Reclaiming America
21st Century American Revolution, Part 1 of a 3-part series
By Michael Hasty
Online Journal Columnist

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 policy change.

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 act.

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� take?

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 Constitution.

�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 strategic blunder.

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 situation.

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 message.

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, and geography-based.

What precise physical form this movement should take will be the subject of my next column.

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. Email:

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