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Reclaiming America Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2007 - 01:08:31

21st Century American Revolution, Part 3 of a 3-part series
By Michael Hasty
Online Journal Columnist

Dec 17, 2004, 16:33

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Unity of purpose is the first rule of revolution. Revolution is a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift occurs when there is a critical mass of consciousness -- which comes from unity of purpose.

Since its heyday in the 1970s (when most of the progressive legislation that George W. Bush is now so cheerfully eviscerating was passed), the dominant characteristic of the progressive left has been its fragmentation into single-issue fiefdoms. This is not to say that there hasn�t been cooperation among groups, and valuable coalition building. But there hasn�t been the unity of purpose that would tilt the world into a progressive paradigm shift. And nothing less than a paradigm shift is adequate to these times.

Just like Iraq, America is currently occupied territory. A coalition of the fabled military-industrial complex -- including the defense infrastructure that enforces America�s imperial edicts; the intelligence octopus that provides deadly covert tentacles and omnipresent surveillance; the energy industry that powers the global beast; the banking industry that greases its systems; the media industry that manufactures psychological operations and public consent; and all fronted by Wall Street�s smirking puppet prince, living out his grandiose and psychopathic fantasies -- has captured America�s government, in a silent coup d��tat.

This goes far beyond the stolen election of 2004. This coup has been in process even before Dwight Eisenhower�s farewell address, when he warned that the military-industrial complex could destroy democracy in America. And as �Operation Northwoods� (a 1962 Joint Chiefs of Staffs� plan to fabricate domestic terrorist attacks, to get public support for a war on Cuba) demonstrated even then, the military-industrial complex -- the military wing of the Empire -- would go to any lengths to achieve the aims of its ruling class masters.

With the ascendance of the Bush regime to power, the Empire has reached a state of impunity. Gross violations of international law receive no consequences, except the rage of the world�s majority. Stolen elections are ignored. In fact, if any further proof were needed that, in 2004 America, the interests of corporations and the state are bound intimately enough together to constitute �fascism,� the studied indifference of the corporate media to the second outright theft of the US presidency in a row should well suffice.

Move on, please. Nothing to see here.

Get over it.

In the first column in this series, I proposed that the only appropriate response to fascism is principled resistance and nonviolent revolution, and this is what our situation calls us to today. I suggested that the revolution be created in a three-step process found in all creative acts: moving from the �spiritual� dimension, to �mental� visualization, to the actual �physical� creation of a form.

The next column followed the �blueprint� for revolution that a spiritual goal of �justice� and a mental process of �democracy� may produce -- �independent, nonviolent, holistic, innovative, adaptive, decentralized yet interconnected, and geography-based� -- and proposed a system for building a revolution based on a grassroots foundation of �affinity groups,� or 10-member �Cells.�

Following what I called the �rule of 10,� the Cells then join together in groups of 10 (�Tribes�), and so on, in larger and larger entities. The resulting political/economic/cultural infrastructure would then be suitable for a revolution, a provisional government, or the basis for a new constitution -- whatever is required.

I ended the last column with the recommendation that America�s government return to the �confederacy� that the nation�s founders originally intended, in Article I of the Articles of Confederation; and with the historical note that a nonviolent revolution at this time would, ironically enough, resemble nothing less than the nonviolent early Christian revolution against the imperial excesses of first-century Rome. Plenty of war profiteering and colonial plunder there, too.

In this final column, I will propose goals, a strategy, and tactics for a nonviolent American revolution.


The goals of a 21st-century American revolution are not that different from the goals of 18th-century patriots. The goals are �life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness� -- in all their dimensions.

Of course, we bring a 21st-century understanding and experience to the definition of those goals, so they are not exactly the same. And the context in which we seek these goals is also wildly different, and in more critical condition. Industrialism has produced a global human population and culture that the Earth cannot sustain, and both ecological and human systems are cracking under the strain. The life we seek is the very life of the planet.

The liberty we seek is liberty from corporate tyranny, the tyranny that has created this global system and imprisoned the world in its grip, squeezing the lifeblood out of all of Nature�s children and all God�s creatures, in its soulless and endless thirst for the last penny of profit.

The happiness we pursue is the peace that comes with justice. Justice for both the innocent and the guilty. The justice that comes with the universal recognition of the equality of all humans, in all their civil rights.

So �life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness� are our spiritual goals. How do we mentally visualize these goals? How do we create the consciousness that has these goals as a priority?

Here is where �unity of purpose� comes into play. We have to recognize that although we may be split up into single-issue factions, what unites our causes is the political economy of a global system that oppresses the poor, enriches the wealthy, drains the middle class, disenfranchises minorities, destroys the environment, subjugates women, slaughters the innocent, and smothers the spirit.

Very few people will join a revolution to make John Kerry president. But a vision for the future that promises a cooperative and truly compassionate democracy, free of corporate control, and built from the ground up, will ignite passion and change minds and move us toward a consciousness powerful enough to shift paradigms.

Communications are our biggest problem. Most Americans live in �the Matrix.� Like the technology-generated reality in the film trilogy of that name, �the Matrix� is the media infoworld that has replaced the American public square. It is dedicated to reinforcing the consensus worldview of the world�s ruling elite in the subconscious perceptions of the mass public.

Most Americans think that The New York Times and Washington Post and major TV networks are �liberal,� and captive to the opinions of their presumably homosexual, feminist, and environmentalist reporters. A New Yorker profile of Howard Dean showed that even �leftist� presidential candidates get their news from The New York Times -- which may explain why he wasn�t able to see what was happening to him in the media, long before �the Scream.� The �journalists� with Dean were like young Dubya with a frog.

Building a revolutionary consciousness will mean educating ourselves and others about the true nature of the American media. The government didn�t �own� the media in Nazi Germany. It was �coordinated,� in what Joseph Goebbels called the �polyform expression of a monoform national will.� Under this system, which regulated privately-owned media, editors were obliged to �withhold from publication everything which . . . can weaken the strength of the German people nationally or internationally, the German nation�s will toward unity, German defensive capacity, German culture or German business, or may hurt the religious feelings of others.�

Substituting �American� for �German,� this is a fairly accurate description of today�s corporate media -- with the difference being our neototalitarian safety valve of timed-release dissent.

We cannot depend on the psychological operations arm of the Empire to convey a revolutionary message. There will have to be a specific dedication to creating in alternative media the same type of mass consciousness that now revolves around the corporate media. Our goal should be to build a communications counterculture.

There is already a good foundation, on the Internet, and even on radio and satellite TV. Perhaps what is most lacking is a daily progressive newspaper, with a USA Today-style distribution network. Post-Fox, media are no longer required to be �objective� to be �mainstream.�

We also need more communications at the grassroots -- word of mouth, telephone trees, local discussion groups, letters to the editor, interfacing membership lists, door-to-door canvassing, local newsletters -- whatever we can use to spread our message in our immediate environment.

Our message is the �physical� expression of our goals.

Why do we want a revolution? Because when the presidency can be stolen, twice, and an unelected war criminal can be president, democracy no longer functions. Because a constitutional system designed by the Framers for a pre-industrial population of 3.9 million, has proven inadequate to deliver genuine democracy to a postindustrial population of 300 million. Because the current global economy, in which America is the leading actor, is a grotesque offense against morality and human dignity. Because the present political and economic course is hurtling us headlong into social and environmental catastrophe.

What form do we revolve into? An economy that is locally-based and ecological, and provides meaningful work and a rich community life. A government with equal rights for all, and a transparent democratic process. A government decentralized yet interconnected.

What do we want? Food for the hungry. Health care for the sick. Care for the lonely. Liberty and justice for all.

A revolution is always a work in progress.


Having determined long-term goals, we then plot a strategy to reach that destination. We ask ourselves, what short-term goals can be the first steps in the right direction?

The first, as we discussed above, is to educate ourselves and the public as to the true nature of American fascism, and how exactly we can envision and build a better world. The second step should occur simultaneously with the first: to organize. Start making connections on the local level, and organizing your personal network of friends into a politically coordinated unit, keeping each other informed about international issues, and consciously working together on domestic and local issues.

This is where the establishment left can be of greatest service. National membership organizations are often reluctant to share their mailing lists, because their existence depends in large part on member contributions. There are also, of course, privacy concerns. But the plain fact is that the Republican Party already knows everything there is to know about all of us, thanks to corporate record keeping. So we might as well start sharing information at the neighborhood level, so people with a common enemy and common goals can work together. Why, for example, aren�t the reproductive rights and medical marijuana movements coordinating their activities? People need to connect with their neighbors, and find their common ground.

It is also strategically important to have political targets. Nikolai Lenin, who despite his many sins was a brilliant political strategist, recommended attacking on all fronts. I agree. We can use the diversity of the progressive movement to divide the attention of the government -- in the courts, in the legislatures, and in the streets.

At the same time, we need a focused national campaign to build national progressive unity. I suggested in September that, whatever the outcome of the 2004 election, it was important, as a matter of principle, to impeach George W. Bush. I still think this should happen.

There is indisputable evidence that Bush conspired to unconstitutionally manipulate the vote in both the 2000 and 2004 elections. There is incontrovertible evidence that he knowingly lied to the American public to justify what the Secretary General of the United Nations has called an �illegal� invasion of another sovereign nation. It is broad public knowledge that he has given the sanction of his high office to gross violations of the Geneva Convention on Torture.

Justice demands that Bush be impeached -- whatever the conclusion of the battle of Ohio. We cannot ratify, with our inaction, unconstitutional crimes against humanity. It is our responsibility as Americans to establish justice in our own land.

It will not have escaped the attention of some readers that I seem to be contradicting myself here. On the one hand, I say the democratic system is too corrupted to be functional; yet on the other, I�m encouraging political action within the electoral system. How can I mean both?

Although democracy is on its deathbed in the United States, it hasn�t breathed its last gasp yet. We can still focus consciousness on the process -- which may not be enough to thwart an imperial decision, but may cast enough doubt on the legitimacy of the system in the public mind to edge us closer to paradigm shift.

Despite my belief that the election had long since been rigged for Bush, and that nevertheless, a Bonesman is a Bonesman, I still volunteered for Kerry. The fact that the Republicans were forced by Democratic zeal to go to extremes is why they crossed the line into electoral fraud in Ohio. And now a Zogby poll finds that 42 percent of Americans think the election needs to be investigated. Paradigm shift, here we come.

Impeachment will serve the same purpose as disputing the election. It is our statement that the present American government is illegitimate, and that the nation needs to reestablish the principle of executive adherence to constitutional and international law.

Progressive political strategy needs to be aimed at using whatever democratic power is left in the present system to legally alter the system itself. This means applying whatever pressure we can to require voter-verified paper ballots; replacing the Republican Congress with a progressive majority in both House and Senate in 2006; and most important, getting a progressive majority in however many state legislatures we need to call for a Constitutional Convention.

We will be the many-legged caterpillar transforming itself into a butterfly, within the constitutional cocoon -- if all goes well.

A big �if.�


The tactics we choose to achieve our strategic ends will depend both on the decisions we make regarding our goals and priorities, and on the reactions we get from the Empire to our acts of resistance and revolution.

The principles of nonviolence suggest that, with our first actions, we work within the system -- as we would in the steps I have just laid out. Any attempt to obstruct our path to a reformed America should be met with whatever measure is proportionate to the offense. Whether the tactic is a legal boycott or an illegal act of civil disobedience, it should be chosen to suit the context, how it fits into the overall strategy, and how it advances short- or long-term goals. Keep our eyes on the prize.

A general principle that should be applied in all tactical choices is what Mahatma Gandhi called �satyagraha,� a Sanskrit word meaning �truth force.� Just like the early Christians, we bear witness to a higher truth in a nonviolent revolution: that humans can organize themselves peacefully, in a way in which each may realize their full potential, and which meets everyone�s basic needs. �From each according to their ability; to each according to their needs,� as it says in the Acts of the Apostles, and was plagiarized in the Book of Marx.

In speaking to humans� highest selves, �truth� has a transcendent quality that can penetrate the cognitive dissonance that clouds the minds of so many corporate media zombies. Truth has a liberating power, and expressing truth in its purest essence should be a priority in every nonviolent tactic employed.

There are literally hundreds of tactics available in the nonviolent strategic playbook, ranging from open public demonstrations, to electoral politics, to organized non-cooperation, to guerilla non-cooperation, to individual acts of conscience, to passive resistance and civil disobedience. As I above noted, the choice of tactics depends on the situation. A multitude of lessons in nonviolent tactics can be found in the writings of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and theorists of nonviolence like Gene Sharp.

But let me say a few words about those tactics familiar to most progressives: demonstrations and civil disobedience.

Mass demonstrations have always been a tool of nonviolent social change, and give individual participants a unique sense of empowerment, that only being closely surrounded by tens of thousands of like-minded people can bring. But they have also been described as �pseudo-events,� staged for the media to reach public consciousness, and far from the actual roots of the tactic itself -- spontaneous uprisings of popular protest. In a society of people sitting in big boxes and communicating through little boxes, uprisings in the streets are rarely spontaneous.

During the 1980s, I helped to organize several national demonstrations in Washington, DC. It was always exciting, and always frustrating at the end, when ad hoc coalitions formed to organize the march or demonstration disappeared. It didn�t make any sense to me, why coalitions didn�t stay together for the long haul. It seemed like such a waste of money and energy -- for the payoff. After the successes of the 1970s, when public demonstrations did get some results, not very many progressive �demands� voiced at demonstrations have since been met. But that isn�t the measure of success most demonstrations are judged by. Success is measured in turnout, enthusiasm and media coverage.

Here, once again, communications is the problem. Because once the Empire realized that it was cutting its own throat by publicizing and romanticizing actual dissent -- no matter how many VW vans it could sell -- it quickly changed course. David Helvarg�s book, �The War Against the Greens,� offers a detailed look at how corporations closed ranks after the Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts were passed in the �70s. And propaganda was the first order of business.

Thankfully, the media have outworn the �reminiscent of the �60s� clich� to describe demonstrations. But a new generation of hippies provides all the tattoos and piercings a journalist intent on marginalizing a serious political protest needs. This year�s two biggest demonstrations -- the reproductive rights march, and the march at the GOP convention -- were large, peaceful and well-organized enough to draw media respect. But only for a day. The news cycle quickly rolled on, obliterating both the meaning and the message of two important and logistically expensive events.

Wouldn�t the massive amount of energy and money used to organize these temporary media spectacles be better spent doing permanent organizing in local communities? Think of all the money that could be saved on buses, plane tickets and hotel rooms, being applied to local media buys, hiring activists, or building local progressive economic infrastructures. Or building a regional Bread and Puppet Theater; or hiring Bread and Puppet to come to your town.

The sad fact is, the demonstration-as-spectacle has become so commonplace in the public mind, it has lost much of its impact as a tactic. It would be better to concentrate on organizing local demonstrations, where people are witnessing to their own neighbors and saving bundles of money on logistics, and to keep the made-for-TV spectacles to those rare occasions when they can really move policy and minds.

My views on civil disobedience are also colored by my own albeit limited experience.

Much to my family�s surprise, I�ve only been arrested once in my life. It was during the Lenten season in 1987, when the religious wing of the Central America Solidarity movement in DC organized a series of demonstrations at the US Capitol to protest Reagan�s policies in that region. The demonstrations, which were religious in character, were followed by a smaller group committing acts of civil disobedience, as a public witness. I was arrested for praying in the Capitol rotunda.

(My conviction in a jury trial was later overturned by the full DC Court of Appeals, in Hasty v. United States -- which is now cited as precedent by religious conservatives defending similar acts of civil disobedience. You just never know.)

There were about a dozen of us arrested that day, and a few of us decided to continue the witness by spending the night in the DC jail, rather than immediately posting bail. It was during that miserable night, when the lights never went completely out and the bed was hard, and all night you could hear the clanging of cell doors and the echoing mutter of male voices, that I realized that the true power of civil disobedience was the willingness to suffer to the point where the oppressor�s pain in causing your suffering is greater than your own.

That�s a lot of nights in jail.

We can take it as a given that the English colonial civilization to which Gandhi appealed, and even the postwar American society whose conscience Martin Luther King sought to stir, were less ruthless than the current Bush regime. After Fallujah, is there any evidence of a conscience in the White House, anywhere? So the traditional nonviolence goal of winning over the oppressor through empathy seems like a long shot.

The alternative goal of bearing witness to the larger public through the willingness to suffer for one�s beliefs, and then using this public pressure to achieve political aims, is also problematic. In a soulless, capitalist culture with an inexhaustible supply of innocent victims, the well of compassion often runs dry. And in a culture as ironic as ours, there is also an inexhaustible supple of cynics who will remain unimpressed with middle class protesters buying their way out of jail by paying a small fine.

Once again, there is also a communications problem. How do you bear witness to the public when it is highly unlikely the media will ever report your acts, except with marginalization and ridicule? If a tree falls in the forest and it�s not covered by The New York Times, does it make a sound? Did it even happen? Until we have a more direct and effective way of communicating to the public, civil disobedience should be used judiciously as a tactic.

Throughout this series of columns outlining my version of a 21st-century American revolution, I have tried to instill a sense of hope that a new American way of life and genuine democracy are still possible here. Let me conclude this discussion by first opening a window on my own personal despair.

We may be too late. There may not be enough time to turn things around environmentally. The tumblers that unlock the door to catastrophic global climate change may have already fallen into place. No one can really say for sure.

Or we may be too late politically. All the elements necessary for a fascist lockdown of American democracy may already be in place, through a combination of USA PATRIOT Act secret police powers, executive orders, shadow governments, FEMA regulations, and strategically placed psychological operations media teams. Not to mention CIA-trained �terrorists.�

I am not comforted by assurances from fellow progressives that �this is not fascism� and �Bush is not Hitler.� The signifiers of our culture are not found in America; they�re found in Iraq. And it is a terrifyingly short step from torture in the colonies to torture in the homeland. If people are scared enough to vote for Bush, and we know from surveys that majorities would repeal the Bill of Rights and openly approve of torture under the right circumstances, we�re already on a well-oiled slippery slope. We don�t need six million deaths to get the point.

But regardless of whether either of these possibilities may or may not be true, we are still left with the imperatives of conscience. There is an Earth to save. There is injustice that needs to be addressed. History demands that we play the hand we�ve been dealt. We cannot love Big Brother.

It is understandable that people shy away from using terms like �fascism� and �revolution.� Those of us who came of age on the streets in the �60s have been burned once. Targets of a successful decades-long campaign to rehabilitate �fascist pigs� into �heroes.� Mind-blown residents of history�s dustbin, where thoughts of �revolution� are just another acid dream. In a psyops world, it�s difficult to think of either �fascism� or �revolution� without irony or quotation marks.

But in a world that spins on an axis, and in a time that moves in cycles, some revolution is inevitable. And in 2004 America, we�ve reached one of those inevitable turns.

Revolution, like the kingdom of heaven, is like a mustard seed. It starts small, and then before you know it, it�s spread like the wildly invasive plant it was considered in ancient Judea, when Jesus of Nazareth first uttered that mysterious metaphor. It has its own dynamic that starts with planting the seed.

Throughout this discussion, I have emphasized my agreement with Martin Luther King that a political revolution, unaccompanied by a spiritual revolution that changes the way we look at the world, would be an empty gesture. In that light, let me close this essay with a final biblical reference, paraphrasing a statement of the human condition from the Book of Deuteronomy.

This day, like every day, we have set before us a choice between life and death. It is the same choice we face as a nation and as a people, at this forked moment in history. We can choose the death of the spirit that comes with the way of the sword, the path that our nation has heretofore chosen, the path of the voracious, all-consuming Empire.

Or we can choose life. Not the �life� of the fundamentalist heretics -- the anti-abortion codeword for turning women�s bodies into government property. But life, in all its beauty and harmony and universal bending toward justice; in all its random mystery and quantum quirkiness and myriad diversity; in all its good and evil and comedy and tragedy and music and dancing and all-too-human schmaltz; in all its undying love and passion and juicy carnal tenderness; in all its still small voices and thunderous awesome glories; in all its aspirations and inspirations, and all its microcosmic transcendental divinity. Let us choose life, please.

Let us choose life. Let us move forward. Let us revolve.

Michael Hasty is an activist, musician, carpenter and farmer. As a longtime member of the nonviolence collective at the Washington Peace Center, he helped organize numerous local and national demonstrations. In the early �90s, he served on the board of directors of the National Capitol Area chapter of the United Nations Association, where he co-chaired the Task Force on UN Restructuring. He is currently vice president of the Hampshire County WV Democratic Club. His book, �Remodeling America: Toward a New Constitution,� will be published next year. Email:

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21st Century American Revolution, Part 3 of a 3-part series