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Samizdata quotes of the day

“Believe you me, if the people in this country think they’re going to be cheated, they’re going to be betrayed, then we will see political anger the likes of which none of us in our lifetimes have ever witnessed in this country.


“I heard you talking to Gina Miller earlier about the nasty things that have been said about her. Believe you me, I’ve had years of this, I’ve had years of hate mobs – taxpayer-funded hate mobs – chasing me around Britain.

“The temperature of this is very, very high.

“Now, I’m going to say to everybody watching this who was on the Brexit side – let’s try and get even, let’s have peaceful protests and let’s make sure in any form of election we don’t support people who want to overturn this process.”

Nigel Farage

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.

John F. Kennedy

30 comments to Samizdata quotes of the day

  • They make peaceful revolution impossible because they like where they are, and feel that if violent revolution comes, they will win. They may be wrong, but they are in power.

  • Steve P

    Is Nigel Farage the most dangerous man in Britain (I mean that in a good way)?

  • G6loq

    Irish Democracy will ensue …
    Nothing they’ll be able to do about it.

  • Alisa

    Hmm, Brexit aside, I’m not sure I like the context in which JFK said that. Can anyone more knowledgeable comment?

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Alisa, I don’t know any more than what Wikipedia said about the context, but I have the same doubts. Nonetheless it’s still a good point whoever made it. Also, Kennedy’s is a name revered by many of the people who are denouncing Farage, so it is worth pointing out how similar their views on this point are.

  • Phil B

    @Alisa – here is an interesting book called the War of the Flea by Robert Taber about revolutionary guerrilla warfare. It was published a while ago in the 1960s and the CIA bought up the entire first printing – not because it was so dangerous that the Public couldn’t be allowed access to it but it was so good it was issued as a standard text to their operatives.

    One of the questions he asked was “Why do people, when the risks and dangers are so great, both to themselves and their families, resort to armed revolution?” His answer was quite simple – they cannot get any redress to their grievances either through the ballot box or through the Courts. Think of such topics as law and order, taxation, immigration, loss of liberties, and now Brexit etc. etc. Any redress through the ballot box? Nope. All political parties are singing from the same hymn sheet. Any chance of the Law Courts siding with the people of the country and reversing the Governments policies? Again, not a chance. Rather they uphold stupid and malicious legislation. And any situation where it costs you more to obey the law than to disregard it is a dangerous situation …

    I think the Kennedy quote would perhaps be influenced by that book OR, as he was definitely left wing, was probably referring to the “African American” population and their grievances.

    Still, whatever the motivation for the quote, it is still very much valid nowadays.

  • Alisa

    Phil, my problem with JFK’s use of that statement is that he seemingly said it to justify a policy with which I would not necessarily agree. I agree with you about the statement in its own right – no argument there. I also take Natalie’s point about possible double standards.

  • CaptDMO

    I’m with Alisa on this…I think.
    Gosh, sounds like Mr. Kennedy was desperately trying to justify the threat and commission of violent response, when “revolutionaries” are repeatedly voted down by the majority of folks.
    You know…Democrat’s tent democracy.
    DO bear in mind that Kennedy Inc. was founded on criminal enterprise, nepotism, “alleged” amoral behavior, “discretionary judicial prosecution” and the Presidency was sustained by powerful pain killers.
    Sound vaguely familiar?

  • bobby b

    Kennedy made that speech to a bunch of diplomats from Latin American countries in ’62 or ’63.

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  • Phil B

    @Alisa – the quote was made in THIS speech which is known as “The Address on the first Anniversary of the Alliance for Progress” – a sufficiently left wing, politically correct progressive title to warn you of the contents.

    The Section is as follows:

    “For too long my country, the wealthiest nation in a continent which is not wealthy, failed to carry out its full responsibilities to its sister Republics. We have now accepted that responsibility. In the same way those who possess wealth and power in poor nations must accept their own responsibilities. They must lead the fight for those basic reforms which alone can preserve the fabric of their societies. Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

    These social reforms are at the heart of the Alliance for Progress. They are the precondition to economic modernization. And they are the instrument by which we assure the .poor and hungry–the worker and the campesino–his full participation in the benefits of our development and in the human dignity which is the purpose of all free societies. At the same time we sympathize with the difficulties of remaking deeply rooted and traditional social structures. We ask that substantial and steady progress toward reform accompany the effort to develop the economies of the American nations”.

    Sufficiently left wing enough for you?

  • Bod

    The War of the Flea is an excellent book which succinctly describes the strategies and tactics which yielded success for many of the insurgencies of the 20th Century. Far more practical than Clausewitz or Sun Tzu too.

    Well worth a read, and available for a very modest price at Amazon. Certainly raises eyebrows when read on my morning commute.

    Since I’m running an infomercial here, “Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife” which illustrates two partial success stories in countering the insurgencies in Vietnam and Malaya is also worth a read.

  • Alisa

    Thanks Phil, I figured that much – question is, what was done in practice, if anything? To paraphrase Bobby F. here, sometimes lefty talk is just talk. 🙂

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Don’t think there will be a revolution, just a frog being cooked ever more slowly. For a revolution to happen, you need a people united, and the threat of across-the-board uprising. But looking at modern UK, it just doesn’t seem likely.

    Racial segregation has divided the populace too much, and I doubt non-whites will join in any revolution, violent or otherwise.

    It was pretty clear from the results that communities comprised of non-whites voted ‘Remain’. If you want to do anything, you might want to consider that you won’t be getting any support from them, and they will actively oppose you.

    Get ready for another round of being accused of ‘Racism’.

  • Phil B

    @Alisa – Hmmm … I’m not sure what was done by the USA in Latin America following the speech. It is not an area (in the geographic sense) or a time period that I have studied. I do know that the way the Monroe doctrine in the late 19th century and early 20th century and the interventionist policies enforced by the US Marine Corps in Latin America caused vast and seething resentment at the time and is still a painful memory for most.

    However, reading the speech it is the usual promises of transfer of wealth from the west to “poor” countries. How much was actually done,I don’t know but the wars that were being waged in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala etc. by communist insurgents and the US sponsored, equipped and trained forces are perhaps a result if that intent.

    In short, I dunno! Perhaps someone else could chip in and clarify things?

  • It was pretty clear from the results that communities comprised of non-whites voted ‘Remain’.

    Your assertion is based on an article by a leftie who assumes non-white = supports “progressive” politics, and most importantly, it was a poll before the vote. And we know what a good guideline those polls proved to be about what actually happened, right?

  • David

    Bod i would argue your assertion that the counter insurgency in Malaya was “partially successful”. It was successful in ways that make Vietnam look like an exercise in how not to do it. Down here in Oz we put our armed forces into both of those conflicts.

    Also worth reading is

    “The Malayan Emergency as counter-insurgency paradigm”

    Hack, Karl (2009). The Malayan Emergency as counter-insurgency paradigm. Journal of Strategic Studies, 32(3) pp. 383–414.

    Following is the Abstract

    The Malayan Emergency of 1948-60 has been repeatedly cited as a source of counter-insurgency lessons, with debate over the relative importance of coercion, ‘winning hearts and minds’, and achieving unified and dynamic control. This paper argues that all these techniques and more were important, but that their weight varied dramatically across quite distinct campaign phases. The conclusions include that effective counter-insurgency analysis must integrate cognition of such phases (there must be different ‘lessons’ for different phases); and that in the Malayan case rapid build-up of barely trained local as well as extraneous forces, and the achievement of area and population security, were key to turning around the campaign in the most intense phase. While persuasive techniques were always present, ‘winning hearts’ came to the fore more in the later optimisation phase.

    I agree with you on the worth of reading “The War of the Flea”.

  • Alisa

    For a revolution to happen, you need a people united, and the threat of across-the-board uprising.

    My sense is that the opposite tends to be true – i.e. that violent revolutions are usually carried out by minorities (admittedly large enough, but still minorities), trying to impose their will on the majority. Again, I’d welcome any remarks from people better versed in history than myself. But if I’m correct, then JFK’s point above may even be proven wrong in the wider context than that in which it was made at the time.

    Phil: fair enough.

  • Kevin B

    The revolution when it comes will not be the peasants and the workers rising up to fight the man, it will either be the out group of the elite pushing the underclass to do the fighting in order for them to be able to take over, or a faction of the elite trying to bring the whole thing crashing down.

    In the US today for instance the likes of OWS, BLM and all the rest are heavily financed by rich foundations. I doubt those rich white men agree with the aims of the rabble they sponsor, so the motives appear to be financial and/or nihilistic.

    It’s true that there needs to be a sufficient number of dissaffected youth to make up the footsoldiers of the glorious revolution, but the education system is working hard to produce them.

    The counter revolution might well be led by the middle class, along with the real wporkers, fighting back to restore some sort of order. They will of course be fighting their own children.

  • Alisa

    Indeed, Kevin – only the same was true with the peasants and the other workers.

  • NickM

    I have read, “The War of The Flea”. I got a tattered version in a 2nd hand bookshop. It is very good. I’d heard it became chapter and verse for the CIA which is remarkable considering the fuck-up that was Vietnam.

  • NickM

    The revolution doesn’t go to the big battalions. It goes to the organised ones. The Bolsheviks were more organised than the Mensheviks (even the name “Bolshevik” is a lie – they were not a majority). Much the same happened in France (a middle-class revolution initially) and Iran. We never learn.

  • Paul Marks

    There is clearly an establishment coup going on – to block the decision of the public.

    As for the Prime Minister Mrs May – if the good lady respects the decision of the British people, as she insists she does, why does the government impose the BBC Tax to fund pro E.U. anti independence propaganda every day?

    If I am wrong – if there is no establishment coup, then (as a gesture of good faith – to show people that democracy is being respected) the BBC Tax should be abolished -an the Anti British Broadcasting Corporation, should be allowed to close.

  • Paul Marks

    Revolutions – yes they are always carried out by a minority (it is a minority who do anything).

    But for a Revoluttion succeed the majority must at least be apathetic or confused, not really caring (or understanding) if the present system continues or not.

    The present situation is complicated by the fact that the Prime Minister insists that she respects the decision of the people. Although her mantra of “Brexit means Brexit” is meaningless – is the lady in favour of British independence (i.e. E.U. law no longer having legal force inside the United Kingdom) or not? I do not know what the Prime Minister’s position on British independence is.

    Let us hope that Mrs May really does intend to carry out the decision of the British people that E.U. law no longer have legal force inside the United Kingdom – i.e. that we are independent.

    Deception, an establishment coup (by judges and other such), would not go down well in the country.

  • Alisa

    But for a Revoluttion succeed the majority must at least be apathetic or confused, not really caring (or understanding) if the present system continues or not.

    Could that be said about Russia in 1917?

  • Could that be said about Russia in 1917?

    I would argue that 1917 was a different situation than we would see today, in that it appeared to start out as yet another revolution in which the bourgeois ousted the elite to become the new elite.

    This had happened previously in 1905 and led to the transformation of Russia from an absolute monarchy to a notionally constitutional monarchy. The peasantry (only recently emancipated from serfdom) and urban proletariat were both strongly involved, in essence fighting for their own rights of property and self-determination over the ruling elites.

    That being said, the proportion of those involved in the 1905 revolution was tiny compared to the population of Russia as a whole, but equal to the task because the elite within the monarchy and the ruling class were equally small (by comparison) and required the implicit support of the bourgeois and the military (whose officers were from the elite, but whose soldiery were from the lower classes) to keep the elite in place.

    The Russian Revolution of February 1917 was a palace coup to oust the Tsar and Tsarina, in essence an internal dispute between those in power and the monarchy itself.

    The Russian Revolution of October 1917 was a more populist change, but was again largely confined to the urban proletariat of Petrograd. It was by no means popular, leading to a widespread civil war which took a further 5-years for the Bolsheviks to win, through widespread brutality and murder.

    So the argument that “for a Revolution succeed the majority must at least be apathetic or confused, not really caring (or understanding) if the present system continues or not.” is somewhat simplistic, in that the revolutions were almost exclusively “the elite” (who must by definition always be a minority) against a minority of the bourgoise, the urban proletariat, the peasantry or a combination of the three working in coalition.

    The majority were simply uninvolved, being separated by distance and the lack of any right to vote (universal suffrage being introduced in March 1917, too late to make any difference).

    The majority were only involved when the civil war swept over them between 1917 and 1922, whereby they were forced to support the Soviets at the point of a gun.

  • Alisa

    Indeed, JG.

  • Bod

    One of the points made in TWoTF is that a successful insurrectionist movement evolves thru’ a number of stages.

    One pivotal transition is the point where the insurrection demonstrates that the government lacks the ability to contain or confront the threat posed by the irregular forces. Achieving that is not an absolute precursor to success – the IRA for example never managed this – but it would be a powerful ‘nudge’ to the average non-participant to get off the fence and at least cache some food and munitions for the guy next door who *is* an activist.

    This is why the USG watches otherwise peaceful ‘preppers’ so closely.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Kennedy’s context sounds vaguely left-wing; but one must remember the left is not always completely wrong. In many Latin American countries, wealth and power were concentrated in a ruling clique which used political power to augment and secure its wealth, and force to suppress any resistance or reform. Kennedy’s comment was directed at such regimes.

    As to the gestation of revolution: yes, they are usually made by minorities, but only when that minority represents a plurality of the whole, outnumbering supporters of the incumbent regime. In Russia in 1917, that was clearly true. The bourgeois “palace” revolution of February was followed by the unraveling of the regime – the army dissolving, worker and peasant “soviets” taking control of many localities. By October, the revolutionary forces were dominant, and the Bolsheviks were a plurality of that element.

    In both cases, there was a large sector which was, if not indifferent, then unwilling to intervene on either side.

  • Alisa

    The more I think about this quotation, the more objectionable I find it – the reason being my impression that peaceful revolutions require a clear majority of the population, and that although in principle violent revolutions may not be the exclusive realm of minorities, all evidence seems to suggest that being the case in practice. So what we seem to have here in effect, is a minority telling the majority: this is how it’s going to go from now on – or else.

  • bobby b

    Alisa, my dim memory of that speech was that he was addressing a bunch of Latin America diplomats and leaders. This was in ’62.

    This was the time of the beginnings of the severe right-wing pushback against the first of the left-wing “revolutionary” groups. Dissent was being brutally quashed. Death squads were popping up. The people we were supporting were anticommunists (which we really liked) but were also brutal strongmen with brutal followers.

    Kennedy, IIRC, was telling them that they should knock off their murderous repression of their own people. He was saying that, if you completely shut the aspirations of people down, and leave them no legal means to dissent from government actions, they would naturally go one step further and find illegal means.

    Thus, if you brutally repress your people, they’re going to fight back. So let them dissent – it beats revolution.

    Yeah, we were supporting murderers. But the other side were also murderers, and they were (gasp!) commies, too! Kennedy was in that spot between rocks and hard places.