How can workers ever run society?

The working class is the only class that has the power to overthrow the capitalist system and build a socialist society free of exploitation, oppression, poverty, and want.

But how can workers ever run the whole of society, its factories, its mines, its offices without bosses, without capitalists, without corporations, and without cops, courts, and jails? How can workers who vote for Republicans, eat at McDonald's, shop at Wal Mart, and watch football or baseball instead of protesting be expected to not only run society but run it better than those who are mismanaging things now?

Obviously the consciousness of the working class has to change dramatically for a socialist revolution to occur. Workers who think they can get by by playing by all the rules in today's society are not going to strike, break the law, or overthrow the government.

Karl Marx explained that a revolution is necessary not only because the ruling class won't simply surrender and give up its wealth and power voluntarily, but also because it is only through a revolution, a massive struggle, an intense clash of social forces that workers' ideas change enough to make them ready to rule.

The famous American socialist, Eugene Debs, began his career as an apolitical union leader completely hostile to socialism. He voted loyally for the Democratic Party. However, when the government got involved to smash the Pullman strike he led, he saw with his own eyes that the socialists he derided were 100% right to denounce the state as a tool of the corporations and the rich. As he vividly put it, "In the gleam of every bayonet and the flash of every rifle the class struggle was revealed. He went on to win almost a million votes on Socialist Party USA's ticket while he was in jail for opposing World War One, a war the Democrats got the U.S. involved with.

The revolution that began in Egypt on January 25, 2011 that eventually overthrew Hosni Mubarak is another good example of how struggle changes consciousness. As the weekly protests in Tahrir Square swelled, harassment of women there became almost non-existent as the anger of male and female students, workers, doctors, and the urban poor focused on the regime. This was unprecedented because sexism is fairly strong in Egypt. Women played a leading role in the revolution, organizing the protests and leading many demonstrations, sometimes with their children. (Read more about the role women played in Tahrir square by clicking here.) When a large throng of men (possibly policemen in plainclothes) sexually assaulted Western journalist Lara Logan in Tahrir Square, it was women who banded together and got help from nearby soldiers to rescue her.

Another famous incident from the revolution was when Coptic Christians, an oppressed religious minority, formed a human chain around Muslims in Tahrir Square in order to protect them from police attacks while they prayed five times a day in accordance with their faith. Egypt's Coptic Christians have been attacked by mobs of Muslims in the past and their churches burned (it later turned out that many of the bombings and attacks on them were organized by Mubarak's secret police. This was discovered after protesters stormed the headquarters of the secret police). During the revolution, priests and imams marched against Mubarak hand in hand, one holding the Bible and the other holding the Quran.

These examples show that revolution changes the people who participate in it. People who one day cursed at minority groups or trembled in fear at the sight of a policemen the next day joined with minority groups to bring down the hated regime and storm its police stations. Workers who were indifferent to politics or afraid to complain about their workplace conditions end up leading strikes and sit-ins where they work to demand better pay.

Workers are twisted by capitalism but they are also steeled for battle by it, to paraphrase Lenin.

Capitalism continually forces workers to make a choice: fight back or see your standard of living decline. It compels them to struggle. When workers begin to move, incorrect ideas that they hold can change very quickly when they find out everything they were brought up to believe was a lie: the government does not represent the will of the people; the police are not neutral in labor disputes; freedom to protest is continually curtailed; you can play by all the rules and still end up old, broke, and without a job or health care; etc.

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