On Revolution, Reform, and Capitalism’s Terrifying Escape Room

The problem of democracy in the post-Revolutionary society was not, however, the Constitutional limitations on voting. It lay deeper, beyond the Constitution, in the division of society into rich and poor. For if some people had great wealth and great influence; if they had the land, the money, the newspapers, the church, the educational system — how could voting, however broad, cut into such power?

(From A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn)

The same can be said of our present society of course. Now we have nearly universal suffrage (with exceptions for those convicted of crimes in some states, my own Florida sadly included, along with persons under eighteen years of age), but the system still primarily serves the interests of the bourgeoisie and the capitalist system that underpins their economic imperialism.

This is where I struggle with the idea of using the political process to achieve socialism. While it’s theoretically possible to vote in socialists, communists, and anarchists to representative assemblies in order to amend, abolish, or reform the system and I commend the Democratic Socialists of America for their work on this front, the system itself is so stacked against true reform that it seems unlikely that truly revolutionary change will come via the ballot box. Having said that, I have little personal appetite for bloodshed and violence. I am not, as I supposed in my youth, a pacifist by any means, but I do hold a healthy skepticism for violence and the power that comes from the barrel of a gun. I’m not sure I have a solution to this conundrum, and this is part of why I believe that we need more people involved in the struggle. I truly believe that, as more people are included in the decision-making — including those who have very little voice under the current system — we will achieve greater solutions than any subset of us could have realized on our own. Putting all of our heads together, maybe there’s a solution to this difficult problem. I am willing and able to fight in the struggle for socialism and the equality and true freedom it brings, but I hope the people — all of us together in solidarity — will find a third path not paved with either broken dreams and continuing capitalist hegemony or the blood of my fellow humans.

I fear that Nature may take away some of our agency in this matter however. Climate change has real potential to lead us to bloodshed, violence, and revolution sooner rather than later. My fear is that, in our current environment, fascism feels a far more likely victor than socialism, anarchism, and communism in an armed struggle. We need more time, but we’re hellbent on burning away our time as quickly as we can with our addiction to fossil fuels.