A Brief Excursus on Paul Street
To better grasp the concrete functioning of that strategy, we can do better than contrast the revolutionary narrative we propose with the unintentionally counterrevolutionary one proposed by Paul Street. Now, believe me, I know there's almost palpable irony in my branding Street's narrative "counterrevolutionary," when he, if I recall, considers himself a Marxist while I base a revolution on such a comparatively lame barricade-stormer as Bernie Sanders. But I believe Street, another victim of the CP "hermeneutic of suspicion" optic now needing update, misreads history, as frequently happened, in questions of concrete prediction, with his master Marx himself. Simply put, one makes the revolutionary hay one can, and a more radical figure than Bernie would hardly serve the left's haymaking at all under American's political sun.
Now, Street strikes me as intelligent, and I, as a leftist, share several of his criticisms of Sanders. But nobody's narrative is composed solely of indisputable facts; every narrative is structured by interpretation, and the best historical ones are those that find the deepest human significance in a selectable set of historical data. So my quarrel with Street, as with CounterPunch's prevailing editorial standpoint, is a question of hermeneutics: in his overemphasis on a perennially valuable "hermeneutic of suspicion," he misses the unique revolutionary opportunity Sanders, given a little trust, now represents.
So, embracing a better, because timelier, optic--a hermeneutic of opportunity rather than mere suspicion--Revolt Against Plutocracy selects its salient facts about Sanders and his supporters in a radically different fashion from Street. Considering political revolution potentially imminent (Street evidently doesn't), we select our salient facts about Bernie and his supporters--the points we emphasize in our narrative--in ways calculated to promote that revolution. First, we emphasize the ways in which Bernie is verifiably and importantly different from Democrats (for these are the stuff of revolution), whereas Street stresses his tedious similarity to Democrats, making Bernie an agent for the status quo. Second, we hypothesize in a sufficient number of Bernie's followers a seething anger against the Democratic establishment and Hillary Clinton that will hardly let them "sheepishly" vote for her should she beat Bernie for the Democratic nomination. Now, of course, we don't in fact know whether the number of "non-sheep" Sanders supporters is sufficient for our revolution; every revolution is an experiment with reality and must make behavioral hypotheses reality itself will ultimately test. But Street, like Bruce Dixon before him, assumes Bernie's supporters will act as his passive sheep.
Such are the differences between a revolutionary "hermeneutic of opportunity" narrative and a counterrevolutionary "hermeneutic of suspicion" one.
Petition and Pledge: the Two Fists of RAP's Revolution
Our revolution intends to be multifaceted and flexible, like any seeking success, so we can't say in detail every tactical initiative we plan to undertake. But two key initiatives are already closely associated with Revolt Against Plutocracy. Since they're both means of exerting force against the enemies of reform within the Democratic Party, we like to think of them as the "two fists" of the RAP revolution. And since these two fists are different, but mutually reinforcing, I'm inevitably reminded of unnamed coal miner's two fists in the American folk classic "Sixteen Tons" :
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't get you, then the left one will
Our "fist of iron," more properly conceived as part of our upcoming "Show Me the Bernie" campaign, is our petition demanding that Elizabeth Warren and members of the Congressional Progressive Congress endorse Bernie Sanders for president. In line with our overall strategy of making support for Bernie the test of progressive legitimacy for Democrats, the petition is worded to imply that endorsing Sanders for president should be a "no-brainer" decision for real progressives. The "Show Me the Bernie" campaign will up the ante in reinforcing that same message, bombarding Warren and Congressional progressive Democrats with e-mails, letters, and phone calls stating that we take endorsement of Bernie damn seriously and that they--Democrats' sole existing source of progressive legitimacy--risk losing all support from rank-and-file progressive if they fail to get behind him. A staggering risk for Democrats, since exposure of its sole source of appeal to progressives as political cowards kills all lingering progressive legitimacy the party has. Meaning a mass exodus of progressives from the party becomes, at long last, a viable prospect.Our other fist, our "fist of steel," is our "Bernie or Bust" pledge, perhaps Revolt Against Plutocracy's most distinctive contribution to politics, and the chief identifying mark of our movement. For with this pledge to write in Sanders in the general election should he lose the nomination, we take seriously Matt Taibbi's insight that the excuses for Democrats' lesser-evilism have worn thin; we progressives refuse to take the blame for Democrats' insistence on shoving down our throats candidates who are corporate tools. If Republicans win as a result of our pledge, it's Democrats' fault; indeed, if the "greater evil" has become so evil, it's precisely because Democrats, by their own blameworthy actions, their own dilution of moral conviction by corporate money, have lost all moral high ground for renouncing Republican evil. The fact that Jeb Bush, a major war criminal's brother, is running for president rather than hiding his head in familial disgrace, is due precisely to Obama's broken campaign promise to investigate the Bush war criminals. We hasten to remind Democrats of Chris Hedges' insight that pent-up resentment against toothless liberals poses dangerous risks of fascism. By channeling that resentment against Democrats now, by insisting on a candidate, Bernie Sanders, who at least threatens the iron grip of malignant plutocrats, we stand to ward off a far graver danger later.