The Reluctant Ideologue

What makes a viable revolutionary movement (meaning “can get people to actually fight for it”)?

Some distinctions: “Revolution” is a modern concept.  There were lots of widespread social conflagrations in the premodern world, but none aimed at the overthrow of the existing social order.  Spartacus, for instance, didn’t want to end slavery (indeed, that concept wouldn’t even have made sense to him).  He just wanted his own personal freedom.  The Socii of the Roman “Social War” didn’t want to destroy Rome; they wanted full citizenship rights within what was at that time still (barely) the Republic.  Medieval rebellions like the Jacquerie were basically large-scale riots, initially problematic but invariably crushed.

At minimum, then, a revolution requires a teleology (a goal, a final end).  What will society look like after we win?  You can get troops to fight a long, bloody civil war on the answer “just like before, but with us in charge” — but you can’t get a revolution.  Civil wars end when one army or the other is defeated.  Revolutions can carry on for generations.

[I’m aware that all of this stuff is basic, indeed obvious.  But as Orwell said, sometimes simply stating the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men].

Successful revolutions keep the teleology simple for the masses.  In Communist revolutions, for instance, most of the people actually doing the fighting think “Communism” means little more than “free land.”  You have to go pretty high up the chain of command before you’ll ever hear the word “Marxism” spoken, and you practically have to be in the Inner Party itself before you’re allowed access to the Scriptures.  I’m not going to say that’s all there is to it, but if you just look at land-tenure patterns in China, Vietnam, etc., you get a pretty good idea of why things went the way they did.

Successful revolutions aren’t just about the masses, though.  The leadership needs its teleology, too, and unlike the “free land”-type myths that are sufficient to motivate the rank-and-file, the cadres’ teleology has to be fairly robust.  The leadership, after all, invariably comes from the middle classes — upwardly mobile peasants at the lowest; low aristocracy on the skids at the highest.  These guys join the revolution because their way up is blocked, or their way down is wide open.  It’s not enough to promise them “the world turned upside down,” because they don’t want to be ruled by the Proletariat any more than they did the Elite.  You need to give them some kind of universalizing myth that just so happens to end up with them on top.

A good example is Mao Zedong’s “mass line.”

In all the practical work of our Party, all correct leadership is necessarily ’from the masses, to the masses,’ This means: take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action.

In other words, you create a secular priesthood.  “The masses” don’t actually have ideas — if they did, they wouldn’t be “the masses” in the first place.  It’s the cadres — the peasants with something on the ball, the low-level civil servants, the self-hating aristocracy on the skids, the “intellectuals” — who fancy themselves as having ideas.  Those “ideas” — carefully spoon-fed to them by The Party, such that they think they came up with them all by themselves — motivate cadres to do the tedious, often dangerous grunt work of organizing, planning, etc. that “the masses” can’t pull off.  Intellectual vanity is these folks’ cardinal weakness.  Play it up, and they’ll do anything you tell them to.

This suggests an obvious line of attack from people in Our Thing.  Despite their fearsome reputation as Communist fanatics, lots of Viet Cong surrendered to American forces, including many low-level cadres.  Both American military interrogators and RAND Corporation researchers got a crack at the defectors, and both came to largely the same conclusions: Once they realized they’d been duped — that “Communism” in practice just meant exchanging one exploitative landlord for another — these ex-cadres surrendered as fast as their feet could carry them.

Alas for both the South Vietnamese and Our Thing, what came next was: Nothing.  The same conditions that spurred the cadre to join the Viet Cong in the first place — economic stagnation, corruption, lack of opportunity in general — still persisted.  He might be disillusioned, our defector, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to take up arms for us.  Outside of some temporary, local intelligence, the net effect of his defection is zero, because even though he now knows Communism isn’t the solution, all the problems are still there.  To get him over to our side, we need a counter-teleology.

That’s where things look bleakest for Our Thing.  All this “revolution” talk is of course metaphorical — please note well, FBI goons, metaphorical — but even though we of course mean “legitimate political action at the ballot box,” we’re still screwed, because we just don’t do teleology.  What could we promise a disillusioned cadre — a feminist, say, who watches Unplanned and realizes she’s been lied to all these years?  A “male feminist ally” falsely accused of rape?  Hell, what could we offer a Joe Crowley, who was third in line to the throne before getting knocked off by Chiquita Khrushchev?  Someone like that surely sees which way the wind is blowing… but what can we offer him, that would make him do something about it?

I dunno, but we’d better find out pretty fast.  It’s not totally hopeless, though, in that I can suggest a place to start looking.  How did the American Revolutionaries do it?  What teleology did they actually offer?  (Please note that bromides about “freedom” and the like would’ve been meaningless in a rough frontier society.  See e.g. the Whiskey Rebellion.  What exactly was the difference between King George and George Washington in that case?  How did “the peasants” see it?  Was there any meaningful change in their day-to-day lives, being ruled by Congress not Parliament?  These are NOT rhetorical questions).

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6 thoughts on “The Reluctant Ideologue

  1. WOPR

    Taxation Without Representation

    The simple rallying cry for the masses. Behind it was the deeper question of why we should be ruled by an elite on the other side of the ocean that did not understand the people it was ruling. The answer was we shouldn’t. So then try and create a government that provides stability for the elites, and is still responsive to the people. The All men are created equal line is really just a papering over of reality.

    What’s the pithy line for being ruled by a cosmopolitan elite?

  2. MBlanc46

    Nice analysis. I’d say that if the normies—people like my neighbors in the western Cook County suburbs of Chicago—can’t see that a not-too-distant future in which blacks and browns and Muslims are the dominant population is not in their interest or in the interest of their children or grandchildren, then Western civ is doomed. The goal that we have to promulgate is a nation with whites as the dominant population. At the moment, that’s a tough sell. It appears that things will have to get a bit worse before any serious awakening (Zman uses that word in his post today) can occur. Of course, when things are a bit worse, it might be too late.

    1. rwc1963

      Interesting point you make.

      But no one has really made the case very well and in a manner that can reach people. Worse the GOP/Trump goes out of it’s to promote the lie that we can all get along together and that diversity is our strength. Watch fox news, outside of Tucker Carlson, they all mouth the same platitudes about inclusiveness you’d find in Berkeley.

      The GOP for all intents is just controlled opposition. Take Trump, listening to him now and you’d think the only people who work in the U.S. are blacks and Mexicans.

      What we need is a Thomas Paine type approach, put out pamphlets on college campuses and towns across the mid-west/Rust Belt to lay out things in a straight forward manner.

      The good news we know it works by the way TPTB responds to it. They go batshit crazy, that means that’s their weak spot. Notice fast Tarrant’s manifesto vanished from the internet – it was loaded with all the stuff the alt-right and Jared Taylor talks about. Mostly Race Replacement. TPTB does not want that stuff reaching a larger audience at all. Because once it’s in the conscious mind people will start really noticing it in real life and it will make them uncomfortable.

      This worries the TPTB so much that even the most inane prank type expressions, such as putting a “It’s okay to be white” poster on telephone polls is now considered a hate crime by the police.

      It won’t take much to get the ball rolling. Unlike under the Soviet dissidents we have laser printers.

  3. MBlanc46

    Seventy years of “Negroes good, whites bad” in the news, in the newspapers and magazines, in churches, in movies, in advertising, isn’t going to be easy to counteract. Until people to begin to feel unease at what they see happening around them, most of what we can do will just bounce off them, or worse. Right now, posting “It’s okay to be white” flyers is about all we’ve got. It’s randomly planting seeds, some of which may germinate. That, and small groups of guys wearing white baseball caps.

  4. Anonymous White Male

    The truth is, White people will not become awakened until they have nothing to lose. The difference between those on the left and those on the right is that the left is younger, has no knowledge of history, and believe they will be better off if the “revolution” succeeds. Never mind that the revolution will not allow them to have a smart phone (unless they are higher on the left’s pecking order), regular food supplies (again, unless they are higher on the totem pole), and their entertainment becomes performance art in the streets (chanting inanities and occasionally getting the chance to smash things). The right, on the other hand, actually believes they have something to lose. Their mortgage, their wife’s ability to waste money on sparkling things, and their sports ball. Take that away from them and maybe they’ll give a shit.

  5. Pickle Rick

    The teleological component varied among the colonies. An American identity was only created during the war. Initially, the New England Yankees goals were wildly at variance with the Virginians, or the Pennsylvania backcountry. What fused them was a loose group of “radicals” in the Committees of Correspondence that provoked the British to use military force in Boston. Only then did that produce formerly loyal men like Washington (who would have early on called a cuck in modern political parlance) to conclude that rebellion (not revolution, at first) was the only way.

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