The phrase ‘evolution not revolution’ is an apt one for humanity’s progress I believe, but it should be understood that in this context ‘revolution’ refers to a violent one. It is also quite possible to have a non-violent revolution, and in fact, is quite often necessary.
This, of course, doesn’t just apply to political matters. A non-violent revolution is occurring in science and religion as more and more scientists, medical people and others reject orthodox religion and orthodox scientific theories and examine evidence about the nature of consciousness, reality/realities, the universe, etc.
However in politics violent revolution has rarely, if ever, achieved or sustained the objectives of the original revolutionaries, unless their motives were relatively mundane such as replacing one set of oppressors or exploiters with another.
Violent revolutions frequently lead to very repressive dictatorships, which continue to use violent methods to suppress all opposition. Once entrenched in power the violent methods used to overthrow the previous regime are used to crush all opposition to the new regime, so it becomes the opposite of revolution which is not ‘counter-revolution’ but oppression or dictatorship. ‘Counter-revolution’ is a nonsensical phrase used only by regimes in power, because any uprising against a regime must, by definition, be a revolution.
Violent revolutions are usually by a relatively small minority overthrowing the established order and imposing their own, often in the name of ‘the people’. The people, if consulted at all, are not usually involved en masse. The clique which gains power in this way then does everythng it can to hang on to it, while people with ideals are crushed, even if they were the proclaimed ideals of the original revolutionaries. The only people who are not affected are careerists and opportunists who change their allegiences according to how the wind is blowing. This fully explains why nearly all the Bolshevik idealists were killed in Stalin’s purges, and a new ruling class of bureaucrats, politicians, etc. who just paid lip-service to Socialism were largely untouched.
However the phrase ‘evolution not revolution’, while describing a more gradual progress, does not mean that change will be handed on a plate by the current ruling classes to the oppressed. It doesn’t mean, for example, that all the masses have to do is vote in a particular political party in a bourgeois general election and the ruling class will just give up power voluntarily.
The power of the working-class and the broad masses lie in their numerical numbers, and in the fact that not a wheel of industry, even in this mechanical and computer age, can metaphorically turn without them. Those who design and build the machines and computers are workers, those who exploit them, the true ruling classes, rely on the labor power of the masses, even if this is stored up in the machines and computers they designed and created.
The key to imposing progressive change or non-violent revolution is solidarity and organization. There are many ways the masses can achieve this: by organizing themselves into trade unions, by strike action, by forming worker cooperatives so by-passing the capitalist class altogether. A combination of these methods and others, such as the mass protests which brought down regimes in Eastern and Central Europe, can bring about revolutionary change.
Taking just one scenario: if workers form cooperatives they can produce and sell their own products and by supporting these cooperatives, and boycotting capitalist multinationals exploiting their workers in sweatshops, the masses can bring about change. The multinationals go bankcrupt whilst the cooperatives flourish. Combined with strike action in work places where there is no worker ownership and control, change can be forced through by solidarity of the masses. The trouble is this solidarity is so hard to achieve, and the ruling classes are cunning and will use every method of ‘divide and rule’, such as waving juicy carrots in front of the noses of perceived ringleaders and troublemakers to try and win them over. In Britain, the offer of a knighthood or peerage for a trade union leader who doesn’t bring workers out on strike, for instance.
However they can only employ these turncoat methods with a small minority or else there would be nobody left to exploit.
So solidarity and organization is the key to implementing non-violent revolution when the ballot box fails to bring about the required changes. It should also be remembered that the armies, police and security services of the ruling classes are dependent on the masses, so if these too show solidiarity with the oppressed, then the ruling classes are truly powerless. A ship without a rudder.
Never was Karl Marx’s maxim truer than today: Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains! Always remember, without the workers not a wheel can turn, no microchip can be designed or made, and without police and soldiers drawn from the working-classes no ruling class has any power or authority.
The sad truth is that too many of the toiling masses have always allowed themselves to be exploited, and to become willing tools of their own exploitation. This is clearly seen when working class people in the army or police obey orders of the ruling classes the objectives of which are to oppress the masses, halt revolutionary changes or to expand the territories one particular section of the ruling class wishes to exploit, such as the current wars for oil in the Middle East for example. The answer is so simple, working class people shouldn’t be joining the army to fight these wars for the ruling classes!