Revolution in Plain Sight
posted August 13, 2011
When much-needed revolutions fail, it is not because of their message. It is not because they yearn for something unattainable. It is because they too closely emulate the institutions they seek to challenge. They fail because they use the same language and the same rules that govern closed societies, and thus suffer all of the weaknesses of those societies without the resources and connections needed to support them.
What Is a Closed Revolution?
Simply put, a closed revolution is one that is required, usually due to organizational choices, to actively fight counterrevolution, avoid suppression, and maintain the purity of the movement. Some common traits of closed revolutions include, but are not limited to:
- high level of centralization
- involvement in violent or severely criminal activity
- secrecy regarding meetings, activities, or affiliates
These properties make a closed revolution easy to destroy, which means that efforts must be shifted from revolutionary action to revolutionary self-defense, which is often catastrophic and self-destructive. Centralization creates a framework that can be disrupted via imprisonment, assassination (literal or character), coercion, or infiltration. Criminal activity, especially violent activity, makes a revolution both an easy target for the police state and a pariah amongst the very people it seeks to empower.
Depending on the particular nature of the closed revolution, Participants may need to take measures to conceal their participation in such a movement, meet only in secret, or actively and aggressively seek to root out traitors amongst their ranks. All of these activities are inherently counterproductive, as the push for secrecy reduces the movement’s ability to share it’s message and intra-revolutionary witch hunts can divide a movement personally and ideologically.
What Is Open Revolution
In order to be truly open, a revolution would do well to progress under the following guidelines:
- self-organize (that is, operate without central leadership)
- refrain from instigating easily condemnable actions (largely violence)
- be supported and discussed publicly and openly without fear
- maintain a large base of passionate supporters
The last point is really the one that makes the others work. An open revolution requires that every injustice, every effort made to quell the insurrection, is met with a loud enough voice that no action goes unnoticed. It requires large groups of people to vocally and actively respond to falsified police reports, false arrests, and false-flag operations. Counterrevolution must be done quietly and secretly without drawing attention to itself, so any movement which is inherently open and in plain sight has a natural resistance to suppression.
At it’s core, an open revolution is nothing more than a collection of ideas and an agreement as to how these ideas can and should be shared. There is no central body to regulate actions, give orders, or distribute supplies. It’s an idea put in the hands of human beings, perhaps the greatest engines for converting ideas into action the universe will ever see.
The Unavoidable Challenges of Revolution
Since revolution is inherently about bringing a quiet but powerful voice up to challenge one that is disproportionally loud relative to it’s merits and willful popular support, there are a few hurdles that any revolution will necessarily face. Here’s a short list of those issues, and how they can destroy a more traditional closed revolution but not an open one.
1. Distortion of the message Why it destroys closed revolutions No matter how secret a group may attempt to be in revolutionary action, the police state will find out, and they will stop it. In the case of a closed group, there is no public face, no stated objective, and the state is free to distort the goals or even the actions of the group. If the first time we ever hear of a revolutionary group is when we see the story of their arrest on their news, would we really ever know if we’re being given the full story of their purpose and practices? Secrecy works against groups because it creates an environment in which a false history can easily be created and ascribed to a group.
How open revolutions resist If the existence and content of a revolutionary message are freely available, nobody gets to tell a different story about it. The state can not label a movement in a certain way if it is a matter of public record that that the contrary is true. When you play basketball with someone, you can call them out when they cheat because the rules are available for everyone to see. If those rules were kept in private, however, you would be none the wiser if your friend told you that dribbling was strictly optional.
2. False-flag operations Why it destroys closed revolutions A movement that is closed inherently limits its ability to make public its motives and practices. This makes it very easy for someone to act “on behalf” of such a movement in a way that ruins the movement’s credibility or damages its momentum. A closed group must either disavow any affiliation with this alleged affiliate (which risks unwanted exposure) or do nothing and become that much less effective.
How open revolutions resist For starters, with no leadership and a clearly defined set of acceptable practices, it becomes very hard from a counter-revolutionary operative to claim affiliation with a movement while acting outside of the interests of that movement. For example, if one tenet of a revolution is “don’t kick kittens” and someone claiming to embody the revolution kicks a kitten, then it becomes trivial to argue that this person is NOT an agent of revolution at all. For examples of this, we need look no further than clandestine counter-revolutionary actions in Egypt over the past year. False-flag operations in the form of targeted religious violence have not had lasting impacts because everyone knows that inter-faith cooperation is a stated goal of the populist movement. So while there is usually a brief spat of finger pointing and anger, the blame and anger are rightfully shifted to where the belong, and away from revolutionaries.
3. Targeted suppression Why it destroys closed revolutions Maintaining a degree of secrecy requires coordination, which requires leadership and the structures that come with it. However, concentration of power creates targets of opportunity, which can be neutralized via a variety of means - murder, bribery, blackmail, arrest, etc. The militant black nationalist movements (like the Black Panthers) were frequent targets of targeted suppression from the state during the seventies. Such a counterrevolutionary strategy was made obvious by the movement’s military-esque structure, which made responsibility and thus target opportunity easy to identify. It’s analogous to the American politcal power structure - since certain people (governors, senators, etc.) hold concentrated power, they make obvious targets for lobbying, bribery, and blackmail.
How open revolutions resist If secrecy is not an asset to a movement, then the need for clandestine chains of commands does not exist. Without such structures, there is no target of opportunity. To bring back the lobbying example - if the power of one senator were distributed to 100 people, it now becomes at least 100 times as difficult to lobby or coerce.
If revolution is to occur - and it must occur, then it must be open. It must be born of people with some shared goals. And it must involve a lot of such people. A large and decentralized body can not be quickly and quietly eliminated or incapacitated. So get talking. In person, online, on the phone, in writing. This country and the world are full of people looking to make a change and make a difference, they’re just waiting for someone to remind them that they aren’t alone and that they don’t have to hide.