The singularity of a socialist revolution
According to the Left there have been multiple socialist revolutions. Or, more precisely, there have been many political dramas that are claimed by both the Left and by the protagonists involved to have been socialist in nature. A great pantheon of heroes has been created to satisfy the Left’s desperate need for messianic figures which include such individuals as Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky, Castro, Che Guevara, Nelson Mandela, Hugo Chavez and even the likes of Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin! One thing most of these have in common is failure but can we consider all or any of them to be socialists? We can say that the socialism of Marx and Luxemburg was profoundly different in nature from the political structures favoured, and in some cases created, by the others in the list. Fifty years ago this month is the anniversary of the ‘martyrdom’ of another great hero of the Left – Salvador Allende. Perhaps by considering his ideology and activity we can further explore the profound political divide between his (and the Left’s) notion of a socialist revolution and that of Marx before the subsequent evolution of the theories of ‘state socialism’, Bolshevism and reformism.
The ‘Socialist Party of Chile’ was formed in 1933 as an attempt to unite the various groups that identified as ‘socialist’. Like so many Leftist ‘broad churches’ it was plagued by division and disagreement but by 1967 it had embraced the oxymoron of Marxism/Leninism with its de-rigueur ‘central committee’. Allende managed to get himself elected as president in 1970 through his popularity with wider leftist movements and the formation of a ‘Popular Unity’ coalition. In this way he believed he could create socialism by nationalising the major industries of Chile. Why he believed this, as the Left still do, is primarily down to the influence of the Bolshevik coup of 1917 in Russia. Lenin had transformed Marx’s view, that nationalisation was a good way to accelerate the productive forces and so make socialism possible, into a perverse form of socialism itself. Capitalism was in its infancy in Russia and Lenin knew that there was no chance of creating the mass consciousness and productive forces needed for a socialist revolution so he created the concept of a vanguard who could lead the masses to ‘communism’ via an intermediate stage he called socialism. In the absence of a full understanding of Marxian politics this became the ideological orthodoxy of the Left, showing a callous disregard for the misery and suffering it had caused in Russia and emphasising an unprincipled greed for power that Bolshevism represented. Thus the scene was set for yet another ill-fated episode in the long political tragedy that was state capitalism.
Although we cannot see into the mind of anyone it is quite possible that Salvador Allende was primarily motivated by a real concern for the poor and oppressed among his people, but what we can identify with certainty are the reasons for his failure: calling an economy and society socialist when it is based on wage labour and capital, even when the means of production are owned by the state, is politically incoherent at best and downright duplicitous at worst; socialism can never be created in one country alone since it inherits the global structure that capitalism has instigated and which makes socialism possible; without majority mass consciousness socialism cannot be imposed by any elite, however well intentioned they may be. There can only be one global socialist revolution (in contrast to the Socialist Party of Chile’s Bolshevik-inspired piecemeal concept of a Confederacy of Socialist Republics) and any claim that there have been and will be many socialist revolutions is born of political naivety, egotistical hubris or an opportunist lust for power.
The failure of the Allende regime was inevitable since any kind of capitalism is subject to the same global economic pressures that ensure that the exploitation of labour for profit is foremost. Those who claim that it would have survived without the interference and ideological hostility of the USA are missing the point that state capitalism is just as bad, if not worse in many respects, as is ‘free-market’ capitalism from the perspective of the exploited masses. The moral outrage that masquerades as ‘realpolitik’ among the Left is in reality a mixture of contempt for the intelligence and potential of the working class combined with an elitist idealism which can only be described as bourgeois. They cannot conceive of a moneyless, stateless democratic global society and so they believe no one else can – certainly not the uneducated masses. The Marxian understanding of social revolution is not concerned with the changing identities of governments who attempt to facilitate or control capitalism but with the emergence of a mass consciousness that will replace production for profit with production for need.
It cannot be doubted that the subsequent dictatorship regime led by General Augusto Pinochet and supported by the CIA was a nightmare for the Chilean people. While capitalism lasts there will always be malicious empires like that of the USA whose job it is to destabilise and destroy any regimes that are considered to be against their imperialist interests. While visiting the UK in 1998 Pinochet was arrested on charges of genocide and the British people had to witness his stomach-churning and grotesque defence by Thatcher and his subsequent release from house arrest by Labour’s Jack Straw. Allende was a courageous individual but, in the end, like his fellow Leftists who have achieved power, he changed nothing.