Reaching for the Heights and Flying without a Safety Net
Revolutionary Worker #1210, August 17, 2003, posted at rwor.org
Editors' Note: The following is taken from the transcript of a tape-recorded talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, toward the end of 2002. It was originally intended for distribution among Party members and others close to the Party, in particular revolutionaries of the newer generations, but we are happy to be able to share excerpts from this talk with our readers. They have been edited and footnotes have been added for publication here.
In moving to a conclusion, there are some challenges that we face, to which I want to call particular attention. First is the very basic challenge of how to actually make revolution in a country like the U.S. -- how to give the fullest expression to the desire of millions and millions of people for another world, especially when that becomes manifest in determined militant uprising against the system -- how to enable them to make the leap to becoming a conscious, organized, revolutionary force that is capable not only of resisting the powerful and vicious suppression that the ruling class will unleash against it, but of actually defeating and breaking the power of that ruling class and its machinery of bloody suppression. Meeting this challenge will require not just relying on the same "usual suspects" to figure things out but also bringing forward whole new layers of people, including from among the younger generations, to take responsibility for this as well.
There is a need for people to take up the challenge of studying and grappling with this question in the realm of theory -- because that's where things are at, at this point. There is a need for new insights and new thinking, as well as for building on what has already been learned or grappled with.
Anybody who thinks for ten seconds about making revolution in a country like the U.S. knows that it is a daunting task, given the whole history of aggression and suppression that the imperialist ruling class has written in the blood of others. And, frankly, most people who have confronted this have given up. I'm not exaggerating. But there is a need not to give up -- the masses, throughout the world and, yes, within the U.S. itself, need this. So we must not only not give up, we have to break through on this contradiction. And we can't do it without the masses of people. We can't do it until we have a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people. But when there is such a situation, when masses of people are in motion, waging determined struggle and demanding a new and different world, they must not be left to the mercy of this ruling class, and they must not be left without a way to win. So that, obviously, is one big challenge.
And another, closely related, big challenge is how to build not just our Party but the movement of opposition as a whole in such a way that it is not crushed by the increasingly repressive actions of the ruling class, even before things get to the point where a complete, radical change in society becomes possible -- so that resistance to the policies, and to the repression, of the ruling class is able to continue, even in the face of heightening repression, and so that the revolutionary trend is able to gain strength and momentum through all this.
I was recently reading an article by Jonathan Turley. He is a constitutional law professor who, as a matter of fact, is on the conservative side of things. He wrote this really heavy article, which I believe first appeared on the L.A. Times website (and which has been extensively quoted in the RW ).
Turley's article was a real broadside against Ashcroft. He spoke to the fact that Ashcroft has come up with this plan for designating not only foreign residents, but citizens of the U.S. as well, enemy combatants and putting them in concentration camps, essentially. Turley was clearly upset that this has been little talked about -- his feeling was that this should be creating a furor and it hasn't. And he said: Al-Qaida is a threat to our life and security, but Ashcroft is a threat to our freedoms. This is a pretty heavy thing coming from a bourgeois constitutional lawyer of conservative bent. What he's pointing to is heavy -- what Ashcroft and the whole political leadership of the ruling class, as concentrated in the Bush administration now, has on its agenda -- and what's also heavy is the way Turley is calling this out and saying there are times in history when people have to stand up for principle and for freedom, and this is one of those times.
Beyond Turley himself, obviously this reflects something very big. If you think about that and the implications of it, this clearly underlines the challenges that are going to be faced by our Party -- and more broadly in terms of building the movement of resistance, in the context of this whole juggernaut of war and repression that has been unleashed by Bush, Ashcroft, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the rest. This poses a truly profound challenge for us. And this, in turn, is dialectically related to enabling the resistance movement as a whole to not only withstand repression but to grow and become stronger even in the face of this repression and to draw ever broader layers of society into active and determined resistance to the whole direction in which the ruling class, and its dominant core now, is taking society and the world.
These are not abstract or "academic" questions. And, once again, we are not going to solve this with just the same old "usual suspects" working on it. We need the leadership of the "usual suspects," but we need many more people from the Party -- and, in various ways, people more broadly -- to help solve this contradiction and to be able to successfully wage a very crucial component of the class struggle -- to resist this repression and not just to survive it but to advance in the face of it, to broaden and deepen the resistance to this whole juggernaut and to develop the revolutionary struggle against the system which has given rise to it. So, here again, there is a need to draw forward new people, people from the new generations, people with new insights, people who would look at these contradictions and examine them from some different angles than the "usual suspects" would be more accustomed to doing.
This is another real challenge that's before the whole Party, but keeping in mind everything I've been speaking to, it is not just a matter for our Party. This is a matter of tremendous consequence for the proletariat, for the masses of people in this country and throughout the world. We could try to walk away from this -- we still might not save our own individual asses, but if we tried to walk away from it, it would make a tremendous difference to the masses of people, in a negative way. And if we don't walk away from it, if we don't try to run and hide but we actually forge the means for coming through this and defeating the bourgeoisie on this front as part of developing the overall revolutionary struggle, throughout the world, that will be a tremendous thing for the proletariat and masses of people -- it will bring things that much closer to revolution, right within the most monstrous imperialist beast, as well as elsewhere -- it will be a tremendous thing for the people of the world.
It is with that kind of orientation and understanding-- taking things that seriously, and recognizing what's on us, in that sense -- that we have to rise to these challenges. I've said this before: sometimes, we feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. And, in a real sense, it is. So this is what we have to be up for. It is on our shoulders -- but not ours alone. There are the masses of people, not just in the U.S. itself but throughout the world; there is the international proletariat, there is the international communist movement, and in particular the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. But those who have an understanding of what is at stake, who grasp the fundamental nature of the problem and the solution, have particular responsibilities that must be taken up with a sense of urgency and determination.
This is the nature of what we're seeking and setting out to do -- because it needs to be done -- not because it's a whim or a fancy of ours, or something that was fashionable at a time and some of us just can't give it up. This is what is demanded by the conditions of the people in the world and by the tendencies of the contradictions in the world and where they need to go and where we have to struggle to take them. We have to be up for this. This is what's on us, and we have to willingly and enthusiastically take it on. So let me just end with that. With this understanding and orientation, we should have a conquering spirit, and in this way we should be on a mission.