This post comes the weekend after the United States election, in which president Barack Obama was re-elected by a comfortable electoral margin. Many state ballot measures were also voted on, giving various failures and successes to both liberal and conservative movements in America. In good news, gay marriage laws have been approved in Maine and Maryland, while a Minnesota ban was removed. Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana use for those of age, and Massachusetts now allows weed for medicinal purposes. A ballot measure in Florida against Obamacare failed, while similar measures in Alabama, Wyoming, Montana, and Missouri passed. However, these measures against the health-insurance mandate are mostly moot, seeing as the Supreme Court ruled that the law is legal and therefore goes over the heads of state laws. However, this post concerns a topic of much more direct interest to communists, socialists, and the like. Today, I will be arguing the merits and pitfalls of both socialist and democratic revolutions for the purpose of communism. The question of which type of revolution to pursue has been one that plagues us on the left constantly, and here I intend to see what I can make of it.
Before I dive head first into the high and low points of socialist and democratic revolutions, they first must be defined, even within somewhat loose terms. The socialist revolution is often the one non-communists imagine when they think of a communist rebellion in their country. While a socialist revolution does not have to fit this imagery, it tends to lean in this direction. The path of a socialist revolution is often more likely to be violent, as it involves the complete and immediate takeover of the means of production by the workers. It involves the overthrow of bourgeois society and economic norms, creating a socialist state wherein the proletariat is placed in power. In some communist ideologies, this revolution is planned and led by a vanguard party which serves to direct the new socialist state through and after the revolution until true communism is achieved. If I must simplify it down to a point, this is the type of revolution where one is most likely to find the streets running red with the blood of the bourgeoisie. The best example I can present of a socialist revolution in history is one of the most well-known historical revolutions: the Russian Revolution. Specifically, I speak of the October Revolution, in which the Bolsheviks achieved power from the provisional government left in the wake of Tsar Nicholas II. This revolution is well-known; the Bolsheviks took power and began the first communist leadership structure that had staying power on a national scale. Eventually, once the Whites had been conquered by the Reds, the Soviet Union would come to be. This exemplifies the socialist revolution well, in that the overall speed with which the communist goals were achieved was quick, and the disestablishment of the former state occurred in a similar fashion. There was violence between the communist and anti-communist forces, and the consequences of such a revolution are more than apparent through history. However, the revolution was successful.
The democratic revolution is inherently a different means of achieving the end result, a communist state, of course with the same dream of the penultimate and perfect state resulting from such efforts. The democratic revolution takes a divergent path towards this goal, in that it cannot occur without major popular support. The democratic type requires that the populace of a nation desire a significant change of governance towards socialism/communism, and as such a revolution takes place. The idea of a democratic revolution is that the people are wise enough to choose communism for themselves, rather than requiring a socialist revolution to take place first. The people choose to rise up on their own, and they choose to abolish the old bourgeois state. The key of democratic revolution is just that; mass democracy. The hope is that people will learn what is best for them, and because of this they will make the choice of communism to better themselves. However, this type of revolution typically receives less belief and support among communists, often due to perceived problems with its mechanics. I will note these in the coming paragraphs. For this type, I select the Chilean election of 1970, in which a Marxist candidate, notably Salvador Allende, received a plurality and therefore a victory. While not necessarily a true democratic revolution, it is the closest example I can pull out at this time. The Chilean people selected a communist presidency, therefore choosing to remove the shackles of capitalism in their nation. While perhaps not a revolution, this is the closest I believe we’ve ever come to such a phenomenon.
And now, we come to the benefits and drawbacks to both socialist and democratic revolutions. Obviously on the former end, violence is an immediate drawback. A socialist revolution inherently has a tendency to draw bloodshed due to the immediacy with which the change is fostered, and often causes fighting or even war due to resistance by the bourgeois state and its military forces. Sometimes, the people of a nation will be scared or unprepared for such a revolution, and will willingly attempt to counter it with violence. Because a socialist revolution is not the kind of thing that can draw back and hope for better times to rebel, it is not uncommon for violence to be a result of it. Look at many of our historic socialist revolutions, and violence took place; Russia, China, Cuba, etc. Death and suffering occurred in all of these places, and was very much unavoidable given the circumstances. Socialist revolutions can also lead to much popular unrest, as chances are the majority of the population may not support a new regime in such a manner. This can lead to further war and can even lead to an overthrow of the new socialist regime, impairing progress. Meanwhile, a democratic revolution has an opposite set of issues. While much more likely to be successful as an end result, democratic revolutions have much more trouble occurring in the first place. They require an educated and willing populace, which is a wholly uncommon situation. A democratic revolution also requires that the military of the state be either sided with the communists or be unable to stop the revolution. If the state can simply shoot down its opposition, chances are it will. Because a democratic revolution is meant to be nonviolent, it would only hurt popular viewpoints of the revolution for its supporters to carry weaponry. The democratic revolution also leaves open a hole in that it sets no particular function in place to rule a nation after the revolution ends. Socialist revolutions tend towards support of a vanguard party; while a democratic revolution can do the same, those that support democratic revolutions are less likely to suggest a vanguard party. I know I wouldn’t be the first to point out a vanguard option when there are other means of governance.
Now, we come to the good sides of each revolutionary model. The socialist revolution, in its immediacy and potency, is considerably more viable and quicker than a democratic revolution. While a socialist revolution very well may draw bloodshed out of its opponents, it is through this will to fight that the revolution is made easier to prepare for. While most leftists would prefer to see less death in the wake of progress, those willing to see it occur will inevitably have a heavier hand in revolutions. Because the socialist revolution is more strong-willed and backed with power, it can often be achieved whether the state is willing to fight or not. One thing I hear from communists hoping for socialist revolution often is this: “Better to have guns and not need them, than to need them and not have them.” This is something reflected in the words of Che Guevara, a great communist revolutionary, who once said something along these lines. “A revolution without guns? It would never work.”
Meanwhile, the democratic model presents multiple benefits as well. A democratic revolution presents significant opportunity for a peaceful transition to communism instead of a violent one where people suffer and die, where families are broken. A democratic revolution also promises a significantly higher chance of staying power; with the majority of the populace supporting the new regime, coup d’états are wildly less likely to occur. With popular support also comes the opportunity to resist international influences on the revolution, along with the opportunity to move quickly on governmental reform. Popular support also ensures a level of stability to a new communist state that a socialist revolution may not be able to provide. I personally would much rather see a democratic revolution take place due to my opposition to violent means to any end. If I were to support a violent socialist revolution, I would risk becoming a hypocrite of my own words. If I am to criticize America for supporting violent capitalism, I generally see it as wrong for myself to support violent socialism, except when absolutely necessary.
That is all for this week, and once again I’ll be noting the upcoming changes to this blog. The URL and name of this blog will be changing at the beginning of the next year to reflect my name change to KnoFear. As I said last week, this is inevitable. As always, I am available for contact through firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Steam, and Tumblr. Good night, and this is KnoFear, signing off.