The Revolution Was by Garet Garrett:
There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom.
There are those who have never ceased to say very earnestly, "Something is going to happen to the American form of government if we don't watch out." These were the innocent disarmers. Their trust was in words. They had forgotten their Aristotle. More than 2,000 years ago he wrote of what can happen within the form, when "one thing takes the place of another, so that the ancient laws will remain, while the power will be in the hands of those who have brought about revolution in the state."
Worse outwitted were those who kept trying to make sense of the New Deal from the point of view of all that was implicit in the American scheme, charging it therefore with contradiction, fallacy, economic ignorance, and general incompetence to govern.
But it could not be so embarrassed and all that line was wasted, because, in the first place, it never intended to make that kind of sense, and secondly, it took off from nothing that was implicit in the American scheme. It took off from a revolutionary base. The design was European. Regarded from the point of view of revolutionary technic it made perfect sense. Its meaning was revolutionary and it had no other. For what it meant to do it was from the beginning consistent in principle, resourceful, intelligent, masterly in workmanship, and it made not one mistake.
The test came in the first one hundred days.
No matter how carefully a revolution may have been planned there is bound to be a crucial time. That comes when the actual seizure of power is taking place. In this case certain steps were necessary. They were difficult and daring steps. But more than that, they had to be taken in a certain sequence, with forethought and precision of timing. One out of place might have been fatal. What happened was that one followed another in exactly the right order, not one out of time or out of place.
Having passed this crisis, the New Deal went on from one problem to another, taking them in the proper order, according to revolutionary technic; and if the handling of one was inconsistent with the handling of another, even to the point of nullity, that was blunder in reverse. The effect was to keep people excited about one thing at a time, and divided, while steadily through all the uproar of outrage and confusion a certain end, held constantly in view, was pursued by main intention.
The end held constantly in view was power.
In a revolutionary situation mistakes and failures are not what they seem. They are scaffolding. Error is not repealed. It is compounded by a longer law, by more decrees and regulations, by further extensions of the administrative hand. As deLawd said in The Green Pastures, that when you have passed a miracle you have to pass another one to take care of it, so it was with the New Deal. Every miracle it passed, whether it went right or wrong, had one result. Executive power over the social and economic life of the nation was increased. Draw a curve to represent the rise of executive power and look there for the mistakes. You will not find them. The curve is consistent.
At the end of the first year, in his annual message to the Congress, January 4, 1934, President Roosevelt said: "It is to the eternal credit of the American people that this tremendous readjustment of our national life is being accomplished peacefully."
Peacefully if possible — of course.
But the revolutionary historian will go much further. Writing at some distance in time he will be much less impressed by the fact that it was peacefully accomplished than by the marvelous technic of bringing it to pass not only within the form but within the word, so that people were all the while fixed in the delusion that they were talking about the same things because they were using the same words. Opposite and violently hostile ideas were represented by the same word signs. This was the American people's first experience with dialectic according to Marx and Lenin. [...]
Now given — (1) the opportunity, (2) a country whose fabulous wealth was in the modern forms — dynamic, functional, non-portable, (3) a people so politically naive as to have passed a law against any attempt to overthrow their government by force — and, (4) the intention to bring about what Aristotle called a revolution in the state, within the frame of existing law — Then from the point of view of scientific revolutionary technic what would the problems be?
They set themselves down in sequence as follows:
The first, naturally, would be to capture the seat of government.
The second would be to seize economic power.
The third would be to mobilize by propaganda the forces of hatred.
The fourth would he to reconcile and then attach to the revolution the two great classes whose adherence is indispensable but whose interests are economically antagonistic, namely, the industrial wage earners and the farmers, called in Europe workers and peasants.
The fifth would be what to do with business — whether to liquidate or shackle it.
(These five would have a certain imperative order in time and require immediate decisions because they belong to the program of conquest. That would not be the end. What would then ensue? A program of consolidation. Under that head the problems continue.)
The sixth, in Burckhardt's devastating phrase, would be "the domestication of individuality" — by any means that would make the individual more dependent upon government.
The seventh would be the systematic reduction of all forms of rival authority.
The eighth would be to sustain popular faith in an unlimited public debt, for if that faith should break the government would be unable to borrow, if it could not borrow it could not spend, and the revolution must be able to borrow and spend the wealth of the rich or else it will be bankrupt.
The ninth would be to make the government itself the great capitalist and enterpriser, so that the ultimate power in initiative would pass from the hands of private enterprise to the all-powerful state.
Each one of these problems would have two sides, one the obverse and one the reverse, like a coin. One side only would represent the revolutionary intention. The other side in each case would represent Recovery — and that was the side the New Deal constantly held up to view. Nearly everything it did was in the name of Recovery. But in no case was it true that for the ends of economic recovery alone one solution or one course and one only was feasible. In each case there was an alternative and therefore a choice to make.
What we shall see is that in every case the choice was one that could not fail:
(a) To ramify the authority and power of executive government — its power, that is, to rule by decrees and rules and regulations of its own making; (b) To strengthen its hold upon the economic life of the nation; (c) To extend its power aver the individual; (d) To degrade the parliamentary principle; (e) To impair the great American tradition of an independent, Constitutional judicial power; (f) To weaken all other powers — the power of private enterprise, the power of private finance, the power of state and local government; (g) To exalt the leader principle.