Thinking Anew About Today’s Revolutionary Situation
In 1862 Abraham Lincoln, in his Second Annual Message, stated “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
Enthrall means “to hold in mental or moral bondage.” As long as the American people’s thinking was limited to merely slowing the spread of slavery, or to preserving the Union while also preserving slavery, they were in mental and moral bondage. It was only when a mass of people disenthralled themselves by embracing the abolition of slavery that the war could be won, and the country be saved.
Today the United States is made up of over 325 million people, spread over 3.8 million square miles, with over 82% of the population residing in cities and suburbs. Millions understand that the growing polarization, with wealth piling up on one side and want on the other, requires major change. The reason for the polarization is the profound change in the economy, not only in the United States, but around the world. It used to be that most families had a place to live, could go to the doctor when necessary, feed their children, have adequate transportation for work and even have some leisure time as long as they were employed.
As the way things are produced began to change, with the use of electronic means of production replacing the old heavy industrial machinery, everything that seemed stable became unstable. Our economy was once based on jobs. There are still some jobs, true enough, but most of them will be eliminated by high-tech production, and sooner rather than later. Like it or not, we are changing from a society based on jobs, to a society that can produce an abundance of goods with no human labor.
With these fundamental changes, the ruling class has to turn to fascism to facilitate a whole new world order based on private property without capitalism. Each step in this direction exacerbates the extreme polarization in wealth we see unfolding.
New Situation Requires New Thinking
Because our case is new, we have to think anew. All kinds of ideas are being put forth over how to solve the problems of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, substandard education and health care. As more people fight against the inequities of this society, an understanding of why things are changing and what society can be changed to, has to be brought into the discussion. If our thinking is limited to what was possible in the past, we will not be able to transform society based on what the new situation demands. The development of the means of production has been such that it is creating not only a new economic order, but a social situation making it absolutely impossible for more and more people to live on the basis of the sale of their labor.
If we can no longer rely on jobs with wages to meet our basic human needs, and a bounty of food, housing and clothing can be produced with no labor, we have to rethink what is actually possible. Production without wages demands that these goods be distributed without money. The sum total of the town hall meetings demanding health care, the teacher strikes demanding quality education, the demand that the homeless be housed, and that hungry children be fed, leads to this conclusion.
A large section of society is developing that simply cannot live within this system, and it is growing daily. To maintain their position of ownership, wealth and privilege, the ruling class has historically fostered an ethnic form of struggle amongst the working class. The basis of workers fighting for “their group’s” interests is being swept away, as more face the common problems of no access to health care, education and housing.
Homelessness shows this most starkly. Even those working multiple jobs cannot afford a place to live. According to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development study, 35 percent of homeless people in the United States were unsheltered in 2018, meaning they were living on the street, in abandoned buildings, or “in other places not suitable for human habitation.” The other 65 percent were living in temporary or emergency shelters. Among the country’s 553,000 homeless people, 193,550 were living outside.
Homeless persons also have a mortality rate four to nine times higher than those who are not homeless. With an estimated 39.7 million Americans living in poverty, 19 million experiencing housing insecurity, and 27.3 million without health insurance, the risk of homelessness and poor health is a concern for one out of eight Americans.
Transformation and Communism
Societies change. They change because people change them, but people can’t make changes unless they know what they are changing to. Communism is vilified by our rulers because it means the end of the system based on private property, exploitation and profit. Learning the history of humanity shows that the more primitive societies had to be organized along cooperative, communist lines to guarantee survival. The fruits of their labor had to be shared if starvation was to be avoided. It was not a matter of being for, or against such cooperation; it was necessary.
What we are seeing today is the rise of a new class; a class that is created by robotics and being progressively pushed outside of the relations of capitalist production, whose relations are wage labor. In a very practical sense, it is a communist class. This new communist movement is arising because there is an intense antagonism between the private ownership of the necessaries of life and the way those necessaries are distributed. It has developed to the point the entire social order is beginning to collapse.
In an increasingly jobless economy, communism – which is society’s ownership of the socially necessary means of life – is no longer a question of ideology or belief, but has become once again necessary for human survival. During more primitive times, communism was needed to manage sharing a scarcity of goods. Today communism will be based on managing an abundance of goods. The definition of communism in the Merriam Webster dictionary is, “a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed.”
The revolutionary movement can never be just a movement of people who want to fight against what is. The revolutionary movement has to be a movement of people who are conscious of what the situation is, where history is headed and how to work along those lines to transform society.
If the public gains control of society and its enormously productive electronic means of production, it will create a society based on cooperation instead of competition. It will become a paradise for all of unlimited abundance. There will be no jobs as we know them today, but there will be an opportunity for everyone to contribute to the well-being of humanity.
Uniting Around a Common Cause
The ruling class has relied on “divide and conquer” to prevent any real unity on the part of the workers. It was able to grant privileges and economic benefits to separate and confuse. Today, the ruling class has no use for labor that does not produce profit. Workers are finding themselves in the same boat. People in every state are suffering the ill effects of not having access to safe water, affordable health care and housing. They are not distinguished by color, gender or ethnicity, but rather by their economic position. Many are beginning to understand that they can only advance their cause with a better understanding of what they are up against and the need to fight forward to transform all of society.
In periods of epochal change, the social movement unites with and is guided by a cause. We have a rich history of this through the Revolutionary War and Civil War in striving for a vision of freedom, peace and humanity. Today it is finally possible to achieve this vision. The struggles today all express the need to reorganize society to meet the needs of the people. We are finally able to move forward as one class identified by its common interests, rather than fighting among ourselves, or based on our skin color, gender, or ethnicity. There is a new world to be won. The cause today – the distribution of the wealth of society according to need – is the foundation for realizing the vision. This vision is of a world without human want, without race and national hatred, without oppression. It is for a world where an ever-expanding technology delivers full lives for all, both materially and culturally, in a safe and healthy environment. RC
July/August 2018 Vol29.Ed4
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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