• thewonder
    I'm looking for critiques of revolution, primarily from the Left, but, if you think that they're good, I can take it from all sides. You can also give your own critique if you have one.

    I personally think that revolution hazards something like Communist determinism. You assume that it will be the case that at some point in the future that there will be a better social arrangement and, so, can justify all kinds of absurd things in the name of achieving this. I also think that violent revolution in the West exceeds the conditions of what could effectively be warranted aside from that it is unlikely and impractical. The whole idea of either convincing the United States Military to wage a coup d'état or to actually combat them is, to me, just totally absurd. Being said, I don't think that a nonviolent revolution couldn't spontaneously arise even in the near future. It'd just take the serendipitous chance of a few particular events.
  • Bitter Crank
    Chou Enlai, the former PM of The People's Republic China (back in the mid-20th century) was asked whether he thought the French Revolution was a good thing. He said, "It's too early to tell." The story is almost certainly apocryphal, but it suggests that one should be cautious about judging revolutions too soon, or maybe too positively or too negatively.

    The American Revolution took quite some time to deliver on its Enlightenment heritage (per @Schopenhauer but it did, eventually, deliver some of the promise. It took at least 200 years for some of the promised goods to arrive.

    The Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 in Russia (which brought about the USSR) was a mixed bag. The 300 year rule of Romanov despots (only occasionally enlightened) was nothing to celebrate, something that needed to end. The Russian Revolution was fucked from the getgo. Russia had little experience with industrialism (some, not a lot), no experience with democratic government, low levels of educational attainment in the masses, an entrenched wealthy class, and so on and so forth. It's not surprising that it didn't turn out well.

    Germany was a much better location for a socialist revolution, and there was a good chance that a socialist revolution could have succeeded there, had it not been for the crude political/violent methods of the German national "socialism" (sic) aka, the Nazis.
  • Bitter Crank
    The whole idea of either convincing the United States Military to wage a coup d'état or to actually combat them is, to me, just totally absurd.thewonder

    Wise revolutionaries do not take on powerful armed forces even with a batch of citizen soldiers armed with assault rifles. Daniel DeLeon proposed that socialists living in democratic countries would be best advised to use the available democratic machinery--free speech, the right to vote, freedom of assembly, and so forth. One key element which for DeLeon was key was extensive union organizing. Laws have been accumulating on the books for the last 60 years which heavily tilt the field (not a level playing field) against organization and unionism. That creates more obstacles but does not make organizing impossible.

    Heavily unionized work forces, on industrial lines -- all auto workers, all oil workers, all maintenance workers, etc., have real leverage to force changes in the work place, including less opposition to unions. The well organized workforce, and the well-educated public can complete some of the central revolutionary tasks at the ballot box, but they have to be widely and well organized, both. 4%, 7%, 12% of the population isn't enough. Socialists need to be able to turn out majorities in elections (or at least, people who vote for socialist candidates, whether they themselves consider themselves socialist.

    I don't see 12% of eligible voters casting ballots for socialists in the next election, let alone a majority. Success in this endeavor is many years away, following a lot of very hard work in the political/union/propaganda fields. There's nothing impossible about it. (I'm quite aware of how strong the grip of the existing political system is.).
  • thewonder

    I like that Chou Enlai quote. It's interesting to think about revolution in that sense.

    I don't know how I didn't think of this, but there are bound to be critiques of the Russian Revolution.

    I wouldn't offer the Spartacus League my full support, but they had to have been preferable to the Third Reich. It's interesting to speculate upon what the world would have been like had there been a successful Communist revolution in Germany before the Second World War.

    I've never actually read De Leon, but think that a diverse set of tactics should be employed myself. I don't have any qualms with radical reform; I just don't necessarily think that it should be the focus. It can be a focus for a political organization; I'm just not particularly inclined towards such an attempt. Perhaps I should just be more active, though. I actually think that too much of the Left is ostensibly opposed to radical reform motivated by some sort of revolutionary notions.
  • thewonder

    Do you think that the political system could be meaningfully, substantially, and radically altered without waging something like a general strike?
  • Bitter Crank
    I actually think that too much of the Left is ostensibly opposed to radical reform motivated by some sort of revolutionary notions.thewonder

    Much of the left has its collective head up its collective ass. The insistence on revolution over reform gets one off the hook of having to figure out what to do to make things 10% better right now. It's easier to just say, "oh, woe, reform just undermines the revolution. We mustn't settle for reform because then the revolution won't happen." Bull shit. Get out there and work for whatever gains you can get. Everybody will be better off, and you just keep working for the revolution.

    Do you think that the political system could be meaningfully, substantially, and radically altered without waging something like a general strike?thewonder

    No. Though, when you think about it, "a general strike" in this country would already be pretty radical. Workers in France have done it a number of times; students have joined in (and visa versa). But France's history and political experience is much different than hours.

    But it would take more than a general strike. It would require a genuine political alternative that was organized, powerful, extremely broad based, and popular. It would take a disciplined movement of workers, unemployed, youth, and seniors. The protest movement in Hong Kong demonstrates discipline. Without it, they would have fizzled many demonstrations earlier. The labor movement in the US has demonstrated disciplined solidarity, like when they forced the Big Auto companies to negotiate with them back in the 1930s. A lack of discipline is revealed when union members cross their own picket line. That has happened on more than one occasion.
  • thewonder

    I liked what you have to say about the Left.

    A lack of discipline is revealed when union members cross their own picket line. That has happened on more than one occasion.Bitter Crank

    I agree with the general sentiment of what you are saying, but don't know that I would identify the problem as being one of a lack of discipline. I think that the problem of concessions and scabs etc. is moreso resultant of a lack of something like rectitude. That and cynicism. People who aren't sincerely committed to a cause can become exploitable detractors. This would become less of an issue if people were more meaningfully engaged in a political project. I would probably advance some sort of prefigurative praxis. Granted, I'm a bit of lifestylist and a utopian idealist who isn't too terribly involved with the labor movement.
  • frank
    The American and Russian revolutions have some things in common. They both started accidentally, involved large amounts of alcohol, and in both cases there was a scramble to put something together after the revolution succeeded.

    But in neither case was there really much of a change in governmental system. The USSR basically ended up with a czar and the US became a republic.
  • Bitter Crank
    I'm a bit of lifestylist and a utopian idealist who isn't too terribly involved with the labor movement.thewonder

    I've was involved in a leftist political group for 15 years, but was a union member all of about 15 months. I've always worked in the NGO sector of the economy -- the non-profits -- and they are very rarely unionized. The one time I was able to join a union was when I worked for the U of MN, for a short period of time. I wasn't impressed by the AFSCME local.

    Many of us are life stylists and utopian idealists. My favorite political day dreams are utopian. The problem with me was that I didn't really practice the kind of lifestyle I would have liked to lived on a sustained basis. Had I done so, I'd probably be dead 20 or 30 years ago. I wanted to be a man-about-the-gay-town; suave; a coherent radical (some were, some were not); a notable person. Trouble was, I didn't know how to be all that--at least not until I was too old to be that kind of person.

    Plus I was pulled in other directions. That was really the problem -- I was pulled by short-term enthusiasms rather than sticking with the main chance. And all of this is about life style, ideals, and all that.
  • thewonder

    I've been tertiarily involved with the Anarchist movement since Occupy in 2011. I can't really say that I've been terribly active, though. I have shoplifted in protest before.

    I thought about joining the IWW a while ago, but don't really think that it'd pan out all that well. My hypercompetitive work environment could honestly stand have some sort of union, but I doubt that too many of the employees there would be open to such a venture. The back of house makes close enough to fifteen dollars an hour for it not to seem to like a worthwhile risk and I'm not quite sure how that would work out with the servers. My only ally would be the dishwasher even though everyone would realistically stand to substantially benefit from unionization. I guess, on some level, I'd worry that I'd just be looked at as "causing trouble" and eventually would just be forced into a position where I'd have to quit. On some level, it could be indicative of a lack of courage, but I honestly just don't think that I care to keep the job that I have for long enough for it to be worthwhile to start a union. Which is kind of the strange thing about starting a union in the first place. You kind of have to be willing to quit your job to start a union. I don't quite understand how anyone actually does it.

    I'm sure that you're not too old to be the kind of radical that you want to. Perhaps, you can't still be suave, but there is bound to be some sort of deportment that suits your projected way of life. You'll find the mien, @Bitter Crank.

    I kind of spent a lot of time going to the bar so as to make it okay for me to go to the bar so that I could go to the bar so as to make it okay for me to go to the bar. I did drink too much, but I wasn't really an alcoholic. The people who run the bars in the city that I live in just didn't like me. The solution was to just stop going to the bar, but it took kind of a while for me to let go of that I couldn't go to see shows or play songs on the jukebox anymore.

    I'm going back to college now which is a bit strange since I expect that I'll be a bit older than everyone else, but Philosophy majors do tend to be a bit older than everyone else and, so, hopefully I won't be too out of place. I'm still relatively young and have enough of a vague hope to expect that my life is still ahead of me.
  • thewonder

    I'll actually be leaving here as of apparently tomorrow so as to not spend too much time here while I'm at school. I have sort of an addictive compulsion to engage in conversation online and can't really do anything aside from to just cut myself all of the way off.

    So, if I don't catch you with the thread tomorrow. I'll see you in a couple of months if I decide to come back. Thanks for carrying on. You're more than welcome to continue with this thread, of course. As is everyone else.
  • Bitter Crank
    College does not seem to consist of strictly 18-22 year olds, anymore -- it has not for quite a while, actually. Good luck to you on your education project. It is a good idea to focus on study while you are in school.

    As for unionizing a work place, one needs the support of an established union--there are a couple that represent restaurant employees.

    I have shoplifted in protest before.thewonder

    I used to do that -- back in the 1970s -- until I got caught and had to pay a hefty fine. My partner was nearly arrested at a local grocery store for sampling chocolate covered something or other that were sold out of a bin. He was very humiliated, and was not doing it for politics, but because it was a convenient snack item while he was grocery shopping.

    I spent a lot of time in gay bars once upon a time. (I'm 72.). Cruising for sex, of course, and to chat, listen to the music. I sometime drank too much, which sometimes is the point. So, at this point I've settled on being as suave or gauche as I am. I am what I am.

    The IWW was/is an interesting group. The do exist, but nothing in the way they did 100 years ago. But I think their theory, their songs, their attitude was all good. You familiar with Billy Bragg -- a British folk singer?

    Here's his version of the Internationale.

    The Internationale
    Billy Bragg

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v85NWc0RIKc and Pete Seeger doing the original version in French

    Stand up all victims of oppression
    For the tyrants fear your might
    Don't cling so hard to your possessions
    For you have nothing if you have no rights
    Let racist ignorance be ended
    For respect makes the empires fall
    Freedom is merely privilege extended
    Unless enjoyed by one and all

    So come brothers and sisters
    For the struggle carries on
    The internationale
    Unites the world in song
    So comrades come rally
    For this is the time and place
    The international ideal
    Unites the human race

    Let no one build walls to divide us
    Walls of hatred nor walls of stone
    Come greet the dawn and stand beside us
    We'll live together or we'll die alone
    In our world poisoned by exploitation
    Those who have taken now they must give
    And end the vanity of nations
    We've but one earth on which to live

    And so begins the final drama
    In the streets and in the fields
    We stand unbowed before their armor
    We defy their guns and shields
    When we fight provoked by their aggression
    Let us be inspired by like and love
    For though they offer us concessions
    Change will not come from above
    Billy Bragg

    So, again, good luck to you, and much success.
  • unenlightened
    “It was the first time in human history that enslaved people had destroyed a slave system, declared themselves rulers, and maintained that status in the face of open international hostility. The Haitians did this at a time when the entire hemisphere remained engulfed in slavery. They were the first in the modern period to declare the complete, simultaneous, abolition of African trading and slavery, and the universal right of man to be free of enslavement.” –Professor Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd


    We can argue about how close to slavery was the serfdom of pre-revolutionary Russia, or whether the American War of Independence was or was not a revolution.

    in the future that there will be a better social arrangementthewonder

    One might hope so, but a sufficient motive for revolution is that this social arrangement is a fate worse than death.
  • thewonder

    I know Billy Bragg. I've always really liked his rendition of "The World Turned Upside Down". That story is pretty great. Thanks for sharing. Maybe I'll see you in the next interim!

    I don't think that anyone is contesting that serfdom in pre-Revolutionary Russia was pretty terrible. I'm sure that people will contest that Russian Revolution didn't really pan out all that well, though.

    As for whether or not the War of Independence was or was not a revolution, I don't see how it couldn't be. I don't think that anyone discounts that the French Revolution was a revolution in spite of that it was beset by various reactionary political strategems.

    I am going to take off, but feel free to carry on. It's been fun!
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