04
Aug
09

You Say You Want a Revolution…

The word “revolution” can bring a number of images to mind- everything from riot police, gas masks, Molotov cocktails, and screaming protestors to “revolutionary” advances in technology, medicine, and political theory. The word “revolution” is also one of the most commonly used terms in Communist literature- so what exactly does revolution mean in this context?

According to Marx, the “revolution” is one of the final stages of historical materialism. Historical materialism (described more fully in a previous post), is essentially the theory that human history has been primarily affected by resource distribution, politico-economics, and class struggle. Marx predicted that as time progressed, revolutions would take place that would wipe-out Capitalism and end historical materialism (in that history would no longer be controlled by politico-economic factors). The “revolution” is, Marx states, the penultimate step in the establishment of a Communist society.

So what could be drastic enough to lead to a complete overhaul of society as we know it? The answer is simple: society.

Some groups might attempt various band-aid techniques to treat the issues of class warfare, the ever-widening social divide, and poverty related crime. In reality, however, the techniques these groups use are incompatible with the fundamentals of Capitalism. How can poverty be combated with minimum wage legislation when Capitalism denies government interference? How can people be protected from exploitation when Capitalism uses the working man as a mere means of production, paying him the lowest possible wage to generate the highest possible profit? We can treat Capitalism’s ills, but we can’t cure them without killing Capitalism. Imagine a pot of boiling water with the lid clamped down on top of it, trapping the steam inside. We can treat the steam build-up by making pin-holes in the sides of the pot, but these merely delay the inevitable explosion.

That’s the basic principle behind the Communist revolutionary concept. Capitalism’s ills, while capable of being delayed, are ultimately unstoppable. The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer until, like a rubber-band stretched beyond its elasticity, something snaps. The poor, no matter how impoverished, starving, and powerless, outnumber the wealthy a thousand to one. Even if the wealthy class controls the army, the government, and the economy, there is nothing that can stop the angry, starving masses from rising up (as Marx said, “they have nothing to lose but their chains!”). Even if the wealthy somehow managed to put down the uprising, they would have had to kill off a massive percentage of the working class, crippling the economy which would result in the collapse of society. Either way, the proletariat win. In short, Capitalism, no matter what you do to it, will collapse in on itself.

So what happens during the revolution? Property, which the public has been robbed of for years, will be redistributed equally among the people. With this redistribution of property, there will no longer be any wealthy or poor , and with the end of the wealth/poverty system, the class system can no longer exist. Instead, there will come to exist a new form of proletariat, where the working class exists (for no country can exist without a working class) but exploitation is no longer an issue (since profit is no longer the end goal, there is no reason to take advantage of one’s fellow man). With the end of a society where the majority of power rests with the wealthy, true democracy can finally exist: in short, Communism is established.

So what is this Communist revolution? The Communist revolution is a massive, unstoppable uprising of the working man who- having nothing to lose- overthrow the established class system, the established Capitalist economic system, and the very concept of private property.

Now one must keep in mind that this outline is merely the basic frame for the Communist revolution. Like almost every concept of Communism, there are variations in the beliefs of how the revolution will (or at least, should) happen. Take the theory of “democratic revolution”, for example.

The basic concept of Democratic Revolution, is that the revolution will not be (physically) violent but merely “violent” in that it will bring about an abrupt and gargantuan change in society. Democratic revolutionists believe that the poor will, once pushed to the very limit, will elect representation and political leaders that will act according to the will of the (extremely poor, exploited, and enraged) public. With the government controlled by the disenfranchised proletariat majority, the wealthy and bourgeoisie minorities will have no choice other than to comply with the changes in the economic/social/political system or leave the country. While this concept is popular, it is often criticized for not taking into account that a Fascist or non-democratic political system will have been implemented, or that the wealthy will have control of the police and/or armed forces.

The concept of the Permanent Revolution (sometimes called the Trotskyist Revolution) takes a less optimistic “come-hell-or-high-water” philosophy that holds that the proletariat will rise up against the infrastructure (many Trotskyists believe that for the proletariat to be forced into revolting, democracy will have probably been replaced by Fascism or some form of pseudo-democracy). While the Permanent Revolution does not technically call for violence, it is widely accepted that violence will probably occur.

Indeed, while the concept of Democratic Revolution hold a strict “no-violence” philosophy, and Trotskyism holds a “whatever needed” philosophy, the only Communist revolutionary theory to explicitly call for violence is the concept of the Maoist Revolution. Holding the belief that the wealthy will never give up their power and control willingly, Maoism calls for violent attacks upon the Capitalist infrastructure. The actions of the Colombian Maoist Revolutionary group FARC (or the Peruvian “Shining Path”) serve as a prime example. FARC conducts various attacks on the Peruvian political infrastructure, carrying out attacks on government buildings, Peruvian police and military, and the Peruvian railway system. While sometimes commended for being the most expedient theory, Maoist Revolutionary theory is often criticized for the collateral damage it causes as well as the controversy it creates concerning what is and is not an acceptable target.

Lastly, there is the concept of Circular Revolution. Circular Revolution is a concept based on an ancient Chinese political philosophy which states that when a government has become corrupt, it is both the right and the obligation to revolt and instate a new government. Sometimes called the “post-revolution revolution”, advocates of the Circular Revolution believe that after the Communist government has been established, corrupt will eventually infiltrate the system, requiring a new (though still-Communist) revolution.

Despite these differences, Communists are united on the belief that no matter what the revolution looks like, no matter what theory is utilized, the revolution will happen. You might want a revolution, you might not- either way, the revolution is brewing. The only question we are left with is how long it is before the dam bursts, and which side you’ll be on when it happens.

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4 Responses to “You Say You Want a Revolution…”


  1. August 4, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Do you consider the Obama’s election to be the beginnings of what you called a Democratic Revolution?

  2. 2 trotskyite
    August 4, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Since Obama- despite what Beck, Hannity, and others have claimed- is neither a Socialist nor a Communist, I’d have to say no. However, since the public has generally been receptive to almost everything Obama’s suggested, I’d have to say that the social gap is widening, and as the majority become poorer, they are more willing to try new things…

  3. August 5, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    FARC is the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, a different group from Peru’s Shining Path. FARC have been known to take refuge in neighboring Peru from time to time, which might account for the confusion.

    I read Mao’s handbook on guerrilla warfare a few weeks ago, and I was struck by how much emphasis he placed on the requirement of loyalty on the part of officers. I don’t have the book with me now so I can’t quote it exactly, but he went so far as to say that loyalty to the cause outweighed all other factors in the making of a good officer. I found this troubling. Troubling, not because loyalty isn’t important– obviously it is, especially among officers– but because there are other equally important factors. Maoism, I should think, would result in a situation in which promotions come to those who best ingratiate themselves to the leadership, merit and ability being neglected.

    Is Obama a Marxist? He did realocate Chrysler to the UAW– wouldn’t that be the Marxist thing to do?

  4. 4 trotskyite
    August 5, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks for pointing that out- I’ll edit it right away.

    As far as the UAW getting control of Chrysler, I’d have to say that while is something a Marxist would do, it takes a lot more than a company be given to a union to make someone a Marxist. As far as I know, Obama- despite what many say- is merely following Keynesian economics.


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