The challenge to compromised left stances is essential as is holding up the revolutionary option in the era of Jacobin and the DSA. But what does the revolutionary option mean?
We have been critical of marxism, but that can be a trap. And so has the reformist sector of the left been critical of revolutioinisms. And that is the tendency: to eschew the revolution angle and move into a social democratic track (now claiming the term ‘socialism’).
We should make clear that while we are critical of marxism we still uphold a revolutionary consideration. But then we must define the issue from scratch.
We have rejected bolshevism and leninism. We can examine Lenin historically but in the end we must cannot base a revolutionary option on the bolshevik revolution, and that includes trotskyism. We must break with the past and even with the flawed classic ‘State and Revolution’. The tendency to cluster around leninism to uphold a revolutionary option is unnecessary: the issue of revolution is not a leninist one, nor even a marxist one.
Revolution (whatever its rare to nonexistent incidents in ancient history) is a phenomenon of the early modern and the imputation that Marx/Engels defined the subject forever is false. To be sure, the idea of revolution was barely coherent and Marx and Engels gave it some substance, but on the basis of theories that are flawed. The idea was the epoch of capitalism would yield according to some law of history to communism. But Marx simply assumed that made any sense and never defined what communism was to be or what the mechanism might be. It was obvious the bolshevik case was anomalous and without any coherence. The disastrous result was that the bolsheviks stumbling into revolution somehow thought it would all happen by historical inevitability and that they were a law unto themselves and threw out all ethical issues in the name of value-free scientism. The end result was the reversal of fortune and the inevitable passing of the Soviet stupidity.
So we must carefully consider the option of revolution, its historical basis, and the danger of wrong theories. Bu9t the marxist cadre still to this day can’t critique Marx on the Russian failure.
The early modern shows the birth of the revolutionary idea, in many incidents, mainly the Reformation, the English Civil War and then the French Revolution. Despite the historical momentum behind these revolutions the thinking of Marx correctly cautions against their bourgeois character, but without seeing that the English Civil war was potentially a full spectrum of revolutionary ideas, or that communism was born at the dawn of modernity with Thomas Munzer, who shows the connection of revolution and reformation. And there is no inherent reason why a socialist revolution can’t be bourgeois although Marx’s emphasis on the working class was indeed cogent.A revolutionary constitution declares all men equal and that private property must be expropriated. We don’t need the working class to do that, granted the cogent warnings of Marx about class. But something is wrong here. I have never met a working class revolutionary. They were all upper middle class elite types. Something is wrong with theory here and it is hard to unscramble. And one could only agree with a marxist tendency to doubt elite revolution: yet that was the lenist outcome despite all the groupie blah blah about the great democratic moment of lenin. Baloney.
But now in the US we see the working class move into Trump’s base: the mentality of the proletariat suffers now from capitalist monopoly. The issue is confused. Social conditioning operates in the wake of capitalist methods of brainwashing which have become dangerous. The proletariat is still very real on a global basis, but the revolutionary working class is complete fiction in america. The left is middle class intellectuals chanting the working class mantra. That’s not the whole story, to be sure, but…
In any case we can’t base the revolutionary idea on Marx’s theories, after the failure of leninism/bolshevism.
We must refound revolutionary thinking on its own terms. It is not hard to do if you flush lenin, bolshevism and marx’s theories out of your mind.
The question is simple: we may indulge reformist thinking all we please but in the end we will fall short of the refoundation required to reprogram society from scratch. That simple, that and the legacy of the early modern which in its own way indirectly legitimated revolutionary action in the name of freedom. All the gains of freedom and democracy started initially via revolution. So we must be wary of compromised tactics that will betray the transition from revolutionary democracy to a completion in socialism. But the issue with socialism is expropriation while the issue of democracy became one open to the ‘freedom to be capitalism’. We must wonder if we can use the term ‘revolution’ for both cases. That makes the case for revolution in a pargraph without the sophistical jargon of the marxists, or marx’s useless theories.
We can see the necessity and yet the danger of revolutionary tactics. Look at the US: leftists talk of wage increases, medical issues, educational questions, but then adopt this as socialism after the fashion of such as Sanders. Such partial programs don’t go anywhere, or if like the new deal they do the next generation undoes them.
We can see that many things are required for ‘socialism’: we must deal with economic foundations, private property and its basis in capitalism, the nature of democratic politics and its corruption by capitalist big money and Wall street, and much else, and in addition we must deal with some real monsters: the issue of a fake international as empire, the corruption of statist politics as imperialism and disequalized economic relations, the question of covert agencies, deep state hidden factions, and the all around ethical corruption of the usual machiavellian politics. You won’t have socialism in a society run by the CIA. The latter has sixty years of dismantling revolutions, and they are good at it. So early on, a revolution must liquidate the CIA. Best of luck.
Apart form that revolutions shows the way they can produce the worst in men. So what standard is needed. Simple habeas corpus was beyond the dim wits of the bolsheviks.
A tall order, but we should at least not kid ourselves we will evolve toward this. To be sure, we must be clear to allow the theoretical possibility of a transitional passage. But it is clear that most of the reformist factions are unrealistic about what is required where the revolutionary option is clear about refounding a total system. Sanders calls himself a socialist, wishes an evolution, but he a member of the parliamentary cadre and bound by oath to defend the constitution and hence the murder or real socialist by covert action as that is given by executive order. So much for slow evolution to socialism.
That said, history shows few examples of deliberated revolutions: they mostly occur as side effects of unstable social situations. Look at the French and Russian cases: they are not cases of revolutionary theories along the lines of Marx’s theories.
Still we should at least consider the revolutionary option then as potential and able to powerfully solve many issues closed to the evolutionary path. But the onset of social instability is imminent relative to the climate crisis. The revolutionary option is going to return but we must be ready and leave leninism, Marx’s false theories, and pseudo-socialist muddled thinking far behind.
As things stand now the revolutionary option will recur, and one fears the marxist clutch of leninist/stalinist idiots will blow the chance all over again.