Updated: Mar 9, 2021
Will Blue misrule spawn new Right Wing cadres?
Pundita is an elegant blogger who has identified an unexplored dimension of civil war: “Hidden cadres.”
“Cadre” is the term-of-art for a critical component in any revolutionary movement: Dedicated groups of agitators and activists. Self-selecting, these cadres emerge from the larger revolutionary constituency in society, energized by the rally cries of popular anger and unrest.
We know cadres made famous by history: The Sans Culottes, Red Shirts and Black Shirts, Black Panthers, Brown Shirts, Lenin’s Red Guards, Mao’s Red Guards, Béla Kun’s Red Guards, the Minutemen, the Carbonari, Anarcho-Syndicalists (CNT), the Falange. Each cadre story arc leads toward party/militia anointment, yet each begins loosely, as armed volunteers coalescing within larger communities.
In the context of big change in society — which can be ratified only by changing its constitutional order as well — these activist cadres become the first foot soldiers of insurgency, revolution, and civil war. [Think of these three rubrics as a packaged continuum of violent historical change: Some get no further than insurgency, while others can only be resolved through full-on civil war].
Pundita suggests that we look to more cadre emergence in our revolutionary times. She does this by moving away from the Blue-Gray civil war metaphor, and more toward symbolism of a popular rising, like a pre-revolutionary phase. I find this analytic adjustment interesting, and it paces some shifts in my thinking.
I began moving away from classical civil war tropes some time ago — and its strict narrative narrow of pitched battles and Union vs. Secession. More recently, I have been moving toward an insurrection-insurgency paradigm, and conflict dynamics that describe, not a nation
splitting in two, but rather a struggle between two visions of the nation itself. Moreover, this is a battle in which one side, representing the power and wealth of elites, is arrayed against a more motley and marginalized coalition of resistance to elite rule.
As this resistance crystallized into a popular movement — under the MAGA banner and its Leader cult — it became an uprising threatening elite control over society. Instantly, wealth and power mobilized to overthrow what was everywhere branded by Blue as an unlawful insurgency. Ironically and shrewdly, the ruling elite appropriated “revolutionary” rhetoric, so that they might crown their actual reactionary campaign, “The Resistance.”
Since 2016, Red populism has been the truly insurgent force in American politics. Blue elites, in contrast, represent old forces of rule: A literal Ancien Régime of ci-devantes. Now again in power, all of their actions are those of a reactionary regime re-consolidating power through every authoritarian instrument as its disposal.
To give its counter-revolution full legitimacy within the shell of the old constitutional order, Blue is moving fast to define Red as an “insurrectionist” ideology, where vocal "rant and file" are “domestic terrorists” seeking “sedition.” Here, Blue declares its ruling class status as it aggressively deploys the sordid language of counterrevolution.
This is where Pundita gets interesting. She suggests that the historical moment is poised to incite and incentivize new Red insurgent cadres:
There is, however, an appreciable challenge to the United States holding together even without threat of secession. The challenge is rooted in the dissolution of a class of Americans who form the backbone of this country -- people who had always worked hard in the attempt to keep up a middle-income existence. Significant numbers of these Americans, many of them finding they were too broke to retire, were forced into a nomad-like existence by the Great Recession and now they're being joined by refugees from the Great Pandemic.
They're living in tents, motorized trailers, and RVs and working low-paying jobs where they can find them. In the process they have forged a community of people helping others survive the rigors of nomadism in the 21st Century.
She sees this community as “unstructured,” and largely ignored as it has grown “under the media radar.” Moreover, it is not political:
It's just many Americans from different backgrounds and political persuasions coming to the same conclusion about the futility of trying to keep up a traditional middle-class existence while carrying a crushing debt burden, or finding themselves crushed by it with no job, no savings left, and no house.
I can attest to the pervasiveness of this group. In fact, I watch two or three of their videos a day on YouTube — a sort of informal “fieldwork” on this new American community. What stands out is their sunny optimism and stubborn determination to live an RV life of independence and dignity. Their videos are often posted as a channel, and they offer a detailed, intimate window into their personal stories. Even more compelling are the random wanderers interviewed by one of the popular (income-generating) channels always on the look-out for new material. Often, these restless roamers their own idiosyncratic “DIY” campers, tied down in the bed of an old, but indefatigable, piece of “Detroit Iron.”
RV Nomadists are truly, as Pundita muses, a yet unmobilized Red cadre in prospect. The big question, as the political-religious struggle in America intensifies: Will coercive Blue control policies and enforcement practice crystallize Nomadist mobilization?
Pundita ticks off other potential cadres-in-the-making — “the survivalists, the ever-increasing number of Americans fleeing the cities, back-to-nature 'green' advocates, and Americans pushing back against the huge amount of U.S. land that the federal government controls.”
She observes that these other communities (with cadre potential) share a powerful motivational incentive: They fear the tyranny of the Federal State, and despise the arrogance of the elites that own the state. Not only do these anti-establishment communities seek the liberty of physical and geographic marginality, they are as well politically marginalized — and, significantly, partly by choice.
That it is by choice is a very negative sign. These alternative communities have lost faith and trust in those who own our national institutions and who command national life. Furthermore, this loss of trust is now turning into a collective sense of betrayal.
When groups that were once at the core of national life self-exile, it means a no-confidence vote against the national framework itself. They have abandoned the hope that they can participate fairly and meaningfully in national life. Hence they flee to preserve their way of life in faraway local sanctuaries — beyond the liminal thresholds of control radiating out from Blue power centers.
It is exactly when disparate groups share an oppressor and feel truly threatened, that they mobilize. This is when real insurgency begins.