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Serious Sam Classics Revolution


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One can also instance the example of the Egyptian revolution, in which the new middle-class leaders, in the shape of a clique of army officers, were able to overturn the old regime and destroy the effendi stratum of the local bourgeoisie, which was the comprador agent of foreign interests, without even going through the exercise of mobilising the peasantry. Perhaps the most striking of all, however, are the examples of the many new African states which came into independent existence with the agreement of the old regime, which in turn simply packed its political bags and went back home without putting up a real fight.

SAM TANENHAUS: They do and they don't. What I also say in the book is that the voices are louder than ever. And I wrote that back in March. Already we were hearing the furies on the right. Remember, there was a movement within the Republican Party, finally scotched, to actually rename the Democrats, "The Democrat Socialist Party." This started from the beginning. So, the noise is there. William Buckley has a wonderful expression. He says, "The pyrotechnicians and noise-makers have always been there on the right." I think we're hearing more of that than we are serious ideological, philosophical discussion about conservatism.

SAM TANENHAUS: It was. First of all, this is absolutely right, in the terms of a classical conservatism. And here is the figure I emphasize in my book is Benjamin Disraeli. What he feared-- the revolution of his time, this is the French Revolution that concerned Edmund Burke-- half a century later what concerned Disraeli and other conservatives was the Industrial Revolution. That Dickens wrote his novels about-- that children, the very poor becoming virtual slaves in work houses, that the search for money, for capital, for capital accumulation, seemed to drown out all other values. That's what modern conservatism is partly anchored in. So, how do we get this contradiction?

SAM TANENHAUS: Well, I believe it had come apart earlier than that. I really think Bill Clinton's victory in 1992 sealed the end of serious conservative counterrevolution. We forget that election. It seems like an anomaly, but consider, Bill Clinton won more electoral votes than Barack Obama, despite the presence of one of the most successful third party candidates, H. Ross Perot, another Texan, in American history. But that's not the most important fact. The most important fact is that George H. W. Bush got less of the popular vote in 1992 than Herbert Hoover got in 1932. That was really the end. But what happened was the right was so institutionally successful that it controlled many of the levers, as you say. So, what happened in the year 2000? Well, the conservatives on the Supreme Court stopped the democratic process, put their guy into office. Then September 11th came. And the right got its full first blank slate. They could do really whatever they wanted. And what we saw were those eight years. And that is the end of ideological conservatism as a vital formative and contributive aspect of our politics.

SAM TANENHAUS: Because it failed so badly. It wasn't conservative. It was radical. It's interesting. Many on the right say, "George Bush betrayed us." They weren't saying that in 2002 and 2003. He was seen as someone who would complete the Reagan revolution. I think a lot of it was Iraq. Now, I quote in the book a remarkably prescient thing. The very young, almost painfully, 31-year-old, Benjamin Disraeli wrote in 1835, he said you cannot export democracy, even then, to lands


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