Revolution Isn’t Microsurgery, It’s A Long Road Trip

Caitlin Johnstone
5 min readFeb 1, 2021

Every day it seems like there’s more sectarian fighting within the online left than the day before.

Maybe it’s because lockdowns and social distancing have largely cut us off from in-person interactions. Maybe it’s because generations of government psyops geared at stopping socialism and activist groups have left us all paranoid and hostile. Maybe it’s because of increased infiltration and propaganda as a dying empire approaches crunch time. Maybe we just tend to be a bit more neurotic than other ideological groups. Maybe it’s a mixture.

It feels like a state of paralysis. Someone will suggest some possible way to create movement and then the online left will split into a game of sectarian tug-of-war between two factions screaming “NOOOO NOT THAT WAY!” and “YES, THIS IS THE WAY!” at each other, with the net result of course being that nothing ends up happening and the bastards remain in charge.

And what’s funny is we all more or less agree on what we want our final end point to be: a peaceful and just society in which we are driven not by competition and the pursuit of profit but by the healthy desire to collaborate with each other and with our ecosystem toward the greater good of everyone, each according to their need. A quick glance around the world will show you that we are very, very, very far from this goal, but any time anyone suggests the possibility of taking even one single step in that direction, everyone starts screaming in objection.

Lefties often act as though every movement toward health has to be precision-perfect, as if we were keyhole surgeons cutting out cancer with mere millimeters of room with which to make precise decisions. But we are not millimeters away from health: we are whole continents away. If the tumor was in a hospital in New York, we are in a beat-up truck in Tijuana, screaming at each other about what tiny micromovements to make with our scalpel when we really need to just pick a street that heads vaguely northeast and start fucking driving.

Anyone who thinks we are millimeters away from health and every movement has to be policed with exacting precision has no comprehension of the how far away we are from the hospital, let alone a scalpel. We are thousands of miles from the cancer; take your foot off the brakes and just go.

Imagine if you were on a long trip and your destination is northeast, and everyone in the car is staring at the digital compass on the dashboard and screaming every time it says anything other than “NE” on it. Long trips don’t work that way. Sometimes you’re heading north. Sometimes you’re heading east. Hell sometimes you’re heading south, because that’s the road that takes you to the next freeway you need to get on. What matters is that you keep driving more or less in the direction you need to go.

And you can always course-correct, that’s the other thing. People act like if you take one wrong turn in this struggle you’ll have to remain committed to it forever until you reach Nazi dystopia, and that’s just silly. If you miss your exit you can get back on track without much difficulty. If the revolution heads down a path that turns out to be ill-advised it can quickly course-correct. This adventure isn’t on autopilot, it’s being driven by humans, every step of the way.

So just start driving. Start moving. Not everyone will agree on the exact best course to take, and that’s fine too. Just take whoever wants to come with in your car and hit the gas, trusting that you can course-correct and get back on the road to New York if you make a wrong turn. Don’t quibble about keeping the compass on northeast all the time. Don’t keep smashing the brake pedal while screaming at each other about the correct way to exit the driveway before you even start.

Just drive.

Make big movements. Force big pushbacks from the machine. Ask for something you know you’re not going to get just to show people that you were never going to get it in the first place. Be the squeaky wheel and get the goddamn oil, and if you don’t get the oil, squeak harder.

This is not the time to be sitting around fulminating furiously over the potential differences between imaginary ideologies none of which have ever actually been tried in the real world and for which you have no real-world data. Your fantasyland can’t replicate the dynamics of an ever-changing planet, and you’re alive today. The fantasies of dead men that lived in a time long before technology changed the world beyond recognition have no chance. We need to try things, real things, pressure real politicians to make big changes and when they don’t make big changes, make a noise.

We are so very, very far from the hospital in New York, and we’re screaming at each other like we’re already in the operating room. Stop bickering over small movements and start shoving in massive ones.


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