It is not uncommon to encounter skepticism or even extreme pessimism about the possibility of a socialist revolution in the United States of America. We hear things like, “I agree that we need a socialist revolution, but that’s never going to happen in America,” or “Isn’t the American working class too ‘privileged’ to revolt?”
Given decades of ideological onslaught against communism and socialism in schools and in the media, and the effects of the post-World War II economic boom, which temporarily blunted class consciousness for an entire historical period, it is easy to assume that the US will remain capitalist forever. But the tide is now turning, and it must be emphasized that even the most powerful imperialist power on earth is not immune to the laws of the class struggle!
Throughout history, revolutions have exploded in what seemed to be the most unlikely places. In 2011, the Arab Spring started in Tunisia, which only a few months earlier had been deemed a model country by US imperialism. In 1978, the CIA considered Iran as the most stable country in the Middle East—not long before the Shah was overthrown in the 1979 Iranian Revolution. And let us not forget that prior to the 1917 Russian Revolution—the first time the working class took power and began the socialist transformation of society—the Tsarist Empire was viewed by almost everyone as an utterly conservative and reactionary society.
But it isn’t just the poorer, ex-colonial, or semi-colonial countries that are prone to revolution. The German Revolutions in 1918 and 1923, and the British General Strike in 1926, show us that even in the economic powerhouses of capitalism, the contradictions of capitalism cannot be fundamentally overcome. In fact, in 1968, the largest revolutionary general strike in history shook France. This was a country that had been lauded for its high living standards, and it occurred during a period of economic upswing!
All of this goes to show that it is not the absolute level of want or poverty that makes a revolution, but rather the constant instability of the system, which eventually pushes the masses of workers to realize that they need to take matters into their own hands. For Marxists, this is the essence of a revolutionary situation.
Revolutions are an objective phenomena under class society. They develop according to their own laws, and occur independently of the will of any individual or even of society as a whole. Just as we can confidently say that earthquakes will erupt due to the constant motion of the tectonic plates, history proves that revolutions are an inevitable result of a society divided into opposing classes. While we can’t predict the exact time, date, and location of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or revolutions, we can be sure that they are coming.
Still, some argue that the US—with its advanced military, and home to the richest people on earth—is a unique beast. “Surely, this must be a special case!” But this is ultimately just an inverse reflection of “American Exceptionalism,” the idea that the US is somehow unique and fundamentally different from all other countries or civilizations. While it is easy for radical youth to reject the notion that the US is “the best,” it is ultimately the same kind of logic to argue that the US working class is uniquely inert and reactionary, or that communism is uniquely alien to American shores.
In fact, communism and class struggle have a long and heroic history in the US, and the American working class has militant and revolutionary traditions. From the 1776 Revolution, to the revolutionary war to overthrow slavery in the 1860s, to the rise of the industrial working class and the building of the American labor movement, class struggle has deep roots in this country.
And if all that were not enough, we should bear in mind that consciousness changes over time, and is deeply impacted by events. According to a 2023 poll, 11% of the population—over 28 million adults— believe that “communism is the ideal economic system.” This means that a large swath of Americans are already communists!
The broad trajectory of US society in the recent period gives us a sense of where things are headed. The 2008 economic crisis, the 2011 Occupy movement, BLM, the rise and fall of Bernie Sanders and the DSA, the recent uptick in labor actions and unionization campaigns, the pandemic and 2020 economic crisis, and above all, the monumental 2020 George Floyd uprising, show us that economic and political instability—and above all, the class struggle—are on the rise.
Even greater events are in our future. The question is not, “will a revolution happen?” but rather, when? And will we be prepared? This is what motivates the American communists to carry out our most pressing task: to build a revolutionary party capable of uniting the working class in a struggle to carry through the American socialist revolution. Once US capitalism is overthrown, the final victory of the world socialist revolution will be squarely on the agenda.