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Social Democrats and Leninists

Dag Østerberg
Dag Østerberg
Author, professor. (1938 – 2017) Since the 1960 years has been one of Norway's foremost social theorists and intellectuals. has made important contributions to the so-called positivism debate and has shown a critical profile in his writings.
REFORM AND REVOLUTION / Now, in the era of electoral federation efforts, it is perhaps a worthwhile endeavor to try to think through the concepts of reform and revolution.


Now, in the era of electoral federation efforts, it is perhaps a worthwhile endeavor to try to think through the concepts of reform and revolution. The relationship between the two concepts is generally regarded as a contradiction – what kind of contradiction is it about?

One interpretation of the contradictory relationship could be that the reformists are those who thrive so well, or in a literal and figurative sense have so many shares in the current structure of their society that they are extremely reluctant to take part in political measures where the consequences are uncertain. "You know what you have, but not what you get" – "Play safe". Political movements that try to change the very mode of production in society – the property and working conditions, the material structure, etc. – will easily appear from this point of view as adventurous, despite the fact that the reformists may ultimately ("in principle") agree that the mode of production is unreasonable and unfair.

But the method of production also has its obvious advantages, not least for themselves, and therefore they content themselves with promoting or supporting minor improvements to the formation of society.


Correspondingly, the revolutionaries are to be found among the members of society who join The communist manifesto's words, "have nothing to lose but their chains". There will be those who have nothing to overrule, there will be the desperate, i.e. those who can abandon all hope if the formation of society is not significantly improved. Therefore, one imagines that they are willing to sacrifice or risk everything, in contrast to the reformists. Thus the people become the opposition between revolutionaries and reformists as between the warm and the lukewarm.

From all sides it is now an oversupply of long-term programmes, perspective sketches, forecasts, future research and futurology.

However, it is quite clear that it belongs to the exception that they are the ones who have it worst, who go in to shake the way of production of society – and consequently this interpretation is not apt.

Another interpretation is that the reformists are determined to stay within the strict boundaries of law and order, while the revolutionaries are determined to reshape the mode of production with violence. reform is thought of here as a peaceful change, revolution as a violent uprising. But this interpretation of the difference is unfavorable to the revolutionaries, because it gives the reformists a sanctimonious tinge. Because in reality all groupings in society are attuned to violence in emergencies. "Emergency breaks all laws". Perhaps it is rather the case that it is those who reap the greatest benefit from our mode of production who are most of all prepared for violence.

Gradualists and Leninists

A third interpretation could start from the original meaning of revolution – "upheaval": Wanting revolution would then mean aiming for an abrupt, rapid change in the formation of society – while the reformist is in favor of long-term changes. This is perhaps the main interpretation. And yet: Let us compare the Social Democrats and the Leninists on this point.

They are willing to sacrifice or risk everything, unlike the reformists.

The first are "gradualists", i.e. are in favor of a gradual transformation of social conditions, little by little. "We'll come, um, not so soon." And the way is to control the state apparatus.

Og leninthe icicles? They will first "smash the bourgeois state", then create a new state apparatus, which will then, little by little, in the rather, yes, very long term, crumble or die away.

In practice, these two theories have largely come to the same conclusion, because both agree that the mode of production itself changes slowly, and both agree on state apparatusits meaning. What they are arguing about is primarily whether it is important or right or good prospects for carrying out a coup d'état. But a coup d'état is not in itself something that transforms the mode of production of the social building.

More generally, the debate over social change itself has changed a lot, even just after the last war. Less than ever capitalthe owners and other leading strata particularly conservative. On the contrary. Everyone is now attuned to change. From all quarters there is now an oversupply of long-term programmes, perspective sketches, forecasts, future research, futurology and whatever it is called, and the pace is impeccable around us. Urban areas are razed and traffic machines are set up in their place, villages are depopulated, industries are closed down and restructured, consumer goods and consumption patterns are constantly transformed, and the television medium abolishes old forms of socializing.

Perhaps it is true that Capital is the same, regardless of its forms of appearance, regardless of how it dresses up. But such an observation does not help us to distinguish the good changes from the bad, nor does the distinction between reform and revolution.

What does this lead to? For my own part: To leave the concepts of reform and revolution rest for a while. In my eyes, the main divide is not between reformists and revolutionaries, but between those who trust that industrial production has a generally liberating effect, and those who doubt that there is (any longer) any clear connection between, on the one hand, industrial change and growth, and on the other hand, the liberation and de-escalation of the coercion and , rredømme#ti society.

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