As Russell Brand’s simultaneously visceral, emotional and intellectual case for revolutionary change goes viral, respected Pulitzer prize-winning US journalist Chris Hedges, arriving at the same conclusion, goes even further than the comedian.
Exactly one year ago, Hedges, who wrote for the New York Times for 15 years until 2005, described the US presidential election as “a battle between the corporate state and us”. His conclusions and actions then echoed the eruption of Occupy:
“If we do not immediately engage in this battle we are finished, as climate scientists have made clear. I will defy corporate power in small and large ways. I will invest my energy now solely in acts of resistance, in civil disobedience and in defiance.”
And in registering a protest vote for the Green Party, he said he was stepping outside the system. Twelve months later, Hedges’ ideas have moved on apace. Amongst other things, he’s been studying the work of Aristotle, Niccolò Machiavelli, Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and anarchists, including Alexander Berkman.
Hedges now sees things much more clearly. While Brand was laying into Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight, Hedges noted: “Class struggle defines most of human history. Marx got this right. The sooner we realise that we are locked in deadly warfare with our ruling, corporate elite, the sooner we will realise that these elites must be overthrown.”
And this week, in Our Invisible Revolution, Hedges looks deeper at the revolutionary process itself. He believes that the ideas used to justify the “private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters” are losing their power over people. He adds:
“The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it. They know that we have been stripped of political power. They recognise that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil liberties, and live under the gaze of the most intrusive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. Half the country lives in poverty. Many of the rest of us, if the corporate state is not overthrown, will join them. These truths are no longer hidden.”
Hedges believes that once enough people “get it” – that free market capitalism does not serve their interests – then the process of change quickens and, as Berkman wrote, “evolution becomes revolution”.
There is a nervous air among America’s ruling elites, Hedges believes, because more and more people have rejected the ideas of the status quo. “This is why voices of dissent—as well as spontaneous uprisings such as the Occupy movement — are ruthlessly crushed by the corporate state.”
Like most people, however, Hedges comes to the realisation of the need for revolution unwillingly, reluctantly. He would prefer “the piecemeal and incremental reforms of a functioning democracy”, a system that allows its citizens to non-violently dismiss those in authority, “a system in which institutions are independent and not captive to corporate power”.
But, as after acknowledging that we don’t live under such a system, Hedges admits that “revolt is the only option left”.
To avoid spontaneous movements like Occupy being ruthlessly crushed by the state, Hedges is clear that we need a direction, a strategy and alternative ideas for how society could look in the future.
“An uprising that is devoid of ideas and vision is never a threat to ruling elites. Social upheaval without clear definition and direction, without ideas behind it, descends into nihilism, random violence and chaos. It consumes itself.”
So the key to a successful revolt, for Hedges, is a clear vision of a new society and a strategy for how it can be achieved. To which we should add, democratic forms of networked political organisations that can help us focus on the main prize.
Russell Brand and Chris Hedges are playing a tremendous role in bringing the case for system change out into the open. They have helped kick-start a social revolutionary process which millions will join.