Can the new American revolution happen here?

david boyle‘This is probably the most important period of US history bar none – I include the American Revolution – because we’ve run out of options. Either we develop a new way forward or fascism is a possibility or we will see growing decay.’

This is a fascinating take on the future history of the USA, by the political activist and historian Gar Alperovitz, interviewed in New Start by Clare Goff last week.  Alperovitz is increasingly prominent in the political debate around the edges of politics, which takes a rather longer view (not hard actually) than the day-to-day debate.

It is the most important period of American history because there is an emerging sense, not just that the old systems are failing, but that radically different economic solutions are within reach.  Appealing to the self-determination of the American Revolution won’t work over here, but it carries a sense of economic liberation which is intentional.  This is what he says:

“The systems that we have are generating great pain and are not capable of solving the problems we have. Whether it’s unemployment, the environment, or poverty, across the board you see growing pain. Most people take it on existentially and say ‘I’m a failure’ but people are beginning to say ‘No, there’s something wrong here’. The traditional model for social democracy – the Democrats, Liberals, Labour party – has played itself out in its capacity to alter trends. The only awareness – and this is a profound change – is that there are no answers. A few years ago people would say that if we elect a Democrat all would be okay. No one believes that anymore. There’s not quite the awareness that we face a systemic problem, but there is awareness that something is wrong with the old system…”

Alperovitz is a fascinating figure, the author of What Then Must We Do?. We have no real equivalent over here.  He is a compelling speaker – I heard him hold an audience spellbound on a winter night in a small town in western Massachusetts for an hour and a half, speaking without notes.  He is a Washington insider in the sense that he has worked in and around the Senate and House since the 1960s, and yet he is preaching a doctrine of complete economic renewal – based on mutualism and a new generation of economic institutions.

I believe he is right, and I am beginning to sense a new mood here too.  At the moment it is just a public distaste for greed (the treatment of Gary Barlow, for example), and a growing understanding that the banking system is no longer designed for most of us – but this is yet to translate itself into a clear political direction.  It is in a sense, the very quiet other side of the coin to the Ukip revolt.

The sheer pragmatism of the Lib Dems means they are not well placed to hear the signals from this new mood, or understand the new direction when it emerges.  The lack of pragmatism among the Greens also makes it hard for them to respond. Both Labour and Conservative parties are so riven with disagreements about their political direction that we can’t expect much from them. Ukip is too blinkered.

So where is the new direction going to emerge?  The answer is – in the cities.  Once they wake up and realise that the ball is in their court.  Nobody is going to save them.  They will have to act themselves – and, when they do, I suggest they go to Gar Alperovitz for advice.


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Stephen Horscroft
Stephen Horscroft
10 years ago

In the cities? Really? Food and renewable energy – the staples for both our lives and livelihoods – will by and large be generated in rural areas.

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