Friday, February 25, 2005

Recalcitrant minorities

My latest copy of The People, journal of the Socialist Labor Party, has an interesting point.

It cites former Labor Secretary Robert Reich (who worked for Bill Clinton) as saying: Ownership in America is now more concentrated than since the days of the Robber Barons of the nineteenth century...the richest 1% owns more than the bottom 90% put together (this compares with the figures posted by London Socialist on our Vauxhall campaign blog for the UK).

Now, the writer in the people cites the US census as saying there is a population of 293,382,953 yankland side. So that means 2.9 million people own America.

See, I always fall for the illusion that such a small percentage means a very small number of people, I forget just how many people there are. That figure is worse, obviously, because it ignore dependents. In calculating the size of the US ruling class, we need to about treble that (2 children, ish, plus any spouses, relatives, etc. without independent means). So the US ruling class amounts to 8,801,489 people.

Hence we can see, if they are organised, and they do have the free time, they could make a serious clout in politics. Both simply by manning the political machinery, and providing a substantial vote. If a revolution were to occur, they could well turn to violence. After all, committees of public safety included rich and powerful people during the strike wave of 1871 and the St. Louis Commune yankland side.

Using the CIA World Factbook on US population, we find that 66.9% of the population would be in fighting age (16-64 - obviously, there are no rules about such things, but I'm assuming these people will be fit enough to pick up arms or lead armies). 49.89% of that age group are male. So, assuming we can just break down our figures like this (and it isn't accurate by any means) 8,801,489x0.669x0.4989= 2,937,621 (I know, that looks like we're back where we started, but hey, it was an important route).

So, there is a potential for a recruitment pool of 2.9 million fighting men. As we have seen in Iraq, about 20,000 active guerrillas with a reasonable hinterland population have wreaked untold havoc. In the vastness of the US, they could do the more so. After all, these people would not be too disimilar to the dispossed Baathists in Iraq who make up part of the insurgency.

If a socialist revolution were faced with these people taking up arms as a recalcitrant minority, we would have to deal with them, if only to defend ourselves. Yes, we can reckon on splits in their ranks, but we could still reckon on thousands of them being available to take us on.

Our advantage would have to be the thing absent from Iraq, functional civil society, a working economy. Faced with our rock steady control of our own world, I believe their political defeat would be rapid - I don't believe a military defeat would be possible (it could even make things worse). Iraq is posing this question now, and I hope that a handful of gunmen cannot make their way, and that peace is restored in Iraq, so the class war can be resumed.

Those bent on revolutionary change must consider the real strengths in society as they find it.


Blogger Derrick Perkins said...

Unfortunatly, in America, a socialist revolution would have to either work through the political system to gain its goals or enjoy such support of the masses that it could overthrow the 'ruling class' of Americans. Neither case is likely ever to occur because as a society Americans remain in general opposed to communism (hence the nonexistence of a communist party as opposed to Russia and France). Also, when I write communism, it implies the Marxist form as well as the Lenin/Trotsky form.

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it did come to a ruck, our lot will always have had a bit more experience with shooters, blades and bombs and that than your average capitalist.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Bill said...


well, I was assuming a constitutionally valid political revolution - i.e. a majority of voters sending socialist delegates to congress, state legislature, etc. possibly even evoking Article V of the US constitution. In such a case, I was looking at what sort of tiny minority opposition could occur.

There have been surges of Socialist thinking in Amerikky before, and there could be again...

9:48 AM  
Blogger Bill said...


wellll, mayyybe, but we're also more of a target since there's more of us, and they could elave a bomb anywhere. It wouldn't be pretty, and I think it's our job to annunciate our politics in such a way as to preclude/avoid such an outcome...

9:49 AM  

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