Revolution Online, March 8, 2011
Part 2: BUILDING THE MOVEMENT FOR REVOLUTION
Table of Contents
Editors' Note: The following text is Part 2 of a recent talk by Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Part 1 of this talk is titled, "Revolution and the State." This has been edited, and footnotes have been added, for publication. Part 1 of this talk, "Revolution and the State," and Part 2, "Building the Movement for Revolution," are available in their entirety at revcom.us.
Part 2: BUILDING THE MOVEMENT FOR REVOLUTION
Returning to what was discussed at the beginning of this talk (in Part 1) on the relations between the economic base and the political-ideological superstructure of society: While ultimately and fundamentally the base sets the terms, and the limits, of the superstructure—which must, in the final analysis, conform to the underlying economic base—the fact that this involves contradiction, and that there is significant "autonomy" and initiative in the realm of the superstructure, is very real and has very real implications. There can be, and must be, struggle—and a real, living alternative brought forward—in the realm of culture and ideology (including morals), even now, before the current system is swept aside—and as a critical part of building a movement for revolution to sweep away the current system.
In the context of building this movement—for revolution—one important dimension of this is the fight in the ideological, cultural and moral arena against parasitic consumerism. Here it is worth referring to the special issue of Revolution (#199, April 6, 2010) on the environment—in particular the section "Struggling Against Consumerism" in "Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development"—and to think about the implications of this for the struggle even now.
It is worth noting that de Tocqueville, in his writings on American democracy in the first half of the 19th century, made the point that, even then, Americans valued everything in response to this sole question: how much money will it bring in? So this has been a distinguishing feature of this society not just with the heightened parasitism of the last few decades, but back to its very foundations. (Here, rather than elaborate on this particular point further, I'll refer people to the section of Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That? which speaks to these writings of de Tocqueville and this basic point about how it struck him that Americans were obsessed with material goods and wealth.1)
In the particular context of the USA in the present historical period, in terms of the battle in the realm of ideology, culture and morality—and bringing forward a radically different culture and ideology, including morality—there is the importance of taking on "suburbanism." Now, by this I don't mean that we should try to get everybody, in particular the youth, to leave the suburbs. Some of that, to the degree that it becomes a significant phenomenon, could be part of a positive development. But I'm speaking of "suburbanism" more as a way of life and, if you will, an "ethos," an ideological force.
In this regard, it is worth referring to a book by Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton University Press, 2001), in which she analyzes, with considerable insight, as well as some limitations, the social basis and social content of suburban fascist forces (although she doesn't refer to them as that), particularly as this developed in a pronounced way in Orange County, California from the 1950s (in the wake of World War 2 and what resulted from that war) to the present. While McGirr focuses, in some depth, on the particular expressions of this in Orange County, in a larger sense Orange County serves as a kind of a "laboratory" for the larger phenomenon of the development of fascist forces in the U.S., particularly in the period after World War 2.2
McGirr makes the point that in fact this fascist social base consisted of relatively well-off and educated strata—not poor or uneducated and lower middle class strata—but (once again, a phenomenon that's so striking in this kind of context) these are people who are educated, yes, but educated on a narrow foundation. A lot of the people that she's referring to, and who are the social base for this phenomenon, are engineers, technicians, and people in similar occupations—often, it should be noted, in high-tech industries that were just beginning to develop in the period of the 1950s. Also very significant is the fact that this was linked to a large degree, sometimes indirectly but often directly, to the military, and to corporations heavily tied into the military and focused on "defense spending." And, not surprisingly, Cold War anti-communism was a major ideological pillar of this phenomenon—of what in fact constituted a fascist force in its post-World War 2 development, in places like Orange County.
It is also noteworthy, as McGirr analyzes, that a large percentage of these new suburbanites of the western U.S. (places like Orange County) were people who had migrated from the Midwest and the South, and who brought with them the "traditional values" of those areas which then took on new form, and a new virulence in fact, in the conditions of post-World War 2 suburban western social existence. And, to a significant extent, the material basis for this was these people's ability to achieve—and their actually achieving—a certain "upward mobility" and higher social status in the suburbs of the west, and the way in which this pivoted around World War 2 (this is now my analysis, but it merges with important points that McGirr makes). It specifically pivoted around the triumph and ascendancy of the U.S. among the imperialists through that war and, as McGirr does emphasize, the government projects and government spending—in particular "defense-related" spending—in the wake of that war, and with the heating up of the Cold War. This included such things as the G.I. Bill—which had, as a significant aspect, built-in discrimination and white supremacy (about which I'll have more to say shortly)—as well as things like extensive highway construction, which was federally subsidized and which was related on the one hand to "defense spending" and was also indispensable for the development and sustenance of suburban living.
McGirr talks about the phenomenon of "the creation of Sunbelt suburbanization" and explicitly "white backlash" (p. 13)—otherwise known as racism—in the form in which it reacted against the developing civil rights movement in the period after World War 2. She also, importantly, speaks to how this phenomenon built on "older evangelical and antistatist ideological inheritances deeply rooted in American life." (p. 271) Again, this was assuming particular form, and particular virulence, in this conjuncture of different forces and social influences in the suburban west in the period after World War 2.
As is suggested in what I've pointed to so far, there are some rather striking ironies involved in all this. Here are people whose objective position—and in fact their upward mobility and achieving of a higher economic and social status, so to speak—hinged around and depended to a very large degree on government spending, in particular military spending, while this stood in contradiction to the extreme assertions of individualism on these people's part and the mythology of being "self-made." In other words, to put it baldly, they were subsidized, their position was underwritten to a very significant degree, by government spending; but on the other hand, there was the strong assertion of this mythology of individualism and of being "self-made." Think again of my earlier comments3 in terms of the role of the federal government throughout the history of this country and what these people have, virulently and viciously, opposed the federal government doing—but, on the other hand, what they were very much for, in terms of the involvement of and massive spending by the federal government, especially as this underwrote their rise to higher economic position and social status.
Along with this assertion of individualism, the mythology of being "self-made," and this contradictory attitude toward the federal government, was "a rejection of 'collectivism' in all of its forms," (p. 35) as McGirr characterizes it. This involved a rejection of the whole liberal outlook and how these reactionaries saw that as a promotion of "collectivism" and "statism" on behalf of the "undeserving." (And I don't have to elaborate further for it to be obvious who falls into the category of "undeserving" in the eyes of these people.) In other words: a bitter opposition to government spending on behalf of certain groups. Here again is the phenomenon of "white backlash"—or, more simply put, racism—and a certain self-righteous viciousness founded on parasitism.
Along with this, McGirr characterizes something important—in her words, "artificial communities...visions that emphasized individual privacy, private property, and public spaces defined by consumption." (p. 40) Now, that is very significant: "individual privacy, private property, and public spaces defined by consumption"—not the role of people as citizens of a democracy so much as consumers, underwritten to a great extent by government spending, as I've emphasized.
McGirr also refers to a "strange mixture of traditionalism and modernity" (p. 8) that characterizes this general outlook and the fascist movement that developed among these sections of the population—not that everyone among these strata was part of this fascist phenomenon, but this has been a significant phenomenon with its base among these types, and among these types there is in fact a "strange mixture of traditionalism and modernity," as McGirr puts it. Along with that is the notion of (in McGirr's words again) "common sense" based on libertarianism (and more specifically "Western libertarianism," in the case of places like Orange County and similar western incarnations of this phenomenon) "combined with a theoretically incompatible social and cultural conservatism." (p. 9) We see this in these fascist movements today—a continuation of this phenomenon, this strange brew of "libertarian common sense" combined with "a theoretically incompatible social and cultural conservatism."
McGirr refers to the role of churches—and it's important that we add, and underline, increasingly fundamentalist Christian churches—serving as "the cornerstone in developing a sense of community." (p. 48) So, along with consumerism (or consumptionism) we have fundamentalist Christianity and its churches playing the role of providing, or acting as a "cornerstone" in developing, "a sense of community" in these otherwise fragmenting and isolating suburbs.
In the framework of this development of suburbanism after World War 2, as a major feature of the U.S. landscape (literally the landscape, as well as a social and political landscape), we see the development of this fascist kind of movement riddled with these rather striking ironies or contradictions—including, once again, the whole way in which this was underwritten and fostered through conscious government policy: defense spending, the subsidizing of highways and of suburbanization, the G.I. Bill with its built-in racism and discrimination and the ways in which this promoted segregation and white supremacy.4
These features that I've been referring to have continued to stand out—and today rather acutely stand out—as major expressions of the phenomenon of "suburbanism," and in particular the significant right-wing social and political expression of this. "Suburbanism" is, as part of this whole package, an expression of, and a certain retrenching in, individualism and arid "anti-socialism," in both senses of that word—with, again, consumptionism and fundamentalist religion filling the void of community, so to speak: religious fundamentalism playing that role as an expression of, and as a "socializing force" which is consistent with, and furthers the ethos of, "suburbanism." And, of course, linked with all this is an aggressive "patriotism," which ties in directly with militarism and, in turn, the promotion of Christian fundamentalism within the U.S. military, which has been a marked phenomenon over the past several decades. So there is a kind of strange poisonous brew involved in all this.
At the same time, as has happened in earlier periods—and even with the very notable differences between now and the 1960s in particular—there is both a great need, and a real possibility and potential, for a rebellion, particularly of youth, in opposition to all this—especially to the right-wing expressions of this but also more generally to the assumptions and dynamics, the motivations and ethos, at the core of "suburbanism"—to what is in fact a whole way of life grounded in imperialist plunder which, to use Lenin's phrase again, puts "the seal of parasitism" on society as a whole. What is needed is a rebellion which would not be in the service of reformist and utopian schemes, and which does not further feed into and reinforce religious fundamentalism but, in opposition to all that, contributes to a movement for revolution, inspired by the aims and vision, and, yes, the morality and culture, of communism.
In this light it is worth examining some of the contradictory character and trends within at least some of the "youth revolt" and the "counter-culture," and in particular the "hippie phenomenon," of the 1960s and into the early 1970s. There was, among white middle class youth in the 1960s, a genuinely "generational" phenomenon of mass revolt against the dominant values and, yes, (to use that term) the "zeitgeist" of the society in those times (even while some people of that generation, such as George W. Bush, or William Kristol, went in the opposite direction, in reaction—to use that word in a double sense—against this very positive revolt and in hide-bound stubborn defense of everything it was righteously revolting against).
This positive upheaval, not only in the political but also in the cultural sphere, did include large numbers of youth in the suburbs, some of whose parents were liberals (or even "lefties" of the more revisionist and social-democratic type) but no small number of whom were "conservatives" or even outright fascist types. I myself encountered many people whose parents were Goldwater Republicans who became very radicalized in a good way within a few short years in the latter part of the 1960s. And, again, if you look at the movie Taking Woodstock, you see some of this phenomenon portrayed there, with its contradictoriness but its mainly positive character.
Yet, especially as the great upsurge of the 1960s ebbed, right-wing Christian forces were able to co-opt and "turn" some—though, of course, far from all—of this, steering it into Christian fundamentalist channels, a phenomenon that was strengthened by the fact that the 1960s upheaval and its revolutionary thrust was not able to "break on through to the other side," to actually make revolution. And here I'm reminded of something that I used to always laugh at (more at the time than I do now): There was, back in the late '60s/early '70s, a poster which was ironically commenting on this phenomenon—a poster entitled "Billy Graham meets the hippies." This depicted Billy Graham giving his usual sermon about Jesus and being "saved," and so on, and there were all these hippies portrayed in the audience going: "Wow, far out man." The point was that these right-wing Christian forces were able to find some common ground with some aspects—even though they were secondary aspects, at the best points—of this 1960s cultural rebellion or "counter-cultural revolution," understanding that in its proper sense.
And beyond that, it seems very likely that one of the main reasons and purposes with which Christian fundamentalist fascism has been promoted and supported so aggressively by sections of the ruling class and forces tied to them, in the decades since the upheaval of the 1960s, has been to preempt the kind of positive youth revolt and "counter-culture" that arose so powerfully through the '60s upsurge—to divert in a reactionary direction the very real alienation among many youth, including in the suburbs today—to feed this into reactionary channels, seeking to "cement" this ideologically with an absolutist worldview. Besides the "Christian rock" phenomenon and various Christian festivals for youth and so on, you also have things like summer camps for Christian youth who have graduated from high school and are preparing to go to college. They go to these training sessions at summer camps to be "inoculated" before they go off to college where they're going to be exposed to all kinds of "evil" things, like the science of evolution as well as "leftist political indoctrination." So this seems to be another example of how these forces—ruling class forces particularly of the fascist kind—have tried to learn from the period of the 1960s and act to prevent another upsurge of youth in a positive radical sense.
But at the same time, a genuinely radical, liberating revolt—as opposed to a reactionary "rebranding" and celebration of parasitism—must be fostered among the youth in today's conditions, a revolt within which the need is powerfully raised for a new society and a new world, which will move to eliminate the urban/suburban contradiction, and antagonism, in the context of the transformation of society, and the world, overall and the abolition of profound inequalities and divisions—opposing, overcoming and moving beyond the parasitism which is such an integral and indispensable part of the operation and dynamics of imperialism, and has reached such unprecedented heights in "late imperial America." In short, we need, in today's circumstances, a counter-culture that contributes to and is increasingly part of building a movement for revolution—in opposition to a counter-revolutionary culture. We need a culture of radical opposition to the essence of everything that is wrong with this society and system, and the many different manifestations of that; we need an active searching for a radically better world, within which revolution and communism is a powerful and continually growing pole of attraction.
What we are talking about then is a whole different, a radically different ethos—and potentially a whole different, and much better, way of life, in which (to recall the words of our Party's Manifesto, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage) people can truly be citizens of the world, members of a world community, without the destructive antagonistic conflicts that, for thousands of years, have marked relations among human beings, within and between different societies and parts of the world.
The situation cannot be allowed to continue where the alternatives with major social impact within this society are self-indulgent individualism, on the one hand, or, on the other hand, religious fundamentalism and subordination and sacrifice of the self to the collective juggernaut of imperialist conquest and plunder, as for example in the U.S. military; and where, in one form or another, a culture and morality serving the interests of the most monstrous exploiters and oppressors—and a system which does indeed, without the slightest bit of exaggeration, crush lives and mangle spirits on a massive scale, throughout the world, while having the audacity to present itself as the best of all possible systems and a shining example for the world—has virtually unchallenged hegemony.
The point is that there is a real need and a real basis to be bringing forward, fighting for—and, yes, living, even now—a radically different philosophy and a radically different culture and morality. And besides the realms of culture and morality there is a need, as has been emphasized before, for a fierce battle in the ideological/epistemological realm, particularly against relativism and its pernicious effects. Again, we see now a situation that is too much like that described in the poem by William Butler Yeats: "The worst are full of passionate intensity"—and absolutist certainty, we might add—while "the best lack all conviction." This has to be radically taken on and radically changed.
There is the point about where epistemology meets morality—and that it's not acceptable to say "I don't choose to know about that," or "I choose not to believe that," or "I choose not to do anything about that," because it gets you outside of your comfort zone. This is morally reprehensible and unacceptable and has to be challenged. It has to be challenged not only straight up and sharply but fundamentally on a materialist foundation, which goes back to all of the things that were discussed in the first part of this talk.
This calls to mind the comment that I made in the exchange with Bill Martin, which became the "Conversations" book, Marxism and the Call of the Future. I said to him: You are concerned about materialism not grounded in ethics; I am concerned about ethics not grounded in materialism. And he agreed that this focused and sharpened things up in a good way.5 The point is not that we don't need ethics, and not that we don't need to actually live and to struggle for a radically different morality in line with the objective of advancing to a communist world and building a revolutionary movement to that end; the point is that this has to be grounded in science, or else it won't be able to be sustained, it won't be able to have enough of a firm foundation to stand up to and to find its way amidst all the blowing winds, including the still powerful wind of relativism. We've seen this play out again and again. It comes back once more to "who are you to say what's right and wrong?" and "who are you to criticize?" If we're not grounded firmly enough in materialism, we're not going to be able to answer that. We're not going to be able to really deeply engage, criticize and dissect and show people what's wrong not only with relativism, but also with these other, openly reactionary points of view and values.
And that brings me back to the question of religious fundamentalism—and religion in general. Once again, we must make a distinction between people whose religious beliefs inspire or lead them to take progressive stands and to oppose oppression and, on the other hand, those whose religious beliefs lead them to do the opposite; but, even while keeping in mind and maintaining that distinction, it is very necessary and important to wage a vigorous struggle, ideologically—in regard to philosophy and morality and in the cultural realm—against religion of all kinds, against the religious worldview and what it promotes and the way it paralyzes people. We need to be boldly propagating atheism, and a liberating worldview and morality, based on the scientific outlook and method of communism.
So here again is the great need for a "cultural revolution": what I've referred to as a mass revolt—with youth as a driving force—daring to defy and repudiate the oppressive, degrading and suffocating relations, values and morals of this system, and those who enforce and uphold all this; being, in opposition to that, in many different ways and to the greatest extent possible, a living embodiment of new and liberating morals, values, relations and culture, as well as a growing force of resistance against the continual outrages and injustices of this system. And those who consciously, scientifically understand the need for revolution to do away with this system and bring a new, radically different and better system into being, with the ultimate goal of a whole new world, a communist world, must foster and breathe further life into this "cultural revolution," with all the creativity and imagination, the questioning, ferment and upheaval that this would, and should, involve, as part of building a movement for the revolution we need—fighting the power, and transforming the people, for this revolution—aiming for nothing less than to do away with this system and actually bring that new world into being.
This "cultural revolution," while having its own dynamics and characteristics, will also be closely interconnected with political and ideological work and struggle to bring people to see how the many outrages and injustices, and the suppression and suffocation, in many different spheres, that people abhor—how all this flows from and is rooted in the capitalist-imperialist system, and that a radically different and better system and world is possible—and in fact the possibility of that world is straining against the confines and constraints of this horrific present system and world.
Also, as an important part of all this, and of striving to have it serve the building of a revolutionary movement, there is a great need to foster and promote a culture and a community of resistance, with many different forms and expressions—within which the "pole" of revolution and communism is a growing and vibrant influence and attractive force.
All this is not just of minor or secondary significance, but is of strategic importance, has strategic implications, in terms of repolarization—for revolution.
With regard to imperialist countries, it is worthwhile briefly reviewing the strategic orientation discussed in "On the Possibility of Revolution,"6 while referring people to that work itself, which presents in a very concentrated way the basic principles to which I want to speak here. The basic orientation that is upheld and emphasized in "On the Possibility of Revolution" is to maintain the understanding that in imperialist countries in particular it is only with a major, qualitative change in the situation—that is, the eruption of a revolutionary crisis and the emergence of a revolutionary people in the millions and millions—that it becomes possible to wage the all-out struggle for the seizure of power; and that when it does become possible to do that, with the qualitative change in the situation and the emergence of those conditions, in contrast to what was previously thought, this struggle should not take the form of simultaneous massive insurrections in a number of major cities but rather a more protracted struggle, which would have some features in common with—while also being different in some significant ways from—the strategic orientation applied in Third World countries where the road to revolution generally lies in a protracted people's war.
As a decisive point of orientation, it is important to emphasize that the kind of protracted struggle that is spoken of in "On the Possibility of Revolution," particularly in regard to imperialist countries, while it would have some features in common with struggles in Third World countries which are dominated, or even outright occupied, by imperialism, would also have this difference—and it's a very important one: in imperialist countries the revolutionary struggle takes place in the "home base" of the imperialists; it cannot revolve around driving out invading and occupying forces—wearing them down and causing them ultimately to withdraw—but would instead require actually defeating, disintegrating and thoroughly dismantling the forces of the imperialists, right where they are fundamentally based.
This is a profound difference and has very profound implications in terms not only of the objective, but the means for waging the struggle to achieve that objective. It is a very different phenomenon and dynamic when your objective is simply to wear down powerful occupying or invading forces and cause them to give it up and withdraw, and then to wage struggle against remaining local reactionary forces—that is very different from a situation where it is necessary to actually fight the imperialists on the "home ground" that is shared by both sides, and to defeat, disintegrate and thoroughly dismantle the reactionary forces in that situation. In other words, they're not going to give it up and withdraw in these circumstances. In terms of strategic approach, such an outcome—driving them out, forcing them to flee the country—is not one that should be counted on, not one around which the strategy of the revolutionary forces in this situation should revolve. Instead, once again, the objective would have to be squarely confronted: defeating, disintegrating and thoroughly dismantling the repressive apparatus of the old order and the reactionary forces fighting for that old order.
This also sheds light on and emphasizes another important point relating to "On the Possibility of Revolution," particularly as applied to and with its focus on imperialist countries. The necessity for protractedness in this struggle—once the conditions have been brought into being which make this struggle possible—has to do with the need to avoid decisive encounters with the other side (encounters whose outcome would have a strategic bearing on the whole course and result of the struggle) before the possibility exists for such encounters to have a positive outcome for the revolutionary forces and in relation to their fundamental revolutionary objectives. Protractedness would also be required in keeping with the necessity to avoid establishing a new, revolutionary regime prematurely, when such a regime would be highly vulnerable to devastating defeat—before the conditions are coming into being for the final defeat of the imperialist and reactionary forces.
On the other hand, such a struggle would not be, and should not be characterized by, "settling into protractedness," because that too would very likely be a recipe for defeat—for being smashed and decimated. Rather, there would be the need and the challenge of continually seeking the means to seize—to take and to regain when it's lost—the initiative. And there would be a need to conduct all this with a certain "finiteness" of orientation—even while this would be protracted, it also would have to be finite.
The phenomenon of "protractedness without any finite orientation" has been a problem even in Third World countries. In certain situations, the sense of "finiteness," in terms of the orientation of the revolutionary forces, has been lost, and the protracting of the struggle has become in essence "a thing unto itself"; if not by intention then at least in objective effect, the ultimate seizure of power, throughout the country, recedes into the background, not just as an immediate goal but in a more overall and basic sense. So, whatever the specific situation—and this would have particular application in imperialist countries—there would need to be protractedness, but not "settling into protractedness," and there would need to be the constant struggle to seize, to take—and to regain when it's lost—the initiative, and an orientation of "finiteness" at the same time as "protractedness."
There is also, very importantly, the problem of the development of the necessary political and ideological conditions for the initiation of this struggle for the seizure of power—and the organized expression of the political and ideological influence of the vanguard—among the basic masses but also, to the greatest degree possible at every point along the way, among other strata of the people as well, in order to have the best possible basis for carrying forward the struggle for power once it has been launched and not, in fact, to be contained and crushed, but to have the best possible basis to "break out of encirclement," when the necessary conditions have emerged and this all-out struggle for power has begun, in those conditions. It is important to emphasize this point: It is not just at the time that this protracted struggle would be launched and waged, when the conditions for that have come into being—it's not just at that time and in those conditions that the necessary work would need to be done to create the basis not to be encircled and suppressed in confined areas. Rather, political and ideological work with this contradiction in mind would need to be carried out during the whole period before the emergence of the necessary conditions and before such a struggle is launched. You could make an analogy to farming, to planting and harvesting: You can't try to harvest crops immediately after they have been planted, without any time for those crops to actually grow and to ripen. So work would have to be done with strategic perspective all along the way, even while the character of things would be qualitatively different once the necessary objective conditions had emerged and the all-out struggle for power were being waged.
In this connection, it is also important to continue to study historical experience involving the defeat of more or less revolutionary struggles that could be—and were in fact—confined, in terms of their mass base of support, to minority sections of the population. If a struggle of the kind being spoken of here were launched when the necessary conditions emerged, but there had not been much of a basis created previously—not only in regard to the development of the objective conditions, but in terms of political and ideological work—to spread this struggle beyond its most solid base among the population, and to have it be taken up, in various levels of activity or support, by broad strata of the population, then that would pretty much be a recipe and a trajectory for defeat. So the need would exist to lay the basis to prevent and overcome such a strategic approach by the other side, which they would very likely apply, and have applied in past experiences—seeking to isolate and then crush a revolutionary struggle of this kind.
We can think of examples in relatively recent history, such as Northern Ireland and Malaya (not long after World War 2), where generally revolutionary struggles, or struggles going up against the established power in any case, were isolated to the section of the population in which they had their strongest support and therefore were able to be cut off and, to a very significant degree, suppressed—and, in the case of Malaya, outright defeated.
These are just a couple of examples from history. There is much more to be studied and learned about from history, more recent history as well as experience in the more distant past, in regard to this basic principle: While it may be the case—and if we're talking about things in a country like the U.S. with its high degree of parasitism, it is very likely to be the case—that there will be a gap, a significant gap, between the most bedrock base for this revolutionary movement and other strata of the people, if that is allowed to be turned into a profound, unsurpassable gulf, and only that hard-core section of the population is moving in the direction of involvement in and active support for this struggle, then this struggle is on the way to defeat. This is something that has to be thought about and acted upon not only when the conditions do undergo a qualitative change, and there is an all-out struggle for power—but long before that, in terms of how political and ideological and organizational work is carried out.
There is also the necessity to squarely confront what will almost inevitably be the savage destructiveness and ruthlessness of the imperialist (and other reactionary) forces, who will spare very little in their attempts to outright crush and pulverize any attempt at bringing a new society into being through revolutionary struggle, especially right where their base of power is. We can think of examples, again, from recent history. There is the recent experience of Fallujah in Iraq and the lengths that the U.S. imperialists went to, to devastate that city and its population—bombing hospitals, massacring civilians, when most of the insurgents had actually left the city by the time of the second assault of the U.S. on the city. This was done by the U.S. imperialists to exact revenge and to "teach a lesson" to the people not only in that city, but in that country and more broadly in the world. It is not the case that the U.S. imperialists unleashed everything they could have unleashed on that city, but they did go to great lengths to inflict tremendous suffering on not just the hard-core people fighting them, but the broader population.
So, certainly in a situation in which their very power and ability to dictate and exploit throughout the world were being challenged in a frontal way, there is no question that they would unleash savage destructiveness and ruthlessness on a massive scale. Both ideologically and practically, it would be necessary to be prepared for this—and to prepare the masses for this—and for this to be turned back against them, with the determination of the people at the core of the struggle and growing numbers of the masses—not only basic masses but also people of other strata more broadly—being heightened to defeat these imperialists and reactionaries for all the crimes that they've committed right then, as well as everything they had done leading up to that. This will be a real struggle in the ideological realm and in the practical realm.
It is also worthwhile, as a kind of theoretical conceptualizing, to envision the basic character of the "opening phase" of this protracted struggle. Once again I refer people to how this is characterized in "On the Possibility of Revolution," including the following:
"A particular and distinguishing feature of the situation in which it would be possible, and correct, for the revolutionary forces to launch such a protracted struggle, would be that the repressive and reactionary violence of the existing state and its institutions would have lost its legitimacy—would have come to be seen as unjust and illegitimate violence—in the eyes of very broad sections of society. This is one of the key indicators of a revolutionary situation and key bases for the emergence of a revolutionary people."
Without elaborating at length on this here, the point is then made in "On the Possibility of Revolution" that, once the necessary qualitative change had come about, and the protracted struggle would then have the necessary objective basis, the character of the "opening phase" of this protracted struggle would need to be one which made clear by its very nature that there was now on the scene a serious revolutionary force contending actively for power, with a vision and program for radically transforming society, with the fundamental aim of uprooting relations of exploitation and oppression.
In this regard, once again seeking to draw broad lessons from historical experience, there is an interesting point in the book Guerilla Days in Ireland, A Personal Account of the Anglo-Irish War (referring to the war right after World War 1), written by Tom Barry, who actively took part in that war on the side of Irish resistance to British domination. Barry recounts how the Easter Rebellion in Ireland, during the course of World War 1—even though this rebellion was smashed and defeated by the British—had a major impact, particularly on the youth of Ireland, including Barry himself. It is very interesting that at the time this occurred, Barry was in fact serving in the British army, fighting against the German-led alliance in World War 1, and yet this rebellion was a galvanizing event for him—and, he says, for many other Irish people, particularly youth at that time—even though the rebellion failed. So there is something important to learn from this experience—even while things should not be repeated in the same form leading to the same outcome. Recasting this lesson in light of the theoretical conception set forth in "On the Possibility of Revolution"—of a protracted revolutionary struggle, once the necessary conditions emerged—and more particularly with regard to the "opening phase" of such a struggle, what stands out is the significance of making clear to people throughout society, and indeed to the world, that there is a contending force with a radically different vision of what society should be, which has announced its presence, and its seriousness in terms of fighting through to realize that vision.
Another important element that is worth calling attention to, in terms of this overall struggle, is the role of periodic mobilizations of masses, as well as other political and ideological work to continue winning over and organizing growing numbers of masses into the revolutionary struggle—not only people from the bedrock base of that struggle but broader strata as well—and to further influence the "political terrain" and carry forward further political repolarization among various strata, including the heightening of divisions within the ranks of the enemy forces, in a direction more favorable to revolution. This would be in the midst of—and in fact to make conditions increasingly more favorable for—the principal task and focal point of the struggle at that time: aiming for the seizure of power, through the decisive defeat of the forces of reaction, in line with the basic principles set forth in "On the Possibility of Revolution."
It is also important to have in mind the overall relation between the broad masses—the "millions and millions" who would make up the revolutionary people at that time, and their growing numbers—on the one hand, and on the other hand the organized revolutionary force at the core of the actual struggle for the seizure of power, not only in terms of how this relation would take shape and be expressed at the beginning but throughout this struggle, with its protracted, but still finite, character.
All this once more shines a light on, and emphasizes the importance of, work that is carried out before there is the qualitative change in the objective conditions. In particular, it highlights the role of a mass movement for revolution which would—with the development of a revolutionary situation and the growth of this movement to incorporate millions—be transformed qualitatively into a force waging and supporting the all-out struggle for power (as discussed in "On the Possibility of Revolution"). At the same time, there would be interpenetration of that with the phenomenon of "civil war between two sections of the people" (in broad terms, the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary sections, or forces, among the people overall) that would almost certainly be a major feature of such a struggle. The necessity would exist, in those future conditions, to both carry out such a battle between two sections of the people—intertwined with the struggle against the main repressive forces of the old order—and to work to achieve continuing repolarization, on more favorable terms, through the course of the overall struggle, winning over as many people as possible from the ranks of the counter-revolution to that of the revolution, or at least politically neutralizing them, so that they no longer took part in opposing the revolution. All this is another complexity that would have to be dealt with in the course of this protracted struggle.
There is also the need, in terms of further developing theoretical and strategic conception, to devote a great deal more attention to the problem of leadership. This is a question not only in a general sense, but more specifically in relation to the "decapitation" strategy of the forces of the old order. Such work, in the realm of theoretical conception, would need to focus on the importance of leadership not only on the highest, and overall strategic, level but also, very importantly, on levels below that which, along with overall strategic leadership, would be decisive in such a protracted struggle once the conditions for that had emerged. While it is not the entirety of what would need to be taken up in this regard, in those qualitatively different circumstances there would be an important application of the principle of ideological centralization and organizational decentralization.
A problem which is already posing itself rather acutely—and which will have force throughout the course of the period before, and then in an accentuated way in the course of, the protracted struggle for power—is the one-sided nature of the alignment of things and the polarization in society these days, particularly as this gets expressed even today in what amounts to a counterinsurgency, on the part of the powers-that-be, directed against basic masses, when there is not yet an insurgency among those masses. Even once things were well into the protracted struggle, the people waging that struggle, on the revolutionary side, would still have been coming out of a situation in which there had been, for a long time, an unfavorable polarization; and there would be a need to be constantly working to repolarize things, on more favorable terms, in the course of that protracted struggle. But this is already being acutely posed, as a result particularly of the currently one-sided nature of what I have referred to (and some others, coming from different viewpoints, have also spoken to this in similar terms) as a counterinsurgency directed against basic masses when there is not yet an insurgency among them, and more generally the unfavorable character of the current political/ideological alignment in society overall, including among the middle strata.
In terms of this counterinsurgency toward basic masses, even when there is not yet an insurgency among them, we can think of things like the "war on drugs," mass incarceration, "stop and frisk" and the entering into "law enforcement databases" of millions and millions of youth in the inner cities, including many in situations where they have committed no crime. What is the purpose, strategically speaking, of the ruling class in doing all this? They are not just doing it to "keep order" in the present circumstances but, at least on the part of some more strategic thinkers, they are doing it with the future in mind—in an effort to preempt the possibility of a real insurgency, and to be in a position to immediately and ruthlessly crush it if, despite all their efforts, one occurs in any case.
Now, with regard to the presently unfavorable polarization among the middle strata, there is the work that has been done on the part of the ruling class, in terms of the way it has carried out propaganda in various forms (including through its mass media and "popular culture") dehumanizing the basic masses, portraying them as debased and dangerous. It is very troubling to have to say it, but we have to realize that broadly among the middle strata there is an acceptance, to way too great a degree, of this view of the basic masses, and the youth in particular in the inner cities, that is purveyed by the ruling class. If that were not the case, even with all the self-indulgent individualism that's so rampant in the culture these days, there would be much more massive outcry and resistance when something like the egregious murder of Oscar Grant occurs—when, instead, there is silence and inactivity, not literally but to far too great a degree, particularly among the middle strata, and especially among white people.
And this, of course, relates to the point that was being emphasized earlier about "breaking out of the encirclement" when the conditions are qualitatively different, and the protracted struggle for power is being waged—not allowing things to settle into terms where only the most bedrock base for the revolutionary struggle would be in a position of support and active involvement—which would also mean that, before long, even that base could not hold out. Mao made this point (I believe it was in "A Single Spark Can Start A Prairie Fire"), speaking about the situation in what were the early stages of the protracted people's war in China, where the revolutionary forces had established base areas in the countryside: if they weren't able to expand the territory of the base areas and involve more people in this, Mao warned, then first of all, the middle strata in the base areas—the better-off peasants, as well as artisanal and other middle strata—would desert them, and then even the basic masses, the poor and lower-middle peasants and the proletarians, would not be able to hold out. There is an analogy between that and the situation and problems that would have to be confronted in terms of the kind of protracted revolutionary struggle in imperialist countries that is spoken to in "On the Possibility of Revolution."
Once again, all this points to and underlines the importance, even now, of repolarization—with the strategic orientation of building a movement for revolution—political and ideological repolarization, now and in an ongoing way.
So those are some points that are worth calling attention to in regard to what is put forth in "On the Possibility of Revolution," speaking specifically of imperialist countries.
With regard to countries in the Third World which, in one way or another, are dominated by imperialism and whose internal structures and dynamics are qualitatively affected by that, one of the things we have been calling attention to are the major changes in the "demographics" and the "social configuration" in at least many of these countries, and the implications of this for revolutionary strategy. It's a very different world than China during its revolution in the late 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. It's even a very different world than the one that existed during the period of the Vietnamese war of resistance against U.S. imperialism in the 1960s and early 1970s, a period also marked by other anti-colonial, anti-imperialist struggles, in Angola and Mozambique and other parts of the world during that time. Major changes have taken place in the world, and in the conditions and lives of masses of people.
When, today, you have millions and millions of people crowded into shantytowns surrounding cities (as part of the broader urban cores), in countries throughout the Third World, that is very different than when you had many of those same millions in the countryside, in impoverished and exploited conditions but nevertheless living off the land in one form or another. These are, very significantly, different conditions. And the conditions today are ones within which reactionary forces, including religious fundamentalists, are working and presently thriving to a significant extent, in large part because of their apocalyptic and millennial approach to things—or that is, in any case, a big factor in their appeal—corresponding to the volatile conditions of a lot of the masses in these urban shantytowns. These are things that have to be confronted, studied and analyzed, and strategic thinking has to be further developed on that basis. This doesn't mean throwing out the whole strategic orientation developed by Mao of surrounding the cities from the countryside, as the road for carrying out protracted people's war. But, as Mao himself emphasized, you can't be bound by convention. If you're going to make revolution—to go back to the beginning, and to a main theme, of this talk—you have to do it on the basis of science and, with the scientific outlook and method of dialectical materialism, analyze and synthesize what the actual conditions are that you're confronted with and what, within the contradictory dynamics of that, are the possible pathways of change, and in particular revolutionary transformation. You cannot do that if you are bound by convention and by instrumentalism (seeking to impose on reality a vision of how you would like it to be, instead of proceeding on the basis of what reality actually is, and transforming it on that basis). A lot of work needs to be done in the realm of analysis and synthesis, strategic thinking and strategic conception.
Still, with all that, there is the question of the countryside (literally, or perhaps figuratively) as the "center of gravity" of the all-out struggle for power—at the beginning, and for a certain period, at least. Now what I mean by literally or perhaps figuratively is that in Mao's development of the theory of protracted people's war and surrounding the cities from the countryside, that was meant literally and was applied literally—and correctly so: the protracted people's war actually being based among the vast masses of the peasants in the countryside, beginning in the more remote areas where the reach of the reactionary state power was less intense and less constant, opening up the possibility of establishing areas of support and eventually base areas controlled by the revolutionary forces. But there can also be creative application of this concept of surrounding the city from the countryside.
Now, we do have to be careful of creative applications—in many cases things done in the name of "creative development" or "creative application" have led to all kinds of problems—such "creative development and application" of communist theory has been the hallmark of revisionism, or the rationalization in any case for revisionism. Revisionist creativity and related kinds of approaches are no good. I remember back in the 1960s, just to divert for a second, there was this group in the U.S., the Young Patriot Party, founded by some guys from the South, and they wanted to revive the Confederate flag as a symbol of rebellion against the system. I remember some of them showed up at a Black Panther Party rally in support of Huey Newton, when he was in jail, and a bunch of us were sitting out on the grass talking during a lull in things. They had the Red Book, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung, and they were "creatively applying" that. I was demanding to know: "What the hell is with this Confederate flag, what are you guys doing?" They answered: "We're patriots." So I snapped back: "What kind of patriots are you?! You can't do that—that kind of patriotism is no good." Then they pulled out the Red Book and quoted from Mao: "In wars of national liberation, patriotism is applied internationalism." Well, I had heard this from Black nationalists many times, but this was the first time I heard it from white nationalists! So, I looked at them and I said: "You ain't waging no war of national liberation, just give it up." That was an example of very bad "creative application." But there is a need for creative application that actually is scientifically grounded and is in the service of revolution and communism.
In that light, this is something that needs to be explored: the "figurative countryside," in the sense of areas where masses are concentrated which may not literally be the countryside, at least in the more "classical" sense, but are places where the most concentrated power of the reactionary ruling class is not centered, or not as effectively enforced. Could those areas be a basis for a beginning, and for the strategic unfolding of things with that as a basis for a beginning?
There is also, in many cases, the question of whether the countryside, in the literal sense, would be the initial "starting ground," even if eventually the "center of gravity" would shift more to the urban areas, or even if fairly early on there would be much more significant emphasis on the urban areas than is involved classically, in the writings of Mao on the strategy of protracted people's war, for example? And there is the question of whether, particularly with intervention by powerful outside forces—reactionary powers and/or imperialists—there would, at least in some cases, be a need for pulling back into the countryside, as the main or even almost exclusive center of the struggle for a certain period of time?
All this, once again, needs to be examined in a manner free of the fetters of convention—but not free of science, not detached from a materialist approach and from the strategic objectives which must inform this whole struggle in the first place.
So, again, there is a question of the literal but perhaps also the figurative countryside and how that might apply. And there is a need for creative but scientifically based work in relation to this. Where might there be areas of significant concentration of the masses that would be outside the strongholds and the "ready reach" of the old, reactionary oppressive order? Making a start in this kind of way—in other words, finding the basis in which a start could be made without being immediately crushed—would be necessary and crucial to establish a clear pole in opposition to the established order and to accumulate forces for revolution.
As spoken to earlier in terms of how these principles would be applied, in qualitatively different conditions, in an imperialist country, there would be—from the beginning of the protracted struggle, once the conditions for that had come into being—the importance of clearly establishing a revolutionary "pole" actively contending for power in society, to which masses could increasingly rally with the development of the struggle: a pole in opposition to the established reactionary order and forces but also, in a different way, in opposition to other forces and programs in society—not necessarily on antagonistic terms with regard to non-ruling class, reformist forces, but nevertheless a pole that is clearly and radically different from what they represent.
Where the conditions exist in which it is possible, and is required for the advance of the revolution, to wage this kind of struggle, only by waging this struggle will it be possible to fully win forces away from various reformist programs, as well as to carry things forward overall in opposition to the established reactionary order and reactionary forces. This is an important point to understand: when the objective conditions have come into being, or do exist, if the initial breakthrough is not made in terms of waging this kind of struggle, then not only reactionary but reformist forces as well will retain or regain the initiative. And, on the positive side, once the conditions for this exist, then with the planting of a clear pole embodied in an active beginning of the struggle for power, it will be possible to catapult the basis for repolarization onto a different level.
Then, once the revolutionary forces in such a situation would be "on the map"—once they had been able to defeat attempts to crush them at the beginning and were able to advance—there would be the question of how to continue proceeding toward the situation where the question of the seizure of power throughout the country would be posed not only as a general strategic goal, but in more immediate terms—how to bring about the concluding or "final act." And in this regard, some aspects of "On the Possibility of Revolution" could be relevant and have application, even though "On the Possibility of Revolution" is focused on imperialist countries and not so much on Third World countries that are occupied or otherwise dominated by imperialism.
As referred to earlier, in Third World countries, with the advance of the struggle for power along the general lines that have been spoken of here—and even where there had not, up to that point, been direct occupation by imperialist or other foreign powers—it would be necessary to anticipate and prepare for the possibility of such intervention by imperialist and/or other reactionary states, in direct opposition to and in an attempt to crush the revolution. This could happen either with the seizure of power, or even before that when the revolution had reached an advanced stage, with the prospect of its seizing countrywide power becoming more real and palpable. The implications of this for the approach to completing, and consolidating, the seizure of power would need to be anticipated, and not just taken up at the time when such an intervention would be occurring or would appear imminent. Once again, this could include—and it is worth emphasizing that it might not require this, but it could include—the necessity of a temporary retreat from the major centers of power in and around the urban areas. Even if the struggle had gotten to the point where it focused in those areas to a significant degree, the necessity could arise for a retreat from that in order to accumulate the basis to go forward again. And that, after all, is the point: to go forward to the completion of this stage of the revolution, with the thorough defeat of the old, reactionary state power and the establishment of a new, revolutionary state power, in order to embark on the road of socialism, as part of the overall world revolutionary struggle with the final aim of communism.
The "two historically outmodeds"—and the crucial importance of a revolutionary orientation and strategic conception
What has been spoken to here involves principles and questions which are important in terms of revolutionary theory and strategic conception with regard to both imperialist countries and countries occupied or otherwise dominated by imperialism (countries of the Third World, for short). And, in all this, there is a need to take into account the whole dynamic of the "two historically outmodeds"—the outmoded imperialist system and its ruling strata, and outmoded strata and forces among colonized and oppressed humanity, including in particular Islamic fundamentalist, jihadist forces7—as a major part of the situation and the dynamics, not only in this or that country or part of the world, but in the world overall, even while this is not the only contradiction or only dynamic of significance asserting itself in the world today. In the world today the need is great, urgent and continually more urgent for not only mass opposition and resistance to both of these "outmodeds"—and above all the imperialist "outmoded"—but also for qualitative advances and breakthroughs for the real and fundamental alternative to both of these outmodeds: revolution, led by a genuinely communist vanguard and aiming for the final goal of a communist world, free of every kind of outmoded, exploitative and oppressive relations and the corresponding ideas.
In regard to basic orientation and approach, in addition to the particular points to which I've spoken, and along with referring people back to re-studying (or studying for the first time, for those who have not yet studied) "On the Possibility of Revolution," I want to stress in a more general and broader sense the ongoing need for further, serious and systematic, study and what we might call "theoretical assimilation of experience" of various kinds, and in various epochs, in order to carry forward the work that needs to be done in the realm of theoretical and strategic conception.
First, what do we mean by "revolution"—what is a revolution, and in particular a communist revolution? Through the remaining parts of this talk, I will get more fully into some of the key elements that go into building a real movement for revolution in a country like the U.S.—having to do with the objective situation, and its development and transformation, and the subjective factor, specifically the role of the communist vanguard and those working closely with this vanguard and in essential unity with its line. But it is important first to make clear what, in basic terms, we mean when we say the goal is revolution, and in particular communist revolution. Revolution is not some kind of change in style, or a change in attitude, nor is it merely a change in certain relations within a society which remains fundamentally the same. Revolution means nothing less than the defeat and dismantling of the existing, oppressive state, serving the capitalist-imperialist system—and in particular its institutions of organized violence and repression, including its armed forces, police, courts, prisons, bureaucracies and administrative power—and the replacement of those reactionary institutions, those concentrations of reactionary coercion and violence, with revolutionary organs of political power, and other revolutionary institutions and governmental structures, whose basis has been laid through the whole process of building the movement for revolution, and then carrying out the seizure of power, when the conditions for that have been brought into being—which in a country like the U.S. would require a qualitative change in the objective situation, resulting in a deep-going crisis in society, and the emergence of a revolutionary people in the millions and millions, who have the leadership of a revolutionary communist vanguard and are conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it.
As I emphasized earlier in this talk, the seizure of power and radical change in the dominant institutions of society, when the conditions for this have been brought into being, makes possible further radical change throughout society—in the economy and economic relations, the social relations, and the politics, ideology and culture prevailing in society. The final aim of this revolution is communism, which means and requires the abolition of all relations of exploitation and oppression and all destructive antagonistic conflicts among human beings, throughout the world. Understood in this light, the seizure of power, in a particular country, is crucial and decisive, and opens the door to further radical change, and to strengthening and further advancing the revolutionary struggle throughout the world; but, at the same time, as crucial and decisive as that is, it is only the first step—or first great leap—in an overall struggle which must continue toward the final goal of this revolution: a radically new, communist world.
The development of U.S. imperialism, shifts in social relations and conditions, and challenges in making revolution
In light of that, I want to touch on some important objective conditions, and obstacles, to be confronted, and transformed, in making revolution. I've spoken in various dimensions about the "seal of parasitism" on the whole imperialist U.S.A. and the depth and breadth of the parasitism in this society. This presents us with a very real and very profound problem in terms of the present polarization in society and repolarization for revolution—or, to put it another way, it has a great deal to do with that problem. And, in this regard, it is worth thinking back to the discussion earlier about "suburbanism" and taking on "suburbanism" in its various dimensions.
But here I want to return to what was discussed in the first of the 7 Talks I gave around five years ago now: "Why We're in the Situation We're In Today...And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution."8 More specifically, in that talk there is a discussion of the development of U.S. imperialism, through spirals, over the last century or so, and changes in the "class and social configuration" of this country, very much in relation to that development. What is characterized in that talk (and I won't go into it at length here, but will briefly review what's said there) is that through the course of the last century—through the emergence of U.S. imperialism in a qualitatively greater way on the world stage at the end of the 19th century, as marked by the war with Spain over the Philippines and other countries and territories, including Cuba and Puerto Rico, and then through World War 1 and on an even greater level through World War 2—U.S. imperialism has risen to the position of being a superpower (as it is called) and, with the demise of the Soviet Union, the sole superpower in the world. Now, this doesn't mean that it has unchallenged and unchallengeable power—as the leaders of U.S. imperialism are themselves well aware—but its development over the last century has led U.S. imperialism to the position of being an imperialist superpower. At the same time, it is running into many significant obstacles and real difficulties in continually attempting to impose its domination in the world—many things are turning into their opposites, other forces are emerging in the world which are in various ways challenging this hegemony of U.S. imperialism, even while not attempting to make a direct frontal, and certainly not a direct military challenge to the power of U.S. imperialism.
But what I want to focus on here is the way in which, without being mechanical and reductionist, we can recognize a direct correlation, through these various spirals, between the spreading out and deepening of imperialist penetration, domination and exploitation throughout the Third World in particular—and I'm speaking particularly of U.S. imperialism here—and significant changes within the U.S. in terms of "the social and class configuration": the heightening parasitism and the increasing shift, away from a configuration in which a large percentage of the population was classically proletarian, working in various spheres of industry as exploited wage workers, to a situation in which that is a small percentage of the U.S. population, and of the "labor force," and there are, both below and above that "classical working class," various strata that are not directly involved at the heart of the production process—which, again, has been increasingly spread out on a globalized scale. This is one of the particularities and complexities of making a proletarian revolution in a country like this.
We are not going to make revolution by trying to superimpose on reality a model of how a socialist transformation is "supposed" to take place. That is why, among other reasons, the Trotskyites seem so ridiculous. They come around talking about "the labor movement" and "the trade unions," as if they are in Western Europe at the end of the 19th century. This has to do with the separation of the communist movement from the labor movement, and what are the implications of that in general and specifically in terms of revolution in a country like this. The very significant changes in "social and class configuration," and in particular the heightening of parasitism, in the U.S. constitute an important part of objective reality that we have to analyze, in its contradictory dynamics, in order to be able to further enrich and develop, and implement, a strategy for making revolution in this country. There is ongoing work to be done in this regard, even while we have a basic, correct strategy for revolution.
Now in the ideological sphere, an important part of preparing minds, as well as organizing forces, for revolution—laying the basis for this revolution ideologically and politically as well as organizationally—is taking into account and countering analyses and "stratagems" which are designed to serve (or, in some cases, with a different motivation nonetheless end up serving, even if unintentionally) the ruling class in making the oppressed, and others hungering for a more just, and even a radically different, society, feel "surrounded" and "marginalized": up against not only the formidable power of the imperialist state, with its massive machinery of death and destruction as well as its well-honed repressive apparatus of police, prisons, and courts, but also seemingly up against the "majority" of the U.S. population, which is supposedly somehow inherently "conservative." This does relate to the objective phenomenon I was just speaking of—the development of U.S. imperialism through spirals over the last century or so, and in a pronounced way in the period since World War 2, and then another major change with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire, as such. Those objective developments and the conditions associated with them have a great deal to do, not only with the parasitism in this society in a general sense, but also with the phenomenon where, spontaneously and through the concentrated and systematic work of the ruling class and people representing it, the basic masses in particular do feel "marginalized" and even "surrounded" in this framework. And then, on top of that, there is this concerted ideological effort by the ruling class to come up with—or, in any case, to propagate—various theories and stratagems which give further expression to this and have the effect, directly or indirectly, of further deepening this feeling of being isolated, marginalized, and surrounded.
For example, there are the infamous and ever-present polls. The crafting and use of polls is a major ideological weapon wielded by the bourgeoisie—and we should understand that this is essentially what these polls are. That doesn't mean that every person who's hired to work on a poll is "a conscious functionary of the imperialist ruling class"—nor is it the case that the results of every poll are simply invented or are wildly inaccurate—but there are, built-into these polls and the way they are conducted, not only real limitations but also significant biases and ways in which they skew things; and the objective function of these polls—and to a significant degree, on the part of major functionaries of the ruling class, this is a deliberate and conscious intent—is to help establish and reinforce what the ruling class wants people to believe. For example, out comes this Nazi-like anti-immigrant law in Arizona—and, wouldn't you know, here comes a poll saying that a majority of the American people support this law. What is the intent, and certainly what is the effect, of putting out such a poll? Even if a lot of basic people don't pay attention to polls, per se, and aren't aware of a particular poll by Gallup or whomever, they nevertheless are affected by the general "vibe," if you want to use that word, that gets out in society, which these polls play a significant part in creating. In fact, it is hard to think of a serious reactionary offensive by the ruling class of this country that does not have its "poll" to back it up and portray it as, lo and behold, "the will of the American people," or at least a majority of them.
So this is something we need to counter, including by way of explaining to people how these polls are actually conducted, what their role and function is, and what they do and do not represent. We shouldn't underestimate the effect that, even if to a large degree indirectly, such polls and the whole ideological thrust that they're part of has in demoralizing masses and making them feel that it's pointless to resist and to rise up, and certainly to think of making revolution.
Along with this, there is the misreading, or deliberate distortion, of the experience and social impacts and effects of the 1960s and its aftermath. I referred earlier to the book Suburban Warriors by Lisa McGirr. Well, while that book does contain a lot of interesting and in many ways insightful analysis, it also repeats the widely propagated thesis that the radical impulses and upsurges of the '60s gave rise to a "backlash" and moved the country to the right, as expressed in the dominance of the Republican Party in elections in this country since that time.
There are so many things wrong with this analysis that a) it's hard to know where to begin; and b) I don't have time to go into anything like all of it in the context of this talk. But, to speak to an essential aspect of this, these kinds of analyses leave out the fundamental fact that there was a certain dynamic in which (as admitted by people like Henry Kissinger and others of the ruling class) radical and, broadly speaking, revolutionary forces had the initiative in society by the end of the 1960s, and to a very significant degree—culturally, ideologically, as well as politically—were setting the terms, with the ruling class and reactionary forces rocked back on their heels. But—here is a point we have to keep coming back to—that was not carried through to an actual revolution. There was no fundamental change in the social relations and the system of political power, and its underlying material basis in the economic system. And fundamentally in relation to that, the movement of the '60s ebbed. When you add to that setbacks and major defeats for revolution and communism—including in a concentrated way the loss of China to a revisionist seizure of power in the 1970s—the ruling class in this country was able to forcefully reassert its objectives, its values, its outlook, including in various dimensions and arenas in which it had been significantly on the defensive in the face of this massive radical upsurge, which obviously didn't just take place in the U.S., but was an international, a truly worldwide phenomenon through the 1960s (and into the early '70s). But that understanding is not what is put forward in this kind of ("backlash against the '60s upheaval") analysis.
What's also wrong with this analysis is the essential point that elections are not the arena through which the fundamental interests of the masses of people can be, or are, expressed—and, bound up with this, the fact that the system in a country like the U.S. is a bourgeois dictatorship in which the capitalist ruling class (even with all the contention within its ranks, sometimes serious and sharp contention) sets the terms for the elections: what will be considered as valid and viable alternatives in the framework of those elections; who is a legitimate candidate; what are legitimate issues; what is the contour and the shape of the choices that one has in such elections—all that is determined and, yes, dictated by the ruling class. Therefore, not only is it the case that this cannot be an arena through which the basic and highest interests of the masses are expressed but, in opposition to that, it is an arena through which the masses are drawn into debating and acting on the terms and in the interests of the ruling class: That is what has been fundamentally setting the terms and determining the confines of what has gone on in elections since the 1960s, as well as throughout the history of this country.
So, with regard to a "backlash" against the 1960s, insofar as it has been a real phenomenon, it has been the result of the fact that, despite the truly great upsurge in the 1960s, there was no revolution in the U.S., and therefore things remained within the framework of the existing system and the dynamics, and confines, of the dominant (bourgeois) politics and their underlying material base. This—along with the profound setbacks for revolution and communism, which were concentrated in and resulted to a large degree from the revisionist coup, seizing power in China shortly after the death of Mao Tsetung in 1976 and restoring capitalism there—is what has fundamentally shaped what has happened in U.S. society overall, and to a large degree the world. And certainly this applies to the role and the character of elections under the rule of the bourgeoisie within the U.S.
This "backlash" thesis is not only a fundamentally flawed analysis, but it is a theory and an analysis that is objectively in the service of the imperialists in terms of confusing, misleading, and yes, disorienting and demoralizing people who do desire some kind of significant, even radical, change. So this is something we need to take on and refute, scientifically and compellingly.
And, without getting into this at length here, we can see the importance of the "pyramid analysis," which has been spoken to in "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution" and elsewhere9: its scientific discussion of the underlying dynamics and the driving interests of this system and its ruling class; divisions within that ruling class; the interconnection between that and the actual "social configuration" within the U.S.; the spontaneous tendencies of different strata and groups, and the challenges of repolarization—for revolution—all in the context of the overall world situation, with its dynamics, upheavals, conflicts, and struggles.
Now, one of the main pillars of this system—and I spoke to this earlier in terms of its role as a cohering mythology, similar to the divine right of kings in feudal society—is the significant way in which its legitimacy rests on, and is consciously constructed on, the processes and mechanisms of the bourgeois electoral arena, and how this has an effect in legitimizing the system especially, though not only, for the middle strata. This is both a strong pillar and also potentially a vulnerable pillar of this system. The ardent defenders and apologists of this system have all kinds of theories about the "special nature" of democracy, and of course the exceptional and special character of America. This includes the nostrums and bromides, the unscientific and incorrect analysis, about how democracies never fight each other in a war—it is only tyrannies that start wars—all of which goes back to their founders, like Paine and others. All this is a big pillar on which their legitimacy rests objectively, and on which they have consciously decided to ground their legitimacy, to a significant degree—again, especially, though not only, for the middle strata. And this underlines all the more the importance of exposing what is the actual character, and the actual function, of elections under the rule of the bourgeoisie.
There are many people, including many in the middle strata, who do become disillusioned when, repeatedly, the politicians and the political parties (and in particular the Democratic Party) do not turn out to be what they hoped, and were deluded into thinking, they would be. Nowadays, the "blues" is setting in significantly with the whole Obama thing—there is a way in which the trump card10 for the ruling class, in having Obama run and actually become president, is beginning to turn into its opposite.
Still, as pointed out in Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?,11 with regard to elections, and more generally the democratic proclamations and pretensions of this system, the contradiction between those proclamations and pretensions and the actual functioning of this system is at one and the same time a constant source of resistance and struggle, and a constant source of regenerated illusions. This is a contradiction we have to know how to work on, in terms of repolarization, particularly of the middle strata (though not only those strata) with a really scientific grounding. We need to clearly recognize that, in a very significant aspect, the phenomenon of elections, as a quintessential expression of what is in reality bourgeois democracy, is—and they have consciously made it—a major pillar of their legitimacy. And they have extended this to the point where not only do they identify revolution in general with terrorism—if such a revolution is actually opposed to their interests—but they have specifically made it a principle that in a society in which there are bourgeois elections—or at least a society of that kind which they like and which they identify as being in accord with their interests—revolution is illegitimate, because there is a means, a peaceful means, through the established institutions, mechanisms and processes of the system, to bring about change.
So, at one and the same time, the legitimacy of their system and the illegitimacy of any attempt at revolution against such a system is to a significant degree—and consciously, to a large degree—grounded in bourgeois democracy and more specifically in an electoral process with competing parties as an expression of such a democracy. This is why, over and over again, everything that comes up in the social and political arena is immediately, if you watch the major news media, re-shaped and re-funneled into the Democrats versus Republicans framework and the bourgeois electoral arena in general.
The question of legitimacy brings us back to the importance of recognizing the current polarization, and the need for effectively, on a scientific basis and by applying living scientific methods—working to repolarize for revolution.
In that light I want to briefly review the question of forces for revolution, and the strategy of United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat (UFuLP). Once again, this is not the time of Marx. Reality does not correspond to the Trotskyite superimposed screen placed over reality—England in the 1840s or Western Europe in the 19th century in general. There is the reality that what we are about does have to be a proletarian revolution, in the sense of its grounding in the most fundamental and largest interests of the proletariat as a class: advancing human society to communism and emancipating all humanity. But this is not a revolution that is going to be made solely by even real proletarians—those in what Lenin referred to as the lower and deeper sections of the working class—and it is certainly not going to be made in some sort of stereotypical "classical" form by "THE WORKING CLASS." In fact, most of the forces who will most actively carry out the fight for the seizure of power—and even those actively involved to a large degree in revolutionary work before the conditions emerge to wage the struggle for the seizure of power—will very likely be mainly not proletarians in the strict sense. We are not setting down, and we shouldn't be setting down, some sort of principle and "rule" about this—inventing a stereotype and a convention and imposing that on reality in a different form—but it is quite likely that it will not be mainly proletarians in the strict sense who will be the most active fighters for this revolution, now and at the actual time when everything's on the line in terms of which class is going to hold power in society and what the basic character of society will be.
The most bedrock force for revolution will include "lower and deeper" sections of the proletariat, certainly, to again use Lenin's phrase. It will include many immigrants among them. And there is a particular role which we need to explore further in terms of the youth among the immigrants. But it will also be, and perhaps will largely be, basic masses, particularly those concentrated in the inner cities—many of whom are not strictly speaking part of the proletarian class—who will make up this most bedrock force. So this underscores again why we have to have a living scientific approach, and a living scientific method, in relation to transforming reality.
There is also a particular role, in terms of forces for revolution, for youth of different strata, including the middle strata. This relates back to what was discussed earlier regarding the importance of a truly mass revolt of youth—with a significant cultural dimension, along with active political resistance. And, in terms of the youth, it is worth further reflecting on the question: What, in the U.S. and internationally, "made the youth so good" in the 1960s, including the youth of the middle strata and specifically white middle class youth?
Well, we've used the formulation of lighting a metaphorical—or political and ideological—fire under the middle strata, and that's exactly what was happening in those times. Because of the "shifting tectonic plates" in the world and in U.S. society at that time, and the necessity of the ruling class as well as the thrust upward of people at the bottom of society, you had this whole upsurge coming particularly from Black people in the U.S., which had its particular characteristics and some limitations but also, and overwhelmingly, great strengths. You had a whole wave of anti-colonial struggles in the Third World which took its most concentrated form in the Vietnamese people's war of resistance against U.S. imperialism and the way in which—without looking at that narrowly but keeping in mind the broader international relations in which it was enmeshed—this administered, yes, a real defeat to U.S. imperialism. And you had China and in particular the Cultural Revolution in China: even though that, again, was reinterpreted by many through the prism of petit bourgeois, ultra-democratic or anarchist tendencies, there was still a very real, powerful impact of the actual content and thrust of that Cultural Revolution, very broadly throughout the world, among not only hundreds of thousands but millions of youth in the U.S., as well as in other countries.
I think of Stephen Jay Gould's book, Wonderful Life. I believe it is in that book that he talks about how students made up different acronyms as shorthand expressions in order to be able to remember the succession of the different periods in natural history. I can't remember all the details of this, but one of these acronyms involved reference to the dictatorship of the proletariat. This reflects what was going on, from the 1960s into the '70s, in the culture on a very broad scale: here are biology students using the dictatorship of the proletariat as part of a formula for remembering different periods, marked by the development of different species, and so on. This reflects something that was very broadly impacting the society, and in particular the youth. Many people who were not political activists—who went to demonstrations but were not core political activists—were broadly influenced by this; and had there been a revolutionary "go at power," these people would have been everything from supportive to actively involved. The significance of that should not be missed, misunderstood or underestimated.
Without the different elements influencing all this—which I have briefly and only partially touched on here—there would have been, as there always is among the youth, feelings of alienation, feelings of distrust and disgust with regard to the powers-that-be and authorities in various spheres; there would have been some revolt and rebellion and some political resistance; but it would not have developed to the dimension it did. Now, to be clear, I am making an assertion based on my sense of things—this is not something that I'm putting forward as a fully worked-out analysis—but it does seem likely to me that in the 1960s things would not have gone beyond the terms with which we're all too familiar right now, if it weren't for the whole "mix" and "confluence" (so to speak) of the kinds of factors that I've briefly made reference to.
That is what "made the youth so good"—within the U.S. in particular it was the Black people's struggle, which itself was influenced by international developments and struggles and which, in turn, gave rise to, or gave impetus to, struggles among different oppressed nationalities within the U.S., and was very influential in kicking off struggle among women, among gays and lesbians, and others—it was a powerful force helping to unleash a tremendous amount of positive social upheaval. Not that all these different movements were directly an extension of the Black people's struggle, but they took inspiration from it; they went in various directions, but they were, in a real sense, inspired and driven forward by that, as well as by what was going on in the world more broadly.
Well, we don't have that now. The contradictions and struggles are not going to repeat themselves in the same way, and we shouldn't look for that or think that we can somehow artificially bring about a repeat of that. Even if we could, it wouldn't be good enough, for all the reasons I've talked about. The struggles and movements of that time, as powerful and overwhelmingly positive as they were, also had definite limitations. There are reasons why all that didn't go far enough—including, very importantly, that there was not the vanguard necessary to lead it.
But there are contradictions, fundamental contradictions, that are asserting themselves today: Profound contradictions in the economic relations, in the social relations, of this society are unresolved—and are unresolvable within this system. That reality is going to assert itself in various ways, and if we are not looking for stereotypes and not stuck in conventions, then we're going to be able to relate to the actual dynamics that these contradictions are giving rise to, in the current configuration of social and class forces in the U.S., in the way that the underlying forces are exerting themselves in the world, and in the interconnections between what is happening in the world overall and in the U.S. It is very important to understand that these contradictions have not gone away, have not been resolved—and cannot be resolved under this system. One striking manifestation of this is the oppression of Black people. And the ruling imperialists of the U.S. also face very serious contradictions in terms of the significant immigrant population. The oppression of women is assuming some different forms and expressions, and finding some different "concentration points," than it did when the women's movement really broke loose in the 1960s, for example—although much of it is the same, and the essence of it is the same—but this, too, is a contradiction that is unresolved and unresolvable in fundamental terms under this system.
Things are not going to repeat themselves in the same form as they did in the last major upsurge in this country, in the 1960s. This further emphasizes the importance of being scientific, and attuned to the realities on a scientific basis, in order to have a real and deep understanding of how these contradictions are actually posing themselves. Now, in some ways we've made real advances in that—in understanding, for example, how with regard to the masses in the inner cities, there is a concentrated and cutting edge character to the brutality and murder that is carried out by the police against the people, and in particular the youth. And there are ways in which other contradictions have cutting edge and concentrated expressions—you can think, for example, of abortion with regard to the woman question, although of course the assault on the right to abortion is not the whole of the oppression of women. Once again, we have to be searching out the ways in which social contradictions are assuming concentrated form—and then work to develop things in the direction of revolution and to rally forces for revolution.
It would be very wrong, for example, to simply look at the fact that right now what's going on among the youth in the middle strata is not very inspiring, and to conclude that there is no potential for bringing forward a very positive force from among those youth and for transforming the situation, in the context of the overall developments in the world and in this country, and in the context of overall and all-around work to build a movement for revolution. So there is still the potential of youth, including youth of the middle strata, even though "things are different now."
And, even though things are different now, there is an important potential role for radicalized women, particularly young women. This is so, even though right now many are caught up in a lot of nonsense, and even though what holds sway now—to a significant degree, not uniformly and unilaterally, but what has significant influence—is the idea of "empowerment." Instead of liberation, it's "empowerment"—and "empowerment" is basically reduced to the notion of increasing your value as a commodity in one form or another—this has all too much sway among particularly younger women, but more generally as well. Still, even though things are not the same as in the time of the 1960s upsurge, and things right now are not very positive in terms of what is happening on the political terrain and the polarization in society, we should not look at things only in immediate terms, and in a short-sighted way—in an empiricist, pragmatic way—but should look at the underlying contradictions and the potential for things to be radically transformed on the basis of what in fact are driving forces that are embodied in these unresolved contradictions.
It is not the case that there is not a tremendous amount of alienation and anger—which is now largely pent-up—over these oppressive relations. It is that this is being directed and channeled into—and "spontaneously" finding—outlets in ways that are not leading toward emancipation and toward revolution which is necessary for that emancipation. But we should not therefore underestimate the potential radicalization and potential force for revolution that exists among the masses of women, and in particular young women, as well as other sections of the people.
As I referred to earlier, there is the battle in the sphere of culture and morality, and we should also not underestimate the importance or potential of that battle. Even with the whole thing of going along with, and being caught up in, the self-absorption, consumerism and individualism that is being incessantly promoted, there is also a lot of distaste and alienation with this, and it finds a lot of outlets—many of them not very good and some even very negative, including the ways in which many are being drawn now to Christian fundamentalist alternatives to this. There is a great need, and also a great potential, for repolarization, by strongly asserting a whole different vision—and a practical-political movement to realize, on a scientific foundation, the vision—of a radically different world that actually is emancipating; raising people's sights to begin to imagine, and then to get a scientific grounding in the possibility, of that radically different world. In this context the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) has a tremendously important potential role.
We also need to be aware of the positive—and in significant ways "subversive of the system"—potential of the assertion of gay "identity" and gay rights, even with the very real contradictions in this, including the narrowing tendencies of "identity politics" as well as conservatizing influences related to traditional marriage, and, for that matter, the campaign to be allowed to be part of the imperialist military while being openly gay. Even with all that, in its principal aspect this has, and can to an even greater degree have, a very positive, "subversive of the system" effect. This is a contradiction which, in the society overall, is "out of the closet." It could be forced back into the closet, and underground, with not only the stronger assertion of the kind of fascist movement that is being supported and fostered by powerful ruling class forces in this period, but with the actual assumption of a fascist form of bourgeois dictatorship. But the struggle against the oppression of gay people is not going to be easily suppressed. We should understand the potential of this as well, and the need to relate correctly to this, to foster the further development of its positive potential and its contribution to the movement for revolution.
There is also the importance of the transfer of allegiance—the winning over to revolution and communism—of a section (even today a relatively small section) of the intelligentsia. We have heard, from some people who have been attracted to programs we've done on campuses, that they came to college—often this is younger students—looking for big ideas and were bitterly disappointed at what they have run into, in terms of the prevailing culture and ethos in those universities. This is a significant phenomenon, even if at this point we're only hearing a few people talk about this. The whole swirl of big ideas, intellectual and cultural ferment, and communism contending within that in a lively, compelling way—being, yes, completely outrageous and eminently reasonable—applying the principles I spoke to earlier in terms of, on a scientific foundation, looking to incorporate what can be incorporated, while in some aspects transformed, from other ideas, conceptions and visions, even from utopianism: all this is very important in terms of being able to attract, and win to revolution and communism, youth among the intelligentsia, as well as people among the intelligentsia more broadly. Even for a small section of the intelligentsia to actually be fired up now about the vision of communism and revolution that we are bringing forward—that represents something very significant. We have to persevere to make breakthroughs in that.
There is the point that was brought up by a leading comrade in our Party about intellectuals dancing in the streets on the basis of the new synthesis of communism.12 Well, in some ways so far these intellectuals have had a hard time getting with the music. Nevertheless, what was being emphasized with that image of intellectuals "dancing in the streets"—the potential for the new synthesis to inspire many intellectuals and for a section to make the leap to really taking this up and becoming communist revolutionaries on this basis—this remains real and very important. Once again, in this sphere, as in all spheres, we can't rely on or tail spontaneity. The intellectuals today are still largely listening to the same old boring music and dancing in the same old stereotyped, confined steps (to continue the metaphor). But that doesn't mean the potential isn't there for many to break out of that, in numbers which in this period might be relatively small but still very significant. We need to approach this correctly, understanding scientifically that what is captured in the metaphor of the intellectuals dancing in the streets on the basis of the new synthesis is very real and represents very important potential.
It is actually very inspiring, what we embody and represent; and the more we actually embody and represent and fight for this, as what it really is, in a living way, the more inspiring and attractive it is going to be—even while it will require a sharp struggle to win people to this, going up against all the "spontaneity" that is engendered and promoted by the operation of this system and by the ruling class and various institutions and functionaries of its rule and domination in society. What we represent does draw people forward, and then they run into all the shit that's out there, and some fall away. This is the dynamic, and we have to persevere and struggle through that, and increasingly win more waves of people through that process—because there is a need, a great and acute need, for people with developed intellectual curiosity and abilities to not only be fighting in the realm of public opinion for the communism that we're all about, but also to be doing work to contribute to the further development of that communism, which can't be a static thing, but has to keep on being a living, breathing, developing science.
With all this, there is the question of winning over the middle strata—or as many people among these middle strata as possible—there is the continuing need to apply the strategy of United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat (UFuLP), understood not in a reductionist or economist sense, but in a broad sense, with a recognition of the "many different channels"13 point that I referred to earlier, and the multi-layered, multi-colored map metaphor14: the complexity of the social configuration and of the dynamics of changing society and winning different forces to revolution. This goes back to what is in fact a significant contradiction—that what is involved is a proletarian revolution, but quite possibly most of the forces fighting for that revolution won't be in the strictest sense proletarians. All the complexity and contradictoriness of that is part of what goes into "lighting a fire"—metaphorically speaking, that is, politically and ideologically—under the middle strata, and the dynamic of the "two maximizings" back and forth: the "mixing and meshing," as we've sometimes put it, of political resistance, of ferment of various kinds, the overall development of the revolutionary movement among these different strata and the interconnections of this.
This will not be a process in which, first and overwhelmingly, the proletariat and other basic masses will come forward and inspire the intellectuals and "light a fire" under the middle strata more broadly, and only then will there be positive motion on the part of the middle strata and the positive influence of that on the basic masses. No, this will be a much more dynamic and back and forth process, from the beginning and throughout. Through the course of this, and overall, what needs to come forward—what must be brought forward—from among the basic masses will be principal. But this has to be understood in a living sense, with all the back and forth, the mixing and meshing, and the synergy, that will be involved.
This gets us back, once again, to the particular role of youth—and here I'm speaking specifically about youth in the middle strata—and everything that's been said about all the different elements that go into the development of a force among youth that's actually won to the revolutionary communist position, takes up the science of communism, and actively struggles to win people to that, including by contending creatively in the sphere of ideology, culture and morality.
Having emphasized the point that the development of the United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat will be a complex and dynamic process of mutual influences and positive synergy—while overall and ultimately the bedrock role of basic masses, and the leadership role of the Party, will be decisive within this complex process—the fundamental question is posed: where is that leading? We're not just building a "movement." We are building a movement for something very specific—revolution. In fact, we have consciously formulated things not as "building a revolutionary movement," but "building a movement for revolution." This is perhaps somewhat subtle—it is a nuance of difference that is involved—but it is an important difference. The first formulation ("building a revolutionary movement") can more easily lend itself to being turned into something else—into its opposite—into a situation in which the movement becomes everything and the final aim nothing. The movement is very important, but only insofar as it contributes to getting to the fundamental aim—revolution, and ultimately a communist world. Otherwise, what is the point, and how is it any different than a thousand other strands of things that flare up and die down, or take various utopian and ultimately reformist avenues?
Everything we're doing is aimed at being in a position to make revolution when the conditions come into being for that: hastening while awaiting the development of a revolutionary situation, and the emergence of a revolutionary people—grounded in the "mixing" of international factors and developments with factors and developments within the particular country, coming together at a certain point to give rise, perhaps in ways that were largely unforeseen shortly before that, to a revolutionary crisis, a deep-going crisis in society as a whole. We can look at the current situation today, with its "multiple crises"—not yet the "Crisis" (with a capital C) that is needed for a revolution, but very real, multiple and interacting crises, with very real and very severe difficulties for the imperialist ruling class. You can just go down the list from the sphere of the economy, to the situation with these wars that they're waging—to a large degree, they've tried to get everybody in the U.S. not to think about Iraq any more and pretend everything's fine there, which is far from the case, and meanwhile they're having all kinds of trouble in Afghanistan.
This firing of commanders and shuffling of the command for Afghanistan is not just a matter of insubordination, though it immediately took that form and that was real. But it has to do—and they've even acknowledged that it has to do—with deeper problems they're having strategically. Think about whether they can really just turn their back and walk away, or find some kind of solution that's not really a solution for them, in these situations like Afghanistan. The more farsighted and hard core of their theorists and strategists are recognizing that they cannot do that—and this is a very serious contradiction for them. We shouldn't overstate that, or think it's at a place right now where it's not, but neither should we underestimate the significance of it and the potential of all this to develop into a much more profound and even more acute crisis, in combination with other factors in the world, as things develop.
This relates to the question of a "legitimacy" crisis and its relation, in turn, to a revolutionary crisis. Hastening while awaiting means precisely that. It doesn't mean that we sit around waiting till one fine day—somehow automatically or magically, and without our active involvement—the legitimacy of the whole system and the ruling class gets called into question in an acute way for millions and millions of people, and the other elements of a revolutionary situation suddenly emerge. With that kind of passive orientation, there will never be a revolution, and there probably will not even be the emergence of an objective revolutionary situation. You cannot separate the objective factor from the work of the subjective factor, the conscious revolutionary forces, in that kind of way. Things which might have led to a revolutionary situation will not lead to that in the absence of conscious revolutionary forces working continually to influence the development of things toward a revolutionary situation.
We're back to a formulation we took from Lenin, "no one can say" (Lenin was speaking about the question of how the more privileged, bourgeoisified sections of the working class would fall out in the event of a revolutionary crisis and struggle, and he emphasized that no one can predict that precisely); we have applied this to the development of a revolutionary situation: "no one can say" exactly what "mix" of factors will come together and lead to the eruption of a revolutionary crisis. But what we do know is that even things that may not appear to lead—or may not in and of themselves lead—to such a crisis can, in conjunction and interaction with other things (some of which may be largely or even entirely unforeseen before they occur), become part of the "mix" that leads to the eruption of a revolutionary crisis. If you're not hastening while awaiting that development, there is almost no possibility—there is very little likelihood—that it will occur. And certainly there would be very little prospect that such a revolutionary potential would even be recognized, when it did emerge, let alone be acted upon. So, on one hand, "no one can say" exactly what "mix" will come together to constitute or to bring about the eruption of a revolutionary crisis—but, as the other side of the contradiction, there is the importance of being constantly "tense" to the possibility of profound, qualitative changes in the objective situation and qualitative advances and leaps in building the movement for revolution.
There is the question of what would constitute the "looming outline" of a revolutionary situation, and how one would be attuned and "tense" in order to recognize such a "looming outline" when it did appear on the horizon. Or, to put this another way:
What is involved is "awaiting with revolutionary tenseness," while hastening to the maximum degree possible at every point—constantly probing in the realm of analysis and theory to see what might be beneath the surface that could be part of the "mix" of a revolutionary situation emerging, while working consciously with the necessary revolutionary tenseness to hasten things toward that—to influence the political terrain, to do what is possible at a given time to shape that terrain, and to reshape it, rather than passively waiting on and reacting to objective developments.
In that framework, let's talk more about the strategic orientation and the actual content of "hastening while awaiting," and specifically let's turn to the question of, as the Chinese communists once put it in a very important and helpful formulation: accumulating forces for revolution. Or, as we have also formulated it, drawing from Lenin as well: preparing minds and organizing forces—for what?—for revolution: working consciously in anticipation of—and, once again, to actively influence things toward—a major qualitative change, with the ripening of a revolutionary situation and the emergence of a revolutionary people, in the millions and millions; working to affect, continually and repeatedly, the "political terrain" and dynamics so that the forces and factors favorable to revolution are increasingly strengthened—even in the face of, and in opposition to, heightening repression and the fostering and supporting of counter-revolutionary forces by the ruling class, or sections of it (a phenomenon we are now witnessing on a significant level, and which has serious implications which I will return to later, before the conclusion of this talk).
"Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution,"15 which frequently appears in Revolution newspaper, does speak in a concentrated way to much of what is involved in this process, and it is worthwhile going over this briefly, in its different aspects and overall in their interconnection, in light of the orientation I have been emphasizing.
Let's start with the first paragraph of "Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution":
"At every point, we must be searching out the key concentrations of social contradictions and the methods and forms which can strengthen the political consciousness of the masses, as well as their fighting capacity and organization in carrying out political resistance against the crimes of this system; which can increasingly bring the necessity, and the possibility, of a radically different world to life for growing numbers of people; and which can strengthen the understanding and determination of the advanced, revolutionary-minded masses in particular to take up our strategic objectives not merely as far-off and essentially abstract goals (or ideals) but as things to be actively striven for and built toward."
This itself concentrates a great deal, in terms of strategic orientation, and I want to emphasize particularly the last part: "strengthen[ing] the understanding and determination of the advanced, revolutionary-minded masses in particular to take up our strategic objectives not merely as far-off and essentially abstract goals (or ideals) but as things to be actively striven for and built toward." This has everything to do with whether we are actively influencing and working to shape the political terrain and the overall conditions as much as possible, at any given time, or whether we are merely passively awaiting.
To go on to the second part of "Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution":
"The objective and orientation must be to carry out work which, together with the development of the objective situation, can transform the political terrain, so that the legitimacy of the established order, and the right and ability of the ruling class to rule, is called into question, in an acute and active sense, throughout society; so that resistance to this system becomes increasingly broad, deep and determined; so that the 'pole' and the organized vanguard force of revolutionary communism is greatly strengthened; and so that, at the decisive time, this advanced force is able to lead the struggle of millions, and tens of millions, to make revolution."
Think of what is being put forward, in a very concentrated way, here: the transforming of "the political terrain, so that the legitimacy of the established order, and the right and ability of the ruling class to rule, is called into question," not just in a general sense but "in an acute and active sense, throughout society"; the importance of doing this "so that resistance to the system becomes increasingly broad, deep and determined; so that the 'pole' and the organized vanguard force of revolutionary communism is greatly strengthened." And then the conclusion, pointing to what this is all building for: "so that, at the decisive time, this advanced force is able to lead the struggle of millions, and tens of millions, to make revolution."
This is really what "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism"16 is all about: a means for building, precisely, a movement for revolution. In What Is To Be Done? Lenin spoke to the need to reveal how all the outrages and injustices that people do abhor, and which they do rebel against in various ways (or talk about even in whispers perhaps), are rooted in the same system; to bring forward our communist aims and convictions, and to show that there is a basis to bring into being a radically different world; to illustrate how and why different strata react the way they do to different events, more or less spontaneously (and, again, without being reductionist about that) and what therefore are the driving forces of revolution and what is the strategy for rallying broader forces to that revolution, as well as what is, of necessity, the character and nature of that revolution: why is a certain kind of struggle and a certain kind of revolutionary process leading to the abolition of the existing state—and, yes, the establishment of a radically different state—why is that the road to actual emancipation? Why do you need a vanguard, and what is the role of that vanguard? How does this vanguard relate to the overall revolutionary process and to different sections of the masses who, in one way or another, are part of that process? These are decisive questions spoken to by Lenin in What Is To Be Done?
To this we have added some elements, or given additional emphasis to certain elements, including the importance of putting the questions and problems of the revolution before the masses, drawing them into struggling with this and contributing to the process of developing the answers to this, in practice as well as in theoretical conception. This is the reason we have used the formulation "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism." And, once again, all this is about "hastening while awaiting." It's not about something else. It's not an academic exercise. It's about carrying out what is concentrated in "Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution." It's about preparing minds and organizing forces—accumulating forces—for revolution.
"Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" also encapsulates much of the principles for building a movement for revolution and embodies a key part of revolutionary strategy. This should be carried out with a basic understanding of, and an orientation of actively developing, the dialectical interrelation and interpenetration, the mutual influence, between the two aspects of this—fighting the power, and transforming the people in their basic world outlook and their basic values—and doing all this as part of consistently working for revolution, not for something else, something less.
In relation to the whole challenge of building a movement for revolution, it is crucial to fully recognize, and not in any way underestimate, the significance of various manifestations of alternate authority, even now, and the relation of this to what's captured and concentrated in "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution." It is important to reflect deeply on and grasp deeply what is involved in the assertion of alternate authority in the way this has been taken up—that is, standing up against and asserting an alternate authority in opposition to the illegitimate exercise of authority by the ruling class and its repression and violence directed against the people.
There has been an ongoing process where, over a whole long period of many years, there has been a wrestling with the problem of how to make a breakthrough in the conditions in which particularly the basic masses in the inner city are confined, and the way the contradictions are posing themselves in those conditions, under the rule of the bourgeoisie—with the more naked and openly brutal exercise of its dictatorship and the enforcement of that through its repressive state apparatus. The question has been repeatedly wrestled with: how to actually find a way to recast things within all that on a basis which holds the potential to be favorable for building a movement for revolution, and for masses to come forward on a revolutionary basis, instead of being confined and trapped in a situation where they are pitted against each other, and so much of the time and in so many ways act against their own interests and the larger needs of transforming society and the world.
The difficulty that has been faced has been like the situation of archaeologists who have been digging around, knowing that somewhere in the area there are some crucial fossils and artifacts but repeatedly encountering obstacles and frustrations in unearthing them. It's not that all of the answers have been found, by any means, but—like archaeologists who find a piece of a bone, and one or two other fragments, that could unlock some vexing mysteries and open the way to getting a whole new level of understanding—through the beginning development of some elements of alternate authority, in the context of resisting the unjust and illegitimate exercise of authority by the repressive forces of the ruling class, a further sense has emerged of how to go at these contradictions in a way that holds the potential to contribute to the favorable repolarization for revolution that is needed.
We should not underestimate the significance of the assertion of such alternate authority up against—and, in the appropriate forms at this stage of things, in resistance to—the illegitimate authority of the existing state power. And there is already much to learn from what people have done.
Think about the patrols that have been initiated in several inner-city areas, and what those patrols are setting out to do: standing up—in the appropriate ways under the present circumstances—against the illegitimate and unjust exercise of authority by the existing repressive state apparatus, and at the same time bringing forward and embodying an alternative vision and principles for how people should relate. This is not the same thing as—and it is important not to wrongly identify or confuse this with—our Party's full position regarding revolution and communism, but it does embody many principles and objectives which are consistent with and can in fact make important contributions to the cause of revolution and communism.
Think of the potential this embodies. Here we have the preachers and these other people, when something outrageous is done by the police: a 7-year-old Black girl, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, is murdered in cold blood in Detroit and in comes Reverend Al (Sharpton) to recast things in terms of now the problem is violence against the people, and yes the police do it sometimes, but mainly it's this violence we do to each other. This just adds insult on top of outrage: it misrepresents who and what is the real problem—and where the real solution lies. Objectively up against that, represented in a very significant way by these patrols, is a contending, opposing view. This is not a matter of the people who are doing these patrols going to the youth who are caught up in the gangs, for example, and saying: we're going to step in the way of you and stop you from fucking up each other and fucking up the people here. Instead, what is involved is putting up a pole which, through its actions and the influence of its principles, is beginning to exert a certain force for repolarization—in a way that is favorable to the cause of revolution.
What is embodied in things like these patrols represents a very significant potential for the relations among the masses—and the way in which these relations are embedded in the larger relations of society—to be worked on, struggled around, in a way that holds the potential for a real realignment, to where the masses are acting in accordance with their actual, fundamental interests, as opposed to acting in many ways that are in opposition to that. To return again to the analogy of archaeologists making a key "find": this, in and of itself, does not represent putting the whole picture together, but it can be an important part of that.
What is represented by these patrols will have to undergo a lot of challenges and face a lot of trials. But, again, it would be very wrong to underestimate the significance of this, or of other ways in which a "struggling to be born" authority and vision—posing itself as an alternative up against the existing exploitative system and its oppressive, unjust and illegitimate exercise of authority—is contending, even if in very beginning and still fragile ways.
This can contribute, in an important way, to the phenomenon where the truth that "there is no permanent necessity" for the existing conditions begins to come to life for growing numbers of the masses.
And there are other important dimensions of this, including ideological dimensions: The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal); the speeches and tours by Raymond Lotta, Sunsara Taylor, Carl Dix, and others—these too are vehicles for putting forward an alternative vision and, yes, asserting alternative authority in the realm of ideology and morality as well as politics. They are important elements of putting forward the possibility of—and a living vision and a contending alternative force aiming for—revolution and a radically new society and world.
Very much involved with contention in the realm of ideology, as well as in the political realm, is the nature and role of our Party's two mainstays. These are pivotal elements in actually building a movement—for revolution.
To take the first mainstay, a culture of appreciation, promotion and popularization of what has been brought forward by BA and what he represents: this has everything to do with projecting a radically different vision, a radically different political and ideological pole and authority—with raising what have been the extremely lowered sights of people. Now, if we were about something other than revolution and communism, if we were just working to bring about some minor adjustments within the established order, as horrendous as it is, then there would not be much significance to the new synthesis, to what it is that BA has brought forward and represents, to his whole body of work and method and approach. There is not much significance to that divorced from what we really do need to be about: the recognition, and acting on the recognition, of both the necessity and the possibility of revolution leading to a radically different society, and ultimately a radically different, communist world. If that is, in fact, what we are all about, then not only should it not be hard to go about building this culture of appreciation, promotion and popularization, we should be fired with enthusiasm and with inspiration for doing this and finding creative ways to do it.
To put it in very fundamental terms: People need to know about objective reality in order to transform it in their interests. And a decisive part of objective reality is that people need leadership, a certain kind of leadership, in order to transform society and the world through revolution.
The role of our Party as a vanguard of revolution—its present role and the potential and the struggle for it to become more fully that—is an important part of objective reality that people should know about and understand. That is why we need to talk with people broadly about the Cultural Revolution within our Party. How can you talk to the masses about the role of this Party as a vanguard if you don't talk to them about the Cultural Revolution in the Party?17
Once more, this all gets back to the basic question of whether we're really aiming for revolution and communism. If we were not aiming for that, then talking about the need for and importance of leadership just gets in the way of getting people to do this or that thing you want them to do, for this or that limited objective. But on the opposite side of that, if we are actually aiming for revolution, and working toward that actively—hastening while awaiting to the greatest degree possible at any point—then we should recognize that the fact that the masses have a vanguard and that they have a leader who plays a certain objective role in relation to the whole sweep of the communist revolution, as well as in the present circumstances and the present stage of that struggle, is an extremely important thing for masses to know about.
How can masses correctly evaluate the necessity and the possibility of a radical transformation of society and the world, what that should consist of, and how it can be achieved, if they are missing—or if they are in effect kept from having—an understanding of a crucial aspect of reality, which has everything to do with that? How can they act on this understanding if it is not brought to them? How can they ever emancipate themselves without the leadership they need to do that? And on the positive side, if we are really about and are consistently working for revolution, and we do understand the crucial role of leadership in relation to that, we should be knocking down doors to tell people about this and, as necessary, struggling with them about it. If there were an epidemic disease striking down people, and there were a doctor in the area who had developed a cure for the disease, should we be defensive about telling the masses about that, or should we be knocking on their doors and shaking them awake to tell them, "hey, you don't have to suffer this terrible disease—the cure may not be easy, but it's there and it's real"? Analogies have their limitations, of course, but the point is clear.
It cannot be said too many times: This has everything to do with whether or not we are really aiming to make revolution—to advance toward the goal of communism, together with the same struggle throughout the world—and, yes, to influence the struggle in the world toward that goal. We are, and we should be, seeking to influence the development of this struggle—including by engaging in active and at times sharp struggle over what this revolution is all about and what is the nature of the scientific understanding that is necessary in order to lead this revolution.
This matters to—it is of profound importance for—the masses of people, even if most of them don't know it right now. Look, let's face it—to invoke once more that line from Bob Dylan, let us not talk falsely now—masses of people throughout the world don't know a lot of things that are very important for them to know. That doesn't mean they can't learn them—that's where the role of conscious, vanguard forces comes in. That's why we go back to "for whom and for what": what is the objective and whose fundamental interests are involved in the work we are doing and the struggle we are waging? What this is all about and what we are basing ourselves on is not a "secret temple of knowledge." It is a scientific understanding of reality which others brought into being in the first place, which has been developed by others before us—and we're taking it, applying it, and developing it further. We should be very actively and energetically fighting for it everywhere we go, and in every arena into which we enter—in a living and a compelling way that expresses that dialectic of being "completely outrageous and eminently reasonable."
Look again at the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal): That is a living, breathing embodiment of the new synthesis of communism; and, as I've said before, if you can't get inspired about what is embodied in that Constitution, then I'm sorry for you—your vision and your aspirations are incredibly and dreadfully low.
So that's on the first mainstay.
At the same time, there is the crucial role of the other mainstay, our Party's newspaper as the "hub and pivot"—and the scaffolding—of the movement we are building for revolution. In this light, there is a need for this newspaper to do even better at not only exposing the system and bringing to life the necessity and the possibility of a radically different, communist world, but also bringing to life, in an active sense, the actual development and building of this movement for revolution, and the involvement of real people—not in a reified way or in a contrived way, but the actual involvement of growing numbers of people—on various levels and in various forms in this movement for revolution. Reading the paper—not necessarily in every issue, but over any period of time, and I don't mean decades—people should be getting a living sense of this movement and how this Party and its newspaper is at the center of this. It should be increasingly enabling people to act in unison—not in a uniform way, in a bad sense, like some kind of automatons, but in a unified way, in a basic and living sense—in response to major events in the world, all toward the goal, with increasing consciousness of the necessity as well as the possibility, of actually breaking through, making revolution and getting to a new stage and new platform from which to carry forward that revolution. This is what people should get—in living, breathing terms—when they come in contact with our newspaper, and with our Party wielding that newspaper and carrying out all-around revolutionary work on the basis of a line that is presented in a concentrated way in that newspaper.
We have to be hastening with the whole world in mind, not just in the sense that the world situation overall and the dynamics of the contradictory objective conditions in the world as a whole are ultimately decisive in terms of making revolution in any particular country, and advancing this revolution overall, but at the same time with the sense, and a deepening understanding, that our objective is to actually make revolution as part of a larger worldwide process whose final aim is achieving communism. This has to be something that we consciously act in accordance with—and something that we bring to the masses of people and enable them to consciously understand and act on. The situation we are confronted with, the goal for which we are struggling, and the process involved in the struggle for that goal—all this is an important part of objective reality that the masses need to understand more and more deeply in order to be able to emancipate themselves and all of humanity. And they have to understand what that emancipation of humanity is all about and how it relates to sweeping away all of the things that people are aware of and abhor, or whisper about in angry tones, or revolt and rise up against, or even at any given time are ignorant of but need to, and can, learn about.
This is a theme I'm repeatedly hitting at here because it's so important: All these different phenomena are just objective reality—important aspects of that reality—which masses of people need to understand. And for that to happen, they need us to bring to them a living, scientific understanding of this reality. Where else are they going to get it? Yes, the masses have a lot of wisdom, but it is very scattered and unsystematic, and it is intermingled with and influenced by a lot of wrong understanding and thinking which is consciously shaped and influenced by the dominant institutions and forces in society and the world as a whole. They are not going to come to a fundamentally correct understanding of reality and how it can be radically transformed, and of their own role in that, as well as the larger context of the whole world that all this fits into, unless we bring that to them.
So we ourselves have to act on a correct understanding of the relation between revolution in a particular country and the advance of the revolution in the world overall—and the dialectics of that, in which ultimately and fundamentally the situation in the world as a whole is principal, but there is an important back and forth process in which initiative seized in particular areas or particular countries can in turn have a major impact on the development of the whole world situation and world struggle. We have to not only understand and act on that ourselves but, once again, we have to bring this to the masses of people and enable them to understand and act on it.
And there is a particular, and particularly acute, dimension of this—which we have spoken to in a special issue of our newspaper (#199) but which we need to continue to deepen our understanding of and speak to in a continually compelling way—and that is the truly urgent situation with the environment, and specifically the ways in which the capitalist-imperialist system is daily heightening this emergency, in which the future and fate of humanity really is at stake in a very direct and active sense. This gives a further dimension to and underscores even further the necessity of an internationalist orientation in everything we do, in order to advance the cause of revolution and communism. It is strikingly the case—and many people are aware of this fact, even if they don't understand it in its full dimensions or fully scientifically—that this environmental crisis and real emergency cannot be solved within the borders of any particular country. In fact, some people will even throw that back at us when we're talking about and putting forward our program for how to approach this environmental crisis—more than a few have said: even if you could make a revolution, you can't solve the problem within just one country, plus there would be a lot more environmental disaster as part of that revolution. This is a reality we have to recognize and discuss and struggle over honestly and, above all, scientifically with people. But it does underscore the importance, and adds another dimension to the importance, of internationalism as our fundamental orientation.
There is a need, in all the work of building this movement for revolution, to be linking all this, in a meaningful and living way—but not in a linear way—with what is spoken to in "On the Possibility of Revolution." In going out to masses of people, and talking about building a movement for revolution, it is crucial to give people a living sense—although not a reductionist, inaccurate and inappropriate sense—of how all the work that's being done today relates to what's discussed in "On the Possibility of Revolution." It is necessary to find the ways to correctly discuss, not only among the people already won to revolution but with growing numbers of people more broadly, what is in "On the Possibility of Revolution" and the ongoing development of that strategic conception. If the link is not drawn—in the correct way, and in a living and meaningful way—between what is being done today and what is spoken to in "On the Possibility of Revolution," then this means that work for revolution is not really being carried out and that, once again, the masses of people are not being enabled to understand the possibility of revolution, and the strategic conception of revolution.
This goes back to the point about "hastening while awaiting"—or not. The growing strength of the revolutionary movement has to become an increasingly powerful part of the objective situation, as a political-ideological force and a "mood creating factor"—being continually transformed more fully from a subjective factor (something that the conscious forces are doing) into an objective factor (something which is increasingly impacting and exerting influence on growing numbers of people, and on the objective terrain overall) and in that way strengthening the basis to in turn make further leaps in the process. We have to consciously approach things in this way—and we have to explain things to masses of people in this way. This has to come through, in the correct ways, in our newspaper and in our work overall.
Many people, including many people who might like to see a revolution, say baldly: "You can't make a revolution." It is necessary to put forward clearly to them why we think revolution is possible. Where there are gaps in our understanding about this, we have to go to work on them, and we have to draw masses into working on them, to figure them out and to make further breakthroughs—to discover more bone fragments and more artifacts to put more of the picture together as we go.
In this context, it is important to emphasize that popularizing the strategy for revolution is a key part of carrying out that strategy. If we are supposedly carrying out a strategy yet we ourselves don't understand very well what it is—and don't talk about it with the masses—what kind of strategy is that and what is it really a strategy for? On the positive side, let me emphasize it again: popularizing the strategy for revolution—in the correct way, in a meaningful and living way—is a key part of carrying out that strategy. When we do popularize this strategy, and growing numbers of people engage with that strategy, then that itself becomes part of the objective terrain too. It influences how people think, particularly about the possibility of revolution and the strategic conception for making revolution. The more that people understand that work has been done on the problems of really making revolution, the more they engage with the strategic conception that is being developed for how to make revolution and how the work that's being carried out actually proceeds—which it must—in accordance with, and as a way of implementing, that strategic conception, the more this is going to come alive for them. And the simple dismissal of the possibility of revolution—"you can't do that...the people we would have to go up against are too powerful...we're too fucked up, it's human nature for things to be this way..."—that is going to have something contending more and more powerfully up against it.
And then there's the importance of giving all this organized expression. And let me emphasize that this must be done not in a way that expects and demands that masses, particularly basic masses, "fit" into forms that are stereotypical and expressive, actually, of a movement that is ultimately reformist. In opposition to that, it must be done in a way where, through the development of many different forms, and on many different levels, these masses can become increasingly involved and actively contribute to the building of the movement—for revolution. In other words, we do need, we very much need, centers of the revolution (and this includes in particular Revolution Books in a number of cities) where people can seek out, learn about, and become involved in this movement for revolution in various ways, and on various levels. At the same time, in terms of a basic orientation and approach, what is required, and what we must be systematically as well as creatively doing, is not just waiting for masses to "come to us" and become involved in ways that are most familiar to and perhaps most comfortable for those who are already involved (and in many cases have been involved for some time) but taking the revolution to masses of people—again, especially basic masses, but people of other strata as well—and developing the means and forms for their involvement, on very basic levels, as well as in more developed and advanced ways, the means for people to learn and advance and for growing numbers to become more fully and deeply committed to this struggle, through this overall process, even as we are learning from them and scientifically synthesizing what we are learning.
In relation to all this, it is necessary to emphasize once again the role of the Party: the importance of its growing ideological and political influence and of its role in organizing forces for revolution, most especially the Party itself—continually recruiting people—people with a "fire in the belly" to radically change the world who, through the work we do with them, come to a scientific communist understanding of what that means, what the necessity is and what the possibility is, and who become determined to be part of the leading force struggling to make that a reality. Here again, "the 'pole' and the organized vanguard force of revolutionary communism" must be continually strengthened, as is emphasized in "Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution." We really must not underestimate the importance of this and of bringing into this Party new and fresh forces who are fired with a desire for revolution, for a radically different world—and have made the leap to recognizing the reality and importance of a scientific understanding of what that means and how to wield this science in the service of making this happen.
As has been emphasized before, the Party is in fact the most important expression of the organization of the masses for revolution, toward the ultimate goal of communism. Many other forms of organization among the masses are important, but the Party itself is the most concentrated and most important organization of masses—and leadership of masses. It is not just any old organization of masses—it is a concentrated, higher form of organization of the masses, as a vanguard of the revolution.
Before moving to a conclusion I want to say a few words about meeting repression, and advancing in the face of it. Repression, and in fact the heightening of this repression, will be an inevitable feature of the sharpening of contradictions which is already taking place, in U.S. society and the world as a whole—and this would be even more so in the context of the intensification of contradictions that would actually lead to a revolutionary crisis.
This repression will be directed against any serious movements and forces of political opposition and resistance to the continuing criminal actions of the ruling class, both within this country and internationally. It will also be directed against those sections of the masses that at least the more conscious representatives and operatives of the ruling class can recognize as posing a serious potential force in opposition to their rule and their system, even when this has not yet assumed the form, among those masses, of significant, conscious political opposition and resistance (and, in this regard, it is important to recall the observation earlier about a counterinsurgency directed against basic masses before there is even a real insurgency among them).
This heightened repression will assume an especially concentrated form against our Party, the more that we carry forward with the work of actually building a movement for revolution and as this begins to further demonstrate the potential of linking up, in a major and powerful way, with basic masses in particular, as well as making advances among other strata of the people. Such heightened repression and attacks will come both from the official organs of the imperialist state and from counter-revolutionary forces which are consciously aligned with sections of the ruling class (and it may be painful but is nonetheless necessary to recognize that attacks, which will at least objectively serve the ruling class and its heightening repression, will also continue to come from forces which may have the pretension of being "progressive," or even "revolutionary" or "communist," but which in reality act in a counter-revolutionary manner). To not fully confront and apply ourselves to dealing with this, from the strategic standpoint and in the strategic context of our revolutionary-communist line and objectives, would mean that we are not serious about what we must be serious about, and we would not simply fail to meet the challenges we face and perhaps even to make a qualitative breakthrough if the situation presented itself, but on the contrary, especially if and as things did sharpen up qualitatively, we would be crushed and the masses would once again be left leaderless in the most essential sense—they would be defeated and demoralized in an acute situation with profound stakes and consequences—and the revolution would suffer a truly devastating setback, whose effects would be felt for some time, not only in this country but in a real sense in the world as a whole. For all these reasons, we must in fact apply ourselves, in a very focused, serious, determined and scientific way, to this contradiction and develop the means, both in theory/strategic conception and in practice, to not only survive, and to repeatedly rebound and as necessary regroup from repression—including as this is intensified, even in a qualitative dimension—but to actually advance in the face of and through this repression, in building the movement for revolution and carrying it forward toward its strategic objectives.
A profound truth is that the fundamental basis for confronting, countering, and forging the way forward in the face of repression, and the heightening of this repression, lies in fully recognizing and acting on the understanding that, with all the machinery and mechanisms of electoral politics and the trappings of democracy that may exist at any given time, this is in reality bourgeois democracy, democracy practiced on the terms of and in the interests of the ruling bourgeois (capitalist) class; that the inner nature and essential content of this bourgeois democracy is bourgeois dictatorship, a monopoly of political power, concentrated as a monopoly of "legitimate" armed force and violence, on the part of this ruling capitalist class; and that, as experience within this country and internationally has starkly illustrated, over and over again, this dictatorship will be exercised through the most ruthless and, yes, murderous means whenever the political representatives and functionaries of this ruling class determine this to be necessary in order to maintain and enforce this dictatorship, and especially in the face of any significant challenge to—or even what is perceived as a potentially significant obstacle or problem for—this dictatorship and the system it enforces.
So we have to grapple with the strategic implications of this whole dimension of things. Whether or not concerted attention is paid to this problem and whether or not real advances are made in confronting and developing the means to deal with this, now and looking to the further intensification of things in the perhaps not very distant future—all this will have a great deal to do with, and will have a great influence on, whether we are actually able to advance in building a movement for revolution or whether we will, through "revisionist spontaneity," actually abandon—or be forced by the actions of the ruling class to abandon, or be defeated in attempting not to abandon—the objective of building a movement for revolution.
One of the main manifestations of revisionism and social-democracy (socialism, or communism, in name, but bourgeois-democracy and bourgeois-democratic illusions in fact and in command) is the acute way in which this finds expression in the organizational sphere and in terms of dealing with repression: what standards revolutionaries actually uphold and apply, and how they actually operate; whether they take seriously that a society like this is not, after all, some classless democracy but there is actually a ruling class and it actually does exercise dictatorship—and the full implications of that. It is not just in some other parts of the world that the U.S. imperialists are nasty. It is not (as in the mistaken view of some good-hearted, bourgeois-democratic-minded people) only somewhere in their dealings in the Third World that the rulers of this country are nasty. They are nasty by nature. This is the way they respond to any kind of real—and often even to a potential—challenge. And, long before it fully poses itself, they will respond all the more viciously to any serious potential challenge in their own "homeland" and seat of power. This is a fundamental dividing line: whether one really understands that, and acts on that understanding, or on the other hand one has fallen so fully into bourgeois-democratic illusions that one can't recognize this—or won't recognize it.
So this is another arena where there has to be sharp ideological struggle. But that has to be in the context of acting on this, in accordance with the necessity for heightened attention—guided by a correct, scientific approach and method—to this problem and to further breakthroughs in relation to dealing with repression, both the overall repressive nature of the ruling class and the dynamics of heightened repression which must be anticipated as contradictions sharpen.
For now, a final point on this question of repression: If work has been carried out correctly, not only in regard to this crucial dimension of confronting repression, and advancing through and in the face of repression, but overall in grasping and wielding the correct line, as powerfully as possible and to the maximum possible effect at every point; if, on the basis of this line, crucial breakthroughs and advances have been made in building a movement for revolution; then it is possible that a failed—or, we should say, defeated—attempt at repression of the masses and of revolutionary forces could even lead to, or could at least be a very significant factor in contributing to, a revolutionary crisis. This could happen if, in a larger sense and taking into account overall objective developments, things had reached a certain point in terms of the intensification of contradictions, while at the same time work had been carried out on the right basis, including on this front of combatting repression and learning to advance through and in the face of such repression. In any event, carrying forward all-around revolutionary work—and, as a crucial part of this, combatting and learning to advance through and in the face of heightening repression—will contribute to the eventual development of a revolutionary situation, and to the ability of the vanguard, and the masses rallying in growing numbers to its banner, to be in the best possible position to seize on such a situation and go all-out to win in those circumstances. And, on the other hand, without meeting this challenge, there will be no prospect and no chance of making revolution, even if the objective conditions became favorable for that. That's just how crucial and how basic the terms and the stakes are.
Conclusion: The "Impossible Dream" of a Radically Different World—and the Scientific Methods and Means That Make It Possible
Having traveled this far, and having spoken to a range of subjects in the process, a few final points in conclusion.
I've talked about the basic vision and principles of the new society and the new world we are striving for and how this is embodied in a very living way in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). I've emphasized that socialist society—whose basic principles and dynamics are reflected, in a concentrated way, in this Constitution—constitutes above all a transition to the communist future, which must be achieved together with and as part of the overall revolutionary struggle throughout the world toward that goal. I've talked about the fact that, even while there will still be a necessity for government in communist society, this will really be a radically different world and a whole new epoch in human history. This, too, is spoken to very powerfully in the Preamble of that Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
I've also made allusion to something which is very important to grasp as a basic point of orientation: Communism, from the time of Marx to now, has undergone many transformations itself in its understanding, even while its fundamental principles and objectives, and its basic scientific grounding, method and approach, remain essentially the same.
There has been, as we know, the development of capitalism into capitalist imperialism (as analyzed by Lenin) and, together with this, the great division between a handful of imperialist states and a large number of oppressed nations in what has come to be called the Third World (with, we should understand, various gradations within these broad categories and some areas where there may be some "mixing together" or overlapping of these two types of countries, or "gray areas" where the distinctions are not completely clear). Along with this, there has been the heightened rivalry among the imperialists themselves—between blocs of imperialist finance capital, and the concentrated expression of inter-imperialist rivalry as contention between imperialist states.
As Lenin also analyzed, and emphasized, with the development of capitalism into capitalist-imperialism there has been the split in the working class in the imperialist countries—between an upper, more bourgeoisified section, on the one hand, and the lower/deeper sections of the truly exploited proletariat on the other hand. Along with this, the phenomenon exists in the world today, and it has to be recognized—we have to fully come to terms with and understand the implications of the fact—that, unlike in the predictions of Marx and Engels, the working class has not become an increasing majority of society. This is true not only in the capitalist-imperialist countries themselves, but also in Third World countries. In very few, if any, countries in the world is the working class a majority of the population. This is different than what was understood and predicted by Marx and Engels. And this is a reflection of the fact that what a science does is analyze reality in its developing process and dynamics. Communism, as a living science, is not a dogma or a religion—and must not be approached and treated as such.
Further we've come to understand—not only in opposition to Trotskyite and similar distortions but in distinction from what was at least partially the understanding of communists previously—that socialism is not really a "workers' state," especially not in the more narrow sense. This is very clearly reflected in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal): In that Constitution it is clearly put forward that the socialist state is the dictatorship of the proletariat, but what that actually means and doesn't mean in its living expression is also made clear—it is not presented in terms of a reified, economist stereotype of "THE WORKING CLASS" and "A WORKERS' STATE," but in terms of the fundamental and highest interests of the proletariat as a class, in abolishing all relations of exploitation and oppression and emancipating humanity through the advance to communism, throughout the world. To put this another way, the dictatorship of the proletariat is—and must be—different from what found expression in the Paris Commune, and also different in some significant ways from the dictatorship of the proletariat as it found expression in the first stage of the communist revolution, in the Soviet Union and even in the high point of the Cultural Revolution in China. Once again, this can be seen in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
This gets back to the point I was speaking to earlier about the separation of the communist movement from the labor movement and all the implications of that: the way in which proletarian revolution is made through the involvement of a lot of different sections of people, in a dynamic and complex process of mutually influencing forces and struggles, through which—and particularly in a concentrated way on the basis of the role and work of the communist vanguard—in an overall sense the largest and most fundamental interests of the proletariat are brought to the fore and given effect in the struggle to defeat and dismantle the ruling apparatus of the old system, and then to establish new institutions which are in fact instruments for the furtherance of the communist revolution, and which make possible and give backing to the continuing transformation of both the economic base and the political/ideological superstructure of the new society. Another way to put this is that there is a new synthesis of communism, and this corresponds to what is needed in terms of a new stage of the communist revolution.
In this regard, I want to return to and touch briefly on the "parachute" point18 and the way in which this "parachute" point expresses an important aspect of the new synthesis. Here it is worth recalling—and thinking broadly and deeply about the implications of—Mao's statement about how when they were in the mountains, during the protracted people's war in China, they all ate out of the same bowl; but then, as he put it, when they came down out of the mountains (when they seized power throughout the country and were responsible for leading the new, revolutionary state) there were all kinds of new problems.
It is one thing to build a movement for revolution, whatever particular road is involved—and on the road of protracted people's war in Third World countries, for example, it is one thing to establish certain base areas in which the communist vanguard is the leading force, and in effect is the institutionalized power or is leading the masses in exercising such power in an institutionalized way, in an embryonic state, and overwhelmingly the masses of people involved are impoverished basic masses. It is quite another thing when you lead a revolution which comes to power in the country as a whole, and you have to deal with the complex panoply of different social forces—and different contradictions that will now take shape in their particular and different forms within this new society—and you have responsibility for dealing with all this in a way to lead things continually on the broad road toward communism, with all the contradiction and complexity involved in that. As the "parachute point" emphasizes: In the context of the seizure of power, many people and forces will be "compressed" around the vanguard and will follow the lead of the vanguard, with its communist outlook and objectives, without (in many cases at least) fully agreeing with those objectives or fully embracing the communist worldview; but then things will open back up again as this new state power is consolidated, and all the various contradictions which (almost as if with a powerful attractive force of gravity) were compressed around the vanguard, all of a sudden come springing out with very powerful assertive force. It is, as Mao emphasized, very different to have to deal with all that. What is adequate perhaps to dealing with an embryonic state (in a revolutionary base area), and to dealing with the building of a revolutionary movement in a partial sense, before the full seizure of power, whatever road one is on, is by no means adequate to deal with the full complexity of what will exist when the parachute (to return to that metaphor) opens back out.
The point is not that there are, or should be, different principles and methods for these different situations—ones which apply before the seizure of power and then others which apply once power has been seized. No, the principles and methods are, and must be, the same, in fundamental terms, but their application will differ in the different conditions—and, more specifically, the complexities with which the application of these principles and methods must deal will be all the greater once the first great leap has been taken, power has been seized, and a new state power has been consolidated on a country-wide basis.
In light of all this, we can understand more fully the great importance of the new synthesis.
It is necessary to really grasp, to fully understand not only the nature but the significance of the new synthesis. Not, let me stress, as some kind of "magic formula" but as embodying the essential method and approach to confronting and struggling through the contradictions that have to be faced in advancing to communism—precisely in order to go forward on the revolutionary road leading to communism—and, in the course of this, to continue to develop the science of communism.
Actually understanding what is involved in this truly world-historic revolution, yes with all its complexities and difficulties, does not make it seem easier: We are not peddling a painless path to some nirvana but are applying a scientific method and approach to confronting and overcoming very great obstacles, and struggling through very profound contradictions. But, even with the very real sacrifices that it makes clear will be required, this scientific approach and understanding does make revolution all the more real, and possible.
A basic point of orientation is this: While it is very important to continue to answer, in a substantive and compelling way, the distortions and slanders about the history of the communist movement, and more specifically the socialist societies the communist revolution has brought into being so far, this must be done without the least bit of defensiveness. It must be done in the context of very boldly putting forward the actual reality of this experience, along with the need and the basis to go further and do even better next time—the actual basis for the next wave, and the further advance, of this revolution—even as the struggle needs to be waged to bring into being, on a higher level, a new stage of the communist revolution. It is a scientifically grounded fact that this really does represent the road to the emancipation of humanity; and, with all the complexities and difficulties that are bound up with this world-historic struggle, it is far more realistic and realizable than the monumental illusion that the horrible conditions that the great majority of humanity is subjected to continually, as a result of the very workings of the capitalist-imperialist system, can somehow be ended, or even in any real and lasting way alleviated, through the reform of this system!
As is emphasized in the polemic against the political philosophy of Alain Badiou, in Demarcations19: With the ultimate reformism promoted by Badiou, and with all reformist programs and schemes, the world does remain fundamentally unchanged and the machinery of the imperialist system does continue "humming in the background," destroying lives and crushing spirits on a daily basis and on a massive scale. We should not only be putting forward—vigorously, consistently, and confidently—the need and the basis for the communist revolution and the potential it holds for a whole new, radically different and better era in human history, but also issuing, at the same time, the challenge to one and all: If you do not think we need this revolution, explain why—and tell us how anything else can even address, let alone solve, the life-crushing conditions and profound problems and dangers which confront the mass of humanity and ultimately the human species (and other species on the earth) as a whole?
This is why it is so crucial to join, strengthen and build the Party, on the basis of this scientific outlook and method and this overall revolutionary line—on the basis of communism as it has been further developed through the new synthesis—to further advance the movement for revolution that this Party is building and must lead, and to contribute all we can to the advance of the communist revolution throughout the world. The role of the Party is ultimately and fundamentally decisive and indispensable—not only at the crucial time when a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people would emerge, but "all along the way" in order to make the emergence, and the recognition, of such a situation possible—in hastening while awaiting a revolutionary situation and carrying out overall ideological, political and organizational preparation for that time.
This is now concentrated in the campaign our Party is waging and leading, and the three objectives of this campaign: to boldly and broadly propagate the revolution we need and "put revolution on the map" in the U.S., as a serious question, in a major way; to make Bob Avakian, the leadership we have for the revolution we need, a household name; and to bring forward new forces firmly committed to making this revolution real and heightening the impact of this revolutionary movement. Whether we realize these objectives, whether we advance in fulfilling what this campaign has set out to achieve, will have a decisive influence on whether or not a movement for revolution really is going to be built in this country and, more than that—without the slightest bit of hype or exaggeration—will have an important impact on the general direction of the communist movement in the world as a whole. We should understand this in terms no less than that, because that corresponds to a scientific assessment, a scientific analysis and synthesis, of reality. This campaign is not an idealist gimmick. Under the present conditions and confronting the ways in which the contradictions are presently posing themselves, this campaign is a concentrated expression of the means for actually making the breakthroughs that need to be made in order to advance and not to be set back, and not to have the communist movement as a whole be set back, perhaps even in qualitative terms. This is what's at stake, this is what needs to be wrestled with—these are the breakthroughs that need to be made—and this is what needs to be acted on.
So let me end with a paraphrase of Lenin: It is fine, it is necessary and important, to dream of another, a radically different and better world—while at the same time we must infuse and inform our dreams with the most consistent, systematic and comprehensive scientific outlook and method, communism, and on that basis fight to bring those dreams into reality.
1. Bob Avakian, Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?, Banner Press, 1986—see especially Chapter 4, "The USA as Democratic Example...Leader of the Pack," and in particular the section "The 'Special Situation' of the USA Historically," pp. 116-127. The observations by de Tocqueville referred to here are found in his work Democracy in America (New York: Vintage Books). [back]
2. The book (which was referred to not long ago in a New York Times column by Frank Rich), Invisible Hands, The Businessmen's Crusade Against The New Deal, by Kim Phillips-Fein (New York: Norton, 2009), also sheds light on the role of what are essentially fascist forces within the U.S.—and more specifically the promotion and backing of these forces by sections of the ruling class—over a number of decades, going back to the New Deal, beginning in the 1930s. Although she focuses her analysis on the economic arena—and reactionary forces which might be identified as "business conservatives" more than the "social conservatives," and in particular Christian fundamentalists, who to a large degree are preoccupied with and concentrate their line of attack on forcefully upholding traditional gender relations, targeting abortion (and birth control) as well as homosexuality and gay rights—Phillips-Fein's analysis does actually counter, in some significant ways, the notion that the increasing power and influence of reactionary movements in the U.S. can be attributed essentially to a "backlash" against the upheavals of the 1960s. [back]
4. In this regard, it is worth referring to Thomas Sugrue's book, The Origins of the Urban Crisis, Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, which takes Detroit as a case study of how in major urban areas in the period after World War 2, as Black people were struggling to integrate certain neighborhoods, these efforts were opposed, often violently, by the white residents, and there was increasing "white flight" to the suburbs. Along with this, When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold Story of Racial Inequality in Twentieth Century America, by Ira Katznelson, and David R. Roediger's book, Working Toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White, illustrate the role of the G.I. Bill in actually promoting segregation; and this, once again, is tied in with the development of suburbanization, and of the social and political configuration that has marked America increasingly over the past several decades. [back]
5. Bob Avakian and Bill Martin, Marxism and the Call of the Future: Conversations on Ethics, History, and Politics, Chicago: Open Court, 2005. The exchange referred to here is found at the beginning of chapter 3, "Ethics and the Question of Truth," p. 32 and following. [back]
6. "On the Possibility of Revolution," which first appeared in Revolution #102, September 23, 2007, is also included in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008, and is available online at revcom.us. [back]
7. For a fuller discussion of the "two outmodeds" and the relation of this to building a movement for revolution and the ultimate goal of communism, see Bringing Forward Another Way, an edited text of a talk by Bob Avakian in the fall of 2006, which has been published as a pamphlet and is also available online at revcom.us. [back]
8. The 7 Talks, available online at revcom.us and bobavakian.net, are: 1—Why We're in the Situation We're in Today... And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution; 2—Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy; 3—Communism: A Whole New World and the Emancipation of All Humanity—Not "The Last Shall Be First, and The First Shall Be Last"; 4—The NBA: Marketing the Minstrel Show and Serving the Big Gangsters; 5—Communism and Religion: Getting Up and Getting Free—Making Revolution to Change the Real World, Not Relying on "Things Unseen"; 6—Conservatism, Christian Fundamentalism, Liberalism and Paternalism ... Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton ... Not All "Right" But All Wrong!; 7—"Balance" Is the Wrong Criterion—and a Cover for a Witch-hunt—What We Need Is the Search for the Truth: Education, Real Academic Freedom, Critical Thinking and Dissent. [back]
9. Bob Avakian, "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution," serialized beginning with Revolution #184 (November 29, 2009), and available online at revcom.us/avakian/driving. Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian. The pyramid analysis is on disk 4, "Another war for election purposes? (pyramid)"; available at revcom.us, revolutiontalk.net, and bobavakian.net. [back]
10. This "Obama as trump card" analysis was introduced by Bob Avakian in excerpts from correspondence written in the wake of the election of Barack Obama which appeared in Revolution: "Obama: Playing the Trump Card?" (#149, November 30, 2008); "In the Wake of the Election, a Basic Point of Orientation: To the Masses…With Revolution" (#150, December 14, 2008); "'Obamamania' and the Malcolm X Spirit" (#151, December 28, 2008). [back]
11. Bob Avakian, Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?, Banner Press, 1986. [back]
12. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)—published by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA—states, in the Preamble of that Constitution, that the Party has its theoretical basis in "the science of communism and the further development of this science through the new synthesis brought forward by Bob Avakian." Numerous talks and writings by Bob Avakian, and other publications by the Party—including Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation; Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA; and the Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA—speak to this new synthesis; and, as pointed to in this talk, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) is a living application of that new synthesis. [back]
13. In "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity," Part 1, in the section "Freedom...and Necessity," the following is emphasized: "But, fundamentally (and, so to speak, underneath all this) freedom does lie in the recognition and transformation of necessity. The point is that this recognition and the ability to carry out that transformation goes through a lot of different 'channels,' and is not tied in a positivist or reductionist or linear way to however the main social contradictions are posing themselves at a given time. If that were the case—or if we approached it that way—we would liquidate the role of art and much of the superstructure in general. Why do we battle in the realm of morals? It is because there is relative initiative and autonomy in the superstructure. And the more correctly that's given expression, the better it will be, in terms of the kind of society we have at a given time and in terms of our ability to recognize necessity and carry out the struggle to transform necessity." [back]
14. References to this metaphor of the "multi-layered, multi-colored map" are found in some recent works by Bob Avakian, including "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution" (section headed "It Is What It Is—and It Can Be Transformed"), online at revcom.us/avakian/driving, and "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity," Part 2, which is available online at revcom.us/avakian/makingrevolution2, as well as in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008. [back]
15. Bob Avakian, "Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution," Revolution #202 (May 17, 2010). [back]
16. The formulation of "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism" is discussed in a number of recent works by Bob Avakian, including "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution," in the section headed "Resistance and Building a Movement for Revolution." This talk is available online at revcom.us/avakian/driving. Also see the talk "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity," Part 2, which is available online at revcom.us/avakian/makingrevolution2, as well as in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008. [back]
17. The Cultural Revolution within the RCP is discussed in Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, September 2008 (Chicago: RCP Publications, 2009)—see in particular Part VI, "A Cultural Revolution Within the RCP." Also available online at revcom.us. [back]
18. The "parachute" point is discussed (in a section with that heading) in "The Basis, the Goals, and the Methods of the Communist Revolution," a talk by Bob Avakian in 2005. This refers to the dynamics of revolution in relation to the overall "social and class configuration" of society—and more specifically "the concentration of things [around the revolutionary vanguard] at the time of the seizure of power, and then the 'opening out' again after the consolidation of power." This talk was serialized in Revolution beginning with issue #45 (May 1, 2006), and is available online at revcom.us/avakian/basis-goals-methods. [back]