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How to Think Like a Realistic Revolutionary

by John Spritzler

June 19, 2012


Some people say that a "realistic revolutionary" is an oxymoron--self-contradictory. They say, "Either be realistic and forget about revolution, or be a revolutionary and forget about being realistic." But this is wrong. Here's how a realistic revolutionary thinks.

Imagine the future revolution happening. Then fill in the mental picture realistically. In particular, identify what social conditions have to exist at that future time in order to make the imagined revolution realistically possible. Forget about whether those social conditions are, themselves, realistically possible; just make sure to identify the conditions that would have to exist for revolution to be realistic. Let's call those conditions "Z."

Now repeat the process by going backwards in time a bit further to identify the "Y" social conditions that realistically are required in order to make the achievement of the "Z" conditions possible. Again, forget about whether these "Y" conditions are, themselves, realistically possible.

Keep repeating this process to identify the "X" conditions, and so forth until you eventually indentify the "A" conditions that must exist at a time in the extremely near future. When done correctly, the "A" conditions will be only a very little bit different from the conditions that actually exist presently. The difference will be so small that getting from the present to the "A" conditions will be realistically quite possible, and the practical steps to get there will be fairly evident.

Now one knows what practical steps need to be taken today to make a revolution in the future. They are not the practical steps that need to be taken when the "Z" conditions exist, or when the "Y" or "M" or even "B" conditions exist. They are the practical steps required to go from the present to the "A" conditions.

Taking the practical steps to get from the present to "A" may not seem "REVOLUTIONARY" in some pre-conceived romantic Hollywood image sense, but they are actually the most revolutionary thing one can do.

Dave Stratman and I tried to carry out this kind of realistic revolutionary thinking and it led us to write the section called, "What Should You Do If You Like These Ideas?" in "Thinking about Revolution." It proposes very practical things one can do immediately that are aimed to move us from where we are today to the "A" condition so that we can then work on getting to the "B" and eventually the "Z" condition. We do not say people should grab a gun and use it to overthrow the rich. We do not say people should launch a General Strike. The conditions for doing these things realistically are not the present conditions.

We do say people should start talking about the need for and possibility of revolution with their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Our premise, based on much experience, is that most people share the values of equality and democracy and concern for one another that are implicitly anti-capitalist, revolutionary, values--the opposite of the capitalist values of inequality, top-down control and competition. Most people, in the little corner of the world over which they have any control, try to shape the world with these values, and resist as best they can the attacks by the ruling class.

The problem today is that most people feel alone in having revolutionary aspirations and often do not even realize that their aspirations are revolutionary. This is the main obstacle to achieving the more advanced "B", "C" and eventually "Z" conditions--which entail things like having large mass organizations with explicitly revolutionary aims. Condition "A" is simply that more people know they are not alone in wanting a revolution, and have some fairly clear idea of what kind of society they want to create (for example how it is different from what Communists have created in the name of "revolution.")

We are collecting signatures in public places for the revolutionary statement, This I Believe, and displaying these signatures on posters (like this one) in public places to move from the present to condition "A."

Please think like a realistic revolutionary and see where it leads you. See if it leads you to where it led Dave Stratman and myself. Let us know what you end up thinking. You can send me email at

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