On the Subject of Revolution

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

I posted a diary yesterday on the bailout for billionaires, which I adamantly oppose for reasons laid out in that diary.  I was thoroughly pissed when I wrote it and some of my rhetoric became a bit heated (as my rhetoric sometimes will), and my meaning was misconstrued by some who read the piece.  This is an effort to clarify.

First, I do not advocate violence (though I do strongly believe in self-defense).  I believe revolution can be peaceful and that a peaceful revolution is our only chance of successfully removing the cancerous government with which we are now saddled.  A violent overthrow of the government would not work for the simple reason that they outgun us to the point of absurdity.

The closest I came to advocating violence in yesterday’s piece was in this passage:

Will we at some point grow angry enough to hunt these bastards down, smoke them out of their mansions and throw them into the dungeons they have built for us?

I live for that day.

They Better Hope We Don’t Wake Up

This is simply my pissed off way of expressing my deep desire for justice.  I don’t want to kill those responsible, I just want to remove them from power and hold them accountable.  Rising up against them (bloodlessly) seems the only way that’ll ever happen.

I believe the traditional means of bringing about meaningful change have failed.  Our elected representatives are non-responsive to our needs or demands.  They could not even attempt to impeach the criminals in the White House despite the outrages they have committed against us all.  They rammed the billionaire bailout down our unwilling throats in spite of the fact that the congressional switchboards and email boxes have been jammed by outraged citizens running 100 to 1 AGAINST the bailout.  That is not democracy.  But it IS what we’ve been given in its place.

In the comment thread to yesterday’s diary, one of my friends said slow and steady is the way we change things in this country.  Many others echoed that same sentiment with the cry ‘more and better democrats.’

I’ve heard it all my life.  Slow, steady, work within the system, etc.  A lifetime of slow and steady working within the system has led us to this point.  While we have had some few notable victories such as the Civil Rights Act, we have mostly slid backwards and lost battle after battle.  Slow and steady did not save us, it did not change things for the better, it simply did not work.  While we have behaved like sheep, the lions have had their way with us.

I support Barack Obama.  I respect and admire him and will be thrilled to see him become our next president.  I am not blind to his shortcomings however, which include militarism, centrism and an allegiance to the ‘system’.  We can hope that it’s all about realpolitk and getting elected, and that he will become a lion for liberalism once he’s in office.  I would like to give him the benefit of that doubt – and I do.  

My real concern however is not about BO but about the ‘system’ he is going to be running.  It is thoroughly corrupt, beset by enormous problems and in thrall to the REAL power in this country, which is the unholy alliance between Wall Street, the Pentagon, the defense industry and the multinational corporations – in short, the ultra-wealthy, the top 5% who really run things in America.  These are the people who tell the president what to do and who force us to start and fight foolish, cruel and destructive wars solely for the sake of profits.  Sadly, even if Barrack tries valiantly to do all the right things, he will face an uphill battle and will be unlikely to change anything the 5% don’t want changed.

That 5% are the problem.  They are the very same ones Eisenhower called the military industrial complex.  These are the ones who have raped our country.  These are the ones I want to see brought to justice.

One thoughtful commenter yesterday pointed out that class-based revolutions don’t work, that they frequently cause more problems than they solve, etc.  I accept that fully.  Revolutions often replace one despot with another.

I am not planning, advocating or wishing for revolution.  I am simply anticipating it and see no real alternatives.  The system is not serving us.  We will change nothing by working within the system.  Even if that was a possibility we don’t have that kind of time.  We rapidly approach a juncture in history where past solutions will not serve.  Something will have to give.

None of us ever know with any certainty what is going to happen next in this world.  Reality is simply too strange to predict with any accuracy.  But if one is thoughtful and attentive certain things can be seen coming, at least in general terms.  Disaster was not hard to predict, for example, when Bush was reelected in 2004.  The size and precise form the disaster would take and all its many consequences is another matter, but that disaster was approaching was clear to thoughtful people.

People are inclined to think in terms of the past rather than the future.  The past is known while the future isn’t, so generals fight the last war and politicians wage the last campaign.  We have a powerful tendency to solve yesterday’s problems, not today’s and certainly not tomorrow’s.

“In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

Eric Hoffer

Many still don’t see what is coming our way, and many don’t want to know.  But it is foolish to ignore looming disaster, and if you don’t think disaster looms, consider the following:

Peak Oil

As gas becomes more expensive supplies will become strained.  Just as happened recently here in Atlanta, there will be gas stations shutting down, long lines and fistfights at the pumps and people hunkering down afraid to waste their precious fuel.  As prices rise truckers will be put out of business.  When that happens everything changes.  There will be no food in the grocery stores.  People will eat locally grown foods or they will starve.

Civilization as we know it is coming to an end soon. This is not the wacky proclamation of a doomsday cult, apocalypse bible prophecy sect, or conspiracy theory society. Rather, it is the scientific conclusion of the best paid, most widely-respected geologists, physicists, bankers, and investors in the world. These are rational, professional, conservative individuals who are absolutely terrified by a phenomenon known as global “Peak Oil.”

Life After the Oil Crash


We lost 159,000 jobs in September, the largest drop in 5 years.  Unemployment now stands at 6.1% and will, in all likelihood, continue to rise dramatically for the foreseeable future.  As people lose their jobs, they will lose their homes.  As growing numbers of desperate, hungry people begin to fill the streets, what will become of them?  What will become of us?

Climate Change

This product of our government’s inability to deal with reality threatens to destroy the biosphere, and all of humanity along with it.  It is accelerating at a pace that is shocking to the scientific community, yet goes largely ignored by those who have the power to do something about it.  This is a terrible thing and may well kill us all.

Climate change is with us. A decade ago, it was conjecture. Now the future is unfolding before our eyes. Canada’s Inuit see it in disappearing Arctic ice and permafrost. The shantytown dwellers of Latin America and Southern Asia see it in lethal storms and floods. Europeans see it in disappearing glaciers, forest fires and fatal heat waves.

Scientists see it in tree rings, ancient coral and bubbles trapped in ice cores. These reveal that the world has not been as warm as it is now for a millennium or more. The three warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998; 19 of the warmest 20 since 1980. And Earth has probably never warmed as fast as in the past 30 years – a period when natural influences on global temperatures, such as solar cycles and volcanoes should have cooled us down. Studies of the thermal inertia of the oceans suggest that there is more warming in the pipeline.

Climatologists reporting for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) say we are seeing global warming caused by human activities and there are growing fears of feedbacks that will accelerate this warming.


Economic Collapse

The bailout for billionaires will only stall things for a very brief time.  It is a rip off, not a solution.

It is now clear that the US financial system – and now even the system of financing of the corporate sector – is now in cardiac arrest and at a risk of a systemic financial meltdown. I don’t use these words lightly but at this point we have reached the final 12th step of my February paper on “The Risk of a Systemic Financial Meltdown: 12 Steps to a Financial Disaster” (Step 9 or the collapse of the major broker dealers has already widely occurred).

Yesterday Thursday a senior market practitioner in a major financial institution wrote to me the following:

Situation Report: So far as I can tell by working the telephones this morning:

LIBOR bid only, no offer.

Commercial paper market shut down, little trading and no issuance.

Corporations have no access to long or short term credit markets — hence they face massive rollover problems.

Brokers are increasingly not dealing with each other.

Even the inter-bank market is ceasing up.

This cannot continue for more than a few days. This is the economic equivalent to cardiac arrest.

Nouriel Roubini’s Global EconoMonitor

So anyway, sorry to be a bearer of so much bad news – but to me, the ugly truth has always been preferable to beautiful lies…and certainly if we are to do anything about what is headed our way, we must face these truths head on.

If you don’t think drastic change is coming, think again.

May we be wise enough to meet these challenges and to find our way to a better future.

Peace Out!



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    • OPOL on October 4, 2008 at 19:58

    Peace and love y’all, peace and love.

    • plf515 on October 4, 2008 at 20:52

    I hadn’t noticed 🙂

    But, as I have in the past, while I support most of what you say, I question your idea that we have won only small victories.  Rather, I say, we have suffered only small defeats.

    You say “in my lifetime” but I am not sure how old you are.  I’m 49.  Let’s compare 1959 to now.

    We live a lot longer.

    We live a lot better.

    We live in a much more equal society.  Obviously with civil rights (can you imagine a Black person becoming President then?) but also GLBT rights, women’s rights … in short, people’s rights. The income gap, right now, is huge (bigger than in 1959, I daresay) but that’s a setback that largely happened in the last decade.

    As to what’s coming down the pike … well, as Niels Bohr said, “predicting is very difficult, especially about the future”.  I’ve got hope that things will change in good ways.

    How about methane-eating bactria?

    Efficient solar and wind?

    A good rail system

    Fair trade rather than free trade.   etc.

    In the era in which we both grew up (I forget exactly how old you are, but it’s around the same as me) we were worried about nuclear catastrophe (I’m just a bit too young for ‘duck and cover’) and potential world war 3.  Those fears have faded.  

  1. It is “when” and “how”. The inbalance between the haves and the have-nots as well as the effect on the very planet we live on can no longer be ignored.

    Those who want to see no blood shed on American soil had best concern themselves with the questions of “when” and “how” immediately. It’s little secret that our opponents have.

    One thing that cannot be left out of the equation is that the problem is not strictly an American problem, although it is currently concentrated within American government and the Bush administration. This is, and has always been, an international problem. Individuals, groups (secret or not-so secret), corporations and cabals have been playing nations and their laws off against each other in this game for decades. BushCo is certainly at the heart of this problem but cutting off that head would not kill the snake, because it’s not a snake – it’s a hydra.

    • Edger on October 4, 2008 at 21:25

    We are headed relentlessly it seems toward economic and climate collapse. With those at some point will come a breakdown of transportation… a slowing or stopping of heating oil and food distribution networks, and climate collapse will not only not stop winters from coming but make extremes of weather and temperature more frequent and wider ranging.

    I can also imagine at some point the failure or complete collapse of the electrical distribution grids across North America, if the economy collapses.

    Things could get much worse than we CAN imagine.

    Overview of the Electric Grid, and Electricity Delivery System fact sheet (.pdf)

  2. When the Denver cops are selling commemorative T-shirts lauding their own brutality, you truly realize just what we are up against.

    Counter-violence is never the answer, of course, if for no other reason than you are just fighting the thugs on their own turf, but we do need to keep coming up with more effective ways of non-violent protest and resistance.

    I do think, though, we are making progress.  The internet especially is greatly helping to increase awareness and people are becoming a lot more sophisticated about just what is being done to them in their names.

    The pressure continues to build.  It remains to be seen what happens when it finally blows.

  3. Tape kept a-rollin’, all night long.

  4. That goes without saying.  I spare us all a lengthy, annotated repetition of the list.  The big question, the one I’m interested in, is not whether we can turn the mfer around without violence, but how we do it.  I signed up for that a while ago, and I’m still signed up for it, and I will be until I can’t function any more. Why? Because dreaming a world of peace and justice into existence is absolutely most important, exciting, uplifting, inspiring thing I could ever participate in doing.  I don’t really care whether we get there or not.  It’s the journey toward it, with its ups and downs, advances and declines, that’s important to me.  I want to be sure that when I’m gone, my children know that I was unwavering what I stood for and in what I wanted for all of us.

  5. Great essay, thanks

    Proximo, I just coined (though I doubt it is original) the phrase a Revolutionary Revolution. Ghandi, MLK won’t work because they killed all of our leaders and Obama is all we’ve got and he is kinda busy right now, even if he did agree with us as to what the prob is, which it is not. So the inspirational leader that enforces non-violence and thus gives the revolution its discipline is late for his appearance.

    They are prepared up the wazoo foe armed revolution, which is always incredibly problematic anyway, (as many her have pointed out) mainly because of the “those that desire power shouldn’t be given it” prob.

    Our newest tool is the internet, we are smart and good at internettering, how do we use it? What more can we do, how can we reach more people and get on the same informational and activist page?

    Numbers are what we need though, ultimately.

  6. From the time of Christ and even before that empires have come and empires have died.  Through all of it small bands of Kings, dictators and other elite scumbags have maintained control of their respective populations.  

    That was up until America with it’s promise of freedom and equality under the law.  Ah, but that was before modern life and the energy use it consumes.  Third worlds are demanding their share and profit margins in those places are just to hard to ignore.  It is after all an energy re-allocation problem here and has nothing whatsoever to do with finance.  It is the intentional de-construction of a “free” nation to be replaced with a dystopian Globocorp one.

    3 million vs 6 billion.

    You are Mr Monopoly, financial King of “YOUR” world.  Whose profit potential are you going to choose?

    • banger on October 5, 2008 at 03:13

    … but you are pinning way too much hope on Obama. I hope he fulfills all our hopes. On the other hand what can he do even if he wants to? If “we” on the left have virtually no power and fewer guts who’s going to watch his back? Are we going to make alliances with those people who are being forced out of the middle class who turn to right-wing radio and fantasies of power? Or are we going to continue to let them be seized by the cynical weavers of dreams. If we don’t expand our base–I don’t think the left in the U.S. is much greater than 15% or ever has been more than that while the extreme right is usually around 35% of the people.

  7. …and I must go.  But first, thanks, OPOL.  This is again magnificent.  But I liked the first one also and did not mistake your justified rage for a subscription to violence.

  8. wonderful essays and diaries have never been a call to literal arms. The opposite in fact. I think we all need voices like yours. Lest we once again forget as we seem to do that it is up to us the people. We keep getting bamboozled those that rewrite history, the very reality were living in and your essays clear the road of the propaganda and fear generated by both sides who seek to rule us. The fierce urgency of now, is just that and it is better to face it then to accept the dance they offer, another round of the status quo that can’t even stand on it’s own feet.    

    • Valtin on October 6, 2008 at 09:19

    That “revolution” is a word around which people are getting touchy these days indicates something may be moving in undercurrents of contemporary society, something that may bring revolutionary change.

    How many here even understand what revolutionary change is or looks like? How many have studied the history of revolutions? (and from different ideological and participants POV)? Some of us lived in more radical times, or belonged to radical groups, or knew, as MB says he did, revolutionaries. To live during such times is helpful, but can also leave us victimized by our own parochial experiences.

    The truth is, neither I nor you nor anyone else will be able to control the way any revolutionary change in the United States will unfold. If it does, it will happen in the context of a societal breakdown, and not much we know today will look as it does right now. I don’t know how a revolution in this country will happen without violence from one or the other, or some multitude of “sides.” I, like you, hope and argue for peaceful change. But what I hope for is not too relevant, and if and when such change happens, what we do and advocate then is what will count.

    A great book, though, to read on how revolutions happen is David Andress’s recent French Revolution history, The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France.

    The book’s title was, I think, made to play on sensationalistic notions, to sell books. The book itself is very scholarly, well-written, and debunks a lot of myths about the Reign of Terror, the Revolution, etc., but without sugar-coating the excesses on both sides, not setting up the  hagiography of any particular figure.

    I’d say, given your sentiments, one of the best things you could do these days is study the dynamics of how actual revolutions unfold. When or if one does arrive here, events will move very quickly, and seem chaotic or contradictory. Having some sense of how different political forces act will be very helpful.

    Of course, reading about the American Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Paris Commune, and other “revolutions”, both supposedly successful and failed, is highly interesting. Here, I’m speaking more of the days leading up to and following an insurrection.

    Happy reading, and keep up the good work. The system tottered openly the other day; political forces began to split wide open. The patch-up may hold for awhile, I don’t know. But it may not.  

  9. … peaceful change are building a movement and using the movement to pursue the most effective peaceful strategy in pursuit of change on offer. If a sufficiently unrigged electoral system in place, that is one effective means.

    But the elections without the organized movement leads to representatives being held accountable by organized special interests and an inchoate mass of change voters, and the organization tends to win the day to day, detail-intensive grind of making laws.

    That is, of course, on big reason why so much of the Reagan Revolution was focused on breaking the back of organized labor … the same reason that the Salvadoran military during the days of the junta focused their murder on teachers and union organizers.

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