Beware Making The “Frustrated” Revolution

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Part Two of… “Student Loans Viewed As Pre-Revolutionary Debt Bondage”

It is impossible to know exactly when the Second American Revolution will occur. If the powder keg ignites at the wrong time, in the wrong way, the Revolution will become a “frustrated” one. Countless uprisings in history have suffered the same fate: including the frustrated revolutions that futilely swept Europe in The Year Of Revolutions, 1848, and the failed uprisings of struggling Russians in 1905; and including the doomed rebellions of Nat Turner and John Brown in 19th Century America to the American-facilitated-then-foiled Cuban Revolution later that same century, when rebelling Cubans managed merely to trade their Spanish overlords for American ones.

As I have shown in the first section of this article, our current American society seems to possess more than its share of the common characteristics of the Pre-Revolutionary Eras of the past. To quickly review, these would include:

1) Tiempo Muerto economic conditions, 2) “over-educated”/under-employed workers, 3) international restraints on domestic economic freedom, 4) the rich growing richer while the poor grow poorer, 5) the population of the poorest growing massively while the population of the richest massively shrinks,  6) the collaboration of the middle class with the upper class, 7) the lower classes being divided amongst themselves, 8) compensation of the lower classes being accomplished via actual or virtual “in-kind” payments, with only a small percentage of income being truly discretionary, 9) vast numbers of the general population suffering beneath immense debt bondage, and 10) impaired worker mobility.

And yet… We do not rise? We do not say enough?  Why do we Americans, who pride ourselves on our pro-active, problem-confronting approach to life, continue to allow the situation to deteriorate?  Have other Pre-Revolutionary Eras been so politically tranquil? 

Wolf speaks of major Cuban revolts against Spanish dominion– not just in 1898– but in 1810, and in 1812, and again in 1844.

And there was never a time, writes Wolf, when the peasantry of Russia completely accepted their downtrodden condition. Instead, there was in Pre-Revolutionary Russia continual, though small scale, rebellions from Serfs all over Russia and for decade after decade. There, in fact, existed an “unbroken line of conspirators which link the rebels of 1825 to the revolutionaries of 1917.” Indeed, says Wolf, the underground conspiracy became a “peculiar attraction” to Russians during that long century.

An obvious result of the continual agitation from Russian Serfs throughout the seventeen and eighteen hundreds was that in 1861, acquiescing to the inevitable, Tsar Alexander II finally abolished the institution of Serfdom, famously remarking that “it is better to liberate the peasants from above” than to suffer a full-blown revolution from below.

This act of Alexander II, probably a wise one in Machiavellian terms, can of course be viewed in one way as one of the numerous “frustrated” revolutions of history. For instead of a complete overthrow of the socio-economic regime which a full-blown revolution– if successful– might have accomplished, the conditions of the Russian peasant were only marginally improved.

Serfs had to PURCHASE their freedom from the local “Lord” families which had, over the centuries, assumed legal ownership of the Serf-farmed lands. Under the Tsar’s scheme, which was his version of a compromise-solution, the Serfs had to come up with 20% of the cost of their emancipation as a sort of downpayment on freedom. They were then required to take out what amounted to a State loan for the remaining eighty-percent of their freedom-price, and they were forced to make payments on that eighty percent for the next FORTY-NINE YEARS of their lives to the State… at six percent interest.  Wolf informs us that this scheme did not ultimately work, but that was the plan. 

Not surprisingly, Wolf relates that when the Serfs first heard about the terms of their release, many of them thought it must be a fake report spread by vindictive landlords to befuddle the rebels.

The Emancipation Of The Serfs was far from the only “frustrated” revolution during the last two hundred years.  The Mexican Revolution, writes Wolf, “burst upon the world in 1910” as the aging dictator, Porfirio Diaz, was approaching a new term in office.  That year, Francisco Madero issued the Declaration Of San Luis Potosi and temporarily assumed the Mexican presidency, designating 20 November 1910 as the day on which Mexicans were to rise-up in arms. By May 1911, Diaz had fled to France– though not without a final parting shot (albeit a verbal one); said Diaz: “Madero has unleashed a tiger. Let us see if he can control it.”

Two major leaders came to the fore during the Mexican Revolution. One was a landowner, or “ranchero,” from the South, and the other a peon-turned-bandit from the North. The southern ranchero was Emiliano Zapata, and the northern bandit (who, by the way, had to break out of jail to participate in the revolution) was a man who went under the adopted name of Pancho Villa.

Neither man seemed to understand the greater struggle of the Mexican nation, that the people were fighting to become a modern, respected country whose territorial integrity would be respected by friend and foe alike. Instead, both men remained tethered to their local area, not only physically, but mentally. Zapata did, indeed, demand land reform, but he was mainly concerned about the situation in his own locality. And Villa, who Wolf tells us “glorified in warfare,” remained focused on combat and on the power-struggles ongoing within the Revolution.

Wolf writes that, in contrast to other modern national revolutions, the Mexican Revolution “was not to be led by any group or organized around a central program.”  The Mexican Revolution was a revolution without objectives, without doctrine, without party leadership– indeed, without any great intellectual leadership at all.

Zapata and Villa met once, at the end of 1914, but both men refused to accept office in the national government. Ultimately, no “man of the right caliber” (to use Wolf’s words) stepped forward to lead Mexico forward in a progressive direction after the Revolution.

Thus it is that –like the Revolution of the Russian Serf in the mid-1800s, and like the Cuban Revolution later that same century in which the U.S. stepped in to more-or-less take the place of the ejected Spanish– the Mexican Revolution can also be interpreted as a “frustrated” one.

The 1917 Russian Revolution can also be seen as “frustrated” revolution in the sense that the revolution was hi-jacked by a small group with an agenda (the Bolsheviks)– a situation not so different from how American business-interests “hi-jacked” the Cuban Revolution from the Cubans… or how the Serfs’ Revolution in an even earlier Russia was “hi-jacked” by a pre-emptive strike from Tzar Alexander II.

When the Second American Revolution occurs, we must be careful not to allow it to join the dismal ranks of those “frustrated” revolutions which depressingly litter history. We must be prepared. We must build and seize the proper power, and we must implement the proper plan. History proves that half-measures in revolution only wind-up benefiting the Authorities in the long run, delaying the inevitable successful uprising for decades, if not centuries.

I suppose, upon reflection, that most all Revolutions, even the successful ones, have been in some sense “frustrated.” Castro succeeded in 1959 (after several, severe setbacks) in breaking the chain of U.S.-supported governments ruling Cuba during the first half of the 20th century.  And not only was the Castro revolution initially successful by just about any measure, Wolf informs us that Castro accomplished this near-miracle with a force that “never exceeded more than two thousand armed men.”

Nevertheless, in spite of this great achievement, the island-nation’s future under Castro proved to be a dismal one; Cuba remained in the backwater of the world’s economic growth for the next half-century, a victim– however willing– of the multi-decade Cold War between the United States and the Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics– the very country spawned by the (arguably) frustrated Russian Revolution of 1917.

There’s also the case of the Algerian Insurrection, which began in 1954 and successfully achieved Algerian independence from France eight years later in 1962. However, since that time, the Algerians have suffered greatly under the rule of Post-Revolutionary Authorities.

Friedrich Katz once described Pancho Villa’s forces in Revolutionary Mexico as appearing less like an army and more like a “folk migration.” I like that sound of that.  Perhaps, if handled correctly– with good planning, with definite and worthy objectives, with leaders “of the right caliber”– the coming Second American Revolution, a revolution which I predict will be spurred-on by unhappiness with the current regime of Student Loans and other forms of Debt Bondage, can take the form of a mostly peaceful, and entirely successful “folk migration” of citizens, young and old, out of the darkness of perpetual indebtedness and into the light of true economic freedom.

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