The Realpolitik of Revolution by William T. Hathaway

2014 Peoples Climate March NYC 90

Image by Stephen Melkisethian via Flickr

by William T. Hathaway
Writer, Dandelion Salad
June 9, 2015

What will it take to end this ghastly cycle of violence and bring lasting peace, not just end this current war but create a peaceful society in which humanity lives cooperatively and harmoniously? The socialist answer is we must overthrow capitalism, a system that inevitably generates conflict and inequality. And overthrowing it will require a revolution.

What will it take to make a revolution? The socialist answer is the majority of people must realize that capitalism can’t provide them a decent life. Then a militant party based in the international working class must lead them in transferring the means of production — the natural resources, factories, banks, and major corporations — from private into public ownership.

In the past decade progress has been accelerating for both of these conditions. Global capitalism is lurching from one crisis to another, and the ruling class is resorting to desperate measures to keep it alive, including war abroad and repression at home. More and more people are seeing how their and their children’s lives are being degraded to keep corporate profits rolling in. Skepticism about the official reasons for the current war is growing, as are distrust and dislike of governments and corporations. On the Left, the debate about proper theory and practice has sharpened, and the differences among parties have become clearer.

But we’re a long way from revolution. Most people in the wealthy countries still believe that reforms within the system can reverse capitalism’s decline. Most in the poor countries are still caught within authoritarian social and religious structures that hinder them from mobilizing. The Left is still unable to unite around a revolutionary program.

The Western ruling class is gambling that war and repression can delay their demise. They could be right. It is possible that by massively increasing their barbarism, they can continue their domination of Mideast oil and crush dissent at home. Capitalists have resorted to fascism before when they were in deep trouble, and they’re willing to do it again.

If they succeed in tightening their grip on us and the world, they may be able to squeeze out another hundred years of profits. This would indeed be a dismal century for humanity and our environment, far worse than now. Their next wars will be against their rivals in Russia and China. The capitalist imperative — for individuals, corporations, and nations — is dominate or go under. In this phase of global consolidation the battle becomes all consuming. Lasting peace is impossible under capitalism.

But if they lose the current war, they’ll lose their favorable oil leases and they won’t be able to build the Afghan pipeline, both of which they need to maintain their economic advantage and high profits. They’ll also lose access to consumer and labor markets in many Muslim countries.

These losses will precipitate a crisis more severe than any we’ve seen yet. Then the only way for Western capitalists to keep extracting profits will be to crack down even harder on their workers. When that happens and the workers start fighting back, we’ll have the objective conditions for revolution. And if the working class has militant, non-reformist leadership, we’ll eventually win. Then the international Left can build socialism and put an end to dominator systems such as capitalism and fundamentalism.

All this depends, though, on the defeat of NATO in the Mideast. That is a prerequisite for revolution in the foreseeable future.

How can NATO be defeated? Of the many Muslim groups that oppose Western domination, only the fundamentalists are willing to die in sufficient numbers to drive out imperialism. Repulsive and reactionary as they are, the fanatics of ISIS, al Qaeda, and Taliban have the strength of arms and faith to defeat NATO’s military, economic, and cultural invasion of their areas. None of the other groups comes close to being able to do this.

The prospect of their winning sends a shiver of dread through us because they are indeed brutal and intolerant. But in the West tolerance is disappearing as governments curtail civil liberties and criminalize dissent, primarily as proactive preparation against the coming revolutions in their own countries. And the West is far more brutal. The fundamentalists are killing hundreds, but NATO and its proxies are killing hundreds of thousands, and in much more horrible ways. Beheading is mercifully quick compared to the slow agony of burns and shrapnel. These deaths don’t make the news because that would shatter the propaganda myth necessary to drum up war fever. The varieties of violence that NATO is inflicting on these countries are much more destructive than those of the fundamentalists. WE are the top terrorist. But the mainstream media’s demonization campaign prevents us from perceiving that.

The West started this war in order to continue its control of Mideast resources. The so-called terrorists are people driven to drastic means to defend their homeland from multi-pronged foreign aggression. Their brutality comes from decades of being brutalized. Despite media lies to the contrary, Muslim countries have on balance been far more peaceful than Christian countries. They’re not trying to conquer us, we’re trying to conquer them, to control them through puppet governments. They’re fighting to throw us out, not by winning big battles but by wearing us down militarily and financially through prolonged guerrilla warfare as the Vietnamese did.

What can we as socialists do?

We can accept the lesser evil of a fundamentalist victory without rejoicing in it, and we can help progressive groups in the Mideast — socialists, women, trade unionists — to build underground organizations that can withstand fundamentalist oppression and eventually defeat it. Most of all we can prepare the working class for the coming revolution.

William T. Hathaway‘s new book, Lila, the Revolutionary, is a fable for adults about an eight-year-old girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted on A selection of his writing is available at

from the archives:

Chris Hedges and Richard D. Wolff at the Left Forum 2015: Marx: The System is the Problem

Chris Hedges on Book TV: Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt

Invest in Activism, Not Bernie Sanders by David Swanson + The Problem with Bernie Sanders by Ashley Smith

Everyone Has to Practice Nonviolence. Now. by Rev. John Dear

Jump Out of the Pot! Capitalism Can’t Be Fixed From the Inside by William T. Hathaway

The Socialist Alternative to a World of Injustice by Danny Katch

20 thoughts on “The Realpolitik of Revolution by William T. Hathaway

  1. Pingback: The System Must Be Overthrown, and That Requires Revolution by William T. Hathaway | Dandelion Salad

  2. Pingback: Noam Chomsky: The US Empire: We Own The World | Dandelion Salad

  3. Frank Lambert recommended the concise James Petras post on “the Rise of “Criminal Capitalism.” I strongly endorse this recommendation. It is a chilling heads up for us all, not just Americans.

    The reach and influence of the US “establishment” (the NATO-badged New Empire of Terror….) is now so pervasive, no matter where any of us live or whatever governments purport to make the laws, this Grand Incubus holds sway. Petras has nailed a fine-grained flag of truth to the atrophied stump of hegemonic, de facto “rulership.” So, how do we respond?

    I’m reminded of Marshall McLuhan’s sophist “koan” ~ the medium is the message. I’ve struggled with this spurious but infectious aphorism for almost fifty years! If we apply it to the model of present day capitalism, it translates as follows: the medium (of exchange, money) is the message. The thing is, a message is a coherent ordered form of meaningful information, not just an abstract means of delivering a preordained result.

    That is like saying the medium of productive process, electricity, is a force equivalent to omnipotent Deity, clearly a disputable assumption, because as in the case of money, it is only a force of agency, not intention ~ its function is morally value neutral. Therefore the assertion is self-evidently false, because a harnessed force must be directed by will. Money can save or enslave and thereby corrupt, take your pick and make your choice. It ain’t the gelt it’s the gilded geezers who call the shots.

    So if we accept that the world’s (profane) power resides in concentrated (actually purely symbolic) form in the hands of these “ruling” financiers (…who strenuously protest they are our “servants” ha!) …it is their ambiguous activities that have inflected all human societies with criminal proclivities. So, is the tail now wagging the dog, or does absolute control still get exercised? I’d say it is still the chief string-pullers who are the problem. It is not the instrument that is playing the wrong tune, but the lousy players ~ those who pluck at it & blame its poor workmanship who are to responsible for the cacophany of illicit noise that threatens us all. The institutions of power have been subsumed ~ bought and sold. Virtue is now just a transferable commodity like junk.

    What do we do, now that the biggest bluff has rightly been called? Crowd-control is such a proficient tactic of kettling protest, we should beware of crowds preaching “mass” resistance. Us against them is spun into controlled opposition.

    It is also absurd to expect the elites to arrest themselves. It can never happen. The French devised a means that came to be known as the Terror. A more than apt epithet to describe the present criminal empire, but if we forego violence, another means must be sought to rectify the rule of law, and implement just governance.

    I am proposing “alternative” virtual government(s) ~ if you can’t change it, rearrange it, reinvent it, remodel it, redesign it. Consider biomimicry. We can organize organically. Forget “institutions”…..we need to grow healthy, strong functional organs to constitute a coherent body politic (an “organon” ~ Aristotle) that is gender dynamic (not Hillary bound) and species diverse…..

    Never mind being “on message” let’s get “on planet…”

    Thanks Frank.

    • David, I’ve been very busy and very tired the past several days. I’ll reply to your always insightful posts tonight.

    • David, I need to put on a pair of roller skates to keep up with you. LOL!
      You’ve written another gem, my friend. I’ll comment on this one later. Busy day ahead.

    • David: Interesting take on McLuhan’s concept of the media and the message. He certainly had a keen mind for differentiating the various processes for influencing the general public. I think I understand what you postulated in paragraphs 3, 4, & 5, and definitely agree with the paragraphs that follow, especially the last one which, though not impossible, is perhaps the hardest thing to achieve – but probably the most rewarding endeavor like-minded people can create for the good of their community and society in general.

      Yes, let’s “get on planet” rather than being on “message.”

      And I thank you!

      • Frank, I value your responses that are so extremely thorough, considered, generous and helpful.

        Forget about blissninnies! I too had reached a point of almost total weariness and exasperation with the state of western “civilization” & needed some mindless relief… is admittedly way off topic, even if he does eventually raise a few deeper questions about authenticity, the Ringing Cedars’ notion of Russian “nativism.” It’s a hugely complicated business, deeply resonant with the anthropology of deceit, appropriation, indigenous subjugation, cultural genocide etc….another time, another post perhaps.

        Sorry Lo for the digression!

        More seriously, and importantly though, I think we really have to get to grips with “Russia” because the stakes are so high, and the potential catastrophic fall-out from a US policy of sheer ignorance ~ or willful malice perhaps ~ will affect our entire globe in an enduringly damaging way….as if things were not already way beyond the pale of sense.

        • David, the feeling is mutual. But with an ego is big as mine, I cherish the compliments.
          The Russian saga is complex, as that nation has gone through quite a few transformations over the centuries, probably more than most other European Cultures and Civilizations have, and in spite of all the calamities and suffering through wars, famine, the gulags, the worse “final solution” (in mass casualties during WW2) in human history, the Russian spirit is alive and well. Sure, they have plenty of expatriates seeking a “better whatever” elsewhere, but then again, Quite a few Americans and Western Europeans have left their native land for greener pastures as well.

          In the 1970’s, the sociology magazine, “Transaction and Society,” published by Rutgers University, (the state university of New Jersey) had a whole issue on the Soviet Union which I now regret not saving. It would be a great reference tool between past and present.

          In the late 60’s, early 70’s I would read “Northern Neighbors,” published in Canada, which could be said to be a propaganda piece about how great life was in the Soviet Union.

          I really think the West, (mainly the US) thinks they can win a nuclear war against Russia or surround it with so many weapons systems that the Russkies will capitulate and become a vassal client of fascist America and the infamous “international bankers” of Wall Street, the City of London, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Paris.

          After Gorbechev sold out the people and dismantled the USSR, next came the drunken fool who “gave away the house” to the highest bidder, and of course, the unscrupulous usurers on Wall Street sent their financial carpetbaggers over there to divide the spoils and…you know the rest.

          Putin inherited a national mess and if anybody can be called a “miracle worker” I’d use that moniker in describing his abilities to better the life of the Russian people, taking on the oligarchs and all. He’s not perfect, but who is? “By their works shall ye know them.”

          Thanks for your intelligent input, and thank you Lo!

  4. Pingback: Chris Hedges: Nobody Wants the Wars in Iraq or Afghanistan Except Raytheon, Halliburton, Northrop Grumman | Dandelion Salad

  5. I’d like to contribute suggest two considerations, the first is that capital and capitalism are not the same thing. Neoliberal dogmatism is an implemented ideology and no amount of militant spear-shaking will affect it, because it is a caste of mind, an uncritically accepted, conditioned aberration.

    The only way to tackle such overwhelming bigotry is to educate the public to divest from it, by providing examples that demonstrate better ways of achieving more successful outcomes. Simply shouting about socialism is nowadays becoming almost meaningless. No amount of reactionary agitation (let alone cheer-leading for IS…) will achieve enduring improvement. The real world, rather than those imagined or virtual “battle-field” projections we dwell in, is vastly complex, culturally obscure and still massively unexplored in philosophical detail, and metaphysical depth.

    Even when living pragmatic examples of beneficial development are clearly in evidence, the normal means of communicating their efficacy are blocked by mainstream propaganda engines fuelled by academic obscurantism and bloodlust. So we must resort to other tactics to get the message across to those who are capable of grasping its significance and acting upon it.

    The challenge is how to most effectively “re-imagine” our investments (of time, wealth and ingenuity,) whilst addressing and eventually solving the urgent problems of ethical distribution and realistic “planetary” growth potential This requires models that not only convey structural integrity as a dynamic social (evolutionary) process, but that also establish responsible bio-physical limits; practical constraints that can only be drawn from, and through the facts of a rationally mapped biosphere, as a life supporting ~ and sustaining ~ habitat for all species. The former remains substantially a question of psychological capacity and innate talent; the latter are finally entirely dependent upon the parameters that determine our understanding of ecological principles and their anthropological implications.

    All this should be common sense; but the way that ideological fanaticism has corrupted the intelligence of our humanity, and indoctrinated populations to conform to irrational behavioural systems (like “shopping…”) renders the task far more difficult than it should otherwise be. In a “normal” world, where truth and integrity were the mainstays of social awareness, it would merely be a matter of trial and error. In our distorted dream-world of infantile cosmic lunacies & Hollywood induced comic-book fantasy, disabusing minds of habitual fears and insecurities is surely a mammoth task…..but is it nonetheless, and notwithstanding the daunting challenges we face, still not a worthy and noble undertaking?

    • David, I’m certainly in agreement with your humane, philosophical approach and workable solutions in resolving the most serious problems we have created from a lack of understanding on all levels – personal and societal – coupled with the glorification of the self (the capitalist’s creed) for self-aggrandizement rather than for the good of the community, which has brought us to this present state of almost disrepair.

      The good news from around the globe is the increasing awareness by the younger generation of the unequal distribution of just about everything, and how the producers of goods and services (individual and corporate wealth) have been shortchanged in sharing the profits of their labor and efforts.

      Incidentally, I find the term “neo-liberal” , which has been in use for close to a decade, a bogus term, which has nothing to do with the word “liberal.” When asked the definition of neo-liberal, I summed it up like this: “Back in the early part of the 20th century, the gangster loan sharks would lend money, which the term (and conditions of the loan) was called “five for six.” I’ll loan you $5.00 and you pay back $6.00, or 20% interest. Borrow a thousand and pay back twelve hundred. (Fall behind on a payment and the interest was compounded!) The IMF and World Bank have legally replaced the syndicate racketeers, but have done more economic and otherwise damage in the world than the Mafia and crime syndicates have ever done, and were small fry by comparison.

      Plus, because of the Full Spectrum Dominance game plan by the United States and their European vassal states (NATO, aka North Atlantic Terrorist Organization) to take over the world by intimidation or armed force, we are on the brink of World War Three, which will be nuclear. Then what?

      The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have set the clock closer to midnight, once again. Can the long hand be turned back again or is it too late?

        • Delighted to read your comment Frank, and for the Jas.Petras post; I browse GResearch fairly often. Eric Zuesse recently wrote that Obama is planning war against Russia

          Two thoughts on this ~ the first is the dire threat H.Clinton as C-in-C may pose, not just for Russia, but the entire world. Bill Maher at the Oxford Union last month was cheering for both Obama as a great black leader who’s likely going to “legalize” weed before he departs, & predicting that Hillary will be next PotUS.(….she’s got to be the ideal political product as the first female after the first black….America is thirsty for this…..its inevitable….etc) Maher did deliver some other more sensible and witty stuff, but frankly, his Obama pitch made me cringe. As for Hillary as great white hope, too simplistic and juvenile for my taste. Basically he says Fox News determines the mental climate of most Americans, so forget it, they’ll vote for this woman because we need that novel change and she’ll fit the bill (sorry, no pun intended) since the Democrats are now the centrist-right party, there is no left, left….and as the R’s are off the scale, etc ~ that last bit I’d have to agree with, as Hedges says, they’re just insane. It’s all rather depressing. Just destined to get worse.

          So, here’s my next more encouraging thought ~ about Putin. I just read his remarkable interview with an Italian journalist posted on Mint Press News

          I’m not naive, but everything he says makes total sense. Maybe we need to rethink what we know about Russia, or rather, what we don’t know ~ yet.

          Remember that Singing Cedars website you recommended? Well perhaps Lo will forgive some levity, but I’m sure this will amuse you ~ I’d never heard of “bliss-ninnies” before….

        • David, Thanks for the article and video links. I started typing my reply, and looked at another page for something and lost the four paragraphs of this post. So, I’ll start again.

          #1. I had read the Eric Zuesse article the day before, and his commentaries on contemporary Europe couldn’t be any more timely, and quite accurate in my opinion. Zuesse feels the throbbing pulse of those whom he writes about.

          #2. The Putin interview by the Italian journalist is “remarkable” and a must read by all the Doubting Thomas folks who have accepted the daily propaganda blitz of Putin and all things Russian by the “presstitutes” of Imperial America and our NATO (merchants of death and destruction) allies.

          #3. I was only able to listen to the “bliss-ninnie” guy for about ten minutes before turning him off. Very weird. I did read the comments posted with the video link, and most of them didn’t make sense at all, One or two of them did, which described the meaning of the message (Anastasia’s) as conveyed by the writer, Vladimir Megre’, rather than if she is a real person or just a mythical one.

          Getting back to the Italian interview and your comments. RT has started a series of short biographical documentaries on Putin’s 15 years in power, and whether one considers them slanted in favor of V.P. or not, I found them – based on everything I’ve read about Putin, from many sources, since he was first elected,up until now, and as best as I can discern, fairly accurate and an honest critique of his actions, programs, directives, President of the Russian Federation.

          He did many good things for the working-class, for seniors, and the under-paid military which was in disarray between the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yeltsin years. All is not perfect by any means, but when you look at all the hard fought for social programs in the U.S. and the U.K. which are systematically being dismantled by the capitalists and the infamous “international bankers,” with their “austerity” measures now considered essential and appropriate by our politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, Russia doesn’t look that bad at all!

          Yesterday, at a lecture on “Exposing Lies of the Empire,” I had the honor of meeting Andre Vlitchek, whom I’ve admired for the past three years or so, after reading his articles. He said Putin was better than most of the past leaders of Russia, but didn’t hold him in such high regard as I do.
          That’s okay. Vlitchek is an inspiration and a positive force for good in the world.

        • I also couldn’t watch the video for more than a few minutes, sorry about that, David. Thanks for all the other info/commentary and links.

          There is no “left” party in the US. Maybe the Green Party, sort of, on some/most issues but it is still a third party and not allowed in the debates, and not on the ballots in all 50 states. Unfortunately, it has a lot of organizational problems which I found out when working with them on Nader’s campaign for president.

        • Glad you brought up the video, Lo. I thought it might have just been me.

          Unfortunately, there is no “left” party in the US. We Greens are…you described us accurately enough…I’ll leave it at that for the time being.
          All we can do is try and make the best out of a worsening situation.

        • Thanks for the link, Frank. Prof. Petras is always worth reading. I used to republish/crosspost his work more regularly when I first started blogging, although he never was a “featured writer” on Dandelion Salad.

  6. I disagree with Hathaway in two ways. First, overthrowing NATO doesn’t require a violent war against some Muslim country. That would just leave a lot of dead Muslims. What it requires is overthrow from within, of the various countries that make up NATO.

    Second, Hathaway says

    “And if the working class has militant, non-reformist leadership, we’ll eventually win.”

    I see two things wrong with that. One is that it puts too much emphasis on “leadership” — i.e., some sort of vanguard elite — and not enough on the spreading of IDEAS and UNDERSTANDING. As you can see, I’m an anarchist. I don’t want a few people leading my revolution. I want all the participants to be leaders. We need widespread awareness.

    And second, Hathaway glosses over that point, as though it were minor, as though the real battle were one involving guns. It’s not. The real battle is one involving ideas, and we’re far from winning that one. We need to work on it a lot more, and Hathaway barely mentions it.

    • leftymathprof: Reread Hathaway’s article. He didn’t say we anti-war pro-peace leftists (progressives) need to overthrow some Muslim countries.
      Muslim groups are fighting back against NATO aggression, and the occupation and destruction of their countries by American and European armed forces, aka NATO.

      On the leadership angle, I understand your sentiment and in theory, I agree with you, but in reality, it won’t be happening too soon.Much too much ignorance (willful or otherwise) in the world, especially in supposedly “advanced nations.”

      On your second point about ideas verses guns, I agree, and so does the author of the article. Reread his last several paragraphs.

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