Corrente

If you have "no place to go," come here!

"Why we fight"

I posted this over at NC in response to the TPP House vote, but I thought I would repost it here with a few changes and additions, and see wha..t you all think, and especially what you think I should change or add.

* * *

Rather than go through the parliamentary detail, let me expose my personal and editorial biases, and comment on the question of “Why We Fight,” primarily so readers are clear, but also as (to be frank) a troll prophylactic.

I’ve been listening to the revolutions podcast before bed, from which I’ve drawn a few lessons. One is that revolutions are not infrequent in human affairs; the podcast has gone through the English revolutions of the 1600s, the American Revolution, and is now at the French Revolution; we just decapitated Robespierre. To come are Haiti and Russia, and perhaps more. Second: Both revolutions themselves, and the build-up to them, are protracted affairs with unknown flashpoints. That the ancien regime was sclerotic was known by a lot of smart people in the 1750s, and they all tried to fix it; but the revolution itself did not begin until 1789. Third: It’s foolish to romanticize revolutions, because they tend to kill a lot of people. Be careful what you wish for, especially when it’s others who will be doing the dying! Fourth: Accident and happenstance matter a lot. If Louis XVI’s character had been stronger, perhaps he would have kept his head, and France would have ended up with a Constitutional monarchy (and not a cascade that looks like Napoleon -> French Empire -> German nationalism -> German unification -> World War I (millions) -> World War II (millions). Not that causality in history is linear; but I think you can see how the butterfly of Louis’s vacillation could have created a vast, chaotic outcome. Finally: Victory belongs to those with organizational capacity who, when they see power in the street, can pick it up (as the Roundheads, the Jacobins, and the Bolsheviks show). Morality and justice are, I would say, very necessary, but most certainly not sufficient.

It’s the last point on organizational capacity that I want to highlight, because win or lose — caveat: As long as we can avoid the ills of tribalism and bot-like behavior, and retain critical thinking skills — all the effort of the last few years, including the Capital occupations, Occupy proper, #BlackLivesMatter (to name a few), the anti-fracking movements, are about building organizational capacity, not in the institutions or vehicles, but in the people themselves, as they actively participate. (If you look at the caveat, you'll see why I don't list the Obama campaign of 2008 as building organizational capacity, and not just because Obama didn't want to ride the tiger, and shitcanned it once he was in office.)

So I am making a sort of Pascal’s wager here. People who choose to be hopeless (or, less judgmentally, quietist) are, of course, free to choose the course of inaction. But that strikes me as very much like lifting weights for a few days, not seeing much result, and then not only giving up, but buttonholing others in the gym, and urging them to give up. The sort of person who, on receiving an invitation to Estates General in 1789, would have said: “Non. It’s just another Lucy and the Football schtick. The whole thing is doing to be dominated by aristocrats and bishops anyhow. Pas si bete!” Wise fool. And too bad for them!

And there is a lovely Cardinal in my garden!

0
No votes yet
Updated: 

Comments

Submitted by lambert on

You have a source that you quote from that IIRC makes the argument that revolutions happen when most of the non-ruling classes make a simple and sensible demand that existing structures cannot meet. (Like the French aristocracy paying taxes and backing off on their privileges.) Can you dig out some quotes from it? I couldn't bring it to mind.

Thank you!

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

in comments right now as we speak. I find it difficult to avoid the tribalism you reference when there are still people who apparently cannot figure out why Democrats lost the 2000 election, much less the most recent mid-term elections, even with the object lessons that the Obama Administration and its' attendant congresses have so thoughtfully provided them with. Descending into a war of the bots at this point seems inevitable insofar as it does not appear that (many, if not most) centrist apologists are learning from their mistakes.

this is not to discourage people from the fight, far from it (I have been called a troll, after all), but it would appear that the referees are about to be savaged yet again, and I don't think that there is much that anyone will be able to do about it save gird their loins in expectation.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

were used to no effect. It is exactly like talking to wingnuts; no rationale that I have seen works for them. The more elections they lose, the more they believe that those on their left screwed them out of something. It is like FOX News out there, only with different scapegoats.

BTW, I thought your Sandersbot line the other day was really funny. On the Sanders facebook page (not a part of the campaign) they are already fighting that dynamic and failing dismally. Bot(ul)ism may be toxic, but it is stretching the wrinkles on a lot of red faced believers already.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

In the pilot episode of Newsroom, he asks:

If liberals are so fuckin' smart, how come they lose so GODDAM ALWAYS!

Short version is that liberals aren't that smart. They keep expecting that if they just vote Democratic, their wishes will be granted, or at least, horrible things won't happen. The reality is that if there is no amount of betrayal of progressive principles that will make you refuse to vote for a Democrat, then Democrats will inevitably betray you.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Let me just add that it is this expectation among liberals that makes me pessimistic about any politics-based solution to our problems, not the money in politics, the "deep state", or the conservative noise machine. When people who are so obviously and continuously betrayed won't change their votes, it's highly unlikely any change in politicians' attitudes will be forthcoming.

Barmitt O'Bamney's picture
Submitted by Barmitt O'Bamney on

That is the long and the short of it right there. Non-apology apologies to whomever it may offend.

IMO left leaning people, lib-progs, and fellow travelers have no business whatsoever being in the Democratic Party. The business of the Democratic Party is selling their constituencies out to business. (And, yes, business is a-boomin') Cash for trash is the strategy, identity politics is the tactic. We are the trash. They get the cash. Lord, how it works!

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

there are a lot of people who agree with your assessment of the situation and are simply not voting. Only a third of the electorate voted last election. There is a lot of space for insurgents out there right now and, as they say, if there is a niche market it will eventually be filled.

I think things ARE changing. Clinton just told the Senate not to vote for TPA without the TAA knowing that the bills were split in such a way that to do so would kill the deal; these trade bills are things that she helped to write! She is clearly feeling some pressure to conform to an identity that she patently is not conversant with. Not saying that she has ACTUALLY changed, but that the optics are getting pretty bad for her signature style of governmentin', and she recognizes it.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Of course, the trick is to find those insurgents, get them to run for office, and then convince all those people who don't vote because they've decided it's futile that this time it's different.

Tall order, to put it mildly. It might be possible with enough of that organization Lambert was talking about in this post, though...

Submitted by lambert on

Which sounds fancy, and I haven't thought it through, but what I mean is that if "liberals" (by which I guess I mean 20%-and-upward professionals who feel their hearts are in the right place, agonize over "hard choices," and only reach for market-based solutions after considerable chin-stroking) had more explicit principles, they would have a stronger immune system, as it were, to protect them from infection in the Democratic milieu. It's back to exit, voice, and loyalty. They are loyal, and have a voice (especially if they have a checkbook) but don't believe they have an exit, and so have no leverage.

The exit ought to be the Greens, but the Greens seem to be wildly variable by state. Oregon seems strong, New York seems strong, Richmond, California is strong, but in Maine I despair; the Facebook feeds I read regularly read exactly like a dysfunctional non-profit. One very smart and disciplined candidate who did the blocking and tackling was Asher Platts (great Maine name) and he just decided not to run for mayor of Portland. I think "sick to my stomach" was mentioned, and he doesn't want to run for anything ever again. And so it goes.

I view the Democrats as a carcass to be torn in peices and fought over. It has one huge asset: Ballot access. That's not to be sneezed at. Another way of saying that is, no, I don't mind if people are in the Democrats if they're not of the Democrats. That means I want to know they will walk away, or split the party.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Yes, in some cases, that's the real problem. That's why Obama appealed to them - being an adult means compromising, and here was a guy for whom compromise was Plan A. Others, though, naively believe that loyalty to a politician or political party will be rewarded when, if anything, the reverse is true.

Just to be clear, I don't expect every progressive's threshold of frustration to be the same as mine. I finally gave up on Democrats after the 2009-2010 Congress. Some people gave up earlier. The basic problem, I think, is that far too many have no such threshold.

The Greens in Washington (state) are fairly active, but I think the way primaries work here now (with only the top two primary finishers going to the general, no matter what their party affiliation) may be hindering them a bit.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

I am seeing A LOT of people in the Sanders camp saying that they would not support a Hillary candidacy under any circumstances, as I suspected would happen. This has been a theme, one I harped on with the local Democratic Party from day one. I saw an article this morning in The Hill where Hillary staffers admitted that they are going to have to tread carefully around Sanders precisely because they do not want to alienate Sanders' constituencies. When was the last time you saw something like that? They are not being taken for granted or veal penned. She, effectively, came out last night against a trade bill that she helped to write, Van Hollen (of all people) voted against the trade bill in response to his primary challenge; the carcass is being torn into pieces as we speak. I predict that she will have no coat tails come election time.

I'll bet a whole dollar right now that the Party splits in the event of a Clinton candidacy.

Submitted by lambert on

... and not because I don't prefer that outcome, but because somebody should -- what's your operational definition of "split"? How do we tell? Fight for control of party assets or brand? Lawsuit? Competing party slates in one large state? What?

DCBlogger could help with this, I am sure.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

and I don't think we have any of those so that is out. No lawsuits, not worth it as the real case will be in front of the court of public opinion. Competing Party slates are unlikely as they are both fighting for the same assets; ballot access and (prolly by then defunct) donor and voter lists, let the best (wo)man/winner take all. I doubt Sanders would play along though his grunts will be drooling for it.

So I guess it will have to be on brand...which is, of course, the whole point of the exercise. Turning the DLC into NewDemWhigs won't be such a very large leap for them.

Not real sure what a "win" would look like, but it would be messy.

What will be fun will be watching the R's implode at the same time. There is the potential for two to become four. They are aching to do the same thing, in which case the subsequent realignment could be centrists vs. leftists/Greens, as the rightists are about to fall of the edge of a very flat Earth, die of old age or an excess of black bile.

All this of course if the economy does not take a nose dive in the meantime, which would make the political dynamics a whole lot easier to grok. Either a military junta led by a General Betrayusesque figure or a Rooseveltian retrenchment part II (the sequel?).

Know any game theorists? It would be interesting to see their take.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

the potential for taking Iowa as well; the caucus system should work well for him. Unless he really catches fire in NH and IA, he has no chance in SC as far as I can see. They are establishmentarian to the core. Ohio would prolly be a good bet, I think the rust belt will be very receptive to his platform.....He should walk out of the Primaries in a pretty strong position with the base voters.

Sure, why not? As usual, the superdelegates will be the ones to watch.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

One of the themes on Bill Moyers' show toward the end was that the prevailing trend in DC isn't conservative or progressive, but rather, it's inertia. IOW, the status quo is what's winning, because things don't change. To us, that looks like conservatives are winning, but I suspect that's not how conservatives see things. There's not much else we and they would agree on, but I think we'd agree that the principle product of Congress these days is overly-long bills that don't really change much of anything for the better.

So, yes, it wouldn't surprise me if the GOP shows more of a split along those lines.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

The spittle flecked nastiness is shocking to see. I really didn't think that they could surprise me at this point, but it looks like Second Amendment solutions are seriously under consideration. The tree of liberty looks like it would be well watered had these people their way.

To be fair, I didn't hesitate to (gleefully) send my Congressman a particularly vicious youtube video of his base (standing outside the WH discussing whether to hang or to shoot the President for his various treasonous acts) either. I also inserted a note to the effect that I wouldn't want to be in his shoes when his constituents found out about his voting for something that was so blatantly unconstitutional. Karma is a bitch.

Notably, he was one of the few Republicans that voted against it both times, though he did vote for the procedure that sent it back to the Senate.

I think that the GOP is just now beginning to realize that one should never take in tigers as pets. I can't wait until the wingnuts running for President get their base pleasing two cents in on these trade bills.

BruceMcF's picture
Submitted by BruceMcF on

"I view the Democrats as a carcass to be torn in peices and fought over. It has one huge asset: Ballot access. That's not to be sneezed at. Another way of saying that is, no, I don't mind if people are in the Democrats if they're not of the Democrats. That means I want to know they will walk away, or split the party."

I'd be happy to have some who'd stick to their guns and tell the party establishment that if the party establishment doesn't like it, they can do a purge. Let the Whig wing of the Democratic party do the splitting ... as the anti-slavery Whigs were purged from the Whigs before they joined up with various other groups to form the Republicans in the 1850's.

Submitted by lambert on

Wikipedia:

The party was ultimately destroyed by the question of whether to allow the expansion of slavery to the territories. With deep fissures in the party on this question, the anti-slavery faction prevented the nomination for a full-term of its own incumbent, President Fillmore, in the 1852 presidential election; instead, the party nominated General Winfield Scott. Most Whig party leaders eventually quit politics (as Abraham Lincoln did temporarily) or changed parties. The northern voter base mostly joined the new Republican Party. By the 1856 presidential election, the party was defunct. In the South, the party vanished, but Whig ideology as a policy orientation persisted for decades and played a major role in shaping the modernizing policies of the state governments during Reconstruction.[4]

So, the Whigs split in a Presidential election.... Sanders 2016 might be a little early; not, perhaps, Teachout 2020?

Alice X's picture
Submitted by Alice X on

Lambert, I appreciate your work greatly!

IMHO:

In reverse order. Bush won because of the Electoral College, despite having 500,000 votes less than Gore. It was the fourth time in our history. 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000.

As a long time Nader follower, advocate, voter, I usually say that Gore spoiled Nader's chance for election.

How much better off would we be today, just imagine.

Gore? He did say the internal combustion engine was the worst thing that ever happened to human kind, and the planet Earth. But the Deep State and Deep Pockets would still have been in control.

Ok with that in mind, at least for Nader's personal safety, it is best he didn't win.

The jackals are not going to let anyone of his pedigree near the keys to White House.

He will always be my hero but he has been effectively tar and feathered by the Democrats.

Back to the timeline. The Bolsheviks came to power in a Coup d'Etat, not a revolution. Sergei Eisenstein in his propaganda masterpiece ten years later turned it into a revolution. The Bolsheviks or Trotskyites to this day will not admit it. Try posting that at WSWS.

The French certainly had a revolution, the American colonists had a war of national liberation. I've just read Common Sense again. Without that pamphlet there would have been no war.

Enough out of me already.

I've just gone through this. It is an excellent resource.

http://www.citizen.org/documents/NAFTA-at-20.pdf

The Corporate Coup plotters will keep at it though the scenario in the Senate is going to be very interesting.

PS - is there a way to get the underscore out of my moniker?

Submitted by lambert on

but they did see power lying in the street. And they did have the organizational capacity.

So I see your argument on a coup, but I'm dubious.

BruceMcF's picture
Submitted by BruceMcF on

Note though the role of the Electoral College was to put the election within the theft of a single state's majority for Gore of a Bush Victory ... after all, it is not as if Bush won by winning a plurality of votes cast for President in Florida ... he only won by winning a plurality of votes counted for President in Florida, and then 5-4 in the Supreme Court.

I was not a Nader supporter in 2000, since from overseas and living in Australia where the Green Party was at that time still slowly building its ability to influence Australian political outcomes, I would have preferred that the Green Party fight against the whole rigged electoral college system by chasing votes in "foregone conclusion" states.

But I've always found the whole "it's Nader's fault" talking point bizarre, when it seemed highly likely, and has since been confirmed to be highly likely, that Gore won more votes in Florida than Bush, so neither Dem for Nader swing voters nor Dem for Bush swing voters delivered the state to Bush ... the Republican State Secretary of State and the US Supreme Court delivered the state to Bush.

Submitted by lambert on

I think there's a bit too much focus on "great men," and too little on political economy, but I would think that. But he gets the narrative crystal clear, and I guess I can think of it as the old kind of history where the interactions between power players were the focus. He also does terrific set pieces. I'm learning a ton, and I find the English revolution fascinating -- so early. Everybody focuses on executing Louis XVI, but Charles I lost his head what, a couple of centuries earlier?

So I've learned a lot from them (the Roman Empire one is great two, though again, too much focus on emperors and grand strategy). One thing I meant to add to the piece and forgot, was the sheer amount of committee work and drafting of documents that a revolution entails. Calls for bourgeios-level skills, there....

BruceMcF's picture
Submitted by BruceMcF on

"One thing I meant to add to the piece and forgot, was the sheer amount of committee work and drafting of documents that a revolution entails."

It wasn't a misnomer when they called them "Committees of Correspondence" in the build-up to the American Revolution (which seems to be the vector connecting the Puritan Revolution with the French Revolution).

Submitted by lambert on

... was also key to the British working class campaign for voting rights (ultimately successful for men, and only for women with the suffragettes), as described by E.P. Thompson's Making of the English Working Class.

I'd like to say we have equivalents today online, but I'm not sure that's true.

BruceMcF's picture
Submitted by BruceMcF on

And all too many of our nascent committees of correspondence are organized on Facebook, in full view, if needs must, of the corporate establishment that they must organize to take down.