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 "IV. The Leadership We Need."
Let’s start with a very basic point: Leadership is decisive. As Mao put it, where there is oppression there will be resistance: the masses of oppressed people will repeatedly rise up and fight back against their oppression. But where that struggle ends up, and whether it can be taken all the way to an emancipating revolution, a new society and ultimately a new world, without exploitation and oppression and all the suffering and destruction that goes along with that, depends on leadership—on the line, the worldview, the method and approach, the strategy and program of the force which gains the leadership in the struggle against oppression.
Notice that I said “the force which gains the leadership.” Why did I put it this way—and what is the importance of this? Well, one of the things this is emphasizing is that there is always going to be a struggle over who’s in the leading position, and therefore where things are being led. It’s not a matter of things falling into anyone’s lap—unless it’s the ruling class, or other forces that will have spontaneity going for them and will lead things in the wrong direction—but especially if the leadership the masses actually need, to make the revolution they need, is really going to gain the leading position, it’s going to be a process of, yes, complex, and at times very fierce, struggle. Once again, if we think it’s just a matter that eventually the masses will see the need for a revolution and they’ll come seeking us out and ask us to lead them—well, we’ll be in for a very bad surprise! Even to the degree that something like that might happen, we wouldn’t be able to handle it correctly, if that’s our orientation and approach. There has to be a fight—this goes back to the point a little while ago, that much of the struggle we carry out, particularly in the ideological realm, is struggle against other lines and programs which do not directly flow from and represent the ruling class but are more representative of intermediate strata, but which, nonetheless, lead people back into, or keep them chained within, the killing confines and dynamics of this system.
Now, I mentioned earlier the book The Looting Machine. The full title is The Looting Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa’s Wealth. The author, Tom Burgis, starts off the first chapter of the book speaking about Chicala, which is a shantytown slum in Luanda, the capital city of Angola; and he talks about how there isn’t much that is in the wall separating Chicala from the rest of the city, other than a lot of sewage, as well as fear. This called to mind something I wrote earlier about the piles of garbage and human waste that little children in Luanda and other parts of Angola are playing amidst, while a few miles away there are tall buildings serving as glittering monuments to the power of the wealthy. You see this now in China, in Shanghai and other cities, but even in Luanda and places like that—these glittering skyscrapers, symbols of this vast wealth in a very few hands. And Angola is a particularly poignant example, because the ruling force now in Angola is what proceeded from the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (the MPLA), which was the nationalist force leading the struggle against Portuguese colonialism, which dominated Angola, and then a civil war against forces backed by apartheid South Africa and the U.S. This was fought out for decades in Angola. The clique now ruling in Angola came directly out of that—the heads of the country now were the leaders of the MPLA, and those who have succeeded them. Burgis makes the point that the daughter of the leader of the MPLA—Isabel dos Santos—is the first female billionaire in Africa. Isn’t that a shining example of “empowerment”?! You can just hear minions and mouthpieces of the system celebrating this—a female billionaire in Africa—while you get this vivid picture of the literal garbage and waste that the masses of people are living in, surrounding these glittering symbols of all this wealth that has, in a real sense, been looted from these countries and from the masses of people.
In reading this, you could think about—and a lot of people would think about—what a tragedy this is, what a horrible situation, what terrible corruption. Some would note the role of multinational corporations in all this, and talk about how the corporations have way too much power, and these days perhaps a few might talk about imperialism, in some general sense. Now, all that might be in the right direction and with the right spirit, but what struck me immediately, as I got into reading this book—and what struck me repeatedly in reading it—is how this screams out the need for an actual socialist transformation of these societies. Again, it’s back to the mode of production point, and the compelling reality that if you don’t have a leadership that bases itself on a scientific understanding of all this, you are going to end up in a terrible situation, despite the struggle and sacrifice of masses of people, including the struggle and sacrifices of the forces leading them. In other words, the leadership in these places like Angola, they end up saying things like, “We learned that money is power—if you don’t have money, you can’t do anything.” So, just like the revisionists in China, who took China back down the capitalist road while still pretending to be communists in some vague sense, these forces in places like Angola go about accumulating wealth through capitalist means, with the claim that this somehow benefits the masses of people. In China they literally had the slogan, “To Get Rich is Glorious”—they replaced the slogan during the time of Mao, “Serve the People,” with the slogan “To Get Rich is Glorious.” I remember hearing a story about one of the party cadre in China after the revisionist coup happened and they put away the slogan of “Serve the People” and the orientation of serving the people by advancing the revolution, and started talking about how everybody should try to get rich, because that would be for the benefit of the country. And one of these Chinese Communist Party cadre, now under this revisionist leadership that was promoting this bourgeois line, actually said to another party cadre: “Well, you know, we used to talk about serve the people; but aren’t I a people?” So you can see how the ideological corruption sets in when the dominant line is changed in this way and is being pumped at people, even people who definitely once knew better. They get caught up in this idea that if we all go out for ourselves, we’ll make a lot of money and then we can do something good for the masses of poor people. So this slogan, “To Get Rich is Glorious,” was supposed to inspire people to make a lot of money, and that would develop the economy and help the people. And in reading The Looting Machine you see this rationalization repeated by the heads of government in these different African countries: Well, if we amass a lot of wealth, then we can do something for the people.
Now, again, many of these people fought under very difficult conditions for decades. They were up against apartheid South Africa, which was a very powerful country at the time, and was being backed up by the U.S., even as the ruling class of the U.S. put up some pretense of opposing apartheid. Going up against that, the MPLA in Angola relied somewhat on the Soviet Union, which was a real problem, but they waged a lot of self-sacrificing struggle. Why did things end up this way? Well, there were major shifts in the world and world relations, including the fact that the Soviet Union as such collapsed and its empire went out of existence in its previous form, with Soviet social-imperialism (socialism in name but imperialism in fact) being replaced by an openly capitalist-imperialist Russia, and China now on the road of capitalism. All this was disorienting, and all the more so because people weren’t scientific enough. Forces like the MPLA were eclectic—their viewpoint was a mishmash of nationalism and some aspects of communism, it was not a consistently scientific communist approach. And so, when these new conditions hit, what did they end up doing? They became nouveau bourgeois exploiters, and at the same time accomplices (and basically appendages) of imperialism, accumulating tremendous wealth for themselves, on the backs of the masses of people.
Here we get back to a point that was made, toward the beginning of this presentation, on the base and the superstructure—the economic system, the mode of production, and how it sets the terms for things in society overall, and how, in turn, the superstructure that arises on that economic base serves to reinforce it. In other words, the political and ideological superstructure—the political system, the laws, the culture, the ideas that dominate in the society—have to be in accordance with that mode of production, or the society can’t function. So if you go down the road of saying we’re gonna use capitalist means to get a lot of wealth, if that’s the mode of production that’s operating, then you have to have a superstructure of laws, political institutions, culture and ideology, and so on, that goes along with and enforces that capitalist system, even if you once had a different set of ideas.
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