AAA: Awareness, Agitation, Action
For someone that dislikes hierarchies, I sure do enjoy drawing pictures of triangles and using them to make points.
Today's article is a double feature with one coming out later. The reason for this is that the writing bug has struck twice, and I ought to utilise it while I have. So two articles about two things I have been thinking about recently and to share some of my own personal history.
As a socialist, I yearn for the day when capitalism is no more. However, I have had different ideas about what this would be at different points of my life. When I started on this path, I imagined that with sufficient resistance to capitalism, we could vote ourselves towards a better future. Specifically that we could just replace capitalism with socialism through the political process.
This was something I have gradually moved away from because of an overall belief that the system is just capable of absorbing and deflecting any meaningful, but not complete, attempts to change it. So now, I believe fundamentally that only through a revolution we can actually change the system. With climate disaster looming over us, it would seem that now, more than ever, we need a socialist revolution to affect the change we so desperately need. So then, where is the revolution?
Revolutions are difficult. In some ways, beyond difficult. For the most part, most of the revolutions that occur do so by accident or occur spontaneously without much in the way of the prior planning. Even when a revolution does break out, the great likelihood is that the revolution peters out. So the question is, why, with our pending total extinction, has a revolution not happened in the face of this?
The answer lies in the fact that the system of capitalism is extremely good at deflecting away threats to itself and co-opting resistance against it, into itself. When you see a Che Guevara t-shirt in a clothing store, that's a minor form of the phenomenon I am talking about. My next post will be about this in more detail so for now, I want to talk about what we can do to work against.
The model above, is a model of Revolutionary Progress. The base of the model is Awareness. Without knowing about the problem, people cannot possibly begin to act against it. This is, admittedly, a very difficult first step to really reach. Much has been done, from the Cold War era Red Scare, to modern day news media outlets, to prevent people from really understanding the root of the problem.
But once people are aware, then they become agitated. Once you have been aware of the real reasons for your problems, you will invariably become agitated by the problems of the system. Things that you once were resigned to accept, start to become more unacceptable. The abuses of your boss, the paucity of your wages, the length of your work hours etc. These things, which seem natural and inexorable, now become intolerable when you realise why they are your problem and that they are in fact solvable if you affect the change you need to.
And once someone reaches this stage, then they become motivated enough to act, and this produces the necessary revolutionary action that causes a revolution to take place.
At this point, it is worth mentioning that most people are at least, somewhat aware of the ways in which they are harmed by capitalism. Working long hours, the rising cost of living, increasing lack of opportunities; these are all things most people (capitalist or not) can recognise are a problem. The issue, is that most people who feel the nature of the problem cannot actually articulate why they are experiencing these problems, why these conflicts exist in their lives. For most people, this is their entire perception of the system. They cannot imagine an alternative to this; this is their reality. There is an excellent book on this, Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher, which discusses this phenomenon precisely which I recommend you read for more about this.
This article is primarily about the problem of starting a revolution. Getting to the point of action, or even agitation, is extremely difficult in this current environment. If you have spent any time advocating for socialism, invariably you will run into a lot of opposition from crypto-fascists or the alt right. Even without traditionally conservative people, arguing for socialism requires a great of work to people who have largely been indoctrinated to accept capitalism as the norm.
Why this is so vital, is that any direct action will not work unless it happens in a truly massive quantity. If some people just manage to occupy a building, then invariably, those people will attract the attention of the police and eventually be violently evicted. But if there were thousands of people who started building occupations, then they'd have the sufficient manpower and mass to resist.
However, they won't get the necessary manpower if they cannot raise more awareness. If socialists cannot get more people to join them, then any socialist activity will be limited in its effectiveness.
But absolutely, if you're taking action, then please do. We're far away from a revolution, but that doesn't mean work does not have to be done in the meantime. Whatever you are doing, whatever kind of resistance you can offer, do it.
So right now, if you're a socialist, please don't give up spreading the word. The model I mentioned, works both for individuals and society at large. Individual people, can be made aware, agitated and take action. But without society at large, this is ultimately ineffective. From the perspective of a revolution, our society is not even at the awareness stage. If our revolution is to have any chance, we must drag society towards the light.