In a casual discussion group I participate in, somebody asked, “Where are we in the swing of the historical pendulum? Are we close to revolution?”
I didn’t try to answer at all, because I couldn’t deal with the way the question was framed. There is no “historical pendulum.” It’s common to believe that history just swings back and forth or goes around in circles, but it doesn’t. The general movement of history is forward and progressive. We aren’t savages any more, most of us, and we aren’t serfs nor slaves. Over the centuries, progress is being made.
But later, I wished I had answered the question, because my analysis may seem unusual to some people: Revolution in the United States and in most of the world may be just around the corner!
Doom and Gloom
OK, there are a lot of naysayers and former radicals among us today. The implosion of the Soviet Union hit hard. The rapid change in Eastern Europe devastated some folks, and the difficulties they’re having in Venezuela and Brazil today are squeezing the optimism away. Add to that the tremendous success that dark money has enjoyed in turning our American democracy backward during the last 4 decades. It’s enough to get some people down. Some people. But they aren’t taking the long view.
The Long View Looks Great!
What are the requirements for a qualitatively better society? A well informed and well organized public with leadership from among the workers. We have that, more than ever!
Nowadays, I am in awe of the millennials. They grew up understanding more about using new technology than I will ever learn. Technology extends their knowledge and their capabilities.
The millennials also grew up without all the anticommunism that crippled the thinking of my generation. When I was young, we were afraid to even look to the left, much less think in that direction. The Bernie campaign has made “capitalism” and “socialism” everyday words. People are thinking thoughts that used to be taboo.
Today’s young people have the entire world at their fingertips. Most of my generation would never have left home if it hadn’t been for the military draft.
Don’t Overlook the Unions
Unions are the organized sector of the working class. It’s true that there aren’t as many union members per capita as there were in 1957, but that’s misleading. One worker today is doing the work of 4 pre-war workers. And he/she is likely to be highly skilled and hard to replace. Workers are just as central to the progressive movement as they were in Russia in 1917 and every year since! Nobody else can stand up to the bosses eyeball to eyeball, but workers can!
Older people think that the 1960s and 1970s were the revolutionary times. Long hair and marijuana do not a revolution make! Ask them how much union support they enjoyed in their anti-war marches, their feminist causes, their environmental rallies, or anything they look back on with smug satisfaction of revolutionary activity. Unions barely participated in those days, but things have turned around now. It’s hard to find a street action that isn’t supported by AFL-CIO members. In fact, they originate a lot of them!
Furthermore, it is now possible for everybody to work with America’s unions. From 1947 to 1995, that was impossible. The unions in the post war years grew more and more isolated, but today they are reaching out with both arms!
Communications Are Already Revolutionized
There were a number of revolutions in the 20th century. They did it with clandestine meetings, secret leaflets, and a tiny few underground newspapers. One person might “spread the word” to a few dozen on a very good day. Today, we can reach thousands, maybe tens of thousands, without leaving home!
The possibilities are amazing!