LESSONS LEARNED #68: ” Beware the demagogue, the champion of the poor, for he has dictatorial aspirations.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 2nd, 2011

Robespierre used the Sans-culottes

A telltale sign of royalty is a really nice pair of pants.  With a perfect, sharp crease.  But that’s today.  Back in the old days, it was a handsome pair of silk knee-breeches.  The wealthy in pre-revolutionary France all wore them.  I say ‘pre-revolutionary’ because it was not the thing to wear during the revolution.  In fact, a group of people who could not afford these fancy breeches took pride in their plain pants.  The poor working class in the cities.  Artisans and small shopkeepers.  The little guys.  Struggling to make a living.

These people did not wear the ‘culottes’ (French for ‘silk knee-breeches’) of the upper classes.  So they went ‘sans’ them (French for ‘without’).  Hence they were the Sans-culottes.  They were the people without silk knee-britches.  And the mob behind the French Revolution

They were Leftist radicals.  Anti-capitalists.  And the far-Left radical Jacques Roux used them for muscle.  Turned them against the bourgeouis (the middle class).  Caused a whole lot of unrest.  Some food riots.  And a massacre or two.  Roux was becoming too powerful so Maximilien Robespierre, a Jacobin, had him arrested.  Then he used the Sans-culottes to consolidate his power.  With the opportune assassination of Jean-Paul Marat (a Jacobin leader), Robespierre became the leader of the Jacobins and of the Revolution.  For awhile.  With the help of the Sans-culottes, he unleashed the Reign of Terror.  Marat’s assassin was a Girondin.  The Girondins were the political rivals of the Jacobins.  So Robespierre put Marat’s assassination to good use and cleaned house.  And by ‘clean house’ I mean killed as many of his political opposition as possible.  It was the time to kill.  If you didn’t like someone all you had to say was that he or she was a counter revolutionary.  And they got a date with the guillotine.  In all some 16,000 (or more) lost their heads during the Reign of Terror.  Including Robespierre himself.  Live by the guillotine.  Die by the guillotine.  And soon thereafter the Sans-culottes became less of a force as the government pulled back from the extreme Leftist radicalism of the Terror to a more conservative one.

Communist Leaders exploited the Proletariat

Marxism arose as a criticism of capitalism.  Which exploits the working class (according to Marxism).  The proletariat.  Who own nothing but their labor.  And are forced to sell it for day-wages to those who own the means of production.  The industrial bourgeoisie.  The proletariat wants to maximize their pay.  The bourgeoisie wants to maximize their profits.  Of course, one can only gain if the other loses.  Ergo, this is a class struggle.  Between the working majority.  And the capital owning minority.  Which is wrong according to Marxism.  And can only end in a proletarian revolution.  After which everyone will live a life of plenty in a classless, stateless, property-less society.  Because everyone will feel the love and work real hard to produce a lot.  Even though they won’t make an extra dime for all their extra work.  It will be a social utopia where society takes from those according to ability and gives to those according to need.  And they’ll sing workers’ songs as they eat and drink and scratch their fat bellies at the end of the work day.

As a social utopia, it’s a pretty nice one.  Especially to the working class who have worked some pretty hard lives.  So they are quick to show a lot of need.  And little ability.  Because those with the most ability have to work the hardest.  Whereas those with the greatest need get more stuff.  Even if they don’t work.  At all.  According to theory, at least.  The working class may be uneducated laborers, but they understood this.  Especially when a leader came along to lead a proletarian revolution.  I get more for working less?  I’m with you, brother.  There have been quite a few such revolutions.  Though there are some degrees of differences, we can call most of these communist revolutions.  Because communist leaders based their philosophy on some form of Marxism.

Many countries had communist revolutions.  Russia was the first.  It became the Soviet Union.  Then China.  It became the People’s Republic of ChinaNorth Korea.  And Cuba.  To name a few.  And how did the proletariat make out in those countries?  Well, suffice it to say it wasn’t quite the utopia they were expecting.  By fighting for the people, Joseph Stalin became one of the greatest mass murderers of all time.  Beating out Adolf Hitler by scores.  There was no utopia in the Soviet Union.  Unless you liked fear and oppression.  And going hungry and lacking the necessities of life.  Ditto in China.  Only their proletariat wasn’t urban workers.  They were rural farmers and peasants.  Forced into collectivized farms.  Where food production plummeted.  Resulting in one of the 20th century’s most horrific famines.  Between famine, fear and oppression, Mao Tse-tung gave Joseph Stalin a run for his money as the greatest mass murderer of all time.  Not sure who won as records are a little sketchy.  But they probably hold first and second place.  Don’t know much about North Korea because it’s such a closed society.  But they suffer some of the greatest famines of modern time.  And spend most of their nights in the dark as they have little energy (seen from space you can tell North Korea from South Korea by the lights).  And the Cubans have more than once tried to escape their social utopia by crossing the Atlantic Ocean in rickety boats and rafts to reach America. 

Life got worse for the working class in general under communism.  But it got pretty good if you were in the communist party.  It was that ‘from those according to ability to those according to need’ thing.  It didn’t work in practice.  Because it turns out people want to benefit from their labors.  Which is the basis of the proletarian revolution in the first place.  And making them work harder for less just wasn’t going to cut it.  Especially when life was better under capitalism.  For it was better when the capitalist bourgeoisie did the exploiting than the communist party.  And it wasn’t just because of the famine, fear and oppression that came with the communists.  Because the capitalists paid you according to the quality of your labor.  Not by the quantity of your need.  So the harder you worked, the more they paid you.  And that’s the kind of thing that’ll get people to work harder.  Incentive.

Peron exploited the Descamisados

Tim Rice is one of the greatest lyricists in musical theater.  Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s greatest works were those he did with Rice.  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream CoatJesus Christ Superstar.  And Evita.  The story of Eva Perón.  Wife of Juan Perón.  And their rise to power in Argentina.  With the help of their descamisados.  The poor, shirtless workers.  Who loved Eva Perón.  As she loved them.

The musical Evita has a Che Guevara-like narrator named Che who tells the story.  And participates.  He sees the Peróns for who they are.  Sees how they exploit the descamisados for personal gain.  And bankrupts the nation.  Rice does a great job of turning this story into some great songs.  This story of a workers’ revolution is accessible.  And entertaining.  Here are some of the lyrics.  Starting with the workers’ demands.

Nationalization of the industries that the foreigners control
Participation in the profits that we make
Shorter hours
Higher wages
Votes for women
Larger dole
More public spending
A bigger slice of every cake

The hallmarks of any workers’ revolution.  Which of course the leader of the workers’ revolution promises in exchange for their vote.  Even though he would prefer not to have to deal with that pretense.

It’s annoying that we have to fight elections for our cause
The inconvenience–having to get a majority
If normal methods of persuasion fail to win us applause
There are other ways of establishing authority

Then the secret police echo these thoughts.

We have ways of making you vote for us,
or at least of making you abstain

Perón wins the election.  And gives his first speech on the balcony of the Casa Rosada.

Argentinos! Argentinos! We are all shirtless now!
Fighting against our common enemies–
Poverty, social injustice, foreign domination of our industries!
Reaching for our common goals–
Our independence, our dignity, our pride!
Let the world know that our great nation is awakening
and that its heart beats in the humble bodies of Juan Peron
and his wife, the first lady of Argentina,
Eva Duarte de Peron!

Yes, he is just one of them.  Shirtless.  And poor.  Though he says this from the ‘pink’ house.  Which is more palace than house.  Che is in the crowd.  And is not amused.

As a mere observer of this tasteless phenomenon, one has to admire the stage management
There again–perhaps I’m more than a mere observer –
listen to my enthusiasm, gentleman! Peron! Peron! Peron!
Look, if I take off my shirt, will you-

At which point the security police beat him and take him away.  For they don’t like dissenters.  Typical revolutionary stuff.  But in a story told so well.  Thanks to the great lyrics of Rice.  And the music of Webber.  And after Perón gets his power, how does Argentina do?  Does Perón deliver that Promised utopia?  Che explains in a brief but passionate monolog.

What’s new Buenos Aires? Your nation, which a few years ago had the second largest gold reserves in the world, is bankrupt! A country which grew up and grew rich on beef is rationing it! La Prensa, one of the few newspapers which dares to oppose Peronism, has been silenced, and so have all other reasonable voices! I’ll tell you what’s new Buenos Aires!

It’s a story as old as time.  The revolutionary leaders get richer.  The workers get poorer.

(The original Broadway cast recording includes Patti LuPone as Eva and Mandy Patinkin as Che.  Who’ve set the bar for these roles.  You can’t get better.  So buy this recording.  You won’t regret it.)

Famine, Fear and Oppression never take a Holiday

Sans-culottes, proletariats, descamisados or some other poor class of people a revolutionary leader champions, it always ends the same.  The leaders of the revolution always seem to do better.  And the poor class continues to suffer.  Often worse off than they were before.  Some leaders come and go.  But the suffering of the masses usually lingers.  For famine, fear and oppression never take a holiday.  But liberty does.  Sadly.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #25: “War is costly. Peace, too.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 3rd, 2010

ONE OF THE lasting consequences of war is the feminization of men.  War makes widows.  And fatherless sons.  Their mothers raise them the best that they can.  But women tend to be kinder and gentler than men.  More nurturing.  Fathers are, after all, the disciplinarians.  “Just wait until your father gets home.”  Sons with fathers knew what that meant.  And it wasn’t kind, gentle nurturing.

The American Civil War killed some 600,000 men.  A generation of fathers was lost.  When their sons came of age, they were more sensitive to the suffering of others.  And they felt a mothering urge to do something about it.  In politics they became Progressives.  They grew government.  Because government knows best.  Well, mother knows best.  And a government that mothers would solve all our social ills.  And these men would mother.  Compassionately.  And they thought all that rugged individualism was overrated.

World War I killed some 9 million men in uniform and about another 7 million in civilians.  These fatherless sons would rise in power and help create the cradle-to-the-grave welfare state known as European Socialism. 

World War II killed some 400,000 American men.  And their sons would follow the European’s lead.  They would attend the universities where the progressives taught.  They came out with heads filled with caring and compassion for victims everywhere.  LBJ’s Great Society would grow out of this movement.  As well as a hatred for American rugged individualism.  And anti-war fervor.

AND THEN YOU had the filthy, maggot-infested hippies.  South Park is a crude comedy.  And Cartman has few redeeming qualities.  But he’s right about hippies.  They ruined this country.  Born in the baby boom following World War II, most had the benefit of a father.  However, by the 1960s, the universities they attended were a lost cause.  Their professors would attack whatever their parents taught them.  They would learn to hate.  In a kind, gentle, nurturing way.

They hated America.  How it became.  What it did.  What its values were.  Are.  Instead, they would embrace America’s enemies.  Have kind, gentle, nurturing compassion for them.  They were proud Marxists.  And Communists.  They relished their First Amendment right to attack the American Republic that gave them that right.  While they supported oppressive regimes where you had no such right.  And spoke ill of the government at your own peril.  Oh, they damned America and its allies for all of their ‘crimes against humanity’.  But they said nothing about the reigning co-champions of human rights abuses.  The Soviet Union.  And Communist China.  No, they wanted to extend the proletarian revolution to America.  So more could suffer the worst of human rights abuses.  Why would anyone adopt such a conflicting course of political action?  Because they’re idiots.

Power to the People.  Give Peace a Chance.  All You Need is Love.  They knew all the answers.  John Lennon et al.  War was business.  Nothing more.  Or the folly of kings.  As the Monkees sang about in this anti-war song:

They met on the battlefield banner in hand.
They looked out across the vacant land.
And they counted the missing, one upon one,
None upon none.
The war it was over before it begun.

Two little kings playing a game.
They gave a war and nobody came.

(from Zor and Zam by Bill Chadwick and John Chadwick
Album: The Birds, the Bees and the Monkees)

This is what the anti-war people believe.  Either war is business.  Or the folly of kings.  That there is no ‘bad guy’ in war.  Just pawns.  And units of production.  Because human nature is peaceful.

WHO DID THE high school bullies pick on?  Who did they pansts?  Steal their lunch money from?  Give a wedgie to?  A swirlie?   Beat up.  Belittle with name calling?  Not tough guys.  Weak guys.  This is human nature.  The strong feed on the weak.

WHEN GUN OWNERS discovered a ‘loophole’ in Floridian law about carrying concealed weapons, they started carrying concealed weapons.  What happened?  Crime on Floridians dropped.  Crimes on tourists rose.  Why?  Because the bad guys knew that tourists didn’t carry concealed weapons.  This is human nature.  The strong feed on the weak.

BACK WHEN DETROIT was the murder capital of the U.S., a friend traveled there and bought a t-shirt.  It read, “Detroit:  Where the Weak are Killed and Eaten.”  Now I don’t recall reports of cannibalism in the Motor City, but the message was clear. Figuratively, of course.  Human nature was becoming animal nature.  The strong feed on the weak.

MANY ANIMAL SPECIES have large litters.  Or numerous litters.  Like bunnies.  Cute little, fluffy, harmless bunnies.  But bunnies are tasty.  They’re low on the food chain.  They are food to almost every carnivore in the wild.  Including man.   Few bunnies live long before becoming a meal.  This is animal nature.  The strong feed on the weak.

“IN EVERY GENERATION there is a chosen one.  She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness.  She is the slayer.”  (From the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)  In the world of vampires, demons and the forces of darkness, it’s kill or be eaten.  It’s even the nature of the supernatural.  The strong feed on the weak.

BIG GOVERNMENT AND UNIONS grew big and powerful in the 20th century to protect the little guy.  They said that Big Business and the free market favored the rich and powerful.  At the expense of the poor and weak.  They said it was human nature.  For the strong to feed on the weak.

DURING THE TIME of America’s involvement in Vietnam, the Communist Party of Kampuchea went on a killing spree.  While the hippies protested Vietnam, they praised the social compassion of anti-capitalistic communism.  Power to the People.  Baby.  Meanwhile, the Khmer Rouge killed their own people wholesale (by a percentage of population killed, the greatest in history).  Included in the genocide lists were students or people with glasses.   They killed any ‘educated’ person.  And those who even looked educated.  So, yes, the hippies supported a movement that would have killed their own worthless selves if given the chance.   Human nature at its worse.  The strong feed on the weak.  And the stupidity of hippies.

THERE ARE BAD guys in the world.  And there’s no denying it.  Human nature is not peaceful.  It is anything but.  Darwinian Theory never played out so fiercely.  The strong feed on the weak.  They seek them out.  Like a predator in the wild, they seek out the weak and maimed and move in for the kill.  You can’t reason with them.  Just like you can’t reason with a bully.  Those who think that we can need to man-up and face facts.  And if you can’t, don’t worry.  We have others that are more than willing to man-up and fight our battles for us.  To keep America strong.  If we let them.

Predators don’t respect weakness.  They respect power.  And power is the only thing that will deter them.  The bad guys have attacked American soil few times.  Because America is powerful.  You mess with the big dog and it’s going to bite you.  And maul you.  So the bad guys don’t mess with the big dog often.  Because they pay dearly when they do.

America has known peace and prosperity like few other people can possibly imagine.  And the reason for that is that we have the biggest and baddest military in the world.  It kept the Soviets at bay in Europe.  It thumped Iraqi’s vaunted million-man army in less than 100 hours of combat.  It then thumped them again with a smaller force.  (That display of power cowed Libya from sponsoring terrorism for fear of that awesome power thumping them next.  And it got the Saudis to do the politically unthinkable – take on Al Qaeda in their kingdom.)  It ran bin Laden deep underground leaving him more impotent than threatening.  It held the line in Korea.  And it won every battle it fought in Vietnam.  (Of course, everything went to hell in a handbasket when we left.  But that’s another story.)

But that kind of power doesn’t come cheap.  And you gotta have the will to use it.  But when you do, you get peace.  An expensive peace, yes.  But peace is always cheaper than war.  Especially when that peace deters war.

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