Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The New Revolution: Revolution and Counter Revolution

It is not difficult to see that in the long history of man, revolution and counter revolution has been, and always will be, in the make up of civilization and society. In every revolution, whenever the revolution succeeds in taking down the establishment, the revolutionaries become the establishment. Strangely, while the revolutionary is battling the establishment and cries for change, once the revolutionary is control of the establishment and implements their own ideas and systems, change quickly becomes abhorrent to them and they institute processes and systems to insure that their way, their idea is not changed.

However, it is impossible for change not to occur as it is impossible for the wind not to blow, the seasons not to change and man not to evolve, whether that is physically, mentally or socially.

Historically, revolutions have come as either social, economic or artistic revolutions and often, one type of revolution spawns the the other. The American revolution would be considered a "social" revolution because it represented a change in society and it's understanding of self and how government interacts with that entity. It spawned artistic revolution in the songs, poetry, writing and paintings or "art" of that time.

Generally, the idealism surrounding the revolution has a sound justification, yet, this does not mean that the outcome of the revolution will have the desired effect. For instance, the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 was generally seen and represented as a revolution to uplift the common man and throw off their oppressors, but, in the end, those that came to power through that revolution ended up being the oppressors. To be sure, the revolution itself did spawn an economic revolution and an artistic revolution. The paintings and statues that were done in the near after math of that revolution was sparked by the idealism.

The problem with this revolution was that the ideal did not represent the reality. Utopia is a dream because men are not formed neither genetically nor psychologically to accept living in the idealistic Utopia of social and economic equality because it totally disregards man's natural drive to improve his situation, both socially and economically. This is often referred to as "greed", which it may be in many cases, but it is also in the genetic drive of "evolution", or to always improve on themselves or their situation. In the commune of Utopia, that drive is not equal amongst all men. Those who see others who do not share their drive, feel incapable of going forward anchored by the weight of those less driven and will seek out a means or a method to rid themselves of that anchor or place themselves above it. In the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution, with enforced commune, the only way to rise above it was to become the oppressor or the one in power over the commune, thus negating the entire ideal behind it which was the collective will and government of all the people and not just a select few.

In which case, it is obvious that man's natural drive to achieve will manifest itself under whatever conditions it can and sometimes will have a less than wholesome outcome if that power base is the only outlet.

From every revolution, the counter revolution is born. It is inherent in the very nature of revolution. First because one idea can never be the only idea. Secondly, most ideologies of revolutions do not survive the implementation in the same manner in which reality can never live up to our dreams. If it is sufficiently deficient, discontent will set in and the idealism of the next revolution is spawned. Third, revolution tends to break down the barriers of society in one form or the other which either leads to the belief that, if like the past, this new idealism does not succeed or will not change to meet the needs of society, it can be overcome by the same method: revolution.

The fear of a counter revolution is what always drives the original revolutionaries, once in power, to forsake some of their very ideals in order to retain power. They justify forsaking these ideals as necessary to insure that the "greater" ideal of the revolution is maintained. Interestingly, while cementing their power and giving up some of this idealism, many revolutionaries attempt to perpetrate the myth that they are still the revolutionaries and that there is some other power or establishment left to fight. A modern day examples of this phenomenon would be Iran who maintains a "Revolutionary Guard" as if the fight continued on and there was still a revolt. Of course, this is a farce because the revolutionaries are now the establishment and there is nothing revolutionary about their ideas. The idealism was lost in the first taste of power.

Iraq maintained a "revolutionary council" up to the regime being deposed in 2003. Of course, we know there was nothing revolutionary remaining. He had become the establishment and it became the oppressor. The USSR maintained a similar Revolutionary Council. Again, it had long lost its revolutionary idealism and had turned its systems into maintaining power and lived up to few, if any, of its original intent to enforce communal equality on the people: From each by his ability, to each by their need. Party officials lived like Hollywood stars in Moscow driving Mercedes while the people starved. So much for idealism.

It is with these things in mind that we must take a look internally, into the social revolutions of the United States and become aware of our own defunct revolutionaries. The social revolution of the sixties began in the best sense of the liberal idealism: freedom and equality for minorities and women. At some point, the revolution became the establishment wherein they abandoned any sense of caution or the true tenets of "liberalism" and instead, began to enforce from the legislative and judicial branches their new version of "liberalism". In their effort to protect the citizens, instead of giving the citizens freedom, they enacted more and more laws, more tax initiatives, more government plans, giving the state more power and, in effect, completely abandoning the original ideals of liberalism inspired by the words of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Robert Kennedy, not to mention the original liberals of the American Revolution.

Like the old revolutionaries of Russia, Iran and Iraq who retained their "revolutionary councils", the counter culture revolutionaries of the 60's, having long abandoned the idealism, still maintained the word "liberal" to describe their philosophies. In reality, once the revolutionary takes power, they are no longer revolutionary, but the establishment and, once "liberalism" is eschewed for power, whatever the reason, they are no longer a "liberal".

We have come full circle. The old revolution has run it's course. What started out as a grand idea has turned into a state run on power and an intent to remain in power through whatever means and for whatever causes regardless of the consequences. The old revolutionary guard, having run out of ideas or abandoned them, refuse to give ground to the new and thus have made themselves the "establishment" and spawned the counter revolution.

What is the "new revolution"? Some call it "neo-conservatives". It is neither new nor conservative. It is actually, "classic liberalism". The problem is, the old revolutionaries refuse to let go of the word "liberal" as much as other revolutionaries have always tried to maintain the fiction of ongoing "revolution".

It is time for the counter revolutionaries, the new revolutionaries, to take back the word "liberal", redefine it and use it in its original intent. It's time to give the old revolutionaries the title they actually deserve, "libertines".

Sometime in the future, this counter revolution will spawn its own counter revolution. We, the new revolutionaries, will become the "establishment" as all the revolutionaries who came before us. We can only hope some day that someone will look back with wonder and pride and remember where they were when this revolution began.

9 comments:

Tom said...

Revolutions are fascinating events. They are best viewed at arms length, however. Getting caught up in one tends to lessen the probability of dying peacefully in one's bed.

You are right in that most revolutions tend to follow a predictable pattern;
1) portrayal of the established order in nihilistic terms. A utopian future is presented as being possible, and indeed the only thing worth fighting for. Improvement of the existing situation is rejected.
2) Overthrow of the established order and imprisonment/murder of it's adherents,
3) The revolutionaries turn against one another with even more viciousness and the reall mass murders begin 4) After a period the terror lessens up and the bureaucratic state developes
5) A gerontocracy ends up ruling that is not much different than the order it overthrew.
5) Counterrevolution or "days of Thermidor"

Of course not all follow the pattern exactly. And the timeframe is different for each. For my example I defined revolution as overthrowing a government, so the American Revolution and neocon revolutions don't count

Kat said...

Actually, I should have broken it down into four groups:

1) Social
2) economic
3) socio-economic
4) Artistic/cultural

Social revolutions are not necessarily nihilistic although they may come to fruition by violence. They don't necessarily want to over turn the government as a whole, but some aspect of it.

Things like women's suffrage, abolition of slavery, abolition of jim crow laws and segregation, anti-discrimination laws, those would be social revolutions. I may even count the American Revolution here because it really did not change the economic philosophy of those that resided in the states, but definitely changed their governmental format, though in a much smaller way (basically, taking ownership and throwing away some aspects of government but adhering to a form of representative government similar to the two houses of parliament). So it was not nihilistic. Although, some of these revolutions, like the American and Civil wars may have only kept from being "nihilistic" because the people behind the ideas were not intent on their own power, obtaining and retaining, so much as just changing the social structure.

Economic revolutions would be represented by the iron age, advent of world trade via the silk route and then the exploration and settlement of the American hemisphere, the agricultural revolution, the indusrial revolution, etc. Non nihilistic, but revolutionary.

Socio-economic revolutions would be more about class struggle and changing economics together such as the Bolshevic revolution which tended towards nihilism, the rise of fascism, etc.

Artistic/cultural revolutions would be tracked through music, dance, art and poetry, such as the change from classical, to impressionist, to cubism and art deco. Artistic/cultural revolutions are not nihilistic, but can change society.

My belief is that the re-establishment of the neo-conservative or, more aptly, neo liberal ideology is a social revolution and therefore, not nihilistic in its current format. Then again, the origination of the "liberal" revolution of the 60's was not really nihilistic in all its forms or areas, but the nihilists or anarchists, did glom on to this revolution and skewed it away from it's original intent, leaving us with the sour after taste, but with some forward progress.

One thing that I am saying is that all revolutions, whatever the ideology or justification, cannot continue forever nor can they be revolutionary after they gain power and make their changes. They become stagnate and force the next revolution to begin. That is a warning to we who are participating in the current counter revolution. At some point, our ideas will no longer match the idealism of our original revolution nor match the needs of the population. Being in power, as we are now, by our actions, we will spawn the next revolution.

In a since, a revolutionary evolution.

For instance, we may espouse liberal idealism, freedom and democracy, but, through our own actions at home, we may limit that freedom to the point that our society will not except it and virtually turn away from the liberal idealism. maybe it is gay marriage? Maybe it is medical research? maybe it is immigration laws? maybe it is abortion?

Whichever, eventually, the counter revolution begins. It won't be a nihilistic socio-economic revolution because the masses to not accept that it is necessary, but it will certainly be a social revolution. What we have to do is safe guard against socio-economic revolutions that come under the radar. For instance, the slow, creeping move towards socialism which marx predicted because that is what the masses, the middle classes want. It is what we have to guard against and try to maintain a distance form the same type of socio economic under the radar revolution that occured in Germany and France, slowly moving to strangle itself on bad policies.

If i was looking for a trouble spot, i wouldn't take my eyes from Europe because, unless they can have an economic revolution by itself (non-nihilistic) in the near future, a socio-economic revolution may be in the offing.

Jamie said...

But isn't it pretty much a given that in order for any real revolution to gain momentum and succeed, there has to be a sizeable percentage of the population behind and in favor of "the movement"? That conditions have to be such that a majority of the people are discontented enough to want to enact change? If you listen to the msm, the elections here in November indicated that the U.S. is polarized, split into two camps, one liberal and the other conservative. But that isn't necessarily true when you consider that only 60 percent of Americans chose to get out and vote. The other 40% don't seem to care one way or another just who or how the country is run. They are content with the status quo. To me, it was just the normal shifting of power from one group to another. And since there is no real oppression here, a desire for money, power and control of such that fuels the current "revolution" rather than any particular ideology or fight against injustice. Those who most desire the revolution do not make up the majority of the people, instead they are the people's duly elected leaders that were chosen to "represent" them (and want to retain the power that they have to enact change).

Oh, another example of a country that has hung on to the "revolution" is Cuba.

Kat said...

Jamie..I'm not sure whether you are agreeing that it's a revolution or denying it?

One thing that is apparent, most people don't recognize social or cultural revolutions until they are either well under way or past. It is easy to look back at the past and see the social and cultural revolutions, but hard to identify it when you are within it, mainly because the effects or outcomes are not readily apparent.

Revolutions do not require a "majority" to participate. In otherwords, that 40% that did not vote does not represent "anti-revolution", but, as you point out, people that would just go along with the flow. What is required is that a significant or at least, highly organized and highly capable, portion of the population becomes involved.

Revolutions do not have to start with the masses. The bolshevik revolution really started with a small group of people who were capable of spreading their ideology. The question may be when does the spread of the ideology stop being debates amongst the intellectuals and actually become the revolutionary movement. Again, I don't think it has to be a "majority" only a significant portion.

Thinking back to the American revolution even, it did not encompass the entire population. It did not even have 50% support. There were plenty of people who ideologically opposed as well as ambivelant. It was not until the revolution was underway for a year or more that it really took off and even then it did not encompass a "majority" of the citizens.

Social revolutions do not have to look like the counter culture of the sixties to be a recognized revolution. Demonstrations are not necessary nor flamboyant clothes.

I believe that the "polarization" of America is probably true in some respects, but what points to the "revolution" is not that "only" 60% turned out, it's that 60% DID turn out as opposed to other years. It points to a desire to change. Just because the same president was elected doesn't mean they don't. AFter 35 years of liberalism or "libertine" as I prefer and will explain in the next post, society is ripe for this change. You can call it a change in power, but even that does not necessarily describe what has happened.

Point in fact, it is not really the "conservatives" that are running the GOP. Conservatives are Pat Buchanan. he doesn't have the power. It is more about small "l" liberals taking the GOP and moving it forward.

It is an ideological revolution that is spawning a social revolution. Just because the MSM, which is part of the old revolutionary establishment, does not want to recognize it, does not mean it is not so. They will remain in their ivory towers and, just like after the elections, when it's all said and done, they will wonder how they could be so out of touch with the masses not to see it coming.

The question you may be rightly asking is is this a revolution of conservative over Liberalism (big "L")? No, becaue it's not "conservative" in nature. It's really a social revolution of ideas.

People question whether all things liberal (libertine) are really good for society. People have wondered where the morality of our grandparents went. Where is the drive? Where are the ethics? If all of this liberalism was so good, why is there higher crime? why are there repeat offenders? Why are there more and more people on welfare and why are there so many child births outside of wedlock and subsequently on welfare? Where are the jobs? Those are domestic issues.

What is even more apparent is the ideological revolution of foreign policy. Detente has been de rigor for three decades after the fear put in everyone by the Vietnam war that we were losing it and thus losing our power and may even go under to the USSR. Just because the USSR fell and we breathed a sigh of relief really did not lessen the fear induced by Vietnam about hegemony or intervention in global affairs.

The revolution is the idea, an old idea to be sure and resurrected, that freedom and democracy around the world protect us. We lost that in post Vietnam era and went into "survival mode". We didn't come out of it post cold war because we believed that a global economic and information revolution would be the ideology of the future.

I think we were wrong and those that recognize that fact and espouse a new ideology of social freedom, social revolution, have the right idea.

I think the other thing that gives it away as a revolution is that the old revolutionaries are fighting so hard against it. I have heard many a common Democrat on the street (believe me, i know some) that are lamenting and gnashing their teeth over the set back in society that are sure to come turning over "30 years of progress" as one said.

if the old revolutionaries are gnashing their teeth, you know you are the new revolutionary.

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

America is divided, but not into just two camps with an apathetic set of bystanders. The divisions are across multiple dimensions of views, and on multiple levels, which resolve into "left and right" in an ultra-simplistic model, but really have some people switching from left to right to left depending on the issue or policy.

In the social-cultural revolution and counter-revolution going on, I stand on the left side of the fence and poke fun at the socially restrictive group that fashions itself "conservative" and takes offense at, say, Janet Jackson's breast covered with a star pasty that ends up less revealing than most bikini tops these days. Much ado about nothing, and yet that cultural war rages on. Virginia is trying to ban low-rise jeans, nonsensically. Vibrators are illegal in Texas. To me Red State silliness can get to be a bit much in the social/cultural arena, and if it weren't for the bigger fish to fry in foreign policy and the economy, I'd probably be a staunch voter of Democrats.

The foreign policy dimension to me is overarching in importance, and that fault line is more volatile these days between the "peace at all costs" internationalists who are eager to believe any tripe coming out of the U.N., and those of us who want to ensure we defend America by any means necessary, that is to say, we "Hawks". I even go so far as to say it's hypocritical for any so-called "liberal" to be on the side of Islamic fundamentalists who make American Republicans look like pikers in the arena of social restriction; if anybody, American liberals (if they were consistent in their beliefs) would be leading the charge to eviscerate Wahabbism in any form in which it manifests, and wipe it off the face of the earth. But because of cheap tactical partisanship, they fail to rise to the call of their ideals, and end up letting the terrorists be a partisan political football, as enemies of "neocons" and no one else. I share Bob Kerrey's frustration with this trend in recent liberalism.

Then there is the economic revolution/counter-revolution, and as a centrist on that front I just hope it settles down to something everyone can live with.

riceburner147 said...

Kat: take a look at my new post and let me know what you think (I really just cut and pasted)

Patrick said...

I think it worth noting that there has been exactly one successful revolution in history, and that one took a long damn time to succeed. The success of the revolution against authoritarian power in the United States is being challenged to this very day, and there are still many who deny its success. If you date the start of this revolution to the Magna Carta of 1215, the damn thing has taken the whole of modern history. Arguably, the transition from authoritarian power to individual power under law defines modern history.

I would have a lot more confidence in cycles of revolution, if they hadn't all abandoned themselves to authoritarian illusions of security.

Moron99 said...

Hi Kat. Been reading your inputs on Iraqi blogs for months. It's always been good stuff. Today I found your blog. Wow. I'm in love with your brain.

Meanwhile, all the kategorizing and subsetting of revolutions .... hmmm. It seems to me that they are all the same thing. A new idea comes into existence that makes existing institutions unacceptable and results in a dramatic change.
It could be the invention of iron, the invention of fire, the idea of equality for women, the painting of art with abstract representation, the use of metal chisels in sculpture, the use of mass production in manufacturing, or the ability of the people to elect new leaders every four years.

There is always a new idea that displaces an old one and the organization of human existence is rearranged to accomodate. Naturally, those who are more comfortable with the old order will resist. And at some future date, the new order becomes the old and, in its own due time will be replaced.

Moron99 said...

oh, and another caveat. Just hypothesizing here ... no actual knowledge at all. But ...

It would seem natural that most revolutions occur when a sizeable portion of the population is in their late teens or 20's. After 20, attitude crystalization occurs. By 30 people will have become comfortable would be more likely to avoid the risk of disrupting their way of thinking. By contrast, younger people would still be looking for their comfort zone and would be more likely to seek the re-organiztion of society to accomodate their ideas. Being fresh off of attitude crystalization, they would also have a higher probability of possessing these new ideas.

and then the hippies grow up, become comfortable within the new society they helped to create, and resist the disruption represented by the next crop of young-uns.