Reformists call for moderate change, though some of them are co-opting the word “revolution”; for instance, Bernie Sanders gave the name “Our Revolution” to a reformist organization.
Certainly, moderate change would be easier to achieve than actual revolution, and it might indeed alleviate some of our problems for a while. But it would leave the underlying system intact. The people who are in power, the institutions on which our lives are based, the underlying causes of our problems, all would remain in place. And so the problems would come back.
If we don’t look beneath the surface, we don’t see what is really happening. The great “revolution” of 1776 merely replaced a foreign plutocracy with a domestic one. The New Deal of the 1930s temporarily made more comfortable the lives of many working people, but it did nothing to transfer power from the plutocrats to the people.
We are surrounded by lies, and different people see different portions of the truth — and yet most believe they have seen the whole truth. For instance, many people now believe that we “merely” need to “get the money out of politics,” and that this can be accomplished as easily as a constitutional amendment — something that is not easy, by the way. (My own opinion, as I have explained elsewhere, is that we need to end both hierarchy and property.)
More people have begun to see that the empire has no clothes, and so they have begun to call for revolution. They are agreed that the present system must be ended. But (at least here in the USA) they are not agreed on what should replace it — and many don’t even realize that will be a problem.
Without a unified plan, the power vacuum may be filled by some charismatic leader, possibly a right-winger with atrocious ideas. Indeed, the right wing is more unified than us lefties. Ironically, that’s because we lefties believe in community, while the right believes in “every man for himself.” They agree with seventeenth century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who said that it is human nature for people to engage in a “war of all against all” unless held in check by a strong central authority, and so right wingers tend to be authoritarians.
Some Leninist friends of mine have assured me that people will figure out the truth from their material circumstances, during the process of revolution. I disagree. Different people interpret the same material circumstances in different ways, depending on what explanations they have heard. For instance, working people are experiencing hard times despite high productivity; this could be attributed to any of:
- capitalism sucks
- my boss sucks
- I’m not working hard enough
- I’m unlucky
- it’s all the fault of those damned immigrants.
Other Leninist friends have assured me that Lenin figured out everything about revolutions, and we just need to study his writings. But I doubt that he anticipated nuclear war, global warming, Edward Bernays, and the internet.
If the revolution gets bought off by some concessions like the New Deal, or if we do have a revolution before we’ve all figured out what it really should be about, then we’re just delaying getting things right. Moderate change may delay the ecosystem collapse, but perhaps less than it delays the fundamental changes that we actually need to stop the apocalypse altogether.
And capitalogenic global warming is coming bigger and faster than most people realize, because they haven’t understood its nonlinear aspects. We’re heading right for the climate cliff.
So our urgent task now is to spread ideas, understanding, awakening. Even if we can’t spread the entire vision in time, perhaps we can make some of its ingredients more widely understood and agreed upon. Pick out the ideas that look most important and best to you, and start handing out leaflets.
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2019 March 24, version 3.01. (Original version 2018 Dec 5.).