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I'm not in favour of revolutions. Or of the left's romanticism about them.

Quora Answer : Do the socialists of Quora believe the revolution will happen within their lifetimes?

Nov 24, 2017

I hope not.

I'm not a fan of revolutions at all. In fact I think that what I call "revolutionary romanticism" is a catastrophic flaw that ruins far too much left-wing thinking.

Left wingers end up saying "oh dear, we can't come up with left-wing institutions which are strong enough to function and compete within a capitalist economy, so let's destroy all institutions and hope that in the ensuing chaos and vacuum of authority, we can all figure something out before the food runs out and everyone dies"

Yeah! Genius!

And then they act all surprised because some power-hungry, "strong man", probably from a military background or veteran of guerilla warfare, steps up to take over and the post-revolution country is remade into a hellish concoction of paranoia ("anyone who disagrees with me is a counter-revolutionary saboteur, off to the guillotine!") and hierarchical control (modelled on the army from which the strong-man arose).

This is what always happens, post revolution. Whether its France, Russia, Cuba etc.

"Revolutionism" is a terrible idea.

It's a sign of intellectual weakness and lack of self-confidence : "our ideas aren't strong enough to convince people who have the leisure to contemplate them calmly. They must be forced on people in desperation." Or "Our ideas aren't strong enough to remake any institution they come into contact with, all institutions and their competing ideologies must be cleared away first".

It's a sign of intellectual laziness : "Don't worry. We don't need to figure out all the difficult issues, I'm sure it will all become clear after the revolution."


It makes the left squander their moral authority trying to defend violent actions that do nothing to build a progressive society. Or people go all misty eyed and hopeful over any breakdown in order.

Look. There will always be disruptions and catastrophes and break-downs in order. Many of them will be due to economic crises that are caused by Capitalism.

And it is good, no essential, to have a plan. For how to take advantage of that. That's what NaomiKlein shows in TheShockDoctrine : Capital has a plan. Capital always has a plan. And if you have a plan ready, when a crisis comes, you can certainly take advantage of it to push your agenda forward.

And that's a good way to think.

But the left's "revolutionary romanticism" is the opposite of this. It's a cargo-cult of the crisis itself, while deliberately avoiding having any plan for how to gain useful ground when a crisis actually comes.

In 2008, capital blew up the world economy. Centre-left "third-way" social democrats stepped in and saved global capital with government support. And capital immediately, opportunistically, shamelessly, started blaming those same third-way governments for economic mismanagement. It won control based on that argument. And then imposed austerity which caused further misery. And managed to redirect blame for the misery against foreigners and immigrants that has brought us a resurgence of far-right nationalism, racism and xenophobia. Riding that wave, the right has further established itself in governments around the world and is busy creating further economic chaos - Trump's mega tax-cuts, the UK's Brexit - which it will again take as justification for further forward movement. Trump's tax cuts will leave the US with an unbelievably high deficit which will be used to argue for further destruction of government services. And the UK looks increasingly likely to fall into hard-Brexit and US-style decimation of welfare provision.

Every crisis Capital creates becomes an excuse for further advances.

Capital doesn't call for revolutions. Capital is opportunistic. It works incrementally. Destroying the accommodations of the social democratic order, slice by slice.

And Capital is winning.

I would like to see the left expunge the word "revolution" from its vocabulary. And expunge the concept of the revolution from its thinking.

And start thinking opportunistically. And incrementally.

We don't want a revolution. We don't want to see every incidence of social unrest and unhappiness as the herald of the coming revolution. And then get disappointed when it fizzles out. (Hello? Occupy?)

What we want is to have a plan for how the next crisis can be turned to our advantage. We want to have a message ready. An explanation. A proposed solution which can be sold to the public and acted on.

And then a plan for the one after that. And the one after that.

That is what is going to take us to socialism. Continuous, incremental, forward motion, that's strong enough to make progress in the real world in which we live by out-competing the other arguments and institutions of capitalism, within the vestiges of capitalism.

Quora Answer : What circumstances would it take to get the UK to engage in an actual revolution where the entire corrupt political elite could be overthrown?

Oct 29, 2019

Revolutions are a bit of a fantasy.

Almost everything we call a "revolution" is really an insurgent guerrilla movement in a civil war that ends up getting the army to mutiny and side with it.

The problem with revolutions is that they need leaders. And 99% of the time those leaders end up being from the elite that they claim they are overthrowing. Just from a currently unfavoured corner of the elite.

Revolutions often don't get rid of corrupt elites at all. Although they may sometimes remove an egregious tranche of them. They soon entrench another elite in its place.

If you really want to deal with a corrupt elite, it's better to try to do it more slowly, and painstakingly, by political and legal means.

Obviously that doesn't suit the impatient. And can sound like a recipe for dithering.

Ideally you want to avoid both.

Don't believe in populist blow-hards who claim to be doing away with corrupt elites but are really just aiming to replace them.

But also demand that your ordinary everyday politicians make actual forward movement against corrupt elites. Vote for, and demand, governments that will make concrete gains in terms of taxing the rich and redistributing the money to the people. Vote for, and demand, governments that decentralize control to your localities. That give more power to local authorities. And then only vote for local politicians who will be open about their decisions, and who are responsive to you and your neighbours.

Quora Answer : What ways do you, as a liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat break with the orthodoxy of your "team"? What boxes of your "sides" dogma do you refuse to tic?

May 23, 2019

I'm a far leftist.

But I don't believe in "the Revolution".

And I see a lot of people who I otherwise side with, become quite, as I see it, "romantic" about the idea of popular anger and uprising. Whenever they see something going wrong, terrible injustice and the abuses of the capitalist state, they dream of people going on the streets, rising up righteously to resist and overthrow it.

I, on the other hand, am very distrustful of popular anger. I don't, ultimately, believe that it's a tool that can be put to do good work. It frightens and depresses me.

"The Revolution" almost always leads to "the Terror" because people who have grasped power in a burst of emotion and violence, only hold it tenuously, and are terrified of losing it to the next emotion swing.

I believe that we can, potentially, navigate our way to a world much fairer and happier than the one we live in today. But I don't believe that we will get there in a burst of emotion.

Only patient and intelligent "society design", an iterative process of tweaking and improving the institutions and laws, and of winning hearts and minds, can possibly succeed in getting us there in a way which is sustainable and not liable to collapse.

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