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."
In talking about the radical alternative and the road to communism, it’s been pointed out that socialism is three things: It’s a radically different socialist economic system; a radically different political system, the dictatorship of the proletariat; and a transition to communism. This is something that comes through very clearly in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. And, once again, what do we run into?—contradiction. This is full of contradiction: Each of these three elements—a radically different economic system, a radically different political system, a transition to communism—each is full of contradiction, and there are contradictions between all three of them. This can come down very concretely, and it has in the history of socialist countries that have existed so far. Being a base area for the world revolution, for example, can come very acutely into contradiction with defending the socialist state from attack, both from within—from exploiters and reactionaries within the socialist state who want to bring back the old system—and from outside, by imperialists and other powerful forces. And any time you get to the point where the seizure of power will come on the agenda, all these contradictions will start posing themselves very sharply. We saw this, for example, in Nepal: These contradictions started posing themselves very acutely when they got near to the threshold of going for the seizure of power. (I’ll come back to this, and get into it a little more deeply, later.)
And a radically different economic system—that’s full of contradictions. In socialist society, you’re still dealing with commodity relations, to a significant degree and for a long time. You still have to take into account the law of value, even while you can’t let it be the thing regulating the economy. Now, some people, like anarchists and some others, don’t understand why, if you’re going to have a different society, you have to do things like pay a physicist or a doctor more than a factory worker. The reason is that the law of value is still there. What does that mean? There is a certain amount of socially necessary labor that goes into enabling someone to develop the ability to be a doctor or a physicist, which is significantly greater than the amount of labor that goes into being able to work in a factory, or in a warehouse or something like that. This is just a fact. You may restrict that, but if you don’t recognize that and you try to pay a physicist or a doctor the same as a factory worker, or somebody working in a hospital as an orderly, let’s say, you’re going to have real problems with your economy. Let’s go back to what I was speaking to earlier: what’s happening in these commodity exchanges? Exchanges of labor, ultimately. Well, then if you try to pay a physicist or a doctor the same as a factory worker or an orderly in a hospital, your system is going to get out of whack economically, because you’d be exchanging labor disproportionately—and you actually do have to have a functioning economy. People like anarchists don’t think about things like that—they just think that you can do this magically, or essentially by spontaneity. “Let’s have the workers in each factory run their own factory”—that’s an idea common to anarchists, and some others. Well, then, how are they going to exchange things between factories, by what means are they going to do that? If you try to eliminate money right away, then you run into Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, and we don’t want that. In other words, you’d have to force a lot of things, and it won’t work—people will rebel against it. So, then, to try to enforce this, you’d have to use all kinds of dictatorship against people who shouldn’t be dictated over—this will turn into a bad, a reactionary dictatorship. (I will also have a little more to say about the experience of the so-called, but not really, communists, the Khmer Rouge, in Cambodia a little later.)
So, even in developing a socialist economy, while you’re quickly taking ownership of the major means of production—the factories, and the land, and so on—and ultimately all means of production are being taken out of the hands of individuals and transformed into the social property of the society as a whole—which is in line with how they’re actually produced, socially—it takes a while to accomplish even that. And even while you do that, there are still for a long period all these commodity relations, there’s still the use of money, there are still significant remnants of the old division of labor—in particular the mental/manual contradiction we talk about (some people working with ideas, and other people doing the physical work). Those are major contradictions that you can’t eliminate right away, and they are bound up with getting beyond commodity production. You have commodity exchanges between different units of the economy—for example, different sectors of the economy are selling machinery to each other, or parts to each other—and then you have commodity relations in the consumption by individuals of different necessities, personal items, and so on.
Now this is quite different than in capitalist society. I remember when I was in China in 1971, and one of the people in our delegation was someone from the Young Lords Party; we were in a department store and he wanted to get one of those things that was called a Mao jacket, that a lot of the Chinese people wore. He was talking to the clerk working in the store, and he said to her: How much does that cost? And she said five yuan (that is the Chinese currency). And then, without thinking, he asked her: Is that a fair price? And everybody cracked up. She answered: It’s the same price everywhere.
That was the price—you don’t have capitalism where different units of capital are competing with each other. That was the price, five yuan. Go down the street to another store, five yuan. So it’s different. You have a planned economy that’s using the resources for the social good and the needs of the people—both their immediate material needs, but also their intellectual and cultural needs—but you still have commodity relations, you still have to put down five yuan.
So there are all these contradictions in the economic system.
And there are contradictions in the political system. You have the dictatorship of the proletariat. Now, remember in the Skybreak Interview she says: dictatorship of the proletariat, get over it, you’re living under a bourgeois dictatorship right now—and, by the way, the dictatorship of the proletariat is a very good thing.
The dictatorship of the proletariat means, as set forth in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic, that the institutions of society, the political institutions and so on, have to be vehicles for the communist revolution. Well, that’s a very good thing. But there are a lot of contradictions bound up with that, too, because, for one thing, what’s an appropriate vehicle, or institution, at one stage to advance the revolution becomes outmoded, becomes a drag on that revolution, at another stage. So then you have to transform that institution. Plus, you don’t just have the proletariat, you have all these different classes, and you have contradictions among the people who make up the proletariat. When we get to the “parachute point,” we’ll talk about that—that you have all these different forces, different social classes and strata in socialist society, and you can’t do away with them until you’ve done away with the material basis for them—not by the Khmer Rouge model of smashing everybody down to an equal level, but by moving beyond the economic and social relations that underlie these class and social differences. (Again, I will come back to the situation, and real problems, with the Khmer Rouge a little later.)
Then there’s the contradiction that you need a vanguard party to exercise the dictatorship of the proletariat, but the party itself can be turned around into its opposite, into a vehicle for restoring capitalism and enforcing the exploitation and oppression of the masses of people. The party doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists within the larger society and in the context of the class struggle going on in that society; and the influence of the social relations and the economic relations and the ideas that are out in society as a whole exists within the party as well. In some important ways this takes a concentrated expression within the party. Along with this, you have the influence on the party of the larger world, of the international situation, which will likely be, for some time, dominated by imperialists and other exploiters. So, on the one hand, you need the vanguard, but within that vanguard itself you will have intense struggle over whether that vanguard’s going to stay on the road of socialism toward the goal of communism, or whether it’s going to be turned around into an instrument that carries out the restoration of capitalism, sometimes in the name of communism. So, again, this is complex. I keep saying complex—and complex should not be a word that frightens us. Complex calls on us to do work, and keep on doing it as we go forward.
But, that’s not all of it. Out of these three elements—that is, a new, radically different economic system, a radically different political system, and a transition to communism—the transition to communism is, and has to be, the principal, the main, one. And that’s full of contradiction, too, because you do have to have a functioning socialist system—economically, politically, socially, and so on—even as you’re moving forward on the communist road and transforming the existing socialist system through ongoing revolutionary struggle. And again, there’s a whole world out there, and when socialist countries come into existence here and there, at least for a long period of time it’s very likely that most of the world is still going to be ruled by imperialists and other exploiters. And they’re not going to like what you’re trying to do, to put it mildly. They’re going to try to intervene in all kinds of ways—through espionage, through sabotage of your economy, as well as through political intrigue, and through outright military attack, if they can do it. So that’s full of contradiction—being a transition to communism is itself full of contradiction, and is acutely in contradiction with these other aspects of what a socialist society is.
Again, the point is not: “Oh, my god, if you’d have told me, back when I first got involved in this, that this was going to involve all these complex problems, I would have gone and done something else.” No—that’s not the point. Look, none of us, when we first get involved, understand all this complexity—and maybe that’s a good thing! But, nevertheless, we do have to come to terms with it. It’s what it is. It’s not like there’s no resolution to these things, but you’re not going to be able to lead people through this if you aren’t working on really grasping the complexity, the contradictions involved, and then working and struggling to transform this in the direction that it needs to go. That’s what this is about. It’s not to promote a sense of defeatism—quite the contrary. The more we understand this, the more we have the basis to go to work on it. And there is a material basis, a basis in the real world, to go to work on it. There are a lot of things working against it, but there is also the fundamental fact that, without this revolution, these contradictions can’t be resolved in a way that is actually in the interests of the broad masses of humanity. That’s what we have fundamentally going for us—but then we have to do the work.
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