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斯蒂芬·里克特:美国人准备何时闹革命?

2016-12-16 07:00:48

大多数美国人心中珍藏着一种信念,即他们的国家降生于革命风暴当中。尽管这则建国神话对大众充满吸引力,但其实世界至今还在等待美国革命的到来。

我无意在此贬低美国国父们的成就。他们的集体行动确实使美国冲破了外国国王——英王乔治三世——的桎梏,让美国人掌握了自己的命运。

然而,且不论英国统治者究竟是座压在美国人民身上的大山,抑或仅是只远隔重洋的蝇虻,推翻他的统治都谈不上是一场革命,只能算作民族解放运动。美利坚合众国是民族解放运动的先行者。其他深受外国殖民统治之苦的国家——特别是数十个亚非拉国家——直到大约两百年后才完成了民族解放。

革命与民族解放最大的不同之处在于,革命的本质永远是社会性的。要判断一场运动是否是真正的革命,最根本的标准在于它有没有迎来命运攸关的时刻,即革命者有没有用刀尖抵着统治者的咽喉,并威胁道“不让权就掉脑袋”。

无可否认,1773年的确发生了波士顿倾茶事件。该事件反映出,当时美国人认为英王分走了自己的收入,是无理的剥夺。然而,倾茶事件针对的是外国国王,而不是美国自身经济社会的权力结构。


波士顿倾茶事件以及由此发端的茶党被许多人视作美国革命的象征

还有些人提出,当亲英派“保王党”离开美国,回到英格兰或出走加拿大时(加拿大本来是作为保王党大本营而存在的),美国曾经历了一场革命。这些保王党多数曾是新殖民地经济大权的掌控者。

亲英派的出走确实是重大历史事件,但它不是革命,其本质是经济精英阶层之间的更迭换代,亲英派“保王党”被独立派“爱国者”取而代之。胜利者公开宣称放弃英国利益,忠于美国事业。“爱国者”们改变效忠对象,并非出于对英国文化习惯或社会信念的否定,而是他们要在经济上接过亲英派的衣钵,就必须在政治上做出符合利益的选择。

另外有人认为,美国从诞生之日起便是民主国家,这一事实使美国革命——包括革命中不可或缺的社会动荡——都变得不再必需。在他们眼中,有了民主,革命便失去了必要性。

鉴于当时的欧洲国家大多还实行着封建制度,这种说法的确有可取之处。在欧洲,从封建走向民主的确是个长期艰苦斗争的过程,民主政权往往经过了一轮又一轮的血腥革命,才摆脱王室,最终建立起来。如此看来,美国是幸运的。它从未有过封建制度,所以未经血腥的革命便实现了民主;而欧洲人为了打破根深蒂固的社会层级,不知流了多少鲜血。

从这种角度审视美国的权力结构相当有说服力,美国革命建国神话也由此被编织成一套核心信念。

其中一个重要的例子,是关于“美国为什么没有社会主义”的著名辩论。其隐含的假设是,如果公民们一开始就掌握了自己命运,那么由他们组成的国家根本不会存在政治压迫和经济剥削。欧洲工人阶级多数曾是封建社会政治程序的客体,而美国工人则被认为是政治程序的主体。简而言之,美国没有国王,没有亲王,没有伯爵——所以你看,社会很容易取得平衡。

这种说法究竟对不对暂且不提。重要的是我们应当铭记,1776年后发生的一系列事件,最终成功给美国大地带来了解放,一个民主国家由此成功诞生。

然而,虽然殖民地的解放和美国的诞生都是令人印象深刻的开创性事件;虽然它们在其后两百年内对世界其他地区产生了辐射效果,但它们不代表美国经历了革命。人们顶多可以说,基于美国特殊的情况和发展道路,从未需要过一场革命。

从1776年到1783年,独立战争期间正是美国应当经历革命的时候,而这场革命没有发生。同样,《美国宪法》的通过以及1789年的首次全国选举,虽然把美国引上了通往成功的道路,都算不上是革命。

制宪和选举虽然给美国带来了一套稳定的政治制度,但事实证明这种体制在结构上相当保守。在一个经济与社会都充满活力的国家,这是个相当令人意外的结果。

1860年,南方各州纷纷宣告独立,并于次年组建邦联政府,引发了美国内战。蓄奴的支持者们将这场重大暴力冲突称作“第二次美国革命”。他们公开宣称要维护奴隶制这种“特别的制度”——显然,南方蓄奴州的目标在本质上是反动的,而不是革命的。

这对我们意味着什么?美利坚合众国从来没有经历过真正国内革命的考验和洗礼。因此,虽然美国的政治结构在本质上真正符合民主精神,但与大部分工业化民主大国相比,它在许多方面显得更加笨拙而沉闷。美国的政治活力远不及其经济活力。不管其他民主国家有这样那样的问题,它们的优势在于民主政治结构能够与时俱进。

虽然美国人以传统为傲,但必须承认,时至今日,美国的政治结构已经非常过时,甚至称得上畸形。在划分选区时,政党为了争夺票源最大化而不公正地擅改选区,美国政治结构的严重扭曲可见一斑。“杰利蝾螈”(观察者网注:即gerrymandering,最初是由马萨诸塞州州长Elbridge Gerry的名字,及当时划分后的选区形状貌似蝾螈(salamander)两者结合而来)旨在精准地获取政治回报,往往导致行政区划面目全非,仿似癌变的肿瘤。另外,金钱也是一大毒瘤,对美国政治产生了扭曲作用。

原载于《波士顿公报》上关于“杰利蝾螈”的讽刺漫画

实事求是地说,美利坚合众国成立之初确实曾经是民主国家,但现在它越来越多地展现出封建政权的特点。时至今日,共和党和最高法院还在颂扬和维护国父们建立的政治结构,这是美国结构性落后的明显标志。

所有这些迹象表明,美国发生重大政治变革的时机可能已经成熟,在权力稳固的阶层看来,这场变革无异于革命。然而,无论你多么顽固地捍卫现状,有一点必须承认:在严峻的挑战面前,美国当前的政治体制无法做出回应,也无法达到人民对其成功的期许。

(作者独家供稿,观察者网杨晗轶译,翻页可阅读英文原文)

Still Waiting for An American Revolution

According to a widely held belief that is cherished by most Americans, their country was born in a revolution. For all the popular appeal of that founding myth, the world is still waiting for an American revolution.

This is not to belittle the achievement of the country’s Founding Fathers. Their collective action certainly shook off the yokes of a foreign king — King George III of Great Britain — and put Americans in charge of their own destiny.

But getting rid of a foreign ruler, whether one that is truly oppressive or more of an irritant, does not a revolution make. It merely constitutes an act of national liberation. In that regard, the United States of America was the early bird. Other victims of foreign colonization — in particular, dozens of countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America — only accomplished that act roughly two centuries later.

In sharp contrast, revolutions are always social in nature. The essential measure of a true revolution is whether or not the cardinal moment — call it "your throat or my share," often spoken at knife point — ever occurred.

Now, it is true, there was a Boston Tea Party in 1773. That event reflected true concerns about what early Americans considered inappropriate, or even expropriatory, revenue-sharing by the British crown. However, that action was directed at a foreign king, not America's own socio-economic power structure.

There are those who argue that the revolution occurred when "all the king's men," departed. This term refers to the colonial loyalists to the British crown who either returned to England or moved north, to Canada (whose founding motif was that of a royalist holdout). These loyalists had generally been the ones to hold the economic power in the new colonies.

That was a significant event, but no revolution. All that essentially occurred was the replacement of one set of economic elites — call them the British loyalists — with another, the American Patriots. The victors did profess loyalty to the American venture and an abandonment of British causes.

Their change of heart came about not so much because of any rejection of British cultural habits or social beliefs. Rather, it was the requirement — and benefit — of their stepping into the powerful economic role of the departing pro-British loyalists.

Other observers argue that the American Revolution — including the critical component of social upheaval — was essentially fulfilled by virtue of the fact that the United States was a democracy from its inception. In their eyes, this obviated the need for any revolution.

That is certainly a compelling argument, especially considering that at the time feudalism prevailed in many European nations. There, the establishment of a democracy was indeed the end result of a usually prolonged and painstaking process of shaking off the royals, often involving bloody bouts of revolution.

Viewed from this perspective, America was lucky. It did not need a bloody revolution to achieve the same end result as the Europeans, with their far more entrenched forms of social stratification. As a consequence, the United States — never having had feudalist structures to begin with — did not need to shake them loose in any bloody manner.

This way of looking at the power structure of the United States is certainly very compelling — and its founding myth of having been born in a "revolution" has been spun into other enticing core beliefs.

One important example is the famous debate on "why there is no socialism in America"? The underlying assumption is that a nation that was formed by citizens who are in charge of their own destiny from the get-go essentially does not undergo political oppression and economic exploitation.

Unlike Europe’s working classes who often were the objects of the political process in feudalist societies, American workers were said to be its subjects. In short, no kings, no princes and no counts — et voilà, social balance is put into place.

Whether or not that is actually true is another matter. For now, it is important to remember that the events of 1776 culminated in the successful liberation of a territory — which, in turn, gave birth to the successful rise of a democratic nation.

And yet, as impressive and path breaking as both of those events were, and as much as they had a radiating effect on the rest of the world for centuries to come, they did not represent a revolution. At most, some arguments can be made with good reason that America, because of its special circumstances and path of development, never needed a revolution.

It certainly did not have one back in the time when it is supposed to have happened, during its War of Independence from 1776 to 1783. The ratification of the U.S. Constitution, followed by the first national elections in 1789, while putting the United States onto a successful path, was not a revolution either.

What that event achieved was the launch of a political system that, while stable, also proved to be structurally rather conservative. That came about as quite a surprise, given the country’s dynamic economic and social systems.

It fits into this pattern that the one great violent conflict in U.S. history, the secession of the Southern states that led to the Civil War, was proclaimed by its proponents as a "Second American Revolution." Tellingly, they openly acknowledged that their purpose was reactionary rather than revolutionary in nature, as it was carried out to preserve the "Peculiar Institution" of slavery.

Where does that leave us? The United States is a nation that has never been tested or transformed by any kind of true domestic revolution. Consequently, its political structure, while genuinely democratic in nature, by now is in many respects more ponderous and leaden than the political structures of most other major industrialized democracies. It certainly is nowhere nearly as dynamic as its economy. Whatever these other countries problems, they did have the advantage of evolving their democratic political structures quite a bit later.

For all the pride taken in American traditions, the country’s political structures are at this stage quite outdated, if not deformed. The latter becomes readily apparent when one looks at such grave distortions as the so-called gerrymandering of electoral districts. The latter, aimed at engineering preferred political outcomes, often look more like cancerous outgrowths rather than recognizable administrative districts. The cancerous role of money in American politics is another such distortion.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the United States of America certainly started out as a democracy, but now exhibits ever more features of a feudalistic regime. The way in which the Republican Party and the Supreme Court celebrate, and fight for upholding, the political structures set up by the founders is a clear indication of that structural backwardness.

All of this suggests that the United States might be ripe for dramatic political change that some of the established powers in the country would consider revolutionary. However, even diehard defenders of the status quo in America cannot claim with any degree of seriousness that the current political structures are responsive to the serious challenges and expectations the country must meet to succeed in the future.

(Ends)

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斯蒂芬·里克特

斯蒂芬·里克特

美国资深媒体人,The Globalist网站总裁

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