Saturday, April 29, 2017

Don't stop at protests



To-day people around the world will be coming together for the People's Climate March to draw attention to of the world’s most pressing problems: climate change.

Indigenous Environmental Network’s (IEN) Extreme Energy and Just Transition Campaign Organiser Kandi Mossett explained “If we don’t all collectively learn that we need to fight together, then we are all collectively going to die together. There is no escaping that,” 

The dream of a just and class-free society has long stirred the hopes of women and men, shackled by exploitation, poverty, oppression, and war. The early 19th-century labour movement envisioned a cooperative community of producers and many constructed intricate blueprints for egalitarian societies. So we can’t claim that Marx and Engels invented the idea of a society defined by common ownership, mutuality, freedom and equality. Capitalism has inflicted incalculable harm on the inhabitants of the earth. Tragically, the future could be even worse for a simple reason: capitalism’s destructive power, driven by its inner logic to expand, is doing irreversible damage to life in all its forms all around the planet. Rosa Luxemburg famously said that humanity had a choice, “socialism or barbarism.” In these days of climate change, her warning has even more meaning. Almost daily we hear of species extinction, global warming, resource depletion, deforestation, desertification, and on and on to the point where we are nearly accustomed to this gathering catastrophe. Our planet cannot indefinitely absorb the impact of profit-driven, growth-without-limits capitalism. To-day prominent figures warn of the possibility of human extinction as a result of man-made climate change. How could it come about that a species so intelligent, flexible and well-equipped could potentially destroy itself? Unless we radically change our methods of production and pattern of consumption, we will reach the point where the harmful effects to the environment will become irreversible. Even the most modest measures of environmental reform are resisted by sections of the capitalist class. This makes the establishment of a socialist society all the more imperative.

One way or another, the coming decades will be decisive for the fate of human civilisation. Unless greenhouse emissions are swiftly and drastically curbed the result will be an environmental catastrophe on an almost unimaginable scale, threatening the survival of all life on the planet. The reality of climate change is already manifesting itself in an increasing number of extreme weather events, such as heat-waves, droughts, floods and typhoons. Melting ice sheets are resulting in rising sea levels and increased flooding of low-lying areas. Some islands will soon be totally submerged, turning their inhabitants into climate refugees. Some solutions to climate change are known and simple: rapidly phase out the use of fossil fuels, make the switch to renewables and halt deforestation. But significant economic interests at the heart of the capitalist system have big investments in coal, oil and gas. Protecting these interests, governments refuse to take more than token measures to halt climate change. The goal of the big corporations is to secure the greatest possible profits for their super-rich owners — regardless of the consequences to the planet and its people.

Imagine an alternative, a society where each individual has the means to live a life of dignity and fulfillment, without exception; where discrimination and prejudice are wiped out; where all members of society are guaranteed a decent life, the means to contribute to society; and where the environment is protected and rehabilitated. This is socialism — a truly humane, a truly ecological society. With socialism, our work would engage our skills and bring personal satisfaction. Leisure time would be expanded and fulfilling. Our skies, oceans, lakes, rivers and streams will be pollution free. Our neighbourhoods would become green spaces for rest and recreation. Communal institutions, like cafeterias, will serve up healthy and delicious food and offer a menu of cultural events.

The Socialist Party does not believe in achieving socialism through coercion or through violent seizure of power by a revolutionary vanguard. That's no basis upon which to build a fair and democratic society. No, the only way that socialism, as we understand it could be set up and run, is through the consent and cooperation of an overwhelming majority of the world's population. And the only way we will know once there is such a majority is when it says so via the ballot. It is then, and only then, that we will know that the time is ripe for socialist revolution. It is then that we can start dismantling the coercive machinery of government and start taking control of the things we need to make society function in our own interests. That the socialist revolution can only be international, creating a world-wide society where production is carried out solely to meet the needs and desires of its inhabitants. 

The Socialist Party argues that it is not enough to have demonstrators on the streets or workers occupying the factories. Above all, we say, our fellow-workers must have a clear understanding of what socialism entails and what methods are effective in overthrowing capitalism. A grasp of socialist principles by the vast majority of the workers is a minimal condition for going forward to socialism. No minority revolution can lead to socialism. Hence our conclusion that the movement to establish socialism, and the methods it employs, must “prefigure” the democratic nature of socialism. Socialism is the ongoing task of the majority; it cannot work top down; it cannot be imposed and cannot be legislated for by leaders, however well-intentioned. The socialist revolution necessarily involves the active and conscious participation of the great majority of workers, thus excluding the role of leadership.

In considering the question of how realistic it is to expect a socialist revolution, it is important to consider the hidden history of events that most people are unaware of. It was in the Paris Commune of 1871 that French workers actually created organisations of mass control which challenged the old system for a brief space of time. In the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, workers and peasants developed similar structures of direct workers' control such as the workers' councils and factory committees. The Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917 eventually destroyed this, and ushered in a system of state capitalism. Similarly, in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the workers set up workers' councils when they took on their so-called "communist" oppressors. During the May of 1968 in France, workplaces and universities were taken over and in many cases run in a way that is of immense inspiration to socialists.

What happened on these occasions? Not socialist revolutions, as some claim. But they were significant in the history of the struggles of our class. They are significant because the sort of people who dismiss the possibility of revolutionary upheavals was dismissing it days and weeks before these events blew up in their faces. No one is in any position to dismiss the prospect of the revolution who has not carefully examined these movements. In none of these cases was a socialist revolution achieved, but in each case, there was a fundamental interruption of the ruling order and the appearance of new forms and conceptions of everyday life. To ignore them because of their failure is to miss the point. Individual revolts are bound to fail until they are accompanied by a widespread and growing—and ultimately worldwide—socialist consciousness. The socialist revolution must be world-wide and cannot be achieved in one country alone. Because capitalism has become a world-wide system the society to replace it must also be world-wide. Class emancipation must mean the freeing of the whole of society from exploitation, oppression and class struggle.

What we hope by citing these historic examples can show that real change can be brought about by people themselves. Socialism is not a utopian dream. It is an ever-present undercurrent in working class struggles. The task is to make it the main one. That these revolts did not go farther is hardly surprising. What is inspiring is that they went as far as they did. The socialist revolution is not likely to start from some strike over wages spreading to the whole of the working class. Certainly, workers can learn from the experience of industrial struggles against employers that socialism is the only way out and, in this sense, strikes can contribute to a growth of socialist consciousness. But so can the many other experiences of the way capitalism works against the interests of workers (bad housing, poor health care, pollution, wars and the threat of war, etc, etc). 99 percent of the socialist revolution consists of imbuing our class with the confidence and ambition to succeed, and a revulsion of living as wage slaves whether pampered or ill-fed: once we have this our numbers will carry the day. The productive powers have been increased to a vast degree, yet people are still idle, starving, poverty stricken, and homeless, while the machinery of production is misused or neglected. This must change. This will change. This, the 21st century can be the true century of revolution, of true socialist revolution. A socialist revolution, a democratic revolution without leaders, is an urgent necessity.  

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