Revolution and the past

I could forgive a new acquaintance for thinking I have a bone to pick with progressives.  I could also forgive a new acquaintance for thinking I was a mariner's cap-wearing Marxist on a soapbox. Neither is true.

I side with the progressive left on most issues that matter, but I'm a pragmatist. In practice, that means being skeptical of claims that change is inevitable or easy and claims that it's impossible or unnecessary. Both outlooks flow from a misunderstanding of or complacency with the past.

I wrote earlier:

"Reforms have to be possible (they’re a reality in a dozen wealthy European countries). They’re possible here as well, or the problem is not the policies but the 'here.' If America wants to move toward economic justice, we need to focus on the democracy part of the equation. We can’t make politically difficult reforms until we confront the fragility of our democracy and the deep social divisions at its root."

Today I finished Orwell's lengthy case for socialist revolution in England. As usual, he says what others (in this case me) fumble after, but better and more succinctly:

"Nations do not escape from their past merely by making a revolution."

This applies to any real progress and it's what I grasp for often. Revolution and reform, sweeping change and legislative tinkering, are built on a past that can't be erased or ignored.