Revolution #99, August 26, 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 16th 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.
"Maintaining Our Strategic Nerve"
In the context of everything going on today, everything that has to be confronted and cries out to be radically transformed in a much better direction, I want to emphasize this basic point of orientation: In the face of the difficulties, in the face of even defeats along the way, in the face of falling on our face at times, it is very important, especially at crucial junctures, that—to use a certain phrase—we not lose our strategic nerve. It's very easy in the face of tremendous necessity and great difficulties, in the face of certain setbacks and of people flying in all directions, to lose your strategic nerve—to lose your grip on what actually is underlying and driving things and to be swept away in one form or another—either carried away with positive things or quite often carried away with disappointments—and to just openly go in the direction of throwing up your hands and capitulating, or to go off into an infantile direction, which is in fact the "mirror image" of capitulation and leads to the same ultimate result.
Now I want to say, just for the record, that at times I myself have been acutely disappointed by—and, yes, have cursed in graphic terms—the people in this society who are sitting by and doing nothing in the face of atrocities and horrors committed by their government and in their name—I would bet that I have done this at least as much as anyone else who has set out to mobilize people to do what needs to be done to change the present disastrous course of things and to radically transform society in a positive way. But what do we do then?
There is a tremendous gap between what is going on—and the rapid pace at which more and greater outrages and atrocities are being committed and being prepared by those in power in the U.S.—and, on the other hand, what people are doing, or not doing, in terms of political resistance to oppose this, in the massive and determined way that is required. This is a very acute contradiction. But what do we do in the face of that—what do we do, in order to transform that in a positive direction? Do we keep our fundamental and strategic orientation, and work and struggle through the contradictions—do we persevere, but with the necessary sense of urgency that the situation demands? Or are we going to search for gimmicks, or throw up our hands and give up? Are we going to, in one way or another, lose our strategic nerve? In speaking of "strategic nerve," I mean this in the sense of our basic and strategic orientation, not in some sense of "personal courage," in the absence of and divorced from that orientation. Another way to say this, another crucial expression of this, is that we can't lose our materialism and our dialectics.
The clock is ticking down. We are not operating in a vacuum here. U.S. society is in fact being remade in a fascist direction, with implications for decades to come; the world is increasingly being subjected to the attempts of those in power in the U.S. to further bludgeon things into correspondence with their needs, aims and objectives; and there are the very real, negative effects of the continuing dynamic where McWorld/McCrusade and Jihad mutually reinforce each other even while opposing each other—with already terrible and potentially far more disastrous consequences. But, at the same time and largely as a result of all this, a lot of people are running up against what someone has described as sort of a "cusp" or "trough." They're running up against the fact that the ways they thought they could affect the political direction of U.S. society, and the role of the U.S. in the world—those ways don't work. Those doors are being increasingly slammed in their faces. But they haven't yet made the determination—haven't yet been won—to the fact that they have to make some radical ruptures in terms of their political views and actions, even short of the full rupture of going for revolution. And if we were to lose our strategic nerve—in other words, our strategic orientation and methodology and approach—that would be especially criminal in this context.
Instead, we have to be combining, in the correct way, perseverance and urgency—persevering, but not in an aimless, timeless way, persevering with the appropriate and necessary sense of urgency—learning, as we struggle, to break through on these contradictions and carrying forward that dialectical process of unity-struggle-unity with a broad and diverse range of people and political forces, not only in such major efforts as World Can't Wait but in other key arenas, too, and in an overall way. At the same time, we have to be much more vigorously and boldly taking our full revolutionary, communist line in a truly big way out to the masses—to basic masses, but to other strata as well. And, in line with the very great and urgent needs, as well as in terms of our fundamental orientation and objectives, we must make further, and increasingly greater, advances in building the Party as the revolutionary, communist vanguard the masses need—building and strengthening the Party both quantitatively and qualitatively—continually increasing its numerical strength and not only its organizational but, even more essentially and fundamentally, its ideological and political solid core, and the corresponding elasticity, initiative, and creativity grounded in and flowing from that solid core.
Strategic Repolarization—for Revolution
Now, having stressed the tremendous importance of ideology, I also want to emphasize the need to grasp the importance of political line and policy and of providing practical means for masses of people to mobilize to change the world. There's a need to apply the two "mouthful formulations." The first one, from Strategic Questions,1 has to do with how, in the development of political movements and the political struggle overall, to continuously forge (and reforge under new conditions) unity as broadly as possible so that it is objectively in line with and furthering the aims of the proletarian revolution and so that, at any given time in that process, as many people as possible are being won and influenced in their subjective consciousness toward the communist position, without however overstepping and undermining the correct unity for the given circumstances, which will be on a level different from, and short of, support for the communist position and proletarian revolution. And the second "mouthful formulation," which has been drawn from GO&GS ( Grand Objectives and Grand Strategy )2 has to do with identifying and moving around—bringing forward political resistance and mobilization on a mass scale in relation to—concentrations of major contradictions in society and the world, and how that in turn contributes to moving everything toward revolution.
The overall work of our Party is, in significant measure, an application of these "two mouthfuls." This is an application of the united front under the leadership of the proletariat, in terms of policy and program. And it is very important to see every aspect of our Party's work not as a thing unto itself but as part of an overall strategic approach. An overall strategic approach and a means for what? For revolution—for repolarizing in a way more favorable for revolution and to prepare the ground, politically, for the emergence of a revolutionary situation and, relatedly, the emergence of a revolutionary people in the millions and millions.
And, if we look at things in terms of repolarization for revolution, the following formulation is very relevant and important—not speaking to any particular immediate situation so much as with strategic and overall considerations in mind:
What's being argued for is, if we do work correctly, we can take advantage of the paralysis of significant sections of the bourgeoisie; isolate to the maximum degree possible this really hard-core section of the bourgeoisie; and, with the necessary qualitative change in the objective situation, go after the overthrow of the bourgeoisie as a whole.
1. Strategic Questions was a talk by Bob Avakian in the mid-1990s, and selections from it were published in the Revolutionary Worker (now Revolution ) in issues 881 and 884-893 (November 1996 through February 1997) and in issues 1176-1178 (November 24 through December 8, 2002). These selections can also be found online at revcom.us/avakian/avakian-works.html. [back]
2. Great Objectives and Grand Strategy is a talk given by Bob Avakian at the end of the 1990s; excerpts from it have been published in the Revolutionary Worker #1127-1142 (November 18, 2001 through March 10, 2002) and are available online at revcom.us/avakian/avakian-works.html#gogs. [back]