You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan

Back in the day, some of us were muttering “come the revolution” in much the same way that the Jewish diaspora muttered “next year in Jerusalem.” It was an adage of hope deferred. Since that time, we’ve seen an actual revolution or two. The Arab Spring comes to mind. Cairo’s Tarir Square, in many ways, played out just as some of us had envisioned our own: the people come together and demand change. They hold hands across religious and other divides. They have a vision for their future and they want it now. They don’t have guns. They are armed only with hope and determination. And it worked. For a few minutes. And then, because they didn’t have a plan, maybe (I shudder to think) because they didn’t have guns, it all faded away. More people died and the revolution that they thought to bring about failed dismally.

Herbert Marcuse, in the first pages of a book or essay I read long ago and can’t remember now, wrote something to the effect that all revolutions fail. As I recall, he says they failed because they didn’t provide an adequate structure on which to hang their vision. And they fail because, even when they seem to succeed, without that structure those who come after them lose sight of the vision that prompted the revolution in the first place. And I’m certain that he said something to the effect that they fail because they do not replace the power structure that preceded them.

I’m not really arguing with Marcuse here – that’s way above my pay grade – but I would argue that very few if any revolutions have managed that, and when they seem to do so, the replacement is largely cosmetic. Look closely at the Russian Revolution, and it’s obvious that the Communist Party pretty much simply replaced the Russian Monarchy in a way that became just as top heavy, just as oppressive, as that which they thought they had toppled forever. The Chinese party leadership serve a similar function as the Emperor and the bureaucracy that preceded it. It seems that every revolution reverts to the system it knows best. Even the American revolution just revised the English system to one that eliminated a monarchy – although we eventually elevated our President to a similar symbolic position.

So when Bernie Sanders calls for another revolution, I have to ask him, what’s the plan? I’m all for some kind of restructuring of the banking system – someone should really take the banks to school on the primary purpose of a savings account. I’m still a little miffed off at Chase for charging me a $28/mo. fee and thinking that $.22 in interest was enough to mollify me. But if there is a wholesale downsizing, what effect will that have on markets? And is it a fact that we need one or two of these elephantine structures to deal with the globalized financial system? I don’t know. Is it? I’d love the single-payer health insurance scheme, but is there a plan for well-paying jobs that will take in the thousands of insurance company employees that could be put out of work? They’re not all CEO’s, you know. Even the idea of free state colleges and universities, although there does seem to be a plan involving a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street, might carry unforeseen downsides. There should be a plan for that.

Revolutions are even messier than democracy, and there’s always bound to be collateral damage, whether it’s jobs lost, infrastructure neglected, or bodies in the street. Change, in my experience, happens on the edges, where it’s usually less than some folks hoped for and more than others want. I appreciate the people who agitate for it – we need them to encourage the congresscritters and others to keep nibbling away, but I’m not saying “Come the revolution” anymore. I’m asking, “What’s the plan?”