I have come to preach revolution
Comrade Peter Urban, 5 Dec 2011
All around us, the masses of the working class have risen, having recognized the reality of their own class oppression. Gone even are the former restraints imposed by national borders; from Wall Street to Wellington to Warsaw the word on the lips of working people is “occupy,” from Topeka to Turin to Timbuktu the class is in motion. Seemingly nowhere, however, has anyone stepped forward to show them the road to their own liberation; within a Left obsessed with claiming the mantle of revolutionary leadership, there appears to be noone who can lead. Engels had said, and Luxemburg so often quoted that two roads lie before us, one leading to socialism and the other to barbarism. Our class appears to have been left to choose their course between these two destinations with no lighthouse to guide them through the fog. If they break their bow on the rocks of barbarism, their blood will be on the hands of those who were absent when they were most needed. I do not want that blood on my hands, so I have come to preach revolution.
Marx advised that not parties but class make revolutions and Luxemburg, who is much on my mind at times such as these, told us that the proper role for the revolutionary socialist was always and everywhere to speak out clearly the way forward. We cannot know the time when revolution will arise, she told us, for the path by which history advances is far too complex and tangled to reveal itself clearly, but when it does, she said, the working masses will look for leaders to show them the way forward and it is then that the revolutionary socialist, lost in obscurity in other times, will suddenly emerge like a guiding light in the darkness to show the class the path to salvation. Not for Rosa was the course of self-appointed leaders plotting to schedule revolution on their terms and leading the workers by the nose, but instead for those with greater class consciousness to clearly enunciate their analysis over and over until the risen class, their minds finally open and their motivation having been self-supplied, seeks a path forward and chooses who to follow for itself; advancing not like a timid flock, but marching shoulder to shoulder with those who they find speak the truth.
As obvious as is the compelling logic of Luxemburg’s perspective and as noble as was the example of sacrifice she provided with her own life, why are there so few who have followed her example? Certainly her contemporary, Lenin, has no shortage of followers, even now that Russia has returned to the capitalist fold and China has become the emerging capitalist power in the world, its working class filling the vast sweatshops of most of today’s production. What more is needed to show that Lenin’s approach not only served to destroy the most advanced and vibrant sections of the world socialist movement, such as that represented by Pannekoek, Gorter, Maclean, Connolly, and Mattick, but created such a grotesque cartoon of communism as to render that noble title a term of derogation to most workers, which ultimately collapsed when the state it had created could offer workers nothing but continued oppression?
Fellow revolutionaries, recant your Bolshevik religion and re-embrace the reality of a self-conscious, class conscious, working class. Forget your dreams of calculated party-building and speak out forcefully for the need for revolution to topple this fetid and outmoded system of production now, if not yesterday, and trust in our class to create their own future, just as they have created every iota of wealth in the world today. Nothing is more competent that the working class, even when if it sometimes learns its way forward through a weaving path that can, at times, leave cuts and bruises as it careens against the obstacles it meets on its way. Let it learn, even at the cost of those cuts and bruises, but don’t condemn it and all of humanity to the pit of barbarism while you painstakingly try to create a flawless road to the future by erecting barriers to their advance or by leaving them to grope forward because you couldn’t be bothered to provide directions.
For 40 years I have been a Marxist and throughout those long years I have waited impatiently for the working class to see the reality of its oppression and strike boldly forth. Throughout those years I have sought to emulate Luxemburg’s example at every opportunity. To my fellow workers I have ceaselessly spoken of the need for revolutionary change to win our emancipation; to my fellow socialists I have continuously championed the clear and compelling analysis of past leaders such as Luxemburg, Pannekoek, and Connolly. Within the ranks of Irish revolutionary movement, of which I was a part for a quarter of a century, I never ceased to struggle to maintain a revolutionary course, even when doing so ultimately led my separation from that movement which had so long been my home, only to see myself then erased from its history. This is a bitter time for me, to at long-last see the our class in motion from Waterford to Derry and from Cork to Belfast and to no longer be able to preach revolution to them; but still I will preach, through whatever medium I can find, not only to the workers of Ireland, but to the workers of Scotland, Wales, Puerto Rico, Catalonia, Brittany, Euzkadi, Palestine, Azania, Chile, the USA, Iran, Russia, Korea…to the workers of the whole world.
Fellow workers, there is no half-way point at which this advance can safely rest; we must not cease to press forward, because our enemies are powerful and clever and every moment we rest, they will scheme and move furtively to block our way forward or turn us down a path to failure and defeat. The present system cannot be reformed to meet our interests; the oppression now seen clearly is not the product of evil genius or exceptional circumstances, it is the natural outcome of capitalist development. No matter how rosy the past of capitalism may be painted, it is not possible for that system to provide quality of life for the majority and democratic governance over the long-term. The internal logic of the system will always yield smaller and smaller concentration of ever vaster wealth, broader and deeper oppression of the many, and machinations to inhibit political liberty so as to ensure that this inequity remains a reality; there is no point in looking backwards, look forward to your future.
Fellow workers, you have no allies among those who would defend the system of capitalism and the ruling states that currently oppress you. It matters little whether parties calling themselves “Democratic” or “Labour” now pose as your friends and seek to make themselves seem like an alternative by comparison to the worse reactionaries grouped together under the banner “Republican” or “Tory,” you have seen them in power and never have they sought to overturn the capitalist system, never have they acted to ensure the primacy of your interests. Don’t be tricked into believing that the only choices you have over the crass reactionaries are these liberal apologists for the system that oppresses you. The choice is present and it is obvious; lead yourselves, rule in your own interests; do not support anyone who is not fully allied with working people and utterly opposed to the system of capitalism. Noone who seeks to retain the advantages the rich have created for themselves can be our ally; noone who would compromise the rights of the working class majority is worthy of our support. Do not be mislead by those describing themselves as “libertarian,” we have no interest in a system that denies our responsibility for the rest of society and believes that everything should be available only to those who can afford to buy it. Rely on yourselves, while remembering that you are a part of something much larger than yourself, the working class. Is there any wheel that turns today that our class has not set in motion? Is there anything created in the world today that our class has not fashioned? Is their a single cent of value in the world today that could be made without our class’s exertion to realize it? If we are capable of such accomplishments for the enrichment of the capitalist class, why should we doubt our ability to accomplish at least as much when working for the betterment of our own class?
Fellow workers, don’t be mislead by attempts to make you fear the threat of other nations; the workers of those nations have the same interests that you do and have no more desire to see the slaughter of their sons and daughters than do you. Don’t be mislead by mythology of the genius of the ruling class; keep in mind the image of Paris Hilton when you are told such myths; the ruling class has advanced through their purchase of the products of our minds and muscles, they have nothing superior to our class except their stolen wealth. Don’t allow our class to be divided by ethnic, gender, religious, sexual, or national divisions. The melanin count in your skin is no basis for unity, your oppression does not come from undocumented workers or from those whose choice of a sexual partner differs from your own, both genders make up our class in nearly equal quantities, and your god or gods, if such exist, can surely be held accountable for determining which sect made proper observance after we have departed this world.
We working people share an important bond, we live through the sale of our labor power—be it mental or physical—while the ruling class lives through owning the means of production wherein we work. This distinction ensures that our interests and theirs are, and ever will be, at odds. Every improvement in the quality of our lives reduces the total wealth that they can obtain through failing to compensate us fully for the work we do. They are more than happy to see our rights denied to us through the intervention of their armed thugs, be they soldiers or police, using batons, plastic bullets, and pepper-spray, but what interest do we have in their ridiculous insistence that corporations are entitled to the very rights we are denied? They don’t “create jobs” through some benevolent social concern, rather they purchase our labor in order to make themselves wealthy, paying as little for it as is possible, without regard for whether we are able to survive on those wages or not. They are the ones who begin the myriad wars around the globe, in nations many of us never previously knew existed, but it is our brothers and sisters who kill and die in those wars. Able to afford living in the best kept areas and to visit exotic places whenever they desire, they have no qualms about seeing the environment in which we live degraded beyond redemption—in a pristine National Forest, they see an opportunity for strip mining, over-grazing, and logging at cut-rate prices, seeing anything available to our class without charge as a waste of resources better used in increasing their wealth.
I preach to you revolution, working people, no matter in which nation you reside and regardless of whether you are presently earning a salary of which others might be envious or if you are barely scraping by on the last few remaining weeks of your meager unemployment benefits. Many of today’s unemployed were yesterday earning enviable salaries and neither the unemployed or “well paid” are receiving incomes that are even a significant fraction of those made by the capitalist class who have, and will, never perform an hour’s honest work in their lives. Don’t worry about the fact that someone who crossed the border illegally has been able to find employment in your country, worry about how the capitalists ignore immigration documents when they can hire cheaply and only consider the issue when someone might seek a public school education for their children. Don’t question why public sector workers are able to still obtain a living pension after performing their years of service, question why the capitalist class have stripped most private sector workers of such pensions and are now seeking to destroy the Social Security system upon which they are now forced to rely upon exclusively.
To all those who have risen into action with the simple slogan of “occupy” on their lips and banners, I preach to you of revolution, because only revolution make take from the 1%, who now own the vast majority of the nation's wealth and keep the political leaders in their pockets, the ability to continue their rampant robbery and to deny truly representative government to the rest of the populace. Many of you already tried voting for “change;” what did it get you other than further erosion of your quality of life? You won’t gain freedom from oppression at the ballot box, when the only candidates you are offered are two sides of the same coin. You won’t gain a more equitable society by petitions to legislators who are bought and paid for by the ruling elite. You won’t convince the billionaires who rule your nation to create greater social justice by appeals to their better natures; even if some of them do have greater enlightenment and concern for others; it is the iron logic of the system itself and not their decisions as individuals that cause the ills with which we are now plagued.
You who have raised the cry of “occupy” in cities across the land and around the world have shown courage and determination, but now is not the time for donning laurels and patting yourself on the back. I preach to your revolution. The capitalist class still exploits you and all those of your class; the apparatus of their state (their state, for it is plainly not yours) still robs you of your rights to protect the interests of a tiny minority. Nothing has yet been won, but that does not mean that nothing can be; but you will not win it through tent camps in public parks alone. You must be prepared to break with capitalism, not try to wring compromises from it. Demand a redistribution of the wealth we workers have created such that our lives are genuinely improved and, when the ruling class refuses, be prepared to take back what is rightfully ours. Don’t vote for anyone who does not stand for the interests of the working class alone, without concern for the interests of the class that has left us in misery; and if there is noone such as that standing as a candidate for the existing public offices, reject those offices and replace them with assemblies of your own creation. Don’t turn to the state that was erected to protect the interests of the capitalists to provide you with protection; create your own defense organizations. If the state is prepared to use weapons to deny our rights, are we not entitled to use them to regain them? Don’t turn to the courts who judged corporations to be entitled to the rights hard won for human beings for justice, rely on the judgment of yourselves and others of your class to determine what is right and just.
There is a solution to the ills with which we are all beset today and it has been known to working people for two centuries at least. It is called “socialism” and it is not about surrendering yourself to a drab gray existence in exchange for a better welfare state; it is quite simply about society as a whole collectively owning all means of production and operating them solely to provide for the best interests of the overwhelming majority of the populace. It is about the wealth created from our collective labors being used to ensure that everyone has a decent home to live in; has the ability to work in a productive and comfortable manner at something able to benefit all of society; has all of their basic needs for food, clothing, transportation, and entertainment met; has quality medical care from the delivery room in which they are born to the hospice in which they breath their last; has the opportunity to receive, and continues to receive as long as they like, quality education to improve their skills, improve their mind, and reach their full potential; has an environment that is clean, healthy, and sustainable; has the ability to experience personal and social liberty checked only by the rights of all others to do the same; and for the development of cordial relations amongst all of the people of this planet on a basis of mutual respect and a shared humanity. Socialism does not demand that we all submit to a shared level of deprivation; the means exist right now to ensure a quality life for every woman, man, and child on the planet and the only thing needed to make that a reality is for us to put an end to the ability of any handful of individuals reaping obscene amounts of personal wealth by driving the vast majority into the pits of poverty and despair. That is why I preach revolution.
Fellow workers and all those who have taken up the cry of “occupy” as their call to battle, don’t say, “We represent the many, diverse interests of all sorts of people,” the next time a journalist asks what the demands of the 99% are. Express all of the many diverse concerns raised by those involved in protest by simply and clearly saying, “We demand an end to the system of capitalism and the creation of a democratic and socialist society.” Raise that demand unabashedly. More, raise it proudly and unwaveringly, and don’t stop demanding it until you have obtained it. Join with me in preaching revolution.
In closing, let me share with you an observation that was once proclaimed from the masthead of every edition of the newspaper The Irish Worker, “that the great appear so only because we are on our knees”…the time has come for us to arise.
Comrade, International Republican Socialist Network
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