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A New Kind of Revolution

by Darren Kramer
art/Marty Kelley

As the millennium madness comes and goes, we carry the disturbing images of the Amadou Diallo incident, the Yugoslavian Civil War, and America's profit-fueled bombings and persecution of the Iraqi people amongst others. What is symbolically held as a sign of progress is ridden with these ugly scars. Or, perhaps, we are just celebrating because humanity managed to survive this long. I guess that the difference may be in the same way that you perceive a glass to be half full or half empty. Regardless, there is a sense of urgency in America that has been swelling and has managed to manifest itself in boiling points such as the LA Riots and the WTO protests. In each one, the stripped-down gripe is that corporate and state power (as if they were separate) has placed people in positions where there are those who control lives and those who have lost control of their lives to the aforementioned. The LA Riots showed that this problem is local, while the WTO protests showed that there is also a global connection.

Any person who looks beyond the picture that the corporate-owned media has painted will see that both are absolutely correct. The general populace of the United States, as well as the entire world, has been robbed of their individual lives, their freedom to pursue happiness, and their appreciation for the aesthetic. All have been replaced by a life of wage-slavery and pop culture consumerism; all of which are once again in the control of the small, upper-class minority that has laid claim to most of the social wealth. I describe this wealth as "social" because goods and services could not be produced without the consensual participation of the working class, the class that is the vast majority of the world population. We are so obviously the majority, that I could assume that you who are reading this article right now are a member of this social class that does not own the means of production, but still gets paid a wage to participate in it. Although it would be near impossible to get an exact statistic on this, it has been estimated that the top 5% of the world population owns approximately 95% of its capital. Certainly this puts things in perspective and illustrates even deeper the social crime of poverty: The one class that is the backbone of everything in society doesn't control any of it.

In the past, this lack of control created revolutionary movements within the working class that ranged from less common anti-authoritarian revolutions, such as the Spanish Revolution of 1936, to more common, party backed political revolutions like the Russian Bolshevik Revolution. Well, the blows that the working class in America took during the 1960's movements against US imperialism and racist government-backed segregation have healed, and the American public is starting to smell revolution in the air again. This is evident to us when even the mass media, which normally shies away from criticizing the corporations which pay their bills through advertising, prints articles on the subject. For example, Newsweek recently printed an article entitled "The New Radicals," which talks about the emerging broad-based unity that is developing within the political left even amongst historically antagonistic groups. A good example is workers' unions and environmentalists who stood toe to toe against the WTO in Seattle even though in the past they have often clashed on such issues as logging. As these organizations band together, naturally they are discovering a common problem. They are discovering that their common problem stems from a systemic problem rooted in the distribution of power through capital...or simply, capitalism. Class-consciousness is building in America today.

Historically, solutions for the working class have been offered in the form of working within the government process and forming "revolutionary" political parties that supposedly represent their interests. However, these movements failed. Russia's government has not only caved into the pressure of the "free" market, but is even involved in imperialist war in Chechnya. China's totalitarian system too is slowly evolving towards global capitalism and still resorts to a draconian prison system that throws the poor into slave labor, much like what we have in the good old US. Revisionism will never change the fact that Stalin, Mao-Tse Dong, and other supposedly communist leaders have murder records that rival Hitler. This is a fact that the radical left is going to have to confront but has had trouble doing so maybe for fear of admitting failure. Perhaps the worst part is that most of the victims were working-class people the party claimed to represent. I sympathize with the sentiment that MIT linguist and prominent anti-authoritarian Noam Chomsky expressed in an interview when asked about the fall of the Soviet Union. He stated, "My response to the end of Soviet tyranny was similar to my reaction to the defeat of Hitler and Mussolini. In all cases, it is a victory for the human spirit."

Ideally, history is studied so that humanity does not repeat its mistakes. Those revolutions failed because there was a complete misunderstanding of what the intrinsic purpose of political parties and the state was. It also failed because what was revolutionized was who was in power...nothing else. Anton Pannekoek called the phrase "revolutionary workers' party" a complete contradiction in terms. The aim of political parties is to seize control of oppressive institutions, institute ideological discipline, and impose their social order, while the class interests of a workers' revolution is to develop the workers' initiative and restructure society so that they will not be subjected to a ruling elite anymore. The structures of capitalism and the nanny state in authoritarian revolutions remained only to establish a new ruling elite, this time of party politicians who supposedly represented the working class by words but not by action. They were only products of the system that was not revolutionized. Peter Kropotkin warned us of these political revolutions, which he referred to as "palace revolutions" since that was the only place that the revolution took place.

However, a social revolution is one in which the very character of social relations is changed. It would be a reorganization of the society initiated by the direct action of the masses that prepared for and so desired a change. A social revolution is fundamental and permanent. In history, humanity's evolution has had many social revolutions. Revolutions against racial slavery, revolutions against feudalism, and revolutions against the church-state are just a few. Note that these revolutions were staged with the support of a whole class against an institution and permanently changed the face of class relations. These were not revolutions against Democrats and Republicans. They were social revolutions because they dealt with the very institutions that defined human organization and relations. Changing who lives inside a house doesn't change anything about the state of the people who might live in it. All its flaws are still there. However, when the foundation of a house is shaken, the house falls and the opportunity arises to build a better one on a newer, stronger foundation.

We are living this sort of revolution right now. The institutions that are responsible for sweatshop labor, wage-slavery, and the general disempowerment of the masses are perpetuated by our participation. The way to make a permanent, fundamental, and social revolution will be to revolutionize this relation. This means that workers need to start unionizing and taking control of their work place, making sure that the union is revolutionary by structuring it in such a way that they are in direct control, like through workers' councils. This means we need to start supporting and building more co-operatives and worker owned businesses, like the many health and natural food co-operatives that are springing up around the US. This also means we need to start breaking down the power rooted in the capital that corporations have complete control over by not supporting them and encouraging others to do the same. By doing this, the working class can more easily put up a good fight. As we do this, not only are we revolutionizing society in the most sincere definition of the term, but we are building up to a society which will finally see the power relation that government imposes as unnecessary and obsolete. The working class will have the tools for self-management and the elimination of private property through capital will solve many social inequities. The masses will have gotten rid of the possibilities of having an upper 5%, and we will have achieved a social revolution. At this time, we would have a new kind of revolution and will finally be free from the bonds of institutions like government and capitalism. Sound romantic or impossible? If you check your history, you'll see that it isn't. Don't think you need to waste your time on it? Man, you got to use all your time on it. The proliferation of nuclear weapons is only a reminder that this system is set to self-destruct, unless you intervene and join the revolution for human freedom.

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