Not only does that bit of conventional wisdom prove a damning indictment of those who steadfastly believe that capitalism can be reformed or coerced to serve the interests of the working class, but it also applies to the common view among so many leftist groups that violent, vanguardist revolutions can succeed and someday bring the masses to socialism (or vice versa).
While the romantic image of a heroic great war of proletariat liberation may stir the emotions and mind to action, history has delivered sobering rebukes in the form of totalitarianism and state capitalism. Violent "communist" revolutions, undertaken by the minority vanguard and their supporters, have taken place in the following countries:
China, Vietnam, Russia, Bolivia Angola, Madagascar, Bulgaria, Nepal, South Yemen, Cuba, France, North Korea, Laos, Burkina Faso, and Cambodia.
Not exactly shining examples of the class strugle, and definitely not a one of them socialist!
The World Socialist Movement is, as far as we know, alone in choosing a worldwide referendum of capitalism and property law as the instrument of the revolution. Research the platforms of the other "revolutionary" parties and movements – you will find they will fall into two groups: those who think socialism can be achieved through a succession of reforms and transitions of the existing system, and those who think the vast array of deadly force at the command of the ruling class can be somehow defeated militarily in a workers' uprising. Evidently their image of the working and ruling classes hasn't changed much from the early 20th century! Read their literature - they will tell you that socialism can be instituted from the top; with emancipation either trickling down in little measured rivulets or gushing in a bloody torrent. We recognize that revolutions not actively desired by the majority of the world's population are doomed to turn violent, waste the labor and lives of workers, and in the end, fail. Our plan seeks to do the hard work right from the start, to use education to bring socialist ideas to people who have yet to realize the class nature of economic society.
Even if vanguard tactics were logically sound, we have the sorry track records of these movements to dissuade us from entrusting something as important as the liberation of the working class to anyone other than the working class themselves. No group, no matter how smart they are or sophisticated or violent their methods, can make socialism happen without the consent and participation of the workers on whose behalf the revolution should be taking place. Only the willing, thinking, class-conscious workers of the world can bring about a real socialist future. We don't even take into consideration those revolutions, of any sort, occurring in individual countries, as the increasingly global nature of capitalism will ultimately prevent local socialist experiments from succeeding (and there are plentiful real-world examples of this). Besides, to settle for less than the whole globe is to join the thousands of other reformists and cult-like followers of Great Leaders in hopelessness and failure.
For us, the revolution would, for all practical purposes, end the day the ruling class is stripped of its wealth and power. We need only step into the roles we have mapped out for ourselves beforehand. For the other folks, the first shots fired represent only the beginning of a long, bitter, and for all practical purposes doomed struggle, with huge segments of their beloved proletariat feeling the full effects of global economic chaos - not to mention armed ruling class reaction.
As if this wasn't enough to dissuade a reasonable person from placing any stock in violent revolution, working for the global referendum on capitalism has other advantages.For example, we are freed from the albatross of having to come up with, for what ever reason, predictions of a socialist future because we recognize that the shape of the revolution will be decided by those taking part in it in a democratic fashion. We are not held in thrall to this or that vision of utopia and necessarily forced to direct our activities to achieving goals set so narrow. Instead, we are free to form the necessary associations (technical, professional, philosophical, etc.) before the revolution so that Day 1 is planned according to what is needed and desired, and not what is left for us by a hopefully broken and irrelevant ruling class. We can develop the necessary rules to live by ahead of time and we will all have a say in them.
Furthermore, we attack capitalism and the ruling class by turning their own weapon against them, the law. The law is what provides them with justification for hoarding the world's wealth, and the means to protect that hoard through the use of deadly force or imprisonment. Humanity accepted the rule of law long ago (involuntarily it seems) and like it or not, we are not going to be able to kill it with guns or bombs. However, once lawful ownership of the land and private property is abolished, the ruling class's foundation of existence at once disappears. It is doubtful that an enlightened humanity would ever accept being bound in the chains of class slavery again. Therefore, we as a species are going to have to summarily reject the legitimacy of law and property with one unified voice. The ballot will serve as the most elegant and incontrovertible expression of the interests of the working class.
We are often criticized, sometimes by our own members, that our revolution seems too far in the distant future and is not worth waiting for when many more "practical" things can be done now (i.e. reforms). Thinking this through, one would see that if we are truly sticking to our guns of accomplishing a worldwide revolution, we have so much work to do (just in planning a brand new production and distribution system alone) that a speedy revolution would be counterproductive. The WSM only wants to do the revolution once, and therefore it has to be done right, the way we all want it, the first time; this will only happen when the majority of humanity is on-board and focused on democratically decided goals and the methods to achieve them.That's why we choose the ballot over the bullet.