What is revolutionary socialism?

By Allen Myers

Capitalism, through its direct application of scientific knowledge to the production of goods and services, has promoted the use and control of the forces of nature far more rapidly and extensively than any previous system of production. But because these powerful forces are controlled by capitalist firms’ drive for profit, they have been turned into increasingly powerful forces of destruction and impoverishment.

Capitalist production, driven by profits rather than human needs, churns out ever increasing masses of unneeded and even harmful commodities, in the process destroying the global balance of biological and chemical processes on which all life on Earth depends and threatening to create disastrous changes to the world’s climate. Scientific agricultural techniques, theoretically capable of feeding all humanity with ease, are blocked by capitalist markets and the competition between imperialist producers, so that hunger stalks the underdeveloped world. Human solidarity, within and between communities, is blocked by corporate greed and the deliberate creation of hostility towards people with a different skin colour, ethnicity or religion.

The capitalist system is based on such fundamental contradictions. They cannot be overcome by persuading corporations to be more reasonable or by electing “better” politicians to office. They can be done away with only by replacing capitalism with a socialist system of collectively owned and democratically planned production.

A fully socialist organisation of society will be a worldwide social system that eliminates the present gross inequalities between nations and peoples. But the revolutionary abolition of capitalism will necessarily take place initially in individual countries. This transition can begin only when the existing capitalist government in any particular country is replaced by a working people’s government, a government independent of capitalist control and resting upon mass revolutionary organisations created by the working people. Only then does the possibility exist for the working class and its allies among the small farmers, shopkeepers and middle-class professionals to completely dismantle the capitalist state and create a new state based on the mass democratic organisation of the working people, and to reorganise the economy along socialist lines.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, all the necessary material conditions for socialist revolution have existed within the imperialist countries and on a world scale. But more than the material conditions is required. Socialist revolution demands conscious action by the working class and its allies — the united action of millions of working men and women conscious of their social interests and the steps necessary to realise them. To assist the bringing about of such conscious united action by the working people, history has produced no better instrument than a mass revolutionary party, which is able to lead their partial struggles and eventually the overthrow of capitalism.

The creation of such a party, based on the scientific theory of socialism discovered by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the 19th century and further developed in the early 20th century by V.I. Lenin and the Russian Bolshevik party, is the aim of revolutionary socialists. The methods used in the construction of a mass revolutionary socialist party will necessarily vary with national circumstances and changing objective situations. But an essential component at every stage will be the largest possible nucleus of Marxist cadres, disciplined and united in determination to advance the scientific theory and practice of socialist revolution.

[Allen Myers joined the Socialist Workers League, the predecessor of the Democratic Socialist Party, in 1974. He was editor of the previous Direct Action at various times in the 1970s and 1980s. He edited Green Left Weekly from its foundation in 1991 until 1996. He is now a member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party and is the assistant editor of Direct Action.]