“People involved in a revolution don’t become part of the system; they destroy the system.” -Malcolm X
by Dr. Steven Best
Malcolm X once said, “Revolutions are never compromising. Revolutions are never based upon negotiations.” Were he still alive today, as I pleasantly dreamt he was last night, I imagine he would expound further on the nature of and need for revolution today, amidst the dramatic changes that have unfolded in many realms since his assassination in 1965. I imagined he might say something to this effect:
Revolutions do not come from bedroom bloggers, they do not flow from suburban kitchens baking vegan pies, and they do not crystallize from fragmented consumers posing in the theatres of lifestyle veganism or anarchism. Revolutions ignite, explode, and spread when organized social movements, working in alliance and common cause, disrupt, shut down, and dismantle the machinery of global capitalism — nation by nation, continent by continent, and hemisphere by hemisphere.
Education is important; it’s not for no reason I called it the “passport to the future.” But don’t be a fool or a Socratic buffoon: education is useless without agitation, and learning comes as much from the streets and political struggle as from books and the classrooms.
Revolution doesn’t unfold on its own accord – as the inexorable effect of the “laws of history” or simply “if you want it” — while we patiently wait for the hundredth monkey, the critical mass, the “long march through the institutions,” or the exponential growth of veganism. I can see the critical importance of vegan ethics and diet, but it is still little but another form of white elitism and the glib optimism of a “vegan revolution” is laughably naive given the massive eclipse of “gains” in the Western world by the exponential spike in meat consumption in China and India, the world’s two most populous nations.
No, revolution is a product of vision, knowledge, will, action, and implacable resolve, along with a total repudiation of reformist illusions, corporate media, politicians and the state, and the reconstitution of citizenship and democracy at all local levels.
The objective conditions for radical change – which today stem more from the immediate ecological crisis than the structural problems afflicting the economy and state — are ripe, indeed rotting, and the time for mass and systemic revolt was yesterday, last decade, damn, centuries ago.
The subjective conditions on the whole, especially amidst the decadent complacency and vested interest of the Western privileged elites, are germinal at best, and must be born out, given life, and developed on a scale and pace so unprecedented in our history it might seem unimaginable.
Civil rights, human rights, international rights, the end to sexism, racism, poverty, and war. Hell yes!
But this is a new day, a new epoch, a new world, and from the wonderful new animal and earth liberation movements I have learned that we must also demand the rights of our fellow animals and the rights of nature. We must annihilate the imperialists and colonizers within, discard our arrogance and vanity, respect all sentient beings equally, and live in harmony with life, land, and sea.
Yet there are resilient obstructionist sectors in the animal rights movement, and to this small sect of single-issue liberal consumers, I ask you to say nothing of the “abolition” of speciesism unless you speak also of the abolition of capitalism. For the most deadly malignancy today is the maniacal, implacable, grow-or-die capitalist system which thrives on, growth, profit, power, violent subjugation, repression of dissent, and obsession with absolute control.
You don’t reason with irrationality, fool with fascism, dally with domination, or preach peace to pathological power. You marshal a counter-power, one so entrenched, widespread, uncompromising, and unalterable that it bears the marks of history and portends fantastic possibilities.
Working together, through a diversity of critiques and tactics that mobilize different resistance communities, a flank of militant groups and positions can drive a battering ram into the structures of domination and open the door to a new future.
So please, talk of total revolution, or don’t talk at all. Stay silent about the abolition of speciesism unless you’re working for the abolition of capitalism. Don’t inveigh against the “property status of animals” unless you’re planning to dismantle the whole damn system of private property.
Capitalism owns you; owns me; owns the bulk of land, resources, and wealth; and owns the state, political systems, and courts. Capitalism knows no limits but the abyss, and honors no value but exchange value. Life, blood, suffering, genocide, holocaust, extinction, and biological breakdown mean nothing to the butchers, bankers, nihilists, and sociopaths who command this insane asylum. The system esteems profit as sacred and defiles life as profane; it calls terrorists freedom fighters and freedom fighters terrorists. Everything is upside down, and only revolution can set it right.
But I also know that a post-capitalist society free of economic and political dictatorship will nevertheless remain a reactionary and poisonous dominator culture if not informed and driven by the moral revolution, by the profound paradigm shift that leads us beyond the ancient errors, the entrenched illusions, and the disasters so deeply conditioned by anthropocentrism, humanism, speciesism, and predatory instrumentalism.
We thereby must replace partial struggles with a broader, deeper, more complex and inclusive politics. We must abandon the critique of any one system of domination for a critique of hierarchy itself, as a systemic structure of subjugation and violence, which for ten thousand years has spread throughout human psyches and societies like a cancer.
We shall struggle with all the urgency, militancy, and resolve the current crisis demands, and if we can raise all the fires from hell we may win. But we must never underestimate the fascists who want us silent, imprisoned, and dead, and nor can we judge lightly the daunting challenge before us at this crucial threshold of history, this potential ecological, social, and biological tipping point.
And finally, I urge people to drop the hippie dreams of peace and love; they were a joke in my day and remain a farce today. This is not a conversation, argument, negotiation, or legislative jostle. This is a war, and we have serious enemies everywhere. And to win a war, you take no tactics off the table.
I know that there are deceivers, fools, fundamentalists, and false prophets in the animal liberation movement today, who rail against war-talk but engage full-time in assault, verbal violence, and sabotage of everyone who rejects the Truth that only they, their King, and their initiates comprehend. Strangers to the streets, these domestic captives blog to the choir, and will tell you that resistance, direct action, and militant struggle is a “pro-violence” position (which reminds me of the Christian fundamentalists in my time and who today still maliciously conflate pro-choice with “pro-murder”).
But I don’t call tough tactics violence when it’s self defense or defense of innocent animals and the earth as a whole. I call it intelligence.
And so, brothers and sisters, friends and comrades, and animal and earth liberationists, you are the next revolutionary wave, and I salute you. Fight hard, fight brave, fight together, and fight, above all — as I have always maintained – “by any means necessary.”