Talking About A Revolution

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Above Photo: South Bend Voice

It’s long been clear that if we want to avoid catastrophic climate disruption on a scale that threatens human civilization, we need to leave vast amounts of fossil fuels in the ground. Environmental writer Bill McKibben pointed out the math in a crucial 2012 article for Rolling Stone: To avoid disaster, 80 percent of the carbon already discovered by private and state-owned energy companies has to be left alone—to be treated as useless rock, not precious resources.

The problem is, the energy companies are some of the richest, most powerful entities on Earth. Corporations are designed to act like organisms with a single goal, maximizing profits. And the fossil fuel industry’s future profits—roughly 80 percent of them—depend on extracting that carbon and burning it, climate and civilization be damned. They have been using and will continue to use their vast influence to thwart any effort to avert that disaster.

Does humanity have the collective power to tell the current owners of carbon deposits that they no longer own them—that they don’t have the right to take them out of the ground and sell them as fuel? That’s the $640 trillion question. Doing so is essential to our future as a species—but a massive transfer of wealth of that kind isn’t like a revolution, it is a revolution, and a revolution on a scale history hasn’t seen before.

(cc photo: Michael Fleshman)

(cc photo: Michael Fleshman)

And it’s increasingly evident that an entire sector of the healthcare industry—the purveyors of for-profit health insurance—needs to be eliminated in order to bring health costs under control. The insurance industry, though, has a special power in our economy: As its business model involves taking money from people and investing it, virtually every corporation on the stock exchange counts insurance companies among its owners. So taking on the insurance business, which is necessary to make healthcare affordable, means taking on all business. In other words, it means a revolution.But climate isn’t the only crisis that requires a revolution. Healthcare provided by for-profit corporations inevitably tends towards more than we can afford to pay, as the demand for life-or-death products is infinite. Solving the problem of paying for medical care means telling medical corporations that they can no longer expect the hyper-profits that their market value is based on expecting.

(cc photo: Jonathan McIntosh)

(cc photo: Jonathan McIntosh)


These gaps between the status quo and our survival are why we need a new media system. Corporate media are really designed around preserving the status quo—unsurprisingly, because they are owned by the class of people who benefit from things staying the same. And they’re funded, through advertising, by the same corporations who are profiting from the disastrous course we’re on—with energy, healthcare and real estate among the most prominent industry sponsors. You will not learn from corporate media how much danger their advertisers are putting us in, or what we can do to stop them.This conflict between the needs of the majority and the interests of the few runs throughout our economy. On a local level, many cities have serious shortages of housing that people can afford to live in, not because it costs so much to build and maintain housing, but because the real estate market sets prices that 
assume that landlords will maximize profits—and maximizing profits from a fixed supply of land leaves many tenants on the street. If cities want ordinary people to be able to afford to live in them, they will need to lower the value of their real estate—which would be a revolutionary reversal of priorities for most local governments.

Revolutions need organizing, and organizing needs information. We need a revolution, and the place to begin is with the media.

 

  • tibetan cowboy

    No, revolution, the kind we need, entails loading your 50 cal. gun, training and organizing with others and planning how to rid the planet of American government, its MIC, bankers and energy industry leaders..

  • outer_rl

    Revolution doesn’t work. It’s a failed American ideology that the world should put behind it. Revolution only trades one corrupt elite for another, and ordinary people suffer for it. Instead we should think realistically taking the status quo as the starting point, and improving things from there.

  • DHFabian

    This is written from a middle class perspective. Middle classers seem weirdly unaware of our poverty crisis. Granted, we no longer have a means of determining how many people are in deep poverty. We used to rely on welfare statistics to get a clearer idea, but all we have now is UI statistics. We have no idea how many we unable to secure jobs before their UI ran out. We deal with out poverty crisis by ignoring it.

    The UN’s UDHR lists food, shelter and basic medical care as human rights — even for the jobless poor. Americans disagree. They collectively decided that people have a right only to what they, personally, can afford.We live in a capitalist system, where those who do the selling set the price. Property owners determine rents. Affordable housing is a hope, but not a right.

  • DHFabian

    George Washington disagreed. The US came into being as a result of the revolution — a revolt against the monarchy, against the very rich, the oppressors. For a short time, from FDR to Reagan, the US implemented a range of policies and programs that took the country to its height of wealth and productivity — not utopia, but the US did achieve the highest quality of life rating. We reversed course from Reagan to Obama, and fell back down to #48 in overall quality of life. We could learn from this, if we felt like it. Unfortunately, all concept of “the common good” as been rooted out of US ideology since the 1980s, and without this, there is no chance of improvement.

  • DHFabian

    That won’t work. If we had a revolution, who would fight whom, and for what? Would you expect the masses of poor to join the fight to protect the advantages of those who demanded, “Not a crumb for the poor?” The middle class aren’t going to risk losing their jobs by Rising Up!, knowing there’s nothing to fall back on today.

  • kevinzeese

    Yours is definitely a minority view that Popular Resistance does not support. There will be no mass movement if it is a movement based in violence; and to succeed it needs to be a mass movement.

  • PapaCat

    Unions, a major component of resistance have been systematically dismantled in this country. Unlimited campaign funds even from foreign countries along with gerrymandering has further diminished our voice. Most other leaders of develop countries have to keep constant vigil or risk the possibility of major national strikes. Sadly lacking in this country.
    Revolution may be too extreme but strikes are not!

  • AlanMacDonald

    American Peoples’ Peaceful “Political Revolution against EMPIRE”

  • outer_rl

    From FDR to Carter they tried to rule for the people. But the revolution itself was a disaster for humanity. George Washington was dictator of a one party slave state. Subsequent presidents engaged in wholesale genocide against the natives. The ideology of revolution has encouraged catastrophes across the world, with the French revolution’s guillotine fanaticism, the Russian revolution’s unleashing of Stalin, and then all of the failed revolutions leading to untold thousands of deaths for nothing.

  • Bob Beal

    They have F-35s…suicide is, however, your right.

  • Jon

    Fabian, you say ” Americans disagree. They collectively decided that people have a right only to what they, personally, can afford.” NO, WE did not decide that–it was this ruling class of bankers and monopoly capitalists and their lackeys who did this. WE were never asked!
    With regard to comments below: revolution in a true sense is the transfer of power from one class to another, which is not a coup. In some past revolutions, unfortunately, power still remained vertical, and even total, instead of being horizontal and mobilizing the people to be truly involved with major decisions. Avoiding that, while evicting the perpetrators, e.g. arrests and prosecutions, would be revolutionary.

  • tsyganka

    One reason that violent revolution doesn’t work long-term is that the oppressed – the non-rich – have empathy for one another. Human kindness, cooperation, and so forth. The oppressors – the

    über-rich – lack empathy. Hence, the

    über-rich

    will forever send ‘fodder’ to die for them. The

    über-rich

    don’t put themselves on front lines; they obtain their fodder by propaganda (media, etc.). But the non-rich, who Do act for themselves instead of sending proxies, lack that ruthlessness; they grow ‘tired’ of wading through blood. Hence, the killing of oppressors is never taken to its efficacious end – the eradication of seven generations (3 up and 3 down) as well as the targeted tyrants.

    I’m not willing to surrender human kindness.

  • tsyganka

    ‘Wat worms and die’ accomplishes nothing.

    The concept of the common good is alive, well, and growing in the non-rich. This is seen, e.g., in recent gains by socialist candidates; in lawsuits filed by the young who are suing for a future in which they can breathe clean air, drink clean water, and eat clean food; in the many pipeline protests by water/environment protectors; in the development of non-destructive technology for cleaning plastic and other filth out of the oceans; in co-ops; in the push for actually organic food; in the creation of citizens’ boards to oversee police departments; and so forth.

  • tsyganka

    “Americans disagree.” – No. Americans want affordable housing, food, healthcare, etc. Abetted by the capitalist system that leads to monopolies, feudalism, and misery, it’s the corporatists who buy and run the govt who ‘decided’ that people – NON-RICH people – don’t have human rights.

  • tsyganka

    Call for people and organizations you know to participate in a general strike starting September 22. You know the drill – no going to work or classes, and no buying Anything.

  • outer_rl

    I think the key issue is that leadership is fundamentally an elite activity. I don’t mean by that that leaders are superior or intelligent or more able, no. I mean it can only be done by a small group of people at the centre, because of the way information, authority and responsibility flows.

    So when a revolution succeeds and kills all the elites, all that happens is that a new elite takes power, the leaders of the revolution become the new elite. Since they are smarter and more able, and more ruthless than the old elite they beat, they go on to govern more ruthlessly, more cruelly and more dictatorially than the old regime they replaced.

  • tsyganka

    Interesting theory. The fact could be some mixture of your theory and mine.

  • mwildfire

    This is a key tactic for a time when the whole public is seriously fed up and united–not to be wasted by calling for it with such short notice that there is no possibility of getting enough people to participate to make it effective. There needs to be a crystal clear demand.

  • mwildfire

    what you describe is a failed revolution–one which achieves only the replacement of one corrupt, sociopathic elite with another. Have there not been more successful ones? Of course, the US governments works to undermine any socialist revolutions, for fear of a good example.

  • mwildfire

    Wow, you really have an odd notion of who and what the oppressors are, much like the current depiction of terrorists–some people who for reasons unknown and of no interest, are vicious killers (substitute selfish rulers–or Jews?) and the solution is to kill them all, like elimination of rats or roaches. This is not the real world. Sociopathy is a key part of oppression, and there is a genetic component to the phenomenon of sociopathy, but there is also a non-genetic component. You can’t eliminate terrorism by killing all the terrorists; you eliminate it by taking your feet off the necks of the peoples from whom terrorists arise. You eliminate oppression by changing the cultural acceptance of the notion that some people are in charge, that most of us have little responsibility for our collective choices–and by changing the rules. Banning campaign spending, banning large corporations.

  • mwildfire

    True. But I’m coming to understand where people like Tibetan cowboy are coming from–it gets tiresome endlessly fighting for the right of people to at least some access to healthcare–endlessly calling to defend the ACA, which sucks but is better than nothing and at least we can win that, with endless calling–and trying to defend inadequate past laws in defense of the environment, or in defense of the rights of minorities, and usually losing those fights. As an environmentalist, I see us focusing on the wrong issues and by common consent, allowing corporate rule and industry profits to take us past the thresholds in which a minimally decent world for our children is possible…violence starts to look more attractive, or necessary, when “the proper channels” are seen to be useless and getting enough people to look up from their cellphones long enough to do anything effective seems so impossible. But what reason is there to think violence would be any more effective? The real problem is the state of (un)consciousness of the people as a whole.