have to see 1933 levels of misery that forced FDR to do his “New Deal” or be overthrown in a Communist revolution.Though if the Austerians continue their nonsense, that might well happen, and quick, either peacefully or by violent revolution… unfortunately, revolutions are won by the organized. And what’s organized in America is the religious right. You’d think that the lizard people would realize that the religious right with all their “thou shalt not”‘s is bad for profits too, but our modern-day lizard people seem to be a bit stupider than their 1950′s/1960′s counterparts. Too much inbreeding, I guess, since over 50% of them inherited their wealth and are thus the offspring of other lizard people…

    - Badtux the Practical Penguin

  18. October 7, 2011

    I think that there’s some difference in time-scales about what counts as working. Does anyone expect the elites to give in next week (or next month, or next year) and for OWS people to go home, their job done? No. Or, if some people do, they’re setting people up by holding them to an impossible standard by which they can only fail.

    In that sense, “OWS”, as OWS, can’t win. They will have to become something else first. But — and here I’m speaking out of my background working with the kind of groups that formed during and after Love Canal — you can’t sustain any kind of popular organization if your criterion for winning is “did the elites give in completely”. You have to take each small success along the way as a success, and encourage people on to the next thing. By that measure, OWS has already succeeded where many other protest movements have not. They’ve succeeded not only in suddenly bringing back the concept of popular unrest back to the mainstream media, but also in beginning to form their own organizational connections for future work.

    I wrote a bog-standard blog post about this here if anyone cares.

  19. Jack Crow permalink
    October 7, 2011

    The revolutionary attitude is “all or nothing.” That comes with its own dangers, but the commitment clarifies.

    Utah Phillips seems appropriate:

    “There comes a time when the operation of the machine is so odious that you cannot even tacitly participate, You’ve got to place your bodies on the gears, the wheels, all the mechanisms. And you’ve got to indicate to those who own it and those who run it, that unless you are free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

    Then, when they give – when they calculate the costs – push harder.

  20. Goyim Flackington Bridwell IV permalink
    October 7, 2011

    This is the crux right here:

    “Don’t bother trying to appeal to shared morality, ethics or fellow feeling. These people were selected because they are functional sociopaths. They do not care about your suffering. Their ideology labels you as worthless eaters and them as the only truly productive people in society. Everything they have is because they earned it, and everything you have is because you sponged off your betters. That is what they believe.”

    Those who keep looking at Historical Examples are overstating the case. It’s not the 1800s. It’s not 1965. Things are radically different now. Most importantly, those now in power have much more power and the issues people are pissed off about are much broader — they apply to nearly all Americans, rather than segments of the American society.

    Start fresh, and ignore what the in-power gang say. And ignore what their apologists say.

    What do YOU want?

    That’s what matters. That’s all that’s ever mattered, in any power struggle.

  21. Jack Crow permalink
    October 7, 2011

    Those who believe that history is an invalid measuring stick end up living in a world run by those who remember history.

  22. someofparts permalink
    October 7, 2011

    Badtux – would you consider setting up your comments so that someone like me who doesn’t have a blog could comments – although if your settings preferences are a feature instead of a bug I could understand

  23. someofparts permalink
    October 7, 2011

    Also, to veer back toward the topic at hand, how to our efforts to bring national governments to heel deal with the elephant of offshore money? How much economic power do nations even have when all of them are in a race to the bottom to attract hot money? Let me test drive a new acronym here – WWID – What Would Iceland Do? What would happen in the economic anglosphere if we could manage to just take the steps they have taken?

  24. Bolo permalink
    October 7, 2011

    @Jack Crow:

    That quote appears to be from Mario Savio, not Utah Phillips.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Savio

  25. Jack Crow permalink
    October 7, 2011

    Bolo, I’m quote the Utah Phillips song, “Unless We Are Free.”

  26. Jack Crow permalink
    October 7, 2011

    Ugh. “Unless You Are Free.”

  27. October 7, 2011

    Ian and Badtux,

    Exactly! It seems that some people are “Generals fighting the last war”. If OWS happened in the 60s, the protest in and of themselves, especially if they lasted as long as OWS has, would’ve disrupted things enough to garner some real reaction from TPTB. Now, you have somebody who should be a prime target of OWS, Mayor Bloomberg, blithely stating they will accomodate them and they can say there as long as they want…so long as they “don’t break the law”.

  28. October 7, 2011

    Hang in there Ian. I know you feel like your repetition is preaching to a choir. But your words are always so clear and concise. I can’t help but forward and quote them. This is a teachable moment. New eyes and ears as well as old ones need you to say them perhaps now more than ever.

  29. Rob Grigjanis permalink
    October 7, 2011

    Chris Hedges was on CBC last night, and gave Greedhead Kevin O’Leary a nice bollocking about OWS. Moments like those give me some cheer.

  30. Emocrat permalink
    October 7, 2011

    For the most part Ian, I find your reasoning to be largely unimpeachable. But there are a lot of unknowns here and only time and effort will fill in those blanks. This Occupy effort may very well turn out to be a dud. But it may not, ironically enough, because of a sentence you yourself just wrote:

    But I wouldn’t bet your life on it, although many of you are.

    The fact is, either bet has precisely that same quality and as such, I’m not sure I’m ready to underestimate the potential for broad-based radicalization. I would suggest that people who write all this off are making essentially the same bet with their lives. Doing nothing is surrender to a very dark future, while Doing Something at least carries some possibilities that might make the risk worthwhile. And when peoples’ backs are already against the wall… watch out.

    Poverty, hunger, homelessness and the promise of an early death are inevitable for millions of people if they do nothing. So rather like the potential draftees during the Vietnam era who figured it was better to fight for one’s life than simply surrender it for cannon fodder, survival issues rule the day now. Methinks that’s a powerful inducement to resistance.

    I could be totally or partially wrong about that, of course. There’s no way of telling how this pans out. Likewise, it’s also too early to declare Tahrir Square DOA. It’s not over yet. You could be right about that, but you could very well be wrong as well.

    Occupy seems to be doing a few things right. They aren’t as concerned with immediate negotiations as they are creating public space for dissent. The best response to the demand question was from someone in NY, who said, “Making demands implies we want them to stay in power.” So clearly some people are getting it.

    NYPD, likewise, has done everything possible to draw more people out by beating and macing people. Kudos to them! It seems every time they engage in violence, more people show up.

    I think this is a long-term project. It won’t accomplish regime change in a few months. The politicians are simply too bought off to react in a meaningful way, so they will clamp down. But whether that actually has the desired effect is another matter.

    Lastly, as one who generally shares your dour outlook on these things and has greatly appreciated your writing and thinking, I have to confess that I’ve been noticeably less dour as Occupy has developed. I even allow myself the luxury of some positive thinking now and again. I doubt I’m alone in that. As more and more people shake off their fear, we may see some interesting things that lead to bigger actions.

    There’s real value in that. The revolt may be crushed in the end. But at least some people tried to do something meaningful with their lives, even for a moment. That’s a helluva lot better than simply “assuming the position.”

    Revolutions aren’t made, they happen. This one may happen. It may not. But at least we will get some sort of answer over the next couple years.

  31. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    October 7, 2011

    @ Emocrat

    Kudos. Finely made comment. Another good voice being heard here. Think you are observant that social and political inertia have to be overcome before change can happen, the time element should not be overlooked, under appreciated or dismissed.

  32. soullite permalink
    October 7, 2011

    People like Ian always miss the facts that something like this has to happen before anything more effective can happen. This isn’t much, but it’s a start. It isn’t an end, in either sense of the word.

    This will dissipate, and in a few months or a year, something bigger will happen. Maybe that gets shut down with violence, or maybe it just gets ignored. If the former, we’re likely to see a long era of domestic ‘terrorism’ against the elite; the latter, bigger protests. But you have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run, and then maybe someday down the road, you get to fly.

  33. Ian Welsh permalink*
    October 7, 2011

    Actually I explicitly pointed that out a few days ago. This is a post, not a book. “People like Ian” have already said it.

  34. October 7, 2011

    “Doing nothing vs Doing something?”

    Am I the only person who remembers that when the Bank Bailout was first attempted it FAILED? People deluged their Congresscritters with calls and it didn’t pass. Considering the current nature of politics, that was a remarkable rebuke. It wasn’t until Obama left the campaign trail to twist arms that it passed. That’s why all this OWS related talk of “rasing awareness” and whatnot is hogwash. The people were quite aware that they were being robbed in broad daylight in REAL TIME and were/are mad as hell about it which leads me to my next point.

    “Overcoming social and political inertia”

    Does the Tea Party ring a bell? They along with the Paul faction have rode that wave of public anger and a few other things to a virtual takeover of the Republican Party. Just because there are people whose politics we probably agree with are finally getting in the game doesn’t mean that this is the start of overcoming social and political inertia. We might indeed get a revolution here but it may not be the one we want.

  35. October 7, 2011

    1) Yes, protests are a necessary part of any mass movement. But not sufficient in and of themselves.

    2) The question is, do Americans currently have the stomach for the next part of a mass movement? Maybe. Maybe not. It all depends on the level of hardship that people are seeing. I’m in one of those elitest enclaves on the left coast so I don’t get to see first-hand what the situation is for the majority of Americans, and I don’t trust anything I read. We’ll see.

    3) My comment about violent revolutions being won by the organized — and about how the fundamentalist churches are the last organized bodies of Americans left outside the military and police — stands. Believe me, violent revolution should be the *last* thing that any of us to the left of Jerry Falwell should desire.

    4) For those wondering about comment policies on my own blog, I require you to be registered with Google or a recognized OpenID provider such as WordPress. You do not need to have a blog in order to comment — you can register w/o creating a blog. Unfortunately allowing just anybody to comment resulted in too much spam, and Blogger’s tools for dealing with spam are somewhat primitive.

    I think in the long term, the sociopathic lizard people who rule us are going to end up replaced by a different *smarter* generation of sociopathic lizard people who recognize that violent revolution is inevitable if current policies continue in the long term and that they’ll be amongst the first losers if that happens, given the nature of the likely winners of said revolution. The question is, how do we turn a protest movement into something that convinces the sociopathic lizard people that it’s in their best interests to be nice to what is, to them, prey (since that’s what they view us as — not as fellow human beings)? But maybe that’s not something we can answer right now. Maybe the only path we can take right now is to keep making noise, keep protesting, and keep looking for that instant where we can make life harder for the lizard people and convince them that their prey needs to be treated better. Hey, the horse could learn to talk, right?

    - Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin

  36. October 7, 2011

    Actually my lats paragrah should read:

    “Overcoming social and political inertia”

    “Does the Tea Party ring a bell? They along with the Paul faction have rode that wave of public anger, and a few other things, to a virtual takeover of the Republican Party. Just because there are people finally getting in the game who politics we probably agree with (e.g. OWS) doesn’t mean that those efforts are the start of overcoming social and political inertia. We might indeed get a revolution here but it may not be the one we want.”

  37. Emocrat permalink
    October 7, 2011

    @ks

    We might indeed get a revolution here but it may not be the one we want.

    This is very true. Most revolutions are deeply chaotic affairs and there’s no guarantee who’s going to end up on top of the slag heap. The Russian Revolution was not a Bolshevik revolution, but they’re the ones that ended up on top after five years of often hyper-violent struggle with other groups. Perhaps that’s a more extreme example, but you undoubtedly get the drift. Ditto for the French Revolution and others.

    So where is the US headed? I would submit that we’re headed towards a period of serious social strife and there are already other groups, like the TeaHadi-militia types who’ve been caching weapons and ammo for just that occasion for many years now.

    Perhaps the real question then, is, “How do you wish all this to go? Are you okay with being dominated by those kinds of thugs, or would you prefer a different arrangement?”

    The forces of reaction love to talk up “revolution,” but that’s the last thing they have in mind. They are rather well armed, have a substantial media and social support system… and are well financed thanks to the generosity of a bunch of corporate sociopaths. They will even likely receive tactical support from mercenaries on certain occasions.

    Since our Neo-Liberal Overlords have seen fit to lead us all into a long-term depression, that pretty much guarantees unrest. This, of course, is why they need the Patriot Acts and other adornments to their police state.

    So I would ask what kind of outcome you prefer and by whom you wish to be ruled. If you’re sufficiently fatalist–and I can certainly relate to that quite well–then you will simply accept your fate, regardless. If, on the other hand, you decide you prefer not to be ruled by thugs, you might choose a different path. You might even just run away, which I can also understand–I wish I could, sometimes.

    If a genuine attempt at revolution does occur (and I don’t romanticize such things at all… in fact I rather dread it, for all the human costs involved), then it will come to you, not the other way around. You have until then to decide whose side you’re on.

    As much as I understand your criticisms, they can be rendered moot rather quickly, should historical forces become a reality. Most people in France didn’t have the option of playing spectator. Nor in Russia, China, Cuba or elsewhere. And so it will be with us, most likely.

    So I prefer to attempt being positive and productive in this time, rather than wait for the Trouble to come to me. I choose to see the outpouring of souls willing to put their asses on the line as inspirational, rather than a waste of time. I choose to respect them and will be joining them this weekend. One advantage we do have, after all, is there are a lot more of “us” than “them.” They have the guns, but we have the numbers. Even better, judging so far, it seems “we’re” more willing to take the pain than “they” are, since they are largely cowards anyway. There is real strength in that.

    Of course, your mileage may vary.

  38. Jeff permalink
    October 7, 2011

    @Jack Crow – the quote you attribute to Utah Phillips was actually made by Mario Savio.

  39. Posner permalink
    October 7, 2011

    Any meaningful protest must occur not on Wall Street, that’s too obvious of a location. Rather, it must be made personal; it must be taken to the neighborhoods of the elite. It has to make them uncomfortable to spend their time in the U.S. It’s not hard to find them – just obtain a copy of the Social Register and plan the protest locations accordingly. Paradise Valley Arizona, Highland North Carolina, Palm Beach Florida or how about right outside the Koch residence at 740 Park?

  40. Frank Revelo permalink
    October 7, 2011

    The idea that 99% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going is absurd. Maybe 70% are dissatisfied, and many of those don’t vote. Nothing will change until the upper middle class is hit hard. The stock market must go down again and stay down this time. Housing must fall some more. Unemployment must stay high for many years. A bout of inflation to hit the bondholders and those on non-inflation-adjusted pensions/annuities would also help. Then, and only then, will we see a move towards reform. When will we hit bottom? Maybe 2020.

    In the meantime, these protests are a waste of time. If they turn violent, they will be violently repressed. If they don’t turn violent, nothing will come of them. Nothing will change the minds of people who benefit from the current state of affairs, as is the case with most of the upper middle class, other than a change to the current state of affairs itself. You can help yourself, however, by learning to work around the system. America, even in its decline, is fabulously rich. With a little cleverness, you can grab hold of some of this wealth for yourself.

  41. October 7, 2011

    I think it is abundantly clear that the U.S. economy is in a state of decline and that it will not recover from the current recession without making fundamental changes in our economic policies. The cause of this decline is the result of the free market fundamentalism of the power elite in big business, big business, and some academic circles. Unfortunately for them, the power elite don’t appear to understand the causes of this economic decline (and in some cases they are too sheltered to be aware of it), and thus it appears unlikely that they will undertake the appropriate remedies to rectify the current dismal state-of-affairs.

    The Wall Street Occupation protests are one expression of social discontent with the policies of these power elites and its economic consequences. Many of the people who are involved in these protests appear to have fairly accurate perceptions of who is responsible for their difficulties. However, these perceptions are still not shared by many Americans (e.g., the Teabaggers), while other Americans who are sympathetic to the WSO protests are still too comfortable with their lives to rock the boat of the status quo.

    As a result, I think the WSO is one event among many others that are likely to come in the not-so-distant future. Not only America, but all of the developed nations appear to suffer from similar economic problems that have arisen from the dominance of free market fundamentalism in the new world order. Thus, a succession of social unrest can be expected from these nations as well.

    Whether our ‘rulers’ are aware of this or not, global capitalism is moving in the direction of a major crisis that is largely the result of its own self-destructive behavior. Eventually, the day of reckoning will arrive. Will it produce major reforms similar to the New Deal of the Great Depression, or will it produce a revolution? It is still too early to tell.

  42. October 7, 2011

    In the first paragraph above: I meant to say: “in big business, big government, and some academic circles.”

  43. Celsius 233 permalink
    October 8, 2011

    How ironic; I’m posting from one phony democracy to a blog in another.
    In my more than 8 years here, I just had my first political discussion with a Thai friend (normally to be avoided); Thais went to the streets, blood flowed, heads rolled, people died, and only the decorations changed. The coup back in 2006 also accomplished nothing because the country is back to square one.
    I have to be careful what I post here, because of the lose interpretation of the lese’ majesty laws and a willingness to make charges.
    My mood today is black; my hope has left and I see futile, if impotent attempts at change in the states.
    That said; I’ll not return. It’s easier to manage the situation here, where I have no expectation and a good, real, life; than to be in the states to witness first hand its ultimate demise and the final crash of my very high expectation. I would also qualify as dirt poor.
    As Thais outside of Thailand blame there own citizens for the internal problems; I likewise hold the American people responsible for there present circumstances.
    People forgot that democracy is not self perpetuating, self renewing, and they just got lazy and irresponsible. Then came the greed and the cool-aide flowed and they forgot their wealth was an illusion; the American dream a mirage of smoke and mirrors.
    The Piper has come for his payment for all the years of partying and downright stupidity.
    I saw this coming starting in the late 80′s but the masters of the game were so cunning I considered that my vision must be wrong; but it nagged me and would not go away. I feel sadly vindicated; and bitterly disappointed.
    But out of this came one good thing; I never bought the cool-aide, thank dog and I found my soul mate.
    I’m now deciding whether or not to just quit posting and let the world take care of itself.
    This blog has just been super; and I like the guarded optimism of some and the frank pessimism of others; I swing wildly between those two positions and the ride is no longer fun or exciting.
    Maybe if I can find middle ground and see more clearly a reality rarely if ever considered; one of sufficiency, which is my present modus operandi.
    I should add; the Thai government has implemented a healthcare system for every man, woman, and child and I’m paying baht 432 ($13.94 USD)/mos. for my upgraded health insurance; no deductible and no co-pay. This in a country far less wealthy the you know who. My care is as good as I demand and better than some in the states.
    Cheers? Some how doesn’t seem appropriate…

  44. warvigilent permalink
    October 8, 2011

    So I’ve been thinking about this whole consequences part of this all. The divide seems to be that either we continue the traditional peaceful protests in hopes of eventual negotiations or it will one way or the other come to violent revolution however that turns out. The big criticisms of the two being the former has little or no consequences for the wealthy so they won’t negotiate and the latter being unpredictable and generally unpleasant.

    leaving us at an impasse of getting progress on any of our issues. Some long term activists have been saying that OWS (ect) and similar protests need to be focused on particular issues, local elections, morebetter democrats etc etc. The issues with that approach being the time factor and corruption at the top. We simply can’t wait the time it would take for these small steps to cumulatively make a big enough difference, how many years can we spend just fighting the drug war or the war on terror, or just getting healthcare for all americans when scientists are already predicting catastrophic climate change if we do not immediately reduce our polluting? small steps unquestionably work but they are slow, and we are on time limits . The other problem with small achievable victories is that they are easily overturned or made moot by the higher authority. got your whole city from dog catcher to mayor are solid lefties to the last, great! oh too bad that because of the shit economy and reduced federal spending/funding the city has to slash all social programs etc. just to not shut down. or a better example, medical cannabis, whoo hoo your state finally did a basically humane thing and allowed sick people access to a relatively cheap medicine. too bad obama is specifically targeting dispensaries and medical users.
    The bottom up revolution only works if there is actual support within the government for those changes so they can actually spread and take effect. Otherwise, they are like the last 40 years of the solid leftist activism in the US, making steps and progress all the time, but losing ground every year.

    so if none of the above options appeal or simply have dubious odds of success this is what might be a step up from protesting but miles from violent uprising.

    not revolution but revile-lution.

    We can’t guilt them and we can’t kill them but we could still make things very very unpleasant for them. real consequences.
    I think the process would begin with something like what anonymous did with the pepper spray cop, post his identity and everything online. Start up a list of such individuals, but namely the 1%ers. The top ten people in all the financial institutions, bailed out banks, politicians, bad cops, etc etc. Compile a list of who exactly our oppressors are list their crimes and then all of their information, everything, anything they or their family owns, however far we need to take it.

    now with said list we begin the great reviling. we flood their phones, emails, txt, etc, with pranks,spam and protest messages. we spam or hack all of their facebooks pages,websites(corperate/personal), gaming accounts, ebay/paypal, any way they expose themselves online. essentially using the social communication tools in our hands to heap scorn and social approbation on the elite in a harder to avoid place, the protests can be ignored out of earshot in the free speech zones but you cant ignore it when its pouring in through every fucking piece of technology in the room.
    But the point being , consequences for the elite, if only annoying at first but i bet it would suck to try and run a modern business if you cant even read your email through all the hate mail and spam. hell just having your facebook page fucked up is more personally consequential to these bastards. Think trolling for social justice.

    So this is a step but i believe it would have to go further in the utter social rejection of the 1%ers. we would have to make being out in public a very bad experience for them, we have to encourage things like having their favorite bars or restaurants refuse to serve them or better yet simply defile their food and drinks in all manner of unspeakable ways. If they so much as step outside all manner of pranks and jokes will befall them constantly, water guns and balloons, pies in the face, or just heckling and jeers. but constant, ever present, hound them like celebrities but rather than love we hurl hate. Imagine if no ceo in the country being able to leave his house without a police cordon because of the protesters waiting outside. And if targeting them personally is not enough then it expands to cover their spouses and children, extended family and friends. This is total social warfare, if you are worried about innocents being affected in such a campaign consider the real innocents facing real pain and suffering right now at the hands of these so called “innocents” family.

    why on earth should we give even so much as the most basic social nicety to these monsters?
    how can we even consider these fiends to even be a part of normal human society when their behavior is sociopathic in the extreme? What good is rational reasoned discourse and negotiation with people who are condemning billions to poverty, millions to sickness, disease, and disability, hundreds of thousands to war and famine, and everyone to a totalitarian police state all so they can maintain and increase their already incredibly decedent and wasteful lifestyles?

    If the above isn’t enough it would be easy to step up the revile-lution. Once again starting with the list, we start with addresses and step up the pranks into minor but constant vandalism. The idea with this is to target the vast property holdings of the elite, vacation homes and smaller businesses being ideal because it would be easier to enact and get away with petty vandalism on many distributed structures and it affects them personally vs anything concentrated on say just the corporate HQ. Forget wal-mart, get the waltons. Examples of this tactic might include say spraypainting their expensive cars in drive by hits, making sure every time they visit the summer home they find all the windows smashed , or say they find their vineyard had been poisoned or their orchard hacked down or all the animals on their ranch keep getting let out or sick.

    again this is about non-violence as much as it can, at least towards people, their stuff on the other hand…. The line goes to hit them were it hurts most, their wallet, so do just that. we will take the money they owe in taxes and bailouts and corporate subsidies out of them in cleaning bills, broken windows, lost revenue from spamming or hacks, anything to make them pay and pay constantly. Even if they have insurance, eventually no one will sell them any coverage when they call in for payouts every two weeks

    Before anything changes there must be real consequences for the 1%ers, so make them personal.

    So this is just an idea of something that seems to at least provide a middle way between two possibilities. I know it is poorly thought out and i haven’t nearly considered all the legal issues and consequences for anyone involved in such activities but I wanted to see what others think about something like this since it addresses concerns of two camps of leftist thought that have not been usually able to agree on strategy.

  45. Celsius 233 permalink
    October 8, 2011

    because of the (lose) interpretation, should be loose and elsewhere, (there), should be their.

    Sorry for proofing better.

  46. Celsius 233 permalink
    October 8, 2011

    ^ Argh! “not”

  47. Celsius 233 permalink
    October 8, 2011

    ^ Argh! “not”

  48. jcapan permalink
    October 8, 2011

    “America, even in its decline, is fabulously rich. With a little cleverness, you can grab hold of some of this wealth for yourself.”

    There’s something magnificently subtle about this that makes me think your sympathies lie elsewhere. Can’t quite put my finger on it but….

  49. StewartM permalink
    October 8, 2011

    Celsius233:

    I should add; the Thai government has implemented a healthcare system for every man, woman, and child and I’m paying baht 432 ($13.94 USD)/mos. for my upgraded health insurance; no deductible and no co-pay. This in a country far less wealthy the you know who. My care is as good as I demand and better than some in the states.

    In a related vein, I’ve heard one of China’s “problems” is that the leadership feels it must maintain a 7 % GDP growth or it fears the social unrest that will result.

    What does that say about US “democracy” when China’s leadership, that of an open dictatorship, is more attuned to the needs of its people than that of the US? Our does not care if we have either employment or health care.

    StewartM

  50. October 8, 2011

    I think it is abundantly clear that the U.S. economy is in a state of decline and that it will not recover from the current recession without making fundamental changes in our economic policies. The cause of this decline is the result of the free market fundamentalism of the power elite in big business, big business, and some academic circles. Unfortunately for them, the power elite don’t appear to understand the causes of this economic decline (and in some cases they are too sheltered to be aware of it), and thus it appears unlikely that they will undertake the appropriate remedies to rectify the current dismal state-of-affairs.

    Politely, no, no, no a hundred times over. This is spectacularly missing the point. It’s the equivalent of surveying the squalid conditions of third world sweatshop factories and concluding that if only Nike knew, this wouldn’t happen. The fuhrer knows. The economy is not in a state of decline for the 1%, profits and productivity have been going up in the last few years. They understand the causes of our decline, its their policy. From a corporate profit perspective, there is a lot of effeciency to be wrung out of the American work force, and they are wringing it.

  51. Celsius 233 permalink
    October 8, 2011

    StewartM PERMALINK
    October 8, 2011
    “What does that say about US “democracy” when China’s leadership, that of an open dictatorship, is more attuned to the needs of its people than that of the US? Our does not care if we have either employment or health care.”
    ===============================
    That was precisely my point!
    Thailand has a very bumpy future ahead for reasons I cannot go into, but the point is; it’s all bullshit of the highest order in the states; here; the government is still afraid of the people, as all governments should be…
    So, in the way it can, it provides health-care for everyone for 1 USD per in-patient visit.
    It’s difficult to judge the quality; but I’ve dealt with the system for 8+ years and find it adequate.
    I got dengue fever in 2005 and I’m here to say.
    But again; there’s this strange virus going around and the infected people vote and act against there own best interests in the belief they will be blessed with a magical wealth muse who will make it all better.

  52. October 8, 2011

    I really like and totally agree with Justin’s comment. I’d add that the political elites also know what they’re doing. The White House, no matter who’s President, follows the opinion polls obsessively, and it’s not possible that they don’t know what most of the populace wants — higher taxes on the rich, no cuts in social programs, end the wars, and so on. This applies to the Republicans and all of Congress too. Obama, the most egregious and notorious offender, knows exactly what he’s doing. Maybe he’s become convinced by his own propaganda, and believes that he can reconcile capitulation to the far, far Right’s agenda with what his non-elite supporters want; but his ongoing attacks on his base indicate that he doesn’t understand why they persist in disobeying him. Maybe he also believes that he can count on his base’s having no recourse, no one else to vote for, and hasn’t learned from the November 2010 election that they don’t have to cast a vote for a Republican, they may simply vote for No One in 2012.

    Nietzsche once wrote that of necessity the Party man becomes a liar; he could have added that the Party man also becomes stupid.

  53. October 8, 2011

    Emocrat,

    Putting aside your subtle jabs at me, I agree with a good portion of what you say but why must we always engage in melodramatic allusions and imaginings. We need to stop flattering ourselves and look clearly at things. The OWS people are doing something fine but they are not putting their “asses on the line”.

    Also, you can repeat the old Jim Morrison line about guns and numbers till the cows come home but that doesn’t make it accurate for now. A good portion of those numbers or to use the current in vogue term, 99%ers, have guns, aren’t with you and in fact a good portion of them have been merged into Republican Party politics. Why people want to ignore that and pretend that OWS is the “start” of something simply because it’s the start of something they like or agree with is beyond me.

    In terms of your wordy question to me which basically boils down to a snarky “Well, what are you going to do? I’m going to continue to do the things I’ve always done but very selectively so. I’ve been involved in more OWS type events than I can count but I doubt you’ve heard of most of them. They were probably not “inspirational” enough for you. So if I go down, I’m going down swinging. If I were a bit younger, I’d follow Ian’s sage advice and get out of here. This is not going to end well.

  54. StewartM permalink
    October 8, 2011

    Justin:

    The fuhrer knows. The economy is not in a state of decline for the 1%, profits and productivity have been going up in the last few years. They understand the causes of our decline, its their policy. From a corporate profit perspective, there is a lot of effeciency to be wrung out of the American work force, and they are wringing it.

    Yes–but only from a greedy, short-term focus.

    The whole US is being run as if were a “cash cow” business–rake in the short-term profits, with almost little re-investment for the future save to (maybe) patch things when they break. Even when a fix is warranted, the barest of cheapie patches are implemented instead. After a while, they won’t even do that.

    True efficiency gains means re-investment towards the future. That’s true of an individual, that’s true of a business, and it’s true of a nation.

    The fact that we aren’t getting much in the way or re-investment speaks more to the blindness of the elites than and their governing ideology than it speaks to any coherent long-term strategy on their part. Like Ayn Rand, who fancied herself and her circle of writers and academics as “creators” and “producers” even though there was nary anyone amongst them who actually ever lent a hand in actually creating anything, our elites think too that their wheeling-dealing in stocks and derivatives and bonds and currency is the very essence of “producing” and “creating”. They really think that they are the John Galts of the planet, even though like him they can’t feed or clothe or house themselves without “the herd” or us “useless eaters”, as they call us.

    Years ago, I knew a young collegiate Nietzschean (I find Rand nothing more than a derivative of Nietzsche). This young fellow once argued that there were “superior species” in nature (like “superior humans”) and used as an example rabbits overrunning Australia. I pointed out that the success of the rabbits was a temporary affair, that whenever any species of animal gets introduced into an ecosystem where it meets no established checks, the result is not “the triumph of superiority” but ecosystem simplification and collapse. Indeed, when continents join together and this happens on a widespread basis, this is a trigger for mass extinction. A mass extinction that especially targets the so-called “superior” species, especially if they’re on the top of the food chain. (Mass extinctions are generally tales of the survival of the lowly and the meek).

    For those wishing to draw political analogies from nature, there you have it. Moreover, there are plenty more useful progressive analogies: the evolution of sex is the equivalent of wealth redistribution (i.e., no matter how fit an individual may be, his/her genes are broken up and redistributed), and death is the way that nature implements a cap on wealth (i.e., that’s enough of you influencing the genome gene pool, no more offspring for you).

    -StewartM

  55. October 8, 2011

    The OWS people are doing something fine but they are not putting their “asses on the line”.

    I agree that inflated rhetoric should be avoided, but it should be remembered that OWS people are being beaten, pepper-sprayed, and arrested. A willingness to face such treatment does, I think, constitute putting one’s ass (though not one’s life) on the line.

    I wonder how the Tea Party would have reacted if they’d received the same kind of treatment?

  56. October 8, 2011

    I agree that inflated rhetoric should be avoided, but it should be remembered that OWS people are being beaten, pepper-sprayed, and arrested. A willingness to face such treatment does, I think, constitute putting one’s ass (though not one’s life) on the line.

    I wonder how the Tea Party would have reacted if they’d received the same kind of treatment?

    That’s a fair comparison though I will point out that the treatment you are talking about is still very much the exception than the rule…so far. They’ve been there for weeks and only have had a few skirmishes with the police.

  57. Nostradamus, Jr. permalink
    October 8, 2011

    The police and the military are itchin’ for a fight. They’ve spent the last 10 years preparing for it. They’re are well armed and ready to do more that just bust heads. There’s still a lot of pent up rage over 9/11 and America’s decline in the world. It won’t take much of a spark on the part of the protesters and there’s scant difference between dirty fucking hippies and foreign terrorists. The end will soon and it will com come fast and furious. This will all be over by Thanksgiving.

  58. Emocrat permalink
    October 8, 2011

    @ks

    Good points, but we’ll have to disagree about the asses on the line. When people are being beaten and maced (NYC and Seattle thus far) and more people show up as a result, I’d say they’re volunteering to endure such treatment, if need be. I’m not sure what your threshold is, but it seems to be rather high, given the recent history of police brutality at various events over the last decade or so. Next May, the G20/NATO confab is in Chicago. Care to guess how the police will behave there? I think people are going to show up anyway.

    I’ll cop to being a tad melodramatic this time, but the historical points still stand. You may be correct this doesn’t end well. But simply swiping it all away with such predictions will do precisely nothing to change that. In that sense, you are essentially consenting to that outcome. I don’t see how I can do that this time.

    As for the jabs, it’s nothing personal. You’re jabbing at people you don’t care for, after all, by simply writing them off as a bunch of fools or something. I’m simply suggesting they don’t really have much choice. It’s either act or be acted upon.

    You’re also right there are those who oppose the movement. So what? At least now there is something to contrast with corrupt elites and their idiot lackies.

  59. Chaz permalink
    October 8, 2011

    Spot on…

  60. October 8, 2011

    Well, this thread has spanned the Gandhian spectrum of ignore, laugh, fight… I suppose “win” is supposed to be in the cards now…

  61. October 8, 2011

    Emocrat,

    We really are going to have to disagree with the “asses on the line” thing. It may be a threshold issue but let’s put it this way, you are much safer from the cops participating in OWS than you are LIVING in certain sections of NYC. C’mon now, let’s be reasonable here.

    If you’re engaging in a mass protest that’s lasted several weeks and your only negative interactions with the cops have been when some asshole cop maced a few of you, a few of you were beaten when you tried to rush a barricade and a lot of you were arrested when you blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge, while zero is always preferable, you’ve done pretty well on the police brutality scale though as Duncan mentioned, perhaps not as well as the Tea Party loons but, I don’t seem to remember them trying this tactic.

    The rest of your post is somewhat jumbled. You’re sticking to your narrative but apparently not getting what I wrote. How am I consenting to at outcome that I’ve been actively fighting against? For a relevant example, do you realize that PUSH’s Wall St. Project is in it’s 14th! year?. Did you miss the “going down swinging..” part of my post? You can use all the historical analogies you want, but the bottom line is that history didn’t start when you start paying attention or getting involved.

    Also, I haven’t written anybody off as fools. That’s just your melodramatic streak acting up again.

  62. CMike permalink
    October 9, 2011

    Rob Grigjanis,

    Here’s a link to that Hedges – O’Leary dust up on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation network.

  63. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    October 9, 2011

    @ ks

    Revolution Basics #1: Who cares what you think?

  64. October 9, 2011

    Interesting link (style not my cup of tea—so to speak!) on the problem with the erasure of other class/identity divisions with the adoption of the “99%” rhetoric.

  65. October 9, 2011

    Formerly T Bear,

    Obviously you do.

  66. October 9, 2011

    “why on earth should we give even so much as the most basic social nicety to these monsters? [...] step up the pranks into minor but constant vandalism.”

    Oh, that’s really going to get them to back down, right. There is also the problem that feeding hatred on our side raises the chances that our side will escalate to violence, and this is not something the 99% can win through violence–the 1% has the guns and the troops. Right now a faction of the 1% is unhappy, but they’ve been given no excuse to start a crackdown. If Occupy is successful, eventually I expect there will be one, but let’s not be the ones to start the violence: we’re in a much better position if we do not.

    “Well, this thread has spanned the Gandhian spectrum of ignore, laugh, fight… I suppose “win” is supposed to be in the cards now…”

    Gonna be a long struggle.

  67. October 9, 2011

    It might be time to give that great Gandhi quote a bit of a breather. It’s been invoked so often and there’s been so little winning that it’s on the verge of becoming a jinx.

  68. October 9, 2011

    ks, ending segregation in the USA, and apartheid in South Africa were major victories, as of course was Indian independence itself. For liberating politically oppressed majorities, non-violence is a proven strategy.

    For economic oppression, now, I think new tactics must be developed.

  69. October 9, 2011

    The Raven,

    Ok, with a couple of caveats I strongly agree with you though I’m not sure why, or if, you think I’m against non-violent resistance being used by politically oppressed majorities.

    Yes, economic oppression is a tricky beast. Especially since that is the default position in our society. It’s just a question of degree and scope. Battling in a society that doesn’t even really acknowledge class divisions is even harder.

  70. October 9, 2011

    Last sentence should be:

    “Battling it in a society that doesn’t even really acknowledge class divisions is even harder.”

  71. Ian Welsh permalink*
    October 9, 2011

    Apartheid was not won with only non-violence, Nelson Mandela is entirely clear on this. It was preferred, but not the only strategy. For that matter, there was armed opposition to the Brits in India. Non-violence is most useful when there are people who are violent making you look like the logical people to negotiate with (Malcolm X to Martin Luther King).

    Actually, if 99% of the population were to rise, yes, they would win through violence. This idea that the US military is all-powerful (and that it would be entirely onside against the vast majority of the population) is very, very odd. Their record in Iraq and Afghanistan has been abysmal. The US is a big country, ideally suited to resistance in many areas. Even the US’s elites are not going to use nukes against their own resources and they suck at occupation. Granted, this is not the ideal solution, since it would lay waste the country.

    But if millions hit the barricades around DC, say, you force the military to choose. That may just get you a military dictatorship, of course, but it may not. There are many different possible strategies.

    The role of ideology is also not to be forgotten, and the problem is that right now there isn’t a coherent one. The idea is that Wall Street (who, by the way, makes no actual wealth) should share the wealth they don’t have? It isn’t, and won’t be, enough. Shit, so far, I’m not even seeing demands to nationalize the banks.

  72. October 9, 2011

    Ian,

    You hit my caveats well. People tend to forget that there was large scale urban unrest during the civil rights era (e.g. most famously Newark, Detroit and Watts) and along with the Panthers and Malcolm X, King Jr. deftly played against that dynamic. Also, the ANC turned to violence after decades of non-violent resistance and the back again. Mandela and Co. certainly kept all options on the table.

  73. October 9, 2011

    Justin: “Politely, no, no, no a hundred times over. This is spectacularly missing the point. It’s the equivalent of surveying the squalid conditions of third world sweatshop factories and concluding that if only Nike knew, this wouldn’t happen. The fuhrer knows. The economy is not in a state of decline for the 1%, profits and productivity have been going up in the last few years. They understand the causes of our decline, its their policy.”

    I don’t agree with this. You can’t have a developed economy without an educated and reasonably affluent middle-class. The top 1% don’t have the technological skills to maintain the economy. Not only our economy, but our entire civilization will go into a tailspin if current trends continue: there will be fewer educated people, less art, less science, a decaying infrastructure, more social unrest and crime, a less stable financial system, and fewer goods and services will be produced. No, I think the top 1% are pursuing a self-destructive path that takes into consideration only short-term profits, while ignoring the long-term consequences of their actions. Eventually, the wealth of the top 1% can be expected to decline. Of course, this may not bother some of them if they prefer to “maximize the difference” between their wealth and power versus the wealth and power of other people.

  74. October 10, 2011

    “Actually, if 99% of the population were to rise, yes, they would win through violence.”

    The battle, maybe–though I think you underestimate how effective organized armed forces can be against disorganized. But the “successful” revolutionaries would end up killing each other, and the war would be lost.

    “Non-violence is most useful when there are people who are violent making you look like the logical people to negotiate with (Malcolm X to Martin Luther King).”

    And therefore violence cannot be the central strategy. Remember, too, that Malcolm X ended up abandoning separatism as part of a conversion to mainstream Islam. He was assassinated for this. He was killed for abandoning hatred.

    We seem to be afraid of peace.

    Before ideology, I think, there must be compassion, perhaps ethics. Right now Occupy is establishing an ethical and rhetorical position. It may be more important to do that first: all ideology is hollow if it becomes a mask of hatred.

    ks: “I’m not sure why, or if, you think I’m against non-violent resistance being used by politically oppressed majorities.”

    I don’t think that. I was objecting to your claim that there had been little winning. There has clearly been a great deal of winning.

  75. October 10, 2011

    I don’t think that. I was objecting to your claim that there had been little winning. There has clearly been a great deal of winning.

    Well, I meant recent winning and, overall, I would say there’s been some winning, not a great deal, that could be credited to non-violent strategies.

  76. Ian Welsh permalink*
    October 10, 2011

    Oh sweet Jesus. The stench of non-violence mythology is strong. Most revolutions in world history have involved violence. Your country was formed by a successful violent revolution.

    This is not about compassion either. People are dying right now, lots of them. They are dying in America, because of America’s economic arrangements. They are dying overseas, because of the West’s economic arrangements. (Most deaths in the Congo, for example, are so you can have cheap electronics and expensive diamonds, most rapes, too). And that’s before we get to the people the West is directly killing in military action. It is also before we get to the millions of lives which could be saved for amounts of money which are pocket change to the West, which we refuse to spend.

    The violence is already ongoing. What you object to is being personally involved in the violence. You want to feel good about yourself, you want to keep your hands clean, you want other people to do the killing for you. Your entire lifestyle is based on other people killing for you. The US uses 25% of the world’s resources, and uses them badly. That kills a lot of people.

    There’s a ton of violence going on already.

    But the important thing is that you can pretend your hands are clean, and continue to use exclusively “non-violent” methods which haven’t worked in the West in going on 40 years.

    Your elites are not going to give you what you want (a share of the money they’re looting) because you ask nicely. If you want non-violence to work, it’s going to involve a ton of getting in people’s faces in really unpleasant ways, and even then, it is unlikely to get you the victory you want. Instead it will put in charge whoever is ready to be in charge already. In Egypt that was the army. In the US it is the resource barons, who will happily sack Wall Street for you, then Frack up a storm.

  77. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    October 10, 2011

    @ Celsius 233
    8 Oct. 2011
    link: http://www.ianwelsh.net/revolution-basics-1-who-cares-what-you-think/#comment-19028

    Like yourself, being expatriated and for myself without the intent of return to what is now called the homeland until such time as there is a change of regime and the cleansing of profound public corruption takes place. This is not anticipated in my expected lifetime. However, differing from your place of sojourn, my sojourn is in a constitutional monarchy, top of pecking order is taken, no others need apply. Curiously enough, even though kings are not known for democratic credentials, the one here has better democratic credentials than the current president of the US, probably better than all holders of that office since LBJ warmed the chair in the oval office. Go figure!

    From the distant perspective my path has taken, the view benefits from a clarity unaffected by the fogs of intimate immersion in the day to day trivia produced to entertain and divert public attention from the business of republic politics. Your remarks in these comments reflects the same clarity of perspective from your position, seldom have I found the slightest disagreement with your reports. Sadly, I cannot report the same coming from commentators disadvantaged by their learned American exceptionalism, they being the be all and end all of every opinion, no matter how they were infected with that opinion. The opinion they hold has given themselves alone the answer to everything, their world a zero sum contrivance, they hold all the cards, no others can play. Whatever difference they encounter in their intercourse with others is subject to such gibberish they entertain between their own ears, seldom if ever what another has to say. Such a world has ceased to interest me, most often I do not waste either time or effort with these shallow creatures, most often they have become incapable of learning even should they desire, silence is the effective response, letting their own remarks stand to public judgment.

    It would put a rent in the fabric that Ian has woven if you were to disappear from these comments, I hope that does not happen whilst I am reading here anyway. I also think Ian needs an audience, some of whom have horizons extended beyond those hobbled by American provincialism and exceptionalism. You mention you entertained sight of problems from early on but questioned your perceptions as they did not conform. If there is going to be any way out of these times, that sort of vision will be required. All too often, those without vision, (or facts, or knowledge, or memory) will shout your voice down or try to overwhelm your vision with the trivia and dross that make up their existence; don’t ever let them ever get to that position, keep your pearls reserved for those who can hear your voice.

  78. Rob Grigjanis permalink
    October 10, 2011

    @Formerly T-Bear

    I also think Ian needs an audience

    He certainly deserves a bigger one. Two reasons he doesn’t have one, and sorry if this is too obvious;

    a) He’s a fringe leftist by MSM definition. Actually, never mind the MSM. Most lefty blogs I read would probably concur (I don’t).
    b) A huge part of (a) is shame. Most thinking First World people realize their complicity in the exploitation of the rest of the world, and in the current financial situation. Admitting this is not a forte of our species.

  79. Celsius 233 permalink
    October 10, 2011

    Formerly T-Bear PERMALINK
    October 10, 2011
    @ Celsius 233
    8 Oct. 2011
    link: http://www.ianwelsh.net/revolution-basics-1-who-cares-what-you-think/#comment-19028
    Like yourself, being expatriated and for myself without the intent of return to what is now called the homeland until such time as there is a change of regime and the cleansing of profound public corruption takes place. This is not anticipated in my expected lifetime.
    ============================
    Nor my lifetime as well…
    Thank you for that considered reply.
    I learned a long time ago to trust my gut feelings; and even in my doubts, I never let another bully me out of that.
    One of life’s great mysteries for me is how people can go through their lives be so cock sure about what they think they know and the subsequent acting on those assumptions.
    I’ve spent my whole life never quite certain of anything and questioning everything.
    That was very nice of you in your comment on my contributions here. Thank you.
    Thailand is a constitutional monarchy also and I’ll leave it at that.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Formerly T-Bear
    “Sadly, I cannot report the same coming from commentators disadvantaged by their learned American exceptionalism, they being the be all and end all of every opinion, no matter how they were infected with that opinion. The opinion they hold has given themselves alone the answer to everything, their world a zero sum contrivance, they hold all the cards, no others can play. Whatever difference they encounter in their intercourse with others is subject to such gibberish they entertain between their own ears, seldom if ever what another has to say. Such a world has ceased to interest me, most often I do not waste either time or effort with these shallow creatures, most often they have become incapable of learning even should they desire, silence is the effective response, letting their own remarks stand to public judgment.”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    That resonates with me; as do most of your posts here.
    Nothing like long term ex-patting to give one a perspective not easily gotten otherwise.
    Provincialism is the bane of the majority of Americans.
    Cheers.

  80. Celsius 233 permalink
    October 10, 2011

    Ian Welsh PERMALINK*
    October 10, 2011
    Oh sweet Jesus. The stench of non-violence mythology is strong. Most revolutions in world history have involved violence. Your country was formed by a successful violent revolution.
    ==========================
    Ian; spot on. Your entire post is spot on! Cuts right through the bullshit.

  81. Ian Welsh permalink*
    October 10, 2011

    I couldn’t have a huge audience, but I could have a larger audience (around 5K to 10K) if I was willing to post much more regularly. I’ve been the managing editor of two blogs (Agonist and FDL) and I increased both their traffic significantly. At FDL in only a few months.) I know how to create blog traffic. It is trivial, if you can write or have other people who can (ideally both). The issue with doing so is that it’s impossible to make anything even approaching a decent living at it and it is more than full time work. Blog advertising incomes have collapsed, and other arrangements are compromising.

    If I had wanted to keep writing at other A-list blogs (C&L, FDL, Open Left before it collapsed, Huffpo) all I had to do is be willing to not say certain things, both publicly and in private and to say certain other things when required. But if other people can control my writing that way, forget it. Especially if they aren’t paying me middle 6 figures with a guaranteed contract and a golden parachute. Not sure if I’m willing to sell my soul, but if I am, I ain’t doing it for a couple years till my credibility is gone, and I’m tossed aside like a used tissue.

    That’s the blogging business, boys and girls. You say the politically correct things which help fundraising, at the politically correct times, or you get sidelined. You say the right things in private, and you don’t tell people what they don’t want to hear (say, in January 2009, that Obama is going to be a disaster and that we need to go into opposition right now.)

    Bitter? Maybe a little. I put a good chunk of my life into blogging because I hoped it would make a difference. In the end, it didn’t, or not enough of one.

    However, I’ll still write, because some people learn, and so it’s worth it. And I feel a certain obligation to my long term readers, who have been with me for a long time.

    (This is not to be taken as “send me money”, I do not, at least right now, want money from my readers. If I ever seriously need it, I will ask, I’m not that kind of proud. But right now other people need money more than I do. This is simply an explanation.)

  82. Nostradamus, Jr. permalink
    October 10, 2011

    Violent protest and revolution in US is, unfortunately, a progressive fantasy. The first time some young protester is killed and things get serious, the mob will pack up and move back into their parent’s basements. There’ll be the obligatory candle light vigil, pop-up memorial, out pouring of grief and then every one will go back to their safe and sane daily routines. Unless this mob is ready to take up arms, use guerrilla tactics, move out of the lower Manhattan into the Upper East side, Westchester County and the Hamptons (kind of late in the season for that) and take hostages, loot, pillage and instill fear of death in the over privileged, they might as well go home now and get ready for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

  83. Ian Welsh permalink*
    October 10, 2011

    Nonsense. “Progressives” are non-violence fanatics. Their fantasy is that peaceful protest will shame the elites into doing the right thing.

  84. Cloud permalink
    October 10, 2011

    … then every one will go back to their safe and sane daily routines.

    ?

    A lot of people are there because they do not have safe and sane daily routines. Thirty years of Reaganomics disposed of those, especially the past three years.

    Unless this mob is ready to take up arms … they might as well go home now

    Absurd. That is like the logic of not voting third-party because they ‘cannot win’. It takes a small, laughed-at, ‘loser’ movement to grow a bigger, powerful movement. The latter cannot spring forth fully-formed from nothing.

    Really occupying New York or D.C., on the order of a million as Ian points toward, may be a wickedly difficult goal, but it sure as hell will never happen without a few thousand doing it first.

  85. Nostradamus, Jr. permalink
    October 11, 2011

    We are in agreement. It a fantasy to think that progressives will rise up to the level of commitment necessary to make significant change. This will all be over by Thanksgiving.

  86. October 11, 2011

    Bitter? Maybe a little. I put a good chunk of my life into blogging because I hoped it would make a difference. In the end, it didn’t, or not enough of one.

    I don’t just mean this as flattery :) but you have way more fortitude than I. Serious pants bloggery is for chumps, except that I am grateful for the chumps who bring me the serious pants bloggery, especially when I don’t always agree.

  87. Peter Pan permalink
    October 11, 2011

    You forgot something. If they loose, besides loosing power, they will be exposed to crimes against humanity, due to, imaginning that will happen, the discovery of townsend of atrocities they have committed in the name of health, education, etc. with the complicity of sciencies. Therefore they will be stupids if they go with out a good fight. I¨m a pessimist due to the absents of a single succesfull revolution in the history of human kind produced by the middle class or by any lower class.

  88. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    October 12, 2011

    Off Topic (again):
    On a prior post no longer on the boards referencing economic “twisting”, there was a comment with links to a series of essays concerning the deficits being faced and the need to address them. The final essay has just been made, concerning the cognitive and political deficits that stand in the way of meeting the needs of the day. This essay would stand on its own in any matter.

    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/10/2011109112727162598.html

    The links to the earlier essays are within the body of this essay should they have been missed.

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