May Day Post

It’s the day of international working class solidarity, so a few quick answers to some things I’ve been hearing.

1) No serious revolutionist has ever wanted to make things worse in order to incite revolution. Utter rubbish.  Especially now; things are quite bad enough. What’s missing is consciousness that there is a way forward, a way out of the mess.

2) Being a revolutionary socialist does not mean one wishes to rush out and make a revolution. No one, as Lenin said, can suck a revolution out of his thumb. Being a revolutionary socialist means one is convinced a revolutionary crisis will take place regardless of anyone’s desire. Victory, however, is not guaranteed. For that, preparation is necessary.  Preparation means, primarily, bringing socialist consciousness and theoretical preparation to the working class, and the building of a revolutionary party prepared to see the job through to its end.

3) We aren’t there yet. But the World Socialist Web Site is now the mostly widely read socialist publication in the world, especially among workers, so we’re getting there. My own role in this is trivial, yet not useless; when I go onto Twitter or Facebook and explain my views on something that is happening today, insofar as my explanation is correct, there’s someone whose beliefs have been shaken up by events in the world, and who may be ready to listen, and possibly join the fight.  See the last sentence of point 1) above.

Happy May Day

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4 thoughts on “May Day Post”

  1. A critique and a question, and then either a clarification or a scramble, I’m not sure.

    1) You’re an excellent communicator, one of my very favorites. Yet, when you speak on these subjects, you tend to use a vocabulary that most people don’t understand. I’m assuming there is some community of thinkers among whom this is the best way to communicate, but there needs to be a bridge to more widespread understanding that doesn’t expect too much specialized training. Many, maybe most people aren’t getting much more than ‘I think this guy wants to rip everything up’. Revolution is a scary word, even scarier when you don’t understand what kind of revolution is being called for. Exactly the same goes for socialism.

    b) “What’s missing is consciousness that there is a way forward, a way out of the mess.” Yes, exactly this. But what is that way forward? Perhaps that is what you are discussing at the end of part 2. Back to critique 1, I don’t really know what you mean by that. “Socialist consciousness”, “theoretical preparation”, and “revolutionary party” are sounding like they have technical meanings beyond what might be expected from casual usage. The closest I think I can get is “People need to know there is a socialist option, and understand that option, and a party is needed that is dedicated to making it happen.” Even if I’ve gotten close with the rest of it, though, I still don’t know which of the many meanings of socialism I’ve been presented with is the one you are calling for. Orwell thought words would be deleted, but it turns out polluting their meaning works almost as well.

    Thanks for writing, thanks for reading, and it’s alright if I’m asking a question too big to answer this way. – Steven

  2. Steven Hoke: Thank you for making a thoughtful comment. First, I hope this doesn’t come off as snide, because I don’t mean it that way, but I have to wonder how qualified you are to assert what most people do and do not understand. If there is any terminology I’m using that you don’t understand, I’ll be happy to explain. The terminology in any scientific discipline requires, above all, precision: the ability to make fine distinctions. I use the vocabulary that (to the best of my ability) means exactly what I’m talking about and not it’s next door neighbor. Yes, this sometimes requires explanation; nothing wrong with that; those who care will ask.

    You ask what is the way forward? Working class unity under a socialist program. By socialist program I mean putting both the state and the means of production (factories, mines, &c) into the hands of those who work them–expropriating the owners and ending exploitation (in the narrow, economic sense of exploitation*). Without everything driven by the need for individual profit, there is no good reason human brains and resources cannot be turned toward solving the existential problems we face, such as climate change. While everything is driven by the need for profit, solving such problems is impossible.

    “Theoretical preparation” is pretty straightforward. Theory is generalized experience. Theoretical preparation means training one’s mind to be able to generalize, and to draw accurate connections. The railroad workers whose strike was shut down by Biden knew they were being screwed over. The point is, how many of them were able to generalize from that to the nature of the state and its relationship to big business, and how this ties in to income inequality, the climate crisis, and the ongoing wars? Being able to draw the correct conclusions and make accurate generalizations as a guide to action is theoretical preparation. It takes work, and study.

    The revolutionary party is the most politically and theoretically advanced section of the working class. It is where slogans are tested in action, where events are discussed in terms of their significance for how the struggle is likely to develop and what to do about it. During a revolution, it is the revolutionary party, if it has trained itself well and won the confidence of the working class, that must analyze every event to determine the moment of insurrection. Permit me to recommend Trotsky’s HISTORY OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION for a better understanding of this. The first chapter or two are maybe a bit slow, but after that it reads like an adventure novel.

    “Orwell thought words would be deleted, but it turns out polluting their meaning works almost as well.” I couldn’t agree more.

    Again, thank you for your willingness to engage on a difficult subject, and for putting some thought into your comments and questions.

    *In economic terms, exploitation refers to the difference between the value a worker produces and the value the worker is paid for his or her labor.

  3. This is a timely reminder that there are still things we can do to inform and educate. In other news, a fun historical fact is that Ian McKellen has an ancestor who was a Victorian political activist instrumental in moving toward a five day work week and also advocated for women workers as well. Full episode of Who Do You Think You are is on YouTube

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