By Neil Paterson
Do socialists want revolution? If so, why?
The modern socialist in America has become more radicalized, to the point where policy reform is inadequate. The entire system must be extirpated and replaced with what they deem "just" and "equal." To do this, however, demands a revolution. The idea that a system can simply be replaced via legislation and not include some kind of uprising or coup d' état is wildly unrealistic. It is also inconsistent with the history of any government that was replaced to form a new nation. A common example of a socialist revolution is the Russian Revolution of 1917, also known as the "Bolshevik Revolution." 1 This revolution resulted in the foundation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). What was the driving force behind this? Why did the people want a Revolution to enact socialism?
Vladamir Lenin's party of the Bolsheviks consisted of political radicals heavily influenced by Marx, had been living under an oppressive Tsarist state, and they hungered for power. They wished to implement socialism in order to end the "exploitation of the worker" by organizing the workers ("Proletariats") to revolt. Violence was ubiquitous during this time and a vast majority of parties involved in the mayhem wanted to implement socialism; for example, the Socialist Revolutionary Party was responsible for assassinating thousands of government officials in hopes of tearing down the current system. 1 Lenin's party, the Bolsheviks, aligned with many of the aims of this party but believed in using the workers to facilitate the revolution necessary to finally put socialism into place. 1 As far as Lenin was concerned, the basis of the revolution was to end so-called "wage-slavery" and implement "revolutionary/Proletariat dictatorship," which relied on his extremely twisted sense of democracy:
"Democracy for the vast majority of the people, and suppression by force, i.e., exclusion from democracy, of the exploiters and oppressors of the people—this is the modification of democracy during the transition from capitalism to Communism." 2
The "exploiters" and "oppressors" here are the capitalists, the bourgeois, people who allegedly abuse the workers and make them "slaves" for their profit. Today in America, these terms would be used to describe virtually any successful business person. Lenin, and indeed Marx, were possessed with hatred and set the blame on the capitalists for all of the struggles facing the world. This hatred was effectively transformed into action, resulting in the Revolution of 1917. Now, we should jump to today: what is the alleged oppression in America, and what is the modern Socialist proposing to do about it?
First, I want to list some general data regarding the US economy as of 2018/19 4:
GDP grew 2.3% in 2019.
Monthly unemployment reached a 50-year low of 3.5% in 2019.
The economy added 2.1 million jobs in 2019, a 1.4% increase from the total number of jobs at the end of 2018.
Median wages increased 0.1% (inflation adjusted) from 2017 to 2018.
From November 2018 to November 2019, we imported $624 billion more in goods and services than we exported, a 1.1% increase from the previous 12 months.
Middle-class families (the middle 20% of income earners) average $49,000 in market income from sources including wages, investments, and retirement.
The poverty rate decreased from 15% in 2010 to 11.8% in 2018.
These are just a few numbers that can shed some light on the average American citizen's quality of life. The US is not free of problems, including government corruption, corporate greed, and various social/cultural issues. And yet, despite these problems, the average American has higher wages, more wealth, and more access to goods and services than ever before. People are voluntarily working more jobs (they are not becoming "wage-slaves") or switching to more prosperous jobs, thanks to a free market. What is oppression, according to the modern socialist?
The oppression they allege is not necessarily economic, so much as it is social and political. Much of their critique of American issues sound similar to what the Bolsheviks were worried about: capital greed, oppressive political structures, rampant inequality, no social justice for the classes (particularly in regards to race), etc. Prominent radical activist group Black Lives Matters (BLM), claim they stand for social justice and equality. The Co-Founder, Patrisse Cullors, clarified BLM's "ideological frame" saying, "We are trained Marxists." 5 They also claim that they essentially want to abolish the nuclear family 6 (something Marx himself was adamant about 7): "We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and "villages" that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable."
This organization has quite a bit of influence in the political sphere; so much so, that they have set demands for the Democratic National Convention (DNC), calling for more robust and radical stances on current issues, including the defunding of police forces 8. Elected officials are also espousing extremist views, including the "dismantling" of the system that they claim is oppressive, which in this case, is essentially the entirety of the American economic and political structure 9.
Almost every major city in the US is experiencing civil unrest due to protests, most of which turn into violent riots (e.g., Portland, Oregon 10). Virtually all participants claim they support BLM's views and wish to implement socialism or anarcho-communism. This is all falling in line with the Marxist influence we saw with the Bolsheviks in 1917; the American socialists are demanding that the system is unilaterally unjust, unequal, and that it must come toppling down. Here's where the demographics of these people become intriguing: A recent poll done by Pew Research found that only 17% of these demonstrators were black, whereas 46% were white 11. Most of these people are young, college-educated, middle-class, and lean politically left. It seems that these people have taken advantage of, and benefited from, the very system they wish to tear down. Despite the list of promising data mentioned earlier, these groups of socialist demonstrators claim that America is failing and must be dissolved, all in the name of what they believe is "justice" and "equality." They are currently providing a sample of what they are willing to do should a Revolution occur. Like Lenin and the Bolsheviks, they may get more than they bargain for if they manage to succeed.
It is frightening to see so many parallels between the present-day socialist in America and the violent revolutionaries who founded the Soviet Union. America's founding principles are under threat by an ideology incompatible with Western Civilization 12. We must pay attention to the radicals of the past if we are to understand the radicals of today effectively. I would like to cover the outcome of the Bolshevik Revolution and the subsequent founding of the USSR in Part 2 of what will be a series of articles on this topic.
1. Riasanovsky, Nicholas V. A History of Russia, Second Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1969.
2. Lenin, Vladimir. State and Revolution. 1918.
Neil Paterson is a Contributing Writer for Young Americans Against Socialism. Neil works in Human Research Protection and has backgrounds in Psychology, Music, and Research Compliance.