A friend gently suggested that the American disparity in income and opportunity could be resolved by a socialist revolution. After all, isn’t that what happened during another time of disparity, the depression of the 1930’s, the time of worker riots, plant lockouts, factory bullies, rural dustbowl, and breadlines? However, does resolution necessarily require revolution, as my friend suggested?
The 1930’s revolution?
What the U.S. had in the 1930’s was evolution, not revolution. It was evolution toward a more caring governance offering opportunities for work that might feed the family (Civilian Conservation Corps), and evolution toward opportunity for minimal security (social security). This evolved into many programs of social welfare and education, and it’s still evolving despite the political tension between the desires for social progress and the desires for less government, smaller taxes. The social structure that has evolved to date is insufficient. We don’t have bread lines, but we have people with little hope from the time they are born into the system.
Evolution and revolution
Evolution is an orderly progression from one organized form to another organized form, whether that form is an animal, a business, or a human culture. In contrast to evolution, revolution is an inherently destructive process that demolishes the previous order and social structure. Revolution doesn’t solve problems; it creates chaos. Unfortunately, when things become sufficiently chaotic, people will look for simple solutions, adhering to blind doctrine rather than using reason. People will welcome any dictatorial control that promises order and simplicity amidst the wreckage.
The American revolution of 1776 is a contrary example of revolution. Although it pitted family against family, it was gentle because its violence was aimed at separation from England, not at destruction of the existing agrarian social order. In contrast, the Russian socialist revolution of 1917 and the German Nazi revolution** of 1933 did not create tranquil societies of freedom and equal opportunity.
American political rhetoric often sounds more like revolution than evolution, more intent on defeat of opposition than on a logical examination of social needs. Current political statements are designed to destroy, often by misinformation. Financial supporters generate more advertising than the candidates themselves. Something is wrong with our politics.
I found it revealing when a friend in Sweden said “In America, you have a revolution every four years.” Certainly, the U.S. appears chaotic and the language used in American politics sounds more like revolution than evolution.
Many persons have expressed a fear to me, the fear that our political polarization could be the beginning of an unannounced revolution, a destructive slide into fascism. Fascism is governance by business interests, not by people. Fascism one possible emergent behavior of a complex social system operating with purchased politics, in which business buys politics to make more profit with which to buy more politics—a positive feedback loop. But among politicians, that’s unspeakable.
Three conflicting myths are held sacred in political speeches: pure freedom, equal opportunity, and minimal government. I don’t argue with freedom, opportunity, and limited government as beautiful principles, but they don’t justify the sale of political allegiance, which is a damaging, revolutionary process that ignores the current reality of its fascism. No politician now dares to point to the elephant in the room, to talk about paid politics and unequal opportunity, for fear of losing funding.
So what’s the point?
I suggest we carefully choose the means of evolving governance to establish equality of opportunity, rather than making obstructive demonstrations or a socialist revolution. People must take control of their politics and politicians. Speak the facts. Use any public forum to make this unspeakable problem speakable. But don’t create obstructive demonstrations, riots or violent revolutions. The damage will invite an oppressive response.
Bring an unspeakable situation to public consciousness. Expose the mythical status of the ideals.
If you can’t talk about something, you are powerless to change it.
** Although we might think of Nazism as fascism (a governance by business), the term “Nazi” is an acronym for “National Socialist German Workers’ Party.” This illustrates the point that a so-called “socialist” revolution can veer either to the far left or to the far right, of the characteristics we call “liberal” or “conservative.”