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Viking Voices in response to 'Socialism: So you say you want a revolution' Illustration by Chloe Kendall

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.


 

Viking Voices is an open platform, rolling submission opinion column open to all Portland State students, faculty and staff.

Submissions are voluntary, unpaid and not guaranteed to be published. All submissions reviewed and selected by Vanguard Opinion Editor.

To be considered, email submissions of 600 words or less. to [email protected] Include name, major and/or PSU affiliation.

3 COMMENTS

  1. This is all great in terms of ideas and such, as socialism usually appears to be, but it leaves a few important questions.

    About the “two points in history in which workers successfully organized society”, how successful were they really? The Paris Commune(1871 btw, not 1781) cost a lot of bloodshed and lasted a paltry two months. Was that a successful worker state?

    And in Russia, within less than a year of “the workers successfully organizing society”, Lenin had already began ordering public extrajudicial hangings of political dissidents and farmers, “kulaks”, who refused to turn over their land to the state. In 1918, Lenin also started the prison camps which would become the Gulag, the forced labor camps that saw millions freeze and starve to death. Was that a successful worker state?

    I’m not even a proponent of capitalism either, I think it’s anything but ideal and I hate coming off like I’m speaking in its defense. But when we consider the terrible regimes of Mao and Pol Pot, the Juche in North Korea, the forced labor camps for LGBT folks in Castro’s early Cuba, and the millions of innocent lives that were lost in the name of “socialist revolution”, it seems pretty goddamn reasonable that people would be skeptical about the next group of people selling that stuff.

    Besides, we’re already beating the shit out of the UN’s millennium goals for reducing poverty, we’re well on our way to eradicating polio and malaria across the globe, and the standard of living for people has been improving worldwide over the last few decades(look it up). So lets just pause for a minute and consider the good that we’re capable of doing under the current system before we start talking about throwing it all away and implementing a socialist revolution, because nearly every socialist revolution the world has seen has resulted in totalitarian regimes and the deaths of millions of innocent people.

  2. During the 20th century, there were numerous attempts at Marxist states.

    I can not think of a single one that was successful and worthy of emulation. Indeed, most were catastrophes from both economic and human rights perspectives, in some cases resulting in the death of millions.

    So I ask, how many more millions must die before socialists “get it right?”

  3. I would have to ask the question, who really is the International Socialist Organization and why are they allowed to meet at Smith Center, free of charge? When one looks up the less savory details, the conclusion starts to look like the ISO is a deep state operation. http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=12011
    Further, the non-profit that controls the money of the ISO is very shady, now owns a mansion in Chicago for their “offices”…. http://mondoweiss.net/2017/07/haymarket-battleground-zionismanti/

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