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Mainstream, Vol LII, No 15, April 5, 2014

The Path of Revolution

Sunday 6 April 2014, by Bharat Dogra

‘Revolution’ has been a very inspiring word for millions of people working for creating a better world. However, vested interests have often also misused this word. So it is important to try to define ‘revolution’ in the present-day context in clear and simple terms.

Whether we see at world level or at the level of our country, it is clear that pain and suffering exist on a large scale. Most of this distress is related to inequalities, exploitation, domination, cruelty, insensitivity and irresponsibility and can be reduced to a great extent by well-planned efforts.

One approach is to initiate sporadic efforts here and there to reduce distress without bothering much about the basic causes of this distress. This is a reform and relief-oriented approach which has only limited role. This is certainly not the path of revolution.

The path of revolution is to form a comprehensive understanding of the root causes of this many-sided distress and then to make the greatest possible, well-planned and co-ordinated efforts to reduce the prevailing distress as well as the basic causes of this distress.

Revolution occurs when most of the people join the path of revolution, or this path becomes the main path of a society. While getting hold of state power can be certainly helpful in this, it is not an essential condition. The basic force of a revolution consists of people, not of state power.

Taking the path of revolution does not mean giving up all short-term efforts of temporary relief. This can be necessary at times but one should not get limited to this and remain firm about the wider thinking on revolution.

Secondly, when we mention the basic causes of distress, we mean not only the existing causes but also future causes which can be foreseen today on the basis of the available evidence. The task of reducing distress and short-term causes of distress should be integrated with reducing the distress of future generations and the longer-term causes of this distress.

Thirdly, it should be clear that when we talk about reducing distress, we mean the distress of not just all human beings but distress of all forms of life including mammals, birds, fish, insects, reptiles etc. The earth planet belongs to all forms of life which exist on it. Most of them experience pain and suffering. So while giving some priority to the distress of human beings can be understood, it is important to keep in mind the wider objective of reducing the distress of all forms of life.

The present-day world is dominated by the capitalist economic system which has important linkages in social, cultural and political spheres. The inequalities, exploitation, domination and alienation which are responsible for a lot of distress are an inherent part of capitalism. So the path of revolution necessarily involves a search for alternatives to capitalism.

A significant alternative exists in the form of the modern concept of socialism. The need for evolving the concept of socialism further to make it more democratic, inclusive, human and compassionate has been widely felt.

Human civilisations have witnessed many-sided efforts for justice and cooperation against injustice and domination. We need to learn from all these efforts and so the search for alternatives has to be a much wider effort.

A question is frequently asked—whether violence is necessary for revolution. Revolution is essentially linked to reducing distress and its many causes. As violence at various levels is also a leading cause of distress in the world, the path of violence cannot be the path of revolution. Whether it is violence between man and man, or among various groups or nations, or the violence of men against nature and other forms of life, all these forms of violence increase distress. The path of revolution needs widespread dialogue, discussion, cooperation and transparency, which are not possible in situations of violence and conspiracy. So the path of revolution is basically the path of peace although revolutionaries should feel free to make any preparations aimed only at self-defence.

Some basic human values are very important for all those who want to be on the path of revolution. They should try to avoid causing any distress to others. They should have a firm faith in justice, equality and fraternity. They should have a firm belief in cooperation and should be opposed to dominance. They should be willing to accept hardships and difficulties for their ideals. They should be honest at all levels. Anyone who has these basic human values and/or makes a conscious effort in this direction should be able to make a good contribution to revolution. Such a person may follow any religion, or may be an atheist, this is not of any great importance. Persons of all religions as well as atheists are welcome to work together without any discrimination for the cause of revolution.

Many promising and useful efforts and movements already exist. For the success of revolution efforts should be made to unite such efforts as well as ensure that they have linkages with each other and understanding of each other. All promising efforts no matter how small should be appreciated and their potential realised. There should be a beautiful combination of struggles and creative constructive tasks.

Justice and equality have long been accepted as the objectives of revolution. The broader struggle against injustice and inequality rooted in imperialism remains equally relevant today despite the changing forms of imperialism. These concerns should be widened particularly to include the most pressing problems of our times. Issues like climate change and weapons of mass destruction present a threat to the very survival of many forms of life. All such issues of great importance need to be incorporated, particularly issues of gender, peace and environment protection.

The process of revolution is a never-ending process as even when revolution comes the task of protecting and strengthening the revolution continues.

At local levels the pursuit of the revolutionary path can contribute to reducing distress to some extent even in a relatively short time. Also this path helps to reduce distress including alienation at a personal level as well. Human life gets a wider meaning, and this helps to avoid many pitfalls. Human beings get many more chances to utilise their creativity and improve their ability to study and analyse.

Bharat Dogra is a free-lance journalist who has been involved with several social initiatives and movements.