1990s >> 1994 >> no-1079-july-1994

Changing history

It seems that one of the biggest obstacles Socialists come up against is the idea that things “can’t/don’t change”. It is easy to understand where ideas like that come from. Capitalism seems to have been with us forever, but is only about three centuries old. Despite the reforms (more crumbs) the ruling capitalist class has given us such as the welfare state (now under attack), the basic structure of capitalism has remained the same. The vast majority of us still fulfil the role of wage-slave. So despite attempts to make capitalism more human the majority of us still have to work ourselves into an early grave in order to pay the mortgage, the rent, clothe our children, buy enough food, on wages that never seem to be enough. Those are the lucky ones. Let’s not forget the unemployed that capitalism keeps in reserve.


From the conception of the inevitability of capitalism follows the common misconceptions about the ideas of socialism. These misconceptions fall into two broad categories; the Labour Party and the old former Soviet Union.
In the case of the former, the working class has seen the Labour Party fail time and again in its attempts to give capitalism a smiling face. Its reform programmes have either been woefully inadequate or resulted in disasters such as higher unemployment. The fact that the working class elected Thatcher in 1979 to get rid of a bankrupt anti-working class Labour Party would seem to prove the point.


The case of the former Soviet Union being Socialist or Communist is the other great myth. The fact that the Soviet Union was perhaps the best example of state capitalism at its most brutal leaves shocked expressions on many people’s faces. Leninist groups such as the SWP do not help the situation by claiming that the 1917 Russian Revolution was a democratic socialist revolution which went wrong and that workers should vote Labour.


The case of Bolshevik Russia and the Labour Party are arguably the two biggest ideological obstacles many workers have about socialism.


They remain the two biggest lies about socialism of the 20th century.


However, even in capitalism’s relatively short existence there have been many attempts by the working class, albeit unsuccessfully, to overthrow existing orders. Examples such as the 1871 Paris Commune and the 1917 anti-Tsarist revolution in Russia, hijacked by the Bolsheviks, spring to mind. More recently workers have kicked down the Berlin Wall and the rest of those horrible state-capitalist tyrannies of eastern Europe. Unfortunately the result has only been to establish a “freer” form of market capitalism.


So who says things can’t change? History is indeed the history of change. This being said, it is up to our class to create the biggest and the most significant change in all history. The democratic, peaceful overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of real world-wide socialism without leaders and without states.


Dave Flynn