Revolutions aren't planned. At some point, the mass of the working population just says "S*d this for a lark!!" and strikes or revolts in their hundreds of thousands, or even millions. We have witnessed this many times across the globe, even over the last 120 years. Here are just a few examples:
Russia 1905, 1917 (twice in that year, February and October), UK 1919, Germany 1918-23, Ireland (1916-21) -- in fact there were many revolutions across the planet between 1917 and 1923 -- Italy 1918-21, Hungary 1919, Finland 1918, China 1926-1949, Spain 1936-39, E Germany 1953, Poland 1956, Hungary 1956, Iraq 1958, France 1936 and 1968, Czechoslovakia 1968, Portugal 1974-75, Italy 1962-73, ..., Nepal 2006, Lebanon, Serbia, France (again), Georgia (several times), Greece, Iran, Portugal, Italy, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Philippines, Peru, Burma, Bolivia (again more recently), Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria -- and already in 2018-19 we have seen mass protests in Nicaragua, Armenia, Jordan, Iraq, France, Serbia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Hungary, Algeria...
That is not to mention the dozens of riots and mass demonstrations that swept the world in the 1960s and 1970s -- especially in 1968 --, which meant that some commentators concluded that even the USA might be becoming ungovernable.
And 2020 saw something even more remarkable: during the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw over 2000 large and small demonstrations across the entire USA in response to the murder of George Floyd by a cop. These protests then spread across the entire globe (even as far as Antarctica!), and, in many, places they lasted for well over a month. This was the most widespread, ethnically diverse and long-lasting series of mass protest in the history of the USA, and hence in the history of this planet.
Here are 265 (no exaggeration!) photographs of just some of the protests in the USA between May 26 and June 9, 2020:
The mass of the population doesn't deliberate about this -- except these days some planning might take place on social media, but even then there is still no collective decision-making involved. Indeed, how would it be possible for hundreds of thousands, or even millions, to chew this over around the planet without the cops finding out and thus allowing them to prevent any revolt? How is it possible for ‘outside agitators’ (which is the usual excuse bandied about by right-wingers and many governments) to persuade such a large number to rebel, risking their freedom or, in some cases, even their lives?
So, revolts aren't the least bit rational; they represent a cry of anger, exasperation, desperation, when the proverbial camel's back has finally been broken. Something just sets them off when the conditions are ripe, and this generally takes everyone by surprise, including the cops -- and even revolutionaries! The mass protests that took place in Iran in December 2017 were another excellent example of this; every commentator I have read, seen or heard on TV and radio expressed complete surprise that they happened, and confessed they couldn’t have been predicted. Of course, that is what makes them so dangerous for the ruling elite; even they can't predict them, and are always taken by surprise -- partly because they believe their own b.s. that the mass of the population is happy with the status quo.
Surprise Protests Expose Iran's Hidden Weakness
More-or-less the same can be said about the huge demonstrations in Jordan in June 2018 protesting IMF-imposed austerity measures -- which protests have already led to the resignation of the Prime Minister. Again, something similar also happened in Nicaragua and Armenia that year, and Algeria in March 2019.
In fact, because there were so many large protests, 2019 has now even been called the year of mass protest:
As Lenin pointed out, revolutions happen when two conditions have been met: (i) The ruling-class can no longer carry on ruling in the same old way, and (ii) The working class won't let them.
However, the vast majority of these popular uprisings aren't violent; it is the state repression in response that is violent, and that often provokes a violent reaction from the masses -- upon which the media often almost exclusively focus. If the initial uprising is successful, it is the near inevitable counter-revolution that will be violent in the extreme as the ruling elite seek to 'restore order' -- for example, this led to the Civil War in Russia, 1918–22. This means that if the 'establishment' is to intimidate the mass of the population, successfully ‘restoring order’, it has to kill tens of thousands -- as happened in the Paris Commune in 1871 (when 30,000 men women and children were summarily shot), Germany, 1919-1923, Spain, 1939, Syria, 2011, and in a host of other places where many thousands have been executed —, or the revolution is simply drowned in blood (as we have seen in Syria since 2011).
This means that those who don't push the revolution to its fullest extent are only signing their own death warrants, as well as those of countless others.
Revolts and revolutions like this can't be avoided -- indeed, one could almost say that given the unstable, war-like, oppressive and exploitative nature of capitalism, they are inevitable. The only question is how prepared ahead of time are revolutionaries so that they can help steer the revolution to a successful conclusion. And they will only succeed to that end if they have drawn workers into their own ranks in their tens or hundreds of thousands beforehand (as happened in Russia in relation to the Bolshevik Party between February and October 1917), so that workers trust them rather than the capitalist media, and so that they, workers, can lead the revolt. The revolution in Germany mentioned above failed partly because the revolutionaries involved didn't do this.
Capitalism is now so integrated that a profound crisis anywhere will be reflected everywhere (as we saw in the 1930s, in 2008–09, and as we are now seeing in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic), only far worse. So, if and when there is a reaction by the working class to such a crisis, it will be global in extent, or it will at least affect the ‘advanced economies’ — USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, S Africa, Egypt, Turkey, Australia, China, India, South Korea, Russia, Taiwan, Egypt, South Africa, etc.
The sort of international crisis that will provoke the above will make what happened in the 1930s and in 2008–09 look like a picnic in comparison — and because of which hundreds of millions across the globe will stand to lose or will actually lose their homes, their life savings and their jobs. In such circumstances, revolutionaries will propose the cancellation of rents and all debt (private, bank loan, credit card, mortgage, and small company), the legal possession of all homes (mortgaged or rented) by their occupiers — in fact, they will organise mass occupations of such properties (as happened on a small scale in the USA back in 2009–12) —, as well as the re-employment of all those thrown out of work, again by mass factory and office occupations (once more, like what took place in the 1970s in many countries). That alone, never mind anything else, will make revolutionaries unbelievably popular.
Of course, hard-boiled right-wingers will vehemently resist such moves, but even they will be swept aside by the tens of millions on the streets. In such circumstances, as we have seen many times, even the armed forces and the police will join in the revolt. The expropriation of all productive wealth will be swift, so swift that the aforementioned right-wingers won’t be able to regain the initiative (as they have done many times in other revolutions, which is, again, part of the reason why so many of them failed).
Several commentators are already predicting another financial crisis around the corner, only this time there is very little room for manoeuvre allowing the 'authorities' to bale out the financial and productive sectors (as happened in 2008-09 -- this was written before the pandemic hit the world economy!). Debt around the world is now well over twice the size of total global GDP, so governments won’t be able to 'rescue' the banks and large corporations once more. Interest rates are already nearly on the floor, which means that the option of lowering them much further is no longer available. The action of governments across the planet to rescue the banks etc. ten years ago, and make the working population pay for the crisis with ‘austerity’, re-possessions, higher rents, lower wages, or longer hours, has now boxed them into a corner, meaning there will almost certainly be a reaction by the mass of the population if they try that again (rather like we saw across Europe after WW1, and across N Africa and the Middle East in 2011).
The global pandemic of 2020 has now made a bad situation far worse, adding countless trillions to the above debt. At the time of writing it is too early to say by how much that debt has been increased. However, one estimate published in August 2020 by the World Economic Forum estimated the cost at between $8 and $16 trillion (and that is assuming there is no significant "second wave"), fifty times more than it would have taken to prevent it from breaking out in the first place!
However, if you think this virus is bad, wait until the working class is presented with the bill (the rich won't be!) -- with mass redundancies, bankruptcies, evictions, arrests, imprisonments, wage cuts, speed ups, 'rationalisations', lock outs, indirect tax increases, pension and social security cuts. It is difficult to see this failing to provoke an international reaction from the working class.
So, the last hundred years have been the moist turbulent in human history. There is every sign from the above that this will only get worse.
But, what happens after the dust has settled is up to the working class, not me, or anyone else. They will have to figure things out for themselves. But, in their struggle to change the world, on their own behalf and in their own interests, they will change themselves by learning to take control of their own lives. Each strike, for example, is a mini-rehearsal for this (whether those involved realise it or not), whereby workers have to organise in their own communities and share money, food, clothing, accommodation, etc., etc. In effect they have to take control and run a mini-socialist society for a few weeks, or months. They also re-learn grass-roots, direct democracy.
If the working class don't do this, if they don't push the revolution to a successful international conclusion, the old order will re-impose itself and the whole sorry mess will start over again -- and so it will continue indefinitely until, as Marx noted, they either succeed in transforming society in their interests, or it ends in "the common ruin of the contending classes" -- i.e., barbarism, and perhaps the end of the human race.
This is what the opposite of capitalism will look like:
Whenever I post anything about Marx, Marxism, communism, or socialism, right-wing Quorans pile into me, confusing Marxism with Stalinism, or they bang on about the ‘evils of communism’, as if I haven’t heard this a thousand times already, or as if they were the very first to make those points — or, indeed, as if one more splenetic comment will make me ‘see the light’.
In order to forestall the seemingly inevitable, and to save me having to post the same arguments and evidence over and over again in response, such irate individuals are encouraged to follow this link for my pre-emptive answers:
Abusive Quorans, 'point-scorers', and time wasters will have their posts deleted and will be blocked. I am tired of being patient with such individuals, with their incapacity to address what I have argued, and with having to be all sweetness and light in return.
Some complain that this is censorship; it isn't. It is to remind such individuals that if they are abusive, merely want to 'score points', or they can't be bothered to read and then reply to my actual arguments (follow the link above), they can't expect me to listen to them in return.
If you want to make a different set of points, write your own answer!
Those who want to be civil and argue like grown-ups will, of course, be listened to.
I don't issue second warnings.