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Things Happen Fast

One of the best union activists in North Texas asked me why everything seems to happen at once. He was talking about the Cuban revolution, which had just shown on TV, but he might easily have been talking about WWII, the civil rights movement, or any other major changes in history. It's true, history looks like long periods of nothing, then short periods of furious change.

But looks can be deceiving.

A quick look at historical dialectics shows us how these changes really came about. Dialectics shows us that everything is constantly changing, and that most of the changes, most of the time, are so small that our history books don't notice them. But small, incremental changes eventually lead to qualitative change, and that's when we notice!

Hot water looks about the same as cold water, until it starts to boil!

The civil rights movement "of the sixties" is a good example. History books tell it as if it all occurred between 1954 and 1965. But all of American history shows an ongoing struggle for civil rights. There were slaves who resisted their masters, there were preachers and editors who spoke out for fairness, there were people who stood up for the Scottsboro Boys and other famous civil rights legal cases. There were people who gave money, people who wrote books, and people who just stopped to say a kind word.

Our present, ongoing, "history" is also changing incrementally. On the one side, we can see government and big money trying to take us backward into a period of reaction. On the other side, we can see progressive people trying to figure out the best way forward and forming effective coalitions. Sooner or later, there will be qualitative change that will seem "sudden."