Search This Blog

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chris Hedges: The Sparks of Rebellion

In his article The Sparks of Rebellion, Chris Hedges correctly shows that corporate power has become the dominate force in society. This corporate control of society has occurred as a result of those in political power, being either being complicit in this takeover by the corporations, or unwilling to check this abuse of corporate power.

As a result we are in the sixth year of the worst economic conditions since the depression of the 1930's. Not only has unemployment and eviction levels been the highest since the Great Depression, but according to business publications, the long term unemployed, especially those over 50, are probably facing a life time of unemployment. The political leadership of the country is engaged in a bipartisan effort to make significant cuts in retirement, unemployment and Medicare benefits.

Hedges takes the position that the only way out of this morass is a popular rebellion. As a result of the decline of union members, especially among those in industrial unions, other forces will need to be mobilized. Hedges suggests that an alliance between low paid workers, and unemployed or underemployed college graduates would be a natural alliance. While strikes are often the deciding point in successful insurrections, unions have a tendency to join struggles organized by other forces, rather than being the initiators of such struggles.

The article quotes studies showing that a movement with majority support of the population can effect change with a small activist minority, of 1%-5% of the population actively engaged in the struggle. Surprisingly, at least for me, struggles adopting the strategy of non violence have a higher success rate than those adopting a strategy of violence.

There were many who were hopeful that the Occupy Movement of 2011 had the potential to become a movement that would radically transform our society. Hedges raises some criticisms of occupy, including the consensus decision making process. Consensus while possibly effective in small groups become a liability in larger groups.

What was missing in Hedges article, was a critique of Occupy for not making demands. With massive unemployment, and record level student debt, and evictions, why was there no demand for a massive government financed jobs program? Relief from crushing student debt? A moratorium on evictions? These three demands alone had the potential of building an effective mass movement. Hedges, also omits the question of leadership. All successful movements, including the struggles for union rights and racial equality had a clearly defined, effective leadership.

Those engaged in prolonged struggles, as Hedges correctly points out, need logistical support. This includes food, shelter and medical support. This has caused some confusion among those who have read the article. Hedges is not advocating a "serve the people" strategy of providing meals in low income areas, but rather providing meals for those engaged in the struggle. 

A good historical example, just one among many, was during the Minneapolis Teamster strike of 1934. The striking workers had their own kitchen, dining hall, and medical treatment facility. This is discussed  in the book Teamster Rebellion, by Farrell Dobbs.

One objection to raising demands is the possibility of the system making minor concessions in order to co opt a potentially revolutionary upsurge. This is a legitimate concern. Do we accept a half a loaf, instead of the whole loaf? The answer depends on the relationship of forces and the confidence of those in the movement.

I've given just a brief overview, and some of my own opinions. Hedges' article deserves to be read in it's entirety at:

"The dispossessed working poor, along with unemployed college graduates and students, unemployed journalists, artists, lawyers and teachers, will form our movement. This is why the fight for a higher minimum wage is crucial to uniting service workers with the alienated college-educated sons and daughters of the old middle class."-Chris Hedges


  1. I think this is really good, Ken. Did you know that Hedges wrote press releases and speeches for the Nader Presidential Campaign in 2008? That came out in interview he did in the Progressive a couple years back. I'd like your permission to re-post this to the Peace and Freedom Party website.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Yes, feel free to share with the Peace and Freedom website.