Looking into My Crystal Ball

Consider history.

In the late 1780s, 25 years after the French crown lost the Seven Years War to the British and 13 years after it bankrupted itself supporting American independence, France experienced a series of harsh Winters and food shortages, ultimately leading to revolution.

In 1917, 12 years after the Romanovs lost a war with Japan and only 3 years after Czar Nicholas ordered his generals to flush millions of Russian lives into the industrial slaughterhouse that was the First World War, the Russian government collapsed, and the Bolsheviks took power, ultimately winning the civil war against the western backed royalist, “white” armies, and establishing the new communist order.

In 2020, twelve years after we Americans allowed our ruling class to loot the treasury with no consequences, and seventeen years after we allowed the Bush Administration to destroy Iraq, the United States is on the brink of collapse. California, the wealthiest state in the union, is facing environmental catastrophe. The ongoing Covid epidemic shows no signs of letting up. We are headed for a long, deep recession.

So will it mean revolution?


Revolution requires a revolutionary ideology. The American and French revolutionaries of 1776, 1789, and 1793 had the Enlightenment, not only French, but German, Scottish and American as well. The Bolsheviks had Marx, Engels, Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Charles Darwin, James Connolly, August Bebel, Arthur Rimbaud, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, the marriage of high modernism and the industrial revolution to the radical legacy of the French Revolution. In the United States of 2020, the overwhelming ideology on both the left and right (especially on the right) is identity politics, the idea that race, gender, sexual identity, and religion are more important than any universal, intellectual, artistic or revolutionary vision. That means Balkanization, not revolution, social collapse, not a radical new order.

We don’t have a Robespierre, a Voltaire, a George Washington, a Ben Franklin, a Marx, a Lenin or a Mao. What we do have are a few hundred thousand little would be petty dictators who spend all their time trying to cancel one another and calling everybody else Nazis (the secular term for the devil). We are not going to become France in 1789 or 1793, Russia in 1917, or China in 1948. We are going to become Iraq in 2004 after the United States military smashed the Iraqi state and the Iraqi infrastructure. At some point in the not so distant future, we Americans are going to spend most of our time waiting for the power to come on for an hour or two so we can check out our ruling class betters on social media while rival sectarian militias shoot it out in the streets below. We Americans are going to pay the Karmic price for what we allowed George W. Bush and Barack Obama to do to Iraq, Syria and Libya, and we will richly deserve it.

During the American occupation of Iraq, I used to follow an Iraqi blogger called “Riverbend.” Nobody ever found out her name, but she was obviously a western educated member of the Iraqi upper-middle-class appalled at what George W. Bush was doing to her country. In 2007, she stopped posting, not because she was killed, but simply because she got sick of screaming into the void. She returned once in 2013 with a brief update about her life since the American invasion. Every American should read the whole thing. It’s a brief glimpse of our future.

We are learning that corruption is the way to go. You want a passport issued? Pay someone. You want a document ratified? Pay someone. You want someone dead? Pay someone.

We learned that it’s not that difficult to make billions disappear.

We are learning that those amenities we took for granted before 2003, you know- the luxuries – electricity, clean water from faucets, walkable streets, safe schools – those are for deserving populations. Those are for people who don’t allow occupiers into their country.

We’re learning that the biggest fans of the occupation (you know who you are, you traitors) eventually leave abroad. And where do they go? The USA, most likely, with the UK a close second. If I were an American, I’d be outraged. After spending so much money and so many lives, I’d expect the minor Chalabis and Malikis and Hashimis of Iraq to, well, stay in Iraq. Invest in their country. I’d stand in passport control and ask them, “Weren’t you happy when we invaded your country? Weren’t you happy we liberated you? Go back. Go back to the country you’re so happy with because now, you’re free!”

We’re learning that militias aren’t particular about who they kill. The easiest thing in the world would be to say that Shia militias kill Sunnis and Sunni militias kill Shia, but that’s not the way it works. That’s too simple.


2 thoughts on “Looking into My Crystal Ball”

  1. This is excellent analysis and I happily endorse its general line.

    History never lacks time and situations where some people are moved to revolt against the oppressive rule of the local regime. Most of the time this is limited to the Faction of the Outs against the Faction of the Ins. The regime rolls on. But at critical times, such as those you have cited, the entire rule of the Regime is or stands to be, overturned. In which case, there has to be a revolutionary vision for inspiration at work. And though this happens rarely, when the mass of people see a better way of arranging matters, then the old regime is toast.

    It’s never enough to just be Against the current way of things being. You have to For a better way. And though lots of folks are mighty upset at things nowadays, there is nothing on the table that comes close to This is How Things Can Be Better. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.

    As you well point out, it is the endemic corruption of the current regimes that moves people to protest. Corruption big and small. The cops are utterly corrupt. So, quite spontaneously, large numbers of blacks victimized by them pour out in protest. But they didn’t ask the established Black leadership for permission or to lead them. Because that ‘leadership’ long ago sold the mass out for their own benefit.

    The socialist left has collapsed into the left wing of the liberal regime faction. A rump of burn-outs struts about trying to milk the corpse of the franchise. That is just more corruption. Really, the only True Believers left are the Trotskyists. There are a lot more of them that you imagine and just maybe in one or another country they might be able to spark a revival. But why hold your breath.

    As in all other real revolutionary overturns at critical points the elites divide against themselves. And that is on the agenda right now. The fault lines and forces under pressure confront us. They think they’re running the show but underneath tectonic powers are grinding away. This is where the action will be for the present.

    And then, the real kicker. Russia and China will hold firm, that is remain stable and prosperous. This unity already has more than enough resources, productive capability, land mass, population and military power as against a hyper disintegration west. These combined powers cannot be materially threatened by any combination of collapsing corruptoland states.

    But also, Russia and China hardly provide a lantern of inspiration for other peoples looking for some better way to arrange their affairs. Nevertheless, they may provide a umbrella that will protect the oppressed from the savagery of their elites. And that is an important something.

    A formulae is possible: The west is corrupt and ungovernable. The elites apply force. The economy sinks. China+Russia surge. People revolt. The elites split. Things fall apart. [Insert Yeats or Elliot quote here].

    I will visit the riverbend blog. Thank you.

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