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A Non-Manifesto for What is to be Done

The problem of why the US Left is quite ineffectual is because US progressives are not revolutionaries. They are as bourgeois as their anti-Left antagonists. Street theatre like ‘Occupy Wall Street’ is like the clowns are coming to town, slogans like “Black Lives Matter” may excite the cable news flunkies but it is as effective as the similarly vapid slogan “Black is Beautiful”. Cute and bowdlerized versions of rebellion like those of Stewart and Colbert serve to reverse all advancement towards critical enlightenment. Conforming is the most destructive kind of societal coercion, but accepted as a calming influence on the very rebellious inner resistance which all sentient human beings have against being told what to do. It pervades unfortunately much of the US public and by now most of the European one too. It likes little leaders (almost always of the male sex) and nods in agreement about organizing and forming oppressive hierarchies. The US Left is as much a victim of this way of thinking as the most reactionary pedestrian political tour leader. It absorbs probably unwillingly (though that is often doubtful), a poisonous way of thinking along predetermined and prefabricated shibboleths that pop up each time that challenges to rote thinking are being perceived.

True revolution is the result of interrupted patterns of behavior and ideas, not a laming repetition of trial and error in the same direction as is taught by previous generations of the frustrated. The co-optation of liberating thought is like a Taylor band that never stops but it requires from every worker along its line to put in the same pre-patterned screw and if it does not fit is thrown on the dung heap. That is why those misfit screwy ones are the true revolutionaries, not the same old, same old tottering along the party lines. One may blame the herd instinct which assumes security and prosperity by fitting in, whether it is a Left cadre or a mass demonstration, but in fact the reality is that true revolutionaries stand alone and sustain their staying power by their own resources. That is how quite shameless reactionary rebels like Mussolini and now Trump obtain their power.

Emancipation and social, economic and political justice are simply questions of power. And power is not won by argument or even by applying emancipatory laws, because the laws are anyway created and imposed by power groups within what euphemistically are called democracies, places where a majority, right or wrong has imposed its acquiescence to being ruled by a small clique. That elite minority takes its cues from economic power interests which in turn are controlled by big shareholders. The whole system of private shareholding and participating in the collective power that corporate institutions hold is contrary to a sane distribution of labor and wealth within any nation. The bundling of power is openly sought in capitalist societies like the gathered together and bound arrows of the Fascist, US and Rothschild emblems.

A full disintegration of the social contract is the only path towards change as the French and Russian revolutions have shown. The disturbances to civil society are very cruel but necessary to break the hold that fear of dissociation and the law traditions of precedence have over the population. The fallacy which maintains that the mass demonstrations and civil disturbances would have a definitive influence on the political balance has already shown to be untenable by the utterances of Bush Jr during the preparations for the Iraq attack. Civil disobedience is easily contained by the unrelenting and violent forces at hand for the vested interests and should be abandoned because they tend to strengthen those forces each time their intervention is required to shore up the status quo. It is an action/reaction that will tighten and refine control as required. The Russian Winter palace demonstration of 1905 comes to mind and despite its propagandistic consequences had no other result then already, than a concentration of the oppression.

But work interruptions like a general strike are far more feared by the powers-that-be as they tend to flow and ebb into uncontrollable directions. Each time one part of the strike is contained, others will break out at unexpected corners. And work sabotages are much like guerilla war fare. They require solidarity which is a highly dangerous foe to capitalist regimes and therefore is suppressed and treated like a debilitating element in the so-called struggle for daily survival. Solidarity as has correctly been observed forms a sustaining factor in all impoverished communities. And it does not mean slavish conformity but mutual support.

A re-enchantment of the working classes in the US is adamant because they are entirely alienated by the co-optation of their unions. How this can be affected is still in the lap of the gods. It cannot be done by outside radical agitators (the lockstep Left is a non-starter for raising revolutionary conscience) as it must grow from its roots of internal discontent. A problem is that this can take a direction like in Germany in the nineteen twenties and thirties. The US being a very bourgeois society whitewashes (a meaningful expression) after awhile every controversy and every dispute causing a public disconnect between memory and significance. Thus disarmed, the working classes have no recourse except trying to stay afloat in the consumerist race.

Added to the economic malaise presently threatening subsistence in the US is the question of the destruction of the environment. Human hubris avoids the reality that humans are part of nature, part of the rich animal diversity. Maybe it is simply nature’s character that it threatens to depopulate the earth of all flora and fauna after the full blossoming of life. It is hoped that human science will rescue it, but the reality is that the Heisenberg principle of uncertainty in measurement applies equally to expectations of technological solutions for ending a degradation of our earth. The deeper we probe, the more mysterious nature becomes and the more we interfere with natural phenomena.

A thorough reversal of fortune is predicted for this empire of material and ideological conquest, but so far it has been able to maintain its superiority by martial means and by applying economic pressure. That ultimate event will remain a pipe dream for decades as yet to come because any weakness is only relative in comparison to other large nations. But a worker rebellion in the form of strikes, their best weapon could rescue nature as well as re-direct the unnatural over-production of unnecessary artifacts into a more life sustaining direction.

A very large version of the Paris Commune can be envisioned because present day discontent in the cities may well give rise to the type of Canut revolts that supported in the late nineteenth century a revolutionary basis and the interest in non-politicians may predict a change in the public tolerance for being ruthlessly and cynically engineered.

As for the expropriators: “les fourmis vont vous manger” (the ants will finally devour you).

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Gui Rochat is an art dealer and consultant, specializing in in seventeenth and eighteenth century French paintings and drawings. He lives in New York.

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