Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Revolution Will Not Be

In 1971, Gil Scott-Heron composed one of the poem-songs that in many ways  represents that era, called "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." It looks as if in 2011 the revolution will not be; the Republicans will put the last few nails into the coffin of "change we can believe in" and it will be back to "no, we can't."

Scott-Heron's song, which has the elements of what later came to be rap, hip-hop and the myriad of related genres of which I know very little, had a point, which he made in his last stanza:
The revolution will not
The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.
To read the whole lyric, which is a beauty, click here.

Scott-Heron was cognizant, as I wasn't, that even in 1971 we were already in George Orwell's 1984 (a date with the reversed last two digits of the year in which the novel was published, 1948). In the USA, Big Brother did not need to force anyone to watch television; everyone had been addicted to it, worse than they were to become addicted to crack. I should know: I was a recovering TV addict. Television tells us what to think.

To some, George Orwell is the man of the Left who unmasked Stalinism. He was a reverse "useful idiot," to use Lenin's fateful phrase: his writings were put to use to serve the interests of the capitalist elite he detested.

Just as to others, Karl Marx is the man whose ideas led inevitably to 1917. Yet, despite Lenin's clever dialectical word games (such as calling his own minority a majority, bolsheviki), Marx expected socialism to arise first in advanced Germany, not in backward autocratic Russia, much less in China, one of the societies Marx had in mind when he coined the phrase "the Asiatic mode of production," in his view a deviation.

For my part, I expected socialism in the United States. Not through a revolution, nor through an evolution à la Eduard Bernstein, but through the very Marxian process of the internal contradictions of capitalism. So far, I have not been disappointed: capitalist society is in a very advanced state of decomposition.

Obama has failed to rescue capitalism, as have the social democrats of Europe. Once President Palin is inaugurated, the system will be allowed to run wild again.

The revolution will not be.

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