So, you want to overthrow capitalism.
Great! But suppose you donâ€™t know where to start. Everywhere you look, you see corrupt politicians, corporate media empires, conservative think tanks, militarized police forces, reactionary fascists, dithering centrists. Enemies of socialism have built this world on a concrete foundation â€” literally. Maybe you want to smash things, and maybe you go out and punch Nazis in your spare time, but you donâ€™t see a viable path to revolution. It really can seem hopeless when youâ€™re staring down the barrel of a tank.
Comrade, donâ€™t give up hope! We have many paths to revolution available to us. Although it will require persistence, sacrifice, and courage, we can dismantle this nonsensical contraption we call capitalism. All it takes is a strategic, long-term approach and some good old-fashioned elbow grease.
The following article is intended to serve as a practical guide for the aspiring revolutionary. I hope that you draw inspiration from the tactics listed here, and that they give you a sense of the many options revolutionary anti-capitalists have at our disposal. I know theyâ€™ve inspired me!
One of the most obvious and accessible forms of revolutionary activity is spontaneous protest. Spontaneous protests generally arise due to some public injustice, economic crisis, or anything else that pisses enough people off that they take to the streets to voice their anger.
Although these movements tend to have lots of energy, they often lack clear objectives, which hampers their usefulness. They can, however, capture the attention, and the imagination, of the public. Notable examples of spontaneous protests include: the Arab Spring, the Yellow Vest Movement, and Occupy Wall Street. These movements began with spontaneous protests without leaders and ultimately grew into events which shook complacent societies and rattled distant, ineffective and unpopular governments â€” although they have failed, so far, to give us socialism.
Parallel Power Structures
Parallel Power Structures seek to distribute resources to people who need them outside of the capitalist system of exchange. By giving people an alternative to capitalism that they can rely on, participate in, and benefit from, we can build support for our cause and enable the working class to agitate more effectively, without fear of need or hunger.
A common form of parallel power structure is a mutual aid organization, which encourages sharing, collaboration, and reciprocal giving between its members. For example, OSCA co-ops send funding each year to UNAG, a Nicaraguan union of farmers who pool money to send to the neediest members of their community each year. Parallel power structures build solidarity between the disadvantaged, and may be able to replace some functions of the state â€” such as bureaucratic, stingy welfare programs â€” in the transition away from private forms of production. With any luck, theyâ€™ll make the transition to a collective lifestyle relatively seamless, and will prevent social collapse in the aftermath of the revolution.
Militant unionism is a form of worker organization, but is unlike the traditional labor union that we typically think of. Labor unions usually represent workers in one sector of the economy and negotiate with employers (capital) on behalf of workersâ€™ interests. Militant unions seek to unite workers across all industries in solidarity, with the eventual goal of acquiring ownership of the means of production and abolishing capitalism. They collaborate extensively with syndicates â€” worker-owned companies â€” and train workers on strike tactics and strategies to effectively put pressure on capital.
On their own, these tactics donâ€™t provide a means to overthrow the wage labor system entirely, but institutions like this are essential to increase the economic power of workers and build class consciousness, and to establish a framework of the type of organization that could guide a socialist world economy after the revolution. The framework of militant unionism can also be used to form unions of tenants, prisoners, immigrants, and other disadvantaged groups in solidarity.
Community defense organizations, including both highly organized groups like the Black Panther Party and decentralized movements like Antifa (anti-fascism), use force to defend vulnerable people from police brutality and reactionary violence. If our revolution is met with violent opposition, it will be vital for community defense organizations to protect the working class. Community defense may also take the form of hacktivism, deplatforming reactionaries, doxing fascists, and a number of other militant tactics. To paraphrase Karl Marx, any attempt to disarm the proletariat must be resisted, by force if necessary.
Many people find that community defense isnâ€™t their jam. If you lack the privilege, safety, or physical ability to participate in community defense, or if you have personal misgivings about using force, you may wish to devote your revolutionary activity to other causes. However, if you have the privilege to protect the disadvantaged and are willing to accept that radical measures may be required to do so, you should consider community defense as a part of your revolutionary activity.
A general strike is a highly effective pressure tactic used by militant unions to promote the short-term interests of workers and protest unequal economic conditions which keep workers in poverty. Employees, across all economic sectors, refuse to work, and employersâ€™ profits grind to a halt. If even 10 percent of the workers across the world went on strike, it would produce a recession that would destroy large amounts of private wealth. However, itâ€™s important to note that on its own, a general strike doesnâ€™t alleviate dependency on the capitalist system, and is only effective if paired with other methods (more on that later.)
Propaganda is political information disseminated with the intent of persuading the public of a particular political position. Propaganda neednâ€™t be inherently misleading, and for communists, will typically be truthful, since a properly implemented form of communism would benefit nearly everybody alive on the planet. The facts are on our side!
Anti-capitalists should use propaganda to correct common misconceptions about socialism, promote class consciousness among workers, and respond to the repetitive and unimaginative arguments for maintaining capitalist hegemony.
Reform as a Tool of Revolution
Marxists are typically suspicious of political reform, within existing political structures (e.g. voting, Congress) and with good reason. Reform keeps the powerful in power, rather than replacing them; it reduces the harm that the ruling class exacts upon workers, instead of ending these assaults. On its own, reform is not a means of achieving revolution.
That being said, reformist political campaigns are a healthy part of a balanced revolutionary breakfast. Apart from preventing working people from suffering and keeping reactionaries out of office, successful socialist-oriented policy can demonstrate the viability of socialism to the masses and build class consciousness. Labor rights reforms enable workers to dedicate more time to anti-capitalist activity; universal healthcare empowers disabled people and workers to seek medical care without risking a thousand dollar hospital bill; and public education can help the working class learn to self-manage effectively. In other words, reform can be viewed as a means to bring about the conditions necessary for revolution, so long as reformist activism is not allowed to supplant other forms of anti-capitalist activity. Please reform responsibly.
On their own, these tactics are of limited effectiveness, but, when combined, will make the revolution unstoppable. Militant unions will likely be necessary to organize general strikes, and mutual aid will be vital to support workers during that time. Propaganda can drum up popular support for these forms of organization, promote reforms, and aid in building class consciousness. Spontaneous protests, in tandem with more organized methods, can serve as recruiting grounds and bring public attention to injustice. As these revolutionary methods succeed, community defense will likely be required as the wealthy go to increasingly extreme measures to preserve their wealth and privilege.
By combining all of these tactics strategically and formulate a pragmatic, long-term approach to revolution, we can build a powerful anti-capitalist movement. With any luck, we can dismantle this clusterfuck of a society, and establish a truly ethical global system of production. Workers of the world, unite!