After reading this article you will learn about Revolution:- 1. Meaning of Revolution 2. Inevitability of Revolution 3. Types 4. Sources.
Meaning of Revolution:
According to COD the term revolution means “complete change, turning upside down, great reversal of conditions, and fundamental reconstruction especially forcible substitution by subjects of new ruler on polity for the old.”
This is not definition of revolution. These are the various meanings of revolution. One meaning is significant. It means fundamental reconstruction that brings about radical changes of the society. Lenin’s remark about revolution is that in political and scientific sense it is the transfer of power from one class to another class.
Even this is not sufficient. Macpherson defines revolution in an elaborate sense. For the purposes of political, social and economic changes the forcible capture of political power is revolution. He defines revolution in the light of Marxian concept of revolution. The objective of revolution is to bring, about radical changes in society.
If it does not take place, it is not revolution. The writer of the article published in the Bottomore edited book defines revolution in this way. In the scheme of history first sketched by Marx and Engels in the German Ideology, the leading idea was that of a succession of eras each based on a mode of production, and revolution in its fullest sense meant a cataclysmic leap from one of these to the next.
Herbert Aptheker, the renowned Marxist thinker, defines revolution in the following way: “I would define revolution as an historical process leading to and culminating in social transformation, wherein one ruling class is displaced by another, with the new class representing, as compared to the old, enhanced productive capacities and socially progressive potentialities”.
We can deduce several features of revolution from Aptheker’s definition.
One is, revolution is an historical process.
Second, it brings about a radical change of society. That is, society is completely transformed.
Third, one ruling class is displace by another ruling class.
Fourth, revolution releases the productive forces from the grip of few persons.
Finally, socially progressive potentialities are utilized for the welfare of the whole society.
Normally non-Marxist thinkers do not make any distinction between revolution and counter-revolution. Aptheker holds a different view. While the objective of revolution is radical change of society the purpose of the latter is to frustrate that attempt.
Aptheker writes “any definition that would call both the victory of George Washington and the victory of Francisco Franco by the same name is bound to confuse more than define.” Marx and his followers view revolution completely from different background.
Revolution does not mean mere change of government. In normal sense, revolution means one class or party comes to power replacing another class or party. The economic foundation or base of the society remains unaffected.
Few changes here and there in the superstructure take place. Marxists do not call it revolution. The chief purpose of revolution in Marxian sense is to attack the economic base of capitalist society. After that it will attack the superstructure. Economic, social and cultural changes occur as a result of revolution.
Inevitability of Revolution:
With the growth of capitalism the power, influence, wealth etc. of the bourgeoisie has increased enormously. On the contrary, the proletarians have sunk into deeper pauperism; their conditions have become more and more miserable.
Marx and Engels say in the Manifesto that the bourgeoisie is unfit to be the ruling class in the society and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an overriding law.
It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state. Society cannot live under this bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society.
The rapid development of modern industry produces wealth on the one hand and on the other innumerable contradictions and crises. Capitalists adopt various curative measures to get rid of the crises, but they do not prove their effectiveness. The crises and contradictions multiply and aggravate day after day and irreconcilability also mounts.
They ultimately explode, forcing the proletarians to revolt. Marx and Engels have said in the Manifesto, “Modern Industry cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie produces above all is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable”.
The authors of the Manifesto have said that the proletarians must utilize the social conflicts so that these lead to an open revolution. The violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie will lay the foundation for the rule of the proletariat. So it is the inherent social conflicts of capitalism which will lead to the revolution. By using the conflicts the proletarians will precipitate the revolutions.
Marx and Engels have emphasized in their various works that the transfer of power from the hands of one group of persons to those of another group in a peaceful way cannot be regarded as revolution because it does not make way for radical changes of society and the emancipation of working class from capitalist exploitation.
They have further said the proletariat cannot raise itself up without the whole super-incumbent structure of official being sprung into air. The parliamentary means of solving workers’ problems were despised by Marx.
He called them “parliamentary cretinism”. Moreover, it would not be a weapon for the proletariat, but a trap.
Pointing out the ineffectiveness of parliamentary system and inevitability of revolution Lenin once said this was “historically obsolete”. The parliamentary system simply allows people to decide every few years which member of the ruling class was to repress and crush people through parliament.
Peaceful and reformist transition to socialism is not merely philistine stupidity but also downright deception of the workers. Only the forcible overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the destruction of the entire bourgeois state can ensure emancipation.
So it is not compromise between revolution and reformism, and parliamentary system and proletarians’ class struggle.
In Capital Marx writes that the process of transformation has sufficiently decomposed the old society from top to bottom. New forces are emerging, labourers are turned into proletarians, and the development of the capitalist mode of production has reached a maximum point after which there is no scope of expansion. Under such circumstances the whole society waits for a change.
That is, the revolution is inevitable. In The German Ideology we find Marx and Engels saying both for the production on a mass scale and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men in mass scale is necessary, an alternation which can take place in a practical movement, a revolution, this revolution is necessary, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all muck of ages and become fit to found society anew.
Types of Revolution:
From the study of history through the application of dialectic Marx and Engels were convinced that only one revolution was not enough for the formation of a communist society.
A number of revolutions were required. When the relations of production appear to be incompatible with the existing forces of production a change becomes inevitable.
When the change comes in a violent way or form, sometimes it is called revolution. One such revolution is bourgeois revolution. It is a way of transformation from the feudal to the capitalist socio-economic formation.
To put it in other words, in feudal society there arose a bitter class struggle between the feudal lords or aristocrats on the one hand and the bourgeoisie or capitalists on the other hand.
The radical changes that take place within the feudal society are the objective prerequisites of the bourgeois revolution. The bourgeoisie, by increasing production, harvests larger amount of profit and to ensure the continuous flow of profit the bourgeoisie tends to control the political power.
The power is used by the bourgeoisie as an effective weapon. Talking about bourgeois revolution Marx writes “Bourgeois revolutions storm swiftly from success to success, their dramatic effects outdo each other, men and things seem set in sparkling brilliance.”
The French Revolution of 1789-94 was a classical bourgeois revolution in the forms of struggle, the scope of events and degree of participation by the working class. The French Revolution was the result and expression of the powerful popular anti-exploiter movements. That is why the big bourgeoisie, which came to power, was eager to clamp down on the masses after the first onslaught of the revolution.
The urge was expressed in the declaration of Right of Man and Citizen (1789), which proclaimed equality for all people, but sanctified the right of property. The dictatorship of the Jacobins, the most revolutionary representatives of the bourgeoisie, was the pinnacle of revolution.
The French Revolution could not satisfy the demands of the poor people nor was it able to do away with the division of society into rich and poor.
Before the publication of the Manifesto Marx seriously studied the various aspects of the French Revolution and this enabled him to form the following opinion the Revolution was purely a political one because there was a change of hands of political persons. It ended the rule of autocracy, but the bourgeoisie filled up the vacuum.
The French Revolution could not emancipate the workers and peasants, only a socialist revolution can achieve the objective.
In the Eighteenth Brumaire Marx observes that though the French Revolution was a political one subsequent revolution would be socialist. A political or bourgeois revolution ends in transfer of power, but a socialist revolution aims at radical change in the ownership of the forces of production and relations of production.
Sources of Revolution:
We have briefly analysed the types or forms. It is now necessary to throw light on various sources of revolution. According to Marx the conflict or contradiction is the main source of revolution.
We shall here quote a portion of the famous passage in the Preface to the Critique of Political Economy:
“At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution.”
We, therefore, see that the contradiction between the forces of production and relations of production is the prime factors of revolution. In every capitalist society this contradiction is permanently and spectacularly found. This antagonism is irreconcilable and there a revolution is inevitable.
The contradiction will end in social revolution. That is the prophecy of Marx. In Capital Marx writes, “the historical development of the antagonisms, immanent in a given form of production, is the only way in which that form of production can be dissolved and a new form established.”
The contradiction, according to Marx, has two-fold effects. One limits the efficacy of the ruling class and the other raises the consciousness and organizing capacity of the proletarians. How does the contradiction lead to revolution? In Capital Marx has elaborated the issue.
With the accumulation of capital both the exploitation and misery of the workers grow more and more. Sometimes some of the workers are paid high wages. But that does not help the alleviation of misery.
The workers are also dehumanised, they become part of the machine. But the mere appearance of contradiction cannot create a revolutionary situation. Marx has cautioned us on this point. The antagonisms must reach the stage of maturity and this is possible only in developed capitalism.
In Class Struggle in France and other writings Marx has said that revolution is not a readymade thing which the workers will get on demand. Let us quote him “The working class did not expect miracles from the commune. They have no readymade Utopias to introduce par decret due people. They know that in order to work out their own emancipation, and along with it that higher form to which present society is irresistibly tending by its own economical agencies, they will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes, transformation circumstances and men”.
MESW, Proper consciousness creates an atmosphere conducive to revolution. Consciousness about what? Consciousness about their position, about the utility of struggle. The Marxists hold that in this arena there is an important role of ideology to play. It makes people conscious to know the nature of antagonism.
In a mature capitalist system there shall exist contradiction and the workers are quite aware of it. But the awareness is not sufficient for revolution. This consciousness must inspire them to fight for their emancipation.
However, the existence of contradiction and sufficient consciousness are essential elements of revolution. In the words of Aptheker, “The relationship between the two elements of the contradiction is dialectical”
Here the two elements of contradiction are it manifests the decay of efficiency of ruling class, and strength of consciousness. The Marxists are of opinion that a revolutionary situation is an objective condition of revolution. It means the material condition of society must be quite ripe for a revolution.
Only a revolutionary situation encourages workers to throw the severest onslaught against the bourgeoisie. Side-by-side a subjective condition also hastens the revolution. A critic observes, “A revolutionary situation merely creates the possibility of a victorious revolution. But to turn this possibility into a reality the subjective “factor too must be ripe.” People must be mentally prepared to make any sacrifice for the success of revolution.”