For writing this text, two individuals coordinated the work – they organised themselves to pursue a common goal: To give a short answer to the question in the title.
Maybe you are reading a Young Struggle article for the first time and have not been politically active until now. Maybe you are irritated – even unsettled – by organisational flags at demonstrations. Or maybe after years of political activism you think to yourself: “Well, it’s logical! I’m not the only person in the world, so how am I supposed to change it single-handedly?!”
It comes from Medieval Latin ‘individualis’, equivalent to Latin ‘indīviduus’. ‘Indīviduus’ means ‘undivided/indivisible’, which also includes the word ‘dīvidere’, which means ‘to divide a whole into parts’. Looking at this word’s origin shows two things for me: Firstly, that I have the right to be taken seriously as a holistic human being, without being reduced to ‘individual parts’. And secondly, that my existence is inseparably, indivisibly connected to my environment. Marx says: “Being determines consciousness.”
Because we all grow up in capitalist states, we are taught selfishness and the striving to be as ‘individual’ as possible: Celebrities are presented to us on silver platters and showered with money and freedoms. Advertising literally wants to sell us on every street corner how I alone can (or must) make my life better. Every single household has to provide for itself, the majority of (female) workers even provide for several – their own family’s and those of wealthier or rich families. Educational and recreational opportunities are fully accessible primarily to people with capital. And the list could go on forever.
When Marx speaks of ‘being’, he means – roughly summarised – a structure, a basis, certain procedures and patterns of processes on which society organises its coexistence: The way we produce products and services, the way we do business, the state of our technologies and our research. It is the foundation of how we relate to each other, what children and young people are taught, what laws are in the codes, who gets to make decisions, whose interests are most important, whose lives matter most…
Communists want to tear out the roots of this basis of society and let something new grow: Socialism. The aim is to create a system in which work does not consist of shovelling money into the pockets of a few capitalists and a majority of workers and nature have to suffer as a result. With this new social basis, we want to create a breeding ground to learn a new way of living together as humanity: Of solidarity, one that continually dismantles oppression. Socialism should be the school for communism, a stateless society.
But how does one achieve this? Is organised struggle a necessity? Can’t one simply fight without organising?
If we look at the history of class struggles, it is proved that this is not possible. The Makhno (Makhnovshchina) movement that emerged in Ukraine between 1917-1921 can be a good example. This movement – considered an example of ‘anarchism in power’ – had claimed for itself the role of ‘protecting the freedom of workers and peasants from parties, revolutionary committees and such coercive authoritarian institutions and organisations’. The fact that this ‘revolution’, which on paper rejected any kind of authority and organisation, had in practice created its own authority, had shown that any anarchist concept claiming to ‘organise disorganisation’ will fail in revolutionary times. These ‘libertarian’ discourses of the Makhnovists did not correspond to reality. The Red Army was banned, but they still had their Black Army. The Bolshevik Party was banned, but in the areas it controlled, power was in the hands of their own anarchist organisation. The Cheka was also banned, but an intelligence organisation called ‘Counter-Intelligence’ was set up by Makhno. The cold reality of the class struggle and revolutionary upheaval forced an ‘anti-authoritarian’ movement – ‘opposed to any kind of organisation’ – to create its own organs of authority and political structures.
Let’s move on to a closer date. On 17 September 2011, a group called ‘Occupy Wall Street’, made up of mostly white middle-class youth, began a casual protest in the financial districts of New York. This group, which had the goal of camping out in Zucotti Park near Wall Street, actually laid the foundation for the Occupy movement, at least in the West, and this movement soon spread to the other cities in the US and to Europe. This movement, which drew its strength from distrust of the capitalist system, reached out to people mired in poverty, unemployment and lack of a future, and channelled the anger of the masses, though not enough, because it was not also directed against the imperialist state itself, rightly against Wall Street. However, despite this mass strength and aiming in the right direction, this movement shared the same fate with the other uprisings of the 21st century. It developed on its own and blew itself out. This had several basic factors, but one of the most salient reasons is the tendency towards disorganisation caused by postmodern and anarchist/autonomist ways of thinking. Not only was central organisation rejected, but also effective local organisation, which was absolutely necessary. For example, the discussions about how decisions will be made (consensual or by majority vote), whether the private, mainstream media should be allowed, whether a unified goal can be developed and/or what it will look like, caused an incredible waste of energy and time. A lack of organisation to link people to a goal and/or to each other had weakened the movement and led to it being rightly described as ‘a group of people who are politically independent of each other’.
Occupy movement, Gezi, Yellow Vests:
The fate of these self-developing insurgencies and movements will be determined by the degree of organisation and seriousness of their goals, or how serious they are about power. The 21st century will continue to be the age of insurgencies. And in the times when the postmodern currents are so widespread among the left and the revolutionary movement, this wave of uprisings will continue to push ‘itself’ against the walls of the capitalist system and withdraw from it ‘itself’. The dynamic force of the revolutionary struggle, the youth, and its vanguard, the communist youth, has the task today not to be held back by these movements, to detect and correct the ideological, practical and organisational mistakes of the movement, such as anarchist individualism and other types of postmodern influences, to enter the organisation and perspective of taking power and to play a leading role. We can do this, history shows us that youth clear the way for social upheaval. Those who opened the way to the downfall of the junta in Greece were the organised students who occupied the Athens Polytechnic. Those who overthrew the dictator Suharto in Indonesia were the youth in power. Those who started every single revolutionary movement in Turkey were the youth who were organised and had the goal of taking power.
The future is in our hands. The future is the youth. The future is socialism!