Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Two Phase Revolution

I've been meaning to get to this, but of course got sidetracked will all sorts of Other Important Things.

Michael Berman (h/t teri49) mused long ago (in Revolution time) that the Revolution must occur in two phases, that we've entered phase one, but it may get stuck there and never proceed to phase two because of an overreliance on technology and social media -- and too little reliance on ideology, careful analysis, and expert planning.

Now I know I'm paraphrasing -- and probably doing an injustice to his overall thesis -- but I think that's the gist of what he's getting at.

A proper Revolution must have manifestos and doctrines and a densely argued framework to succeed, and you just can't do that in the Twitter-verse. Without a coherent intellectual foundation, there is no there there. And the overreliance on social media means you can never get "there."

The Revolution can never be anything other than a Revolt.

He's observing from Mexico, much as Ian Welsh is observing from Canada. From a distance, and relying so much on the "news" for your information, you don't see some important aspects of what's going on. The intellectual foundation has already been laid, for example, long since. The error Berman makes -- and many others do too -- is to assume that this Revolution was born of nothing, there were no precursors, there is no foundation, it is merely an expression of mass discontent with neither direction nor ultimate purpose. And it is all being guided by internet pith and poutrage.

Well, if all you know of it is what you see on the teevee and read in the online media, you're not going to get a very good picture of what's really going on; in fact, it may be hard to get a decent picture at all.

I've made much of the transference of the Energy Center of the Movement-becoming-Revolution from New York to Oakland, for example, but I'm not at all sure that more than a few observers have picked up on it or even recognize that it has happened.

Of course when Berman wrote, that hadn't happened, and there was no sign that it would. The Center was in New York, and in many ways, that Center was obscured by events. What was going on in New York beyond the "news" of conflict was hardly seen or known at all (sometimes I think that is by design, but that's another discussion).

Focus on the Conflict With Authority means that all the developmental and social/economic action going on is either not seen at all, or it is seen as subtext.

But it is the subtext that IS the Revolution, and all of it is deeply grounded in a very densely argued intellectual -- and practical -- framework that's been in process for decades. In other words, what Berman suspects is thwarted by social media is actually at the foundation of the Movement itself.

Part of the disconnect that intellectuals like Berman and Chomsky and (many) others feel with this Occupy Thing is that of any established elite seeing itself left behind by activists on the march. Never mind that this elite and their arguments are already part of the principles underlying the Revolution. They may not see it because they're not in the vanguard any more.

Further, Berman and Chomsky and (many) others are not intrinsically Revolutionary thinkers; when it comes to action, the only thing they can conceive of is working through the established order or... chaos. They have no way to imagine a Revolution that potentially sidesteps both.

If this Revolution is ultimately successful, it will sidestep the established order (including the intellectual elite) and the "inevitable" chaos that results from the overthrow of the Established Order. Basically, it will organically replace the Established Order.

If this Revolution is to be successful, it will organically develop a parallel System (which it's already doing) that is focused on the needs of the People based on Dignity, Justice, Community and Peace. (This of course is my personal Revolutionary motto; it hasn't been adopted by the GA! ;-)

In other words, the Revolution will "just do it."

Technology is part of the Revolutionary process, but it is not the Revolution itself. Nor can technology ultimately thwart the Revolution.

Part of the problem observers face, I think, is that the intellectual arguments for economic and social justice, human rights and human dignity, the value of community and peace, global sustainability, and so on, are so well-known and familiar they're barely recognized as Revolutionary any more.

The Revolution is in their implementation. Some observers, and Berman may be one, can't conceive of such implementation occurring outside the established political order, either.

Things Revolutionary are moving very fast. It's hard for old farts like me to catch up, but the beauty of it is, I don't have to. It has a momentum of its own now (yay!) and the young 'uns are the ones who have to do it anyway. It will become what it becomes, and none of us can know in advance what that will be.

All we can know is that a better world is possible and we can be the change we seek.

(Or, it's all about Bumper Stickers!!! Lapel Buttons!!!!)


  1. Basically, the Internet puts a powerful printing press and radio/TV station in the hands of the people. Of course, it has been able to do this for years, long before Twitter and Facebook.

    People make the mistake of thinking that new technology is driving this. All it's really allowing is for people to bypass the neoliberal gatekeepers in the corporate media.

    That's very powerful though. Imagine if all we had to go on about events in Oakland were what the corporate media told us. I have no doubt Scott Olsen's story would have been twisted, if we ever even heard his name at all.

    My guess though is it's just speeding things up, and we would have gotten here eventually without it.

  2. The ability to bypass the Overclass's gatekeepers helps to make the global revolutions possible. But it isn't the cause of them, nor would I say that social media will be the end of revolution.

    Once the Revolution starts, social media can speed up events. Things have been moving so fast that if you step back for a few days as I did, you'll see a different Revolution in action when you return.

    But there is another side of it, too. A case can be made that the potential for revolt and revolution in this country -- and much of the English speaking world -- was delayed for years, short-circuited in a way, by the proliferation of technology and the ability of social media to defuse some of the outrage and anger that was constantly being built up by the actions of the Overclass.

    A precipitating cause for revolution in this country was the judicial coup of 2000, for example, but there was no uprising until now. That's a tremendous lag time, part of which is due, I'm convinced, to the proliferation of means to vent and dissipate anger.

    Moving from anger to action is always difficult in any case. Who knows in advance what to do that will work? Having multiple platforms and outlets to vent your anger in the meantime means it won't be as likely to flash into revolt or revolution.

    But once the flash-point is reached, there's no way to stop it.

    With or without social media!

  3. There is still something to be said about passing out leaflets, of course, wouldn't give that up for Facebook.

  4. Flyers and leaflets have actually been more effective than most of the Facebooking and Twittering, etc.

    Facebook and Twitter are ways to pass information quickly among those who are already connected, but most people aren't and don't want to be. The flyers and leaflets -- whether they are posted around town or are handed out or are part of information tabling -- is a kind of constant reminder and reference point for something going on.

    And then there's the Occupied Wall Street Journal. It's brilliant.