Putting on Our Boxing Gloves—and Other Key Methods, Principles and Objectives

by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party

June 2, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Editors' Note: The following is a part of some observations that were made by Bob Avakian, and were originally distributed within the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP) at the beginning of 2012. This is being published now as the third installment of the serialization of these observations. The first installment of this series, "The Mass Initiatives and Their Relation to Our Strategic Objectives," was published online May 19, 2014 and is serialized in the print edition of Revolution, beginning with issue #339 (May 25, 2014). The second installment, "Freedom and Necessity, and Proceeding from a Strategic Standpoint: Some Thoughts on Methods and Leadership," was published online May 26, 2014. These observations were originally made at a time when the "Occupy" movement was having a significant—and overall positive—impact but was also increasingly running up against the repressive force of the state, as well as its own limitations. While this was an important particular aspect of the overall situation at that time, and this is reflected in these observations by BA, these observations are speaking more broadly to the overall situation and challenges facing the RCP and the communist movement in the world as a whole. For this reason—and because these observations continue to have relevance and importance in that light—the decision has been made to publish these observations. Some editing has been done, and footnotes have been added, in preparing this for publication.


We have to start by returning to the reality that the international communist movement, and our Party specifically, is faced with the rather acute contradiction that we must make significant, qualitative breakthroughs and advances, in the near future, or we will be seriously set back, or even face the danger of being rendered "out of the game" for a certain historical period. And the consequences of that for the communist movement and ultimately the masses of the world are very, very heavy. This is another way of formulating—and underlining the importance of—what is said in the Manifesto from our Party,1 regarding the crossroads facing communists today: vanguard of the future, or residue of the past. We have to soberly and scientifically reground ourselves in this, and deepen our grounding in how all this has to be approached. It is not that there are no favorable objective developments, and no prospects for making the needed breakthroughs and advances—but the point is that the basis must be seized and new, more favorable conditions created through struggle, in order to actually make these breakthroughs and advances.

This calls to mind a comment from another leading person: In this context where there are more contradictory but overall favorable developments happening, in particular mass upsurge and the sharpening of the objective situation overall, if we don't go forward, then we'll go significantly backward. If we take this seriously and recognize in fact the acute contradiction we are confronting, then we will see that we do not have infinite time to make the necessary breakthroughs. And, while there should not be any panic in this regard, there most definitely needs to be a sense of urgency. This orientation has to form an important part of the grounding for everything we do.

We Need Revolution—Anything Else, in the Final Analysis, Is Bullshit

We are doing some positive things with BAsics,2 for example, and some comrades have gathered people around them on this basis—although this, too, is contradictory. And the events, the dialogues, involving Carl Dix and Cornel West have been very positive—drawing large numbers of people and having a significant impact. There are the two mass initiatives—against mass incarceration, and pornography and patriarchy—and masses have come forward around those initiatives. Some of the advanced people closely around the Party are continuing to advance. All that is on the one side. But then there is what we could call "what is objective to us, department one" and "what is objective to us, department two" that we have to deal with—the second "what is objective to us" being the opportunist and counter-revolutionary attacks on us.

In regard to this "objective to us, two" factor, we are not correctly recognizing, let alone dealing with this. And how we understand and approach this has everything to do with fundamental principles concentrated in the "as long as" point (in essence: as long as what we are actually about is revolution and communism, it should be easy to correctly appreciate and promote BA and the new synthesis he has brought forward). What is concentrated in that "as long as" point has to do with our whole core message—you could rephrase it as that core message and the "because" statement3: the fundamental fact that what we're about is radically transforming the world through revolution and the seizure of power, with the dictatorship of the proletariat as the transition to communism, and how BA/the new synthesis relates to all that, is crucial for all that.

There is the first quote in Chapter 3 of BAsics, which begins: "Let's get down to basics. We need a revolution. Anything else, in the final analysis, is bullshit."

We don't proceed enough from the understanding that anything else, in fundamental terms, is bullshit. I took note of a report about a youth who worked with us closely for a while in "Occupy" but lately has been pulled toward anarchism and influenced by opportunist and counter-revolutionary shit. This happens all too often: people come around us and get close—or, in some cases, youth in particular have been recruited, but on the wrong basis and with a heavy influence of a revisionist line, and then some quit and pull away from us—in some instances going over to the camp of counter-revolution. This is both a result of objective factors—including what I'm calling "objective factor, two"—and is a result of revisionist lines and influences within our own Party and how, consequently, we work with people. This reminds me of how Lenin said that, in the revolutionary movement of his time, anarchism was to a significant degree payment for the sins of revisionism within the ranks of the communists—this revisionism, gutting the revolutionary heart out of communism, made it easier for anarchism to appeal to some people. But, speaking of our situation specifically, it is a combination of remaining revisionist influences on our part and the pull of objective factors. This involves the influence of what exists and predominates in society and the world as a whole, under the rule of the imperialists—including, as a very significant factor, the reality and continuing effects of the reversal of socialism and the restoration of capitalism first in the Soviet Union and then in China. But it also involves the role of opportunists and outright counter-revolutionaries.

You can see this reflected in some reports on work with students. People are initially attracted to what we're about, in a general and basic sense, and then they begin to get a fuller sense of what we're about, and everything this involves—and the heaviness hits them. They get introduced to BAsics and they are drawn to what it concentrates, but then they come up against everything this involves, and many back away, at least in the short run. We should understand that this is part of the process. We shouldn't get freaked out. We should remain firmly grounded in our scientific materialist understanding of the whole process, and maintain the orientation of struggling this through with people. But we also have to understand that what happens is not just that people come forward, come up against the heaviness of it, come up against the difficulties in taking this out, and then they back away. In the age of the Internet, there's an analogy between people who defect from our camp, so to speak, and the Christian Fascists in society at large. If the Christian Fascists were just scattered, just a bunch of scattered individuals, they'd be a problem—but nothing like the problem they are, where they are given a coherent and organized expression and powerful backing by sections of the ruling class. The analogy is that when people drop away there is a place where they can go where they will get a coherent counter-revolutionary program that is directly in opposition to us and is determined to viciously attack, undermine and if possible destroy us.

It is time for us to put on our boxing gloves. We have to realize that this process involving counter-revolutionary attacks on us is not going to go away—we have to incorporate in our approach the understanding that this is objective to us, is a significant part of the objective obstacles we face. The conscious opportunist and counter-revolutionary forces—which are objective to us—this is part of the terrain we have to reckon with and deal with correctly. And we are not really doing this the way we need to.

Not that this should be our main thing. But if we don't incorporate this understanding and deal with this—recognize that this is a real part of the "encirclement" we're dealing with: people and forces which have a passionate, active orientation of trying to destroy us and keep people from joining up with us—then we are going to pay a heavy price for failing to recognize and deal with this. If it weren't for the Internet, it wouldn't be the same thing, although it would still be a problem on a certain level. But there IS the Internet, and the Internet provides a means whereby people who really represent nothing—or at least nothing positive, in terms of actually opposing and going up against this horrific system, and offering any kind of real alternative to it—can magnify their influence, especially in today's putrid cultural atmosphere, and especially if they engage in "snarky" attacks against those who are seriously going up against this system and actually working for revolution. Yes, this is part of the process; but dealing with this, in the way it needs to be dealt with, is OUR part of the process. We have to take on this opportunist and counter-revolutionary garbage—with the right approach, flowing from and consistent with our fundamental revolutionary communist orientation and objectives. And this means we need a lot more "down on the ground"—and, yes, "up on the mountain" at the same time—ideological struggle and polemics to hit at this crap and expose it for its utter bankruptcy and its role in aiding the ruling class in maintaining this oppressive system. And, overall, we have to hit hard, in polemicizing against and exposing things that help to keep the masses in an enslaved and degraded situation.

For literally more than 10 years we said, let's write something on the Illuminati, and nothing appeared. That can't continue.4 I noted that someone who was drawn to us but then got pulled by slanders as well as spontaneous petit bourgeois thinking, read a statement by some anarchists and said: "This is the greatest statement I have read." We should get hold of that statement and polemicize against it, including in our paper. Let's dissect a statement like that and tear it apart. Because this matters—it is actually of profound importance in relation to the fundamental interests of the masses of people—which road leads to actual emancipation, and which to a dead end, or worse. We have to learn how to do quick, short and concise, hard-hitting polemics. The Badiou polemic5 is great, very powerful. It is a living and compelling application of the new synthesis of communism. But we can't approach everything as if we're writing the Badiou polemic. This gets back to the basic point: everything else, in the final analysis, really is bullshit. But we don't proceed that way, from that basic understanding—or at least we certainly don't do so consistently. We are too afraid to be sharp. Yes, we need to do this in a principled and lofty way—but sharply.

Ignorance and Arrogance—Answering This with Science and Substance

I am sorry but the culture that has been "imbibed" to a significant degree by this younger generation is very bad. Many of them are arrogant—frankly on the basis of very little substance. Not all, but far too many, have the ignorance/arrogance thing that Mark Twain talked about, when he said: What you need to get along in America is the perfect combination of ignorance and arrogance. They don't ask questions, they just make assertions. And I get the definite sense that we don't respond strongly ourselves—and, in fact, we are still often defensive in the face of this stuff, when there is absolutely no good reason to be defensive. The point—at least with people who are not conscious and dedicated opportunists and counter-revolutionaries—is not to "demolish" them, but there is definitely a role and value to administering a good "shock" to them, through sharp ideological struggle.

When people say stuff that reflects ignorance—like someone at a protest who demanded: why isn't Bob Avakian out here among the masses who are protesting?—our people don't respond the way they should. They should be ready to say: "Even assuming BA wanted to come here, it would be extremely irresponsible for our Party to allow him to do that." And then, in basic terms, they should explain why. How about wielding my memoir6 when someone says, "Why isn't BA out here"? There is a whole history of activism, as well as revolutionary leadership, there. And let's get into the substance of what communist leadership actually is, and what role I play in relation to that.

All this backward stuff comes from the fact that people are not really talking about changing the world in a fundamental way—or they haven't really thought about and grappled with what that really means. We shouldn't just let that go and be liberal. There is a time and a place to be sharp, to draw the lines sharply. If people don't like it, TOUGH. In one report I read, someone was complaining that Raymond Lotta was being sharp. That's part of waging the struggle for people. That's part of why I responded the way I did to hearing about a religious person attacking Mao as well as Stalin for "killing their own people." Along with refuting this, we should put back to such people: How about Moses? How about all that monstrous shit in the Bible—mass rape and slaughter, including the killing of babies, which is ordained and commanded by the Bible's god and that god's representatives like Moses? Even with people with whom we should be and need to be uniting, when they come up with rank shit, we need to call it out and hit back, ideologically. Let's put on our boxing gloves—get ready for some ideological battle here.

Someone else (a person from the "Occupy" movement) is quoted in a report as saying, "Well, I've been thinking about these big questions all my life, so what's so special about BA?" Okay, then, here are some questions:

  • What's your analysis of what happened in China after Mao died—what took place and what are the essential contradictions that were involved in all that?
  • More broadly, what is your analysis of the contradictions that characterize the transition from capitalism to communism, and how those contradictions have to be dealt with?
  • How to actually make a real revolution, to sweep away this whole system and bring in a whole, radically new system?
  • How to overcome the very real and in many cases profound divisions among the people?
  • What's the problem and solution—what's your analysis of that basic question, if you've been thinking about this all your life?

Being defensive in the face of a comment like that?—you've got to be kidding me! There is not enough in our paper of: "Here's the reality and here's bullshit"—and if people don't like it, tough.

If that guy says my statement ("Reflection") on "Occupy" is the last straw—good. [This refers to someone who had been, or who had appeared to be, coming close to the RCP, but then went to join the camp of counter-revolution.] That is a reflection of the fact that my statement didn't just tail "Occupy," but went into things that needed to be gone into and hit at things that needed to be hit. That statement didn't say anything like "Occupy" is all fucked up; it recognized the positive side of "Occupy," and got into the material contradictions that are involved and laid out what we need.7

Is it true, or not true, that fundamentally everything else is bullshit? There are real tactical problems, and necessary tactical considerations, in putting forward the need for revolution and what revolution is actually all about and requires. But we have to talk about what revolution really means—we have to find the best and most mature ways to get across the essential point that revolution means overthrowing capitalism and replacing it with socialism (and then continuing on the socialist road toward the final goal of communism). We do have to take tactical concerns seriously into account, but we can't let tactical problems set the fundamental terms. And we have to tell people that anything else in the final analysis is bullshit, as it says in BAsics. And then the next paragraph in BAsics (3:1) "rounds things out," making clear that it is necessary and important to wage struggles against particular outrages and injustices of this system—and, in doing so, to unite with people who do not, at that point, agree with the need for revolution—while we act on the scientific understanding that all these outrages can only be fully and finally eliminated through revolution, aiming toward the final goal of communism throughout the world. Is that true or not? Or is that just our "narrative"? Our "mantra"? "Our thing" that we're feebly trying to impose on reality?

What is the problem in the world? What is the solution? We need to keep going back to that, and then get into the role that different people and social forces play in relation to that. We let these other people set the terms too much, instead of bringing them back to the real terms. What are the terms here? You want to say we don't need leadership?—let's talk about what you're going to encounter if you are really trying to fundamentally change the world, and what you need to do that. And if you have someone who has in reality emerged as a leader on another level than the rest of those around, you should celebrate it—it is precious, if your goal is really the emancipation of the masses of oppressed humanity, and ultimately humanity as a whole.

The problem is that, with people we encounter, and where they're coming from spontaneously, we're not talking about the same project. I am not upset that youth we encounter, who are newly awakening in mass movements, see things in ways that reflect a lot of spontaneous misunderstanding—but what are WE saying and doing about this? The point is not to club people over the head or swear at them. The point is, what do WE really understand, and point toward, about what is fundamentally needed? It is important whether people in the Party are actually (re)reading the Badiou polemic. There are real and important reasons why studying that was called for in the midst of this upsurge, with "Occupy" and some other things. The Badiou polemic continues to be highly relevant, and it is very substantial.

We can't put out every slanderous fire. But we have to have the right orientation and approach. There are positive things developing, objectively and through work we are doing, but they're not going to go anywhere good with a wrong orientation. We can't afford another rerun of the movie "The Movement Is Everything, the Final Aim Nothing"—where it's worse than just a rerun because, among other things, you're going to have people going to the camp of counter-revolution. I don't want to see that kind of rerun, or any rerun, of "The Movement Is Everything, the Final Aim Nothing."

The "to the masses" orientation has to apply to the Party and Party units as a whole—but also to more than just the units. We have to look at the whole thing. The Party leadership, and certainly those people with particular responsibility for speaking for the Party and being propagators of the new synthesis and the leadership of BA, have to put on their boxing gloves. The real issue got focused in a program/debate between Bernard Harcourt and Raymond Lotta—and I was glad to see the issue get joined in that way: Is being a permanent opposition within the existing system all you can do, while the machinery hums in the background, crushing lives and destroying spirits, to paraphrase the Badiou polemic?

Speaking of "Occupy," there's still a lot of American national chauvinism in the "Occupy" thing—some more conscious and some less. When we came forward in the '60s, one of the reasons we weren't arrogant in the way still too many youth today are, including many in the movements of today, is that you had a sense of your responsibility to the people of the world—you felt that responsibility. "Look at Vietnam, what they're doing in our name." This point that Raymond Lotta brought out about communizing the spoils of imperialism—how that's what anarchism ultimately amounts to—is very important. And that's what "Occupy" would represent, even in its most radical expression, left on its own terms and taken to its logical conclusion: more economic equity in the framework of being good patriotic Americans. Should we just whisper about this among ourselves, or should we take this out there to people?

We're not getting up in the morning itching for battle ideologically. We go out with our basic toolkit of revolutionary materials, and that's fine, that's important—but we have to be itching for ideological battle. Not sectarian diatribes—and that should be stopped if it starts. Leading people should be modeling this. Unity-struggle-unity. Advance through struggle—uniting with people, but advancing THROUGH STRUGGLE. We should be itching for ideological battle—we should be looking for people to join this with. The problems with this are related to why our own people don't take out the Cultural Revolution in our Party8—don't bring this up with people and get into it with them. If this is going to happen—if it's going to be done right, the way it should be—it's going to have to happen by Party leadership actually leading it and modeling it. If something happens that's important, call something at the bookstore and talk about this. If opportunists and counter-revolutionaries are running shit and confusing people, get people together and expose the bankruptcy of these people—set the terms the way they should be set, with the focus on the problem and the solution.

I was reading a report about the ISO9—people pulled to that trend canceling out on meeting with us because they're pulled by the shit that ISO puts out. We should be having things at the bookstores. Don't overcomplicate things—get right into it: what the deal is with this ISO, and why it won't lead anywhere good. What is this "S"—this "socialism"—they have in their name: what does that actually mean, and how do they say it will get brought about? Let's dissect this and expose what it really represents, and where it will lead—and won't lead. Or what the deal is with anarchism and why it just reinforces the existing system. If we can't do this, and do it well, we should learn how to—QUICKLY. And we should model that from the top. Don't answer rumors and slander with rumors and slander—don't descend to addressing things on that level and on those terms—answer it with substance, speaking to essential questions regarding problem and solution. This is not a matter of "sectarian squabbles"—and it should not be allowed to become that, or to be treated as that. This is nothing less than a matter of the fundamental needs and interests of the masses of oppressed people in the world, and ultimately humanity as a whole.

State Power: in Whose Interests, for What Objectives?

There should be a combative atmosphere in a good sense. We actually believe BAsics 3:1, and we know what the content of that revolution is. "Dictatorship of the proletariat" is not an unfortunate phrase (as the opportunist Kautsky once said as part of his attacks on Lenin). The dictatorship of the proletariat is a fucking good thing. Do you want to keep having vicious police repressing, brutalizing, and murdering masses of people—or a state power in the interests of masses of people and backing them up in overcoming exploitation and oppression? Why in the world would you be defensive? Yes, there have been some problems in how the dictatorship of the proletariat has been exercised in the experience of socialist society so far—but, mainly, there have been some really great things. I certainly don't feel apologetic about that. It's time we stop any defensiveness now. You're not going to get anywhere good without the DOP. All these contradictions you can't solve now—divisions among the masses, etc.—you won't solve them within the confines of this system, and you won't solve this without the DOP. These are simple, basic facts—and anything else, fundamentally and in the final analysis, is bullshit. Let's talk about that.

We cannot afford another round of squandering things and squandering people. If we do that, we are going to be much further behind. Part of the backdrop for the backward lines that some comrades are running into and tailing is also people getting demoralized about the "Occupy" thing. People are finding out even that's not so easy. First, "oh it's great..." But then there's state power that you have to go up against. State power exercised on behalf of the "one percent." They don't give a fuck about you—other than to stop you. If you persist in getting in their way, they'll do a lot more. Some of us have been through that—and if you're new to this, you need to learn about that, too. If people are not learning that, and we are not challenging them in order for them to learn what they need to learn, that's on us.

Overcoming Obstacles, Making Breakthroughs and Accumulating Forces for Revolution

All this relates to how we view this fundraising campaign—this massive fundraising campaign to project BA Everywhere, to have that actually create societal impact, raise the level of discussion and debate throughout society about the state of the world and what can and should be done about that. It has everything to do with whether this campaign is really going to be what it needs to be—or falls short. We are not really going to succeed with this, and we are not going to make the critical breakthroughs overall that we need to make, unless leading people model this and lead with this, and insist that people do this—applying democratic centralism. If you get a report that speaks about a lot of problems comrades are encountering—and maybe also reflects problems with how these comrades are dealing with this, ways they are being pulled by spontaneity and tailing wrong lines—you deal with those contradictions and have people learn from how you deal with it.

Even small things can't be squandered. This whole situation we face can't be turned around by just winning and recruiting twos and twos. But we can't squander that either. We have to be thinking in terms of winning and recruiting masses, in waves. If we're not thinking in terms of masses, we won't even get twos and twos. But we also can't step over the twos and twos. Some people will go backward, and some will even go into the camp of counter-revolution—but we have to be winning and recruiting people, in growing numbers, and in waves.

We have to look at comrades' situation on different levels, and take tactical things seriously into account, but we cannot let that fundamentally set the terms as to whether people are being unleashed and utilized in the correct way. We cannot keep this knowledge we have about the history of our project, about the DOP and what the transition to communism has to be about—we can't keep that bottled up among a few people. We have to mobilize all positive factors and the synergy between them, to get this line out there, contending in a big way.

In carrying out ideological struggle—particularly when people are influenced by and caught up in bullshit—we have to strongly insist: that's not the question, here's the question. Whatever it is—dredging up and regurgitating unprincipled attacks against the Party and its leadership, or in talking about what's wrong with society—an important part of struggling with people is constantly recasting the terms: "that's not the question, this is the question." And then you have to back it up, with substance. But we do have people to back it up, and others should learn from them how to do it. We are perfectly willing to argue with you all day if you're principled and serious but not convinced—fine, we'll talk with you and struggle with you all day... unless you're not principled and not serious.

We cannot do things to organize people for revolution, and accumulate forces for revolution, on the wrong basis, where the wrong terms are being set. Not only do you lose people, you lose at least some to the camp of counter-revolution. When we do things on the wrong basis, we go backward and hurt ourselves. We have to have a core that's really won to what this is all about—including people who may not be quite ready for the next leap to join the Party, but are really close, and are being struggled with to make that further, crucial leap. That is the struggle with them: are they going to go forward to that? You can have your electrons around that solid core, but the electrons can't be the nucleus.

Really Being in It "For the Long Haul"

What HAVE we been working for, for nearly 50 years? What have we been learning through all this? Does everyone have to repeat the mistakes of the past? Do people in these movements today really think nobody ever tried this before? In the past upsurges, we didn't succeed in getting all the way to revolution—that's what remains to be done—and you don't have to repeat every lack of knowledge and mistake that we made. And, yes, we're here to teach you what we've learned. And not just in terms of this or that practical aspect of a particular movement, but in relation to the broader questions and the fundamental interests of humanity.

I read a comment by someone involved in the "Occupy" movement in NY—saying that the problem with the '60s was that people gave up, "but we're in it for the long haul." That's still the ignorance/arrogance thing. It goes along with the culture of tabloids, of short attention spans, and of solipsism and individualism. Do you really think there weren't many people in the '60s who were very dedicated and went up against a lot, and made many sacrifices, for a number of years, really trying to bring about radical change? Do you really think nobody has been in this for the real "long haul," and that nobody has learned anything in the process? There is too much of people proceeding from subjectivity—from how they see something from a limited perspective, or even how it "makes them feel." For example, whether we need leadership doesn't turn on the personal experience you've had, or "how it makes you feel." The question is what the masses of people are going through, and what's the solution to that? Is there an answer? What does the answer consist in? How it makes you feel is definitely not the question—how it makes you feel depends on what you understand. What is needed is not these tendencies of empiricism and individuals proceeding from their subjective impressions. No, we need a scientific method and approach—the scientific method and approach of communism, as it has been further developed through the new synthesis.

Critical Thinking and Discipline—A Unity of Opposites—A Scientific Approach to Understanding and Changing the World

In terms of the communist vanguard, democratic centralism is not just a matter of discipline in an organizational sense, but a matter of how you actually come to know and transform the world in the most profound ways in the interests of humanity. You don't get a better understanding of reality if everyone in a party goes off in their own direction. There is an important lesson relating to this in my memoir, regarding the struggle with the Mensheviks within our Party who tried to take our Party into the swamp—supporting the revisionist coup in China after the death of Mao in 1976 and arguing for a whole revisionist line—and why it was important to apply d.c., even in the face of factionalizing by those Mensheviks. People should review and reflect on that experience and how it is summarized in the memoir. We definitely need lots of initiative and creative and critical thinking, within the right overall collective framework and with the right spirit and orientation. But you won't learn more all on your own, and you definitely don't learn more by having factions within a party. Factions among the communists (or alleged communists) of Lenin's time were a remnant of social democracy, which led to the collapse of the Second International of supposed socialist and communist parties. Having factions was a part of that social democracy—in reality a form of bourgeois democracy, in the name of "socialism"—which actually rendered support to the existing imperialist system, in opposition to real revolution and communism. The Bolsheviks breaking with and moving against that was part of rupturing with everything that led to the collapse of the Second International, the degeneration by almost every one of its parties into open support for "their" imperialists in the context of World War 1.

Can prohibiting factions be misused to suppress initiative and the necessary lively atmosphere and ferment within the Party? Of course. But the possibility of its being misused does not change the fact that it is correct, and is essential, not to have factions. It is correct and essential, not just in terms of organizational functioning and discipline, but even more fundamentally in terms of epistemology and epistemological discipline, in terms of increasingly gaining a correct understanding of reality and moving to radically transform it in the direction of communism.

The "Party-State Paradigm" Is Much Better Than the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie, and Much Better Than the Prejudices of the Petite Bourgeoisie

We are not going to make it if we continue to have too much of a revolving door—where people come around us and become supportive, but then they are pulled away, and in some cases even turned against us, and we don't correctly recognize, and counter this, winning people over more deeply through really joining struggle with them. We will never make it, if we don't get down in the trenches ideologically and have a hunger for ideological struggle. Really, we don't think we can take on anarchism? Come on. You just have to ask a few questions. We can't answer the weak shit the anarchists put forward? Come on!

Who shot Lenin in the early years of the Soviet republic, seriously wounding him while attempting to assassinate him? It was forces that were essentially anarchist. Why did they do that? Because Lenin approached things from the largest perspective, proceeding from the interests of the proletariat as a class, in the most fundamental sense, and he understood what would happen if you allowed the terms of things to be set by workers in this or that factory, or a particular group of peasants, or the sailors on a ship, acting on the basis of their more particular and narrow interests. He understood that, if you proceeded in that way, different sections of the masses would be pitted against each other, in opposition to their most fundamental interests, socialism would be undermined and destroyed, and things would be dragged back to the anarchy of capitalist production and capitalist competition, and the overall dynamics of the capitalist system, with all its horrors.

Anarchism is an outlook representative of the petite bourgeoisie—and it will not and cannot lead to a radical rupture with and advance beyond capitalism, beyond the anarchistic dynamics of commodity production and exchange.10 There is much in the Badiou polemic that is very relevant in this regard.

As opposed to what people like Badiou try to argue, the "party-state paradigm"—state power, the dictatorship of the proletariat, led by a communist vanguard—is a very good, very necessary thing, so long as the line of that vanguard is correct. And you have to use that state power, to keep the revolution and to continue the revolution. Do we think the whole petite bourgeoisie in socialist society will just be wildly in favor of carrying forward revolutionary transformation in that society, that there won't be any opposition among them? As long as there is the material basis for the petite bourgeoisie to exist, including in socialist society, there will be manifestations of the assertion of the outlook and aspirations of the petite bourgeoisie. I think of students at a university in Canada who, during the high tide of the 1960s, staged a march under the banner: "as the future managerial class, we demand our rights." You're going to get that—whether expressed that crudely or not. You think that outlook doesn't exist in the "Occupy" thing? And, while this outlook basically corresponds to the material position and corresponding aspirations of the petite bourgeoisie, it's not only among the petite bourgeoisie itself that petit bourgeois ways of thinking exist—this kind of thinking exists among basic people too. The idea that we should tail this in any way is ridiculous and should be solidly combated and overcome.

Of course, the point is not that the petite bourgeoisie is the same, or should be treated in the same way, as the big bourgeoisie—the class that dominates ownership of the means of production and exercises dictatorship in capitalist society. The orientation is not that, in socialist society, dictatorship should be exercised over the petite bourgeoisie. In strategic terms, the point is, as Lenin put it, to live with and transform the petite bourgeoisie, through the course of the socialist transition to communism; and the relations involved are fundamentally non-antagonistic. But the terms cannot be set by an orientation that corresponds to the social position and spontaneous aspirations of the petite bourgeoisie, or there will be no revolution, no socialism, and no transition to communism.

My "Reflection" on "Occupy" welcomed "Occupy," but then went into the depth and complexity of the contradictions involved and what needs to happen if you don't want to maintain a society and a world marked by profound inequalities, oppression and exploitation—if you don't want people to continue suffering needlessly in this world.

Leading People, Comparing and Contrasting Revolution and Bullshit

We really have to come out strongly on this. We have to sharpen up this orientation. And we have to use this website and newspaper of ours, for many things—but including quick, concise, and sharp polemics. "What's wrong with Slavoj Žižek?"—that is, what's wrong with his viewpoint? What about Gramsci? Can't we do a few paragraphs on Althusser? Is it so hard? Can't we do simple things that provoke people, in the good sense? Can't we do that? And people do learn by comparing and contrasting. They learn by doing, but also by compare/contrast. We're cheating people and cheating ourselves by not struggling with them and joining the questions with them that are of objective importance—questions that they are often raising in somewhat distorted form (not always, but often). This is not surprising, because how they see things, spontaneously, is refracted through the predominant bourgeois outlook in society. Even people who are not consciously doing so, but are more spontaneously doing so, still represent the outlook and aspirations of classes other than the proletariat when they open their mouths to speak. The fact that you, in "Occupy," are discovering that it's much harder than you thought: ask yourself WHY it's much harder than you thought it was. It's not just that you are confronted by a wall of police. Why are they there, and why are they acting the way they do? And why does Mayor Bloomberg call them out and you can't? There are bigger, more powerful social forces at work, and underneath those forces are dynamics—the fundamental dynamics of this system—that even they don't control. Can't we get into joining these kinds of things with people? How to wield spokespeople and leadership to do this?—we have to pay systematic attention to that. We need to become good at quickly developing the forms for doing this. If five or 10 show up for a meeting or discussion, then give them something, some basic substance, to take out and join with others.

Without this basic orientation and approach, there won't be a real fundraising battle. We won't get where we need to go unless these questions are being fought through on the correct basis. There will be funds raised, but there will be no massive, multi-faceted fundraising campaign unless we lead with this orientation. Not only with the masses, but if you go to people who do have real money and you tail, you won't get anywhere. We need to put it to these people, straight up, and struggle on this basis: If you give your money to something like Obama, and not to this BA Everywhere fundraising campaign, it will have bad results and bad consequences for the masses of people and for humanity. We need a revolution, a communist revolution, and what you think you know about this is NOT true.

We can't let "Stalin and Mao were mass murderers" just go down. More than a few people sit in a privileged position in this country, with the "luxury" of accepting "verdicts" on crucial things without really bothering to learn the truth about them, because people have been slaughtered on a massive scale—in reality, and without hyperbole, their lives have been snuffed out in the tens and hundreds of millions—by the rulers of this country and the workings of their system, all over the world. People just can't get away with accepting the slanders about communism and refusing to face the real, truly monstrous crimes of this system. There are tactics and tact in struggling with people—but strategically we cannot let this go down. We can't let people go on talking about how Qadaffi (or whoever is identified as the villain of the moment) is somehow the worst person in the world. Can we talk about reality? We need to join these things with people—from a lofty and principled position, and with substance, but sharply.

If we don't do this, we are going to go backward and toward the abyss. Some of what I am talking about can happen right away, including with the website and newspaper. Can't we back our shit up?

Simplicity and Complexity—Handling This Contradiction Correctly

BAsics is very important—a very valuable tool—and we need to be wielding it in even greater ways. But it is a distillation of much bigger things. Do we think Marx is obsolete? No, there is much to learn, much of importance, in studying Marx. In speaking of the shopkeeper and the democratic intellectual, for example, Marx points out that they are driven to the same problems and solutions—not just the solutions. There is a lot to learn from repeatedly going back to this. There is great importance to correctly, scientifically understanding, and presenting, the problem—to setting the terms on the right, scientifically grounded basis.

On Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy.11 This is on a high level of theoretical abstraction, even while efforts were made to break that down as much as possible, without "dumbing it down." It is an important work and definitely serves a very important purpose. But we need to take the line that's in there and go with it—popularize it, without distorting it or watering it down. And we need things besides that work which deal with the same basic subjects. There is a need for things that are shorter, hard-hitting—boom boom. We should correctly understand and deal with, and not mis-handle, the simplicity-complexity contradiction. Dealing with the complexity of things is necessary, and very important—and we should struggle with people when they want things to be too simple, oversimplified, when they don't want to do the work you have to do to really understand and therefore be able to transform the world in the way it needs to be transformed. But we also need forms for boiling things down to their essence—things that are simple in that sense. If someone wants to say, "It's more complex than that," we can speak to the complexity, and we do speak to it.

We definitely should not do what opportunists do, where they vulgarize things, including by chopping up and distorting the statements of people they disagree with, in an unprincipled, instrumentalist way. But we shouldn't overburden ourselves with the complexity of things. There is a trend like that—to overburden ourselves with attempts to deal with complexity, to where we mumble and then don't get to the point. We don't want simplicity in the sense of vulgarizing and taking cheap shots—but in the sense of really getting to the essence in a concise and basic way. There is a point to boiling the complex down to the simple and basic, so long as it is accurate.

You want the masses to learn?—let them see someone doing this. That's one of the main ways masses learn. Training them involves letting them see how it's done. Let them see the confrontation of opposing views. When we had the struggle vs. the Bundists (nationalist opportunists, posturing as communists), way back in the day, a few of us wrote things and everyone grappled with them. And people learned a lot.

"There Is Nothing There"

In my memoir, there is a part that talks about this guy, Robere, who was a dogmatist who intimidated a lot of people, back in the day, by spouting from memory passages from Mao and Lenin, and so on. He created this "larger than life" image around himself. But some of us knew enough to recognize that rote recitation of "classics"—in the manner of a religious zealot repeating scripture—did not mean that there was a lot of substance, or a correct method for that matter. Then, one time, he got up and spoke at some demonstration at a courthouse, and in listening to him it struck me: "there is nothing there"—no real substance behind the supposedly intimidating front. And there is nothing there with these other lines, as far as problem/solution. This is an important point of orientation. Robere wasn't speaking to reality, and wasn't correctly dealing with it, and he had no "solution" other than dogma.

In short, with these opportunist forces: strategically, there's nothing there. And especially when you get to solution, there's nothing there. Now, it's different with someone like a Chomsky, or Arundhati Roy. There is much they do that is positive. In contrast with opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, their orientation and intent is to proceed in a principled way, and they do a lot of good work particularly in exposing many crimes of oppressive forces throughout the world, with a lot of focus on bringing to light the crimes of U.S. and western imperialism. But, in fundamental terms, and particularly when it comes to the solution, there is nothing there—no real orientation or program that can actually lead to a radically different world. With the opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, there is nothing there at all—that is, they have nothing positive to offer—they can only do damage. And we do have something—there is something here—because we are dealing with reality, that's what we're grappling with, scientifically, and struggling to transform. We have learned a lot in this way, and of course we have much more to learn—but we have a foundation to learn a lot more as we go forward.

Combating Opportunism and Counter-Revolution: A Necessary Part of Making Revolution

It is not a matter of preoccupation with opportunists and counter-revolutionaries. But we do have to take into account, and actively counter, the one thing they can do: cause real damage through their counter-revolutionary activity. They are profiting from the larger putrid culture that still holds sway to far too great a degree, and profiting from the fact that they are not seeking to really go up against the powers-that-be, but in fact can and do act in ways that not only don't threaten but that actually serve those powers. We do have to actively take on the harm they are able to do, with their counter-revolutionary activity, particularly with today's technology and in the context of today's putrid culture. We have to take that shit on sharply and powerfully, even while not becoming overly preoccupied with it, in order to counter—and to provide a positive, substantive and uplifting alternative to—their opportunist and counter-revolutionary garbage. Again, the point is not to answer them on their terms, getting dragged down into the gutter—the point is to answer with substance, and by focusing things on the fundamental questions related to problem and solution, to what is needed to actually transform the world in an emancipatory way.

The "advanced" who, in today's situation, are simply "immune" to this all this "stuff out there" simply don't exist—or are very few. People come forward the way they come forward—this is part of the objective reality we're dealing with—and people running into, and even being influenced by, opportunist and counter-revolutionary shit is part of the objective reality we have to become better at recognizing and dealing with—struggling effectively to bring more and more people through it. Too often our response to this kind of stuff is watered down and namby-pamby. Again, we need to answer this with substance—but not in a way that is merely academic and educational, in the wrong sense. There is a battle to be waged. Part of the struggle we need to wage, an important part, is over the question: what matters, and what should we focus on and get into? Is it tabloidism, gossip, rumor-mongering and slander—or lines? Of course it should be lines, and where they will lead. We have to fight for people—which means fighting with people, ideologically—in order to make breakthroughs.

The fact that some people get drawn forward and then get turned away because we are "making too much of BA" isn't happening in a vacuum—or simply because of the influence of the ruling class and the dominant institutions and what prevails in society generally. Opportunists and counter-revolutionaries are telling them shit. They work on people that we draw forward. "Work on" doesn't really get it. Often they descend on people, including through the Internet. Some of this is studied counter-revolution. To use a metaphor, if people are sitting in the bushes and taking potshots at you, and you ignore it because you don't want to be dragged down to a petty level, or into the gutter, then you are making a mistake—you have to deal with it, without allowing yourself to get dragged down. If we don't sharply deal with this, shame on us. Not to answer it on its terms, but by pointing out the bankruptcy of this—and, in some cases, the outright piggery as well as the ideological and political bankruptcy.

I recently read again our response to Mike Ely's "Nine Letters." That response is quite good.12 In particular I was struck by the exposure and refutation of Ely's rank relativism and agnosticism—his attempt to undermine the understanding that, while there are of course things human beings cannot know with certainty at any given time, on the other hand there is much human knowledge that has a well-founded and well-established basis in reality and can be judged to be true, with a great deal of certainty, and does not simply have a tenuous link to reality, to use Ely's formulation. As part of our response, since Ely had invoked—and in fact had crudely distorted—Mao in an attempt to buttress Ely's agnosticism and relativism, the following was posed, pointedly, to Ely: Does he think that dialectical and historical materialism, the need for revolution and the seizure of state power, the DOP and socialism as a transition to communism, and the continuation of classes and class struggle in socialist society—do these have a tenuous link to reality? And would Mao agree? There is no good answer to that, if you are proceeding according to the opportunist "logic" of Mike Ely. He has also never been held to account on his shit with Nepal—tailing all the revisionism there and attacking us for not tailing it. Apparently, being an opportunist and a counter-revolutionary means never having to be accountable for anything—so long as you attack what is genuinely revolutionary and communist, you can get a "pass" from some people for just about anything you say and do. When he first quit the Party, Ely's opportunism and his attacks on me and the Party were mainly rationalization for giving up—for capitulating to imperialism and everything that represents—while putting up a shabby pretense of still being some kind of "communist" or "revolutionary." But here something Lenin pointed to is very relevant. It is one thing to make a mistake, Lenin said (although capitulating to imperialism, turning your back on and attacking what actually represents revolution and communism—even stooping so low as to appeal to ignorant and crude prejudice against communism and communist organization, invoking the specter of "thought control" within the RCP, and so on... garbage literally on the level of a J. Edgar Hoover—is more than a mere mistake; but to continue with Lenin's essential point) if a mistake is persisted in—and if "profound justifications" are sought for this—then this can become something truly monstrous. This is the basic process that has taken place with Ely.

Again, the point is not to have a disproportionate preoccupation with these opportunists and counter-revolutionaries, but to take seriously the fact that they can, and do, cause real harm, especially in today's situation and with the putrid culture that prevails, including far too much among people who claim to be some kind of opposition. It is part of the process that some people who are initially drawn toward us—especially if they are worked, and struggled, with well—will continue to make leaps forward, while some others will fall back after a certain point. But, if things are dividing out the wrong way with this, something is wrong. Part of the problem is that we don't join these issues sharply enough with people. Too often there is too much of trying to evade or finesse things, rather than getting into the essential questions frontally and sharply. Our sharp edge should not be dulled.

When people come around, and then they begin to get a sense of how big what we're talking about is—how hard and complex, and how much up against what most people think, as well as being up against the state—they discover this, and they come to a juncture. Now you're in a different stage with people than when they first came around. The questions are not simply the same as when they first came around, first got on the escalator. And the things that are pulling them down, pulling them away from this, are not just the objective things that come from the bourgeoisie and its ruling institutions and ideas—what also pulls on them is what these other forces are saying, what they are saying about our Party and BA and the whole communist project, really. These forces do fight for their line—such as it is. We certainly cannot afford not to fight for ours. To really counter their shit, we need to get, deeply and sharply, into what the differences are—the real and substantial differences that matter—and why this is right and these other people are wrong: why there really is "nothing there," when it comes to an analysis of the fundamental problem and the solution, why in fact everything else is bullshit.

As you learn more about the actual process of building a movement for revolution, and carrying out that revolution when the conditions for that emerge, the more complicated and difficult it seems, particularly as you first come to grips with these contradictions. But the fact is that actually making revolution involves and requires consistently applying a scientific method and approach to identify and analyze, and to develop the means to radically transform, the contradictions that are bound up with this process. We have gone to work, in a substantial way, on these problems—and we have more work to do to solve these problems as we go forward. We have a foundation, and there is a need for new people to join in and help do the further work that is needed. And the truth is, nobody else has anything underneath what they're talking about, because it doesn't correspond to reality. This point needs to be driven home.

This has to be very sharp. In the current situation, and in terms of the forces coming forward in the movements of today, we are dealing to a very large degree with forces representing the petite bourgeoisie. Something like "Occupy," while it has attracted and drawn in some people from the basic masses, is largely and essentially a movement of the petite bourgeoisie, and you are going to get lines, tendencies, and pulls characteristic of the petite bourgeoisie—coming at things from a different point of view than that which represents the interests of the proletariat, in the most fundamental sense. Approaching this scientifically, we can see that this is what we're dealing with, in terms of things like "Occupy"—even with its very definite positive aspects. We had better understand that and struggle accordingly. And, again, this way of thinking is not limited to just the petite bourgeoisie itself—it exists more broadly in society. Add to that the fact that people actually know very little about communism and its history—and most of what they think they know is wrong. With all this in mind, it should stand out very prominently what is profoundly wrong with the idea that we should tail this, rather than waging principled but fierce struggle, ideologically, with what is wrong—with what represents a misguided, unscientific sense of the problem and solution.

Yes, we should discuss and wrangle with people over questions like what direction movements that arise, like "Occupy," should take, as such. That is part of our responsibility, even an important part, but it is not our main responsibility. Our main and essential responsibility is building a movement for revolution—and we have to approach everything from the fundamental perspective of how it relates to that.

The problem that some of our comrades have, in relation to movements like "Occupy," stems to a significant degree from the fact that they are not proceeding systematically from an understanding that there is not an antagonism but there is a real contradiction between what's represented by things like "Occupy" and where things need to go. There needs to be unity/struggle/unity to resolve contradictions among the people—but if we are not proceeding from the correct foundation and the correct, scientifically based understanding, we will not have a real chance of correctly handling the very real contradictions and the unity/struggle/unity dialectic.

The Problem and the Solution

Problem/solution. Problem/solution. Problem/solution. Everything revolves around problem-solution: what the fundamental problem in the world is, and what the solution is. In a fundamental sense, this includes me and my role. The emphasis we give to my leadership, and what it has brought forward and concentrates, has real meaning and great importance—but only in the context of problem-solution. It is not simply an appendage or addendum or footnote to that—but it IS in that context.

This applies also to polemics—in an overall and fundamental sense, they should focus on and continually ground things in the problem/solution.

Keep in mind: "there is nothing there." Polemics should focus to a large degree on the fact that what is represented by these various other forces—and in particular organized opportunist and counter-revolutionary forces—will not lead to anything good and is actually working against what is needed.

Three Quick Points

One: There is the phenomenon that when you are drawn to our Party and what it represents, and then you step out with this, people representing the disaffected but self-absorbed petite bourgeoisie bray and bark. This is fundamentally how we have to understand these attacks—and, in a living way, explain it to others, including those who come in for such braying and barking.

Two: Every time we tail, we kick ourselves in the teeth and get seriously set back.

Three: We are for revolution and communism. You opportunists don't like it because, in reality—in terms of the content of what you put forward—you want to make this system "work"; your vision and aspirations actually do not extend beyond the narrow horizon of this system, to paraphrase Marx. Let's recast the terms to what they actually are. Our Party, and in a concentrated way BA, represents the leadership that is needed and the struggle for revolution, and the state, the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is the necessary outcome of that struggle— and in turn is a transition to the final goal of a communist world. That is why people, and in particular those who constitute political and literary representatives of the petite bourgeoisie, react the way they do. They want to make this system "work," at least for themselves. That's not what we're about.

We should take a lesson from the experience in the Bay Area with the group STORM some years back. Unfortunately, there was a marked tendency on the part of comrades there to be intimidated by STORM, because these comrades were approaching things incorrectly, looking too much at surface phenomena and not grounding themselves in the deeper dynamics of things. STORM seemed to be a "going thing," for a while, and was wielding nationalist identity politics as a weapon, while putting up some kind of a pretense of being Marxist, or in some way against the system. But where is STORM now? And where are the people who were put forward as its leading lights—someone like Van Jones—what's the deal with him now?! Openly working for this system. Which is a kind of leap, but a leap that, in a real sense, is an extension of the outlook and approach of something like STORM. This is not a matter of "personal traits," but of line—of outlook and method, and the strategic orientation flowing from that. Of course, so long as there are class distinctions, and so long in particular as there are people constituting the political and literary representatives of the petite bourgeoisie, including among the oppressed nationalities, there will continue to be different incarnations of the kind of phenomenon that STORM represented. But lessons should be drawn from the experience with STORM—and the fact that STORM itself is now defunct!

Short-Term Advances and the Fundamental Goal of Revolution: Correctly Handling a Real Contradiction

Apparently Chris Hedges declared that "Occupy" is "too big to fail." This is simply wrong. "Occupy," as such, will have a certain life—and, as I put it in my "Reflection" on "Occupy," it can make a significant contribution to the revolution that is needed, IF the revolutionary communists approach this correctly. "Occupy" itself will have a certain life and, as has already happened, it will face a series of challenges; and how those challenges are dealt with will have a major role in determining what course it takes and whether and in what ways it can continue to have a mainly positive impact. Right now this is concentrated in whether there will be a powerful challenge to the concentrated move by the ruling class to suppress and disperse "Occupy." There are important things that we can and should seek to do in relation to that, but the most important thing that we should be doing is accumulating forces for revolution, in relation to this movement and in other ways as well. If we don't really and deeply grasp this, and act on it, then not only "Occupy" but our Party, too, will either go out of existence or be absorbed into the political scenery of bourgeois society, to paraphrase the recent polemic against Slavoj Žižek13.

Can anyone claim that they've never been influenced by the line that something good has happened, so let's not spoil it by bringing in the solid core, by bringing alive the need for revolution and the final goal of communism? No it happens—but we have to be very attuned to that, recognizing and struggling against that.

We have to think about different ways of working with the advanced around us—to struggle things through and make some much-needed advances in bringing forward new forces, new initiators of the new stage of the communist movement—accumulating forces for revolution and recruiting more of the advanced into the Party. We need to make breakthroughs in all three objectives of the overall Campaign we are carrying out: really putting revolution and communism on the map; making BA a household name and what BA represents a subject of substantive discussion and debate throughout society; and bringing forward waves of new initiators of the communist revolution. This—and in particular the third objective—requires winning people to be really partisan for and then fully committed to THIS. We have to get more and more people to the point where they want to go out and take on the braying hounds. Let's instill that Black Panther Party spirit from back in the day. The BPP members really believed they were the vanguard, and they didn't want to hear any shit from you about how they weren't. We need much more of that basic spirit. The point is not to attack people, but to have a spirit of itching for ideological struggle.

We need to unleash and marshal the people who feel that way—give them substance, and get them out there fighting for this.

We don't think enough in terms of fighting for people who are being influenced toward wrong lines. Let's go up against the spontaneity—let's put on our boxing gloves. Let's jump into ideological contention, spoiling for a fight. If you are a leading person, take some others, including advanced masses, with you when you do this. Take these masses coming around with you. Engage these other lines. Call them out: "You don't even know what the problem is, let alone the solution." Then get into the substance. We have a developed line with a lot of substance. But you have to fight for it. If you want to win masses you have to fight, and you have to take masses with you so they see the contending lines and which ones have substance and are based on reality, and which ones don't and aren't.

Some Basic Questions

How do we make sure that people go out in the right way to do revolutionary work? One of the advantages of BAsics is that this book lets you do good work. But, as we've seen, you can do work with BAsics with a wrong line seriously contending in that work. BAsics is not some kind of inoculation against the wrong line—it's a factor that creates more favorable conditions for work to be done correctly. With many people we need to figure out how to simplify things without being reckless, and get people into the mix and swirl of what's going on these days.

Let's pose a series of very basic questions. Do you think that this outrage of police brutality is going to be eliminated with a few sit-ins? If not, is that tolerable? And if not, further, what is it going to take to get rid of this outrage? Do you think this is the only outrage of this system, and how are all those other outrages going to get dealt with? How does what we are doing fit into a revolutionary movement to get rid of this whole thing? This resistance is great as a beginning and part of what needs to happen—but not so great as just a thing in itself and unto itself. Bring people back to what they know, and have a basis for knowing.

Do you really think that "Occupy" just growing and growing is going to solve everything we're about? People in the Party and close to us know the answers, and "forget" them. We have to constantly bring them back to what they know. There are line questions and the pull of spontaneity.

In situations where there are increased numbers of masses awakening and in motion politically, and we are working to relate to that, what we say matters more. And the more it matters, the greater the pull to tone it down. When you introduce something like my "Occupy" statement, it breaks up some of the unity that exists, even as it has the potential to unite people on a higher level. It is the same thing with regard to STOP "Stop & Frisk." Is it a static linear thing of more and more unity—or is it unity-divide-more unity, through junctures and struggles? Comrades, and in particular comrades with leadership responsibility, know the answers. So why does it happen that people lose sight of this and tend to tail? One, the pull of "the movement is everything, the final aim nothing"—and part of you is pulled toward thinking that revolution and communism is not viable, or is in some abstract realm, unrelated to what is going on now. And two, the pull to thinking: bringing this in is going to disrupt the unity we've forged, when we've got something good going here. This has to be fought through, in repeated rounds of struggle. Comrades need to see their responsibilities above all as communists, and not as people dealing in a particular realm.

We should use the website and newspaper to model things. Even a short piece, like the one I wrote on "The American Enterprise,"14 can concentrate a lot. If someone raises the present Constitution of the USA, we can respond by saying things like, "that belongs in the museum"—as opposed to an academic argument. The effect of a punchy response like that is to change the terms to more what they should be. And then you get further into the substance. That Constitution represents the past, here's what we need for the future—and point to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)15. Use the website and newspaper to model things like that. They should have some more in-depth analysis, but there is also a definite need for a lot of shorter, biting stuff.

Leading Consistently with the Correct Method and Approach

We have to consistently lead with the correct line, and most fundamentally the correct, scientific method and approach. That has to be what we're striving for. That's the standard we have to set and aim for—nothing less. And, even as we are persevering to make breakthroughs in things we have identified as crucial, we need to keep looking afresh at things, and not fall into ruts and routines. We have to adhere to certain fundamental matters of principle and keep our eye on the prize of decisive objectives, while looking at things anew repeatedly.

We do have to get more focused in what we do and how we wield our forces, but the principal and decisive thing is leading with the correct line, and then how to get the correct combinations and synergies. We don't want to just judiciously wield our forces—we want, we need, to grow. We want more people to carry out the correct line and not some other line. Attention needs to be paid to how to lead that and effect the right combinations and synergies to make that happen. Think about the effect of a leading person going with a comrade in the work and doing the work correctly and fighting it through and summing it up with them. And we should involve advanced masses where that's appropriate. Masses learn by seeing things done correctly and seeing them in contention with other things. There are people who can do this right, and do it really well, but there are still too few—we need to wield them correctly and combine them, correctly, with basic Party members and people who are coming forward, so others can learn and develop.

How do we wield the strengths we have and the strengths of people around us in the best possible combinations and synergies, and get into the real-world places where this can go on? We can't just bring masses to our bookstores—we have to do that, but we also have to go TO the masses. This goes along with simplify, simplify, simplify. Radical simplicity. Get people together in groups and go places with somebody who's gonna set the terms in the right way.

A Final Point: On Unity and Struggle

Because I have given so much emphasis to the confrontation of opposing lines where the contradiction is in fact antagonistic—dealing with opportunists and counter-revolutionaries—I don't want to underplay the importance of non-antagonistic struggle, struggle with people with whom it is also correct to seek unity, even while carrying out ideological struggle over big questions and matters of principle. The difference is that there are many people who disagree with us, who are objectively representatives of an incorrect outlook, which ultimately leads things away from where they need to go, but they haven't made themselves in effect an appendage of the ruling class. They are not setting out to destroy our Party. And they are not framing their disagreements with us in the guise of "revolution" or "communism." This relates to why the Chinese Communist Party made clear, in its polemics against the Soviet revisionists in the 1960s, that unity with many forces who do not claim to be communists is possible, but there can be no unity with revisionists—phony communists who distort and oppose the revolutionary core of communism, while attacking those who uphold and act on the basis of real, revolutionary communism.

The emphasis on the need to hit back, with substance, ideologically, against the opportunist and counter-revolutionary forces that do make it their business to wage unprincipled attacks against our Party and BA—this should not lead to ignoring or undermining the importance of engagement and carrying forward the unity/struggle/unity process with what are objectively non-antagonistic representatives of other classes and strata. That remains very important.


1. Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, September 2008 (RCP Publications, 2009) [back]

2. BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, RCP Publications, 2011 [back]

3. The "because" statement refers to the following:

Because of Bob Avakian and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal. [back]

4. After BA made these observations, Revolution/revcom.us published "The 'Illuminati' Is a Myth! Wake Up and Deal With the REAL Problem!," #272. June 17, 2012. [back]

5. "Alain Badiou's 'Politics of Emancipation': A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World," by Raymond Lotta, Nayi Duniya, and K. J. A., Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic, Issue Number 1, Summer-Fall 2009 [back]

6. From Ike to Mao and Beyond—My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, a memoir by Bob Avakian, Insight Press, 2005 [back]

7. "A Reflection on the 'Occupy' Movement: An Inspiring Beginning...and the Need to Go Further," by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Revolution #250, November 13, 2011 [back]

8. For a discussion of the Cultural Revolution in the RCP, see Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Part VI, "A Cultural Revolution Within the RCP," begins on page 34 of the pamphlet. [back]

9. International Socialist Organization [back]

10. For an analysis of the driving force of anarchy as the most essential expression of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, see "On the 'Driving Force of Anarchy' and the Dynamics of Change—A Sharp Debate and Urgent Polemic: The Struggle for a Radically Different World and the Struggle for a Scientific Approach to Reality," by Raymond Lotta, Revolution, November 4, 2013. [back]

11. Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2008 [back]

12. "Stuck in the 'Awful Capitalist Present' or Forging a Path to the Communist Future? A Response to Mike Ely’s Nine Letters," by a writing group in the RCP, 2008 [back]

13. "Vilifying Communism and Accommodating Imperialism: The Sham and Shame of Slavoj Žižek's 'Honest Pessimism,'" by Raymond Lotta, Revolution #256, January 15, 2012 [back]

14. "The American Enterprise—Property and Slavery: Peculiar Notions of 'Freedom' and Profound Contradictions," by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Revolution #252, December 11, 2011 [back]

15. Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), RCP Publications, 2010 [back]


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