Resurrecting insurrection

Published on Intrepid Report, by William T. Hathaway, February 16, 2011.

Fortress America continues to expand globally as prison, sweatshop, and firebase. After all our years as activists trying to change this country, how could it have sunk to this?

To answer this question and avoid self-destructive rage, it might help to review the history of the age we live in. More than revolution or reform, what has shaped our times most strongly is revanchism. Rolling back change and reinstating the old order has been the dominant current.

This began immediately after the Russian Revolution, when the USA, Britain, France, and Japan sent in soldiers to try to reverse it. Although they failed, this marked the beginning of 70 years of military and economic warfare.

The capitalist powers were so threatened by communism that they pulled out all the stops to overthrow it, unleashing an offensive of sabotage, espionage, and armed conflict that killed millions in Korea and Vietnam, brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation, and eventually brought the Soviet government to its knees. If communism hadn’t been under this relentless attack, it might have developed into a much different system.

The anti-communist campaign helped fuel the second revanchist movement, fascism. In a Germany impoverished by territorial losses and the injustices of the Versailles Treaty, the Nazis portrayed communists and Jews as actively destroying what was left of the country. They used them as scapegoats to mobilize the Germans into a war of reconquest, to restore the Reich.

The cataclysmic results of this for the Jewish people—one out of every three of them in the world murdered—increased Zionist demands for an independent nation. They became determined to retake the territory from which the Romans had expelled their ancestors two thousand years ago. Their historic chronicles and centuries of vowing “Next year in Jerusalem” convinced the Zionists the land actually belonged to them and they had the God-given right to take it back … //

… To defend itself, this system wields a revanchist club in its right hand while waving the promise of democracy in its left. Its liberals play on our hopes of seeing a decent society in our lifetime. They claim to be open to substantive change, a mirage always glimmering four years away but never arriving. Their illusion of reform camouflages the fact that working people around the world are under attack and the conditions of their lives will continue to worsen until we all dismantle this colossus.

Given its power and resilience, that’s going to take a long time, a work of generations. We won’t live to see the new era, but historically that’s not important. What matters is widening the cracks, opening up possibilities for change that others can expand. This is our moment, with its own ragged glory. Overthrowing the corporate dominance of the world and its peoples is a task nothing short of heroic. All else is collaboration.

Now onward! Plenty of cracks are already showing on the structural weak spots, and light is gleaming through them from the other side of these dungeon walls. Bring more wedges and hammers, bring levers and pickaxes. We’ll break out!

William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. His latest book, RADICAL PEACE: People Refusing War, presents the first-person experiences of war resisters, deserters, and peace activists in the USA, Europe, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Recently released by Trine Day, it’s a journey along diverse paths of nonviolence, the true stories of people working for peace in unconventional ways. Chapters are posted on a page of the publisher’s website. (full text).

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