[Audio] Why We Are Communists

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Welcome to Socialist Revolution podcast. Today, we’ll be discussing the ideas of revolutionary Marxism and why we are communists.

[Theme Music]

With the return to in-person classes this Fall semester, comrades of Socialist Revolution have been hitting the campuses, bringing Marxist ideas to thousands of radicalized youth. In this episode, Kiara joins us from Philadelphia after a very successful public event series with her university’s Socialist Revolution club, called Temple Marxists. She will explain why we are communists, giving a taste of the kinds of revolutionary propaganda work and discussions our comrades are carrying out in colleges, workplaces, and neighborhoods in dozens of cities from coast to coast.


Many people on the left might be a bit apprehensive about calling themselves a communist, or a Marxist, because of how much anti-communism we have been taught throughout our lives: we’ve been taught that communism has killed 100 million people; that communism is against human nature; that we need incentive to do things; and that capitalism is the greatest system ever.

But, at the same time, most people do not like the way the world is working and would like it to change. Living under capitalism, we see people dying of starvation every day, while grocery stores and restaurants throw away food. We see people living on the streets, meanwhile there are double the amount of empty houses and apartments nationwide as there are homeless people. We see climate change threatening the whole world, while at the same time, we have more technology and scientific knowledge than ever before. We see warfare, death every day, and we deal with the poisons of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia that, when they don’t result in death, lead to lived pain and suffering amongst all oppressed people.

We are overworked, underpaid, understaffed, tired, depressed, and without any real security in our lives. Around the world, 9 million people die of hunger every year—which means that every 11 years, capitalism kills just as many people as it claims communism killed throughout its whole existence, only through starvation, as this statistic does not include deaths due to murder, sickness, police brutality, war, etc.

Right now, when we look around, it is clear that the entire world is in the midst of a deep, deep crisis. The word itself, “crisis,” as well as the word “unprecedented,” were probably two of the most used words in 2020. To this day, there is no end in sight to the Coronavirus pandemic. Over 4.4 million people have died from COVID globally, including over 600,000 deaths in the wealthiest country in the world, the United States of America.

The climate crisis is currently causing over 100 simultaneous wildfires and a “megadrought” across western North America. Political crises such as Brexit and the military coup in Myanmar are still ongoing. Then there is the debacle of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which proves that for over 20 years, US imperialism accomplished nothing—except for filling the pockets of US oil billionaires, and bringing unnecessary death, destruction, and destabilization to the Middle East. The world has now entered what the Bank of London has deemed the worst economic crisis in capitalism’s 300-plus-year history.

Given all of this, I am quite sure that many of you are listening to this podcast looking for answers because of the experience of living in this world over the past two years.

But this is not all to say to we are doomed. We in Socialist Revolution and the IMT are here to make the case to all of you that, while the world is in this crisis, there is a way forward, and in fact the world is brimming with possibility. So, when we look around the world, what else do we see?

Last summer, we witnessed the largest mass movement in the history of the United States, another event that I am sure has brought a lot of us here to this podcast. 26 million people took to the streets in the US to fight racism. We had been told for years that Americans are innately conservative, that the working class has too high a standard of living to care about politics, that we are just inherently racist as a country. But last summer, 54% of Americans supported the burning of a police precinct, and over half of the population supported the ideas of the movement as a whole.

The protests also spread to around a half dozen other countries. And preceding the Black Lives Matter movement, there were the mass uprisings and waves of revolutions in 2019 in Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Lebanon, Sudan, France, and Iran. So what does this all mean?

This brief summation of current events should tell us two things. The first is that the will, determination, and energy are there to genuinely change society from the ground up. But the second is that the global capitalist system itself is standing in the way of the further progress of humanity. Capitalism is destroying the planet, and our livelihoods with it. It is lowering living standards across the world, and threatening to throw us back into barbarism. We can also see from movements such as Black Lives Matter that even in the most advanced, developed capitalist countries, like the US, racism has not and cannot be ended by capitalism. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia are institutional, systemic problems—and that system that needs to be done away with, is capitalism.

What is Revolutionary Marxism?

Some of us will turn to the university, and choose certain studies and carrier paths in hopes of individually changing the world this way. And many radical students I’m sure turn to the university professors, whose jobs function to perpetuate capitalist ideology. And the responses are more often than not that “we can’t change anything,” that “this is just the way things are.”

If they offer any alternative, they will give you some type of solution that rests on individualism—for example, mutual aid, charity, voting, or “killing the cop in your head.” They will discuss “resisting” the system as is, but never its revolutionary overthrow.

But we have a radically different answer. The problems that I just outlined are collective problems. They are problems the working class of the whole world is suffering from. So what we need are not momentary band-aids, or solutions that focus on individual initiative, or single issue campaigns, but long term solutions that can unite the global working class. And these solutions are those of revolutionary Marxism.

Marxism starts from the understanding that all of society is divided fundamentally into two classes: the working class, and the capitalist class. And these two classes have totally opposing interests. The ruling capitalist class controls the vast majority of the resources of society, and the means to produce and distribute goods. They own, control, and manage the commanding heights of the economy, and the governments of the whole world represent only the interests of the capitalist class.

Meanwhile, the working class owns nothing. We sell to our bosses our ability to work for a set amount of time, in exchange for a wage. But this wage is never enough to truly live on. It is only ever enough to survive on, and sometimes not even that. And that is because profit is the unpaid wages of the working class. In other words, we sell away our lives producing the commodities that are sold back to us at costs we can’t afford.

This is the basis for economic crisis. The working class as a whole can never buy back all of the commodities on the market. Because of this, at a certain point, roughly every 10 years or so, the economic system gets clogged up, and it spins out of control into a recession or depression. Young people today have experienced two of the deepest recessions in world history: the first in 2008 and the second right now. And these crises of overproduction are built into the capitalist system. This is why there is enough food produced for 10 billion people, while millions starve. This is why there are more homes than homeless people. Because capitalism, as a system, produces more than it can sell back to the whole of the working class.

The capitalist class, then, can only exist through the exploitation of the world working class. This is the source of their profits. And in order to justify their rule, they consciously spread poisonous ideas all through society, in order to keep the working class divided and blind of its own potential power. Ideas like rugged individualism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, nationalism—these are geared towards teaching workers that their enemy is their coworker of a different race or gender, or that the working classes of different countries are opposed to each other.

But Marxism understands that all workers, regardless of gender, racial identity, or nationality have the same fundamental interests: class unity, the overthrow of the capitalist system, and the reorganization of the global economy on a planned, democratically run and managed system.

We should be clear: capitalism does not exist because someone just thought it into existence. Capitalism is a definite system of social and economic relations that exists because of how the world has developed historically.

Before human beings can think, they must eat. The foundation of society starts with the way we organize ourselves to produce and distribute basic human needs: food, clothing, shelter, medicine, etc. That is, economics.

In the final instance, how we think about the world and our consciousness are based on and framed by the conditions we experience. To paraphrase Marx, “A man thinks differently in a palace than in a hut.”

And so, in a world where we struggle just to survive, of course we encounter things like greed—who has time to think about others when they work 60 hours a week for starvation wages?

Often you encounter the argument of “human nature”: “Socialism can never work because humans are inherently selfish, or greedy, or whatever!” But our dialectical materialist analysis of society and the history of humanity shows us that it’s not human greed that creates capitalism and exploitation, but capitalism that creates human greed.

Your teachers will tell you that what I just said is deterministic, or fatalistic. That Marxism “reduces everything to economics.” You will hear the term “class reductionist.” But while class reductionism certainly exists, it has nothing in common with genuine Marxism.

Marxists do not deny the important role that non-economic factors play in history, such as the role of individuals. Nor do we deny oppressions that have existed before capitalism, such as the oppression of women. But we understand that individuals are limited by their material conditions and surroundings, by the resources, tools, and knowledge available to them in their epoch of history. Individuals can play very important roles in shaping history. However, to overthrow the entire global capitalist system, a collective struggle of the entire working class is required. And only the working class is interested in liberating humanity from the evils of patriarchy, racism, homophobia, etc. Divided, we cannot wage a successful struggle against the oppressions we face as individuals or within subgroups of the working class.

But this does not mean we cannot wage a successful struggle. We can, if we understand what unites all of the oppressed. And that is class. Class is not a “better” or more important “form” of oppression, it is the root of all oppression. All workers have the same interests, objectively speaking, even if subjectively individual workers don’t understand this just yet. That is the role of Marxists: to help show the workers what our common interests are. To explain that, due to the role of the working class in production, due to the fact that the working class produces all commodities in society, the working class as a whole has the ability to stop production, and then restart it under its own will, without the domination of the capitalist class.

This is why Marxism is revolutionary. The capitalist class is not the first ruling class in history. Capitalism is not the first form of class society. It is only the most recent one. And never has any ruling class in history voluntarily given up its power. It takes revolution, based on the power and conscious action of the working class as a class, to build a new socioeconomic system.

And never before have we been better poised to overthrow capitalism, and replace it with socialism.

This is for two reasons. The first is that technologically speaking, we are more advanced than ever before. Second, the working class has never been larger, stronger, better educated, or more socially connected, than it is at this point in history. This means that the objective potential for socialism exists to the highest degree ever.

Between climate change, the pandemic, and the economic collapse, it may seem for a lot of people like the world is ending. Such a feeling is not unique, but is common to all periods of history that preceded the end of a specific socioeconomic system. The rise of things like mysticism, conspiracy theories, astrology, can also be compared to the unscientific periods of thought that preceded both the fall of the Roman Empire, and the fall of the Russian Tsar.

But these generalized feelings of anxiety do not signal the end of the world. They signal the end of a specific socioeconomic system, and the birth a new one. As Marx said, the old world is pregnant with the new. Capitalism is pregnant with the potential for socialism.

But ruling classes, and their economic systems, are overthrown by real people. This is where the role of the individual meets the role of working class.

You as individuals, sitting in this room right now, have already come to the conclusion that capitalism does not work for us. And it won’t be long before the masses come to the same conclusion. This is the case in every revolution: the will of the masses catches up with the will of the most radical individuals.

But if there is no apparatus, no structure, no Marxist Political Party that is built in advance of revolutions, that we can organize around, that can put into real practice the will of the whole working class, then revolution will fail, it will inevitably flow back into channels that are safe for capitalism.

To a certain degree, this is what we saw last summer. The working class collectively wanted to abolish the police. But without a pre-existing revolutionary leadership that could put the workers’ demands into practice, and organize a revolutionary overthrow of the whole system, the movement was co-opted and taken into the Democratic party where it was destroyed—like all previous American social movements in recent memory.

Revolutions are an objective process of history. We can make an analogy with earthquakes. Due to the existence and movement of the tectonic plates, earthquakes are inevitable. While we cannot predict the exact moment they erupt, we know that, eventually, they will happen. In a society that is objectively divided into classes of exploiters and exploited, revolutionary eruptions are inevitable.

Our role, as Marxists, is to prepare for revolutionary events, by building such a revolutionary apparatus, a revolutionary organization to rally the majority of the working class under a socialist program and lead the way to the overthrow of capitalism. That is the role of the Marxist Party. And the foundation of such a party is Marxist theory.

And we should be clear, that the decade we have entered is an epoch of revolution. This is why we are communists.

If movements such as Black Lives Matter, and the dozens of other mass uprisings that have swept the world in the past two years show us anything, it is that the will, drive, and determination are there, within the working class, to change society.

But it shows us something else: that the overall strategy, and the revolutionary leadership, are severely lacking.
This is our goal: to build this revolutionary leadership up to the tasks in front of us, and to bring the theoretical and political clarity of Marxism, to the working class.

And the theory of Marxism has never been more necessary. That is because currently, the world working class, is dominated by all types of counterrevolutionary ideas.

We’ve already talked about the poisons of racism, sexism, transphobia, and homophobia. But what about so called “leftist” ideas?

Take “democratic socialism.” This is the idea that, because revolution “didn’t work” in countries such as Russia, what we need is to change the laws that exist in capitalist countries, so as to “give the workers a seat at the table.” But what this does is disarm the working class right before its most ardent class enemy. Instead of teaching the working class that its power is in its unity and its opposition to capitalism, it teaches the working class to enter the government of the capitalists, as well as the political parties that exist of, by, and for the capitalist class, such as the Republican and Democratic Parties.

In other words, so called democratic socialism is neither democratic nor socialist.

Then there are sections of the left that consider totalitarian dictatorships to be socialist. Some even consider China, a country which now has more billionaires than the United States, to be socialist, or even communist. What this logic does is take the official propaganda of totalitarian states for granted. And it misunderstands that the ruling bureaucracy of Russia only came to power by murdering the leaders of the actual Russian revolution. This plays a totally counterproductive role by teaching us that what we are fighting for is not workers’ democracy, but bureaucratic dictatorship.

And in the name of forcing a wedge between these two ideas, there are those on the left who will argue that there is a difference between socialism and communism. They might say that Sweden is socialist while Russia was communist. And will say that because of the experience of Russia, “I am a socialist but not a communist.”

So we want to be clear right now about exactly what we are fighting for.

We are fighting to put the working class into political and economic power. We use the term “workers’ democracy” to describe such a system. This means that the economic and political levers of society are tied inherently and directly to organs of working class rule: unions, factories, workers’ councils, and the like. We fight for the nationalization of the fortune 500 companies, and their placement under a democratic workers’ government, in which no workers’ representative can make more money than the averaged skilled worker, the workers have the right to automatically recall their representatives, there is no standing army, and all workers rotate political positions.

This system of democratic workers’ control over the social means of production, once spread across the world, will dramatically improve the standard of living of the world population and this is what we Marxists refer to as socialism. Or, as Marx called it, “the lower stage of communism.”

After a period of evolution, this global system will reach a point where all human beings have immediate access to all that is required to live. Classes themselves will have withered away, so there will be no need for a state apparatus, money, and so on. This is what we refer to as communism. But this is down the line. A point in human evolution that we might not live to see. But we will live to see socialism.

To call Sweden socialist and Russia communist means to call a constitutional monarchy, which is a part of NATO and an imperialist country, “socialist,” and to call the bureaucracy that came to power by murdering the communist leaders of the Soviet revolution “communist.” In other words, this completely confuses and disarms the working class.

And we should say right now that our organization draws a clear line between the revolutionary and democratic traditions of the Bolshevik party under Lenin and Trotsky, and the murderous dictatorship that existed under Stalin.

These are ideas that belong in the dustbin of history. And over the next three weeks, we will be talking much more in detail on these two subjects, reformism and Stalinism, and why they are not Marxism at all, but caricatures of Marxism. And I would encourage all of you to continue to come to these meetings.

But for now, we need to understand that what all of these ideas have in common are misunderstandings of history, the wrong method and framework of analysis to understand what capitalism is, how it came into being, and how it can be successfully overthrown.

The ruling ideas of society are those of the ruling class. And the ruling class will never teach us how to overthrow their rule. This is why the International Marxist Tendency puts primary emphasis on Marxist theory. Marxist theory is the generalized experience of the world working class.

What is required to build a genuine revolutionary leadership, is to understand first and foremost what we are fighting for, how we have gotten to this point, how the world actually works, and how we can change it. All of this is encapsulated in the Marxist method. That is why, as an organization, we focus of Marxist theory, on building our skills as Marxist revolutionaries.

We are not a mutual aid group. We are not local activists. We are building something bigger: an international organization of trained Marxists who are able to disseminate revolutionary strategy into the working class of the whole world, and the US specifically.

We need to view ourselves as part, of a much, much larger struggle. Not a local struggle, but a global struggle for socialism, that we are a part of here, in the US.

We need a long term strategy. That fights with the working class, for immediate gains and reforms, while pointing the way forward for the ultimate overthrow of capitalism as a whole.

We need to not view all local struggles as ends in themselves, but as parts of a much larger whole. This is the role of Marxist theory, the only theory with which a revolutionary party can be built.

In the words of Lenin, “Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This idea cannot be insisted upon too strongly at a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism goes hand in hand with an infatuation for the narrowest forms of practical activity.”

In studying theory now, we are preparing ourselves for the inevitable future revolutions to come. And it is theory that will both guide us now as we row against these gigantic waves, but also that, once grasped by the working class, will pave the way for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. To quote Marx:

“Material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses.”

And this brings me to the subject of revolutionary optimism.

It is no secret that the politics that are offered to the working class daily, here and around the world, are steeped in dismal pessimism. We are taught every day that socialism didn’t work, can’t work, and so the best we can hope for is a lesser evil form of capitalism. We are taught that we are all oppressing each other, and that we all live in separate realities. So there is no actual hope of people, let alone classes, working together to build a better society.

And these pessimistic theories inevitably result in useless practice. They teach us that our best option is to vote for the democratic party, or to simply exhaust ourselves as individuals, because no one can understand anyone else, so we must individually resist everyone and fight the system all on our own.

But we in the International Marxist Tendency don’t bother with this.

The motto of this organization is socialism in our lifetime. And that is because we are going to build it. We are revolutionary optimists to our core, and this stems from our theory: Marxism.

And this is because Marxism teaches us that the real world does exist, and it is objectively divided into classes. And these classes objectively do erupt in revolutions, which can be won, if we are properly prepared. And revolutions never respect borders. So when we succeed in America, the job of the whole rest of the world will become indescribably easier.

We we in the IMT and Socialist Revolution have the utmost faith in the ability of the working class to rise up and change the whole world. And we are preparing for such an overthrow. Remember, we only have to win once. But the capitalists, to defend their system, they have to defeat the working class over and over again.

Certain pessimists will point to events like January 6. They will tell you how strong the right wing is. But how many people were there on January 6? A few thousand? And how many people were on the streets last summer? 26 million. So who wins? You tell me.

The answer 1000 times over is the working class. In the words of Malcolm X, we’re not outnumbered, we’re out organized.
Today, we are organizing with the theory of Marxism as our backbone. That is our duty.

There is nothing more important in our lives than putting our time and energy into overthrowing this system once and for all, and replacing it with socialism. We in the IMT believe we can accomplish this task in our lifetime, and we are putting all of our efforts towards doing so.

Karl Marx once called the working class the future gravediggers of capitalism. So if you are tired of all the sickness, death, misery, oppression, the poisons of racism, transphobia, homophobia, sexism, ablism, climate change, wars, poverty, depression, insecurity, anxiety, and all of the filth, horror, and rottenness that we have to deal with every single day—then grab a shovel, arm yourself with Marxist theory, and let’s start digging.


[Theme Music]

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Socialist Revolution podcast!

If you liked the ideas that you just heard, consider joining the International Marxist Tendency and the fight for socialism in our lifetime. We are tabling across the country at university campuses, speaking to and organizing hundreds of young people looking for a way out of capitalism.

If you would like to get involved, search socialistrevolution.org/join.

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