Must revolutions be violent?

Marxists are revolutionaries. We want a proletarian revolution in which the working class as a whole rises up and transforms society for the benefit of all. This means removing the bourgeoisie – the billionaire class that oppresses and leeches off the working masses around the world.

Does this revolution need to be violent? No. A peaceful transformation of society is entirely possible if the working class as a whole were to use the great power they have at their disposal. But it’s true that the ruling class is also powerful and it won’t give up its dominance of society easily. They control the police and the army, and they have a history of using extreme violence against the working class in conditions of rebellion and revolution if they think their privileges are threatened. Sometimes self-defence is unavoidable in such conditions of opposition.

The stronger a revolutionary party the greater the possibility of rallying the working class as a whole, including members of the police and the army, to the revolution. That would mean defeat for the ruling class more quickly and with minimal violence.

In fact, it’s those who have failed to adopt a revolutionary approach, and those who have refused to build a political party, who have historically led mass movements into bloodshed. Failed revolutionary movements are drowned in blood by the capitalist class who want to teach a lesson to the workers. Only a strong revolutionary party based on a Marxist programme can guarantee the victory of a mass movement and therefore avoid the violent reaction of the ruling class.

Historically the counter-revolutions of the ruling class has always been far more violent than the revolutions of the working masses. One example is the slaughter of an estimated 30,000 men women and children on the streets of Paris in 1871 by the French army as they brutally crushed the Paris Commune. By comparison only a handful of deaths can be attributed to the rise of the Commune itself.

ThE ruling class has no problem with using violence to achieve its goals and terrorise the proletarian revolution. We can’t be pacifists. We’re willing to use violence, in self-defence, to defend our revolution and change society for the better.

This doesn’t mean we’re enthusiastic for bloody revolution. We don’t seek violence and we place all blame for any violence during the revolution squarely at the feet of the ruling class that sometimes makes it necessary. We aim for and work towards a peaceful revolution by building a strong revolutionary organisation.

by Jonathan Lees, Leicester Marxists