Anti-American Manifesto, The Paperback – 25 Nov 2010
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About the Author
Twice the winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, TED RALLis a political cartoonist, opinion columnist, graphic novelist and occasional war correspondent whose work has appeared in hundreds of publications, including the "New York Times," "Washington Post," "Village Voice," and "Los Angeles Times." He is the illustrator of the full-length comic in "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps," written by Greg Palast."
Top Customer Reviews
His solution, preparation for armed revolution, seems to be going overboard. Why not just vote for the Green Party instead? That's a serious option to the dominant parties in both the US and UK, but voters have consistently failed to back it in spite of griping endlessly about the meaningless of politics as usual.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Some of the previous reviewers accuse Ted Rall of not offering an alternative to the current system. I assume that they failed to read the bit about "...a transition to socialism". Indeed, Rall is a socialist and the alternative according to him is a transition to a system that operates in accordance with the principle of fulfilling basic human need through a democratically and centrally-planned system of production.
Rall understands that social revolution and serious business and points out that the immediate consequences might be civil war or even the breakup of the country--as it has been the case in history. He warns us against pacifist wishful thinking--common among the American left--that widely spread belief that system will simply run it's course and collapse under the weight of it's own internal and irreconcilable contradictions. He points to the example of the Soviet Union where the collapse of a corrupt and degenerated socialist state lead to capitalist counter-revolution and an system in which the working people of Russia suffer even more terribly than under the previous regime.
Rall has some choice words for the left. He is especially critical of the anarchists in the deep green movement who believe that after the collapse of industrial capitalism--which they deem inevitable--they will live in peaceful, isolated and self-sustaining communes. Rall points out that reactionary forces of the right (well funded, organized and concentrated in the bastions of American Evangelical right-wing conservativism) will never allow this, and that if American anarchists persist on turning their back on revolution, counter-revolution will come to them. His argument why revolution is necessary now and not in some undetermined point in the future can be summed up in the famous quote by V.I. Lenin, "We can have socialism, or barbarism".
This book will not be well received by left-of-center liberals or nationalists (all liberals are nationalistic to some degree) as they will brand the book as Anti-american. They will not respond well to the parts where parallels are made between the genocide and aggression of Nazi Germany and American foreign policy in our period--even after they are reminded the American military operations during the 20th century have resulted in over 10 million deaths. Their intellectual conditioning has thought them that America plays an essentially positive role in global affairs (despite the occasional shortcomings), that the constitution is a sacred document containing eternal truths about life and politics, and that this is their government that has been temporarily overtaken by evil and greedy people; they will never understand that that the entire system that was erected on the principle of capitalist private property is flawed and needs to be replaced with something better. This is ok as Rall writes, we do not need them and we who have the courage need to take up our historical responsibility and save the human race from the ravages of the capitalist world order orchestrated and maintained by the United States. If you believe that you are up to the task, read this book and discuss it with your friends and loved ones.
And if you think it's far-fetched or fantastic to contemplate the end of the federal government, ask yourself: How will the U.S. resolve its national debt? The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? How will the U.S. solve 20% unemployment and 1 in 8 homeowners facing foreclosure? How will the U.S. respond when Global Warming starts to flood coastal cities and pollution gives 40% of its children asthma?
Which is more far-fetched: the government of the U.S. suddenly reversing a 35-year trend to become functional, wise, unified, effective and decisive? Or a continuation of the gradual, spiraling path toward a crash and burn?
Ted Rall is one of the smartest, most honest, best-educated and hardest working of American political thinkers, having put himself in harm's way twice by traveling in Afghanistan unescorted by the military. He knew from the get-go that the U.S. war in Afghanistan was doomed, and he was among the first to write of the U.S. gulags now circling the globe. He has consistently been ahead of the conventional wisdom and willing to speak of things others fear.
Because Rall is honest, well-educated, smart, brave, and factual, he has been partially marginalized by the mainstream media, and is likely to further marginalized as time goes on. Before our corporate/military/media complex succeeds in banishing him down the memory hole, however, we are afforded a chance to read his Magnum Opus.
Rall is one of many serious thinkers arguing the federal government no longer serves the people of the U.S. What distinguishes him from others is his argument that the system has deteriorated beyond all repair and that a new system is needed. There is no shortage of facts to aid him in his arguments, and anyone who has paid attention to current events for the last decade will know that financial, military and ecological crisis points are approaching.
Not only, says Rall, is the U.S. government FUBAR, but that external pressures and internal cancers dictate that it will inevitably collapse sooner or later, no matter what we do. Rall argues that since our government is doomed, that it is the responsibility for people of good will and good conscience to create an ideological framework and strategic plans so that when it all comes tumbling down, there will at least be the possibility of something better.
Adding weight to this argument is the existence of the Tea Party, the Christian Dominionists, the KKK, Aryan Nation, and other armed ultra-right wing hate groups already poised to take over, should the opportunity arise.
This book presents some grim and frightening prospects, but there are many of us who, after the last 10 years, have sensed that the things talked about in this book are possible.
I can't say if this book has persuaded me that revolution is the only path left for persons of conscience and good will...that, I will need to mull over. Also, I have a problem with violence...I think it is desirable to take action through non-violent means. Nonetheless, I am of the mindset that so profound is our government's disfunction and malfeasance, with such grave consequences for our nation and world, that revolution is an option that should be considered and discussed openly.
Shooting to appeal to the sensibilities of everyone in the political spectrum, though still obviously left leaning, Rall outlines the major problems currently plaguing America with an effort to appeal to the sensibilities of both the left and the right. Rall works to outline how these problems are deeper and more endemic then most Americans realize or would like to admit, perhaps even to themselves. Rall then tries to prove that these major problems plaguing America have now become so deeply entrenched and self sustaining that conventional means of socio-political problem fixing and reform, especially those that attempt to work passively and within the system's acceptable "opposition" standards, are no longer viable approaches (and may never have been). Rall argues that these problem are spiraling out of control ever faster now, and will eventually result in the collapse of America itself. What will fill the resulting void he worries might be much worse even then what American's have now, and so he asserts that immediate violent revolution is the only option American's have for a better future.
WHAT THIS IS NOT:
This is not a guide on how to be a revolutionary or on methods of (non)civil disobedience such as "The Anarchists Cookbook". Rall points out in the text that he doesn't have much experience in these veins so the interested reader should seek advise on these maters elsewhere even if he were to have provided it.
This is not a recommendation for an alternative form of government or socio-economic system in America or elsewhere. Say what you want about Rall, but he is certainly very pragmatic. Rall points out that revolution is a bit of a roulette spin when it comes to what socio-economic systems and conditions it ends up producing. Both as a result of this, and as an appeal for all Americans of every political stripe to band together for the sake of his proposed revolution, Rall posits in the text that to discuss what will or should come after the revolution is speculative and inherently polarizing in a heavily counterproductive way. Some Amazon reviewers have claimed that "The Anti-American Manifesto" is a call to big government. This is simply not true. It is likely that these reviewers have not actually read the text which is devoid of government or other post revolution prescriptions and instead these reviewers are more commenting on Rall himself. Rall is a self admitted a fan of large government elsewhere, but such views are nowhere expressed in this book nor do they slant much if any of what he discusses.
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTS:
Rall is a strong and passionate writer, and The Anti-American Manifesto is not weak or dilute with respect to his usual style and approach to writing. What has always appealed to me most in Rall's written work is his popularized-quazi-professionalism. The writing and argumentation is laid out professionally, the work is well researched and the research is very professionally sited with end notes lavishly sprinkled throughout the text, but Rall refuses to adopt a neutral "properly academic" tone or style. A well reasoned and sited Rall argument will regularly be made with no small amount of passion, satire, reductio ad absurdum, and even the occasional curse word used for emphasis. As a result, weather you like or hate his opinions and ideas, the writing itself is never dull (though perhaps if you are a bit prudish you may find bits of it to be "improper").
The argumentation is very good, and even if one disagrees with it, the arguments are generally interesting and compelling. I would say Rall has me convinced on all accounts accept for the actual need for violent revolution itself over unconventional but non-violent approaches to reform. This is a little ironic as the only thing I am unconvinced by is the idea highlited on the cover and perhaps the major thesis for the whole book. Realistically though, violent revolution is only one of very many things Rall discuses herein and I am convinced by his argumentation elsewhere. For instance Rall goes on at length about how meaningless, and even indirectly wasteful protesting and traditional activism approaches have become in light of the current situation in America. I would say his thorough argumentation has very much convinced me in these maters.
However there are a few semi-unconventional but non-violent "revolutionary" tactics I feel are not adequately argued against by Rall. To his credit Rall looks broadly at alternatives and touches on many of these things, but there are a few rare uncharacteristically weak argumentation against some alternatives. The only one I found truly frustrating though, was when it comes to reformative third parties Rall's "argument" is basically, "they inherently don't work because they are still within the system which is broken." You have me convinced that the system is broken Mr Rall, but are third parties really part of it given that they have never been given a real chance and the system so clearly and actively despises them? You have me convinced that the system is twisted, spiraling out of control, and that the game is now stacked against all those who mean well, but even in an unfair game, cannot superior numbers play more passionately and cunningly by the rules and thus defeat the heavily entrenched thereby humiliating them farther at loosing by their own rules even as they cheat? Enlighten me Mr. Rall, one of the main reasons I read intelligent non-mainstream political philosophy like yours is that I refuse to accept arguments that take the form of: "it just is that way."
Overall I would definitely recommend this book. Even if you don't agree with its primary or alternative theses, it is well written, interesting, engaging, and thought provoking. The unconventional perspective it takes and criticisms it lobbies, even on leftist "reformative" activities, is certainly refreshing enough to be worth the price of the book.