Skip to main content

The Year of Revolution?

We watch on our television and read about it in our newspapers. Mass protests the world over. It began a few years ago in Spain, then there was the Arab Spring, on to Greece against austerity and from there to the Wall St and St Pauls Occupy movement. Now it is taking place in Turkey and Brasil. Sadly, however,  it is not enough to have millions  of demonstrators on the streets.

That's no basis upon which to build socialism as we understand it We argue that socialism should be set up and run through the consent and cooperation of an overwhelming majority of the world's population. Above all the working class must have a clear understanding of what socialism entails and what methods are effective in overthrowing capitalism. A grasp of socialist principles by the vast majority of the workers is a minimal condition for going forward to socialism. The socialist revolution can only be democratic, in the sense of both being what the majority of people want and of being carried out by democratic methods of organisation and action.

The Paris Commune of 1871 where French workers actually created organisations of mass control which challenged the old system for a brief space of time. The Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, when workers and peasants developed similar structures of direct workers' control such as the workers councils and factory committees (the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917 eventually destroyed this, and ushered in a system of state capitalism). Similarly, in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the workers set up workers' councils when they took on their so-called "communist" oppressors. During the May of 1968 in France, workplaces and universities were taken over and in many cases run in a way that is of immense inspiration to socialists. 

What happened on these occasions? Certainly they were not socialist revolutions, as some claim. But they were significant in the history of the struggles of our class. They are significant because the sort of people who dismiss the possibility of revolutionary upheavals were dismissing it shortly before these events blew up in their faces. No one is in any position to dismiss the prospect of revolution who has not carefully examined these movements. In none of these cases was a socialist revolution achieved, but in each case there was a fundamental interruption of the ruling order and the appearance of new forms and conceptions of everyday life. To ignore them because of their failure is to miss the point. Individual revolts are bound to fail until they are accompanied by a widespread and growing—and ultimately worldwide—socialist consciousness. Marx's analysis shows that the socialist revolution must be world-wide and cannot be achieved in one country alone. Because capitalism has become a world-wide system the society to replace it must also be world-wide. Class emancipation must mean the "freeing of the whole of society from exploitation, oppression and class struggle . . ." 

What these examples show is that real change can be brought about by workers. Socialism is not a utopian dream. It is an ever-present undercurrent in working class practice and at times they erupt without warning, sparked off by something as mundane as protecting some trees or protesting a bus fare rise.  That these revolts do not go farther is hardly surprising. What is inspiring is that they went as far as they did.  99 percent of the socialist revolution consists of imbuing our class with the confidence and ambition to succeed, and a revulsion of living as wage slaves whether pampered or ill-fed: once we have this our numbers will carry the day. The capacity for producing abundance has been  been increased to a vast degree, yet people are still idle,  poverty stricken, homeless and starving, while the machinery of production is misused or neglected. This must change. This will change. This, the 21st century, can be the true century of revolution, of true socialist revolution. A socialist revolution, a democratic revolution without leaders, is an urgent necessity. 


Popular posts from this blog

What do we mean by no leaders

"Where are the leaders and what are their demands?" will be the question puzzled professional politicians and media pundits will be asking when the Revolution comes. They will find it inconceivable that a socialist movement could survive without an elite at the top. This view will be shared by some at the bottom. Lenin and his Bolshevik cohorts argued that we couldn't expect the masses to become effective revolutionaries spontaneously, all on their own. To achieve liberation they needed the guidance of a "vanguard party" comprised of an expert political leadership with a clear programme. The Trotskyist/Leninist Left may remix the song over and over again all they want but the tune remains the same: leaders and the cadres of the vanguard can find the answer; the mass movements of the people cannot liberate themselves. The case for leadership is simple. Most working-class people are too busy to have opinions or engage in political action. There’s a need for some…

Lenin and the Myth of 1917

A myth pervades that 1917 was a 'socialist' revolution rather it was the continuation of the capitalist one. What justification is there, then, for terming the upheaval in Russia a Socialist Revolution? None whatever beyond the fact that the leaders in the November movement claim to be Marxian Socialists. M. Litvinoff practically admits this when he says:In seizing the reigns of power the Bolsheviks were obviously playing a game with high stake. Petrograd had shown itself entirely on their side. To what extent would the masses of the proletariat and the peasant army in the rest of the country support them?”This is a clear confession that the Bolsheviks themselves did not know the views of the mass when they took control. At a subsequent congress of the soviets the Bolsheviks had 390 out of a total of 676. It is worthy of note that none of the capitalist papers gave any description of the method of electing either the Soviets or the delegates to the Congress. And still more cu…


In 1900 Dundee was associated with one product: jute. Jute was the cheapest of fibres, but it was tough. As such it was the ideal packing material. Jute bagging and jute sacks were used to carry cotton from the American South, grain from the Great Plains and Argentina, coffee from the East Indies and Brazil, wool from Australia, sugar from the Caribbean and nitrates from Chile. Dundee was ‘Juteopolis’ – synonymous with its main industry. This association of place and product was not unusual. We still link Clydebank with ships, Sheffield with steel, Stoke-on-Trent with pottery. Throughout the late nineteenth century, over half of Dundee's workforce worked in the textile sector, which, from the 1860s on, was dominated by jute. Migrant workers arrived in Dundee in thousands. By the end of the 19th century, the city had quadrupled in size. Many of the immigrants were from Ireland, poor and Catholic. Many Catholic Irish immigrants faced discrimination and bigotry in Presbyterian Scot…