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Reform Cannot Bring Liberation

In the United States particularly, the idea that reform is sufficient has been brainwashed into everyone. For example, suppose you are a member of a well-organized trade union, which has some heritage from the real struggles of the 1930s. With economic hardship to solve, the proposal will be made, “Get a wage increase. That will solve our problems.” If the workers go ahead and struggle and get a wage increase, you know how much good it will do. Inflation will rob them of everything they have gained within a few months. There is no way of reforming capitalism.

This doesn’t mean that the fight for reforms is not a tremendously valuable learning and organizing experience. The enduring gains you get out of fighting for reform are the strengthening of your organizations, the raising of your consciousnesses. This is the permanent gain. Economic gains are almost immediately lost. Even political liberties are achieved only until they can be eroded. What you do gain is the strengthening of your organizations and the education of your supporters. This lasts. This is the muscle. Piet Hein said in one of his Grooks [short rhymes] that the struggle that doesn’t quite wipe you out [destroy you] leaves you with lots of muscle.

There is a point in fighting for reforms, there is a point in organizing for them and getting unity around them, but people need to completely drop the notion that reform will bring liberation. It cannot. The struggle for reform can organize and educate you to achieve organization, but the replacement of society is necessary.

Harvey Jackins

From page 49 of Rough Notes from Liberation I and II

(Present Time 188, July 2017)


Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00