Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Passive Revolution

I suspect that the age of Jacobin social revolutions -- beginning with the French Revolution and ending with Iran's Islamic Revolution -- is over.

Gramsci posed a question: ". . . does there exist an absolute identity between war of position and passive revolution? Or at least does there exist, or can there be conceived, an entire historical period in which the two concepts must be considered identical -- until the point at which the war of position once again becomes a war of maneuver?"(Selections from the Prison Notebooks, p. 108).

That historical period is now. Today, what is on the political agenda is indeed a war of position, and it is in this context where I consider the concepts of hegemony and passive revolution as useful ones for working toward social change, especially in such countries as Iran and Venezuela.

What is passive revolution? Gramsci put it this way: "what was involved was not a social group which 'led' other groups, but a State which, even though it had limitations as a power, 'led' the group which should have been 'leading' and was able to put at the latter's disposal an army and a politico-diplomatic strength" (Selections from the Prison Notebooks, p. 105).

In Venezuela, a petit-bourgeois populist leader has political supremacy; in Iran, a petit-bourgeois populist leader is at war of position with other petit-bourgeois leaders who are neoliberal. Workers, peasants, and others ought to push them for more change in their interest.

On a day when I am uncharacteristically optimistic, I think it not impossible to use "political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie," or at least go into that direction, despite great odds against it.

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