Editors' note: The following is an excerpt from the new work by Bob Avakian, The New Communism. In addition to excerpts already posted on revcom.us, we will be running further excerpts from time to time on both revcom.us and in Revolution newspaper. These excerpts should serve as encouragement and inspiration for people to get into the work as a whole, which is available as a book from Insight Press. A prepublication copy is available on line at revcom.us.
This excerpt comes from the section titled "I. Method and Approach, Communism as a Science."
Earlier this year (2015), the Outline I wrote, “The New Synthesis of Communism: Fundamental Orientation, Method and Approach, and Core Elements”23 was posted, and featured prominently, on revcom.us and in Revolution newspaper; and in publishing and featuring it, it was emphasized that this Outline is important itself and also an important companion to the Interview with Ardea Skybreak, which people should continue to study and to use and popularize broadly.
This Outline on the new synthesis of communism provides a basic sense of the scope, and of the essential scientific method and approach and strategic orientation, that marks the new synthesis as a further, qualitative development of communism; and it should provide important guidelines for further engagement with and immersion in the new synthesis. Here, rather than going through the whole Outline, which is available for people to read and dig into—and people should go back to it repeatedly—I want to discuss the importance of, and further stimulate, serious study of not only the Outline itself but the content of the new synthesis it is summarizing, in a concentrated way.
In the first part of this Outline (the “Introductory Point of Orientation”) it says the new synthesis is still a “work in progress,” even while it represents a qualitative development of the science of communism. Now, I have to say that I’m constantly astounded by the ways in which people can distort things in order to take the heart out of them and reduce communism to revisionism. What do we mean by revisionism? Revising the revolutionary heart out of communism and turning it into a feeble approach to tinkering around the edges of things, striving only for some reforms, and, even in the name of communism, keeping things within the confines of the capitalist system, its relations, its ways of thinking. So I’m constantly astounded by how people can take things, of communism, even things talking about the further development of communism, and refashion them into paltry revisionism. Now the reason I say that is I heard a report recently indicating that when this Outline came out—and in the Outline it was said that the new synthesis is, in a real sense, a “work in progress,” since I am still actively applying myself to leading and learning from many different sources, but it is correct to say that this new synthesis represents a qualitative development of communism—someone who should know better said, “Well, the important thing here is that it’s still a ‘work in progress.’” No, clearly what was being emphasized as the main thing, and what is objectively the case, is that this new synthesis is a qualitative development of communism, even as it’s still being worked on. If you reverse this, and emphasize as the main thing that it’s still a “work in progress,” then you don’t really have to take it all that seriously: it’s just a “work in progress,” it’s not really “all that,” it’s just something somebody is working on, and maybe someday it will develop into something really important. In fact, the reality, and the important point, is that in terms of the fundamental and most essential element of the new synthesis—which is scientific method and approach, the further development of communism as a science—and all that flows out of, and is informed by, that, in all these different areas (including the strategy for revolution, the nature of the society we’re going for, the internationalist orientation of our whole struggle), communism as a science has been further developed, in a qualitative way.
But let’s stop for a minute and speak to this: Who cares if communism has been further developed? At this point, a lot of people will say, “I’m not a communist, so I don’t care if communism has been further developed.” Well, first of all, if you’re not a communist, you should be. The fact is that, as spoken to earlier, communism represents the most consistent and systematic way of understanding and transforming the world, not just in some general and abstract sense, but toward a certain goal which the science of communism—not a religion, but the science of communism—reveals to be possible as well as desirable. You see, it’s not like, “Oh, we’d like to have a communist world without exploitation and oppression, so let’s find a science that will get us there.” No. The fact that there can be—not that there’s any guarantee of this, but through struggle there is a possibility to have—an entirely and radically different world, a communist world without exploitation and oppression, that fact itself is scientifically determined by examining the actual dynamics of human society throughout history, how it has changed, what that has led to, and what possibilities that now has opened up. So even the goal of communism, in the first place, is a scientifically determined goal, not something we just wish could be true. And then, in order to get to that goal, the means for achieving that goal also have to flow out of a scientific method and approach, because if you’re not being scientific, if you’re not actually examining the world the way it actually is, and as it is moving and changing through contradiction and the struggle between opposing forces, then you will not be able to achieve the kind of change that needs to be achieved, and you will constantly fall into being deceived and into self-deception.
So that’s why it’s important that the science of communism has been developed further, in a qualitative way, by building on what has gone before, in the main, but also casting off certain secondary aspects of the previous understanding of communism, which actually ran counter to, were in opposition to, its essentially scientific character. Since the time of Marx up through Mao, communism has been mainly scientific in its method and approach. But there have been elements in it that have run counter to that scientific method and approach, and the new synthesis is taking what is positive, is building on the essential parts that were positive, but is also rejecting, casting off or recasting in a more correct light some of the things from the earlier times in the development of communism that were not thoroughly scientific. Now, that doesn’t mean that everything about it is perfect, it doesn’t mean that a hundred years from now some other people won’t come along and say, “Well this thing here is not quite right.” That has to do with the nature of science, as opposed to religion. It’s something that’s constantly developing. I spoke to people one time about Mao’s statement, where he said that ten thousand years from now, we will all look rather foolish. This is undoubtedly true—and maybe it will be in even less time than that. What Mao meant was that for us communists, as well as people more generally, our understanding will be shown to be very undeveloped, relative to what people will learn in future generations, assuming people are still here in the world.
But the main aspect of communism is not that it’s foolish. It’s that it’s scientific and, at the same time, one of the essential qualities of a science is that it’s constantly developing, it’s constantly subjecting itself to criticism, as well as listening to and learning from the criticism of others. It’s constantly interrogating itself, to use that phrase, as well as investigating and interrogating reality, and constantly developing. But, like all science, it doesn’t go back to zero every time something new is learned. It builds on what has been shown to be true before, even while it’s open to the understanding that at least parts of what were known to be true, or thought to be true before, could be wrong. That’s the nature of science. Whether in biology or physics or chemistry or astronomy or any other field of science, that’s the way you proceed. You proceed on the basis of a certain core understanding that’s been shown, through the scientific method of investigating and synthesizing reality, to be true; and you go out and apply that to new problems, to new experience, always being open to the possibility that even parts of what you knew to be true at a given time may not be true, but not just going back to the drawing board and starting all over as if you don’t know anything every time you go out to investigate reality. You have to have a core of knowledge that’s been shown to be true through the scientific method, with which you go out to learn more, even as you’re open to considering that what you know at a given time may not be correct in certain aspects, or even a part of it may be entirely wrong and you have to throw that out—but you don’t throw out the whole core of accumulated knowledge.
So the significance of the new synthesis of communism is not that communism as a science, and its application in many different spheres, has been invented anew, but it has been further developed in many of these key areas, and this provides a qualitatively new basis for people, not just here, but throughout the world, to carry on the struggle to get beyond a world full of all the horrors that we’re now living under.
23. This Outline by Bob Avakian, “The New Synthesis Of Communism: Fundamental Orientation, Method and Approach, and Core Elements,” Summer 2015, is available at revcom.us.[back]
Introduction and Orientation
Foolish Victims of Deceit, and Self-Deceit
Part I. Method and Approach, Communism as a Science
Materialism vs. Idealism
Through Which Mode of Production
The Basic Contradictions and Dynamics of Capitalism
The New Synthesis of Communism
The Basis for Revolution
Epistemology and Morality, Objective Truth and Relativist Nonsense
Self and a “Consumerist” Approach to Ideas
What Is Your Life Going to Be About?—Raising People’s Sights
Part II. Socialism and the Advance to Communism:
A Radically Different Way the World Could Be, A Road to Real Emancipation
The “4 Alls”
Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right
Socialism as an Economic System and a Political System—And a Transition to Communism
Abundance, Revolution, and the Advance to Communism—A Dialectical Materialist Understanding
The Importance of the “Parachute Point”—Even Now, and Even More With An Actual Revolution
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America—
Solid Core with a Lot of Elasticity on the Basis of the Solid Core
Emancipators of Humanity
Part III. The Strategic Approach to An Actual Revolution
One Overall Strategic Approach
Hastening While Awaiting
Forces For Revolution
Separation of the Communist Movement from the Labor Movement, Driving Forces for Revolution
National Liberation and Proletarian Revolution
The Strategic Importance of the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women
The United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat
Youth, Students and the Intelligentsia
Struggling Against Petit Bourgeois Modes of Thinking, While Maintaining the Correct Strategic Orientation
The “Two Maximizings”
The “5 Stops”
The Two Mainstays
Returning to "On the Possibility of Revolution"
Internationalism and an International Dimension
Internationalism—Bringing Forward Another Way
Popularizing the Strategy
Part IV. The Leadership We Need
The Decisive Role of Leadership
A Leading Core of Intellectuals—and the Contradictions Bound Up with This
Another Kind of “Pyramid”
The Cultural Revolution Within the RCP
The Need for Communists to Be Communists
A Fundamentally Antagonistic Relation—and the Crucial Implications of That
Strengthening the Party—Qualitatively as well as Quantitatively
Forms of Revolutionary Organization, and the “Ohio”
Statesmen, and Strategic Commanders
Methods of Leadership, the Science and the “Art” of Leadership
Working Back from “On the Possibility”—
Another Application of “Solid Core with a Lot of Elasticity on the Basis of the Solid Core”
The New Synthesis of Communism:
Fundamental Orientation, Method and Approach,
and Core Elements—An Outline
by Bob Avakian
Framework and Guidelines for Study and Discussion
Selected List of Works Cited
About the Author