Revolution in America

A revolution refers to a fundamental shift in institutional formations.

You can only seriously think about a revolution when there is broad public support and substantial institutions to make it an enduring effort and keep it from getting quickly crushed. (And you would only ever want a revolution if you had reasonable certainty that it would produce serious gains for common welfare and individual liberty.)

In the US, none of these conditions are even close to existing. The following comments by Chomsky are useful on this point:

 No less insidious is the cry for ‘revolution,’ at a time when not even the germs of new institutions exist, let alone the moral and political consciousness that could lead to a basic modification of social life. If there will be a ‘revolution’ in America today, it will no doubt be a move towards some variety of fascism. We must guard against the kind of revolutionary rhetoric that would have had Karl Marx burn down the British Museum because it was merely part of a repressive society. (Radical Priorities, 21.)

However, democratic activists can still change society from within by participating in the formation of institutions reflecting the values and priorities of a democratic society, from education to individual rights to cooperative institutional arrangements. This is where activists ought to focus their energy and efforts.

Activists who wantonly destroy property or frontally attack state institutions and power are not only doomed to immediate defeat (is anyone really going to defeat the local SWAT team or the national guard by use of violence?), but risk derailing far more effective efforts of other activists and rolling back hard-won past gains.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s