- Capitalism and Alternatives -

The Future of Revolution---a rough outline

Posted by: Barry Stoller on November 11, 1999 at 13:04:14:

'In countries like Russia the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism.'
---Lenin, 1905.

In this post, SDF says that he's 'still waiting for an empirical assessment of the potential for revolutionary mobilization' from me.

Now, I realize that were I to put forth some detailed 'plan' he would immediately mock me for being imperious enough to promulgate revolutionary theories on my own. And he would be correct in doing so. Arid, academic theories about revolution detached from revolutionary events are utopian---i.e. worthless.

What I will do, however, is point to capital's weakest link, suggesting that revolutionary potential is most propitious there.

And capital's weakest link is Russia.

Funny how that would be the case!

Nonetheless: Russia---at this time---matches perfectly the Marxian ideal for a country ripe for revolution.

It is fully industrialized. The peasantry has been expropriated. Capital---especially the means of production---is centralized. The economy is terrible. The sufferings of the working class are acute. War rages. The government is unsteady, unpredictable, and unpopular.

Some factual support:

By early 1995 the real earnings of the average Russian worker had fallen by more than 50 per cent. Many people survived by buying only what is absolutely necessary---food, primarily.(1)

For those who prefer macroeconomic figures:

During the four years following the introduction of shock therapy, GDP fell by 42 per cent and industrial production by 46 per cent. By comparison, in the United States the four-year economic contraction in 1929 - 33, which brought the American economy to the low point of the Great Depression, entailed a decline in gross national product of 30 per cent.(2)

Or in blunt human terms:

According to official statistics [from 1998]...[t]he share of the population below subsistence level was 24.1 percent... [However] real wages fell drastically again after the August 1998 crisis.(3)


Today a third of the urban labor force in Russia is effectively unemployed...(4)

And let us conclude this statistical portrait of national desperation with a bit of analysis by Daniel Singer :

Eastern Europeans envisioned capitalism as a cornucopia of consumer goods as well as freedom. But they soon discovered that really existing capitalism meant a drop in living standards, rising unemployment, reduced social benefits and growing inequality. Once the Communist regimes collapsed, they were replaced by nineteenth-century capitalism applied with Thacherite ruthlessness.(5)

Now, let us again peruse the quote that opened this post:

In countries like Russia the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism.(6)

Way back then Russia was primarily agricultural. Most of its population was illiterate peasants two or three generations out of feudal bondage. Industry was limited to the cities. A monarchy reigned. Free speech was prohibited. The country was so weak in defense that the even more primitive Japan defeated it in the war of 1904 (one year prior to Leninís assessment). Etc., etc.

Now Russia is vastly industrialized. The peasants were 'collectivized' decades ago; property owners are few and far between. All of its population is educated. The primary industries---oil, coal, steel---remain highly centralized. Power is democratically determined (in theory). Free speech reigns. It remains a nuclear superpower.

What will happen in 2000 is anybody's guess.

Likely scenarios include a popularly elected communist government with a popular mandate to revoke much of capital's present power.

This, however, presupposes that Yeltsin and his gangster family will vacate office! The war in Chechnya is expected to escalate as the Yeltsin forces become increasingly aware that their privileges are coming to an end. And---most importantly---a suspension of Constitutional rule by the corrupt Yeltsin regime is plausible, as well as its direct refusal to surrender power to the popularly elected in-coming government.

This, in turn, could signal a revolution.

It is the duty of all Communists to support---in whatever way they can---the average men and women of Russia when the inevitable conflict between the forces of predatory capital and popular opposition occur.

Happy now, Sam?


1. Kotz & Weir, Revolution From Above: The Demise of the Soviet System, Routledge 1997, p. 180.
2. Ibid., p. 174.
3. Menshikov, 'Russian Capitalism Today,' Monthly Review, July - August 1999, p. 86, emphasis added.
4. Spartacist (English Edition), Autumn 1999, p. 9.
5. Singer, 'When the People Took the Stage,' The Nation, p. 12.
6. Lenin, 'Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution,' Selected Works, Progress 1968, p. 76.

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