Patrice Riemens on Mon, 28 Oct 2013 19:22:15 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Chris Hedge: Our Invisible revolution

Our Invisible Revolution
Posted on Oct 28, 2013

By Chris Hedges

?Did you ever ask yourself how it happens that government and capitalism
continue to exist in spite of all the evil and trouble they are causing in
the world?? the anarchist Alexander Berkman wrote in his essay ?The Idea
Is the Thing.? ?If you did, then your answer must have been that it is
because the people support those institutions, and that they support them
because they believe in them.?

Berkman was right. As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that
justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve
our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered,
the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The
battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the
corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are
getting it. They know that we have been stripped of political power. They
recognize that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil
liberties, and live under the gaze of the most intrusive security and
surveillance apparatus in human history. Half the country lives in
poverty. Many of the rest of us, if the corporate state is not overthrown,
will join them. These truths are no longer hidden.

It appears that political ferment is dormant in the United States. This is
incorrect. The ideas that sustain the corporate state are swiftly losing
their efficacy across the political spectrum. The ideas that are rising to
take their place, however, are inchoate. The right has retreated into
Christian fascism and a celebration of the gun culture. The left, knocked
off balance by decades of fierce state repression in the name of
anti-communism, is struggling to rebuild and define itself. Popular
revulsion for the ruling elite, however, is nearly universal. It is a
question of which ideas will capture the public?s imagination.

Revolution usually erupts over events that would, in normal circumstances,
be considered meaningless or minor acts of injustice by the state. But
once the tinder of revolt has piled up, as it has in the United States, an
insignificant spark easily ignites popular rebellion. No person or
movement can ignite this tinder. No one knows where or when the eruption
will take place. No one knows the form it will take. But it is certain now
that a popular revolt is coming. The refusal by the corporate state to
address even the minimal grievances of the citizenry, along with the
abject failure to remedy the mounting state repression, the chronic
unemployment and underemployment, the massive debt peonage that is
crippling more than half of Americans, and the loss of hope and widespread
despair, means that blowback is inevitable.

?Because revolution is evolution at its boiling point you cannot ?make? a
real revolution any more than you can hasten the boiling of a tea kettle,?
Berkman wrote. ?It is the fire underneath that makes it boil: how quickly
it will come to the boiling point will depend on how strong the fire is.?

Revolutions, when they erupt, appear to the elites and the establishment
to be sudden and unexpected. This is because the real work of
revolutionary ferment and consciousness is unseen by the mainstream
society, noticed only after it has largely been completed. Throughout
history, those who have sought radical change have always had to first
discredit the ideas used to prop up ruling elites and construct
alternative ideas for society, ideas often embodied in a utopian
revolutionary myth. The articulation of a viable socialism as an
alternative to corporate tyranny?as attempted by the book ?Imagine: Living
in a Socialist USA? and the website Popular Resistance?is, for me,
paramount. Once ideas shift for a large portion of a population, once the
vision of a new society grips the popular imagination, the old regime is

An uprising that is devoid of ideas and vision is never a threat to ruling
elites. Social upheaval without clear definition and direction, without
ideas behind it, descends into nihilism, random violence and chaos. It
consumes itself. This, at its core, is why I disagree with some elements
of the Black Bloc anarchists. I believe in strategy. And so did many
anarchists, including Berkman, Emma Goldman, Pyotr Kropotkin and Mikhail

By the time ruling elites are openly defied, there has already been a
nearly total loss of faith in the ideas?in our case free market capitalism
and globalization?that sustain the structures of the ruling elites. And
once enough people get it, a process that can take years, ?the slow,
quiet, and peaceful social evolution becomes quick, militant, and
violent,? as Berkman wrote. ?Evolution becomes revolution.?

This is where we are headed. I do not say this because I am a supporter of
revolution. I am not. I prefer the piecemeal and incremental reforms of a
functioning democracy. I prefer a system in which our social institutions
permit the citizenry to nonviolently dismiss those in authority. I prefer
a system in which institutions are independent and not captive to
corporate power. But we do not live in such a system. Revolt is the only
option left. Ruling elites, once the ideas that justify their existence
are dead, resort to force. It is their final clutch at power. If a
nonviolent popular movement is able to ideologically disarm the
bureaucrats, civil servants and police?to get them, in essence, to
defect?nonviolent revolution is possible. But if the state can organize
effective and prolonged violence against dissent, it spawns reactive
revolutionary violence, or what the state calls terrorism. Violent
revolutions usually give rise to revolutionaries as ruthless as their
adversaries. ?Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process
he does not become a monster,? Friedrich Nietzsche wrote. ?And if you gaze
long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.?

Violent revolutions are always tragic. I, and many other activists, seek
to keep our uprising nonviolent. We seek to spare the country the savagery
of domestic violence by both the state and its opponents. There is no
guarantee that we will succeed, especially with the corporate state
controlling a vast internal security apparatus and militarized police
forces. But we must try.

Corporations, freed from all laws, government regulations and internal
constraints, are stealing as much as they can, as fast as they can, on the
way down. The managers of corporations no longer care about the effects of
their pillage. Many expect the systems they are looting to fall apart.
They are blinded by personal greed and hubris. They believe their obscene
wealth can buy them security and protection. They should have spent a
little less time studying management in business school and a little more
time studying human nature and human history. They are digging their own

Our shift to corporate totalitarianism, like the shift to all forms of
totalitarianism, is incremental. Totalitarian systems ebb and flow,
sometimes taking one step back before taking two steps forward, as they
erode democratic liberalism. This process is now complete. The ?consent of
the governed? is a cruel joke. Barack Obama cannot defy corporate power
any more than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton could. Unlike his two
immediate predecessors, Bush, who is intellectually and probably
emotionally impaired, did not understand the totalitarian process abetted
by the presidency. Because Clinton and Obama, and their Democratic Party,
understand the destructive roles they played and are playing, they must be
seen as far more cynical and far more complicit in the ruination of the
country. Democratic politicians speak in the familiar ?I-feel-your-pain?
language of the liberal class while allowing corporations to strip us of
personal wealth and power. They are effective masks for corporate power.

The corporate state seeks to maintain the fiction of our personal agency
in the political and economic process. As long as we believe we are
participants, a lie sustained through massive propaganda campaigns,
endless and absurd election cycles and the pageantry of empty political
theater, our corporate oligarchs rest easy in their private jets,
boardrooms, penthouses and mansions. As the bankruptcy of corporate
capitalism and globalization is exposed, the ruling elite are increasingly
nervous. They know that if the ideas that justify their power die, they
are finished. This is why voices of dissent?as well as spontaneous
uprisings such as the Occupy movement?are ruthlessly crushed by the
corporate state.

?... [M]any ideas, once held to be true, have come to be regarded as wrong
and evil,? Berkman wrote in his essay. ?Thus the ideas of the divine right
of kings, of slavery and serfdom. There was a time when the whole world
believed those institutions to be right, just, and unchangeable. In the
measure that those superstitions and false beliefs were fought by advanced
thinkers, they became discredited and lost their hold upon the people, and
finally the institutions that incorporated those ideas were abolished.
Highbrows will tell you that they had ?outlived? their ?usefulness? and
therefore they ?died.? But how did they ?outlive? their ?usefulness?? To
whom were they useful, and how did they ?die?? We know already that they
were useful only to the master class, and they were done away with by
popular uprisings and revolutions.?

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion   Publisher, Zuade Kaufman
Editor, Robert Scheer
© 2013 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.
(or reversed? ;-) -p+5D!

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info:
#  archive: contact: