Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

This Revolution Will Do Until the Real Thing Comes Along

Neoconservatives like Charles Krauthammer warn that the popular uprising against U.S.-financed Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak could easily become a victory for radical Islamists. The neoconservatives scoff at assurances that the Muslim Brotherhood has traded violence for a constructive role in Egyptian society and democratic politics. Indeed, the neocons argue, the Brotherhood, as the best-organized force in Egyptian society (representing up to 30 percent of the population), is in the ideal position to seize the popular movement, betray the people, and install a theocratic state in the post-Mubarak era. With Egypt as a base of operation, goes the narrative, the Islamists would spread their ideology to the rest of the region through terror and subversion, with terrible consequences for the West.

Is there any merit to this analysis? Perhaps. No one can predict such things; revolution is a radically uncertain process. Nevertheless, one should not casually assume that Egypt is like Iran of 1979 or Afghanistan post-Soviet invasion. That sounds more like neoconservative fear-mongering than hard-headed speculation. (The more fevered of that ilk see the Egyptian uprising as the first step toward constructing a global caliphate that would include the United States. See Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity for details On the Brotherhood, see this and this.)

To be sure, revolution has its risks. Yet the neoconservatives seem oblivious of the risks in the “solution” they would like the Obama administration to impose on the Egyptians. Krauthammer prefers “an interim government led by the military.” He writes in “Toward a Soft [sic] Landing in Egypt”:

The military is the best vehicle for guiding the country to free elections over the coming months. Whether it does so with Mubarak at the top, or with Vice President Omar Suleiman or perhaps with some technocrat who arouses no ire among the demonstrators, matters not to us. If the army calculates that sacrificing Mubarak (through exile) will satisfy the opposition and end the unrest, so be it.

The overriding objective is a period of stability during which secularists and other democratic elements of civil society can organize themselves for the coming elections and prevail.…. The key is the military.

Krauthammer's confident tone is no comfort. Is there no danger in an army takeover? Has there never been a brutal military dictatorship? The Egyptian military may be respected by the people, but it has also been the source of dictators, including the hated Mubarak. And why should the Egyptians accept Suleiman in the “interim”? He was Mubarak’s chief torturer and a tool of the U.S. government’s criminal “extraordinary rendition” policy. How easy it is for Krauthammer, sitting safely in the United States, to propose that the Egyptians submit themselves to any U.S.-conceived plan. Can he guarantee it will deliver freedom? One can’t help suspecting that freedom for the Egyptians is not his priority. In fact, he knows the risks his proposal entails, but he calculates that they all fall on the Egyptian people. What he seeks to avoid is risk to "U.S. interests," that is, to the American government's domination of the Middle East.

In calling on the U.S. government to work behind the scenes to impose such a “resolution,” the neocons display the same big-power presumptuousness that has caused most of the problems that emanate from the Middle East today. The imperialist mentality endures, with each incident of blowback furnishing the excuse for the next oppressive manipulation.

The dangers that admittedly loom in Egypt stem from the moderate nature of the Egyptian people’s aims. They seek merely to change the structure and personnel of the government. The essence of the State – the apparatus of organized violence – would remain intact. As long as the State exists, there is a danger it will be seized by a military strongman, by theocrats, or by some other brand of oppressor.

In other words, the only true revolution is one aimed at abolishing the State – an anarchist revolution. (Peaceful, of course.) That’s the best hope for avoiding a revolution gone wrong.

Of course the Egyptians do not yet have an antistate mindset, so in throwing off the Mubarak dictatorship they indeed run the risk that something worse could follow. Yet they apparently think it’s a risk worth taking. Under the circumstances, that position seems reasonable. The American people can help them by demanding that "their" government keep hands off.

This revolution will have to do until the real thing comes along.


Scott Lazarowitz said...

Sheldon, you wrote, "the only true revolution is one aimed at abolishing the State – an anarchist revolution. That’s the best hope for avoiding a revolution gone wrong," and I agree with that. But it must be a non-violent revolution. I know we can do that.

But just one note abut the description of "anarchist" revolution. I've been having a problem with that word, because of the connotations associated with it, much like what you have expressed about the word, "capitalism." That's why I don't use the word anarchist, so I prefer to say "voluntaryist" (such as "market voluntaryist" rather than "market anarchist").

You also wrote that the Egyptians do not have an "antistate mindset." It could be that they have been protesting by the thousands out of anti-state, pro-freedom instincts, but they just need some help in actually identifying it, and being informed of an alternative to the State.

Sheldon Richman said...

Yes, I mean peaceful revolution. I've added that now.