Peaceful Revolutions - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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By Eauz
#1807963
In La Liberté Speech, delivered to the congress of the First International in Amsterdam on September 8th 1872, Marx discusses the possibility of a peaceful means to the revolution. This was only 11 years before the death of Marx. What I am wondering though is first, why, after all those years of researching and developing theories about revolution and worker struggles would he even propose this possibility? Secondly, did this suggestion help split the revolutionary members of society with the social democrats by providing justification for both sides as opposed to just a revolutionary struggle? Obviously, the majority of Marx's work was based upon the understanding of capitalism and developing revolutionary theories, but it just strikes me odd that it was mixed in with the other literature. As a side note, I've been meaning to discuss this but completely forgot about it until I was reading another piece of literature. Anyway, here is the quote and the link to the article:

Karl Marx wrote:You know that the institutions, mores, and traditions of various countries must be taken into consideration, and we do not deny that there are countries -- such as America, England, and if I were more familiar with your institutions, I would perhaps also add Holland -- where the workers can attain their goal by peaceful means. This being the case, we must also recognize the fact that in most countries on the Continent the lever of our revolution must be force; it is force to which we must some day appeal in order to erect the rule of labor.


Link
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By FallenRaptor
#1808008
A peaceful revolution is obviously preferable to a violent one. I'm guessing that he believed that if the entire working class in those countries demanded political power the state would be too weak to resist. That seems somewhat understandable given that the working class already constituted a large majority in Britain and that the people in America have the right bear arms.

That being said, I certainly don't believe the conditions for a peaceful revolution exist in those countries now, nor do I believe they will exist any time soon.
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By jaakko
#1808180
I've met this quote many times before, but don't know what to do with it. I see it as a mere assertion without theoretical argument, thus I don't find any analytical value in it as such.

Although I'm not necessarily saying that Marx was wrong, I'm not convinced either. I don't see that much of a problem, though. There's no reason for me as a Marxist-Leninist to treat Marx any more dogmatically than Engels, Lenin or Stalin.
By Ademir
#1808472
I always thought this simply meant that in the most advanced industrial nations, the potential existed for a revolution, which although still coercive in nature, would not involve any actual physical violence due to the overwhelming odds against the bourgeoisie... as in, it would literally be useless for them to resist and they would just give up
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By ingliz
#1808584
I cannot see how a peaceful revolution could bring about a socialist state; a bourgeois social democracy, yes; but not a socialist state, a dictatorship of the proletariat. The contradiction between the dual powers, bourgeois parliamentary democracy and the soviets, is unbridgeable. If the bourgeoisie still hold state power they would use it if they feel in any way threatened and 'socialism' threatens capital. No, seizure of all government institutions is the only practical revolutionary strategy unless we are satisfied with a compromise that will inevitably result in the reinstatement of the pre revolutionary status quo ante.
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By FallenRaptor
#1808609
I think it's important to note that 'peaceful revolution' doesn't necessarily imply parliamentary reformism. It could simply be that the working class could seize political power without having to fire shots into a government building. I believe that such a revolution would be most preferable, but it's highly unlikely to happen.
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By ingliz
#1808636
Even with a 'no shots fired' revolution if you keep the form of the pre revolutionary institutions intact you will just have an equally peaceful counterrevolution, sooner rather than later. And if you don't you are very quickly going to have a very bloody counterrevolution. So maybe not violence at first but the violence will only be postponed I think.
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By Eauz
#1809206
ingliz wrote:Even with a 'no shots fired' revolution if you keep the form of the pre revolutionary institutions intact you will just have an equally peaceful counterrevolution, sooner rather than later. And if you don't you are very quickly going to have a very bloody counterrevolution. So maybe not violence at first but the violence will only be postponed I think.
Indeed, I doubt the old guard would be so willing to give up its influence and power over society so quickly, even if a large portion of the population supported it.

Nevertheless, it isn't really that important if it actually could occur with regard to the question. I'm questioning why Marx would propose such an alternative, when throughout his other writings he was in full support of revolution. What would have triggered this change in speech? And secondly, if it helped create a divide in those in favour of socialism and those in favour of social (bourgeois) democracy?
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By Vera Politica
#1809391
'peaceful means' doesn't necessarily mean non-violent. Read, perhaps, Castellano's critique of the distinction between peace and war. Peace, for Castellano, is simply the concentration of violence in private hands. The revolution through 'peaceful' means simply means, I take it, that the ability for violence has been dispersed enough but concentrated in a robust worker's movement. A quick mass general strike could change society in many advanced nations. This doesn't mean it is non-violent. And, to say it more precisely, we cannot and should not confuse 'peaceful' means with 'reformism'
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By KurtFF8
#1812117
Eauz wrote:In La Liberté Speech, delivered to the congress of the First International in Amsterdam on September 8th 1872, Marx discusses the possibility of a peaceful means to the revolution. This was only 11 years before the death of Marx. What I am wondering though is first, why, after all those years of researching and developing theories about revolution and worker struggles would he even propose this possibility? Secondly, did this suggestion help split the revolutionary members of society with the social democrats by providing justification for both sides as opposed to just a revolutionary struggle? Obviously, the majority of Marx's work was based upon the understanding of capitalism and developing revolutionary theories, but it just strikes me odd that it was mixed in with the other literature. As a side note, I've been meaning to discuss this but completely forgot about it until I was reading another piece of literature. Anyway, here is the quote and the link to the article:


I've actually heard it claimed that the quote you posted here was mainly an example of him trying to "cover his own ass" in a way, since he was living in England at the time.

But I think this question goes to the heart of the idea that there is a dichotomy between being a revolutionary and fighting for reforms. Many Chavez supporters would claim that Venezuela is an example of where Socialism has a potential to be built without a violent revolution, and that required working within the bourgeois state to help dismantle it (although it certainly hasn't become socialist yet of course).

There's another possibility too, and that's that a "peaceful revolution" could still be something other than non-violent. Take the collapse of the Soviet bloc for instance, they were "peaceful revolutions" but the governments themselves were overthrown by the people (and of course those revolutions were immediately hijacked for liberals to take advantage of) but in most cases, they lacked any major violence. Granted class struggle was expressed much differently in those countries at the time, but there can come a time in the West where the governments could just come to realize that "the game is up" and that the working class is going to take power without there having to be something like the Russian civil war for example.

And yet another interpretation is that he didn't predict the extent to which the bourgeois states would go in terms of things like Welfare reform to "appease" the working class, and the extent sophistication and lengths that they would go on to to divide the working class. I once had a professor claim "well he didn't predict that Capitalists would read Marx too"
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By Vladimir
#1812223
^ populist dictatorship and welfare appeasement do not mean the bourgeoise would be willing to hand over political power without organised violence from proletarian organisations.... And by no criteria were the events of eastern Europe "revolutionary" since the same state and class remained in power. The reforms initially had popular support, but they were at no point directed by it
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By KurtFF8
#1812289
populist dictatorship and welfare appeasement do not mean the bourgeoise would be willing to hand over political power without organised violence from proletarian organisations....


That was my point exactly: Marx was saying this before those two things became a common strategy to divide the working class and prevent its ascent to power.

And by no criteria were the events of eastern Europe "revolutionary" since the same state and class remained in power. The reforms initially had popular support, but they were at no point directed by it


But the point is that the events that lead to a different society were non-violent, and that aspect of the change in social structure alone is what I was examining. That possible model for a non-violent revolution, only in reverse of course: the working class taking power.
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By Vladimir
#1815307
That was my point exactly: Marx was saying this before those two things became a common strategy to divide the working class and prevent its ascent to power.

yes I see, this compromises Marx's thesis on "peaceful revolution"

But the point is that the events that lead to a different society were non-violent, and that aspect of the change in social structure alone is what I was examining. That possible model for a non-violent revolution, only in reverse of course: the working class taking power.

apart from they didn't lead to a different society but were just alterations of the society's form by the ruling class to meet it's interests :hmm:
Of course this hinges on what your interpretation of east European system is - since ours evidently differ we can leave this point
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By ingliz
#1815668
"The bourgeoisie stands for the undivided power of the bourgeoisie.

The class-conscious workers stand for the undivided power of the Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Labourers’, Peasants’, and Soldiers’ Deputies—for undivided power made possible not by adventurist acts, but by clarifying proletarian minds, by emancipating them from the influence of the bourgeoisie.

The petty bourgeoisie—“Social-Democrats”, Socialist-Revolutionaries, etc., etc.—vacillate and, thereby, hinder this clarification and emancipation.

This is the actual, the class alignment of forces that determines our tasks." - Lenin, The Dual Power
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By Eauz
#1817572
Vera Politica wrote:'peaceful means' doesn't necessarily mean non-violent. Read, perhaps, Castellano's critique of the distinction between peace and war. Peace, for Castellano, is simply the concentration of violence in private hands. The revolution through 'peaceful' means simply means, I take it, that the ability for violence has been dispersed enough but concentrated in a robust worker's movement. A quick mass general strike could change society in many advanced nations. This doesn't mean it is non-violent. And, to say it more precisely, we cannot and should not confuse 'peaceful' means with 'reformism'
It is quite possible that this is what he was suggesting. To be fair, if this is what was suggested by Marx, there were numerous forms of general strikes that resulted in state violence and terror. Anyway, thanks for the suggestion.

KurtFF8 wrote:I've actually heard it claimed that the quote you posted here was mainly an example of him trying to "cover his own ass" in a way, since he was living in England at the time.
Not to get involved with conspiracy theories and such, however, this thought did come to mind, especially towards the fact that he was becoming old at the time.
By Muslim
#13091669
I think Nasser in Egypt was an example of that. Nasser himself was brought up in proletariat family. When he became a colonel, he aligned himself with General Muhammad Naguib and formed the Free Officers movement to overthrow the king and replace him with his powerless young heir, while still maintaining the civil government. They didn't mention anything about socialism and even the aristocrats welcomed the coup at the beginning due to the immense non-popularity of the king. When Nasser tried to pass land reforms the civil government opposed it and the PM resigned, so General Naguib formed the government himself and the land reforms were passed. Then Nasser, confident of the support of the proletariat Egyptian majority and the loyalty of the army, overthrew the monarchy completely, abrogated the constitution and banned all the parties. He even got rid of Naguib himself. Aristocrats were completely powerless that everything actually passed peacefully. Nasser, however, was a horrible oppressor. He detained everyone who dared to think of opposing him.
By grassroots1
#13091727
I find it very interesting that Marx talked about this. If any such idea would be put forth by a Marxist these days he would instantly be branded as a revisionist and a reformist. So Marx wasn't that revolutionary after all, hm.


I think most Marxists would prefer a 'peaceful revolution' to a violent one if it was possible, and we must admit that it is at least conceivable. He said that workers would be able to 'achieve their goal,' which I assume means expropriating the means of production and putting them under state control, so it seems that Vladimir and Kurt are right about the fact that there have been confounding variables. But it is interesting to think about how a socialist revolution would manifest in the United States or Europe, and it may yet be true that it is achieved through peaceful means.

A different question: why is it that, according to Marx, a peaceful revolution can be attained in a place like the United States or England but 'in most countries on the Continent the lever of our revolution must be force?' Did he answer that question himself?
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By Beren
#13160785
Peaceful revolution is more possible now than ever. The whole system can really be overthrown through the internet. I mean the financial subsystem for instance. On the other hand it would be a lot easier than ever to organize a peaceful and democratic political campaign in order to seize power without bloodshed.
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By Vera Politica
#13161474
Beren wrote:The whole system can really be overthrown through the internet.


I can see how the internet can be used a useful tool for organization and sabotage, but I fail to see how one can overthrow a government and have a revolution (as opposed to chaotic anarchy) through the internet or by the internet.

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