Class consciousness can generate change

By Matt Hoke

Member of the International Socialist Organization

America needs another revolution.

While banks are bailed out with 100s of billions, education faces downsizing. New Jersey K-12 education is losing 800 million dollars and teachers are being laid off nationwide. Despite a pro-education image, President Obama recently congratulated a Rhode Island school district for cutting teachers. This is not the way to help our growing 10 percent unemployment, which not only robs millions of a livelihood, but forces the rest of us to expect less pay.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost one trillion by conservative estimates, some say three trillion dollars. Still, both parties claim there is no money for universal health care. Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo Bay remains unfulfilled. He has continued most of the wiretapping and judicial policies which made Bush look like a dictator. Contradicting its own patriotism, the system neglects returning veterans, who face hopeless waiting lists for promised benefits like healthcare. Many are unemployed.

Capitalism is in a log jam. Former customers of first-world industry are now industrialized nations, which would be a good thing in a sane world. From Europe to China, everyone is manufacturing, but no one is buying. While not the end of the world, this means a decrease in workers’ standards of living before the wheels turn again. Meanwhile real wages in the U.S. have been falling since 1973, and 35,000 people starve to death daily in a world with enough food overproduction to feed everyone 1,000 more calories per day than needed.

Could we solve these problems through normal channels? Many people attempted this by electing Democrats, and they are rightly losing patience. Voting alone cannot break a system in which our voting doesn’t govern the economy, and cannot influence a Congress flooded by 4,500 health insurance lobbyists, nor the Supreme Court as it rules in favor of corporate election donations. The ‘proper channels’ are indirectly owned by the one percent of the population that owns 40 percent of the wealth. As long as class disparity exists, democracy is impossible.

Let’s not romanticize revolution. Violence shouldn’t be glorified. However, working-class revolution is based more on organization than violence, different from the stereotypical takeover by armed rebels. This kind of uprising, having happened over five times around the world since 1968, cannot be controlled by anyone but emerges spontaneously. It involves the working class in its true sense — the four-fifths of the population who labor anywhere from offices and factories to the service sector, whom cannot survive except by working for employers. It is not only a youth rebellion but emerges across all ages and races. It includes revolt by occupied nations like Iraq, and even the very soldiers charged with keeping them in line.

Streets and workplaces come alive with discussion and democracy. Everywhere conversations emerge about how to continue the struggle and run society under new management. These outbreaks of workers’ democracy merge into one congress with recallable delegates from democratically-managed workplaces — the true definition of “socialism.”

Progress toward this revolution is happening now. Movements that demand anything against the system’s interests — peace, civil rights, economic justice — grind against the reality of what the system can allow, forcing people to revolutionary conclusions. Our job is to participate in those movements, and accelerate their attainment of the radical epiphanies without which they won’t even win their own reasonable demands. Besides participating directly, exploration and spread of radical ideas is the most crucial step for knitting the working class into a self-conscious force capable of acting in unison. In the short and long term, locally and globally, class consciousness is the only way genuine change can happen.


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