Originally written in 1978. Published in Fraser’s collection of articles and speeches, “Revolution, She Wrote”, available from Red Letter Press.
My favorite candidate for downer-of-the week award is the patronizing radical who tells us “you people are too impatient—Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Well, we people have a lot to be impatient about, and rebuilding imperial Rome isn’t exactly what we had in mind.
Patience is undoubtedly a virtue for radicals. Our grasp of the long view, of the contradictions in the historical process, lends us buoyancy in a sea of troubled waters.
But when a socialist coolly informs some of the most wretched of the earth that they must wait until the revolution, throughout the revolution, and long after the revolution before their oppression is significantly relieved—at that point, patience-and-fortitude turns from virtue into vice.
Why do men tell women to wait for civil rights? Why do whites say it to national and racial minorities and majorities? Why do straights say it to gays, oldsters to youth, the non-handicapped to the walking wounded?
We’ve heard a million times how the remnants of bourgeois culture and discrimination will linger on and on. . .how the evils rooted in class society will not disappear immediately. . .how anyone oppressed in any other way than on-the-job and by-the-boss will have to cool their heels and prepare for virtual centuries of degenerated, chauvinistic workers states unready to guarantee full legal, political, economic and lifestyle equality to those most subjugated under capitalism.
How inspiring. How sensitive. What creative use of the vast power of workers’ democracy for a shining new culture. So we tourist-class folks don’t rate first-class accommodations on the ship of socialism.
Are we supposed to forget the impossible dream?
No way. These prophets of the theory of increasing misery under socialism don’t know their dialectics from the hole in the ground they are digging for themselves.
The patience-mongers have a blueprint for structural change that ignores modern times. Their schema for socialist development, after bourgeois state power and capitalist property relations are abolished, is ass-backward. Their fixed notion about the sequence of revolutionary stages is a theoretical error of the gravest magnitude, betraying a mechanical, Menshevist ignorance of the anatomy of a revolution and the psychology of a revolutionary.
All “you people” born to jeopardy as workers and compounded jeopardy on account of minor characteristics—take heart. You are the locomotive of the revolutionary train. You will decide the priorities of reconstructing the economy and the ideological superstructure. You will see to it that no worker-wallflowers are left waiting and miserable at the socialist ball.
You, the multi-vanguard of the proletariat, are the real “new mass vanguard,” and you have already taken to the drawing boards to design a socialist future that will insure the fact that you and your kind are never again consigned to the back burners of the political agenda. This prospect is no misty utopia, but the living, growing future under construction today.
The mañana-mouthers should have a little faith in human nature. Millions of people are learning to shed regressive biases and ideas. Surely, hard-core pessimists can bother to learn something about the techniques of de-programming worker bigots and undertake educational campaigns to advance this process today.
The “Marxist realist” who thinks the attainment of elementary civil rights is out-of-sight even under socialism speaks for nobody but the white male minority—and he will soon speak for a minority of them. And shortly thereafter he won’t be speaking at all, for his voice—the last voice you heard before leaving the leagues of irrelevant radicals—was the refracted voice of the oppressor.