The Los Angeles Review of Books has convened an online symposium on the forms that revolution might take today, and the contribution from theorist and poet Joshua Clover focuses on the question of where revolution might begin. He suggests that if revolution were to happen, it would likely erupt in places where the disparity between the hyper-rich and desperately poor is most acute and visible, and where the state's ability to manage this disparity through police and other security measures is breaking down—a place like Brazil, for example. Here's an excerpt from Clover's piece:
It is easy enough, presented with the theme of revolution, to bemoan its disappearance as a horizon, to despair at the willingness of so-called radicals to throw their arms around the knees of the latest SYRIZA. It is similarly easy to understand how once-revolutionary factions came to be prone in the first place. If there was a systematic global project of the postwar era, it was not “neoliberalism”; it was the annihilation of revolution as a plausible human goal, and the concomitant destruction of any content for the idea of emancipation, until people at the end of human history would associate it with full employment.
But the Pascalian wager of revolution seems no less self-evident: there will be a revolution, a series of them, or the world will end for humans. It has already ended for those condemned to misery, utterly indentured or utterly dispossessed as a condition of birth.
So let us assume there will be a revolution, an emancipatory one, not the kind mentioned often enough by Elon Musk or the Marinho brothers of Grupo Globo. Where might it begin? This is not an easy question, and not one to which we need know the answer in advance. If I had to guess, I would look at places where social antagonism is pitched so high as a practical fact, as a consequence of extreme polarization, that it is already beginning to exceed state management, where the rich are rich enough to hire shooters, and to need them. This is just a guess, one way among many to think about this, but it’s a start. Once it pops off, a series of problems will present themselves, not the least of which is how the revolution will sustain itself, cut off from market goods. Brazil, with its prodigious agricultural productivity, offers real possibilities — even if, once the semi-temperate southlands are seized, capitalist organization of production is broken immediately, as one hopes. These are factors we might look for, then: dramatic and increasing use of private security, and ready arable land that can serve as what a friend calls the “belly of the revolution” against the closure of the world market. These are only two coordinates. It unfolds according to many. Neither you nor I will tell it how to unfold. Once begun it will have to spread, of course. Or not spread, exactly, but erupt elsewhere. People will start the day organizing their lives around the free sharing of communal goods, and end the day defending this.
Image: Heliopolis, São Paulo’s largest favela. Via citiesintransition.eu.