Ted Rall and the Rude Pundit Talk Revolution, Part 3 (It's in Your American DNA):
"So let's plan a revolution," the Rude Pundit said to cartoonist and writer Ted Rall in the middle of a place that looked like you could plot to shoot an archduke. It was part of a conversation about Rall's book The Anti-American Manifesto, in which the author lays out a convincing case for the need for radical action from which a new (and not necessarily better) America can emerge. "How would we do it?"
He is not a leader, Rall said, but "what we need are parties, platforms, personalities who are going to lead us. I'm not that person. I'm writing the theoretical construct to allow us to have this conversation...I'm divisive and abrasive. There are people who are not like me and who are going to be able to start groups and parties." What Rall envisions is a multitude of groups offering different paths for where to take the country, with citizens actively joining movements. The idea here is not a bullshit third party working within a system that refuses to really acknowledge third parties. No, what's needed is for someone with a desire for a revolutionary conversion of the nation.
In other words, woe is the country that pretends it doesn't need leaders. There is no real movement without ideological and/or activist leaders, "someone who is bold enough to step forward and start a group and say, 'We hope you rally to us.' There's too many smart people who don't want to waste their entire lives under a broken system." But remember: this is just the beginning. The next steps involve attempting to work within existing frameworks, with perhaps a constitutional convention, although Rall believes that any attempt to do so would be crushed.
Yes, this could all go horribly wrong. "My instinct tells me that this thing [the United States] is unsustainable. That this thing is going down. And the ones who are poised to take it over are these right wing, Christian conservative, 700 Club lunatics. It's fundies who are going to take over. So that's a fear."
Revolutions often have very little violence, Rall explained. "It's not the main event of a revolution." Usually, it's just a brief period and then those in power get the message. And when does violence need to occur? "It depends on what you're trying to accomplish. One of the purposes of violence is to provoke an outsized reaction from your opponent." He pointed to al-Qaeda's acts on 9/11 to explain (not to offer a model): "If the U.S. had responded to 9/11 with soul searching, by wondering what we did to deserve it," we would have crushed radical Islam. Instead, "We fell into their trap better than they could have ever hoped for."
Other forms of violence may be more direct, Rall said. "Maybe there's some particularly atrocious criminal, like someone who just laid off 15,000 workers. Should that be allowed?" However, "You'd want to carry out enough violence, ideally property damage, that it would be enough to terrorize the powers that be, and not harm anyone."
Here's the question that the Rude Pundit has been grappling with this week as he's been writing these posts: Is this crazy? Or is it, you know, very American? Rall, who believes in the right to bear arms, doesn't want or encourage violence. His point is that it shouldn't be taken off the table as a tactic if (for him, "when") things really start to fall apart. That notion itself, of the nation tearing apart at the worn seams, is reinforced constantly, whether with the financial crisis of 2008 or the coming battle over raising the debt ceiling.
During our conversation, both of us kept coming back to the stereotype of the peace-loving liberal who just wants everyone to get along. Because that, along with the utter spinelessness of the Democrats in Washington, has defined the left for so long in this country, conservatives, who are willing to talk about rebelling against the federal government, treat any leftist threat as anti-American. The Tea Party has coopted revolution, and the right has successfully neutered progressivism; for Rall, that means there is no legitimate left in this country anymore. He says most mainstream liberals understand that revolution is necessary, but no one is willing to step up and say it because they still have to operate within our system. "Ideally, someone like an Al Gore would say that this system is broken and it has to be replaced. It can't be reformed."
As when he started this series on Monday, the Rude Pundit keeps coming back to recent history. In the civil rights movement, the eventual embrace of Martin Luther King, Jr. by many whites was specifically because the alternative was the threat of violence of the Black Panthers and other groups. When riots are occurring in the streets of cities around the country, when well-armed men and women are talking race war, it makes a fuck of a lot more sense to deal with the leader preaching non-violence. What if, though, the state and federal governments hadn't responded to King? What if civil rights hadn't advanced and been enforced? What conflagrations would have occurred? And could you have blamed them, those liberal armies of the past, for joining the battle? Or go back to the workers' movement of the early 20th century. It was a civil war. As we head into a Thanksgiving holiday where many workers still have the day off because of that movement, would you have wanted them not to have fought?