- by Richard Titelius
- The Guardian
- Issue #1973
On the 22nd of July 2021, the Communist Party of Australia held their latest Politics in the Pub on the theme of revolution. The first of three speakers was Dr Christopher Crouch, CPA WA Branch Chair, cultural theorist, and writer. He spoke about Vladimir I. Lenin and his pamphlet What Is To Be Done? (WITBD?) written in 1901. According to Crouch, WITBD? strategically outlined how to organise a revolution based on Marxism.
For Lenin, it was important to look at the context in which a society was located to develop the strategies necessary for it to take place. By asking: “How can we improve the conditions under which we live in a contemporary context?” Crouch stated that revolutionaries today reading WITBD? need to go beyond the Marxist jargon to be found in Lenin’s analysis. Part of a movement for revolutionary change involves the demands which the working class can seek to impose on the ruling class. Lenin said a theoretical structure for revolutionary change would give a model for the working class to aspire to as part of the resistance to structures that oppress them and would assist them in bringing about revolutionary change. Leaving it solely to a struggle about improving economic outcomes of the working class would be to leave it up to capitalism to determine the outcomes.
Lenin also understood the need to control the media to provide the right information and news to the working class in the push to change the system as the capitalist media promoted a world view that would keep the existing capitalist order intact. There was a need for workers to understand the context they were located in and the process of which they were a part and also sought to change. Today as we look back at the ideas of Lenin, especially through the lens of WITBD? we need to ask ourselves what strategies are appropriate. We cannot rely on single issues, though climate change is a fundamentally important one that affects all living things, including the planet which bears life. Capitalism is still oppressing us, and it still seeks to substitute economic relations for social relations, which keeps us isolated, alienated and disempowered.
The second speaker was July Valentine, student and activist who sought to reflect on the role of women, especially working women, in the struggle against capitalism. Valentine argued capitalism creates categories amongst the working class to help isolate and divide people. These categories created by capital are either reactionary, apolitical, or reformist – sometimes all three, sometimes one or two. Valentine said bourgeois democracy is or tries to be seen as apolitical but is an instrument of the ruling class used to subdue the masses. Of liberal feminism, Valentine said it failed to address women’s economic and material conditions and sought only to obtain concessions within the capitalist system rather than to challenge its oppressive basis. In the US and Australia, women often make up sixty per cent of workers on the minimum wage, and in the US, women have to work nineteen months on average for what a white man could earn in twelve months. Until the US women’s soccer team successfully challenged being paid fifty per cent of what the men’s soccer team were paid. Though a US Federal Court initially dismissed their lawsuit, the US Women’s National Soccer Team has recently refiled their lawsuit alleging systematic underpayment. Valentine argues it would take a change of the economic system in order to lift the oppression experienced by women. A case in point being in July 1918 in Soviet Russia, under their new Communist Constitution, Russian women were made equal at work and workplaces were made more friendly to accommodate women in the workplace. The Soviet Union was also the first country to legalise abortion. In the legislatures of the Soviet Union, women made forty per cent of its representatives while in the USA, women made up only three per cent of elected representatives during that period. On the other side of the Florida Straits in Cuba, women before the Revolution did not have any status in the workplace and mainly undertook domestic duties in the home. After the Revolution, there was a year-long literacy campaign in 1961 instigated by Fidel Castro, which resulted in increasing numbers of women who took part in the campaign and helped lift many other women out of being illiterate. Today Cuba has one of the highest rates of participation of women in education at all levels and the highest number of women in a popularly elected legislature, the People’s Assembly of Popular Power, with over fifty-three per cent of representatives being women. In Cuba’s 2019 Constitution, under Article 43 in part says, “Women have equal rights and responsibilities under economic, political, cultural, labour, social, family and whatever other activity. The state guarantees that both will be offered the same opportunities and possibilities.”
The third speaker was CPA National President Vinnie Molina who suggested that the class struggle has been with human society in one form or another since the introduction of private property, urbanisation, and agriculture.
With the Bolshevik uprising led by Lenin, the Soviet Union saw many social, political, cultural, and economic advancements in that bloc. History has shown us that the class struggle continues even under socialism.
In Cuba, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos and others led a popular revolution to overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista 1st January 1959. The revolution was inspired by the example of the national hero of independence Jose Marti who helped lead the people to defeat the Spanish colonial government.
The next revolution was the Nicaraguan Revolution which overthrew the US-backed dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, who oversaw the majority of that country being owned by the US United Fruit Company. The slogan of the Sandinista Revolution led by Daniel Ortega was “homeland and freedom.”
To bring about social or political change, people must choose between reform of the system or revolution. Molina said to achieve this we need a political party to represent the needs of the working class.
Molina concluded that we need to break the two-party system. Following with the quote from Marx which calls for change, “Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”