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Scenarios of Revolution
by Dave Stratman
May, 2004

New Democracy calls for democratic revolution. We sometimes get asked just what that means. Are we calling, for example, for “armed struggle.” Here is my response to one questioner.

Revolution in my view means the transformation of life in every area of society with the values and power of ordinary people. It includes breaking the power of corporate and governing elites and ending their rule, but this is only the means to an end. The end is to change the way we live.

Revolutions can only happen in modern society when the overwhelming majority of people refuse to continue living in the same way, refuse to go in the direction our leaders are taking us. This overwhelming majority has to include the military; that is, the military has to decide that it too disagrees profoundly with the direction of society and refuses to use its weapons against its own people.

The problem with "armed struggle" is that it's not realistic–since the government has all the guns–and it's not likely to result in the truly democratic revolution which is our goal.

A more likely scenario is something like what occurred in France in May, 1968 when 10 million workers and students and teachers and others from all walks of life occupied their factories and offices for ten days. Revolution was a very near possibility then. Revolution would have required the strikers to set up elected councils in their factories and schools and to declare their intention to recreate society on a new and democratic basis. The next step, I would imagine, would have been to take over radio and TV stations and key government buildings. The strikers would have declared the powers of the old regime null and void, and proclaimed a new society.

The May developments did come very close to this. People set up city, town, and neighborhood councils all over France during the strike, though not in the factories. By May 24 government authority in Paris had collapsed. Dejected and confused, De Gaulle and his wife fled France for the French military base in Baden-Baden, West Germany, where a surprised General Massu, commander of French forces, was shaken from his sleep at 3 in the morning. De Gaulle had lost confidence that French troops would support him. After hours of discussion General Massu persuaded De Gaulle to go back to France. The Communist union leaders (CGT) opposed the strike from the beginning. After ten days of effort they were finally able to persuade the workers to give up their occupation and go back to work. After De Gaulle returned to France, elections were held from which De Gaulle emerged the victor.

Why did the French May fail? Why did the students and workers and townspeople not make the revolution that seemed imminent? The answer, I think, is that the world had abandoned Communism as a revolutionary idea but had no clear alternative vision of revolution on which to base its hope for the future. It had no clear idea of a third way–not capitalist, not communist, but truly democratic revolution. Without a clear guide to the future, the movement could not go forward and fell apart.

The goal of New Democracy is to remedy this problem. The source of a new world is not to be found in a text of Marx but in the values and struggles of people's everyday lives. Revolution does not consist of stepping into an unknown world but ordinary people gaining the power to shape the rest of society with the best values and relationships that they already share.

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