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 "II. Socialism and the Advance to Communism: A Radically Different Way the World Could Be, A Road to Real Emancipation."
This brings me to another very important point: beyond the narrow horizon of bourgeois right—there’s another one of those phrases. “Why is he always talking about getting beyond the narrow horizon of bourgeois right? What does that have to do with what we’re doing now?” Well, if we don’t have a clear understanding of what it is we’re aiming for, then we’re bound to get pulled down into the terms of whatever we’re doing at a given time. And the contradiction is that we do have to do what we’re doing at a given time—we do have to fight the power, we do have to unite with people to resist oppression. We can’t stand to the side like a bunch of religious dogmatists and say: “Well, you know, that struggle’s not gonna do you any good, we need a revolution, so when you come to your senses, come talk to me and I will give you a lecture.” No! We have to mobilize people to struggle against these outrages. This can’t be allowed to just go down. What they’re doing to people in the world, what they’re doing to people right around us—this can’t be allowed to go down—people have to fight this, they have to push back, they have to put the ruling class back on its heels. Even in order to make a revolution, this is crucial, as well as for people not to be crushed and demoralized in immediate terms. What Marx said is true: People cannot rise up for greater things if they’re crushed into broken wretches.
And that’s a lot of what we see happening to the masses of people—many times they feel like broken wretches. They actually internalize the idea that something’s wrong with them, because this is constantly pumped at them. I was talking with somebody recently and they were making the point: Even the thing about god, for oppressed people, if you’re constantly going through a society where you feel degraded—and not just externally degraded, but you’ve internalized this degradation—you feel that you’re less than human because you are constantly made to feel this way, there must be something wrong with you or there must be something wrong with the people around you, because look what they’re always doing; every time it looks like something good is gonna happen, people start fucking over each other. “There must be something wrong with us.” This is a lot of what people have internalized. It’s another crime of the system, that it’s made people internalize this. And this comrade made the point: “Look, even the belief in god, if you feel like a broken wretch—not just beaten down, but you feel like something’s wrong with you—then maybe you can still have some worth because this god loves you anyway, despite what you are.” There are a lot of powerful pulls like this on masses of people. And when we struggle with people, it’s not because we’re contemptuous and look down on them; and it’s certainly not because we want to take away their sense of worth; it’s because we want to enable them to understand that this doesn’t have to be. But if we’re gonna get out from underneath this, we have to have a scientific approach to reality as it actually is, and as it’s full of contradiction and moving and changing.
So this is why these things are so important to get into—because we actually have to be a vanguard for the masses of people. A vanguard doesn’t mean you go out and boss the masses of people around; that’s not the point at all. It means that you understand the way out of this, and you struggle like hell with people to enable them to see it, so they can fight more consciously and bring forward more and more people to do that. That’s the responsibility you take on. That’s the responsibility we’ve taken on, because it’s needed—because, on their own, the masses of people are going to be dragged down, dragged down physically and dragged down mentally—and, to use that term, without giving it any kind of religious meaning, dragged down “spiritually”—dragged down by the workings of this system and the way even the masses of people internalize a lot of what this system pumps at them, and a lot of what it forces them to do.
That’s the thing about commodity relations. Earlier, I referred to Lenin’s point about commodity relations: that capitalism—which is the highest form of, and the generalization of, commodity relations—forces everyone to calculate with the stinginess of a miser. Now, think about that once more. This is what we experience all the time. People will say: “What am I gonna get out of this, is this gonna make any money for me?” And it’s not just that people are greedy—of course, there are a lot of greedy people in this society, it’s constantly encouraged—but for a lot of people, this is a matter of necessity. “How am I gonna feed my kids? Am I gonna pay this bill so my electricity doesn’t get cut off, or am I gonna buy this food? And what food can I buy with this little money that I got? And, yeah, I watched that program where they told me how to eat healthy, but can I afford to buy those foods that they say are healthy?” All these kinds of questions. People are forced to calculate that way, that’s what this commodity system of capitalism does.
And, to go back to that other important thing Lenin said—that capitalism puts in the hands of individuals what is produced by all of society (in fact, all of the world, and Lenin understood that, too): capitalism puts in the hands of individuals what’s produced by a system—a system of exploitation—that encompasses all of the world. That’s what I was getting at earlier, in talking about exchanges of labor. You don’t make all the things that you use. It’s a whole social process, a socialized process, production that’s a highly internationalized process now. You can go home and look in your closet or whatever— look at your clothes and, if you find any made in America, let me know. And this is true for a lot of things that are consumed. This is an internationalized process. But it ends up putting in the hands of individuals things that are produced by all of society, produced now all over the world. Of course, it’s not that we don’t want individuals to have personal items, that’s not the point. The point is that there’s a socialized process here, and there are capitalists who accumulate capital out of all this socialized production, who then keep it going by using that as the basis to exploit more and more. This is the system we’re living under, and people are not going to spontaneously understand this, because they’re completely caught up in it. Materially and in terms of their thinking, they’re completely caught up in it. As miserable as it is for so many people, as horrific as it is for so many people, they are not going to come to see the essence of this, and the way out of this, on their own.
This is why we talk about getting beyond the narrow horizon of bourgeois right. In the first part of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, I started off talking about this: After watching the 2003 film, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, this high school student says he really liked it—“I agree with everything in there, and I really liked the vision of the future society”—but, he went on, “if I invent something, I want to get more for it.” And there we go, we’re off to the races, because, in order for that to be true, you have to have the whole set of relations that you say you don’t like. But people are not going to come to understand that this is all bound up with the system of exploitation, and all those things that are talked about in the “4 Alls,” unless somebody who has been able to get this understanding brings it to them and struggles with them about it. And this question of whether we’re thinking about bourgeois right, or thinking beyond it, is not just a question for the far stages of socialism; it has everything to do with people’s orientation now. If your orientation is “I wanna get more,” then we’re not gonna get anywhere beyond this system. It’s not that everybody’s going to give up every aspect of that before we make a revolution—if we think that, we’ll never have a revolution. There are going to be a lot of people who fight for this revolution who are still going to be caught up in various bourgeois ways of thinking, including the idea that they want to get more. But there has to be a force at the core, a growing force—thousands and ultimately millions—who are moving beyond that way of approaching the world, moving beyond calculations made with the stinginess of a miser, calculations of bourgeois right. Because bourgeois right, as I pointed out in Making and Emancipating Part 1, is a way of thinking—or it is a set of relations as well as ideas—that correspond ultimately to commodity production and commodity relations. And we have to get beyond commodities, in the relations between people and in people’s thinking.
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