Henry Canary- member of the National Secretariat of the formation of the PSTU (Brazilian section on the Lit-Ci)
Imagine the end of the world. You might imagine scenes from the movie “Armageddon”, “2012” or several other versions of the Apocalypse. Meteorites, earthquakes, wars and plagues finish, in little time, with everything that humans and nature have created for many decades. Life is extinguished in the Earth and the planet revolves around cold and in silence in to the infinite space. Have you been able to imagine it yet?
Now, imagine the end of capitalism. More difficult, right? Do any scenes come to mind? Any hypotheses? Normal. For what it is, it’s easier for people to imagine the end of an entire planet, than the end of a social system. It’s as if we believed that soccer could end one day, but our favorite team, never! Like you notice, it doesn’t make much sense.
The truth is that the collapse of social systems is something relatively common in the history of humanity and much more probable that the invasion of the earth by aliens or the existence of Godzilla. When the crisis penetrates a social system it combines with an enormous elevation of political activity of the masses, that move on to directly intervene in the road of the historic events to come, we are in the face of a social revolution.
Revolutions happen because the social classes don’t retire. The bourgeoisie cannot be peacefully convinced that they need to surrender their place as the dominant class to the workers. Neither can they be expelled slowly from power with elections in which more and more workers assume public roles.
All revolutions are impossible…!
Common sense tells us that the revolution is impossible because the people are compliant and passive. This argument has a lot of strength. A convinced revolutionary tries to respond, but looks at their surroundings and sees no trace of a revolution…
In fact, human psychology is very conservative. No one loves the struggle or confrontation. Nobody likes to risk losing their jobs to strikes and freezes that do not guarantee any victory. Nobody wants to change the sure present for a doubtful future.
However, we say that is just the passive and accommodated mentality which is the deepest reason of all revolutions that have happened until today. We can affirm, without fear and mistakes that the revolutions occur not because people are rebels, but the contrary: precisely because they are conservatives.
…until they are made inevitable!
The conservatism and passivity of the workers makes so that society accumulates contradictions over time. Problems begin to slowly worsen and never resolve. In a determined moment, the society simply stops evolving: the economy enters a crisis, the level of life decays, culture degrades, human relation degrade, nature is irrationally destroyed without benefit whatsoever for the population as a whole. Society enters a period of recoil and decay. And even so, the people endure the maximum they can without a reaction.
But, any mechanic knows that while more pressure is added to a spring, more energy it contains and whoever pressures it needs to be very careful so that it doesn’t jump and hit ‘em suddenly. So, with the proletariat, shrinking itself for years, comes to a point where it all jumps to the air.
From one day to the next, the masses awaken to the political life and go out to the streets in order to try to resolve, the fastest way possible, all the accumulated problems during decades of passivity. In one of those situations, after so much time lost, it’s inevitable to resort to radical actions and to revolutionary methods. That abrupt change of rhythm of political activity of the masses remains incomprehensible to the bourgeoisie and their analysts, that attribute the radicalization of the conflict to the action of “infiltrators” and “demagogues”.
It is a contradiction: if the masses were always rebels, revolutions simply would not occur because the society would resolve their own problems according to when they emerge. Energy would not accumulate. The “exhaust valve of escape” would always be open , constantly liberating the social pressure and guaranteed stability of the nation. History would advance slowly and peacefully, without shocks or ruptures. But the conservatism of the people makes it so that the resolution of their problems is deferred to a point in which life becomes unbearable and a revolution becomes the only way out.
Consciousness and correlation of forces
It would be false, however, to say that revolutions happen only because life becomes unbearable. For a revolution to happen, it is necessary to also have a profound change in a class’ psychology. To be more exact: in the way in which each class sees itself and others.
Any labor leader knows that before entering into a strike the workers need to know if there are those conditions to win. Will the other shift stop? What does the patronal say? Is it true that the police invaded the other plant? Will the propatronal union also mobilize? The workers want to know with what forces they can count on, what is the precise objective of the struggle and if the unions direction is sure of itself or if on the contrary, it’s hesitant. That’s how the workers reason for strikes. And in revolutions it’s no different.
Thanks to the dominant ideology, the masses tend to believe much more in the forces of their oppressors than in themselves. So that a revolution can occur, it is necessary for this to change and also for workers to visualize the possibility of a victory. On the other hand, the bourgeoisie, always decisive and cohesive, needs to be in a crisis, divided, cornered, frightened by their own impotence. Together with this is is necessary for the middle class and the petty bourgeoisie, that always followed the bourgeoisie, look at the proletariat and its organizations with sympathy, or at least maintain neutral in conflict. What provokes all of those changes in the consciousness of the classes is the objective situation: the economic, political and social crisis.
Lastly, the fear and division of the bourgeoisie need to contaminate the armed forces, main pillar of any state. In this manner, the repressive organs are also divided, becoming incapable of detaining a march of the mass movement.
That is to say, it is precise to invest in the correlation of forces between the classes in favor of the proletariat. The classes need to exchange their roles, like in those films where people exchange conscience and go on to think with the others head. All of it is a complex combination of factors can be very odd, but it isn’t at all impossible. Once in awhile, it happens. All of history demonstrates it.
Direction and organization
Common sense tells us that the revolution is impossible if there isn’t a leader. This affirmation is partially correct and, therefore, partially incorrect.
For good or for worse, history demonstrates that the revolutionary explosions happen even without the existence of a central direction. In fact, this has been a great problem for revolutionaries: the masses go out to the streets, take down armies, tear down regimes and governments, but don’t seem to find an exit for the situation. The revolutionary energy disperses like vapor leaving a pot with the pressure poorly sealed.
The direction and organization are necessary, but not so that a revolution may exist, rather, so that it is victorious. But, what is a leader? It is someone who demonstrates a path, that organizes the forces and establishes the objectives for combat, that reunites the troops after battle and resumes the lessons of every struggle. It is evident that the masses need them in order to conquer.
All revolutions create millions of small leaders that fulfill those tasks. They arise naturally in every neighborhood, factory and school and conduct the masses in daily actions. But, horizontal networks aren’t enough. Revolutions don’t happen in facebook or twitter. A vertical structure is necessary, that organizes the proletariat in all the country and is able to, once the existing order is overthrown, to establish their own government throughout their entire national territory. We call those structures organizations of double power, since they compete with the bourgeois state, disputing for the control of society.
Throughout history, these organizations emerged practically in all revolutions and received distinct names: soviets or advisers in Russia in 1917, industrial belts in Chile in the ‘70s, factory committees in Germany in the ‘20s, etc. The crisis of the bourgeois state and the authority of such organizations before the masses makes so that they become in real “parallel states”, emitting orders, controlling part of the economy, creating armed militia, etc. The bourgeoisie sees everything, claims, and kicks, but it doesn’t obtain anything. The seizure of power by the proletariat stops being a distant dream and becomes a very possible and urgent task.
But all of that isn’t enough. It is necessary that at the forefront of these organizations there are conscious leaders, that have clarity over the objectives, that know where they want to go and with what means, that are able to propose to the masses the most adequate tasks at the moment. In other words, it’s necessary for these organizations of double power are lead by a revolutionary party, disciplined and combative, democratic and laborer. All of the heroism and the best organization of the world are nothing without a program.
Revolution and violence
Common sense tells us that the revolution is villainous because it sheds blood. This argument sounds strange, above all, if we look at the slums of Rio de Janeiro, for example, that do not live in any revolution, but where the blood of the workers is shed every day by the tanks of the police attack troops, by the militia and by the traffickers.
But, in reality, the response to this argument is: depends. The revolutionaries are not lovers of violence, in the same way as workers do not organize pickets in strikes because they like to hit their fellow workers. It has to do with the necessity of struggle.
We can’t promise a “pretty” revolution, “of velvet hair” or any other adjective for sweet. The proletariat does not have good means, perhaps because the bourgeoisie has never thought them as such. What we can say is that the bolsheviks in Russia in 1917, seven people died, the majority trampled accidentally by the armored that patrolled the streets of the capital. The bourgeoisie simply hid. However, in the civil war, organized by imperialism in order to overthrow the soviet republic, millions died. Who exerted the violence was the counterrevolution, not the proletariat.
Victory and defeat
The seizure of power by the proletariat does not seal the revolution. On the contrary. The masses take power because they reach the conclusion that without them they will not resolve their most elemental problems: food, peace, and, liberty, etc. In that form, the insurrection of power by the worker opens a new stage of revolutionary process: the stage of the measured revolutions, of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In this stage, the masses confront with all types of enemies and adopt all measures necessary for the victory: the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, the economic planning, the armed resistance, etc.
Thereby, in order to triumph definitively, the revolution needs to become profound within the country and expand itself outward from it, breaking the imperialist siege. The revolution’s survival depends on its capacity of contaminating other territories, in the first place to the most important imperialist countries. Only then is it possible to tie the legs and arms of imperialism and prevent a counter attack. Like in soccer, “who does not give, does not receive”. The revolution does not admit “playing on the defensive”. Any intent of “peaceful relation” with imperialism means the slow death of the proletariat nation, The revolution must be international or it will be defeated.
Revolution and future
The bourgeoisie prefers to see the end of the world before the end of capitalism. Perhaps, because it correctly understands the end of capitalism will be to them the end of their world. But only for them. For the proletariat, on the contrary, the triumph of the revolution will be only a new beginning, meaning the end of humanity’s prehistory and its introduction to the real history of humanity.