Progressive Movement Part III

The following article is the last of a three part series that has examined the development of the progressive movement in America.  The Progressive Movement, Part I explored the roots of progressivism, or Formative Progressivism. In Part II, we considered how Incremental Progressivism of the past 100 years has shifted the direction of American ideology toward greater centralized governance, and away from individual liberty.

The Progressive Movement Part III will reveal:

·      The differences between incremental and revolutionary progressives

·      The revolutionary progressive movements of the past

·      The future of the revolutionary progressive movement in America

·      Another path forward – to freedom

The differences between incremental and revolutionary progressives

The general difference between incremental and revolutionary progressives lay not in the direction they would like the nation to move (i.e. toward greater social justice and wealth redistribution), but rather, it lies in the speed and scope of their transformation of our constitutional republic.  These two groups also seem to vary in the degree of force they are willing to use to accomplish their goals.  Incremental progressives would prefer to cajole, shame, nudge, or, if needed, shove the “unenlightened” toward the change that is believed the “best” for the collective, whereas revolutionary progressives are impatient and willingly engage in violence to force the change they seek; they reason that the ends justify any means.

Incremental progressive, Theodore Roosevelt, expressed his desire to progress by degrees when he stated, “…we must always advance a little by zigzags; only we must advance; and the zigzags should go toward the right goal.”1 The incremental progressive is generally reticent to use violence and prefers to work within the existing system to achieve their less radicalized idea of social justice.   However, revolutionary progressives align more closely with Marxists, who assert that they stand “…for the destruction of the capitalist state by the [organized] working class, Marxism opposes all forms of reformism and ‘gradualism’ or ‘evolutionary socialism;’ Marxism is Revolutionary.”2   In addition to using violence as a necessary step in eliminating the opposition, violence also serves to build the loyalty and confidence of young revolutionaries joining the cause.  Frantz Fanon, whom the New York Times describes as “the great hope of the international left”3 extolled the virtues of violence when he asserted that, “At the individual level, violence is a cleansing force. It rids the colonized from their inferiority complex, of their passive and despairing attitude. It emboldens them, and restores their self-confidence.”4

In sharp contrast to a communist revolution, the American Revolution extolled the virtues of personal self-control (although it did not always live up to that ideal).  The violent conflict of war during this time was seen as a necessary evil, but never as a sanctifying principle.  In America, the ability of individuals to exhibit self-control was understood to be a prerequisite for establishing a foundation upon which a republic could survive. John Adams understood this principle when he wrote, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”5  Generally speaking, it appears that the whole of progressivism is founded upon distrust – distrust in the average person to govern him or herself.  Progressives appear to have adopted the foreign premise that all men are not created equal under the law, but rather that the elite class was born to lead their less able subjects.

Finally, it is important to ask why so many incremental progressives tolerate this more radical element within their ranks?  Why do they dismiss them as “fringe” and naively feel this group can be easily controlled, manipulated, and then discarded after the incremental progressive’s goals have been met?  History demonstrates that the reverse has been true, that the revolutionaries who ascend to power will eliminate the more moderate socialists and nonviolent idealists – but only after the radical is finished using them as a political incubator.

The revolutionary progressive movements of the past:

The true revolutionary expects, and indeed longs for, the violent conflict that he/she sees as inevitable, and needed, in order to transform a free market economy to Communism.  Karl Marx stated in the closing lines of the Communist Manifesto, “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win…  Proletarians of all countries unite!”6

When Lenin came to power in Russia after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, he was able to do so with only 20,000 hard-core fringe followers of a nation that was 160 million strong.7   Later, after the death of Lenin and a few short years after coming to power in 1936, Stalin launched the Great Purge to purify the Communist party and solidify his control.

[A]lmost 70 per cent of the Communist Party Central Committee and 50 per cent of the Party Congress were executed or died in labour camps; 35,000 Red Army officers were tried, among them 80 per cent of its colonels, 90 per cent of its generals, and all of its deputy commissioners of war. The total number of dead is unclear, but lies probably in the middle of the range of estimates between one and ten million people.8

It seems that the first priority for a radical who rises to power is to remove any potential threat to that power, which, as in Stalin’s case, included much of the ruling and military class, or those who helped him obtain the power in the first place.  History shows that Mao did the same thing in China:  “Mao believed that the Great Leap Forward had failed [resulting in the mass starvation of millions of peasants] largely because too many party officials…did not boldly implement his policies.”9  Rather than taking ownership of his own failures, Mao’s solution was to eliminate those whom he believed were too moderate, or those who supported Soviet notions of Communism.

Mao and his militant party faction (the Gang of Four) called upon the nation’s youth (primarily high school and university students) to rise up and call the errant officials to account. The result was the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which was witness to the unusual spectacle of the top Communist leader declaring war on his own party organization.  Millions of inflamed students and others donned Red Guard armbands, and, waving the Little Red Book (1966) of selected Mao quotations, they proceeded to carry out their assigned mission. The campaign tore the country apart from 1966 to 1969…9  

Hitler used similar tactics in Germany.10

So, again, why do incremental progressives see the ugly redheaded Communist stepchild as a useful idiot and not a true ideological competitor?  In the case of America, perhaps it is because revolutionary progressives have been a part of the broader progressive movement for decades.  Furthermore, progressives have always seen conservatives as their political enemy, who has slowed down their march to progress.  By embracing the radical, incremental progressives believe they will reach their utopian goals of a perfect society faster, not realizing that the radical will eventually turn on them.  Sadly, incrementals have already underestimated the revolutionary progressive because, ironically, their own historians have taken great care to sanitize generations of radicals like Sanger, Che, Castro, Mao and Lenin into benevolent heroes.  For example, how many average progressives know that the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was one of the foremost proponents of the eugenics movement in America and that she “…denounced marriage as a ‘degenerate institution,’ and endorsed political assassinations.”?11  Yet, in 2009, Hillary Clinton heralded her as follows:  “I admire [her] enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision…And when I think about what she did all those years ago in Brooklyn, taking on archetypes, taking on attitudes and accusations flowing from all directions, I am really in awe of her.12

Historically speaking,  “The revolutions that spread across Europe in 1848, often accompanied by violence, led to militancy among labor leaders who advocated revolutionary labor reforms. Workers immigrating to the United States after the Civil War, perhaps encouraged by the demise of American slavery, brought radical social ideas with them. When the headquarters of the first Communist International was moved to New York City in 1872, labor movements in the United States became more radicalized. Both the National Labor Reform Party (1872) and the Workingmen’s Party of the United States (1876) were Marxist or Marxist oriented.”13

However, because of America’s deep constitutional roots in individual freedoms, conversion to a Marxist society had its challenges.  The Haymarket Square Riot in Chicago illustrates the struggles early American radicals faced.  On May 4, 1886 a “…demonstration, which drew some 1,500 Chicago workers, was organized by German-born labor radicals in protest of the killing of a striker by the Chicago police the day before.”14  Workers called “…for a new mass meeting on May fourth, radical editors like August Spies set the table for more violence: ‘Revenge! Workingmen, to arms!  Your masters sent out their bloodhounds!’”  The next day, a bomb was thrown by one of the radicals that killed seven policemen and left more than 60 wounded.15  Still, this event did not strengthen the revolutionaries’ cause in the minds of the average American.  In fact, the opposite reaction occurred as the public became unified against them and the Labor Movement.  Later, during the Great Depression, there were a number of others who thought that it was time for revolution, or, at the very least, communism; but patience prevailed, despite the tempting crisis the Great Depression presented.   Most revolutionaries in the 1930s understood that America “… had not changed that much.  So they began to hunt for political leaders within the [two] big parties.”16   Progressives realized that a communist revolution in America was premature primarily because the structure required to replace the foundation of America’s Republic did not exist at the turn of the last century and needed to be created before any communist uprising could be successful.

In addition to finding progressive political leaders, incremental progressives like Van Jones gave up the “radical presentation” to achieve their revolutionary ends.  Instead, they put on suits, led foundations, found their way into university classrooms and, like a cancer, they have metastasized their influence either undetected or ignored for over 100 years.  Concepts like the progressive income tax (redistribution and unequal) that were considered radical when they were proposed by Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto in 1848, are now mainstream; while flat tax proposals (individual equality) such as those recommended by Ted Cruz are now described by a hostile media as the radical idea.  So we see that previously radical and unconstitutional ideas incrementally gained momentum after they were adopted by the political mainstream in government.  Therefore, some changes did not need to occur through revolution because they took root on their own.

Nevertheless, during the last 60 years, modern revolutionaries have grown impatient with what they believed were small gains using an incremental approach.  “In the late Sixties, [Bill] Ayers became a leader of the Weather Underground (WU), a splinter faction of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Characterizing WU as “an American Red Army,” Ayers summed up the organization’s ideology as follows: “Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, Kill your parents.”17  Bill Ayers went on to teach at the University of Illinois. “All told, Ayers and the Weather Underground were responsible for 30 bombings aimed at destroying the defense and security infrastructures of the U.S.  “I don’t regret setting bombs,” said Ayers in 2001, “I feel we didn’t do enough.”17  Radicals like Bill Ayers sought to gain political advantage by creating economic and social chaos.  Meanwhile, other revolutionary progressives sought to foster violence and unrest through destabilizing the welfare systems that had been established by incremental progressives just one generation earlier.  Richard Cloward (1926–2001) and Frances Fox Piven (b. 1932) were sociologists who, in the 1960’s, proposed a radical solution in an article published in the far left publication, The Nation. The article outlines the perceived benefits of overwhelming the welfare system to economically collapse the current system of support, causing Americans to become desperate enough to accept radical changes to society.  The article stated, “The ultimate objective of this strategy—to wipe out poverty by establishing a guaranteed annual income—will be questioned by some. Because the ideal of individual social and economic mobility has deep roots, even activists seem reluctant to call for national programs to eliminate poverty by the outright redistribution of income.”18   At the time, it seemed a long shot (even to progressives) that redistribution could be embraced by the American people to such a degree that it would collapse the system.  But, as we can see today, just 50 years later and by the trillions of dollars of debt, dependence has become a lifestyle and a right for many Americans.

The future of the revolutionary progressive movement in America

In 2010, the radical left French group called the Invisible Committee published Coming Insurrection.  Among other things, this work serves as a template to foster chaos in our day.  They assert,

“In reality, the decomposition of all social forms is a blessing.  It is for us the ideal condition for a while, massive experimentation with new arrangements, new fidelity’s.  …It’s useless to wait-for a breakthrough, for the revolution, the nuclear apocalypse or a social movement. To go on waiting is madness. The catastrophe is not coming: it is here. We are already situated within the collapse of a civilization. It is within this reality that we must choose sides.”19

Clearly, radicals are taking off their masks and are now openly calling for a revolution in America as can be found on numerous videos.

Rapes, murders, assaults have become commonplace at various Wall Street protests beginning back in 2011, openly calling for to an end of capitalism.  At Occupy Baltimore, rape victims were urged to not report their attackers to the police, but rather to a security committee that would investigate the incident and, if necessary, provide counseling to the perpetrator.20  Additionally, city budgets (which are already strained) have additional costs heaped upon them; again, this is by design.  On November 15, 2011, The Washington Post reported, “City officials have said that the [2011] demonstrations have cost them millions of dollars — all while the protesters demand fiscal responsibility.  Denver estimates its bill at $200,000 per week. Oakland has spent more than $1 million just to pay overtime for police officers. Businesses near Zuccotti Park say protesters have cost them a combined $500,000 in profits.”21

The Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter Movements are only the tip of the iceberg; their stated mantra is clear, “The only solution is world revolution”22 and the only way to achieve that is through bloodshed.   During April 2015, as riots shut down the city of Baltimore, personal property was destroyed and law officers were assaulted.  The mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, had apparently instructed police officers to do little in support of the law-abiding citizens of that city.  In her own words, she said, “we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”23

Like the revolutionaries who assisted Lenin, these radicals represent the 1% in America, not the 99%. They are willing to use violence and chaos to their advantage while attempting to force their version of change on the 99% of the rest of us.  This writer is convinced that if unchecked, the final destination of all progressivism will be similar in terms of the control the government will be able exert over individuals. It is clear that incremental progressives have not honestly considered how they will be able to slow down the runaway progressive train from arriving at the final destination of absolute control.  Foolishly, they believe it could never go that far. Because in their naivety, they believe that they are still in charge of the broader progressive movement, when, clearly, they are not.  Like many well meaning but myopic supporters of past tyrannical regimes, they have (thus far) been unable or unwilling to see the danger of the political Frankenstein they have helped and are helping to create.  Just as has happened during past societal journeys to totalitarianism, those that support half measures will likely only begin to notice the danger after the monster they have created starts to nibble on them.  Incremental progressives within the Republican and Democrat parties have both resented constitutional limitations on their power and cannot see how these limits also serve to protect them.  The elite have not felt the need to consider how difficult it will be to take back unconstitutional powers from a government that has become accustomed to gorging on unlawful powers for over 100 years … that is, without being accused of treason by the radical progressives.

It may be a sad truth, but a truth that needs to be spoken clearly – the violent future of the progressive movement is NOT coming tomorrow, it is already here.  The revolutionary seeds that were planted 100 years ago are no longer useful political energy for the incremental progressive movement, if it ever was.  No, revolutionary progressives are not newborns requiring an incubator; they are angry, violent adolescents that will turn on their more restrained, less converted parents as soon as the outspoken conservative enemies have been eliminated.

Another Path Forward – to Freedom

Our responsibility as patriots is to understand our history and heritage and decide that we will not allow foreign history to repeat itself in America.  That determination begins by being unafraid to call evil by its name and by becoming prepared both temporally and spiritually to provide another path for our neighbors, a path that emphasizes liberty, generosity and forgiveness.    We must refine our inward vessel so that it can be prepared to let go of the hate that is already at our doorstep.  We must examine our lives so that “ALL Lives Matter” not just different shades of human beings, or classes of people, or those of a certain party.  Revolutionaries depend on the fact that hate is contagious.  There is much we can learn from Martin Luther King and others who chose love over hate: “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”24

May we remember for what and for whom we are fighting; this is not a political battle with easy election solutions.  There is nothing more futile than fighting spiritual wars with political weapons. Until we see the battlefield for what it is, and the forces that stand against us, we will be powerless to defeat evil, Ephesians 6:11-18.  Some assert that patriots can only effectively fight evil by adopting evil’s tactics: this is a lie.  It is illogical to fight darkness with darkness while blindly expecting that light can come of it.  No matter how judiciously evil is applied as a tactic, or how well-intended as a weapon against some greater evil, the use of hatred, lies, envy and revenge will always amplify evil, not destroy it.  The path that we must choose for our families and our neighbors must be one of light, which emphasizes liberty, love and generosity.  Only then will our path be able to stand in stark contrast to those selling Marxism’s envy, dependence and bloodshed.   We need to take the time to learn our history and appreciate the sacred uniqueness of the liberties we enjoy. If we are prepared both temporally and spiritually, we can illuminate the nonviolent, non-dependent path for our neighbors who find themselves in this growing storm with us.   Today is the day to make a conscious choice between good and evil, right and wrong, freedom and bondage and build alliances with each other, so that this nation of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


1.     Ganley, Albert C. The Progressive Movement; Traditional Reform. New York: Macmillan, 1964. 45 Print.




5.     The Works of John Adams, ed. C.F. Adams, Boston: Little Brown Co., 1851, 4:31

6.     Mendel, Arthur P. Essential Works of Marxism. New York: Bantam, 1961. 43-44. Print.

7.     Schweikart, Larry, and Michael Allen. A Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror. New York: Sentinel, 2004. 521. Print.




11.   Schweikart, Larry, and Michael Allen. A Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror. New York: Sentinel, 2004. 531. Print.




15.   Schweikart, Larry, and Michael Allen. A Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror. New York: Sentinel, 2004. 439. Print.

16.   Shlaes, Amity. The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. 118. Print.


18. (article from the Monday, May 2, 1966 issue of The Nation

19.   Coming Insurrection. Place of Publication Not Identified: Invisible Committee, 2010. Print.







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