Submitted by Camilo Abreu, Portland State Student & International Socialist Organization member
Recently a Portland State Vanguard article “Socialism: You say you want a revolution” posed a fantastic question. Are those championing the socialist revolution transparent? In the interest of that transparency, I not only encourage anyone who would like to find out more about socialism to feel welcome at International Socialist Organization meetings and talk to students like myself who are members, but also feel it would be helpful to address what we mean by a revolutionary restructuring of society.
What is revolutionary socialism? What does a group like the ISO champion? I could discuss the negative symptoms of capitalism, but most people interested in this idea are aware of gross wealth inequality, systematic racism, patriarchal oppression and the exploitation of workers all around the world. When you vote, do you feel like you’re making a serious impact on how your life is governed? I know I don’t. I’m shocked I’ve never been represented by someone who cares about the issues that affect my life, or even wants me to have any discretion in how I can live a life in harmony with nature, with people, with everything. “Socialism from Below” is the thought that we should all have a voice. We should all have direct agency in how our lives are organized. I have enough faith that people are capable of deciding how their lives should be organized without basing that on their gender identity, skin color, amount of wealth, networking abilities or experience in killing people.
A lot of [so called] great thinkers will tell you that you can just purchase your way to equality. Sounds like a fantastic idea if you can afford to purchase equality. Sadly, like most things in life, 90 percent of the world can’t afford to buy their own freedom. Sure, you can tell me society would be a lot better off if I purchased more food or rent instead of owning an iPhone, but then again, my iPhone was purchased thanks to the amount I need to use it for work and school (don’t worry, my employer didn’t offer to help when I asked).
Funnier yet is the fact that most of the world is exploited by wage labor (also most don’t own an iPhone). As revolutionary socialists, we know operating within the system of capitalism will never offer an actual solution to its exploitation. In contrast to the claim that we haven’t seen a society run by workers, there are two points in history in which workers successfully organized society. Two prominent examples are the Paris Commune in 1871 and Russia immediately after the 1917 [October] Revolution, where decisions were made by councils of workers. These examples of people’s power were eventually crushed by outside forces, but we study the good, the bad, and historical conditions in order to inform how we can move toward a revolutionary restructuring of society.
That is not to say that we simply sit around and wait for revolution. Our goals in the present are to build a solid revolutionary party and educate ourselves on the context of the world through Marxist theory. We rally behind actions which improve the lives of people today. In the past year, the ISO has participated in movements including defending reproductive rights, the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, standing against the far-right’s racist violence, among many others.
I was approached by the writer of the previous article to address their questions. As someone who works full time, volunteers, organizes and is a full-time student, I sincerely apologize I didn’t respond fast enough. To answer the tough questions in more detail, join us at 5:30 p.m. every Thursday in the 2nd-floor lobby of Smith.
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