Just heard something interesting about the French Revolution
It was started by the right wing upper classes, protesting high taxes. France was BROKE because of war and colonial pursuits (sound familiar?)
The Crown (royalty) tried to quell the dispute, but then.... the "left-wing", the poor and oppressed, seized the opportunity and rebelled against both the rich AND royalty itself and took control.
Occupy Wall St. is not at all a new concept.
While interest on the national debt was half the operating budget....
Also, there was great famine, which starved thousands of peasant farmers, and eventually trickled up to affect the hearty diets of the elite, thus making them cranky against the ruling class. "Let them eat cake!" alors.
French Revolution. (And some historians like Alfred Cobban question whether there even was a "revolution," properly speaking.) Generally, the French Revolution began when members of the Third Estate (the bourgeoisie, not the upper classes) convened on the Tennis Court and declared themselves the National Assembly. (See "Tennis Court Oath" for more.)
The Revolution had early sympathisers among the First Estate (the aristocracy), but aristocrats most assuredly did not start the French Revolution, no matter how one defines its start. (Well, maybe metaphorically, one could argue that the aristocracy during the Enlightenment sowed the intellectual seeds for the Revolution. But that's stretching ingenuity to its limits.)
I msut admit when I first saw the Occupy Los Angeles camp, I had visions of our own 'Tennis Court Oath.' Alas, it was not to be (at least not yet
The aristocracy had quite a bit to do with fomenting the revolution. The Duc d'Orleans, for example, who was the king's cousin and later became known as Phillipe Egalite wanted the throne for himself and his family. It was he who had scurrilous pamphlets/propaganda against the king, but mainly the queen, printed daily and distributed throughput Paris. When the supposed fishwives stormed the palace, Simon Scharma, in his excellent book on the revolution, writes that they were mainly men who were supplied with info on how to get in. Also, it was the Duc who cast the deciding vote as to whether or nor Louis should be beheaded. For his efforts, he himself was later beheaded when it became evident that he had no control over the monsters he helped create.
my 'spin' on the FR comes from the annales school and George Lefebvre, with strong doses of Crane Brinton ("Anatomy of a Revolution" thrown in for seasoning.
I never got around to reading Schama's book. Had it a few years ago and let it go rather than relocate it. Sounds like I may be in need of dusting off my FR historiography. (Right now I'm re-reading various histories of the Vietnam War, so will probably not get to it until this fall at the earliest.)
As I think about the Tennis Court Oath and Occupy Los Angeles, it occurs to me that OLA was like the FR in 'fast forward'. A heady burst of liberal reformism to commence, morphing into the sans culottes of the homeless and dispossessed and finally degenerating into the 'Terror' of the anarchists and latter-day Dinoysians before culminating in the repression of Bonaparte Villaraigosa and his dragoons. I know, I know, I'm stretching ingenuity to its limits with my forced metaphors. But I really thought OLA was the herald of a new day.
My understanding of that time is that the various wars of empire (France v. Great Britain) had brought the French govt to the point of default on its debt. The king had to call the Assemblies of Notables (from the aristocracy) to get them to go along with taxation to pay for France's financing of the American Revolution, in particular.
The Assemblies of Notables didn't want to raise taxes on the wealthy because it was not in their self-interest to do so. They wanted to shift the tax burden to the newly-developing middle class, the third estate, made up of lawyers and business owners, along with nobles and clergy who were elected to represent the third estate.
France, beyond the monarchy, was comprised of 3 "advisory" estates - 1st estate - clergy - which owned huge amts of land in France and paid no taxes. Comprised of children of nobility who didn't inherit, etc. for the most part. 2nd estate - nobility - the aristocracy, which owned huge amts of land, but not as much as the church - and they spent their time, more often, serving in court of the King in various ways. The 3rd estate was the common people - 80% of the population - and that 80% worked and paid taxes to support the 20% made up of the clergy and aristocracy.
Because the Assembly of Notables couldn't get aristocrats and the church to pony up to keep the govt from defaulting, that body recommended the King call the Estates General - the 3 levels of "advisors" to the King - tho they could only advise, not create actual change. The 3 estates couldn't even agree on how to share power - the first two didn't want to give the 3rd estate more power (and this was the group that faced bearing the burden of a failing empire via taxation.) Rather than vote by estate, the larger 3rd estate wanted head counts.
Some nobles and clergy members were elected to represent the 3rd estate - even though they were part of the other estates. The 3rd estate itself was made up of various factions with different opinions about how to go forward.
But, because the three estates couldn't break an impasse in how to proceed, the 3rd estate broke away from the 1st and 2nd estate and formed the National Assembly.
The King literally tried to lock the Estates-General out of its meeting place - and force various issues by royal decree - this led to the "Tennis Court Oath" to create a constitution - and solidarity.
Some of the nobility and most of the clergy in the other two estates, plus peasants with no voting power, joined in support of them. Hold outs (nobility and clergy that sided with the King) went over to the National Assembly at the request of the King. The Estates-General no longer existed.
The King had French troops surround the new National Assembly after he addressed them and told them to disperse. All but the 3rd estate obeyed. The King also called in foreign troops and tried to get the National Assembly moved out of Paris b/c the 3rd estate had the support of the population there.
This troop presence, and the attempts by the King to stop the people from various estates in their attempt to write a constitution led to the storming of the Bastille. They did this to arm themselves against the troops - it wasn't to free prisoners - it was to arm the populace b/c that's where armaments were stored.
The King removed the troops - but the damage had been done.
People in various cities began to form their own governmental structures and arm themselves to protect them from the power of the monarchy (and its troops.)
Various factions struggled for power while also fighting against the power of the monarchy (including other monarchies and their armies with a self interest in keeping the monarchy alive in France.)
I think the Occupy movement should have kept a focus on one issue - which was financial reform - Occupy Wall St. was really the message - that's what resonates with the 99% - a current tax structure that is gutting jobs in the public sector necessary for the functioning of states - like education and public services - is not sustainable.
There is too much wealth concentrated in the hands of too few in the U.S. This is what has led to the destruction of the middle class and what separates the U.S. from other western democracies that have higher standards of basic human rights for citizens (health care, for instance, affordable education, public sector investment.)
Our system is broken because one party refuses to deal with the need to tax the wealthy - and that's what is exactly like the French Revolution here and now.
it seems to me that Occupy is but the stirring that initially comes for the long slog forward. I never wrung my hands over the Occupy movement. It was meant to be what it was, the first real push in the streets. Over the course of history, change happens in these spurts that come and go and hopefully build and build over time. I never felt that we progressives should be too upset that Occupy wasn't our end-all and be-all.
Occupy got the concept of the 1% and the 99% injected in the political bloodstream. It is taken from there. It changes shape. Change is inevitable...
That really does reflect the source of problems here.
I don't know about the U.S. and any sort of revolution. We are such a large nation, so dispersed, diverse in our views. But all revolutions happen because of a few, not the many - even the American one.
They always come down to abuse of power or privilege.
Personally, I don't want a political revolution - the process itself harms so many innocents. I would hope that our leaders could draw upon history to see that, for instance, FDR's New Deal prevented so much of the turmoil that Europe experienced - and, in the end, they ended up with the same sort of regulated capitalist/mixed social safety net economy.
I would hope that enough wealthy people in this society would act in their long term best interests to stop the sort of violent upheaval that comes from leaving others with no hope.
We have such different issues facing us now.
The technology revolution has had as much of a impact on the working class as the industrial revolution did - while we have also lived through decades of tax cutting that has really undermined a strong middle class - and when that happens, democracy is threatened - not by "revolutionaries," but by the elite.
I saw Adele yesterday at the Neue Galerie, plus some other works of his a others. Nice exhibit. It's great to see Adele in person (even tho they have her behind glass). Her jewelry, particularly those bracelets, really pop out at you. Had a great lunch at the museum's restaurant, Cafe Sabarsky, that serves "Klimt cake" (chocolate and hazelnut). Lovely!
She is actually in the permanent collection since a big lawsuit got it returned from a museum in Vienna to the rightful family owners who then sold it to Ron Lauder who then gave it to the Neue Galerie. Right before WW2 the owner family members were told by the Germans they could get safe passage out of the country by "donating" the painting to a local museum. A shameful episode!
for correcting my age-induced encroaching senility
I actually like Occupy's broad-based palette of issues and thought it made for more inclusivity. However, I was something of a 'weekend warrior' with OLA due to transportation and parking costs downtown. I always tried to bring GA discussions back to the issue of excessive concentration of wealth, with greater and lesser degrees of success, when I attended. And that message seemed largely well received.
But between the ChemTrails, Anti-Illuminati, End-the-Fed folks and the constant white noise and babble of voices (and the latter-day drum-circle Dionysians), I think message discipline fell by the wayside. But, like I say, I was at best a 'weekend warrior' and was not even there when the raid on the camp took place, having come down with the flu from having been there two days earlier. I thus feel myself singularly ill-equipped to offer strident criticisms of a movement for which I was only a 'fellow traveller.'
just my personal observation that diffusion makes it harder to create action toward a specific goal.
I think it may be a big part of the problem. Without a leader the masses can't move forward..
position that, while laudable, made them sitting ducks for Villaraigosa's goons when the shit came down.
I had gone down on Nov. 28 (the night the raid was first threatened). That night, there were 4,000 people at the OLA camp and the cops did not attack the camp (although they ringed it quite threateningly). The night of the actual raid (Nov. 30), I had come down with a horrible flu from being down there on the 28th and there were only some 500 people there, no match for the 1500 storm troopers Villaraigosa sent in.
I don't blame anarchists for the debacle, but I do think what happened illustrates Lenin's notion of the need for a dedicated vanguard to lead the masses. And also the idea that you don't start a revolution until you're ready to see it through.
Any violence would be immediately crushed. (I lived through the 60s and solidarity activism in the 70s/80s) That leaves a dedicated vanguard working within existing channels which is why I pinpoint anarchism as the problem (I thought I was an anarchist in my 20s also). It's the age old issue in our country, work within or outside of the system (less idealistic, less exciting, less sexy, but potentially rewarding).
I blame the ideology of anarchism for some, not all of occupy's problems because a movement needs very clear intent. The intent was developed by theorists who were not wonks, were not equipped to take things to the next level, they were only contestatory in their thinking, for the most part.
It was a beautiful moment, but without structure it couldn't survive, imo
only to have my issue tabled under the broad rubric of "We are always non-violent, no matter the provocation." Forget that I wasn't advocating violence, per se, merely that OLA start thinking about self-defense (errecting barricades, considering tactical retreats and so on). OLA seemed resigned to its fate of taking whatever Villaraigosa's goons were going to serve up.
I say this sadly and mournfully, not critically, because I was not there when the shit hit the fan on November 30. I cannot criticize people who, to me, are heroes of our 'October Revolution.' How can I therefore criticize when I was, at best, a mere 'fellow traveller'?
The self-identified Anarchists I met at OLA seemed to have their shit together more than many others. But I'm not sure if you meant anarchism with an upper-case 'A'. I never heard any ideology of 'anarchism' advanced. I did hear an ideology of 'horizontalism' put forward, an ideology that seemed to enable every tinpot Napoleon so inclined. But I'm an old-school Marxist-Leninist and the kids may have been on to things that old fogies like me just can't fathom
I'm not sure how non-violence intersects with anarchism. The issue of police violence
needed to be in the overall plan, but that's the problem with anarchism, so much time
is spent being inclusive, no one can implement a master plan if it smells of dominance.
wiki discusses Graeber etc:
David Graeber was instrumental in the kick off of the NY occupy events, his books were inspirational
ideological pedigree of anarchism, so will profit from the reading, I'm sure.
There have been a couple of Wobbies, but that is is it as far as actual Anarchism goes. I think the influence of Anarchism on Occupy is overstated. I wish it wasn't, honestly. I think Anarchists would bring the movement further to the left and help it focus in stronger on class struggle issues. Of course, I am biased, I'm a huge fan of the IWW and Syndicalism in general.
anarchists making the rounds and a small (and beautiful) IWW contingent. But there were far more drum-circle Dionysian douchebags than Anarchists, from my perspective. I like percussion, don't get me wrong, but when the drummers refused to put up their drums for the GA (on at least two occasions), that's when I reached the end of my rope with their self-indulgent bullshit.
and the out come wasn't exactly good for the poor, but every time I hear "Do you hear the people" I think we could be their next year if Romney wins.
....Les Miserables is set against the background of the June Rebellion of 1832, which was crushed brutally, as were all of the rebellions of the 19th Century, such as the Paris Commune of 1871.
I have to confess to being only an amateur when it comes to history, and it's been a long time since my World History courses. I still have to resort to Google for specific references.
Was the American revolution which the French supported financially.
that poor fool...
I guess it's possible some of the rightists might indeed have thrown in their hats in the ring for whatever reason, but without the lefties there wouldn't have been a revolution at all.
come from the French Revolution and where one was physically sitting in the National Assembly.
Rather than say 'rightists' and 'lefties,' probably better to say 'without the bourgeoisie, there wouldn't have been a revolution at all." (Both rightists and lefties were 'revolutionaries' but of differing degrees.)
that anyone could see was coming, but the King dismissed out of hand all suggestions of compromise.
The aristocracy avoided the heavy taxes that everybody else had to pay, yet it was the aristocracy that ran up huge debts by building colonial empires and waging wars in foreign lands. They didn't have noble titles behind their names to avoid taxation, so they did the next best thing: They cut off the heads of those that did. The left in France made a natural ally to this goal of dislodging the power of the aristocracy, but don't think for a second that those in the business class, the bourgeoisie, wouldn't turn their guns against the working classes, the proletariat.
This game converts a wiki entry to modern times to show how close we really are.
From Wiki: French Revolution: Financial Crisis.
Louis XVI ascended to the throne amidst a financial crisis; the state was nearing bankruptcy and outlays outpaced income. This was because of Frances financial obligations stemming from involvement in the Seven Years War and its participation in the American Revolutionary War. In May 1776, finance minister Turgot was dismissed, after he failed to enact reforms. The next year, Jacques Necker, a foreigner, was appointed Comptroller-General of Finance. He could not be made an official minister because he was a Protestant.
Necker realized that the country's extremely regressive tax system subjected the lower classes to a heavy burden, while numerous exemptions existed for the nobility and clergy. He argued that the country could not be taxed higher; that tax exemptions for the nobility and clergy must be reduced; and proposed that borrowing more money would solve the country's fiscal shortages. Necker published a report to support this claim that underestimated the deficit by roughly 36 million livres, and proposed restricting the power of the parlements.
This was not received well by the King's ministers and Necker, hoping to bolster his position, argued to be made a minister. The King refused, Necker was fired, and Charles Alexandre de Calonne was appointed to the Comptrollership. Calonne initially spent liberally, but he quickly realized the critical financial situation and proposed a new tax code.
The proposal included a consistent land tax, which would include taxation of the nobility and clergy. Faced with opposition from the parlements, Calonne organised the summoning of the Assembly of Notables. But the Assembly failed to endorse Calonne's proposals and instead weakened his position through its criticism. In response, the King announced the calling of the Estates-General for May 1789, the first time the body had been summoned since 1614. This was a signal that the Bourbon monarchy was in a weakened state and subject to the demands of its people.
Now I will exchange a few terms.
Replace the following:
Louis XVI with Barack Obama
throne with presidency
France with US
Seven Years War with Iraq War
American Revolutionary War with Afghanistan War
May 1776 with November 2008
finance minister with Treasury Secretary
Turgot with Henry Paulson
Jacques Necker with Timothy Geithner
Comptroller-General of Finance with Treasury Secretary
a foreigner with a member of the Council on Foreign Relations
nobility and clergy with wealthy elite (1%)
country with middle class
36 million livres with 7 trillion dollars
restricting the power of the parlements with enacting finance reform
And it converts to:
Barack Obama ascended to the presidency amidst a financial crisis; the state was nearing bankruptcy and outlays outpaced income. This was because of the US financial obligations stemming from involvement in the Iraq War and its participation in the Afghanistan War. In November 2008, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was dismissed, after he failed to enact reforms. The next year, Timothy Geithner, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, was appointed Treasury Secretary
Geithner realized that the country's extremely regressive tax system subjected the lower classes to a heavy burden, while numerous exemptions existed for the wealthy elite (1%). He argued that the middle class could not be taxed higher; that tax exemptions for the wealthy elite (1%) must be reduced; and proposed that borrowing more money would solve the country's fiscal shortages. Geithner published a report to support this claim that underestimated the deficit by roughly 7 trillion dollars, and proposed enacting finance reform.
So...... What happened in France four year later?
The "Reign of Terror"
The extremely rich refused to pay taxes, so the poor and middle class were burdened with the cost of paying for the far too expensive wars of the French king. They poor and middle class tried to deal with the king, but couldn't get anywhere, so they rebelled.
Wars cost money. Wars primarily benefit the rich -- especially wars that are fought on foreign soil (like Iraq).
But the rich feel they shouldn't have to pay because -- well they are so valuable because they are rich. It's an old, old story.
I hope it ends differently this time. I hope that the wealthy wise up and reach for their history books. Lots to learn in there.
Paul Kantner performs & written by Jack Traylor
Paine and Pierce and Robespierre, Juarez and Danton,
Luther, King and Lumumba dead but far from gone
Lenin, Cleaver, Jesus too, outlaws in their nations,
Revolutionaries all, dreamed of liberation
God is up in heaven his agents here on earth
The church has said that this man rules, he's best because of birth.
But what's that noise down in the street, who dares to shout and sing?
With all his courtiers at his side, who dares to touch the king?
Old man get some soldiers, keep them close at hand
There's a fire in the country, there's a flame come to the land
Seven thousand loyal troops, in ranks they stretch so far
With seven thousand well armed men, no one can touch the czar.
Louis watch the prisons, send the goons around
Is that Paris burning, is the Bastille falling down?
And where are all the mercenaries - paid for by the king?
Have they joined the mob you say, doesn't money mean anything?
Old men get some soldiers, keep them close at hand,
The seeds that were sown yesterday now flower in the land
And guard yourself most carefully with military might.
For plants that cannot bloom by day must flower in the night.
[ From: http://www.metrolyrics.com/flowers-of-the-night-lyrics-paul-kantner.html ]
I love Paul K. & just reading the lyrics gave me goosebumps.
This was composed in the early 70's seem more relevant now.
They traded monarchy for an imperialist dictator.
It's interesting to watch films, including the HBO John Addams miniseries, in which King Louis and his ministers succumbed to the 'American' revolutionaries requests for aid.