We need to get organised for a revolution. Revolutionary socialists in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) at the Palestine demonstration in London last month (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Capitalism is trying to kill you. If it’s not specifically pointing a gun to your head or dropping a bomb on you, it is doing that to someone who is exactly like you. 

And with imperialist war, climate catastrophe, poverty and starvation, those who oversee the system are likely to end up destroying us all—including themselves.

They are happy to ­condone, carry out and applaud their indiscriminate bombings and the wholesale murder of people and planet.  Turning anger at this horror into revolt isn’t just a good idea—it’s absolutely necessary.

People are repeatedly faced with a choice between enduring a terrible worsening of their lives or fighting back. The fightback does not always occur, nor is it ­guaranteed success.

But as we have seen in recent weeks, resistance emerges despite cops, politicians, journalists, and even the mass-murdering armies of those at the top. With that lies hope, but we need to look at how to win—we have no choice.

All resistance is good, and some is better than others. Some people hope a good politician will come and sort it all out for us.  Some think that spectacular attempts to throw some of the violence of the system back at it will spur change. 

But to win we have to look to a force that is strong enough to stop our rulers, rather than appealing to them or trying to blow them up.

Reforming parliament, breaking windows, or trying to fight capitalist imperialism with our own arms will not stop the wrecking machine that is the current system. But revolutions can. They break out when the great mass of people whose work keeps the system going move into action on their own behalf.

People suddenly find they cannot go on living in the old way, and those at the top cannot rule in the old way either. For example, ­ending the carnage of the First World War took global revolts of workers and soldiers. It wasn’t ended by the peace talks. It took revolution.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 ended that war, brought down empires and opened the door to a socialist society based on human liberation.

After 1917, a ­revolutionary wave swept through Europe, with revolutions first in Germany in 1918 and then Hungary and Slovakia in 1919. Workers struck and took to the streets. Soldiers mutinied in the trenches.

The working class, dismissed as too stupid or selfish to make decisions, ran society without any need for the Tsar, ­landowners or bosses.

Along with the war, the Russian, Austro-Hungarian and German empires came crashing down.  The revolution meant people in the former Russian Empire could decide whether they wanted independence.

It showed that, even among the worst of horrors, we have the potential to change direction. This was part of a much bigger process of human liberation. 

Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin argued that revolutions are “festivals of the oppressed and the exploited” who are normally kept down and made to feel worthless.

Above all 1917 showed—as socialist journalist John Reed put it—that “workers are capable not only of great dreams, but that they have in them the power to make dreams come true”.

The key word there is ­workers. They make up the most powerful class in ­capitalist society. The revolutionary Karl Marx called the working class the “gravedigger of capitalism”. The system relies on their labour so that bosses can make profits. 

If workers withdraw it, they can stop production and the flow of profit.  Most days, most ­workers don’t feel powerful. Yet the working class can break ­capitalism because it is only through its exploitation that it can survive.

Capitalism has generated the economic potential to meet the basic needs of everyone on the planet—and more. But the way production is organised—with profit-making before all else— stops this potential from being reached. Marx maintained that only workers could free ­themselves—no one could do it for them. 

He argued that in ­struggle the working class would become a “class for itself”. Marx and Engels wrote that, through revolution, the ­working class can “succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew”.

The process of revolution not only transforms the world but also the workers who make it. Currently workers aren’t in charge of their labour and feel alienated from the whole process. This is why some accept dominant right wing ideas. Others will go along with some rotten ideas while rejecting others.  

A great deal of ruling class expense and energy is expended on dividing and atomising us on the basis of oppression based on sexuality, gender, race and religion. 

That’s one reason to make a point of standing with the oppressed against attempts to divide us. It isn’t just that workers’ self‑activity can win real gains for people—though that would be reason enough to encourage it. It is that action can also shake people’s ideas about how the world works and their ­position within it.

From thinking that it’s ­impossible to beat the boss, someone who has won something can see things very differently. Every struggle has the potential to shift ideas. 

But this process isn’t ­automatic. It is contested. People at the top of the movement are fond of saying it’s better to die fighting than to live on your knees, but the real issue is to fight and win. The task is to constantly spread and link our struggles.

Building solidarity for the fights of others can help confidence in one’s own fights and opens the prospect of ­building united action and breaking down barriers.

Standing up against ­oppression on principle and encouraging every possible chance of resistance lay the basis for better organised ­resistance in the future. And when large forces of people rise, these links and experiences become vital. History is full of situations in which a point of extreme tension—because wider social forces are balanced—is broken in one direction or another by action or inaction. Do we go forwards or back?

This debate and tension exists within every movement of resistance. One aspect of this is building up a ­counterweight to the respect for the establishment.

And there is no shortage of people who will argue that we should calm down for talks or an election.  But when someone urges caution, are they right? When another urges charging at the cops, are they foolhardy or grasping the moment?

Knowing when to fight and what it is possible to achieve at any moment comes through both individual experiences and those of the class as a whole. This is the lived experience of a movement, and it makes absolute sense not to wait for a big moment for people to organise together. The time to organise is now.

The idea of an unorganised socialist makes no sense. We need to pull this experience together in a revolutionary party. Lenin described a ­revolutionary party as the memory of the class. But this is not to see protest and ­resistance as re-enactments. The party is a key ­mechanism for distilling experience for a purpose. 

That is what the Socialist Workers Party is for—to fight and learn together. We need the party to learn from our ­victories and our mistakes. Any revolutionary party worthy of the concept has to be full of “leaders”.  These people can take ­initiative, think on their feet and, most importantly, learn from battles they are part of to take the struggle forward.

As Marx and Engels put it, “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.” We do. Simply put, our ­society is a disaster scene that gets worse by the minute. We cannot reform our way out—we must replace the whole thing. 

That means revolutionary change. Socialism is ­democratic control of society from below based on the strength of ­workers’ resistance. That means people ­organising together in a party to argue and fight to help resistance win. And that means you should join the Socialist Workers Party.

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