February 28, 2011

Revolutionary Tour

Filed under: American Revolution, Civil Disobedience, Freedom — Tags: , , , — Russ @ 12:48 pm


It looks like the Qaddaffi regime is down to just his capital in Tripoli. Although I’ve been reading for days about an imminent counter-attack of his supporters, it doesn’t come, the people keep advancing, and I figure if they were really able to attack they would’ve done it. We’ve already seen Qaddaffi’s big attack, and even bombing and strafing his own cities with aircraft wasn’t able to save him.
This is a milestone in the liberation wave. It’s not complete proof that a resolute people can defeat even disciplined instruments of government violence, since many army units refused to obey orders and in many cases actively turned against the regime. But the fact remains that disciplined units did exist, did carry out orders, did launch their full fury against civilian protestors, and the people kept coming.
I’ve read that by now it’s the troops and thugs who are loyal to Qaddaffi who are reduced to wearing masks and scarves, while the rebels enjoy the sun and wind on their proud faces.
The latest battleground was the town of Zawiya, near Tripoli, where insurgents took the town after pro-Qaddaffi forces shot up a mosque where a sit-in was in progress. This is the town where for days we’ve had a stand-off and these rumors of “counterattack”. Qaddaffi must be reduced to Hitler’s delusional state in the bunker, crazily demanding information about Steiner’s non-existent counterattack.
Meanwhile the neoliberal West has more easily let Qaddaffi go then they did Mubarak. Although they refused to impose a no-fly zone, the EU issued a travel ban, a list of sanctions, while others promised ICC investigations against him, his sons, and many regime nabobs. Apparently, according to neoliberalism bombing your own cities is out, at least for someone on probation like Qaddaffi. (He’s also not a personal friend of the Bidens and Hillary Ribbentrop the way Mubarak is, and Obama probably doesn’t consider him one of the Cool Crowd.)
Back in Tunisia, the place that started it all, the situation continues to evolve. Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, Ben Ali’s equivalent of Suleiman, who took over from him and has tried to preserve the regime intact, was forced to resign after a new wave of protests and violence. The Tunisians understand that this is far from over.
Progress in Egypt has been fitful. The army wishes to curb the ongoing wave of strikes, but so far has not tested the situation by actually banning them, although it keeps threatening to. The army leadership remains stuck with the same problem it’s had since day one – how far could it trust the rank and file conscripts to obey orders? To remain disciplined at all? What misstep might trigger a confrontation which forces a test the generals don’t want to risk? So brinksmanship continues, albeit at a lower level of intensity for now. The Egyptians understand that this is far from over.
Bahrain is perhaps the most advanced example. There too the demonstrators have braved open violence from police and military. But unlike Libya, only lately being integrated into neoliberalism, Bahrain is a postmodern City of the Plain, fully financialized, a state of the art coordination center much like the UAE itself. Revolution in Sodom Bahrain conjures the image of the slaves of Dubai itself rising up and burning that Gomorrah to the sand.
And does it offer a possible precedent for democratic revolt in the ultimate bastion, Saudi Arabia itself? The government is treading very carefully, dealing gently with the first signs of worker protests.
Back in America, we have the Wisconsin protest, where in spite of the hostile Democratic establishment (but with some decent discipline from state-level Dems) and feckless, conciliatory union leadership, the rank and file have maintained their vigil for an impressively long time. They keep this up and they’re going to have to think about organizing their own street democracy. But they’d better be ready to continue the protest indefinitely, and find ways to escalate it, if they want to win. If I understand the Wisconsin Mubaraks correctly, and I think I do, they’re not going to give in. Why would they?
So there’s a short tour of our state of self-liberation. Nowhere has there yet been a complete breakthrough, but everywhere (except the standoff in Wisconsin) we’ve seen steady progress. The situation today seems vastly brighter than I ever would have dreamt at the down time following the moral collapse in France, and the continuing abject submission in Ireland and elsewhere, and of course in America.
More than ever before, I think the system is rotten to the core, physically strong but morally and intellectually weak, and with its physical strength ready to collapse at any time as well. More even than before, I think things are in our hands, that we the people are masters of our fate, free to dictate our future by making our choices.
What an exhilarating ride this is becoming. The path before us is coming into focus. The ideas are being collected and arranged. The spirit is regrouping. Like Naomi Klein writes in Shock Doctrine, at some point the people become numb to the shocks, and find ways to withstand them, and then realize that they no longer fear them, and then develop contempt for them.
This world process is now coming to light, after years in the incubation of our souls. It’s a new sun rising, the dawn of humanity’s new day. It wasn’t capitalism and oil which embodied the genius of the age, but democracy. This rising spirit of a new, fully responsible humanity was only temporarily obscured by the noise and flash of fossil-fueled corporatism. But it was that shallow clamor and smoke which was ephemeral. It shall be our democratic heritage which is lasting, which shall be co-eternal with history itself. We need only choose it. 


  1. Nice review, Russ. I love the way you stay positive about all of this. It rubs off on me, and I appreciate it.

    Comment by Johnny D. — February 28, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

    • Thanks, JD. I’m glad it works.

      Comment by Russ — February 28, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

  2. Great post as usual.
    I’m still amazed at the amount of suffering that the average American is willing to take. I expect that’s because the “above average” American is still doing ok, at least a majority.
    The fact that when people do fall from the middle class and lose it all, they have so far fallen alone and in a solitary manner. Their peers look away for fear that it might be contagious.

    Of course, it is contagious, because the disease affecting the economy and body politic is getting worse, not better.

    Will the divide and conquer strategy continue to work, or will people band together?

    I am still finding it difficult to convince people of the necessity of radical re-localization and local self-reliance. Many I know are still engaged in the pursuit of leisure lifestyles (triathlons, shopping, etc.), even as they suffer from unemployment or low wages. They all still assume that the recovery will safe them from their debts.
    I suspect the rising oil prices will start to spoil the party.

    Comment by Publius — February 28, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

    • Little by little more people are realizing that something is fundamentally out of whack, and more and more among them are realizing that the system is falling apart except for the depredations of the criminals.

      But you’re right, most still do all they can to escape from reality. I don’t think they’ll be able to for much longer. You’re right, if the final bubble crash doesn’t come first, food and fuel stagflation will hit hard. Probably both at once.

      That’ll be the big test of whether divide and conquer is really going to work, or whether the people can pull together as a people.

      In the meantime, we just have to keep working at it.

      Comment by Russ — February 28, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

  3. BTW, Just read a book largely overlooked that is just amazingly brilliant:
    “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television.” You’ll never read a more insightful look at how our ‘civilization’ functions. Should be followed by his equally brilliant “In the Absence of the Sacred.”

    Comment by Jim — February 28, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

    • By Jerry Mander? I’ve heard of those books but haven’t read them. I’ve read some good essays from him, though.

      I got rid of my TV several years ago. One of the most life-enriching things I’ve done.

      Comment by Russ — February 28, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

      • Russ, good idea.

        I was reading an old NYRB column by Illich (1971) about deschooling, basically.

        The one really dated aspect of the piece was the hope that he held out for television to become a vehicle for learning; he talks about it almost the way we talk about the Internet today.

        The Internet today is “pretty free”, but I wonder how long that will last. I don’t see centralized government as as much of a threat as I do corporations, who would love to turn the Internet into FOX/News Corp. for the 18-24 y.o. set. You know they are getting desperate as their older viewership/readership continues to die off and the younger drift off.

        I’m annoyed by the intrusiveness of the up and coming generation of media delivery. Wanting to ditch cable, I was made curious by Apple TV, but I already find iTunes overbearing. I guess I’m just destined to cease being a commercial media consumer, which isn’t in any way a bad thing, really.

        Due to various rearrangements in my LR, my old record player and records became more usable, and I was blown away by the sound. Just picking a record at random and being transported to a time when the music-sure, was a commodity-but had social meaning and a power to surprise. I wonder if kids feel that today? Also, the fact that we had relatively few made each one more special.

        Comment by Lidia — February 28, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

      • Both corporations and government threaten the open internet, although I agree that the direct corporate threat is the more systemic, and there’s also the fact that the government’s attacks are in the service of the corporations anyway.

        In this post


        I distinguished between what I called primary and secondary censorship:

        So we have the specter of primary censorship, economic, structural, corporate-imposed censorship; and that of secondary censorship, censorship of content imposed by the government (corporations may of course undertake this kind of censorship as well, and have often already done so). This division of the primary corporate socioeconomic tyranny and the secondary governmental “regulatory” tyranny can be performed for most or all other sectors and issues as well.

        I know what you mean about the records, although I no longer have any. Just CDs, none of the newer gadgets.

        Comment by Russ — March 1, 2011 @ 2:12 am

  4. The Irish may get a push out of their “continuing abject submission” from Libya in more ways than one- via the oil drum, apparently ~1/4 of Irish fuel supplies are of Libyan origin:


    I can’t help but think the status quo in the West is likely to continue for quite some time, and that this unfolding pan-state revolution in the Arab world will remain confined to that context for now, but reading articles like the above remind me how limited my ability is to analyse these situations in their totality. The speed at which things are changing is shocking.

    Comment by paper mac — February 28, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

    • It seems to me like they can perhaps keep the zombie propped up for awhile yet. But it also seems like anything could topple it at any time.

      Thanks for the info on Ireland. That’s an example of how even a seemingly small producer can play a major role the oil market’s price swings, if the relatively small production of Libya were to suddenly go offline, even if just temporarily.

      Comment by Russ — March 1, 2011 @ 2:03 am

  5. I am reading rumors that the WI gov. is bolting the State House windows shut so that food cannot arrive to the remaining protesters.

    What if a fire were to break out or there be some other emergency? This guy Walker sounds every day more like a psycho.

    This is not the America we grew up learning about, that’s for sure.

    Comment by Lidia — February 28, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

    • Not the one we learned about, no. And in most ways it’s become far worse than it really was, as well.

      Comment by Russ — March 1, 2011 @ 1:57 am

  6. Russ,

    Really liked your post today. Although I am heartened by Wisconsin, TPTB still hold tremendous power within the USA. And you note that the Middle East and Northern Africa are progressing to the point of worrying the House of Saud, what a great thing if they get their due.

    I sure hope you and Naomi are right about the end game, but the seat of this power still lies with the USA. Out here in the wider world, I keep seeing signs of concern, but the rest of the world seems to still give a lot of leeway to the US, even though they see the lawlessness, corruption and greed.

    Good Luck,

    expat kcbill13

    Comment by kcbill13 — March 1, 2011 @ 1:22 am

    • Thanks, kcbill. Hopefully the peoples of America and the world will together break the stranglehold of this monster.

      Comment by Russ — March 1, 2011 @ 1:55 am

  7. Thanks for another excellent post, Russ.

    If you have time, you might be interested in what Alain Badiou has to say about the Arab revolts. And I was also interested in the way he defines communism, “without an hegemonic organization, without a recognized leader”…..“Communism” here means: a common creation of a collective destiny.”

    Anyway, the article isn’t very long, but in case you prefer not to read it, here are a few excerpts (and at times, the translation is a bit awkward):

    “Is it not laughable to see some well-paid and well-fed intellectuals, retreating soldiers of the capital-parliamentarism that serves us as a moth-eaten Paradise, offering their services to the awe-inspiring Tunisian and Egyptian people, in order teach these savages the ABC of “democracy?”

    What pathetic persistence of colonial arrogance! In the situation of political misery that we’ve been living for the last three decades, is it not evident to surmise that it is us who have everything to learn from the popular uprisings of the moment?

    Don’t we have the urgency to give a close look to everything, that, over there, made possible, by collective action, the overthrow of oligarchic and corrupt governments, who — or maybe especially — stood in a humiliating position of servitude to the Western world?

    Yes, we should be the students of these movements, and not their stupid professors. For they give life, with the genius of their own inventions, to those same political principles that for some time now the dominant powers try to convince us of their obsoleteness. And in particular the principle that Marat never stopped recalling: when it is a matter of liberty, equality, emancipation, we all have to join the popular upheavals….

    A spark can set the plain on fire…”


    Comment by Frank Lavarre — March 2, 2011 @ 12:36 am

    • Thanks, Frank. I especially like this part:

      Can anyone seriously think that these innumerable initiatives and these cruel sacrifices have as their main objective to prompt people “to choose” between Souleiman and El Baradei, as it happens in France where we pitifully surrender our will in choosing between Sarkozy and Strauss-Kahn? Is this the only lesson of this majestic episode?

      How far are we from transcending this wretched, pathetic outlook in America?

      Comment by Russ — March 2, 2011 @ 3:37 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: