21st Century American Revolution, Part 1 of a 3-part series
By Michael Hasty
Nov 25, 2004, 14:45
If there were any doubts remaining that the United States of
America is no longer a functioning democracy, those doubts disappeared in the
presidential election of 2004. The uncomfortably open-ended question we are
left with is: where do we go from here?
Those among us who have managed to weave our way through the
minefields of media disinformation, to a commonsense understanding of reality
-- some people call us the �reality-based community� -- find ourselves in a
situation that is unprecedented in American history. That is, we are the first
generation of Americans since the nation�s founding who do not have the
fundamental tools of democracy -- a free press, and a fair vote -- to effect
The dangers we face now cannot be overstated. At the risk of
repeating myself, let me amplify on a point I made in a previous column:
A number of commentators have noticed the disturbing
parallels between the regimes of George W. Bush and Adolph Hitler. (Wayne
Madsen, in particular, has done some excellent analysis on this point.) But it
is more critical at this time, given the historical trends, to focus on the constituencies
that elevated both of these two men to power.
Hitler rose to his position as the �Leader� of Germany with
the support of three major elements in German society: big business, which was
won over by Hitler�s covert promise to break the labor unions; the defense
industry and the military, which responded to Hitler�s call for disregarding
the restrictions on German military buildup imposed by the treaty that ended
World War I; and rural religious conservatives. Hitler won over this last group
with his appeals to their feelings of defeated, yet resurgent nationalism; and
with his hateful condemnations of those of their fellow citizens at the top of
their personal enemies list: communists, homosexuals and Jews.
Substituting �Muslims� for �Jews,� this is today�s
Republican Party, which now controls all three branches of the federal
government, most of the nation�s governorships, and perhaps most importantly,
the major media (now owned by a handful of corporations).
America has lost its democratic republic to a system of
one-party imperial fascism.
Undoubtedly, some readers will dismiss this assessment of
the state of American democracy as oversimplistic and too despairing. After
all, I still have the �freedom� to criticize the government on this website,
without worrying (too much) whether federal agents are going to be knocking on
my door tomorrow. And despite the fact that all three branches of the federal
government and the national media are controlled by the political party most
closely allied with corporations and the military, and most closely resembling
the Nazis, the fact is that even the nominal opposition party has accepted the
�legitimacy� of the 2004 elections.
These �exceptions to the rule� are characteristic of what
has been called �neototalitarianism:� postmodern fascism with a friendly face,
technologically managing the mass perception of an illusion of freedom -- a
system more �Brave New World� (think Prozac) than �1984.�
The appropriate response to fascism is principled resistance
and �revolution.� I put this latter term in quotes because I don�t simply mean
the replacement of the existing government (and let me be clear, for the
benefit of Department of Homeland Security researchers, that I�m not referring
to a violent overthrow). I also mean to incorporate the concept of �revolution�
as it was understood by the nation�s founders: that is, a natural turn of the
wheel of history -- a return to the beginning; much more than a mere political
But given the unique realities of 21st century American
fascism -- the most powerful military, and the most sophisticated propaganda
and surveillance systems in human history -- what form should this �revolution�
It is important to remember as we begin this discussion
that, just as in Nazi Germany, the fascists are in a minority, nationally and
worldwide. Plus, we have truth on our side. And, just as it says in the lobby
of the CIA headquarters building, the truth shall
make us free.
Creating a revolution will require following the same
process and path that any other successful act of creation follows: from the
spiritual to the mental to the physical. Building a house, for example, you
start with the architect�s concept (spiritual), which leads to a blueprint
(mental), which guides the actual construction (physical). The same essential
process occurs in all the arts, as well as in many human relationships.
For a revolution to be successful, there needs to be a
consensus on the movement�s common goals and vision for the future -- the
�spirit� of the movement which forms an emotional bond among the participants.
Fortunately for us 21st century American revolutionaries, an excellent first
draft of just such a vision has already been provided -- by Luciana Bohne, in
her recent article Reaffirming
democracy, in Online Journal.
�Our business is upholding
democracy and human rights,� Bohne says. �We must organize to fight for something not against, because to
fight for something is to become
empowered by the strength of our beliefs.�
Toward this end, Bohne proposes �a broad, consensual agenda
for our actions,� featuring ten unassailable principles:
�1) Support for secular democracy as stipulated by the
�2) Demonstrable, active respect for international law and
for the treaties signed in our name because they are the �supreme law of the
land� as the Constitution admonishes . . .
�3) Cultivation in foreign policy of �the good opinion of
mankind [sic]� . . .
�4) Criminal prosecution of terrorists through domestic and
international legal means.
�5) Promotion of world peace by rejecting war as a means of
settling international disputes . . .
�6) Endorsement of policies and treaties for environmental
responsibility . . .
�7) Support for full civil rights for all people in the US .
�8) Support for economic policies that promote economic
justice at home and abroad . . .
�9) Support for reproductive rights.
�10) Solidarity with the people of the planet and respect
for their right to self-determination . . ."
Spiritually speaking, we should be able to distill these
principles down to a single and simply-stated worldview that guides our
actions. For example, �Love your neighbor as yourself,� might be appropriate.
It is also a good idea to create joy with our actions wherever and whenever
possible, as laughter is often a sign of divine presence. It also attracts an
audience (for example, most young people get their news from Comedy Central�s Daily Show).
In addition, a revolutionary movement needs homegrown music
and dancing, which are essential to bringing people together. Emma Goldman
famously said she wouldn�t join any revolution where there isn�t dancing. And
singing creates spiritual solidarity, as we breathe
together in song. �Breath� and �spirit� are synonymous in every language; the
very word �spirit� comes from the Latin word meaning, �to breathe.� This is one
of the secrets of Republican success in organizing in the churches -- practically
the last civic space where Americans sing together regularly. Until relatively
recently, Americans always used to sing together at social occasions.
So, spiritually fortified with love and joy, and with the
assumption that Bohne�s 10 principles, most of them already enshrined in the
Constitution, would find broad agreement across most sectors of the progressive
community, the question then becomes: how do we, in a formal way, achieve an
actual consensus on these principles, beyond the general understanding and
acceptance they already enjoy?
The fact that this question has to be raised at all offers a
significant clue as to why liberal and progressive values have taken such a
political beating over the last three decades. And the answer lies in the next
step in the creative process -- the mental step, the blueprint.
Perhaps the best way to approach this step is to continue
with a Socratic dialogue: if we are creating a revolutionary movement
independent of the existing government and capitalist culture, what will this
movement need to maintain the independence and autonomy necessary for success?
Following the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War,
which focused and united progressives in the 1960s and early �70s, what was
then known as �the movement� fragmented into single-issue and identity
politics, and into local organizing. But for all the obvious benefit the
slogan, �Think globally, act locally,� has brought to our understanding of how
the world works, and how to be politically effective, in retrospect -- judging
by the real-world deterioration of every important progressive goal, from the
environment to human rights to social justice -- thinking globally, but not acting globally, has been a huge
Jim Hightower has said that organizing progressives is like
shoveling frogs into a wheelbarrow. Even after 30 years, it has taken a
corporate-sponsored presidential campaign to bring the progressive left to the
level of unity it has today. And if the historical pattern repeats itself
again, once the psychological infrastructure of the campaign is gone, so is the
collective will, as everybody -- labor, environmentalist, antiwar, civil
rights, women�s rights, gay rights, human rights -- returns to their own
corner, where they judiciously guard their turf.
As a result of this progressive fragmentation, the
�establishment left� -- primarily made up of inside-the-Beltway,
mass-membership national organizations -- has failed in its most important
mission: to leave the world a better place than we found it. Making the world a
better place, the dream of every �60s radical, is the very definition of
�progressive.� And for many years now, the world has instead gone backwards.
(We cannot overlook the very real possibility that some of
this failure may have been deliberately induced. The CIA has attempted to
covertly influence the left and to limit the parameters of �serious� liberal
debate, from its earliest days. Some of the foundations that finance liberal
institutions have long had CIA connections. So we should always act on the assumption
that COINTELPRO and shadowy CIA domestic operations never really ended. Full
disclosure: when I was a teenager, I was a low-level CIA employee. So perhaps
you should be asking yourself whether I�m simply a provocateur by nature, or by
design. I promise not to be offended.)
Unfortunately, we cannot depend on the �establishment left�
to provide a dependable infrastructure for an independent revolutionary
movement. This does not mean that these organizations cannot provide meaningful
and valuable help to make this movement come about. But as institutions, they
are too centralized and �corporate� in their structure to embody the truly
democratic infrastructure a successful progressive revolution will require.
We also cannot depend on the national Democratic Party,
which shares with progressive NGOs the quality of the empty suit. There�s not
much of an actual public body behind the party�s consultants, lobbyists,
research associates and fundraisers. This is not to say that a friendly (or
hostile) progressive takeover of the Democratic Party shouldn�t be part of a
revolutionary strategy. But at this point, the party is dominated by �Vichy
Democrats� -- collaborationists who accept the legitimacy of the 2004 election,
thus ratifying the unconstitutional Bush regime (this group would include most
elected Democrats, including -- or especially -- John Kerry); and �Charlie
Brown Democrats� who, after three stolen elections in a row, nevertheless
harbor the naive belief that the Lucy Party wouldn�t dare snatch the football
away yet again.
In short, the Democratic Party is too compromised, in too
many ways, to provide an efficient revolutionary vehicle.
The fact is if we want a revolution, the only way it will be
successful is if it�s built from the ground up. So let�s begin this mental
construction by �clearing the site,� and taking an honest appraisal of our
The first and essential prerequisite of a progressive
revolution -- the foundation -- is that it be nonviolent. This is not only
because, in the long term, organized violence is futile (the prime example
being the fact that the losers of the two most important wars in American
history -- the Confederates and the Nazis -- now occupy the White House). But
the use of mass violence as a political tool is at the very heart of the system
we seek to change; and we can�t change it if we become it. Nonviolence is our
We also know that our revolution has to be holistic, based
on the philosophical view that the personal is political, and that, on a living
planet, everything is connected to everything else. It is the dualism and
fragmentation of the current political economy that allows the strong to
oppress the weak, nationally and globally; �divide and conquer� has always been
ruling class strategy. Our revolution needs to be political, economic, social,
cultural, philosophical, spiritual and personal.
An honest look at where we begin is daunting. Those of us
who think a revolution is necessary are, in numbers, only the germ of a
movement. At this particular moment, it must be acknowledged that, along with
the vast majority of the American public, most progressives are still living in
�the Matrix� -- �reality� as defined by elite consensus, and given form by what
social critic Mark Crispin Miller calls the corporate media�s �metanarrative,�
where �the system� always �works.� Most progressives are still comforted by the
consoling myth, instilled from earliest childhood, that the Constitution, with
its intricate arrangement of checks and balances, will always protect us, no matter
how many elections the fascists steal, no matter how meaningless the right of habeas corpus becomes.
Denial, as the saying goes, is more than a river in Egypt.
Therefore, being a minority within a self-identified
minority (about one in five Americans describe themselves as �liberal�)
requires that, in the beginning, we revolutionaries adopt a guerilla strategy.
(I�ve always liked the concept of the �nonviolent guerilla.�)
But in the long term, the idea of progressive revolution has
huge growth potential. As Michael Moore never tires of pointing out, most
Americans are with us on the issues of economic and social justice. And if we
do not lose our focus on the gross injustice of the stolen 2004 election, and
its violation of the most sacred principles of America�s civil religion, we can
hope that eventually more and more people will start �taking the red pill.�
It�s a good omen that leading, nationally-known progressives
like Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich and Mark Crispin Miller are raising alarms
about the stolen election. But we have to be very cognizant of the fact that
the media�s adamant refusal to address the very real irregularities of the 2004
vote is a deliberate act of psychological warfare. It is the same tactic
they�ve employed in all the other Bush scandals, from Florida 2000 to Harken
Energy to Valerie Plame to WMD deception -- a tactic that, in its most arrogant
form, can be reduced to three simple words: �Get over it.�
It is painfully obvious that communications -- the nervous
system of any movement -- are a major problem for us. As Robert Parry at Consortium News has been advocating,
we definitely need an independent progressive media infrastructure, as a first
step toward true independence.
Most people still get the bulk of their information from the
corporate media, the propaganda arm of the military-industrial complex. And the
Internet, though extremely useful for organizing purposes -- and the last
refuge of independent journalism in America -- is nonetheless just so much
white noise. Over five billion websites, and growing.
As a tool for revolutionary communications, there are other
problems with the Internet -- the most obvious being that it is under constant
surveillance, and under the ultimate control of the very forces, government and
corporate, we seek to overthrow. Servers can always be shut down; websites can
always be hacked. But perhaps the primary reason that the Internet is an
insufficient vehicle for organizing revolution is its disembodied quality.
In a very real sense, cyberspace is nowhere. And at the
heart of the American public�s alienation from our political system -- and why
corporate globalization represents such a threat to human identity -- is a
generalized loss of our sense of place. Recovering that sense of place will be
critical to our revolutionary success.
So reviewing our discussion so far, we can begin to perceive
in negative relief a blueprint for a revolutionary movement: independent,
nonviolent, holistic, innovative, adaptive, decentralized yet interconnected,
What precise physical form this movement should take will be
the subject of my next column.
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. Email:
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