"We need three things: one, guns; two, guns, and three, again and again, guns! Do you think we can defeat the Czar with bare hands? Never." In these words Joseph Stalin as a youthful radical once incited a crowd, according to Michael Weiss's review of the new biography, Young Stalin. (Weekly Standard, March 10, subscription required.)
Uncle Joe, as Franklin Roosevelt flippantly called the tyrant, apparently had a real-estate man's (location, location, location) instinct for emphasis through repetition. When he was Soviet dictator, his instructions for KGB interrogation of suspected traitors used the same triple rhythm: "Beat, beat, and once again, beat!"
If all this seems long ago and far away, consider how the glorification of violence and "direct action" lives on in the hoodlum swagger of Denver's own Re-create '68 group, the movement to disrupt this summer's Democratic National Convention.
Although a recent Rocky profile of their leader, Glenn Spagnuolo, has him claiming that any trouble will start with the police, not with his followers, that's hardly the import of his threat about "a very dangerous situation" ensuing from the group's failure to draw their desired protest site in a city-run lottery. Why evoke the Chicago riots of 1968, except with the cynical intent of provoking official backlash -- creating a powder keg and then blaming others when it ignites?
Michael Weiss likens the young Stalin to Zarqawi, the late Al Qaeda terrorist leader in Iraq. Not to say that Spagnuolo and his ilk are devoted to a global caliphate or to the imposition of Leninism by any means necessary -- but all were or are infected in varying degrees by the same bacillus of fanatical self-righteousness, cold hate, and political judo wherewith to use the regime's humane scruples against itself.
Our American system of free government, in Spagnuolo's words, "needs to be completely eliminated and replaced," and he believes (in the words of that Rocky profile) that "revolutionary politics are the best way" to accomplish that. Be careful, Glenn -- you are playing with fire.
And be careful, Denver -- it is but a short distance from those lofty generalities of Re-create '68 to the practical conclusions voiced by Uncle Joe: "Guns, guns, guns. Beat, beat, beat."