Revolutionary Work Today
It’s been clear for a while that something’s broken in the economy and society. Millions in the United States – and billions worldwide – are seeing the last shreds of economic well-being and hope torn to pieces. Where, many have asked, is the outrage? Where is there hope for fundamental change?
For many, recent events from Cairo, Egypt to Madison, Wisconsin, have sparked some of that hope and placed squarely on the table pointed questions about how society is – and should be – organized. These events have sparked discussion and struggle over what should be the relationship between the people governed and the established government or political system. For revolutionaries, who understand that systemic change is on history’s agenda, these events have made more urgent the need to answer questions like: “What is my role and response to history’s call?”
Wisconsin, Ohio and other states throw a spotlight on the efforts by those with economic and political power to reconfigure how the State and government will function in the post-industrial electronic age. The social response to changes in the economy that are emerging in the United States is clearly something quite different from the back-and-forth struggle that defined governance during the rise and growth of capitalism.
Cities, health care, education, homes, stable employment, the environment, as well as democratic rights, are devastated as the economic and social relationships of a period of developing capitalism crumble. Society is polarizing between the extremes of wealth and poverty.
Polarity emerging in society today
Decisions in Washington and at the state level to define the institutional forms of ruling class control, and growing struggles to resist the destruction of an old way of life, reflect the polarity emerging in society today.
At one pole, the corporations are merging ever more inseparably into the government. The decimation of state and local budgets, privatization of public resources and services, nationalization in the interests of the corporations, the undermining and dismantling of bourgeois democracy, concentration of power in the executive branch and a “bipartisanship” that expresses and expedites the needs of the ruling class as a whole – all are visible expressions of the consolidation of a U.S. “corporatist state.”
In the chaotic process of implementation of these changes, the aspects of ruling class agreement are emerging. In order to maintain their wealth and control, those in power are willing to deny the American people economic benefits and democratic rights that Americans once assumed were their birthright. These decisions foreshadow the growth of a fascism tailored to the 21st century, aimed at protecting private property even as old capitalist economic relations are destroyed.
At the other pole, the broadening movement of people fighting for the necessaries of life find themselves confronting, not an economic struggle with their employer (and for reforms in governance to stabilize that relationship), but a political obstacle: the question of who holds power in society – the public or the corporations.
When the ways society is organized no longer work to advance human well-being, the resulting instability makes fundamental change possible. The destruction of the old opens the way for the new – but the way forward will be frustrated if the desire is only to recapture the past.
Revolutionary potential of these changes
State budget battles, deficit-mongering, tax reform proposals, and cutbacks in public service are drawing ever broader sections of the population into activity and debate. The dispossession of the American people and the polarization of wealth and poverty set the basis for leaps forward in consciousness and struggle. Millions are and will be angered or frightened, confused or politicized, ready to give up or ready to fight. The engine for such a change is the objective motion in society itself, but that motion can be sidetracked and defeated if the participants and their leaders fail to understand their role.
As the practical struggle is forced into motion to fight for its basic needs, strategies emerge to lead it, most rooted in the hope of going back to better days. The heroic gains made by unions in the first half of the last century leads many to hope that a revitalized trade union movement will strengthen workers in their struggle with the capitalist corporations. Others advocate a revitalized civic sector to create a balance of power with the capitalist class.
The Democratic Party uses this hope to fuel its electoral bids. Both major parties work together “across the aisle” in a bipartisan program of the ruling class with the goal of removing impediments to speculative capital. Both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are leading the country toward fascism in the interests of a ruling class that wants to hold on to its private property and power. Leaders of the social motion who attach the struggle to the left wing of the Party are tying the struggle to this ruling class program of fascism.
The “unite and fight the right” strategy advocated by much of the “left” is directed toward reaching a workable compromise with the capitalist class – rather than preparing for the class struggle that is beginning, though not yet conscious of itself.
Revolutionaries must look forward, not to an on-going back-and-forth struggle with the capitalist class, but to a radical and pervasive change in society and social structures. Guided by a vision of society that can meet humanity’s needs, the revolutionary participates in the struggle for those needs, continually assesses how the stages of struggle and consciousness are unfolding, and works to build an organization that can be part of the historic effort to transform the disorganized, disoriented American mass into a conscious political force.
This effort has to be carried out in the context of today’s developing political polarization and in forms shaped by American history. Current government intervention into the economy is opening the way for struggle that can coalesce a certain stage of mass consciousness. As key sections of the economy are taken over by a corporatist state, battles are shaping up on every narrow front over whose interests the government and this nationalization should serve. This battleground is a school for agitating and politicizing, for propaganda about real causes and solutions.
Understanding its vulnerability, the ruling class must turn any developing class motion against itself and corral it into an endless election cycle. They use every tool to agitate fear and anger into disregard for one’s fellows, promoting fascist ideology. Those whose loyalty has been key to control of the broader working class are becoming desperate and their plight is framed in terms of the “middle class.” The fight for jobs is turned into attacks on immigrants, for public services into attacks on public employees and the battle for a future into battles along color lines. Consciousness becomes critical to the struggle itself.
In general terms, the proletarian revolutionary movement must move from scattered economic struggles to united political struggle. Its proletarian content, as a movement that is objectively against private property, is bound to emerge. But shifts and changes in consciousness develop in leaps and the path will not be a smooth one toward ever-greater class unity. Whatever the steps and stages ahead, the job of revolutionaries is to develop the consciousness of the struggle so that it can move to real solutions.
Revolutionary work within the movement
Thousands of revolutionaries today are engaged in the struggle for the demands of the class and in developing a mass social consciousness in opposition to the rule of the corporations and a government that serves only those corporate interests. Recognizing the stages the struggle has to go through, revolutionaries can push from within each stage of mass struggle toward the final aim – keeping the movement on a political course, questioning why the government rules on the side of the corporations and against the people.
Our assessment of the leap at the foundation of society gives us confidence in the objectivity of the emerging motion. Each social catastrophe presents the battleground on which to prepare the class politically to fight in its own interest. Every specific battle, every narrow front becomes a school for agitating and politicizing, for propaganda about real causes and solutions, for a battle over whose interests shall prevail. The actual resolution to each social calamity is ultimately the abolition of private property. The program of the new class can emerge within the phases of mass struggle as a rallying point for the actual resolution to concrete problems. Revolutionaries cannot proceed from any pre-conception of the forms that developing class and political consciousness will or “should” take.
Revolutionaries cannot stand apart from the struggle and expect to be able to get people to think differently. A self-contained organization of revolutionaries cannot approach the art of politics needed to address the emerging stages of the struggle. Revolutionaries must be involved in the current stage of the struggle – as messy as it may be. It is precisely propaganda and agitation, teaching and politicizing in the context of the social motion itself that can advance the stage of the struggle and consciousness.
These challenges can be met only by an organization of thinking revolutionaries who can disperse to diverse fronts while maintaining a common direction. Only such an organization can point the way forward. Only such an organization can unite the revolutionaries who are emerging in the struggle and grow on a political basis.
Revolutionaries today are looking for discussion on crucial issues of direction, solutions, and strategy. They understand the need for education and strategic perspective in order to make their contribution. That’s why revolutionaries need organization. They collectivize their activity out of an understanding that this is a moment in which they can make a decisive contribution to history. The revolutionary struggle is just beginning: either society will control the corporations or the corporations will control society. We need – and together we can build – a league of revolutionaries ready to meet the challenges ahead.
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011