Definitions: The Proletariat (Part II)
      Definitions: The Proletariat 

      Continued. Read Part I of the article here

      It's true that every event that happens leaves traces. It is something 
like mirrors and their reflections. Except that in the mirror's reflections, 
the left is right, and the right is left. Illusions all! Illusions are like 
words unspoken that are no longer words at all. Sometimes we have to banish all 
possibilities of illusion. Sometimes we have to stop, close our eyes, and allow 
ourselves to see real reality, not illusion where right is left, and left 
right. Reality free of brainwash. Free of all those words and euphemisms we 
hear on TV and read in the establishment press. We can trust none of it. 

      One problem facing the wage earner-proletariat is the lack of a suitable 
program. I can't see an acceptable program for changing the world. The "Another 
World Is Possible" movement is at best a loose agreement around the planet that 
change would be a good thing. One answer to those who wonder what the new 
resistance wants is simple: they want a just society. 

      Sometimes it is comforting-but not much more than that-to recall that 
though protest movements of the past have been broken and scattered by Power, 
many of those people and like-minded others are still out there in society. 
They could rejoin the growing number of mature people with eyes to see and ears 
to hear. 

      But what are they to do? one wonders. 

      That has always been the question. 

      Studies show that the class of Power in the USA is surprisingly small, 
numbering in the tens of thousands. The potential opposition on the other hand 
is enormous, including all those Che Guevara had in mind when he quipped, "If 
you tremble in indignation at injustice then you are my comrade." El Che had in 
mind the proletariat of the world. 

      Though much of the ruling class is stashed away in corner offices on top 
floors behind batteries of secretaries, apparently in hiding, out of its vanity 
it still wants to be seen. For what is Power if no one knows YOU hold it? 
Members of the Power class are visible on stage each day, in TV, in Congress, 
in the military hierarchy, in diplomacy, multinationals, religions and the 
universities. The higher they ascend the ladder of Power, the more entrenched 
in the Power system they become. However, those at the very summit are in 
hiding, the rulers who really rule. The most dangerous are those who meet in 
secret societies like the Bilderbergers. We can suspect who they are. 

      Since it seems that the people sitting in the top tiers of our 
political-social theater have abdicated from the struggle, we tend to 
underestimate their power. For they too have a stake in the land. One forgets 
the potential force of those textile strikes of the 1930s. One forgets that 
organized workers can bring a small city like Asheville in North Carolina or a 
metropolis like New York or a company like General Motors to a standstill in a 
matter of hours. The reason that seldom happens is because the people have 
forgotten their own strength. 

      People don't think about their strength because of Power's astute use of 
myth and illusion: the myth of freedom and the illusion of happiness made of 
comfort and ease. And today, above all, more and more out of fear! 

      Though most people seem to prefer ignorance, some people are learning to 
distinguish between myth and reality. For many issues are glaringly real and 
evident: the Iraq War, globalization, US imperialism, legalized torture and 
genocide, the new American police state, and the degradation of social life in 
the West in general. 

      Solidarity too is growing. Resistance spreads. The superiority of "the 
American way of life" has revealed itself to be a great lie. The result of 
extended and prolonged resistance is inevitably state violence against dissent. 
State violence in turn has a multiplier effect: when Power steps in to taser 
dissenters, it intensifies resistance. An explosion becomes inevitable. First 
collective action, then civil disobedience, then state violence, then the 
explosion. For police-state laws change our thinking about legitimacy. This 
time around the explosion can become something much different than Power 
imagines. An organized people can shut down the nation without firing a shot. 

      The people! Today the American people are broken, fragmented and 
bewildered, devoid of unity of purpose, as existed briefly, let's say, during 
the Vietnam War. According to recent studies the vast majority of American 
people are still unaffected by America's ongoing permanent war. The discussion 
about whether 70,000 or over one million Iraqis have been massacred has a 
certain theoretical-academic air about it. Not even the mothers of the American 
dead in Iraq can get organized. 

      At the same time more and more people have lost faith in the electoral 
system. Some of them have taken on the job of breaking down the natural 
passivity of the dissatisfied and fragmented people who, though in potential 
agreement with revolutionary analyses, are unused to resistance because of the 
illusionist spin conducted by Power. Therefore the suggested antidote of not 
voting for any of them. 

      Then there are the wars to be ended. If the people can't share the 
government's war effort, it can share in anti-war objectives. There is vast and 
growing poverty and social injustice to be resolved. There is a dramatic need 
for universal health care. There is a corrupt and mean political class to be 
removed. All of it. Both parties. There is every need to give power back to the 

      Grassroots organizer Abigail Singer, co-founder of Rising Tide North 
America and of a recent Southeast Climate Convergence conference in Asheville, 
North Carolina, said in an interview that voting is not enough because the 
electoral process has been sold to the highest bidder and that people who get 
into positions of power have to sacrifice whatever principles they started out 
with to the point that systemic change is impossible. Real change can come only 
from the grassroots. 

      At the same time a growing number of people are losing faith in 
nonviolence. Singer points out that capitalism itself is extremely violent. "If 
you're not nice and polite, some people consider that violence. But most 
violence is in business as usual and capitalism grinding on, killing workers, 
forests and oceans. We're surrounded by normalized violence and don't recognize 
it for what it is. Confronting this normalized violence in a direct way is not 
violent; it's necessary." 

      While liberals and progressives argue that you have to work within the 
system, the modern activist is mutating because the political climate has 
changed. The violence of government repression creates violent reaction in the 
same way war against Iraq creates new shahids. Violent resistance is nothing 
new: Black Power backed up the Civil Rights movement. Historically the US 
government didn't grant more workers rights because it became good but because 
people rose up and demanded their rights. People organizing to defend 
themselves reaches back through the history of man. Today in America some few 
people are coming together and developing new ideas of resistance. Their number 
is destined to grow to the degree that government repression grows. 

      After my youth in America I have lived my adult abroad. Traveling to the 
USA today is to go abroad. Therefore I have acquired a double sensibility about 
my homeland. When I arrive there, abroad, but also at home, I feel double 
tensions in the air: the tension connected with the widespread fear of losing 
"the American way of life" and the tension of a minority of dissatisfied people 
also fearful because it knows it is living an illusion, and that mutiny-still 
so nebulous as to appear a chimera-will be necessary to change things. In 
America I sense both a fear of action and a fear of non-action. Perhaps also a 
fear of change, fear that things can only get worse. The fear, as one friend 
wrote me today, that something very bad is about to happen to America. A fear 
like that of a people inhabiting the wrong house, or the haunting fear that the 
real house it once inhabited is today occupied by usurpers and has lost its 

      One senses also a disturbing atmosphere of sick pragmatism and a 
depoliticalization coupled with widespread contentment with just analyzing the 
current situation rather than challenging it. 

      It is a good sign that across the land some grassroots activists are 
working to break down indifference. Radical change presupposes an end to blind 
acceptance of Power's fictionalized version of reality. Activists no longer 
need feel alone. Each person arrested in anti-war demonstrations acquires new 
faith in resistance and each of them creates new converts. 

      Acceptance of the legitimacy of Power, indifference to Power's deviations 
and passivity in the face of Power's threats against external enemies seem to 
have peaked. More and more people believe that Power gone mad has to be put 
aside. The eventual end of acceptance and passivity could result in a kind of 
explosion the world has never seen. 

      Today however that clash is still more hope than reality. Hope that a new 
strategy of liberation from the oppression of illegal American Fascism will 
mushroom. In other times, in an older language, that strategy would be called 
revolutionary theory. The old Leninist concept is apt here: there can be no 
revolutionary movement without a revolutionary theory. The theory here, the 
strategy, must explain that it is not just George W. Bush, the system's current 
representative, or his replacement, who must go, but the system itself run by 
that tiny minority at the top. 

      But people don't rebel easily. People prefer reforms. People do 
everything possible to avoid social convulsion and upheaval, even compromising 
with a Fascist police state, precisely as happened in Nazi Germany and Fascist 

      On the other hand, today's US government is aware that the spirit of 
mutiny/revolution is brewing. That is why it has armed itself with a set of 
illegal and anti-constitutional laws to crush it. At this juncture the 
alternative to ousting today's corrupt American system is a permanent police 
state, which if it becomes any more fixed than it is now just might last a 
thousand years. 

      The American people will have to decide what to do and how to act. 
Meanwhile many non-Americans agree that the most extreme problem of this 
century for mankind is the confused, powerful and violent United States of 

      Finally, as an epilogue, see what Henry David Thoreau (1817-78), great 
American author and philosopher, wrote in his "On the Duty of Civil Obedience": 

      "All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse 
allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its 
inefficiency are great and unendurable. Those who, while they disapprove of the 
character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and 
support, are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently 
the most serious obstacles to reform. 

      "If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of 
government, let it go, let it go.. if it is of such a nature that it requires 
you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let 
your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to 
see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong, which I condemn. 

      "But what shall I do? You ask. My answer is, If you really wish to do 
anything, resign your office. When the subject has refused allegiance, and the 
officer has resigned from office, then the revolution is accomplished." 

      Gaither Stewart,
      Senior Contributing Editor for Cyrano's Journal/tantmieux, is a novelist 
and journalist based in Italy. His stories, essays and dispatches are read 
widely throughout the Internet on many leading venues. His recent novel, 
Asheville, is published by Wastelandrunes, ( . 


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