Thoughts on Revolution in our lifetime, the crisis and demoralisation

The audio this blog is about was a presentation I gave last week on 'Will we see a revolution in our lifetime' to the Rethinking Revolution discussion at Seomra Spraoi in Dublin.  I go into some of the thoughts behind what I said on the night and the idea of the discussion sessions in general. This was the second of these meetings, the idea of which was inspired by the interest shown in the Better Questions discussion series which I've previously blogged about here.  This one was set up as a debate between Alan MacSimoin and myself, he is the other speaker on the recording.

I reproduce the advertisement we circulated for the meeting below
"Are we spending our precious time outside of work at protests and meetings because we want to improve our lives or are we just fighting for future generations. In either case what is it that we are trying to do as we move from topic to topic and struggle to struggle?"

Alan MacSimoin doesn't expect to see the glorious day while Andrew Flood is preparing for it being just around the corner.

 Rethinking revolution is a series of discussions in Dublin about the core ideas those of us who want revolutionary change think we have in common and so too often neglect to discuss. The discussions are kicked off by an opinionated presentation of one or more approaches on these questions with the purpose of drawing all present into a discussion that we hope will continue long after the meeting.

The Rethinking Revolution discussions are part of the work of the newly formed WSM Outreach project group.  This is part of the Dublin reorganisation of the WSM which is seeing a move towards less frequent branch meetings to make time for specialised project groups to meet.  Considering that almost all our advertisement for these meetings was via the Facebook Rethinking Revolution group we are pretty please with that aspect of it, so far, we've already met about 20 new people through these meetings.

The idea of the discussions is to try and have a set of political discussions that are accessible to people without specialised knowledge and which are also of interest to those who do because of long exposure to the left or formal education.  This is quite a tricky target to hit, in particular as we also want to have genuine discussions and not statements of the WSM 'line' on various issues.  So we are tending towards issues of controversy / ongoing discussion within the WSM as a a way of generating the subjects.  We are also aware that much of the potential audience is turned off by the language of the traditional left so we are looking for ways to discuss the core concepts without immediately putting people off with the titles used etc.

The actual standard blurb we are using for the discussions is
"Rethinking revolution is a series of discussions about the core ideas those of us who want revolutionary change think we have in common and so too often neglect to discuss. The discussions will be kicked off by an opinionated presentation of one or more approaches on these questions with the purpose of drawing all present into a discussion that we hope will continue long after the meeting. The talks are organised by the Outreach group of the WSM and inspired by those arguments we keep having in the kitchen at parties.


I put a fair bit of time into preparing my talk mostly because (as with so many of my blog posts) when I had finished the first draft I realised I had gone somewhere other than what I had intended when I sat down.  I had set out to write 'an opinionated presentation' to encourage discussion, mostly through arguing for a more 'partyist' approach rather than a 'movement of movements' one.  I think I succeeded in that as I got some strong responses (and last night in Seomra one of the speakers from the floor jokingly described me as a stalinist) but what I hadn't intended was the specifics around the struggle against the crisis.  Those started to come in as illustrative examples but for quite a portion of the final text (which went through 2 major edit cycles and half a dozen small ones) they take over.

I think its the first time I've suggested out loud in public that we have been defeated and that demoralisation has set in.  As such this talk is a sort of bookend with the talk at the November 2008 Grassroots Gathering in Cork on the topic of 'Kicking capitalism when its down'. I ended my contribution there with a warning that although there was an opportunity 'right now' we only had a period of months or maybe a year to build resistance before rising unemployment etc resulted in the sort of demoralisation I had seen in the 1980's setting in.  The rethinking Revolution 'bookend' is about 1 year and 6 months after that warning, perhaps I'm being overly pessimistic and simply fulfilling my own half remembered prediction?

There is a line in my talk for the Rethinking Revolution session about militants dropping out and turning to escapism, careers or home life which I though quite hard about cutting, it has the problem that many people hearing it may think its aimed specifically at them. In the end I left it in  because I think it is a useful thing to express.  A realisation that demoralisation has political and not simply personal / relationships causes can make the difference between people sticking our difficult periods or quickly or slowly fading into the 'I used to be a leftie but..' sunset.

If there is a theme to what I say its probably that the 'movement of movement's' period now needs to be critiqued, a more developed version of the point  I made in the 'Which left should those better Questions be directed at?' blog of a month ago.  In fact looking back over that post I can see it was quite influential in the direction my talk took, my sub-conscious mind obviously had a better idea if what I wanted to say then my conscious mind had.  

Better Questions was supposed to be on a break of a couple of weeks but I've not heard anything about it restarting and talking to one of the people involved at the activists masked ball the week before last it looks like the organising group are reconsidering their approach.  I hope they do return in some form as although my blog posts about those meetings were quite critical I did find them pretty useful in provoking thought.  I still have a few potential blog subjects sitting in my head from them, although my potential blog stack is large and growing faster than I can process it!

I will probably add the actual text of the talk as an article to this site in the near future.  I'm a little hesitant about doing so for two reasons.  Firstly I had a lot more to say so I might actually work it into a longer article.  And secondly because I was trying to provoke debate in quite a hard manner in a way that works when you are in the same room as the audience but may not carry the same  nuance  in an online text (that would also probably end up being selectively quoted).  Either way I'll get it online in the near future, for now you can listen to the audio .  And now I have a Mayday march to get to (Happy Mayday).

Note on the recording: Due to technical difficulties the second part of my presentation had to be re-recorded and the first 15 minutes of the discussion are missing. The rest of the discussion was recorded although at a lower quality to the rest of the recording. The total length is just over one hour

 Listen to the 'revolution in our lifetime' audio


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