AE5. "Revolution is like giving a typewriter to a 1000 monkeys..."
Esha Krishnaswamy, lawyer, media critic & author at Historic.ly, on imperialist looting, Marxism-Leninism & Modern Monetary Theory
Transitioning from print, I’m giving audio interviews a shot. It’s been refreshing to edit sound without reading words, so I hope listening to the above 50-minute interview is similarly enjoyable and somewhat illuminating for you also.
“Revolution is like giving a typewriter to a 1000 monkeys and hoping one of them comes up with Hamlet”
I first came across Esha Krishnaswamy, co-author at Historic.ly, online on a Harvard for Bernie panel (now Harvard YDSA). Taking place in January 2020 with the US Presidential primary elections around the corner, the event brought together a number of prominent voices who speak to the socialist consciousness that’s been creeping up on young America; as images of the late Michael Brooks (The Michael Brooks Show), BLM activist Philip Agnew, Krystal Ball (Hill TV), Meagan Day (Jacobin) and Katie Halper (Useful Idiots) surrounding a sage-like Dr. Cornel West circulated, the event drew as much buzz as one in which Bernie himself headlined—which I can confirm, having stood behind him holding a placard at one.
Weeks later, I had the honor of hosting Esha on a panel that also featured journalists Ross Barkan and Malaika Jabali at The People’s Forum in New York, the last show I did before Covid-19 put at least my in-person-hosting dreams temporarily to sleep. It wasn’t just my event that tapered as eventually the Bernie campaign, too, came to a rickety halt, and name after supposedly socialist name came out openly in support of Democratic nominee and eventual 46th POTUS Joe Biden. Trump’s self-immolation and the incumbent’s fulfillment of a promise of sleepiness aided by a media ecosystem happy to write the Biden administration’s hagiographies seems to have turned the clock back to a “normal” within which even “revolution” in commodified form finds its niche market, performed, consumed and appreciated without any material change by an electorate that could somehow both vote for a $15/hour minimum wage, as well as a President who opposes all plausible ways to achieve it.
As much as it briefly turned down the pessimism of an electorate that’s one of the least voting among first-world countries, the “populist” politics of Bernie and his copycats, on the flipside, betrayed the extent to which the electorate has been propagandized into believing a cultural narrative that justifies US military presence in hundred-plus nations around the world. Here, Esha’s postcolonial perspective comes in handy as she creates Twitter threads that read like court transcripts of cases of her prosecuting imperialist propagandists. Being misinformed seems to be a design feature on this land where the “revolution” to which its founding is attributed was “actually a counter-revolution,” Esha points out (as does The Counter-Revolution of 1776 by Dr. Gerald Horne). If the imperialist machine’s controls have changed hands from the British Crown to the Pentagon and its subsistence depends on a populace believing in its goodness, then Esha is a bat-slinging maverick cracking open zombified heads one after another with historical facts, hopefully aiding their awakening.
Does roughhousing on Twitter radicalize you? As a guy who writes things hoping to move audiences, I’m inclined to see all thoughtful, well-crafted and compassionate interactions as carrying such potential. Besides, on a platform where there’s enough anonymity for us never to be sure whether the account we’re interacting with is a paid troll, an intelligence operative, or just another bot regurgitating propaganda, perhaps Esha’s ruthlessness is explained by the ratio of bad-faith to good-faith actors she encounters. Regardless, Esha says she finds these heated debates—which sometimes go on for days—relaxing, and indeed, right after battling anarchists well into the wee hours of the morning, you’ll find this Leninist at it again the next day. Now having quit corporate law for policy work, Esha hopes to go full-time with Historic.ly and her live-stream “Sundays with Lenin,” which seems to be a refreshingly laidback departure from the militant she’s known to be by a ballpark’s worth of people.