Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Reform, subversion and revolution, part 1

The $64 question: Reform, subversion or revolution? The answer: yes.

Even the most hard-core no-compromises revolutionary must admit that even the most dramatic revolution in state power will still inherit both the physical means of production as well as the psychological, social/sociological and political superstructure of a capitalist state. Capitalism has been shaping people's values and ethics for hundreds of years, and ruling class/working class politics have been doing so for thousands — perhaps tens of thousands — of years. Not even the most brutal ideological repression can erase this millennial influence in a generation.

For this reason, every communist thinker and statesman, from Lenin to Mao, understands that a transition from capitalism to communism (i.e. the liberation of all humanity from all forms of exploitation and oppression) requires a transitional period of socialism. And socialism is differentiated from communism precisely in that socialism includes some capitalist features, including class distinctions (you can't have a dictatorship of the proletariat without having a proletariat distinct from the bourgeois), private property and private enterprise, money, and differences in standards of living. Even Marx said that, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," is the goal of communism, not the strategy of achieving it.

Measured against the ideal of real communism, any practically possible revolution must be incomplete, and therefore in an important sense will be a reform.

In addition, both reformism (and economism) and subversion can be used to to good effect as strategies and tactics for creating a revolution. I'll talk about this aspect in a future post.

5 comments:

  1. "Capitalism has been shaping people's values and ethics for hundreds of years, and ruling class/working class politics have been doing so for thousands — perhaps tens of thousands — of years. Not even the most brutal ideological repression can erase this millennial influence in a generation.
    "


    This is exactly my understanding as well. This is why I believe that a revolution without a ground prepared ideologically is bound to fail.

    I believe we should start with Subversion and Reformation and go for Revolution when finally the gears of capitalism get so much friction from these movements that they either have to break or crush us all.

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  2. The ground has to be prepared politically and practically as well. You have to have a good ideology; you have to sell that ideology to the masses of people; and you must be prepared to handle the practical problems of governance.

    ReplyDelete
  3. As long as we have freedom of speech and freedom of the press, I think we'll have democracy checking capitalism and capitalism checking the tyranny of the majority.

    Socialism always seems to be brought in as a republican trump card when democrats speak of more taxes. But the truth is that the power of a state to tax is essential to democracy and freedom. When a state needs to tax, it incurs sovereign debt from the people, and is therefore held responsible to the people's demand for policy reform, etc. Every single state with an abundance of natural resources, and virtually no tax on the populous is NOT a democracy. Why? Because they don't need the public's favor when the money pours directly into the state (from natural resources), and no need for public finance.

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  4. Except that democracy is not checking capitalism, and capitalism is checking the legitimate will of the majority.

    Obama voted for the bailout as Senator, and if you think as president he'll solve the current financial crisis to the benefit of the people, then I have a bridge to sell you.

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  5. By "tyranny of the majority" I was just referring to criticisms of democracy by advocates of laissez-faire capitalism. To radical republicans, they see the "tyranny of the majority" every time the democratic party passes a bill. And visa versa for radical democrats.

    As far as Obama fixing the economy. It's a shot in the dark. But he has a real incentive to try. And that incentive is both selfish and socially grounded.

    ReplyDelete

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