Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why Communism, Why Revolution?

April 2011

At a time when most radical and progressive forces in the U.S. have abandoned “big” liberatory projects like movements for socialism and communism—dismissing them as unrealistic or untenable—we affirm the need for a new communist movement.

Manifestations of the Arab Spring, 2011
World capitalist society is reaching an impasse. Capitalism is an economic system based on production for profit; it is a form of society in which all values, and even life itself, are subordinated to the profit motive—for the endless accumulation of capital. This system is literally jeopardizing the continuation of life on the planet by creating ecological crises, while continuing to lock the world’s majority in Asia, Africa and Latin America in dire poverty and oppression; for decades these people have been told that capitalist development would bring prosperity, but this is impossible, because capitalist development is always uneven development.

The capitalist system is not an abstract play of ideal markets, but is a real, historical system; and it is absolutely true that this world system—and therefore capital accumulation on a world scale—has proceeded through colonial and imperialist projects which involved slavery (as with Africans in the U.S. South and other parts of the Americas); genocide (as with the indigenous population of the Americas); and plunder of natural resources on truly continental scales (as was the case in all the colonized parts of the world, and continues to be the case with the imperialized zones of Africa, Asia and Latin America).

In short, the wealth concentrated in places like North America and Western Europe is directly correlated with the impoverishment and brutalization of the world’s majority. All the while the masses in the “wealthy” imperialist countries like the U.S. get poorer and more miserable, as the world imperialist system has less and less to offer them. Breathing space is disappearing everywhere. The much-touted Golden Age of Capitalism which followed WWII for the people in these countries is long over. Instead of the rising living standards that many Westerners experienced in the 50s, 60s and 70s, we have falling living standards for most, and an increasing concentration of wealth at the top; in the U.S. the disparity in wealth today now exceeds that of the late 19th century. So much for the argument that capitalism, prosperity, freedom and democracy go hand in hand!

That argument does carry some weight, if we realize that capitalism indeed provides those things for an elite few. Marxists recognize that the political system in capitalist society is always a dictatorship of the capitalist class over the rest of the population. This is because whoever holds power socially and economically also has power (or hegemony) politically. Those with power also tend to run society in their interests. For this reason, we will never be able to solve the massive problems that hold humanity back unless we have socialism, that is, some type of system in which workers and oppressed people hold the reins of political power and reorganize the economy and all social institutions in their interests. That would be society run for the interests of the majority. This can only come about through revolution for two reasons: The existing rulers will not go peacefully (our society perpetuates and defends itself through repression and violence and because, as Marx and Engels explained in Part 1 of  The German Ideology, the class overthrowing the old order “can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages, and become fitted to found society anew.”

In the Marxist vision, communism is the society that follows socialism. It is the liberation of humanity as a whole, and that this precisely the kind of bold goal that we in Voice Collective believe must be revived. At this point in history, the truly utopian fantasy is the belief that humanity can continue down its current path, that this system with its crises, perpetual war, horrendous oppressions and wholesale destruction of the natural environment is sustainable. Realistically, we need an entirely different system.

Communism is a kind of society in which classes and what we currently know as the state has been abolished. Communism is a society in which humans are free to associate and produce the means of their lives—including cultural expression—in ways which are empowering. Communism sweeps away all the ridged hierarchies of class, racial and gender oppression; it tears down the political regime of patriarchal heterosexuality and allows human beings to remake the world as we wish to see it. Only with communism will we be able to realize collective freedom and ecological sustainability, because we will have democratic control over all social institutions, including the economy.

No modern society has reached communism yet, though some—highly constrained by imperialism and internal political contradictions—have taken tentative steps toward socialism. In the Voice Collective and Kasama Project we are ready to help create a new communist movement that is willing to truly merge with the people and be transformed by them. We are ready for vigorous debate and a refusal to submit to old formulas and dogmas. There is much for us to learn from the experiences of past communist and other movements, but together we must struggle for a new road in a new era. We know that revolution is necessary, but how to get there is an open question. For that reason, we are very interested in the revival of struggle that is occurring in the world today, during the worst crisis of capitalism since WWII. Popular revolts have spread through the middle East; at the same time, movements have been fomenting in Western Europe and North America. Socialist and left-leaning movements have actually come to power in many countries in Latin America, and Maoist communist forces are making huge strides in southeast Asian countries like India and Nepal. In the U.S., too, recent polls have shown that more and more Americans (especially young people) question the desirability of capitalism as a system. As Mao Tse Tung said, “There is disorder under heaven; the situation is excellent.” But in order to take advantage of our moment in history in which a real revolutionary rupture can occur, we must learn from one another and get organized wherever we are. The existing Left is not up to the task. There is much that we must build from the ground up. The Voice Collective has been created precisely to contribute to this endeavor.

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