Does a workers revolution happen “spontaneously”?
Many self-styled revolutionares seem to think that a workers revolution arises spontaneously out of a protest without any preparation or any kind of leadership at all. These leaders (often of of supposedly “leaderless” organizations) really don’t know anything at all about revolution; they haven’t studied the long history of the struggles of the workers and peasants to free themselves from subjugation to the propertied ruling classes. To these faux-revolutionary leaders (but please remember not to call them “leaders” because their organizations are “leaderless”!) a workers revolution is like a magic show; all of a sudden the revolution is here like a rabbit from a hat. If they just choose clever slogans and chant them at the right time and get enough people to join along the next thing you know – voila! – REVOLUTION! “If only we could get a enough workers into the streets we’d have a revolution just like that: the police would run away and the workers would be in power! And then everything would be wonderful! Everyone would have plenty of food, health care would be free for everyone, college tuition would be free, everyone would have a nice apartment or house to live in…” etc., etc.
Maybe it’s like that in Hollywood movies but not in real life. It takes a political party of socialist revolutionaries with a revolutionary socialist program to ORGANIZE a revolution; workers revolutions don’t just fall into your lap like a ripe apple from a tree.
Why do you say we need a “vanguard party”?
It’s quite simple: there has NEVER been a successful revolution in the history of the world that did not have a revolutionary vanguard party of some kind at its head.
There is no such thing as a “spontaneous revolution”. The French and American revolutions – which were bourgeois revolutions that brought the then -just-emerging capitalist class into power – had vanguard parties of the bourgeoisie leading the way forward. Similarly, EVERY successful workers revolution of the 20th century had a revolutionary socialist (Leninist) vanguard party leading the way. Anyone who tells you that you can overthrow capitalism without first organizing a revolutionary vanguard party and arming that party with a revolutionary Trotskyist program first could be a liar or a charlatan or just clueless but they are definitely NOT a revolutionary socialist out to rid the world of capitalism. Occupy Wall St., Black Lives Matter, WE ARE CHANGE – there are dozens if not hundreds of these reformist organizations – all pretending that they do not need to organize a political party to change things. They are particularly hostile – note this! – to the very idea of a Leninist vanguard party. That is because they really only want to reform elements of the capitalist system; they would like to someday be billionaires (or at least millionaires) themselves and don’t want to miss out on their chances by deliberately (or more likely, accidentally) overthrowing capitalism. They just want a more egalitarian capitalist status quo – which is of course impossible because the capitalist system is incapable of maintaining its own equilibrium for more than 8-10 years or so between economic crises. Forget about establishing an egalitarian, stable “status quo” under capitalism! The staus quo under capitalism is a raging sea of conflict that threatens at any moment to bring the entire capitalist system to its knees.
The unequal distribution of wealth under capitalism is not an aberration that can be corrected by reforms.
It is said that approximately 80 billionaires own half of the capitalist world’s wealth. That did not happen by accident: it is the result of more than 300 years of the evolution of the capitalist system. Capitalism is inherently unfair; the distribution of wealth under capitalism is inherently unequal. If the capitalist system was made to be actually egalitarian it could no longer be called capitalist at all.
As Trotskyists we do not, like the reformists, only wish to “reduce” poverty or “reduce” the number of wars – we want to completely eliminate poverty and war from human society forever. We don’t want to promote an insulting “tolerance” between workers but to create a situation in which there exists a profound working-class solidarity between each and every worker on earth, so we can live as sisters and brothers and share the wealth of this great planet as equally as possible as one great (hopefully mostly non-dysfunctional!) human family. This is the way forward, not a “future” of being forced to merely “tolerate” each other’s right to exist between battles over the scraps that fall from our capitalist masters’ tables. All these good things will not just happen because we wish for them. We must organize a party with the right kind of program in order to get the results we want.
You can’t build a 100-story skyscraper with a set of blueprints for a summer cottage. Even the best construction workers in the world can’t build a functional skyscraper without a well-engineered plan and a complete and accurate set of blueprints, the tools necessary to do the work and a general contractor to coordinate the work of all the different trades. We can not create a successful revolution without a proper plan and a party with a leadership that knows what it wants to do and how to do it. If we want to overthrow the capitalist system and to build socialism to replace it then we need a a damned skillful and intelligent Trotskyist vanguard party for our “contractor” and a set of “revolutionary blueprints” – a revolutionary Trotskyist program – to work from. If we use reformist blueprints we’ll get the same old capitalist pig with a different color of lip gloss – that’s about all.