Tuesday, September 29, 2020


REVOLUTION TODAY - Some Thoughts On Revolution Part 2
Revolutions are not made by ideas or revolutionaries. They are made by material conditions. However, when ideas are taken up by a significant section of the populace and converted into action they become a material force. This is what quietly occurs in the years prior to a “spontaneous” rising - ideas and actions are tried out and become part of the consciousness of the most advanced sector. 
We see this occuring in the last 20 years; the militant environmental struggles, the post-Seattle anti-corporate globalization movement, the black blocs, the Arab Spring, Occupy, Idle No More, Black Lives Matter, the Indignados, les Gilets Jaunes, the Wet'su'weten struggle, Antifa, Extinction Rebellion and the pre-covid insurrections in Hong Kong, Chile and Lebanon. The awareness of these struggles globalizes with instant communications and people learn from each other, see what works and does not, and these ideas sink into the consciousness.
But what are we trying to do? How can we really effect change in a dominator system? For that we must have a clear picture of what we are up against. The form that the dominator system takes in our era is capitalism, in both its corporate and statist aspects, which in the last 40 years take on multinational forms. The heart and soul of capitalism is perpetual capital growth. A low or negative profit rate is a problem for the system and if this should occur for any length of time, the system goes into crisis. The card up the sleeve for revolutionary change lies in that fact.
If a mass of people can significantly effect capital's growth rate, or devalue its fixed capital, (machinery, buildings, etc.) it can force the ruling class to reform, if not open a breach within the system that would eventually allow us to liberate the economy and society in general from domination. Ruling classes are typically divided, one group favours reform (give a little and not risk losing everything) and another favors repression and fascism. The idea is to split the ruling class, unite the people and thus create an opening for significant political and economic change.
Before the neoliberal destruction of the industrial working class (in Europe and North America that is) a significant force for change lay with action in the factories. It was soon discovered that merely going on strike was not enough, workers could be beaten or gunned down. Thus came the factory occupations of the 1930s. While a worker's life wasn't worth a cent to the cappies, their plants and machinery were of immense value. Sending in thugs to dislodge the workers could result in severe damage to their fixed capital. The moderate faction of the rulers gave in. The unions were recognized and many reforms enacted, reforms that gave rise to the so-called middle class living standard for industrial workers in the period 1950-1980.
The loss of industry has weakened plant occupation a great deal. This can no longer be the complete focus for revolutionary action, though ports, airports, rail and trucking, if shut down would have a major impact. The focus must now shift to the city, and part of this has to do with the change in direction that capitalism took with neoliberalism.
Due to the lower rate of profit in industry, capital has flowed in no small measure to real estate speculation. An enormous amount of capital is tied up in city property. Add to this corporate businesses located in the cities, such as banks, multinational corporate shops and restaurants, etc. If a significant number of people were to occupy the down towns of major cities, they would simultaneously threaten the profit margins and hold all that real estate wealth hostage. The goal would be to shut down business as usual and the shutting of the ports, rail and trucking would be part of this.
Note the phrase “significant number”. The police can drive away and arrest a few thousand people and the action becomes only symbolic, a few broken windows, some garbage cans on fire. Hundreds of thousands of people is another story. You simply do not want to piss off 400,000 people in the down town core. If the movement has erupted in all major cities, even the army could not contain the revolt. The movement does not need to engage in violence or property destruction. Just being there, occupying, makes the profit rate slide. However, the movement cannot be counted to maintain its good nature if attacked. This puts the dominators in a quandary. If they repress, they stand to lose billions in property damage. If they don't repress, their business remains at a standstill.
The movement ought not to engage in “positional warfare”. This was the mistake of Occupy. Defend a territory for an indefinite time period and people get tired and drift away. The climate also may be your enemy for long term occupation. Be non-violent guerrillas. It is better to shut things down for a couple of days, go home, rest up then do it again, until you win the changes you seek.
The movement will most likely form direct-democratic assemblies to self-govern. These can choose recallable delegates for any negotiations. Modified consensus or super-majorities should be used to prevent hostile takeovers by the political sects, who are the bane of any mass movement. Such assemblies and delegation are also a prefigurative political formation and point the way to a possible replacement of our “elective dictatorship” with genuine democracy.
Movements are rarely “just political” and this one will certainly be no different. In the same way that we have a recent history of social movements which are in some manner prefigurative, we also have a prefigurative economy. This consists of the cooperatives, worker coops, land trusts, cohousings, mutual aid associations, not to mention urban farming, alotments, local production, farmers markets and the “simple living” and food security movements. There in embryo we have a cooperative economy, which could in time replace our present authoritarian corporate and statist systems. Also, as more and more people opt for localism, cooperation and reject consumerism, this too effects the corporate profit margins. The idea of the alternative economy is to “starve the cancer.”
You have probably noticed by now that I do not refer to an instantaneous and universal overturning of the system. I feel that such ideas as exemplified by the storming of the Winter Palace are obsolete. Revolutions are much more drawn out PROCESSES, not THINGS that can be imposed. Thus a significant reform, brought about through revolutionary action, is itself, revolutionary. Example - everyone serious about the climate crisis seeks to radically cut back on emissions, stop the plundering of the biosphere and end the cult of growth. Such demands, if enacted, would not abolish capitalism, but would end up severely restricting it. Like a cancer, without eternal growth it dies, or at most encysts and becomes managable. The economy could gradually evolve into cooperation and capitalism would fade away as did the feudal remnants within the capitalist state.
Ah, yes, the big problem, getting that mass, that minimum 10% of the population that will act, and that majority, who at worst, show benign indifference. Polls show that the majority would like to see serious action about the climate crisis and other pressing problems, even though the vast majority of them vote for foot-dragging parties like the Liberals and NDP. I suspect that as conditions worsen, and the rulers continue to drag their feet, an increasing number of people will be ready to take action and that this will grow exponentially as we get ever closer to complete environmental collapse. If this does not happen, we are hooped. What else can I say? End of Part 2


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