Revolution #97, July 29, 2007
Editors' Note: The following are excerpts from an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in the fall of last year (2006). This is the 14th in a series of excerpts we will be running in Revolution. Subheads and footnotes have been added for publication here. The entire talk is available online at revcom.us/avakian/anotherway.
The Only Hope the Masses Have—and the Responsibility We Have
This is the only chance the masses have. They don't have any other chance. Mobile Shaw1 was right: we are collectively the only hope the masses of people have. Of course, there are other communists throughout the world. But collectively we are the only hope the masses of people have and the only hope the world has—hope that all this craziness and destruction and sacrifice that's coming anyway is going to turn toward something much better. We must not shrink from that role. And we must never forget that this is our role, through everything we're doing. Even when we're sitting down and having a cup of coffee with people—and overall in working our way through a lot of things that are short of revolution—we can't ever forget that this is what it's all got to be aimed for. We've got to have those broad arms and that sweeping vision; and, as I've said before, we've got to be willing to go right to the brink of being "drawn and quartered,"2 without allowing that to actually happen, in order to move all this forward.
This is our responsibility. If there's going to be a united front from a strategic standpoint—and if it's going to be a united front under the leadership of the proletariat—in both aspects, and in the essence of this, it requires our leadership. It requires lots of people, from many different strata, taking a lot of initiative and doing a lot of creative things and being unleashed in ways that are unexpected and surprising to us—positively, not only negatively!—but it requires our leadership in overall and fundamental terms.
As I've spoken to a number of times, there are plenty of contradictions, including acute ones, within the proletariat itself, broadly speaking. To point to a very glaring and acutely posed one now, take the contradictions between Black masses, on the one hand, and Latino masses and immigrants, on the other hand. I was talking about this with some comrades not long ago and we were observing (with perhaps slight but unfortunately not great exaggeration) that 90% of the Black masses have a bad line on the immigrants and 90% of the immigrants have a bad line on the Black masses! That's the reality we're dealing with. And how is that going to change? Where are the understanding and the programmatic policies going to come from to lead and mobilize people in a radically different direction and to achieve a synthesis that unites them on the basis of their fundamental interests? Nowhere else than from the standpoint of communism and through our playing our role as a communist vanguard. These are the realities. I don't believe that statement is hyperbole. And if these realities don't show you the need for a communist vanguard, then I don't know what will.
We've got to work and struggle our way through this—through all these contradictions, including those that are fostered between different sections of the basic masses. Where do the fundamental interests of the masses—all these masses—lie? And even the white proletarians—who are not just a few, around and about, but who number in the millions and millions—what are their fundamental interests? And how do those interests get expressed? Or the middle strata in society, including the huge numbers who are straining against the hold of their prejudices and illusions—how are they going to get moved in a way that's going to lead toward a positive resolution out of all the turmoil and upheaval that has been and will increasingly be unleashed in the world—a resolution in the interests of humanity?
We have two things going for us, against all the very big things that we have to confront, the gigantic and momentous things we have to go up against, the very daunting things. One is our dialectical materialist outlook and method, our scientific approach to reality. And the other is reality itself and its motion and development, which that outlook and methodology reflect and encompass. Are the fundamental and essential interests of the masses of people going to be served by Black masses lining up with reactionaries against the immigrants, while the immigrants are mobilized around a line that all Black people are lazy and don't want to work? We know the answer to that—and we should never forget the answer to that. And we should go deeply into this with the masses of people, both in the ideological dimension and practically in terms of what we mobilize them to do and how we mobilize them to take the political stage.
So we have to be, at one and the same time, working among the middle strata and building a metaphorical—or political and ideological—fire under the middle strata, in a good way, by bringing forward increasing numbers of people, particularly from among the basic masses, as revolutionaries, as communists, as emancipators of humanity. And we have to recognize the need to not just engage with, but to struggle—yes, sometimes sharply, but in any case consistently, and at the same time in a principled way and from a lofty plane—to wage struggle with people while having an orientation of striving to win people over and of uniting the greatest number possible at any time, in order for people of all strata to be moved in the way they need to be moved. But we do need to light this political and ideological fire, and we really need to be taking the whole thing, this whole communist thing, very boldly out in every corner of society, particularly among the basic masses, but among every strata. If we don't do that, then the attempts, as important as they are, to work among various strata—and to build united fronts involving people of many different ideological and political viewpoints and perspectives, including major united front efforts like World Can't Wait—will not succeed, will not break through on the level and scale they need to.
1. Willie “Mobile” Shaw was a member of the RCP. He grew up in and lived his whole life in the Nickerson Gardens Housing Projects in Watts, Los Angeles; after working with the revolutionaries there for a period of time, he joined the Party. The hardship of his life conditions led to his having a serious illness, and he died on November 24, 2005, due to complications following surgery. See the pamphlet Statement by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, on the Occasion of the Death of Willie “Mobile” Shaw, available online at revcom.us. [back]
2. In a number of works, including the book Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy (Insight Press, 2005), Bob Avakian speaks to this concept of being--or going to the brink of being--"drawn and quartered," in developing and leading a revolutionary movement and the new socialist society that will be brought into being through revolution. This is linked to the concept of "solid core, with a lot of elasticity," which Bob Avakian puts forward as a basic guiding principle for the revolutionary struggle and for socialist society, and for those who lead in this process. See, for example, in the Observations book, "Bob Avakian in a Discussion with Comrades on Epistemology: On Knowing and Changing the World," pp. 43-64, especially p. 64; and "Intoxicated with the Truth," pp. 68-73, including footnote 2 on p. 68. [back]