Oaks and Acorns

The lesson of history is that the lessons of history have to be repeated time and again. The collapse of huge and powerful states and associated political power-elite structures often shocks with its suddenness, despite there always having been warning signs. Likewise, the “sudden” rise of a political movement either from a recent start or, more usually, only after years of obscurity, takes the world by surprise. The latter is akin to the actor who experiences “overnight” celebrity (after years of unsung effort).

The DAP, which Adolf Hitler joined in 1919, consisted of only 6 people. Hitler became member no.7. There may have been a larger group which followed those seven, but the only real members were in that little beer-cellar. Nine years later, in 1928, the renamed NSDAP could still only manage 2.6% of the national vote. Then the times became more favourable. Cometh the hour, cometh the man: in 1932, the NSDAP received a vote of 33%. The following year, the vote increased to 44% and the rest is history.

Lenin and his Central Committee had spent decades in internal or external exile; some had been imprisoned; their influence on affairs in Russia was negligible. The 1905 Revolution happened and was crushed with the Bolsheviks playing only a minor part even in St. Petersburg, the then capital. In 1905, the Bolsheviks numbered only about 8,400. That number increased substantially in the years immediately after 1905, but fell back to about 5,000 by 1910 (the Mensheviks had similar numbers in those years).

The first (February) 1917 Revolution was not caused by the Bolsheviks. In fact, it took them by surprise. Most of their leaders were in exile outside Russia and had been for many years. The Bolsheviks were able to seize power in October 1917 (old calendar-style) because their small but disciplined forces had the ability to command larger but less organized elements. In essence, the “Bolshevik Revolution” was a coup d’etat in one city of a vast empire, in much of which the Bolsheviks had virtually no members at all.

The two examples above illustrate how a small group of political believers, if that group has ideological and structural discipline, can do what seems at first to be the impossible. Likewise, an apparently titanic political structure, such as the Russian Empire of the Romanovs, or later such as the Soviet Union (with its satellites) can come crashing down in a short space of time, after a period of stagnation or decadence.

Since 1945, the world has had an “international settlement” imposed upon it. Once the Soviet Union and its system collapsed after 1989, the remaining part of the post-1945 settlement has seemed increasingly unstable. The stagnation of the past decade presages the collapse of the “accepted” politics across the world and particularly in the “West”.

The populist discontent which has brought Trump the U.S. Presidency, which was manifested in the UK by the rise of the BNP, then UKIP and then by the Brexit vote, is the same discontent which is energizing the American “Alt-Right”, Marine le Pen and Front National in France, the Freedom Party in Austria etc. It has still not run its course. The EU is collapsing, but its adherents and beneficiaries are in psychological denial about it. In the USA, for the first time, questions are being raised about the core authority-documents of the State, i.e. the provisions of the ludicrously-outdated U.S. Constitution.

The time is almost here when there will be “sudden” collapses of state power and equally-sudden rises to power of people and groups previously regarded with distaste or even laughter. Our time is coming.

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