Honduras: Zelaya Agonistes

Normally, I’d open a column of this sort with the usual hype: “All eyes turned to Honduras this weekend as the country’s military arrested President Manuel Zelaya,” or something of the sort.

Of course, no such thing happened. The fact is that far more people outside of Honduras itself could describe, in some detail, the deaths of Michael Jackson, Farah Fawcett, Ed McMahon and Billy Mays than could even name the president of Honduras.

Personally, I consider that something of a sign of remaining life in society as such. Music, drama, stand-up comedy and salesmanship should be more important than politics, and one of my goals in life is to make the world safe for that to be so.

In the meantime, however, the state exists. Men with guns wander the streets demanding obedience and enforcing compliance. And so, keyboard in hand (or under hand, or whatever), I go forth to do battle with “the situation in Honduras.”

That situation, in summary, appears to be this:

President Zelaya wants to remain president. His nation’s Constitution says that he can’t. He wants to amend that Constitution by referendum so that he can continue in office. That Constitution apparently does not provide for its own amendment on the terms that he proposes. The courts therefore ruled those terms, and the referendum, illegal. He defied the courts and scheduled the referendum — a democratic direct appeal to the people (or, possibly, a sham version of such an appeal — hard to tell at this distance). His government’s top court, using the military as their instrument, had him arrested and deported.

What’s happening in Honduras does not, in other words, appear to be a coup d’etat as usually defined, but rather an attempt to head off an indirect, but actual, coup by Zelaya.

From an anarchist perspective, there’s a lesson in the Honduras story which may not be obvious. It’s the same lesson emanating from Iran, the same lesson to be found in Al Gore’s decision to concede the 2000 US presidential election even though he could be reasonably sure that he had won it (as was subsequently proven to a high degree of probability to be the case).

That lesson is this: The state, regardless of whether its apparatus is controlled by “left-wing” or “right-wing” actors at a given moment, is organically conservative. Its pieces and parts have evolved, through a sort of natural selection process, toward the object of maintaining the status quo at all costs.

While an individual state actor may press for change (good change or bad), or articulate a desire for change (honestly or dishonestly), the machinery of an established state is big enough, it’s heavy enough, and it has enough momentum that it’s usually going to roll right over that actor unless that actor has hitched his wagon to forces that have amassed considerable weight and momentum of their own — in other words, revolutionary forces external to and in competition with the status quo.

Smart actors like Gore hit their marks and say their lines, preserving some position for themselves among the power elite. They act to defend the status quo and are rewarded with a continuing place in it, even if that place is not the place they sought.

Those who buck the trend, who seek to re-write the script, risk being written out of that script entirely. They usually become bugs on the windshield of the machine they attempted to seize the wheel of. Odds are that this will be the fate of Zelaya in Honduras, and probably of Mousavi in Iran as well.

Think of it as a political analog to the law of conservation of momentum: Force exerted within “the system,” as well as the equal and opposite reactions to that force, will not change the amount of energy in, or the direction or velocity of, the system itself.

The big changes — whether we’re talking about substantial “reforms” of the state or its abolition — have to come from outside the state itself. If “political activity” serves any useful purpose in a movement for freedom, that purpose is the dramatization of this fact.

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