Any history documentary or modern biography of Marx you consult will invariably claim his prediction of a proletarian revolution in Western industrialised nations never came true (although his prediction of one in Imperial Russia was more accurate). It never came true, because, they say, instead of the upper classes maintaining their power over the forces of production and the working classes being squashed under the pressure of poverty and unfairness, the working classes began to become wealthier as GDP was more evenly spread, and material living and working conditions improved as technological progress meant less need for manual labourers in factories. Thus, there was never a need for a proletarian revolution, and the great political and social upheaval that Marx called ‘inevitable’ never came to be.

I think that’s wrong.

Because once the human need to be equal has been met (as much as it can be, in an inherently unequal society), other needs become apparent, and thus the inequality of social classes continues.

So what are these other needs?

In the last decade the world has taken a sharp turn away from business as usual in the worlds of politics, finance and economics. The downfall of formerly ‘cornerstone’ banking institutions first in the United States, then in the UK, and elsewhere in the developed world kickstarted a widespread mistrust of the financial establishment and so ensued the financial crisis that still exists today, despite the premature optimism spread by governments about minute fractions of economic recovery.

The economy is up shit creek without a paddle.

To aid ‘recovery’, governments (be it the US government, the UK, or any of the locomotive European administrations – primarily Germany and France) have supplied forsaken banking institutions with billions of pounds, dollars and euros out of taxpayers’ pockets, only for said institutions to effectively stay the same. Bailouts have done little to revolutionise the way banking works or increase the accountability financial management carries towards the modest wealth of the working classes. Isn’t there still a disparity between the working classes and the politically powerful? Don’t the government and the financial establishment have a good thing going, keeping each other afloat at the expense of working taxpayers who aren’t nearly as wealthy as they are?

We have seen far too many expensive and unjustified wars started under the pretext of ‘spreading democracy’ around the world. Can we really argue that everyday life for working people is safer, happier, more prosperous in Iraq and Afghanistan than it was before the governments of the US and other Western allies decided to conduct invasions there? Don’t we still hear about bomblasts, civilian deaths, single-soldier massacres on the news nearly every day? Apart from the thousands of needless deaths in these nations, haven’t enough personnel in Western forces died in these forsaken wars? Haven’t the taxpayers of these Western powers spent enough on killing? Do we still need more? Couldn’t that money be better spent on education, healthcare, transport and infrastructure for the working people of America and Europe?

In the last decade we have seen an increasing demand on the part of ‘the people’ for transparency in government and in social institutions. There has been an explosion of interest in freedom of information, in institutions and public authorities being accountable to ‘the people’. In other words, there has started an intense public desire for truth – particularly truth from governments. We have seen the advent of social media and global information exchange platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. We have seen the inception of the concept of ‘whistleblowing’ – of stepping away from complacently going along with institutional authorities and revealing the unethical activities they conduct, often secretly and at the expense of less powerful people. Today, WikiLeaks has become the prime example of platforms that operate anonymously and globally to publish authorities’ unethical activities in the public domain to reveal the truth to all people. Now that we know the inside stories of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, and of the CIA and other Western superpower organisations, and of the illegal detainment of individuals without charge or trial, aren’t we eager to demand accountability from those that ‘govern’ us? Don’t we find it unfair that so much injustice has been done and kept secret by the powerful?

I think to deny that Marx’s prediction of a proletarian revolution ever came true is a fallacy. Yes, there was no workers’ revolution in the sense of physical upheaval and bloodshed in the 150 years after the Communist Manifesto was published. But that is not the type of revolution you would expect in Western countries today. We are too tame, too civilised, too comfortable in our one-bedroom flats with central heating to spill onto the streets and slay the politicians and the bankers and institute a ruling workers’ class.

I think there’s still a revolution pending. It’s a little way off, not fully visible to us yet, and in fact we may be in its beginnings right now and not even recognise it. There is a revolution of ordinary working people on the way, a revolution in search of open governance and transparency in all public authorities, in search of heavy accountability in governments both in the decisions they make and the money they spend, and in search of truth. This revolution will not spill much blood, nor, perhaps unfortunately, will it kill many of the authority figures that continue to behave unethically. Instead, it will be a digital revolution – of ordinary, working people taking to Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter to denounce closed government and secret-keeping and to support all organisations that gainlessly act for the exposition of truth. Not satisfied with “#freedom” or “#truth” trending in cyberspace, these people will spill onto the streets not to kill or to take power over the forces of production, but to engage in protest for freedom of speech, freedom of information, and freedom for Assange.

Though not in quite the way he might have intended, Marx’s revolution will come true. Just wait and see.

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