THE DIALECTIC BETWEEN REFORM AND REVOLUTION
The subject we're going to talk about today is the dialectic between reform and revolution. Now, one of the cardinal delusions in modern American life is the belief that the American system is so free, so full of freedom, so open, that I mean, my gosh, I mean, revolution just couldn't happen, because everybody's got all this freedom, right? Wrong. Now, in dysfunctional democracies, dictatorship is frequently the only solution. A classic example was the Roman Republic. There were endless efforts to save the Republic, to preserve the Republic. The Republic had degenerated into a system controlled by factions. You see, in a democracy, you have bureaucracy, you have political power structures, you have a whole layer of law regulatory nonsense that if the wrong people get into power, it becomes extremely difficult - if not impossible - to reform things.
AUGUSTUS CAESAR SAVES ROME BY DESTROYING THE REPUBLIC
Now, the end result of various polluted people trying to save the Republic in Rome was a series of bloody civil wars that eventually sort of burned themselves out, and paved the way for Augustus Caesar, who is probably a model of what's to come. Because Augustus Caesar destroyed the Republic in the name of saving it. His big slogan was "the Republic restored" after all the civil wars, but Augustus's restoration was a series of legal revolutions put through over 20 years that basically eviscerated the Republic, and laid the groundwork for the Empire. And it's important to note that nobody mourned the de facto death of the Republic. Quite the contrary. Augustus Caesar was hailed as a Savior, was hailed as a living God. Now, Augustus Caesar's revolution would not have been possible had not Julius Caesar conducted a direct assault on the whole structure of the Roman Republic, and appointed himself dictator for life. Now, the appointment of dictator in Roman society is not unique, as we have discussed. It was normally a decision in wartime. Caesar swept aside the whole structure of the system and appointed himself as dictator.
REVOLUTION IN FRANCE 1789
Now, another case of a dysfunctional system was France for 1789. Now, American history books like to tell that, "oh, it was a tyranny, it was an aristocracy, and my gosh, that's why they got in trouble." Actually, Louie the 16th was originally seen as the great reformer. He took all sorts of ideas from the so-called "enlightenment" and put them in. The end result was a system that was more dysfunctional, not less dysfunctional, than the one that he inherited from his father, Louis the 15th. It was a decentralized mess where you couldn't get anything done, particularly in the case of the local parliament. And, you see, the so-called reformers in the time of Louis the 16th were similar to the so-called human rights movement today. Everybody had to have rights, and everybody had the right to go to court, and everybody had the right to do this, and the right to do that. The end result was the system was completely dysfunctional, and very similar to America today. And very similar to America there was a debt from wars that was never dealt with. England and France inherited tremendous debts from the Seven Years War, or the so-called French and Indian War here in America.
Now, England dealt with that by a centralized government, and an enormous series of tax increases. Part of the tax increases led to the American Revolution, due to the corruption of the special interests in Parliament, the gerrymandered districts, and so on (sound familiar to modern America?) who would not all allow the American colonists to elect their own representatives in the parliament. But while the tax increases did cost England the colonies - which at that time were not absolutely critical, contrary to the view of most American historians; you get the impression that the colonies in the United States were the most important colonies in the world - absolute nonsense. But anyway, the point is that England was able to reorganize its finances in a centralized manner, and had huge tax increases and dealt with its financial crisis. France, by contrast, emerging from the Seven Years War adopted what you might call the modern American system, with an endless series of gimmicks, and gadgets, and tricks and bullshit, which had finally ended up collapsing in the financial crisis of 1789, which set in motion the French Revolution. Now, to understand the French Revolution. you need to understand Robespierre.
Robespierre is probably one of the more underestimated figures in history. Robespierre, without a doubt, saved the French Revolution. France was in the middle of being invaded by foreign powers who were trying to crush the revolution, and it was Robespierre, in coordination with Carnot, who organized what's known as the "levee en masse", which was the mass army. This mass army was a military revolution, the beginning of the total war system that would evolve into the 20th century. And enabled France to produce a disciplined mass army that would later serve as the cornerstone of Napoleon's mass military machine. Now, Napoleon also was a great admirer of Robespierre - that's another fact that's sort of swept under the rug and covered up. The reign of terror and the mass army enabled France to mobilize and defeat foreign armies, and laid the groundwork for the takeover of Europe by Napoleon, and the establishment of the French Empire under Napoleon. However, this doesn't quite fit well with the traditional American view of the French Revolution, that it was all to create American-style system, and big bad Robespierre spoiled everything, and so on and so forth. That's rubbish. That's rubbish.
DYSFUNCTION IN DEMOCRATIC AMERICA
So, we need to understand and see the importance of authoritarian rule. Now, in modern America, you simply have a completely dysfunctional system mired in umpteen levels of bureaucracy and a so-called two-party system, which many people see is a one-party system controlled by big corporations, that is almost totally dysfunctional. And for somebody to run through all the various hoops and the elites in American society for genuine reform is not very likely. Indeed America, if you look at the Constitution, was basically set up as a de facto plutocracy, not a democracy. People such as Madison feared the people, and they wanted to set up a system that was deliberately inefficient, so special interest could control it, which they have.
America has successfully sustained itself through plunder of the environment, the most successful campaign of racial war in history against the Native Americans, a good program of racial war that was the model for what Hitler wanted to do in his planned conquest of Russia. And the wholesale plundering of the environment, which is one of the things that's really sustained the American economy. Now, today, America's a big house of cards in terms of death. House of cards of financial debt, house of cards in environmental debt, and a dysfunctional system. Hopefully, Obama can solve things, but that's not very likely.
DYSFUNCTION IN THE EUROPEAN UNION
And we also need to look at modern Europe, which is - the big weakness of modern Europe is a decentralized system. And Europe is, overall, in much better shape than America, but Europe has a massive internal political conflict, similar to the one that France had before 1789 with the parliament and the lack of unity in the EU, and the ability of one tinker toy state to stop everything, and so on.
THINKING CREATIVELY ABOUT POLITICAL SYSTEMS AND THE FUTURE DICTATORS TO COME
So, this is the calm before the storm. The calm before the storm. And we need to think creatively about who will be the new Caesars, how bloody and violent will that get, because a lot of people are going to object to sweeping away the system to create the autocratic rule that's necessary to put through the reforms. And the answer is probably quite bloody, but this is the kind of creative thinking that we need to do, and place a modern America and the modern structure of parliamentary democracy in a in a deeper historical context.