Op-ed submission: Do you dream of a better world?
“If there is no struggle there is no progress. […] Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.” –Frederick Douglas
Do you dream of a better world? One with economic, racial and gender equality? One where the rights of nature are enshrined in the Constitution? One where affordable housing and free healthcare are human rights? Do you want to build that world? Do you know where to begin? To find a path to a better, more just society, we must first learn from those who have tried to build it in the past. Ignoring the past is giving up on the future. I suggest we start by learning from the greatest challenger to the current order in the 20th century: socialism.
Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the most important political movement of the past century: the October Revolution. On that day, the largely rural and illiterate people of Russia decided to build a better world. There were two revolutions in 1917. The first one in February ended Tsar Nicolas II’s imperial rule. Then in October, the Bolsheviks overthrew the Provisional Government who favored the rule of property owners. Revolutions all across Europe were expected to follow but never came. The counter-revolution, assisted by 14 countries, drowned the Revolution in blood. The Revolution survived, but the country was left in ruins. Pressures from within and abroad culminated in the dictatorship of terror of Joseph Stalin. While the Revolution is often maligned, romanticizing it would be equally wrong. We need to look at it with a critical eye and learn from its creation, corruption and eventual demise.
Even though the Soviet model won’t be recreated, there is still a lot we can learn from it. The U.S. is not Russia, and a lot has changed in a century. Of the U.S., Engels wrote: “Nowhere do ‘politicians’ form a more separate and powerful section of the nation than precisely in North America. […] [W]e find here two great gangs of political speculators, who alternately take possession of the state power and exploit it by the most corrupt means and for the most corrupt ends—and the nation is powerless against these two great cartels of politicians, who are ostensibly its servants, but in reality dominate and plunder it.”
That was in 1892. Maybe things haven’t changed much after all.
We live in a country which Dr. Martin Luther King called “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” A country which houses the largest prison population on the planet (70 percent of which have yet to be convicted of any crime.) A country which spends over half of its discretionary budget in the military. Where the police kill almost three persons every day. Where inequality keeps rising. The only developed country where paid maternity leave and vacation time are not rights. Where voter suppression is widespread and corruption is legalized. Where social welfare is compromised, yet cities bend over backward to offer corporate welfare to our modern barons. Where the largest crooks get trillion-dollar handouts, while 11.5 million kids remain in poverty.
It is too easy to direct our rage at President Donald Trump. Yet, the issues enumerated above were here before him and will continue on after he is gone. Both parties are responsible for the injustices that plague the country. They keep us fighting over cosmetic affairs while those behind the curtains consolidate their power by “dividing and conquering,” the oldest strategy in the book. We shout at each other while the two-headed beast in charge continues its march. Discontent abounds: Only 20 percent of Americans today say they trust the government. Yet without a clear direction, despair and unrest will only lead to more in-fighting. It is delusional to think that genuine change can come from within the current power structure. Change will come from below, from every one of us, and our goal should be to bring that structure down.
Serge Halimi from “Le Monde diplomatique” writes: “globalisation (sic) has prevailed, yet ghosts have returned, and the revolution’s mummy is stirring in its tomb.” When it awakes, will you be prepared to build a better world? Once you are done with “Frankenstein,” celebrate a more important anniversary by picking up a copy of Karl Marx’s “Capital,” published 1867. Also check out the recently released documentary “1917: Why the Russian Revolution Matters.” Building a better world begins by thinking how that world will look like. What better inspiration than those who have done so before?