Revolutionary Agency: In Whose Interests?
Who will struggle for revolutionary change? Many answers have been given in the past. Marxists identify the working class as that sector of society with a vested interest in overthrowing capitalism. Black Power advocates identify people of color as the sector with a vested interest in overturning White Supremacy. Radical Feminism identifies women as bearing a vested interest in ending male domination.
Each of these approaches have part of the truth. To get a clearer sense of what the whole truth is, it is helpful to consider the meaning of democracy. In its simplest form, democracy means that the interests of the majority should determine the ends sought by our political institutions. If we apply this logic to the matter of race or class struggle, it is clear that if the interests of the majority were the guiding force of politics, then people of color and the working masses would have an inherent right to rule the world. In the case of gender, the issue is almost an even split.
So, the obvious question here is, why is a minority – namely, rich white men – running the world? The general answer is power, exercised through a set of specific institutions that enable the dominance of the wealthy white ruling class. Among these institutions are the military, the police, the state, the economy, the family, and religion.
So, are the Marxists right that the most important social struggle is that of the workers against capitalists? Certainly, wealth accounts for a great deal of the power of the ruling class. Using the wage system, capitalism essentially ensnares nearly every person in a competitive struggle to rise above poverty by renting their bodies and labor to the capitalists. The capitalists are primarily interested in profit and greater wealth, not the overall welfare of humanity.
However, there is reason to believe that a purely working-class politics is inadequate. The ruling class is not only wealthy, they are also white. An entire history of racial domination is bound up with the rise of capitalism. The ruling class is also male, and the subordination of women is still a critical part of even the most modern of societies.
Does this suggest that the Anarchist philosophy is the answer? Perhaps the struggle of the majority of humanity against domination is a matter of fighting to dismantle all concentrations of power? There is certainly some truth in that view.
However, as Noam Chomsky, who is sympathetic to anarchism, has said, “abolishing the state is not a political strategy.” If we conceive of a social revolution as the overthrowing of the ruling class in favor of rule by the majority of society, then a merger of the interests of people of color, working-classes, and women holds the most promise. Rather than simply abolishing the State or centralizing economic power in the State, a revolutionary movement will reshape both the government and the economy, as well as the family, the military & police, and religion in the interests of the human majority.