Revolution #146, October 26, 2008
What Is Counter-Revolution?
Revolution is a serious matter. It is not something to be played at.
Exactly because revolution means bringing to an end the power held by the capitalist-imperialists over the lives of billions, those who hold that power will oppose it in every way they can—via direct representatives of the state and working with other "freelance" operatives. There will also be organized reactionary forces who uphold the system and are threatened by the possibility of revolutionary change—they too will actively work against revolution and revolutionary organizations. This is to be expected. Revolution will bring counter-revolution. But then there is another type of counter-revolution—people who emerge from within the camp of opposition to the present order and pose as revolutionaries, but whose sole, or essential, purpose and reason for existence is to destroy genuine revolutionary organizations and revolutionary leaders—leadership that is necessary if there is to be a revolution.
To be clear, then, counter-revolution means active opposition to revolution, with the intent to destroy the revolution, revolutionary group, or individual.
Those serious about making revolution must set and insist on standards for the revolutionary movement that favor revolution and oppose all forms of counter-revolution.
There is a very important distinction that must be made between struggle, even sharp struggle, carried out in a principled way over differences in line and approach as opposed to wrecking activity which is objectively counter-revolutionary. Carrying out principled struggle is very different from efforts centered on spreading lies, innuendos, provocations which not only do not bring clarity but are designed to spread confusion and derail revolution—and can only benefit the state.
In the world today, revolution led by communists is both desperately needed and as yet still too rare. Different communist parties who have taken responsibility for making revolution in the particular countries they work in have to distinguish between the friends and the enemies of the revolution. In making revolution there is real importance to bending every effort to forge the broadest unity on a principled basis as these parties carry out struggle to determine what line, what road, what course of action can lead to freeing the people from the very real shackles this system has trapped them in.
There are and will be differences among the communists over how to sum up the previous experience of socialist revolution, what lessons to draw from that, how to go forward in the next stage, how to analyze the conditions for revolution and what strategy to follow. And there will be differences and principled struggle between communists and others who disagree that communism is the road forward, but who still wish to see radical or progressive social change and/or to resist the attacks of the ruling classes. There needs to be a lot of debate and ferment over these questions now and in the future.
This kind of principled struggle, which at times may include sharp polemics over ideology and line—polemics aimed at getting at the heart of disagreements over what is the real problem and solution—is a key element of making revolution. This is a necessary part of understanding the reality that we are dealing with and working to change; it's important for drawing the masses into the process of determining how to go forward toward revolution and the emancipation of humanity—and steering clear of false paths. And genuine revolutionary communists who are trying to lead humanity to get to communism will seek to learn even from those who are in opposition to the goals and direction that communists are leading society, both from the insights and valid, or even partially valid, criticisms that those in opposition may have and, at times, through learning from their negative example. In this sort of criticism, the following standard should be applied: If people have disagreements on the level of line they should take on the best representation of the line they are criticizing, based on what groups and individuals publish about their views, and then state their differences as clearly and sharply as possible.
So principled struggle over line and even basic principles that, in reality, can make the difference between revolution and defeat in one form or another is very important and essential. And it is also qualitatively different from the kind of wrecking work done by those forces who in the name of revolution make it their business to traffic in anti-communism, and encourage animosity directed at communists and especially communist leaders who are insisting that the world can and must be radically changed—and are dedicating their lives to that end. Those who speculate on and foment differences, putting themselves forward as the voice of so-called "authoritative information" regarding matters that they either know nothing about or consciously distort, not only do not contribute to achieving clarity on line and the path forward—they aid the efforts of enemies of the revolution to isolate and attack revolutionary leadership.
The world of cyberspace has made it all the more possible for vicious attacks on revolutionary organizations and leadership to circulate and find a foothold. While there are many positive things that have been made possible with the Internet—like the ability of people all over the world to have access to information and the thinking of people today as well as from the past, and the ability to communicate with speed all over the globe—there are also very dangerous trends that have come with this new freedom. For example, anyone with a computer can make up whatever "truth" they want, can write fantasies and string things together and then send them all over the world. They can establish themselves as a so-called authority and drop their poison on all kinds of websites, blogs and listservs—it's all bytes of data equally available, equally valid. There are the direct agencies of the government, imperialist oriented think tanks—from left to right—and various freelance reactionaries who make it their business to troll the Internet for tidbits they can utilize in order to oppose revolutionary forces. And note well that in the 1960s the government—even without the ease of the Internet—took such "information" and speculation and literally destroyed lives, as they worked to disrupt and destroy revolutionary organizations. Lessons paid in blood led to a broad understanding at that time, among those seeking change, of the need for high standards.
The whole culture these days is shaped way too much by tabloid voyeurism, made up of superficiality plus "narratives"—my personal story, my personal reality, "the more sensational the better." We live in a culture which makes hounding and exposing the lives of prominent cultural and political figures a national pastime; unfortunately this same mentality also has been taken up by people playing at revolution. We get National Enquirer sensationalism in the "movement" fired by personal careerists who build themselves up by posturing as "those in the know"—which fosters a climate where people think it is OK to publish and broadcast lies about people, to ask about people's whereabouts, to speculate and gossip about the role of different individuals, and try to provoke people into responding to this level of discourse.
All this may be disconcerting to people who are new to the revolutionary movement. Why would people who claim to be for revolution act in such a way? Unfortunately this type of counter-revolutionary activity is an inevitable part of making revolution—but that does not mean it should be excused, or shrugged off. While not getting pulled off course or disoriented, we have to be clear that this kind of thing does real damage, providing a climate where the forces of the state in power can bring down vicious repression on the revolution. This is one way you can tell the difference between people who are raising, even sharply, principled differences with revolutionaries, on the one hand, and counter-revolutionaries on the other. Rather than dedicating their efforts toward bringing forward any kind of revolutionary line, program or strategy, their sole unifying feature is to attack and tear down revolutionary leadership. These are life and death matters which affect the lives of millions. Serious revolutionary movements have to raise their standards and learn to reject and have nothing to do with anyone who carries out these kinds of counter-revolutionary activities.
All those who want to see the end of the rule of the monsters who run this country and wreak havoc all over the globe need to draw clear lines of distinction between honest, principled struggle over line and program and the wrecking activities of those who can only take pleasure in vilifying and tearing down the only party that the masses have, the only party in the U.S. that is determined to stick to the principles of communism and to make that liberating vision a material force in society—something that people who yearn and hope for a radically different and better world can work toward, with leadership that knows how to go there.
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