It is without a doubt that our society as it stands is in desperate need of change. How does society truly change? What does change entail? Numerous ideologies have different ways of approaching these questions. Liberalism acknowledges that “change” to society is necessary, but its method for seeking such undefined “change” comes from unprincipled peace, reform and pacifism (except when it comes to people of countries occupied by the US). The meaningless bantering and rhetoric of liberalism do little for society and merely enable the free market system to stand on newfound legs with the same ulterior motives for exploitation and systematic destruction. On the other hand, the conservative movement wishes for change only to revert back to their exploitative Utopia free from the pressures of regulation and “socialist tyrants.” Their methods for change are every bit as deplorable as liberalism.
Only through a revolution of the working movement led by an organized vanguard can there ever exist true change in society. In this article we shall examine the stages of the revolutionary process, what it means to be a revolutionary and the morality of revolutionary movements.
What is a Revolution?
First I believe it is necessary to define revolution in relation to Marxism. A revolution itself is movement dedicated to overthrowing of a political system that is viewed in a less than favorable light by the majority of society. Revolution is often a highly democratic movement, as it is influenced especially by the working class people themselves. Instead of mere reform movements or electoral means via bourgeois democracy, revolution is a means of overthrowing current political systems by force and action. Violence is an inevitable but justifiable output of the revolutionary process, justified primarily through direct democracy, the largest majority possible lending their support to the revolutionary movement. In a socialist revolution, those who are repressed are merely those who have been oppressors and exploiters throughout their life; the bourgeoisie and imperialists.
What do Revolutionaries Want?
Revolutionary movements expose the inherent contradictions within society, expose corruption and exploitation, and upon successful seizure of power, build a new government that is in the interest of the working people. Revolutionary movements are not truly guided by hatred, but by love, as revolutionaries wish to better improve society and mankind by removing the very conditions that make tyranny and exploitation possible. The duty of Marxist revolutionaries is to give humanity a greater sense of expression and freedom than it could have ever known in the capitalist system, through the creation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the construction of socialism.
How is a Revolution Possible?
So how is a revolution made possible and what occurs in a revolutionary process? Excellent question. First and foremost is in imperative that one understands the process of capitalism before it is possible to empathize with Marxist revolution, however. In other words, one must understand the exploitative and inhumane nature of capitalism to understand why such a large amount of people would wish to overthrow it. Capitalism exists as a form of class society, a detriment to human development. In the class-based society of capitalism one class of society provides its labor for the other, more powerful class of society; the majority of society is comprised of the working class proletariat who must sell their labor power for the ruling class bourgeoisie in order to survive via wage slavery. Therefore, capitalism is a class based system of continuance of exploitation; the ruling class bourgeoisie profit from the labor of the proletarian class. The state then enforces the proletariat, the exploited class, to submit to its form of slavery. All the while the state further enforces its dominion through imperialism, nationalism and ways of dividing the proletariat so as to remain ignorant of their conditions. While it is quite clear that any Marxist could ramble on about how capitalism functions for years, I feel this is a sufficient enough explanation for how capitalism works and why it must be abolished. Now it is time to discuss the process of a revolutionary movement!
How Does a Revolution Happen?
A revolutionary movement arises when certain conditions have been reached. These conditions include an ample amount of proletarian class consciousness and the formation of an organized vanguard party to guide the proletariat and furthermore to spearhead class consciousness. Class consciousness is when the proletariat realizes the need for a sense of collective unity and therefore realizes their conditions in the capitalist society and their relation to the social means of production. It is an absolute necessity for revolution to have the proletariat be united, however, the level of class consciousness does not have to be one hundred percent. Such idealism is harmful and would ultimately lead to idleness rather than action.
Instead of waiting however many hundreds of years it would potentially take for the working class to grow consciousness all on their own, a revolutionary vanguard party arises and firmly grasps control of the revolutionary movement. Only with the guidance and leadership of a well disciplined, well armed, well educated, and well organized vanguard operating on the principles of democratic-centralism can the masses themselves achieve socialism. The vanguard spearheads class consciousness and further development. For example, Lenin and the Bolsheviks underwent a series of open, fair debates with ideological opponents in order to better educate them about Marxism. Schools that were developed in the Soviet Union made Marxism a subject, and as a result, the people themselves learned to develop class consciousness. The people lend their support to the vanguard and are then armed and mobilized to combat capitalistic exploitation, and essentially to revolutionize.
The revolutionary process is sustained through the dictatorship of the proletariat in which the working class direct their power against bourgeois exploiters, forcing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie out of power. The dictatorship of the proletariat is merely a temporary phase, as socialism, until final communism—a stateless, classless society—is reached. The repression against the bourgeoisie is willed by the people against enemies of freedom and justice and those who have existed solely as parasitic lifeforms, draining society of all its life. Essentially the struggle of revolution is the struggle against those who support freedom and those who do not.
The dictatorship of proletariat is organized through democratic-centralism: “democracy in discussion, centralism in action.” Democratic-centralism is a means of balancing democracy with proper organization. Too much democracy leads to confusion and lack of action, whereas too much centralism leads to bureaucracy. Regardless, democratic-centralism, in the thorough application of proletarian democracy, is far more democratic than the Western liberal bourgeois governments could ever hope to be. But once more, there must be balance in democracy versus centralism. This balance relates to specific circumstances, however, and is subject to change according on the conditions society faces as well. Overall, the necessities of democratic-centralism include proper balance between democracy and centralism, organization, and most importantly, unity. Unity is an absolute necessity for socialism to develop!
So upon proper revolution and proper application of democratic-centralism, then what? There comes the matter of the state. As mentioned, the state merely exists as a means of enforcing the will of the ruling class upon the lower class, but this definition is far more suitable for capitalist states than socialist states, or workers states. In the socialist state, the working class assumes control of the state, applying democracy and abolishing exploitation. The will of the proletariat is enforced against the remaining bourgeoisie and those counter-revolutionaries who violent oppose socialism and defend capitalist exploitation. According to Marx, gaining control of the state is the first step in revolution itself: “The first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy. The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state, (i.e. of the proletariat organized as the ruling class); and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.” Clearly the working class themselves work in unison to remove exploitative elements of the capitalist state, not to enforce the same total state machine of capitalism!
The proletariat works to abolish classes, wage slavery, and the like, and therefore they work for liberation. Eventually, once the state begins to loose counter-revolutionary forces, once class distinctions are abolished, once property becomes of a more public level, and once capital loses it’s deadly grasp over the people, the state is able to wither away, once communism is achieved.
Where do revolutions take place? Shall they take place internationally or within one country? Ideally, socialist revolutions would occur spontaneously on international levels, especially in the advanced capitalist countries. However, Marxist-Leninists acknowledge that such wishful thinking leads to idleness and ultra-left idealism. Therefore, the scientific socialists, the Marxist-Leninists, believe it is possible for revolutionary socialism to be constructed within one country. It is true that Marx called for workers of the world to unite, but clearly it is not as simple as romanticized world revolution. In order to truly realize revolutionary movements in multiple countries, we must apply revolutions to our own country. Building a socialist “base” for which internationalism can then expand is the most scientific approach to achieving socialism.
The Soviet Union and Albania prove that socialism is possible to be developed in one country, as clearly the people and their armies managed to fend against imperialistic forces, all the while achieving scores of positive things and advancing past capitalism themselves. Socialism itself is indeed a higher stage of human progress than capitalism, so of course socialism can be built in one country, so long as there is a proper vanguard and proper emphasis on the proletarian class themselves. As we can see, the steps to achieving communism are not black-and-white. There is a scientific method involved here, and in order to bring about socialism in our era we must work to put it into practice.