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Draft dealing with the historical background, as it stood after several rounds of discussion:

What follows is not, of course, a complete survey of revolutionary or socialist history. There is, in particular, much important history that precedes 1905. We will talk more about this, and its place in our analysis, in part 2 of the present declaration. But our goal for the moment is to contrast two starkly different periods1905 to 1979 and 1979 to the presentsince the difference between them deeply affects political prospects for revolutionaries in the second decade of the 21st century. During the first of these periods every human being on the planet grew up with the experience of social revolution as a concrete and meaningful reality, or at least as a tangible possibility. In subsequent years however, in particular since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990, the situation has been the opposite.

We select the date1905 because that is when revolution openly erupted in Russia. Even earlier, however, Social-Democratic parties with mass support began to emerge in Europe, continuing to strengthen themselves up to the beginning of the first world war. (There was some reflection of this in the USA as well). In 1910 a revolution broke out in Mexico and by 1920 the insurgent forces had consolidated themselves in power. In 1917, meanwhile, Soviet power was established in Russia. During the 1920s and 1930s Europe saw multiple struggles pregnant with the possibility of revolutionin Germany, France, Britain, and Spain among others. The end of the second world war was accompanied by the expansion of Soviet-style regimes in Eastern Europe, the Greek civil war, and the victory of the Chinese revolution. The rest of the 1940s and all of the 1950s were marked by the anti-colonial revolution―a global upheaval which always contained at least a significant pro-socialist current, developed most significantly in Cuba after the victory of the July 26th Movement in 1959. During the 1960s this process continued, with important experiences (both positive and negative) in places like Egypt, Algeria, and Indonesia. Another high point was reached when Saigon fell to the National Liberation Front in 1975. Echoes of the old revolutionary Europe could be heard in France (1968) and Portugal (1974-75). The Vietnamese victory was followed by Nicaragua and Grenada in 1979.

These events helped shape the consciousness of multiple generations, stimulating ideological discussions that developed hundreds of thousands of revolutionaries on a global scale. 

Starting in the 1980s, however, things changed tangibly. In 1983 Grenada was invaded outright by the USA and the New Jewel leadership overthrown. 1990, in addition to the fall of the Berlin Wall, saw the Sandinistas voted out of power by the Nicaraguan people, worn down by a US-sponsored Contra war. The restoration of an overt and particularly rapacious form of capitalism proceeded apace in the former Soviet Bloc during the 1990s, and Vietnam soon began following the Chinese in adapting to a market economy. 

Further, since 1979 there have been only sporadic and partial positive struggles (Ireland, South Africa, Palestine, The Philippines, Venezuela, Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, especially amongst indigenous peoples) each severely limited by the prevailing political and economic climate. For the most part the world has been dominated over the last three decades by an increasingly triumphant imperial project, with no visible alternative in place. This social reality, like the previous reality from 1905 to 1979, has shaped human consciousness. Anti-capitalist revolution no longer seems inevitable, or even possible, to the overwhelming majority of individuals who came of age in the new era―that is, everyone who is less than 45-years-old today. It seems, instead, like a distant dream.


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Comment by Salvatore Engel-DiMauro:

I certainly agree about the period since that late 1980s, but not with respect to the significance of the Berlin Wall. Actually I find the bombings of Panama and of Iraq (those really hit me hard in general, as I was just coming of political age then) and the tanks bombing the Duma to be much more important demarcating signals, rather than the Berlin Wall, which reduces the change to bourgeois propaganda dictates and whitewashes history.

About 1905 to 1979: let me just say that it was also the constant crushing of revolutionary potential and of completion and initiation of genocides in the Americas. That is, there certainly was what is aptly described in social expectations and truly revolutionary potentials, but to focus only on that erases, for example, the so-called "American-Indian Wars" that did not end until 1924 and the "Mexican-Indian Wars" that went on even longer. (Where exactly were all those heady anticapitalist revolutionaries when it counted for the decolonisation struggles?) It also misses the ongoing genocidal incursions into the Amazon, for example, the genocide against the Herero in what is now Namibia (under progressive social-democratic Germany!), the repression of the Evenki and other nomadic peoples in the USSR, the repression of Adivasi peoples under "socialist" India, the racism against Romanies throughout the state-socialist countries and among socialists of most persuasions in western European contexts, the erasure of Taino in Cuba, the tensions with the Miskito in Nicaragua, and one could go on.

So, which societies are we talking about when talking about social expectations or revolutionary potential? What expectations, where, whose criteria? Notions of progress that in practice were put into action by pillage, including through state socialist systems (Che Guevara was among those pointing this out already in the late 1950s, if i am not mistaken), are hardly worthy of what we should stand for. It is not that we should deny that there were useful elements in the movements of 1905-1979 or that there were genuine revolutionary possibilites, but we cannot go on talking about history in such a monolithic fashion, excluding the histories of so many peoples that experienced the 1905-1979 period and beyond as a series of crushing defeats (i.e., reactionary phases) and of outright horrors, including in situations of revolutionary potential.
In many situations of colonialism it has hardly been a "socialist" consciousness that has been developing, but rather a revival of tradition and of resistance/cultural survival strategies, even as responses to those very societies where "socialist" consciousness was on the rise. My disagreement here is not about whether or not there was revolutionary potential in 1905-1979 and whether or not since the 1990s things have become rapidly worse. The problem for me is the presentation of those periods in such selective ways. The eventual success of the Viet Cong in the 1970s was a period of devastation for Hmong communities, for example, and therefore hardly a period of revolutionary potential if one takes that perspective. The post-1946 success of the Communist Party in Italy was actually part of an overall defeat of the working class there. The major headway of Belgian socialism in the early 20th century spelled nothing but continued dictatorship and massacres for peoples in the Congo. What seems like revolutionary potential actually had major reactionary characteristics, depending on whose history, which peoples one considers. So, I am asking for a much wider view of history and a much more critical look at received views of revolutonary accomplishments.

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