Is the era of ‘mass politics’ over in the West? After all, we have fewer people actively engaged in the political process all the time. Of course, all kinds of organizations have been losing members, e.g. mainline Protestant denominations. Noam Chomsky a few years back noted that even bowling leagues were losing members.
Some might argue that the 9/12 tea bagger’s demo in DC w/up to 2 million negates the above view. Really? I remember anti-war demonstrations, often one right after another, which passed the million mark, and it wasn’t that which stopped the war. (Two factors stopped it: Big capital felt it was too expensive; and the Army refused to fight anymore. 3% of the Officers & NCOs on the Vietnam wall were offed by their own men.)
Elections? They’re basically a subsidiary of the advertising/public relations industry. And each succeeding president, regardless of party, seems to be worse than the previous one. And so it goes.
Premature ‘survivalist’ compounds can be picked off, one by one. And an open guerrilla army, in public, will be smashed as happened to both the Black Panther Party and The Minutemen. Or, they’ll be infiltrated and made useless which happened to both the Klan and the constitutionalist militias of the Nineties.
It behooves us then to check out some alternatives. Caution: Patience and the meticulous building of a revolutionary party are required. No short cuts here. But then the classic question: What is to be done?
Here I’m reminded of the classic formulation of the renegade Italian fascist Curzio Malaparte who studied Mussolini’s March on Rome. (Sometime after WWII, Malaparte became a Maoist.) Malaparte said the success of the Bolshevik Revolution owed more to Trotsky’s tactics than to Lenin’s strategy. Lenin might have organized the Party, but it was the Tsar’s army refusing to fire on the workers that was key.
A modern day success is the Syrian Ba’ath Party. The Ba’athists had a mass base, to be sure. But the Party itself was always more a conspiratorial elite than a true mass movement. Mass mobilization was to come only after the dictatorship was consolidated.
Back in the 1950s, Alan Bullock in his classic biography of Hitler said Hitler’s originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, were carried out with and not against the power of the State. The correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin the revolution.
Ernst Junger, the celebrated Conservative Revolutionary: It makes no difference whether power is achieved on the barricades–that is, via the classic revolution–or in the form of a sober takeover of the administration of the State.
Today, the growth of modern bureaucracy has 2 implications crucial to the feasibility of the coup:
1) Development of clear distinction between the permanent machinery of state and the political leadership.
2) Like most large organizations, bureaucracy has structured hierarchy w/definite chain of command.
Coup can be conducted from the ‘outside’. That is, it operates in the area outside the government but within the state, formed by the professional & permanent civil service, armed forces & police. The aim is to detach permanent employees from the political leadership.
If a coup does not make use of the masses or of warfare, what instrument of power will enable it to seize control of the State?
The short answer: The power will come from the State itself.
The long answer: A coup consists of the infiltration of a small but critical segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace government from its control of the remainder.
The political structures of most developed countries too resilient to make them suitable targets unless certain ‘temporary’ factors weaken the system and obscure its basic soundness.
The most common ‘temporary’ factors:
1) Severe & prolonged economic crisis with large-scale unemployment and/or runaway inflation.
2) A long & unsuccessful war or a major defeat, military or diplomatic.
3) Chronic instability under a multi-party system.
Points 2 & 3 were France until the Fifth Republic; the last point Italy most of the post-war era.
But in the USA and UK, a dialogue between rulers & ruled was supposed to take place with a large enough section of society which was literate and well-fed and could talk back to prohibit a coup.
certain conditions can lead to a deterioration of the relationship to generate sufficient apathy & distrust of the regime to make a coup possible.
In the USA:
1) An increasingly unresponsive elite in control.
2) Lower voter turnout all the time.
3) Only one-third of the populace actively politically engaged.
4) Illegitimate elections often decided by the courts.
5) Rapidly changing demographics without majority consent.
6) Majority excluded from prosperity.
The aim is not to launch a long & often bloody process of revolutionary attrition.
our purpose is quite different. We want to seize power within the present system,
we shall stay in power IF we embody some new status quo supported by those very forces which a revolution may seek to destroy.
Should we want to achieve fundamental social change, we can do so after we have become the government. This is perhaps a more efficient method–and certainly a less painful one–than that of classic revolution.