Why You Absolutely Need A Vanguard Party To Make Revolution
by Lenny Wolff | September 15, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Why do you need a party? And in specific, why do you need a vanguard party—that is, a party to which people dedicate their lives, heart and mind, body and soul, to making, leading and carrying forward revolution?
Actually, if all you’re trying to do is win some reforms within the current system, you don’t need such a party. Or if you’re trying to build alternate communities within the current society and hope that somehow that will change the whole thing... well, you don’t need a vanguard for that, either.
But what if you’ve come to understand that the current system cannot be reformed? What if you’ve come to see that people are capable of much, much better—that we could actually overcome the horror and misery and the spirit-crushing daily grind—through a revolution, aiming to uproot all exploitation and oppression and to change all of society? And what if you’ve come to know that without such a revolution, all the struggles... all the efforts to bring forward something new... will come to nothing in the end?
Revolution Is Very Complex (!)
Immediately, you come up against questions. What would go into such a revolution? Clearly, people would have to change their thinking on a massive scale. There would have to be a strategy developed to do that. People, in their millions, would have to learn how to distinguish between different ways forward that would be offered in a moment of extreme political crisis. There would also have to be a strategy and doctrine to enable people, in their millions, and as their thinking changed, to overcome an extremely powerful and repressive military machine when the time came to do that.
And if a revolution were to be made and power was seized, then what? Who would organize and lead hundreds of millions of people, with all different kinds of viewpoints, to build a whole new society, with a new economic system and new political structure? Who would lead people to overcome the deeply rooted American chauvinism, and build the new society in a way that did NOT continue to plunder oppressed nations—of the “global south”—and instead make sacrifices for the people of the world? And to do all this in a way that did not give up power... while making sure, at the same time, that that power was worth keeping?
Just think for a minute about all that. Revolution IS possible. But it is about the most complex thing you could imagine. Do you really think everything that goes into making revolution—even the essential things we touched on above... do you think that could just be accomplished by a loose grouping of people with no structure, and no system of leadership? Without a common method enabling them to scientifically and accurately analyze reality and figure out how to go forward? With no way to act in disciplined unison at crucial moments when everything is on the line?
The illusion that there could be “leaderless” revolutions... that “the people” on their own, without leadership and with all the contradictions among them, will somehow liberate themselves from those who oppress them... this has led, even with the best of intentions, to crushing defeat and redoubled horror by the powers-that-be—most recently in Egypt. Too much is at stake to not be real about this.
And if you do come to see that such a leading group would be needed, do you think that this could be pulled together at the last minute? Or would it need to be growing all the way through, spreading its roots and bringing in new people, learning better through everything how to work together to figure things out and lead people to act and to fight?
What a Vanguard Does
If you think through these questions, you are led to the irreplaceable need for the vanguard party. The vanguard dedicates itself to grappling with the problems of the revolution in the most thorough and scientific way possible, and then acting in unison to carry through the answers. The party uses the scientific method—grounding itself in this method and further developing and sharpening it at the same time. The party uses this to sum up its experience and that of others as well, in the political as well as other spheres, very broadly. The party works together, using this, to continually develop its understanding, correcting it where it is weak or one-sided or false... coming to more deeply know reality while it is continuing to act to change reality. The party is the vehicle to lead, and learn from, the masses, and to bring forward and train people from among the masses to take active, conscious roles in the revolution. It is structured in such a way to do all those things, to unleash and lead the maximum possible initiative and instill the necessary discipline to get to liberation. And party members voluntarily make a lifetime commitment to be part of this, to act with the discipline required through thick and thin, in order to hasten one of those rare times when revolution can actually be made... and to lead people to seize that opportunity when it emerges.
Without such a party, the masses really do have nothing. Yes, people will rise up in struggle—but, again, history has shown over and over that this struggle, left to itself and on its own, cannot go all the way to revolution... and once more the masses will be set back. The hour is just too late, and we know too much, to allow that to keep happening.
With such a party, the masses of people have a chance... a real chance... to emancipate themselves. And think about what that would mean—the billions breathing free, working together to go forward. Those who join the party do so because they understand this... and they understand that there is nothing greater that their own lives could be about than building and strengthening such a party, in order to carry through that revolution and go further toward emancipation.
There IS Such a Party—And That Carries Responsibilities
Today, within the U.S., we have such a party—the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. This is a truly great thing. And we have a rare and unique leader in Bob Avakian, the Chairman of this Party, who has brought forward a deeper understanding of communism and revolution and provides practical leadership for this Party. This itself is precious—extremely precious. This Party has a very developed line on how to make and carry forward the revolution, based on that new understanding, drawing from and scientifically summing up the experience of hundreds of millions of people over decades of making revolution. This Party has cores who are with this line and help to develop and wield it, and people who will go into the thick of struggle and stand with masses and work to lead them.
But we’re also struggling to overcome problems and weaknesses. We’re racing to meet the huge challenges before us. And, to be frank, we are coming from behind and facing a life-and-death situation. We could make big advances... but we, and the whole cause of communism and revolution, could also be seriously set back. The future is unwritten. The stakes are very, very high.
Now is not the time for revolutionary-minded people to take having such a party for granted. Nor is it the time to take the leader of this Party, Bob Avakian, for granted. A leader like BA—someone who has given himself heart and soul to revolution, who has actually developed the theory of revolutionary communism to a new level, and who gives practical leadership to the party—comes along very rarely. There is a dimension in which the challenge in the article “Watching Fruitvale Station with Bob Avakian”—“We had better fully recognize and appreciate what we have in BA, and act accordingly”—applies here.
So, no. Now is definitely not the time for revolutionary-minded people to stand aside and hope things improve, to wish the Party good luck. Now is the time to think deeply about the question of what it will take for the Party to make the advances it most urgently needs to make, right now, to fulfill its role. And now is definitely the time, based on everything you have come to understand about the need for revolution and what that revolution requires, for everyone to think very deeply about their own role and responsibility within that process... their own role in making sure that the masses have the vanguard they need so that all this, to paraphrase BA in his powerful conclusion to REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, does NOT “come to nothing, and mean nothing.”
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