Friday, April 10, 2009

How fast can consciousness change?

This fast!

About six months into what no honest commentator can any longer deny is a full-on economic depression, and what any class-conscious observer has to admit is a structural crisis of the capitalist system itself, only the barest majority of adults in the United States believe that capitalism is better than socialism.

Fully 20 percent--that's right, one-fifth of the adult population--say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent aren't sure.

The age breakdown is instructive. As you might expect, it's the older crowd that's more fully wedded to the social system devoted to private profit and based on exploitation, racism and war. The younger you go, the fewer the supporters of the broken old ways.

This is great news, and should surprise no one. In times of rapid change--and in particular in periods when workers are directly engaged in the class struggle, either, as now, as victims of capitalism's crisis, or, as will start happening soon, as participants in resistance--minds can open to unconventional ideas where before they were fully in the grip of ruling-class ideology. As anyone who has ever been on strike (I have three times) can testify, all the old assumptions, all the cant, all the lies that you swallowed unthinkingly your whole life up to now start breaking down very fast when your livelihood, even your life, is on the line.

Anticommunists sometimes accuse revolutionists of desiring economic breakdown and mass suffering precisely because these phenomena do inevitably lead to radicalization among the workers and oppressed. This is not true. When our class is in pain, no one feels it more than us. And of course it's not mere sympathy or empathy--we ourselves are among those suffering, we're losing our jobs, our homes, along with everyone else. But it is true that it does take a crisis like the current one to help open people's eyes. It's the job of working-class organizers to fight to stop the bosses from making workers bear the onus of this crisis of their, the bosses', creation--and at the same time to, yes, take advantage of the newly opened eyes to try to win workers over to the necessity for revolutionary change.

There are some wonderful novels that dramatize such efforts, such moments, as they've happened in the past in various other countries. I'll try soon to round up a list and post it here.