Sunday, October 09, 2011

Passion, Commitment, Optimism?

“…..If I were one of the celestial bodies, I would look with complete detachment upon this miserable ball of dust and dirt…I would shine upon the good and evil alike…But I am a man. World history which to you, dispassionate gobbler of science, to you, book-keeper of eternity, seems only a negligible moment in the balance of time, is to me everything! As long as I breathe, I shall fight for the future, that radiant future in which man, strong and beautiful, will become master of the drifting stream of history and will direct it towards the boundless horizon of beauty, joy, and happiness!...”
Lev Bronstein

Lev Bronstein was a young man, barely in his twenties, when he discovered the belief that was to stay with him until the end of his life. The prose style that helped him to fame was admittedly verbose, zealous, florid, and bombastic, but when spoken passionately in front of a crowd, moved thousands, even millions towards the goal he and his peers had in mind. You may know him better by the name he adopted while escaping from his exile in Siberia on the way to eventually join Lenin at his headquarters in London on the eve of the Russian revolution… Leon Trotsky.

Trotsky was only one of many young Russians of his time who believed passionately that although the immediate future was pessimistic the future was optimistic. The world situation in the early 1900’s was indeed grim: “In France—the poisonous foam of racial hatred; in Austria—nationalistic strife…; in South Africa—the agony of a tiny people, which is being murdered by a colossus; on the ‘free’ island itself—triumphant hymns to the victorious greed of jingoist jobbers; dramatic ‘complications’ in the east; rebellions of starving popular masses in Italy, Bulgaria, Rumania…Hatred and murder, famine and blood…”

It is difficult not to draw at least some comparison with our own moment in history, what with the “Arab Spring,” the “Occupy Wall Street” movement growing and spreading now not only across the United States but also overseas, and even the Tea Party movement. There is unquestionably massive anger and dissatisfaction with the status quo by a remarkable diversity of disparate groups and individuals, such as was the case prior to what happened in Russia in 1917. What was needed was someone to seize the moment, organize the disparate interests into one, and proceed with a single goal. And there was Lenin who had waited patiently for such a moment, aided by Trotsky and many others, able to provide the necessary inspiration and organization for success.

I cannot help but wonder how passionately, diligently, and persistently, our current “revolutionaries” (what else would you call them) will continue to pursue their goals. More importantly, I wonder who, if anyone, will emerge and be able to “seize the moment” and organize this diversity of interests. It is clear that no Republican will or need apply as they are the very people, along with their wealthy benefactors, against whom the rage should be primarily directed. President Obama might have been such a “savior” had he not disqualified himself by his warmongering, stubborn and useless attempts at bipartisanship, protection of war criminals both at home and in Israel, ties to Wall Street, and continuation of some of the worst policies of the Bush/Cheney nightmare years.

It seems to me that if ever there was a time for a serious third party movement that time is now. It is pretty obvious that many people will vote for Obama only because of the absence of any viable alternative. It will, of course, be a virtually impossible task to clear Wall Street and our nation’s capital of the moneylenders, their Congressional whores, and the rest of the vermin and parasites that have slowly and surreptitiously infested our military/industrial/political system over the past few years, especially during the disastrous Bush/Cheney administration, but no less than that must be done.

Whatever you might think of the Russian revolution, Lenin, Trotsky or others you cannot deny their passionate commitment to the socialist/communist revolution, with their optimistic belief that things would be better in the future. That things did not work out as intended does not detract from their monumental attempt to create a better life in the future.

I wonder now about the commitment, passion, and especially the optimism of those now occupying the streets of the world in protest. Given what we have done, and continue to do, both to ourselves and the planet in the roughly 100 years since the young Lev Bronstein joined the “cause,” is there any sense of optimism left in the world? Having fouled the air and water, destroyed so many species and natural resources, brought about global warming, massive unemployment and poverty, and invented so many new means of killing each other, all with no end in sight, what reasons are there for optimism? But conversely, without optimism (hope) there is nothing for the human species. Gratefully, strangely perhaps, hope still does exist. It can be seen in the working class marching in the streets, especially the young who perceive clearly the threat to their futures as well as the injustice and failures of preceding generations. “ A class which bears all the disadvantages of the social order without enjoying its advantages…Who can demand that such a class respect this social order?” (Friedrich Engels). We should by all means encourage them and urge them to remain steadfast in their desire for better things to come.

Capitalists are no more capable of self-sacrifice than a man is capable of lifting himself up by his own bootstraps.

Vladimir Lenin

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