Revolution

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illustration: Elena Caldera

 

“Oh God! That one might read the book of Fate
“And see the revolution of the times
“Make mountains level, and the continent
“Weary of solid firmness –
“Melt itself into the sea!”
– William Shakespeare

“One magic word today seems capable of compensating
for all sufferings, resolving all anxieties, avenging the past,
curing present ills, summing up all future possibilities:
that word is revolution.”
­ – Simone Weil, Oppression and Liberty

 

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“We apologize for the inconvenience
“But this is a revolution.”
Said sub-Commandante Marcos in 1994.
Years later it’s still a solution –

For the self-same creature rumbles in the belly
Of news reports, prompted by the same litany
That’s spewed out: US police murder two a day –
To protect class division and income inequality.

To Sergei Nechaev, the revolutionist
“Is merciless towards the state”.
In Nechaev’s Catechism of a Revolutionist he taught
“Existing social morality” to be an object of hate.

And a reluctant spectator’s enthusiasm
For the state’s armed circus must sag
On seeing a society so dependent on mass surveillance
Its jeans are sold with a radio frequency ID tag.

State resistance was simpler when storming the Bastille,
Or marching on the tsar’s winter palace –
But though the controlling technology has changed
It can’t suppress visions of justice.

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Whenever control becomes more insidious,
Resistance becomes more subversive
Like the katydid which disguises itself as a leaf
To sing its song to the universe.

Oppression can be undermined by those promising
An end to social privation,
And revolutions bring about the birth of new worlds –
Often echoing celestial fermentation.

“There are no fixtures in nature”, said Emerson
“The universe is fluid and volatile.”
The same is true of body politics seeking
To rescue the good from the vile.

‘As above, so below’ alchemists would claim
Though planetary revolution may not proceed
Along the lines of parliamentary democracy –
If it did so, it would quickly lose speed.

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“Never be deceived that the rich will permit you
“To vote away their wealth.”
Said Lucy Parsons, the Chicago anarchist
Who knew they’d acquired it by stealth.

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And therefore stealthy means are legitimate
In order to adjust the balance,
Such as hacking into tax havens and freeing up the funds
Of those whom their wealth’s made callous.
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“The wealthy”, said Gandhi, “are traitors –
“Traitors to the community.”
In distancing themselves from the source of their wealth
The rich contract a spiritual infirmity.

 

rev6.tifFrantišek Kupka, Liberty, 1902

 

In al-Shabbi’s poem ‘To the tyrants of the world,’
He says “You deform the magic of existence.”
But al-Shabbi warns that in the ashes of their carnage
Are smouldering the fires of resistance.
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Here’s Boudicca, the leader of the Iceni tribe,
Objecting to Rome occupying her land:
“We must conquer or fall. That is the fate of this woman.
Let men live on as slaves if they want.”
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Revolutionary cultures forge different brains –
Neurones rewired and fired by new desires –
“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive” wrote Wordsworth
Of France’s fervour before it turned sour. [1]

Likewise John Reed on hearing of the insurrection
Of Lenin and the Petrograd workers with red flags unfurled
Described “men weeping and embracing each other”
And exclaimed, “Now there was all great Russia to win – ­­­and then the world!” [2]

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The black consciousness leader, Stokeley Carmichael,
Looked with envy towards South America:
They “have a revolution every twenty four hours
“Just to remind us they’re politically aware.” [3]

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And now man’s sensory cortex is experiencing
Change like no other before;
Social media’s messages mean that authority
No longer strikes the same awe.

Interactive networks see two million people
On the streets of London in a trice.
They object to being led into an illegal war
And expose their leadership’s lies.

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This whirlwind of nonviolent protest was unique
With millions taking to the streets
Only for a slow-witted US President to respond:
“I pay no attention to focus groups.”

Revolution offers a fast track into a leaderless world
Where the prevailing spirit is Do It Yourself;
Where ponderous statesmen can be undermined
By the nimble keystrokes of an electronic elf –

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Who can summon people in an instant
To take part in a Flash Mob,
Shaming Wall Street’s money zombies
Into suicidal belly flops.
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What proportion of the economic gains
Since the US recession
Went to the top one per cent? It’s ninety-five per cent
Which has to be a psychopathic distortion.
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And how much more does the average CEO earn,
Compared with the wage-packet his workers see?
In 1980 it was forty-two times more, and now?
Now it’s three hundred and seventy-three.

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Surely this is a pre-revolutionary situation
With only revolution to correct the balance,
For to be mega-rich while others are homeless
Can only be thought of as malice.

 

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Nonviolent direct action requires no-one’s  permission
And, for dealing with capitalism’s beds of nails –
The spikes that are everywhere to deter rough sleepers –
Cans of concrete mix and the strategy fails.

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Outside Foxtons, the upmarket Estate Agents,
There are rows of spikes to deter sleepers
So squatters delight in taking over Foxtons’ properties
To proclaim triumphantly, ‘Finders Keepers’.
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Abbie Hoffman was once asked, “What’s the difference
“Between revolutionary and reactionary violence?”
“The same as the difference between dog-shit and cat-shit,” he replied –
In other words no difference.

Classically, revolutions that require bloodshed
Always turn out to be complete frauds:
One lot of hired thugs merely replaces another
And then becomes Mammon’s running dogs.

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There are now subtler ways of proceeding,
With cunning rather than an AK-47 –
Revolution’s as likely to come from a child’s keyboard
As from an automatic rifle’s aggression.

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Or from theatrical manifestations –
From demonstrations of play-power –
Such as the strategies of Tactical Frivolity
Disrupting attendance at the WTO –

As the World Trade Organisation
Manages the global economy
By its favouring the rich countries over the poor
It becomes a target for the weapons of comedy.

 

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So Prague’s Carnival against Capital cordoned it off,
Ring-fencing it with revolutionary hullabalooo
Declaring, “If the FBI wish to infiltrate us
“They’ll have to do so wearing a pink tutu.”

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Carnival against Capital’s slogan is ‘Resistance
‘Is the secret of joy’ and they said to the WTO
“We don’t want a place at your table: we want to dance on it.”
– Their way of telling them where to go.

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Activists on stilts from Reclaim the Streets
Have squatted motorways wearing giant garments –
Concealing road drills for digging holes and planting trees
To create a Guerilla Garden.

 

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As revolutions are a festival of the oppressed
Their task is to turn the world upside down
Guided by the anarchist principle, if not a rule,
That the revolution should be fun.

The Carnival spirit shows “another world is possible’,
A world without the idolatry of weapons,
Where those trapped by work and consumption
Can find another self being awakened.

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In 1848 people objecting to being ‘subjects’
Cut off the city by inventing the barricade.
Paris became ungovernable, the city was closed,
Then its King forced to flee and to abdicate.
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In the nineteenth century the Rebecca rioters
Objected to tollgates “confining the rabble”.
They distracted the constables standing guard with a play
While they turned the tollgates into rubble.
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Likewise the Luddites sneaked under the radar,
Disguising themselves in female dress,
They then took hammers to the mechanical looms
That were sacrificing them to ‘progress.’

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In 1871 the Paris Commune declared Paris
To be the site of a “permanent festival”.
With their autonomous liberated city still haunted by the guillotine
This was considered more preferable.
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In 1968 the revolutionary festival spirit broke out once more,
Enhanced by the Situationists’ declaration
That it was the revolution’s job to serve poetry
Not the job of poetry to serve the revolution.

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And now interconnected activists
Tuned to a global brain
Can operate horizontally, without leaders,
To derail the hierarchical train

That drives a system dominated by oligarchs –
The corporate oligarchs of the one per cent –
Whose wealth spawns the tent-cities of the homeless
And who rule with no one’s consent.

rev29illustration: Elena Caldera

 

The more money you have the more addicted
To money that you become –
A revolution’s designed to detoxify those
Made mad by excessive sums –

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And to change a weaponized world where pacifists
Have bugs installed in their homes,
And where it’s illegal to give food to the homeless
On behalf of ‘Food Not Bombs.’

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A photo of the first arrest of Food Not Bombs. Nine volunteers were arrested on August 15, 1988,
at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco charged with sharing food without a permit.

 

And where property prices guarantee that the poor
Find themselves economically cleansed;
Where the disabled are deliberately disconnected
And the animal kingdom’s condemned.

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“Love the animals,” said Dostoievsky, “They have
“The rudiments of thought, and joy untroubled.”
Yet capitalism sentences them to conveyor belt killings
After they’re caged, and enslaved, and their suffering redoubled.

Every society in decline attracts bloodsuckers –
Slave-owners still in Wall Street and the City –
Whose wage-slaves subsidise their own prisons,
Yearning to be free through what’s visionary.

The revolution is on every front possible
And what binds it together is beauty:
Beautiful non-violent anarchist revolution,
Sneaking in when oppression’s off-duty.

Spontaneous collectives like Anonymous
Fight for freedom for information
Instead of its manipulation for money
By unscrupulous corporations.

The idea of revolution is essentially poetic,
Coming out of the soul like a rocket,
From something within that’s barbaric and wild –
To make the most exciting thing on the planet.

Like poetry, revolution gives you permission
To live on a higher level
And its reward is the sensation of challenging
The world, the flesh and the devil.


Heathcote Williams

 

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Footnotes

[1] William Wordsworth, ‘The French Revolution as It Appeared to Enthusiasts at its Commencement’, 1809
[2] From John Reed, Ten Days that Shook the World, 1919
[3] Stokely Carmichael, Black Power Address at US Berkeley, 1966


By Heathcote Williams

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One Response to Revolution

  1. eco-worrier says:

    I’m in.

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