Why have some socialists advocated revolution rather than reform?

Some socialists, particularly fundamental socialists, have advocated the need for revolution, a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favour of a new system.

Some socialists, particularly fundamental socialists, have advocated the need for revolution, a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favour of a new system.

Nineteenth century socialists in particular advocated revolution because there were no other alternative methods of bringing about socialism. The working class was excluded from political life as they didn’t have the right to vote and were not allowed to be a part of other political movements. For example, in Russia, where the 1917 socialist revolution occurred, workers had been banned from joining trade unions, and thus felt that revolution was required. Landed aristocracies controlled autocratic monarchies and where representative governments existed the vote was restricted to certain people (normally through a property qualification to the middle classes).

Socialists have also seen reform as being pointless because the state is an agent of class oppression, acting in the interests of the ruling classes. The Bourgeois state is seen by socialists to be biased in favour of capital and its political power reflects the class interests of the bourgeois. Furthermore, suffrage and elections are a façade designed to conceal the reality of unequal class and misdirect the energies of the working class. Therefore, there is no alternative but to overthrow the bourgeois state through a revolution because reform will not solve the fundamental problem of the oppressive Bourgeois state.

Socialists have also advocated revolution because it promises to bring about a complete transformation of society. The remnants of the old capitalist system can be eradicated and an entirely new system can be constructed to replace it, with this system usually being state collectivism. This idea can be most clearly seen in the way in which the Khemer Rouge, upon seizing power in Cambodia in 1975, proclaimed ‘Year Zero’.

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