The paradigm of capitalism and colonialism has naturally produced a long series of backlashes from those who haven’t benefited from these systems. The first time that the resistance efforts took an entire nationwide territory from these forces of oppression was during the first series of successful anti-colonial revolutions. Starting with overthrows like the 1804 Haitian liberation from the French empire, a period in history started which can be called the First Wave of anti-colonial and anti-capitalist revolutions.
The wave took on a more directly anti-capitalist nature during the Paris Commune of 1871, where armed workers seized Paris and formed a system of government that Karl Marx described as a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” While this seizure of territory from the bourgeoisie was short-lived, it helped inform the revolutionary analysis of Marx and other socialist theorists, making way for the Paris Commune’s model of proletarian democracy to be implemented on nationwide scales.
This was accomplished during the Second Wave of revolutions, which began with the Russian revolution of 1917. Using the ideas for creating a Marxist state that were put forth by Vladimir Lenin, revolutionaries around the world followed in Russia’s path. China, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Laos, Germany, and other nations adopted the Marxist-Leninist model. This series of revolutions partly correlated with the African decolonization movement of the 20th century, which was helped when Cuba provided arms to anti-colonial struggles in the region.
It can be argued that the Second Wave ended with the Sandinista revolution of Nicaragua in 1979, which would be the last socialist revolution that the world saw for decades. The most significant gain for socialism since then has been the ongoing electoral triumph of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, which began with the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998. Latin America’s “Pink Tide” of left-populist electoral victories in the 2000s, despite having been part of a proletarian response to neoliberalism, wasn’t exactly revolutionary; because of its limitations to working within bourgeois democracy, it couldn’t create a dictatorship of the proletariat within any countries. As a result, the capitalist class maintained the upper hand, and the last of the Pink Tide leaders Evo Morales was ousted in a U.S. coup last year.
To Morales’ credit, he’s explicitly described himself as a Marxist-Leninist, and he set up an anti-imperialist military school to try to stop Bolivia’s military from betraying him like it did. The imperialists were successful at removing him because of the conditions of the time that he governed during, which allowed him not to overthrow the Bolivian government but to merely be elected as its president in 2005. When the factors change, socialist and anti-colonial revolutionaries like him will again be able to overthrow and replace states, ushering in the Third Wave of revolutions.
This new wave may have started last year, when the people of Sudan overthrew their dictator in response to his neoliberal policies. But what hasn’t yet happened in Sudan’s story—and what would definitively make Sudan into the first nation to take part in the Third Wave of revolutions—is an outcome where the country’s ongoing transition to democracy results in the proletariat acting as a dictatorship. As Anne Alexander wrote about Sudan this March: “It is right to celebrate the return of revolutionary possibilities, and to salute the creativity and resilience of the protesters whose courage is driving these mobilisations forward. But there are also crucial questions to debate. How will these revolts avoid the fate of the previous round of uprisings?”
Alexander argues that in Sudan and other countries that are experiencing revolutionary crises, successful revolution “requires the further development of these kinds of popular revolt into revolutions where collective action by the organised working class is more than an engine of mass mobilisation, but also provides a real and democratically accountable leadership for ‘the people’ in their battle against the state.” Socialists have known this since the Paris Commune or earlier. It’s a basic practical reality that unless you have a vanguard to carry out the will of the proletariat and present the masses with a coherent political program, the forces of bourgeois counter-revolution will be able to gain a presence within the power vacuum that an overthrown government creates.
The conditions for more uprisings like the one in Sudan are rapidly being brought to much of the rest of the capitalist world. Economic collapse and the capitalist contradictions exposed by Covid-19 have already produced a protest movement within the United States which reflects the recent ones in Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere. The accelerating decline of the U.S. empire and the climate collapse will create further destabilizing events.
But that’s all that these unprecedented 21st century capitalist crises are: destabilizing factors. They don’t drive society towards revolution on their own. We need to utilize them towards building a global movement that can overthrow and replace the world’s remaining capitalist and settler-colonial states.
For those who are serious about helping bring about the new wave of revolutions, this entails an intensive regimen of studying and working. We must gain the knowledge in Marxist theory needed to take the proper actions in our mission of overthrowing the capitalist governments we live under. We must build the parties needed for facilitating the transition into a revolutionary government. We must equip ourselves to defend from capitalist violence.
In the imperial core, as well as in imperialist neo-colonies like Bolivia and Brazil, the main obstacle that people are facing towards this goal of revolutionary organizing is repression from the capitalist state. Bolivia’s coup regime just suspended elections for the third time, Bolsonaro’s administration has been preparing to repeat the recent violent repression of the Trump administration, and Trump has been using Gestapo-style tactics to counter anti-racist protesters. The forces of reaction hope that if their war against dissent is successful, this next wave of uprisings won’t result in any actual revolutions. We must prove them wrong by putting in the necessary work.
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