Violence or Values? The Essence of Revolution

As the oppressed, we will always be condemned by our oppressors for our acts of resistance. Capitalists are not opposed to using violence. They just want to be the only ones legitimized for using it. They wouldn’t have capitalism or America without violence.

Violence or Values? The Essence of Revolution
“When we look at a thing, we must examine its essence and treat its appearance merely as an usher at the threshold, and once we cross the threshold, we must grasp the essence of the thing; this is the only reliable and scientific method of analysis.” - Mao Zedong

When most people think of the word "revolution," they think, almost instinctively and automatically, of violence. And of course, revolution is most definitely and very seriously a situation that necessitates and requires violence.

Malcolm taught us this:

“A revolution is bloody. Revolution is hostile. Revolution knows no compromise. Revolution overturns and destroys everything that gets in its way. And you, sitting around here like a knot on the wall, saying, 'I’m going to love these folks no matter how much they hate me.' No, you need a revolution.”

Thus to associate violence with revolution isn’t necessarily or categorically wrong or incorrect. It is, however, a critical error, and a grave misrepresentation of the essence of revolution, if it is only viewed and understood strictly within a context of violence. Revolution must be waged not because of this incredible urge we seem to have for violence. It is waged because of the strong desire we have to live in a better, freer, more humane society. A society, if we can imagine, that is completely free of violence.

The capitalist press and other bourgeois institutions in America, however, will attempt to convince us that revolution is evil and bad and impractical, because it is too “violent.” They will attempt to convince us that “looting” and “rioting” and other militant forms of protests are too violent. Let’s get this straight though. As the oppressed, we will always be condemned by our oppressors for our acts of resistance. Capitalists are not opposed to using violence. They just want to be the only ones legitimized for using it. They wouldn’t have capitalism or America without violence.

It is not the oppressed who are “violent.” It is the very system we are attempting to change that is so. It is not violence or hate that we are motivated by. To the contrary, as Che Guevara once said:

“Let me tell you something at the risk of sounding ridiculous. A true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love. Love of humanity. Love of justice, and truth. It is impossible to conceive of an authentic revolutionary without this quality.”

What revolutionaries desire through revolution is not this great opportunity for violence, but the greater opportunity of being able to change this society. The capitalist system is inherently vile and sick, it has no redeeming qualities that are worth preserving. In fact, it is a system that’s decaying, that's dying. As the great Trinidadian historian C.L.R James has written, “Mankind has obviously reached the end of something, the crisis is absolute. Bourgeois civilization is falling apart.”

Socialist revolution requires the overthrow of capitalism. It requires the destruction of neocolonialism and the freeing up of Indigenous lands. It requires a protracted struggle for control over the means of production and other productive forces. It requires a radical redistribution of resources. It means no more labor exploitation or class hierarchies. It means a completely new society. It means a greater sense of freedom and humanity.

Capitalism, like socialism, is not merely an economic system, isolated or separated from other societal forces that are connected to the formulation and restructuring of a given society. The economic system in a given society becomes the base on which the rest of the society is built or structured upon. Capitalism is an ideology, which means it comes with a set of core beliefs, particular ideas, and patterns of behavior, etc.

The former president of the Democratic Republic of Guinea, Sekou Toure, once said that "the material basis of social life is the mode of production." In other words, the economic system of a society shapes or determines the social mores, values and ideas of a given society. So the question must be asked, What is so wrong with the values and principles of the capitalist system that oppressed groups throughout the world are organizing against it?

Martin Luther King, Jr., began raising some serious questions about the capitalistic structure in a speech he delivered to The Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967:

“And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth.’ When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society…”

In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech that he delivered earlier that same year, Dr. King said:

“...[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing‐oriented” society to a “person‐oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered…True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice, which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth…A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Dr. King began seeing quite vividly that in capitalist societies, what truly exists within people is a fundamental and profound sense of human emptiness and social shallowness. True and authentic human values, morals and principles are sacrificed at the altar of monopoly capital; they are commodified and vulgarized. Human principles such as love, happiness, justice, truth and freedom, are casually reduced to absolutely nothing, when it cannot benefit or advance another in the form of capital or some kind of material.

Capitalism teaches us how to be self-centered egotistical individuals, and thereby we learn how to treat one another very crudely and impersonally. We only seem to respect, value and appreciate human relationships insofar as they can help advance our own personal interests and/or ambitions. People in capitalistic societies learn how to lie without blinking an eye; learn how to sleep peacefully, no matter how brutally they have abused another human being  be that physically, emotionally, or psychologically. Yet these are the values and core principles of the capitalist system. Cut-throat competition, individualism, egotism, greed, lying, cheating, stealing, indifference to the suffering of others, hedonism, etc.

People living in capitalist societies like to delude themselves into believing that they can be human while following the moral and cultural dictates of an anti-human society. You can’t do it. “The man who thinks and acts exclusively for himself is a social parasite,” said Sekou Toure. “Capitalist society doesn't lie some of the time, it lies all of the time,” said Kwame Ture. And we know that whenever people are lied to for so long the truth sounds like a lie and a lie sounds like the truth.

However, the truth is that the entire system of global capitalism is toxic. This is not something that we can pray away or positively think away, deny, or act as if it doesn't exist. Instead we must confront it and eventually uproot it. We must out of a sense of love, duty, and responsibility become revolutionaries. Because we are desperately in need of generosity, honesty, transparency, and authenticity in this horrid anti-human capitalistic society. Thus we are speaking about a class struggle. We are struggling not only for the basic control of the means of production but over proper and correct ideas. Again, “[e]very ethic or moral struggle is a class struggle,” said Sekou Toure.

We must continue to struggle for socialism because it’s core principles of living and being and structuring a society are just and humane. In Socialism and Man in Cuba, Che Guevara addressed the moral aspect of organizing for socialist revolution when he wrote,

“That is why it is very important to choose the right instrument for mobilizing the masses. Basically, this instrument must be moral in character, without neglecting, however, a correct use of the material incentive — especially of a social character.”

Guevara continues,

“As I have already said, in moments of great peril it is easy to muster a powerful response with moral incentives. Retaining their effectiveness, however, requires the development of a consciousness in which there is a new scale of values. Society as a whole must be converted into a gigantic school.”

And it is we, the oppressed, who must turn this world into gigantic schools of liberation. America is a decadent society, completely deprived of any substantive human values or principles which can lead to proper human development and growth. The capitalist system is not designed to produce healthy and functional and intelligent human beings; only mindless zombies and heartless robots who go aimlessly through life, searching desperately for a happiness they will never know, for there is no such thing as happiness in this capitalistic wilderness. It can only be cultivated through the process of revolution:

“Black, brown and white are victims together. At the end of this massive collective struggle, we will uncover our new man…He will be better equipped to wage the real struggle, the permanent struggle after the revolution – the one for new relationships between men.” George Jackson