Political Right, Left and Center

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 22nd, 2012

(Originally published December 8th, 2011)

The French Left wanted Radical Change and Launched the French Revolution

The terms Right, Left and Center go back to the French Revolution.  To the National Assembly.  Where people sat according to their political preferences.  Those who wanted to kill the king, the queen, the nobility, the clergy and pretty much anyone rich sat to the left of the president.  Those who wanted to maintain the monarchy and the established institutions sat to the president’s right.  Those who fell between these views sat in the center.

Why did the French Revolution erupt?  The people were starving.  Taxes were high.  And the government was trying to raise taxes again.  Because the government was drowning in debt.  From decades of war with their archenemy.  Great Britain.  And their financing of the American Revolution.  Where the British Americans were rebelling against the French’s archenemy.  Great Britain.

So France was a tinderbox.  To make matters worse for the monarchy was all that liberty talk of the Americans.  It was like a disease.  And it infected the French.  Who looked at the wealthy few.  The king.  The queen.  The nobility.  The clergy.  And then listened to their empty tummies rumbling.  The French Left wanted radical change.  And revolution.  The French Right said whoa now, let’s not act hasty here.  Yes we have some problems but our glorious French institutions have been around for centuries.  It’s in large part to them that France is great.

The Revolution to Topple a King ended with the Coronation of an Emperor – Napoleon

Well despite France’s great and glorious past the radicals got their way.  And blood ran in the streets of Paris.  Starting with the Storming of the Bastille.  The great medieval fortress housing prisoners of the realm.  The revolutionaries threw open the gates.  And freed all seven prisoners.  Being more a symbolic act than one of substance.  But this led eventually to a number of legislative assemblies.  A lot of blood.  Carnage.  And the beheading of King Louis XVI.  And his queen.  Marie Antoinette.  Eventually the seats on the right side of the National Assembly emptied.  As everyone moved to the president’s left.  Lest they be killed, too.

The revolutionaries aimed their wrath at anyone who was not supportive of the Revolution.  And even those whose support was only lukewarm.  They killed these enemies of the Revolution.  Or any other enemies that they conveniently identified as enemies of the Revolution.  Leaders rose.  And leaders fell.  Jean-Paul Marat.  Georges-Jacques Danton.  And Maximillien Robespierre.  All three were killed.  Charlotte Corday, a supporter of the Right, stabbed Marat in his bath tub.  Danton and Robespierre were guillotined.  Leaders of violence.  Victims of violence.  These members of the French Left.  Who killed and terrorized the people unlike the king they killed.  King Louis XVI.  Or the queen they killed.  Marie Antoinette.

Ultimately the French Revolution gave the world Napoleon.  And world war.  And the Revolution to topple a king ended with the coronation of an emperor.  For this opportunist ultimately had the biggest army.  Napoleon could consolidate his power.  Unlike Marat.  Danton.  Or Robespierre.  But Napoleon could.  And did.  Then he set out to create an empire.  Much like the kings that came before him did.

Those on the Right are Distrustful of those on the Left when they Talk about Egalitarianism and Fairness

Today the meaning of Left, Right and Center vary.  But, in general, those on the Right prefer the way things are.  Proven by time to work.  And those on the Left are never happy with how things are and want to change them to some new theoretical ideal that time hasn’t proven as a viable workable system.  Such as socialism.  And communism.  Generally referred to as ‘leftist’ systems.  And both are systems that have never worked.

Fascist Italy, Communist Russia and Nazi Germany were all new experimental systems to right all the wrongs of past governments.  And all three governments made their citizens’ lives worse with harsh police states.  With the state summarily executing enemies of the state.  Much like Marat, Danton and Robespierre did in France.  Many refer to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy as right-wing states.  But both were fascist states.  Which was nothing more than a national socialism.  Which was a combination of socialism.  And nationalism.  These were people who wanted radical change.  Control over the masses.  And empire.  If these governments sat in the French National Legislation they all would have taken seats to the left of the president.

Leftists hate the rich and successful.  And want to confiscate their wealth for themselves.  Instead of trying to achieve wealth on their own merit.  Those on the Right are distrustful of those on the Left when they talk about egalitarianism and fairness.  Because they know what that means.  They are going to take their wealth via the power of government.  By a progressive tax system.  Inheritance tax.  Capital gains tax.  Surtaxes to punish success.  Regulatory laws and fees that increase the cost of doing business.  (As well as increases the prices of goods and services.)  Etc.

The Left champions the poor and downtrodden as they ascend to power.  But rarely have they helped the poor and downtrodden.  Only a select few in the party upper echelons ever live a better life.   For example, the Democrat Party launched a war on poverty in the Sixties and yet there is still poverty.  Despite a myriad of government programs that has exploded the size of government.  All headed by rich bureaucrats living better lives.  While the poor and downtrodden are still wallowing in poverty.  And we know this because the Left is constantly telling us this.  In their never ending quest to expand the size of government.

The center is somewhere between the Left and the Right.  It’s not really a group with core political beliefs.  But more of a group that that likes a little from column ‘A’.  And a little from column ‘B’.

Politics is a Procession – We tend to Start on the Left, Work our Way through the Center and End on the Right

Perhaps another way to look at this is those on the right being parents in a family.  Children of these parents who are now raising their own families are in the center.  And the young children who are still in college are on the left.

The young know little and have even less responsibility.  They like to stay out late, party, do drugs and have consequence-free sex.  They don’t like anything that restricts their good times.  Hence they are always hostile to authority.  Church.  Or state.  And their vote tends to lean towards anarchy.  Where anything goes.

The children starting their own families are slowly giving up the ways of their youth.  They are becoming established in their careers.  Raising children.  Which leaves little time for fun.  But they are hesitant to admit that they have become their parents.  So they hang on to some of their idealistic ways of their youth.  While starting to save for their kids’ college education.  And their retirement.  They even start going to church.  To get their kids started on the right foot.  And to try and keep their kids from doing everything they did when they were young.

The parents have worked long and hard.  They have a family.  And grandchildren.  They want the best for their family.  And a happy and secure retirement.  After playing by the rules all of their lives they don’t want to rock the boat now that they are so close to retirement.  So they are very pleased to stay with the proven ways of the past.  And prefer to help others at their church.  Rather than giving money to a leviathan government.

Politics is a procession.  We tend to start on the Left.  Work our way through the Center.  And end on the Right.  For we tend to grow less radical with age.  Because as we age we accumulate wealth and have far more to lose with radical change.

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American Revolution, French Revolution, King Louis XVI, National Assembly, Tennis Court Oath, Bastille, Guillotine and Reign of Terror

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 6th, 2012

Politics 101

France was Staring at Bankruptcy while her People were Suffering Poverty and Hunger

Shortly after the American Revolution came the French Revolution.  Inspired in part by the American Revolution.  Whose spirit of liberty was infectious.  Some French even joined the Americans in their fight for liberty.  Such as Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette.  Who was a general in George Washington’s army.  And who Washington looked on as a son.  America’s war was an expensive war.  And only through the generosity of Louis XVI, King of the French, did the Americans win their war.  Ironic, really, that an absolute monarch like Louis XVI would help the Americans break free from a monarchy.  But he did.  And saddled France with a tremendous war debt.

These are two things you don’t want to do if you’re a king.  Showing your people that you support the end of monarchy while denying it to your own people.  And making the French people pay for another people’s independence.  Through higher taxes.  And greater privations.  Things that tend to piss off a people.  It was a gamble for Louis.  For he didn’t believe in the American cause.  It was just a calculated bet.  The British had just recently defeated the French in the Seven Years’ War.  And the British took France’s North American territories.  Territories the French wanted back.  The American Revolution was their chance to rebalance the balance of power.  And get back at their hated enemy.  Great Britain.

Well that was the plan.  But it did not go as planned.  The Americans got wind of what the French monarchy was doing behind the scenes.  Which was even in discussions with the British to secure a peace that left the Americans subjects of the British Crown.  With a much smaller territory in the New World.  Leaving room for the French.  And their ally.  Spain.  An outcome that benefited neither the British nor the Americans.  So the British and the Americans made a separate peace.  One that favored their interests.  Not the French or the Spanish.  So Louis gambled.  He lost.  And he lost big.  The nation was staring at bankruptcy.  While her people were suffering poverty and hunger.  And what did these poor and hungry people see?  A very comfortable and well fed king, nobility and clergy.  This was the kindling just waiting for a match to light.

Montesquieu influenced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen as well as the U.S. Founding Documents

That match came in 1789.  And the lighting of that match began with Jacques Necker.  Comptroller-General of Finance for Louis XVI.  Who advised the king that the nobility and the clergy needed to pay more taxes.  And proposed restricting the power of the parlements.  The nobility and the clergy paid little taxes due to their tax exemptions.  While the poor were too poor to help with the financial mess France was in.  So the only hope of raising new revenue was the nobility and clergy.  Alas, the monarchy did not like his recommendations and fired him.  Enter Charles Alexandre, vicomte de Calonne.  Who advised the king that the nobility and the clergy needed to pay more taxes.  Facing opposition from the parlements for proposing unpopular policy Calonne got the king to summon the Assembly of Notables.  A group of notables (like Lafayette) who advised the king.  But the notables did not endorse Calonne’s plan.  So the king called the Estates-General to the Grands Salles des Menus-Plaisirs in Versailles.

The estates were representatives of the people.  There were three of them.  The clergy.  The nobility.  And everyone else.  The commoners.  That is, the Third Estate.  Who grew weary with the way things were in France and declared themselves representatives not of the Third Estate but of the people.  They called themselves the National Assembly.  A radical move.  The first of a lot of radicalism to follow.  Not liking the look of this movement Louis closed their meeting hall and posted a guard in front of the door.  So the National Assembly moved to an indoor tennis court.  And took the Tennis Court Oath.  Where they promised to write a new constitution before adjourning.  Others joined them.  From both the clergy.  And the nobility.

The weariness grew into agitation.  The people grew angry.  And everything the king did just inflamed their anger.  From the firing of Necker.  To the presence of foreign soldiers in Paris.  The people feared royal oppression.  And began rioting.  Paris was out of control.  Then the people stormed the Bastille for weapons and ammunition.  They released all seven prisoners.  And brutally murdered Governor Marquis Bernard de Launay.  The guy in charge of the Bastille.  Beheaded him.  And placed his head on a pike and paraded it through Paris.  Then they went to Paris city hall and brutally murdered the mayor.  Jacques de Flesselles.  Then the National Constituent Assembly (of the National Assembly) went to work on the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789).  Sort of a combination of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Bill of Rights.  Drawing heavily on the same great French philosopher of the Enlightenment the Americans did.  Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu.

The People who Embraced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen unleashed the Reign of Terror

In America after the U.S. Bill of Rights was ratified by the states the nation went about its business.  With some bitter fighting between the Founding Fathers as they argued over what the new nation was going to be.  But this bitter fighting was of the verbal kind.  It wasn’t quite like that in France.  There they attacked the Catholic Church.  Seized its property.  And sold it to the highest bidder.  As France grew more radical.  Where the radicals sat to the left in the legislative hall.  And those supportive of the old ways and monarchy sat on the right.  Giving us the political terms ‘left’ and ‘right’.  Then the radicals turned against the monarchy.  Created a constitutional monarchy to restrict the king’s power.  Like they had in Britain.  As the monarchy was assaulted the royal family tried to flee France in 1791.  They were caught and returned to Versailles.  Where they were put under house arrest.

Then the violence escalated.  Food shortages continued.  Prices continued to rise.  King Louis and Marie Antoinette were guillotined in 1793.  Control of France fell to the Committee of Public Safety.  And new leaders rose up to take power.  Including the radical journalist Jean-Paul Marat.  Who was murdered in a bathtub by a woman in the opposition party.  Georges Jacques Danton escalated the bloodletting by unleashing the Reign of Terror.  Where anyone who was identified as an enemy of the people or was not quite enthusiastic enough about the revolution was sent to the guillotine.  He was pretty bad.  But then there was Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre.  Who was real bad.  In all during the Reign of Terror the Committee of Public Safety guillotined some 20 to 40 thousand people.  Including Danton.  And Robespierre.  Live by the guillotine.  Die by the guillotine.

The French overthrew their king quicker than the Americans overthrew their king.  But the Americans quickly won their peace.  Without killing 20-40 thousand of their people.  Or their king.  Whereas the French descended into anarchy.  Even executed their king.  Something that appalled George Washington.  For though his motives were wrong and the Americans just rebelled against a monarch of their own, Louis provided the greatest aid to the Americans in their revolution.  Which probably made it easier to maintain a policy of neutrality in the new war between France and Great Britain during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars that followed.  Even favor the British in that policy of neutrality.  For the vast majority of American trade was with the British Empire.  And all of the agreements the Americans made with France during their Revolution they made with King Louis XVI.  A man executed during the Reign of Terror.  A period where the rule of law was thrown aside.  By the same people who embraced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

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Political Right, Left and Center

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 8th, 2011

Politics 101

The French Left wanted Radical Change and Launched the French Revolution

The terms Right, Left and Center go back to the French Revolution.  To the National Assembly.  Where people sat according to their political preferences.  Those who wanted to kill the king, the queen, the nobility, the clergy and pretty much anyone rich sat to the left of the president.  Those who wanted to maintain the monarchy and the established institutions sat to the president’s right.  Those who fell between these views sat in the center.

Why did the French Revolution erupt?  The people were starving.  Taxes were high.  And the government was trying to raise taxes again.  Because the government was drowning in debt.  From decades of war with their archenemy.  Great Britain.  And their financing of the American Revolution.  Where the British Americans were rebelling against the French’s archenemy.  Great Britain.

So France was a tinderbox.  To make matters worse for the monarchy was all that liberty talk of the Americans.  It was like a disease.  And it infected the French.  Who looked at the wealthy few.  The king.  The queen.  The nobility.  The clergy.  And then listened to their empty tummies rumbling.  The French Left wanted radical change.  And revolution.  The French Right said whoa now, let’s not act hasty here.  Yes we have some problems but our glorious French institutions have been around for centuries.  It’s in large part to them that France is great.

The Revolution to Topple a King ended with the Coronation of an Emperor – Napoleon

Well despite France’s great and glorious past the radicals got their way.  And blood ran in the streets of Paris.  Starting with the Storming of the Bastille.  The great medieval fortress housing prisoners of the realm.  The revolutionaries threw open the gates.  And freed all seven prisoners.  Being more a symbolic act than one of substance.  But this led eventually to a number of legislative assemblies.  A lot of blood.  Carnage.  And the beheading of King Louis XVI.  And his queen.  Marie Antoinette.  Eventually the seats on the right side of the National Assembly emptied.  As everyone moved to the president’s left.  Lest they be killed, too.

The revolutionaries aimed their wrath at anyone who was not supportive of the Revolution.  And even those whose support was only lukewarm.  They killed these enemies of the Revolution.  Or any other enemies that they conveniently identified as enemies of the Revolution.  Leaders rose.  And leaders fell.  Jean-Paul Marat.  Georges-Jacques Danton.  And Maximillien Robespierre.  All three were killed.  Charlotte Corday, a supporter of the Right, stabbed Marat in his bath tub.  Danton and Robespierre were guillotined.  Leaders of violence.  Victims of violence.  These members of the French Left.  Who killed and terrorized the people unlike the king they killed.  King Louis XVI.  Or the queen they killed.  Marie Antoinette.

Ultimately the French Revolution gave the world Napoleon.  And world war.  And the Revolution to topple a king ended with the coronation of an emperor.  For this opportunist ultimately had the biggest army.  Napoleon could consolidate his power.  Unlike Marat.  Danton.  Or Robespierre.  But Napoleon could.  And did.  Then he set out to create an empire.  Much like the kings that came before him did.

Those on the Right are Distrustful of those on the Left when they Talk about Egalitarianism and Fairness

Today the meaning of Left, Right and Center vary.  But, in general, those on the Right prefer the way things are.  Proven by time to work.  And those on the Left are never happy with how things are and want to change them to some new theoretical ideal that time hasn’t proven as a viable workable system.  Such as socialism.  And communism.  Generally referred to as ‘leftist’ systems.  And both are systems that have never worked.

Fascist Italy, Communist Russia and Nazi Germany were all new experimental systems to right all the wrongs of past governments.  And all three governments made their citizens’ lives worse with harsh police states.  With the state summarily executing enemies of the state.  Much like Marat, Danton and Robespierre did in France.  Many refer to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy as right-wing states.  But both were fascist states.  Which was nothing more than a national socialism.  Which was a combination of socialism.  And nationalism.  These were people who wanted radical change.  Control over the masses.  And empire.  If these governments sat in the French National Legislation they all would have taken seats to the left of the president.

Leftists hate the rich and successful.  And want to confiscate their wealth for themselves.  Instead of trying to achieve wealth on their own merit.  Those on the Right are distrustful of those on the Left when they talk about egalitarianism and fairness.  Because they know what that means.  They are going to take their wealth via the power of government.  By a progressive tax system.  Inheritance tax.  Capital gains tax.  Surtaxes to punish success.  Regulatory laws and fees that increase the cost of doing business.  (As well as increases the prices of goods and services.)  Etc.

The Left champions the poor and downtrodden as they ascend to power.  But rarely have they helped the poor and downtrodden.  Only a select few in the party upper echelons ever live a better life.   For example, the Democrat Party launched a war on poverty in the Sixties and yet there is still poverty.  Despite a myriad of government programs that has exploded the size of government.  All headed by rich bureaucrats living better lives.  While the poor and downtrodden are still wallowing in poverty.  And we know this because the Left is constantly telling us this.  In their never ending quest to expand the size of government.

The center is somewhere between the Left and the Right.  It’s not really a group with core political beliefs.  But more of a group that that likes a little from column ‘A’.  And a little from column ‘B’.

Politics is a Procession – We tend to Start on the Left, Work our Way through the Center and End on the Right

Perhaps another way to look at this is those on the right being parents in a family.  Children of these parents who are now raising their own families are in the center.  And the young children who are still in college are on the left.

The young know little and have even less responsibility.  They like to stay out late, party, do drugs and have consequence-free sex.  They don’t like anything that restricts their good times.  Hence they are always hostile to authority.  Church.  Or state.  And their vote tends to lean towards anarchy.  Where anything goes.

The children starting their own families are slowly giving up the ways of their youth.  They are becoming established in their careers.  Raising children.  Which leaves little time for fun.  But they are hesitant to admit that they have become their parents.  So they hang on to some of their idealistic ways of their youth.  While starting to save for their kids’ college education.  And their retirement.  They even start going to church.  To get their kids started on the right foot.  And to try and keep their kids from doing everything they did when they were young.

The parents have worked long and hard.  They have a family.  And grandchildren.  They want the best for their family.  And a happy and secure retirement.  After playing by the rules all of their lives they don’t want to rock the boat now that they are so close to retirement.  So they are very pleased to stay with the proven ways of the past.  And prefer to help others at their church.  Rather than giving money to a leviathan government.

Politics is a procession.  We tend to start on the Left.  Work our way through the Center.  And end on the Right.  For we tend to grow less radical with age.  Because as we age we accumulate wealth and have far more to lose with radical change.

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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.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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