Socialist revolution, or violence?

Updated: 21 May 2008, 23:52

Originally written: 26 October 2005

Often when people hear the word “revolution,” they think of shooting in the streets, burning buildings, looting, and execution of the old rulers.

But that is not what socialists mean when we speak of the revolution for socialism. Some dictionary definitions:
revolution: Complete change, turning upside down, great reversal of conditions, fundamental reconstruction, esp. forcible substitution by subjects of new ruler or polity for the old.
     The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Fourth Edition

revolution: Complete change.
     Webster's New Compact Desk Dictionary

revolution: Overthrow of a government, social system, etc.
     Webster's New Compact Desk Dictionary

revolution: The overthrow and replacement of a government or political system by those governed.
     The Doubleday Dictionary

revolution: Any extensive or drastic change.
     The Doubleday Dictionary
You should notice that none of those definitions mention violence. We did not exclude definitions mentioning violence. The dictionaries did not mention violence in their definitions. The dictionaries chosen were the first three to hand. There was no selection to get dictionaries which agree with some supposedly bizarre and twisted socialist definition.

When socialists speak of a revolution to create socialism, we are using definitions such as those above.

Socialists do not deny that political revolutions have been violent in the past. For example, violent revolutions brought capitalism to the fore. By and large it was workers and peasants who paid with their lives to install new rulers over themselves. And in the failed “socialist revolutions” of the past it was workers dying in the streets. Workers who did not listen to Friedrich Engels.
Rebellion in the old style, street fighting with barricades, which decided the issue everywhere up to 1848, was to a considerable extent obsolete.

Does that mean that in the future street fighting will no longer play any role? Certainly not. It only means that the conditions since 1848 have become far more unfavourable for civilian fighters and far more favourable for the military. In future, street fighting can, therefore, be victorious only if this disadvantageous situation is compensated by other factors.

Does the reader now understand why the powers that be positively want to get us to go where the guns shoot and the sabres slash? Why they accuse us today of cowardice, because we do not betake ourselves without more ado into the street, where we are certain of defeat in advance? Why they so earnestly implore us to play for once the part of cannon fodder?

The gentlemen pour out their prayers and their challenges for nothing, for absolutely nothing. We are not so stupid.

     The forward to
     The Class Struggles in France 1848 to 1850,
     Progress Publishers, 1972, p.18, 21-22.
     Written on 6 March 1895.
Perhaps, over 100 years ago, Engels’ belief that street fighting would play a role may have been reasonable. Note that Engels did not say a significant role. Today, the situation has changed, and socialists see no need for street fighting.

Engels made it abundantly clear that in the 47 year period he mentions, conditions became “far more unfavourable for civilian fighters and far more favourable for the military.” Subsequent “revolutionary” leaders ignored, and continue to ignore, the need for that “disadvantageous situation” to be “compensated by other factors.” The results have been workers’ blood in the streets, and failed “revolutions.”

Socialists do not want any more blood in the streets. So we work from a different rule book. Instead of rules which guarantee funerals, a much better approach is using a huge, lopsided, democratic majority vote to stake our claim to society. A huge vote for socialism will prove the legitimacy of our claim, and that we will no longer aquiesce to being second class citizens in a society we have built.
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