Ever since the October Revolution 100 years ago today, socialists have spoken as if revolution – the seizure of state power from the capitalists by violent or nonviolent means – has been the be all and end all. Yet capitalism emerged gradually within the belly of the beast, as it were. It could be argued that capitalism emerged in the process of feudal societies trading with each other. While feudal societies taxed their peasants so that the aristocratic elites could enjoy the fruits of surplus, it was the merchants involved in trade that were able to accumulate sufficient capital to invest in newer technologies, like the printing press, and thereby accumulate even more capital. Capitalism developed along with the rise of cities.
While the transition from feudalism to capitalism may have taken a long time, and capitalism remains strong, there’s another important factor injecting some urgency to the transition from capitalism to socialism: the imminent collapse of the environment. We don’t have another 500 years to wait if we want humanity to survive.
So, how do we build the infrastructure of socialism, of fundamental and fierce egalitarianism, inside the belly of the beast, inside the old society? We do what socialists have always advocated but rarely achieved: we organize the working class until it has sufficient power to impose its egalitarian structures on increasing segments of society.
We organize unions to fight for socialist programs (like the U. S. Communist Party did in the 30s). We organize people into Black Lives Matter, SURJ, and Our Revolution – and we vigorously fight the racist divisions that are keeping us weak. We organize our schools, our neighborhoods, our cities. Rebel Cities by David Harvey outlines some strategies modeled on the successes of the Paris Commune.
One of the primary lessons of the October Revolution in Russia is: we can do this.