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True or false?

David Cay Johnston quoted by Chris Hedges:

Revolutions occur when young men see the present as worse than the unknown future. We are not there. But it will not take a lot to get there.

Sounds plausible. But is it true, historically?

If it is true, then the implications for, say, Violet's Justice Party are profound.

Interesting times. My local climate, as it were, seems stable and predictable, albeit marginal. But higher up in the stratosphere, the wind rushes at terrible speed. Will it touch ground?

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madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

Oy vey. I know this is not the point of your post, and I think revolution is closer than it appears, but I just HAD to address this.

Women, not young men, have historically been the agents of true social change. Where would MLK have been without Rosa Parks' example? Where would the Underground Railroad have been without Harriet Tubman? Did women get women the vote, or did men? Did women get women Roe v. Wade, or did men? For that matter, who is creating The Justice Party? Last I checked, Violet is a woman!

Over at my place, we have a post on Mother Jones. Without her, where would the American Labor Movement be?

Now, I know that men helped women do these things, but the impetus and the organization came from women.

As for the "young" part, uh, the whole reason we have Social Security is because of a bunch of old people who went around the country agitating for it.

Other people matter and create change besides young men. This type of generational and sexual stereotyping simply must stop!

Jeebus Christmas!

Never vote for people who hate you.

ERA Now!

The Widdershins

Submitted by jawbone on

revolutions, but violent revolt.

Not civil society movements, but armed revolt. (But I may be feeling especially pessimistic nowadays....)

There may be women on the front lines or in the guerilla groups, but I somehow think it will indeed be men, and yound men have fewer ties to keep them from violence. And since Johnston sees the revolt coming from the right, they might not be open to full equality for women.

The important point is that when people see their futures as much worse than their present and past violence is one likely way of striking out.

Submitted by lambert on

More Harriet Tubman's than...

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

That whacked me in the face like a wet fish too.

You get violence when the young men are mad. You get revolutions when the grannies start banging on pots in the central square. You don't have to believe me. There's a lot of literature on which types of revolutions bring change and which are just fighting. One example: Karatnycky and Ackerman (2005) (pdf), when there was "civic involvement" (ie people besides violent young men), there was lasting democratization in 69% of the revolts, vs 8% lasting change after armed revolt. Some intermediate level of civic involvement led to democratization in only about 23% of cases. Their study included conflicts that took place between 1973 and 2002.

So, as somebody else said in another thread, liberal people are the best ones to push liberal ideas!

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

Crane Brinton said that when the middle class strivers no longer aspire to join the ruling class, but replace them, that is when revolutions happen.
He also said that they invariably are triggered by the same event, a poor government in a rich country which can no longer float loans.

my definition is when the spark of hope ignites the gasoline of discontent.

Submitted by jawbone on

than in the center cities.. And this is true in other areas of the country as well. The Star Tribune:

Job losses, foreclosures and disappearing insurance coverage have pushed requests for food stamps, medical assistance and emergency housing aid to record levels. Homeless numbers are rising. Food shelves are scrambling to meet demand.

It's a trend mirrored in suburbs across the nation, where a recent study found that suburban poverty has grown five times faster than it has in big cities.

Worst hit are single moms and unskilled workers whose finances were shaky before the economy dipped. But financial stress reaches well into the middle class.

The new poor:

.... "They're shocked to find out how little they have to have to qualify for benefits."

"The stories are very quiet,'' said Cathy Maes, executive director of ICA, a Minnetonka food shelf that opened a satellite in Hopkins to meet new demand. "There's a lot of pride."

They are hard-working people like Claudia Morris, 34, of Hopkins. The divorced mother of two has a college degree and a $21-per-hour job as a Costco supervisor. She had always provided for her kids on her own. Then last summer her car was hit by a driver who ran a red light. Hospital scans after the accident revealed a growth in Morris' neck: thyroid cancer.

An operation and radiation treatments followed. But health insurance didn't cover all of the costs. She struggled with fatigue as doctors tried to balance her medications. Unable to work full time, Morris moved her family from a Minnetonka apartment to a cheaper house that she rents in Hopkins.

Bills stacked up. She emptied her savings and borrowed from relatives, "even my grandpa." In desperation last fall, she went downtown to apply for food stamps. She wasn't poor enough to qualify.

"I worked so hard for the little I had," Morris said, eyes brimming with tears. "You swallow your pride and ask for help, and they say, 'No.'...

"I never thought something like this would happen to me."

This woman will probably not take part in violent revolution, but her children might.

There are more statistics and anecdotes in the article.

From Tina's post at The Agonist.

jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

Where are the two-fisted liberals? Where are the rough-and-tumble men of the people? Where are the Theodore Roosevelts? The right aren't the only ones mad. The right aren't the only ones spoiling for a struggle.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

three wickets's picture
Submitted by three wickets on

With a little effort, that could be the definition of the American Dream...an unwillingness to accept the present as one's fate and a willingness to challenge an uncertain future. But I get what Hedges is trying to say. His emotions say more than his words imo.

Submitted by jawbone on

markers for the Overton Window to be moved leftward. And he's establishing enough room to move the middle away from its dangerous trend to more and more right of cente.

At least that's how his last few posts have struck me.

Tony Wikrent's picture
Submitted by Tony Wikrent on

I've been wading through the 1800s and early 1900s - did you see my post on the Non-Partisan League and Charles Lindbergh Sr. and the hunt for the Money Trust? I'm rewriting and expanding it now and hope to post it later this week.

Trying to understand the background of the farmers' revolts that leads to the formation of the Non-Partisan League in 1915, I was thumbing through Lawrence Goodwyn's 1978 masterpiece, The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America (which is the abridged version of his longer book). Here's a huge chunk of the Introduction, (I threw it on the scanner as soon as I read the OP):

Unfortunately, history does not support the notion that mass protest movements develop because of hard times. Depressed
economies or exploitive arrangements of power and privilege
may produce lean years or even lean lifetimes for millions of
people, but the historical evidence is conclusive that they do not
produce mass political insurgency. The simple fact of the matter
is that, in ways that affect mind and body, times have been
"hard" for most humans throughout human history and for
most of that period people have not been in rebellion. Indeed,
traditionalists in a number of societies have often pointed in
glee to this passivity, choosing to call it "apathy" and citing it as
a justification for maintaining things as they are.

This apparent absence of popular vigor is traceable, however,
not to apathy but to the very raw materials of history-that
complex of rules, manners, power relationships, and memories
that collectively comprise what is called culture. "The masses"
do not rebel in instinctive response to hard times and exploitation
because they have been culturally organized by their societies
not to rebel. They have, instead, been instructed in deference.
Needless to say, this is the kind of social circumstance that is not
readily apparent to the millions who live within it.

The lack of visible mass political activity on the part of modern industrial populations is a function of how these societies have
been shaped by the various economic or political elites who
fashioned them. . . .

. . . . A far more permanent and thus far more desirable solution to the task of achieving domestic tranquillity is cultural-the creation of mass modes of thought that literally make the need for major additional social changes difficult for the mass of the population to imagine. When and if achieved, these conforming modes of thought and conduct constitute the new culture itself. The ultimate victory
is nailed into place, therefore, only when the population has
been persuaded to define all conceivable political activity within
the limits of existing custom. Such a society can genuinely be
described as "stable." Thenceforth, protest will pose no ultimate
threat because the protesters will necessarily conceive of their
options as being so limited that even should they be successful,
the resulting "reforms" will not alter significantly the inherited
modes of power and privilege. Protest under such conditions of
cultural narrowness is, therefore, not only permissible in the
eyes of those who rule, but is, from time to time, positively
desirable because it fortifies the popular understanding that the
society is functioning "democratically." Though for millions of
Americans the fact is beyond imagining, such cultural dynamics
describe politics in contemporary America. It is one of the
purposes of this book to trace how this happened.

[If you haven't yet, go read Paul Krugman's essay today, which discusses the ideology of economic neo-liberalism.]

. . . . Over the last eight generations, increasingly sophis-
ticated systems of economic organization have developed
throughout the western world, spawning factories and factory
towns and new forms of corporate centralization and corporate
politics. Through these generations of the modern era, millions
have been levered off the land and into cities to provide the
human components of the age of machinery. Meanwhile, own-
ership of both industrial and agricultural land has been increas-
ingly centralized. Yet, though these events have caused massive
dislocations of family, habitat, and work, creating mass suffering
in many societies and anxiety in all of them, mass movements
of protest have rarely materialized. This historical constant
points to a deeper reality of the modern world: industrial
societies have not only become centralized, they have devised
rules of conduct that are intimidating to their populations as a
whole. Though varying in intensity in important ways from
nation to nation, this has now happened everywhere-whether
a particular society regards itself as "socialist" or "capitalist."

[Of course, this was written before the implosion of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall. It would be interesting to see what Goodwyn has to say about those developments. Are there lessons we can learn? And recall that there has been some comparison of the situation in the U.S. today, with elites totally unconcerned about the masses, to the situation jsut before the Soviet Union collapsed. Did you know Matt Taibbi was reporting from Moscow at the time? Maybe that's why he's so strident against Wall Street and the banksters now.]

The result is visible in the obsequious day-to-day lives of white-collar
corporate employees in America-and in the even more obse-
quious lives of Communist Party functionaries in the Soviet
Union. Though life clearly contains far more options in America
than in Russia, the persistence of these varying modes of mass
deference in both countries illuminate the social limits of dem-
ocratic forms in modern industrial societies generally. It is
interesting to observe that each of the aforementioned adjectives,
from "counterrevolutionary" to "lazy," is offered in the name of
preserving corporate or state cultures self-described as "demo-
cratic." It is clear that the varied methods of social control
fashioned in industrial societies have, over time, become suffi-
ciently pervasive and subtle that a gradual erosion of democratic
aspirations among whole populations has taken place. Accord-
ingly, it is evident that the precise meaning of the word
"democracy" has become increasingly obscure as industrializa-
tion has proceeded. It is appropriate to attempt to pursue the
matter-for problems inherent in denning democracy under-
score the cultural crisis of modern life around the globe.

In America, an important juncture in the political consolida-
tion of the industrial culture came some four generations ago,
at the culmination of the Populist moment in the 1890s. Because
the decline in popular democratic aspiration since then has
involved an absence of something rather than a visible presence,
it has materialized in ways that are largely unseen. Politically,
the form exists today primarily as a mass folkway of resignation,
one that has become increasingly visible since the end of World
War II. People do not believe they can do much "in politics" to
affect substantively either their own daily lives or the inherited
patterns of power and privilege within their society. Nothing
illustrates the general truth of this phenomenon more than the
most recent exception to it, namely the conduct of the student
radicals of the 1960s. While the students themselves clearly felt
they could substantively affect "inherited patterns of power and
privilege," the prevailing judgment of the 1970s, shared by both
the radicals and their conservative critics, is that the students
were naive to have had such sweeping hopes. Today, political
life in America has once more returned to normal levels of
resignation.

Of course, thus description of social control sounds very much like what Hedges has been saying lately. And don't forget Sheldon Wolin and his 2008 book, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.

On the other hand, almsot exactly two years ago, Sara Robinson carefully listed the seven preconditions for violent revolution discussed by Caltech sociologist James C. Davies in a 1962 article in the American Sociological Review. I think Robinson has significantly altered her outlook after the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs FEC.

The other option, is to follow Ian Walsh's advice:

The Unvarnished Truth About the US

If you can leave the US, do. Most of the world is going to suffer over the next decades, but there are places which will suffer less than the US: places that have not settled for soft fascism and a refusal to fix their economic problems. Fighting to the very end is very romantic, and all, but when you’re outnumbered, outgunned, and your odds of winning are miniscule, sometimes the smartest thing to do is book out. Those who came to America understood this, they left countries which were less free or had less economic hope than America, and they came to a place where freedom and opportunity reigned.

That place, that time, is coming to an end. For your own sake, and especially for the sake of your children, I tell you now—it is time to get out.

This guy, Pluto, has very systematically explained why he is leaving and his criteria for picking a new nation to live in. I'm particularly impressed with how he used DNA mapping to trace the migrations of his ancestors around the world for a few thousand years.

It strikes me that I am the surviving messenger of 200,000 years of struggle and thousands of generations of a family who were strong and daring, smart and caring, and fortunate enough to send me, as their message, forward through time into this place. They persevered through famines, plagues, brutality, and inconceivable hardships so that I could survive. . . The most agonizing sacrifice that all of our families made to insure our survival was migration. It was monumentally difficult for these distant ancestors to leave behind loved ones who were unwilling or unable to make the journey. More often than not they were fleeing attacks, repression, injustice, slavery, hopelessness, and certain extinction. So they pushed forward into the unknown, looking for a better place, a safer place, a hopeful future. We are all survivors and we all embody every social sacrifice that was made throughout history.

. . . . I represent the end of the sacrifice made to get me here. I feel a strong obligation to honor that sacrifice by living in the most socially evolved nations I can find. To insure this, I made eight resolutions that I call “Living the Last Dream.” [This is really an excellent list, and it is horrifying to realize that the U.S. fails to meet a single one.]

. . . . Apart from the fact that the US fails all eight of my Living the Last Dream principles, I am leaving because I don’t want to watch the American descent. I don’t think Americans are capable of understanding their third-world helplessness, but I know they will be crushed by the social destruction of the past forty years, along with the the lack of financial resources to deal with it. I intend to live among people who are healthy, happy, hopeful, secure, and in control of their opportunities; in a nation that is built on a human scale of livable, walkable cities with advanced infrastructure and transportation. I want a peaceful, progressive, and benevolent government watching my back.

At the same time, I believe there is a social obligation that must be paid by those living extraordinary lives or who are gifted with talent and motivation. I’ve always believed this and for most of my life, I’ve lived this principle I call: “Leaving everything I touch better than I found it.” In recent years, however, America has extinguished the flame of service, and turned it into something to deride and despise. Social activism and community organizing are now despised efforts; self-identified American patriots believe that those who are too sick or poor to buy insurance deserve to suffer and die. I know of no other nation so publicly depraved.

If you decide to leave rather than stay and fight, you ought at least meet the high standards Pluto has set.

jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

Intrigues me for his analysis, repulses me because he has such a dim view of the common American.

For my part, I have seen sufficient goodwill and generosity and understanding in the plain people of the United States to make me willing to stay and fight for them. Pluto apparently has not- and he has not for some time, I used to read his posts on DailyKos- and he is entitled to his viewpoint. But I profoundly disagree with many of the conclusions he reaches at the end of his analyses.

Case in point: his argument that American's don't 'deserve' universal health care because the media has conditioned them not to demand it. To argue thus misses the entire point of the universal health care argument: that health care is a human right. I don't give a fuck whether Americans currently want universal health care, they deserve it all the same, and I'm going to fight for them to get it.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Submitted by jawbone on

I'm going to take some time to go through all your links.

Just an off the cuff thought:

If times get bad enough, peasants can't afford the pitchforks or the pitch for torches, right?

Submitted by libbyliberal on

The old game of blaming the weak and the marginal, a staple of despotic regimes, will empower the dark undercurrents of sadism and violence within American society and deflect attention from the corporate vampires that have drained the blood of the country.

This has already been happening in secret for so long.. with the torturing.

Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. (Japanese proverb)

jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

I think the American people are intelligent enough to comprehend their true enemies if properly enumerated. Do they hate? That is not in itself a bad thing. Teach them to hate the right people.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Submitted by lambert on

Therefore, if we deal in hate, we're always going to be outgunned by those with more money.

Conversely, it's impossible to pay for love and happiness. Sounds sappy, but it's true. Yes, I'm all for concrete material benefits, and "Money can't buy happiness, but it can sure take the sting out of being unhappy," but we've got to stop fighting on the enemy's ground...

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

It's hard to diffuse. And the thing is, I have a hard time thinking of ways to tell people they shouldn't be feeling hatred. After what the banks have done? After what they're still doing? After the continued abuse the rich and well-connected heap up on the common man?

I don't know what to say to diffuse hate that stems from that. Because it all sounds justified to me.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

three wickets's picture
Submitted by three wickets on

How does an anti-war Middle East correspondent and author become an expert on economic revolution following the financial market collapse. Guess it makes sense if you believe the enemy of the former and latter are the same.

Ian Welsh's picture
Submitted by Ian Welsh on

is far more likely to be from the right than the left as things stand right now.

The first job of would-be revolutionaries is to know how to count, and when I count I see that the majority of the armed people are on the other side.

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

And as noted, a true revolution, as opposed to riots, happens when grandmas and moms, sisters and daughters, hit the streets, at which point firing a weapon becomes not just ineffective, but a negative.

"Rule number one: pay attention"-Ded Bob

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

but the good guys still won.
but our political culture is far more degraded that it was in 1963.

The tea-baggers function as proto-storm troopers and I see no sense of urgency about confronting them.

too many of our progressives regard them as a joke and naively assume that they will backfire on the Republicans.

beowulf's picture
Submitted by beowulf on

I'm fairly sure the US Marshals and Army paratroopers President Eisenhower sent to Little Rock were packing.

davidcayjohnston's picture
Submitted by davidcayjohnston on

My words, quoted by the very thoughtful Chris Hedges, were influenced by several experiences from the 1970-80s, when I was with the LA Times.

In 1976 or so,when I was stationed in San Francisco, I wrote about how the California National Guard officer corp was trained (when Reagan was governor and a Lt. Col Giufrida was a big deal at the CNG training center in San Luis Obispo) how to take over civilian government via martial rule (not martial law), but NOT how to restore civilian control.

During that reporting I first heard about young men and controlling them to quell rebellion, which made some sense to me, given my coverage of all sorts of demonstrations and riots from 1968 on.

Second one of my desk mates, the superb reporter Laurie Becklund, wrote (at great personal danger) about the death squads in Latin America and through her work, and through questions this prompted me to ask some of my LAPD and other law enforcement sources, I was told that a basic principle taught by our government to Latin American governments is that the way you stop a revolution is by killing all of the young men who you cannot identify as being with you because you eliminate the critical mass. I wrote one story where this was lightly touched on, about a young man who showed up to protest an appearance at the Biltmore Hotel by President Reagn and who told of his brother and other young men being pulled off a bus and shot in Nicaragua, as I recall.

I also recall a difficult to read, xth generation photocopy of a manual that taught this concept (kill the young men you cannot identify as allies) and, as I recall, it stated this advice came out of the French experience trying to put down Arabs in Algiers in the 50s.

On the other hand, women have clearly played pivotal roles in many revolutions, rebellions and other forms of civil strife, a well documented reality that continues to this day.

David Cay Johnston

davidcayjohnston's picture
Submitted by davidcayjohnston on

I just bought the LATimes piece I wrote on May 8, 1978.

It shows that California police officers were being taught how to help the military impose martial rule, but not to how rescind it.

Lt. Col. Louis O. Giuffrida told me that that the Calif. National Guard had not trained SWAT teams (as opposed to police officers generally) and that he said that in 1975 the words "enemy" and "combat patrols" had been edited out of the manuals used to train police officers in California.

One of the leaked manuals, which I had at the time, referred to SWAT teams as "special emergency action teams."

At the time I spoke to some cops who had the training and were deeply disturbed by it, but would not go on the record so I did not use what they told me except as a guide to ask questions and focus my report.

I also reported on a failed dirty trick by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department against one of those who was challenging the involvement of police in these martial rule excerises.

David Cay Johnston