Is the Revolution Going to Come?

The flag is black and red for anarcho-syndicalism, despite the black-and-white photo

It occurred to me that I’ve never directly discussed the issue of grand historical expectations – in particular, the expectation, widespread on the hard left, that sooner or later there will be a worldwide social convulsion of some sort in which, over however long and protactred a period, power structures will be dismantled, property will be socialised, freedom may or may not ring, and rule will be replaced with self-rule.

And I thought that the day after Mayday would be a good opportunity to do so, and in particular to confront the fact that much of the time, this idea – what I will call the Final Revolution Thesis – seems much more like an article of faith than a sober historical judgement.

Now it would be silly of me to deny the ways in which it does function as an ‘article of faith’. Like any strongly-held belief, it plays a role in a psychic economy, it has an emotional significance. That’s consistent either with it being false or with it being true. So let’s put that aside.

Let’s also put aside the question of whether such a revolution would be desirable – whether anarchist communism is a good idea, and in most people’s interests. I think it is, and I’m going to assume that in what follows.

We might flip the question around and ask: if a certain arrangement is to most people’s advantage, how can society operate by any other? If statist capitalism,  slave-owning patriarchy, feudal theocracy, corporate badism, etc, are so bad, how did they exist for centuries? What stops people’s collective interests determining society?

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