What is Revolution?
The word revolution is almost as misused as the word Socialism. If a government is changed, a political leader is replaced, a coup takes place, and the media shout “revolution!” Indeed, if this usage of the word were correct, then revolutions occur every year and sometimes every month
What is meant by “revolution” and why is this concept so important to the future of the working class? Revolution means a transformation in the object to which the term is being applied. If it is being used about society, then it means a total change in economic relations. The easiest example to understand is the revolution that took place to transform feudalism to capitalism. In feudal society the majority were tied to their superiors. Over and above what they produced for themselves and their families in order to live, the serfs were compelled to produce for their feudal masters and the Church. That form of society was transformed by a revolution into a society – capitalism – where there is no direct ownership of the lives of people by other people in the same way.
Capitalist society is organized on the basis that the worker sells his labour-power voluntarily to an employer for a wage or salary. In theory, no one is compelled to work for another. In practice, the majority must do so. They have no other means of living, since legally they do not own sufficient of the means of wealth production to enable them to live without this form of selling known as wage-labour.
In all forms of society, minorities have owned the means of living, with the result that the other classes have had to submit to the dictates of the minority whilst that particular form of society existed. Feudalism depended on agricultural production and personal subservience by the majority to clearly defined groups. Privilege in capitalism depends not on accidents of birth (though these can be of importance to the individual) but on the ownership of capital. Whilst in feudal society by and large it was birth that determined into which class one fell, in capitalist society it is purely a question of ownership of wealth however obtained.
The revolution that will change capitalism into socialism will involve the replacement of all the relationships of capitalism. Instead of the primary characteristics of, capitalism – production for profit, the buying and selling of all things including labour-power, and private (or state) ownership of wealth, society will be characterised by common ownership and of free access to that wealth. Production will be for human satisfaction only, hence neither money nor all the paraphernalia that goes with it, and will be based upon voluntary co-operation by all in the interests of all. To get to that form of society involves a transformation – a revolution. It is only in Socialism that man will solve the major problems he now faces. That is why the SPGB is a revolutionary party.
Because the next revolution must be the work of the majority consciously co-operating in the work that it will entail, a transformation in men’s ideas is the pre-requisite to its successful implementation.