One of the mysteries of the 20th Century right up there with wireless printing (how does that work?) and the location of Amelia Earhart is “How the fu*k is it possible that ‘Communism’ (which was really just an oppressive form of socialism) collapsed in the late 80’s with barely a shot fired?” This goes against everything we know about human nature and politics. It’s a magnificently hopeful thing. Think about it. It is possible to have a gigantic political and economic transition without a bloodbath. This is huge, people. Even if you think the transformation of the USSR was a backwards move, the fact that the transition was peaceful is pretty cool.
My own humble opinion is that socialism collapsed in the Soviet Union (and China) because the systems were insufficiently democratic. Their leadership practiced “democratic centralism,” an incredibly efficient way to effect policy. People (in the party) discuss the policy for a period of time and then vote. Everyone commits to carry out the mandate of that vote, whether they agree or disagree. This practice was the way that the revolutions in Russia and China (and many other places) were able to succeed, at least in the first phase.
But it didn’t take long before the “democratic” aspect of that practice was squelched and squashed in favor of the centralist aspect. Which meant that the leaders were operating on their own, without benefit of input and support from the rank and file.
But what I really want to talk about is the collapse of capitalism and its relationship to the collapse of the planetary ecosystem. Maybe many people have made this connection – I hope so – but I just got this revelation of the obvious. It is the industrial revolution perpetrated by capitalism that has polluted the planet to the point where all life is threatened. Even as Matt Damon hydroponically spreads life on Mars, Earth will quickly become Mars-like, an uninhabitable red desert.
So capitalism has to end in order to save the planet. But here’s the thing. Efforts to overthrow capitalism have proven less than fully successful to say the least. And yet, what if we looked at it this way, that capitalism is in the process of collapsing from its own internal contradictions. Which means that the revolutionary thing to do is build the new society from inside the old. What does this mean? As Joe Hill, a labor organizer executed 100 years ago yesterday, famously said, “Don’t mourn. Organize.” The more we connect ordinary people with one another and overcome the divisions between us like racism, sexism, and homophobia, the more quickly the new society will emerge. We build from the bottom up. We organize our precincts (for Bernie), our neighborhoods, our cities. We grow our own food in community gardens. We fight for jobs for local residents. We foster the development of cooperative enterprises.
One can hope that capitalism in the U. S. will collapse with as few people dying as happened with the collapse of the Soviet Union.