I was introduced to the works of Karl Marx when I was sixteen years old. Throughout my teenage years, I was shaped by Marx’s ideas about political economy, class struggle, and revolution. Although I’ve never been much of a dogmatic Marxist, it took me a long time to articulate my feelings on the subject of revolution.
Today, I wholly reject revolution as a necessary tool in political transformation.
Before moving forward, let’s define political revolution:
1. an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed.
Why would someone desire revolution in the first place? Out of anger, necessity, the desire for justice, righteous indignation. At least, these are the causes that revolutionaries would cite.
However, in our society, “revolutionaries” seem to be more often motivated by greed, the desire for power, and other nonsense. I realize that this is fairly anecdotal, but I think intentions play a key role in how people act towards the government.
And this is where I fail the revolutionary test: Are you committed to revolution?
My answer, as you might of guessed, is no. I’m not committed to revolution, I’m committed to a better world. I’m not inherently against revolutionary politics or the revolutionary ideal. In fact, I remain a committed radical:
1.of or going to the root or origin; fundamental: a radical difference.
2.thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms: a radical change in the policy of a company.
3. favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms.
But the problem is the conflation between revolutionary politics and radical politics. So many people today start off with the desire to build a better world. They see injustice and decide to respond to it. War, disease, famine, the whole deal.
The question then becomes: how do we fix it?
Well, voting is bullshit, reform doesn’t really work, and the fundamentals of this society need to change. Therefore we need a fundamental change! And then BAM, a little bit of idealizing Lenin, Khomeini, Robespierre, or Che and you’re a bona fide revolutionary.
The problem is that revolutions never go as planned – look at France, Russia, the U.S., China, Mexico, Iran, the “Arab Spring”, Narnia…
Although the diagnosis is undoubtedly correct, it’s the prescription that needs a bit of re-thinking. Yes, capitalism needs to go. Yes, hierarchies and domination and exploitation must be fought. Yes, we must change the fundamentals of society today.
I’m committed to a better world, and if a revolution is necessary to achieve that world, then I’m willing to continue to have that discussion. However, until I’m convinced, I’ll march on, untethered by my previous allegiance.