ONE. history shows that immiseration, deterioration of working conditions, police brutality, hunger etc are necessary for mass radicalization.
People don’t overturn an existing political and economic order because they dislike militarism intellectually or regard exploitation as morally indefensible. They overturn existing orders when the conditions of their lives become intolerable, and revolution becomes the only way out…
take exploited german masses who substantially tolerated their exploiters- right up until starvation and war pushed the class contradictions into open rebellion. the government responded to worker unrest with gruesome reactionary crackdowns. only under these conditions was mass action no longer smothered by ruling ideas. german revolutionaries had for decades preached “you’re being exploited” at people who were still invested in the exploiting order. it wasn’t until the contradictions exploded that the spartacists were finally able to influence events by shaping and directing popular outrage.
(takeaway: none of the above is happening here on trantor before the unraveling of the empire. when some imperialist bourgeois faction tosses us loots for voots in the form of an enervating concession like student debt relief, it doesn’t taste to me like a victory. middle strata are being pacified.)
TWO. proletarian consciousness cannot be “transmitted” by revolutionaries, but must instead be generated out of the lived experience of participatory organizing.
No kind of will or desire can overthrow commodity production or abolish the wage system. … Workers are a “revolutionary class” because their position as a class inside the capitalist system makes it inevitable that the mere defence of their own interests brings them into direct opposition to the fundamentals of the existing order.
angry workers don’t spontaneously turn their energies against capitalism. scroll down a list of 19th and 20th century popular revolutions and count how few of them shaped up even roughly along worker vs capitalist lines.
for that reason, our world-historical role is supposedly to bring the science of the bourgeois intelligentsia to the table to persuade everyone to stay united in their struggle and focused on their primary enemy. we push youtube videos and irl education events and leftist news sites and post on hellsites. we’re the “advanced proletarians” injecting socialist consciousness into proletarian struggle!
unfortunately, it’s, um, not working. we’re missing the organic base of proletarian struggle that’s supposed to receive and absorb and act on all of those socialist ideas. there’s little truly participatory labor organization, and not even really any worker identity to be found in the class muddle of bourgeoisfied late capitalism. socialists have no edge- we’re trying to hawk socialism in the marketplace of ideas tucked away between the homonationalist and minarchist stalls.
(takeaway: revolutionary orgs shouldn’t be doing anything right now except mobilizing generic mass proletarian struggle and maybe educating their own cadre. that rhodes scholar who went to work as a barista to start a union is carrying fifty orgs on her shoulders.)
THREE. reaction will be overwhelming unless the ruling class is already experiencing an extremely acute internal crisis.
The fundamental law of revolution, which has been confirmed by all revolutions and especially by all three Russian revolutions in the twentieth century, is as follows: for a revolution to take place it is not enough for the exploited and oppressed masses to realise the impossibility of living in the old way, and demand changes; for a revolution to take place it is essential that the exploiters should not be able to live and rule in the old way.
there’s no sense in a revolutionary socialist trying to make capitalism more healthy and efficient. foss, urbanism, electoral strategy, finance/consumer regulations… big reform vibes sometimes. broadly speaking we should want the system to break down and be impossible to live under, especially in the seat of an empire that deserves to be plowed through with salt. it’s interesting that the people who are most comfortable in the existing order seem to be the ones who are quickest to rationalize “cultivating” parts of capitalism as providing relief to the ones most desperate for revolution.
here’s the unpleasant bit though: capital in decline means a lot of working people seeing the inside of a metaphorical woodchipper. so do we want the material deg*neration of capitalism or not, and where do we try to bend the arc of history outside of periods of revolutionary ferment? do we aim to flatten the suffering distribution (i.e. hit PMCs first) so that everyone reaches the point of radicalization at about the same time down the road? do we cheer the bourgeois kicking the most vulnerable in the teeth now to sharpen the contradictions and nucleate some kind of activity? would it be better if there were some ghastly world war that we could loudly oppose? the answer the western left has chosen is to shrug and say that we have little power anyway, so luckily we don’t have to think about something so fraught. but in our inaction, and in our positive actions every day when interacting with the ambient order, we take a position whether we want to or not.
you can’t use “no ethical consumption” like a magical incantation to conjure ethical consumption. spamming overturned T34 copypastas doesn’t absolve anyone of the consequences of working all day to shore up the existing order.
(takeaway: the essence of kautsky’s opportunism was him being preoccupied with questions of distant potentialities even as sharp actualities crystallized in front of him. the essence of kautsky’s reformism was him emphasizing capitalism’s adaptability and ignoring the titanic rending contradictions. here in the deeps of late capitalist times, shivering by the distant light of century old revolutions, we’re all kautskyites, even those who cope with the dissonance by pretending to be bolsheviks.)