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The Water Is Wide: Building a Revolution

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By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

"The water is wide and I cannot cross over/Nor do I have wings to fly/Build me a boat that can carry two..." -- Fred Neil

I've been writing about political depression on the Left for years now, especially during the horrific CheneyBush decade but also in the distressing Obama years. I can't tell you how many of my liberal friends have been fighting despondency (and I'm among that cohort) as the social/political/economic situation has gone from bad to worse to a bit better to worse again.

Nearly six months ago, for example, in an essay entitled "The Sounds of Silence: Reactions to Political Despair,"* I laid out in seven areas of concern the ingredients of that clinical-political depression and concluded that there wasn't much hope for significant change in this country: "In short, American society seems to be well and truly f'd, with few escape routes evident." My advice at that time: "organize for revolution while fighting for attainable, probably small, victories."

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During the half-year between that essay and this one, not much has changed; indeed, in many ways, the situation has gotten worse. Yes, there are occasional bubbles of positive activism, but precious little critical mass in that direction.

The most encouraging signs of progressive citizen activism have come in response to extreme over-reaching by ideological zealots on the Right. In Wisconsin and other states, for example, GOP governors and federal and state legislators are attempting to crush the union movement, roll back the social gains of the Great Society and New Deal, destroy Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, and weaken regulatory agencies protecting citizens' right to safe food, clean air and unpolluted water. Unregulated fracking is just the most egregious example.

In short, the Right is openly and aggressively trying to take America back to the Robber Baron days of the late-19th century when rapacious greed was king, when moguls and industries devoid of regulation and oversight were unimpeded in their race to power, with no safety nets for those crushed in the process. The Right's current attempt to destroy the just-borning Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is designed to help provide at least some regulation of the financial sector, and to incapacitate its initiator Elizabeth Warren, is a perfect example of this GOP desire to give free rein once again to the very forces that created our current Great Recession.

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STARTING TO FIGURE IT OUT

The public is starting to understand what's happening and, at least in opinion polls, is angry at the very Republican governors and legislative leaders that it elected just six months ago. The public wanted action on improving the economy and in creating jobs, and thought it would do better with the GOP in charge. But the Republicans are not interested in creating jobs, rather they seem obsessed with destroying Obama's chances for a second term and with enacting ideological agendas that were not part of the campaigns last November. Thus the potential backlash against GOP extremism, symbolized most clearly in the public reaction against the Republican's budget, which would effectively destroy Medicare, perhaps the most popular of all government programs after Social Security. If Obama and the Democrats compromise with the Republicans on this Medicare issue, and if they abandon a jobs agenda while focusing on deficits, they risk committing political suicide in 2012. But why would one be surprised if the Dems hang themselves? Stupidity in the Democratic Party appears whenever the possibility of victory is on the horizon.

To deal with my own social despair and political burnout (not surprising after having churned out 350 essays over the years), I took a six-months break in December to devote more of my time and energy to artistic endeavors: writing a new play ("Dead Peasants"), working on a new poetry collection, and preparing for fine-art photography exhibitions. Now I'm diving once again into the political fray with some backed-up observations. As it turns out, they are mostly laments and questions.

CONTRADICTIONS OF CAPITALISM

All across the world, capitalism is reverting to its inner shadow: extreme greed as a life-philosophy, imperialism as a governing imperative, more and more tax breaks for the rich (at the expense, needless to say, of the middle-class and poor), corporatism hand-in-glove with government (which was Mussolini's definition of fascism), austerity for ordinary citizens and more profits for the already wealthy. If anyone complains about the ever-widening gap between the wealthy and the rest of us, that's "class warfare," which supposedly is a bad thing. Note: We're not supposed to interpret the status quo as "class warfare": That's just the way things are and are meant to be.

A decade or two ago, all this rightwing power-mongering was happening behind the scenes, while the conservatives denied their true motives; now it's all happening out in the open. The HardRight these days is downright proud of its take-it-while-we-can-get-it philosophy, and is convinced, now that they're in charge of the House of Representatives and most state houses, that the time is ripe for a successful ideological putsch in 2012. Already, laws have been broken by Republicans in contested elections, specifically in Wisconsin. And in a number of states, Republicans are doing everything possible to rig the voting rolls in advance of 2012, making it extremely difficult, for example, for college students and minorities to cast their ballots. The Democrats are, as usual, asleep at the wheel.

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So, if more and more ordinary citizens around the globe are increasingly upset by the organized theft that is the government/business alliance, why aren't they angry enough to do something about it? One would have thought that maybe some revolutionary impulses might be fired-off for organizing and educating of millions of the disenchanted into a united social-political force that would have to be dealt with.

INEXPLICABLE LASSITUDE

Some of this organizing and educating is starting to happen in other countries -- for example, in Europe, in the Arab Spring -- but little if anything is happening in the U.S. In this day and age, progressives are supposed to feel themselves lucky if they can move the status quo away from its current far-right locus just a tad toward the center-left, and hope that the 2012 election punishes reactionary Republicans and generates momentum for more systemic change.

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www.crisispapers.org
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)
 

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