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. An updated pre-publication PDF of this major work—now including the appendices—is available here.
This excerpt comes from the section titled "IV. The Leadership We Need."
I remember when the coup happened in China in 1976. For those of you who have read my Memoir, you know that one of my “mentors” (if you want to use that phrase) was someone named Leibel Bergman—he was the one who introduced me to communism. Of course, I knew about communism, but he really brought me into a communist orientation. At the same time, he was strongly influenced by revisionism—meaning ideas and programs that are put forward in the name of communism or socialism but actually cut, or revise, the revolutionary heart out of it and keep things within the framework and confines of capitalist relations and capitalist political rule. So he was, on the one hand, a communist who introduced me to communism in a systematic way, but also strongly influenced by revisionism. He’d lived through the period when the Soviet Union was socialist, in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, and into the early 1950s, but then in the mid 1950s the Soviet Union was taken back down the road of capitalist restoration. And then, when the same thing was happening again in China in the late 1970s, that merged with some other weaknesses of Leibel’s, and he just couldn’t deal with the reality of yet another capitalist restoration in what had been a socialist country. I remember when I said to him, “Man, what’s happening in China is a revisionist coup, people who are taking things back to capitalism have seized power there, we gotta come out against this.” He angrily replied, “There you go again, telling everybody what to do—now you think you gotta tell the Chinese people what’s good for them.” And I answered, “Yeah, that’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s what Mao said. Mao said, ‘If in the future revisionists come to power in China, the communists in the world should unite with the 90 percent of the Chinese people whose interests are against revisionism, and work with them to overthrow the revisionists.’ So that’s what we’re supposed to do.”
Another time, when I was arguing with Leibel Bergman about what was happening in China, I made the observation about Zhou Enlai, who was a major leader in China: “Well, it looks to me like he’s thrown in with the revisionists.” And Leibel angrily responded: “Why would Zhou Enlai want to go revisionist?” I said, “It’s not really a matter of what he wants to do, that he wants to go revisionist, it’s a matter of line.” Here’s what happens: You come to these crossroads, one after another, where you face new challenges. Engels made this point: Revolution doesn’t develop in a straight line, it develops through stages; and at every stage, some people get stuck. There are new contradictions that pose themselves, and what was good enough to get you to point A is not good enough any more. You have to make new breakthroughs, new ruptures, new leaps. As I’ve been speaking to, very acute contradictions pose themselves repeatedly along this road, and there are very powerful pulls to come back within the bourgeois realm, to put it that way. I mean, think again about these people in Angola, those who are in power there now. We can’t say that they all started out as corrupt, self-seeking profiteers and looters. No, even though their outlook was an eclectic mishmash—nationalism mixed in with some communist inclinations—and that was a real problem, most of them were sincere revolutionaries of a kind, with a mixed bag of nationalism and communism, which wasn’t good enough. It’s not a matter of not being sincere—you come up against contradictions repeatedly, and if you don’t keep applying yourself more and more deeply to grasp and apply the scientific method of communism in grappling with how you keep on the road leading to where you need to go—if you don’t keep re-grounding yourself in the scientific understanding that this is where we have to go, or these problems will not be solved, what the masses are going through will not be eliminated, so we have to find a scientific way to keep going on this road—if you don’t do that, you will get pulled onto the other road, whether you want to or not. This gets posed very acutely for the top leadership of a party and a broader revolutionary movement, but it gets posed for everybody who’s involved.
So, this is a contradiction we have to recognize—we have to keep fighting even to recognize, let alone to stay on, the road of going to communism. You cannot do it by spontaneity, and going along with whatever is right on the surface at a given time. And, to come back to the situation in Cambodia in the 1970s, you cannot do this the way the Khmer Rouge, the so-called communists in Cambodia, tried to do things. The accusation has been made that they persecuted everybody who wore glasses—in other words, people who were intellectuals—and that accusation is only a slight exaggeration. They did adopt an orientation that everybody who’d had any privilege above the basic masses in the old society should be put at least into the category of highly untrustworthy people, if not into the outright enemy camp. And, as far as I understand things from the study I have done of this, they dealt with a whole bunch of real contradictions all in the wrong ways. For example—nobody talks about this any more, but at the time, if you were living through it, you were definitely aware of this—the U.S. imperialists bombed the shit out of Cambodia. They killed a lot of people, destroyed a lot of things, and installed and backed a brutal puppet dictatorship in Cambodia that persecuted a lot of people, as part of these imperialists’ overall war in Indochina. In fighting this U.S.-backed regime, the Khmer Rouge had their base areas in part of the countryside in Cambodia. When the U.S. stopped the bombing and pulled out its main military forces from Indochina, that regime collapsed and the Khmer Rouge came to power. But then they took real contradictions and grabbed ahold of the wrong ends of them, repeatedly. For example, they took this position: There are some people who lived in the base areas that got bombed and attacked when we were waging the war against the old regime, and the U.S. behind it. Those people in the base areas really had it hard, so those are people we can trust. But the people who didn’t live in the base areas, they’re not very trustworthy. So those people were all put under suspicion.
Well, there was a real contradiction there, which was part of larger contradictions, but that was absolutely the wrong way to deal with it. You’re making potential enemies out of many people who should not be enemies. And things are more contradictory than that. Not everybody, including not all the basic peasants, who lived in the base areas were highly advanced revolutionaries either. It was more complicated than that. So they just made a mess out of these real contradictions.
And they did the same thing in the economy. They basically tried to eliminate, or largely eliminate, right away, any kind of commodity exchanges, because they calculated: If we allow commodity exchanges and money, and some private property, and so on, those things are just going to eat up what we’re trying to do. Instead of the correct approach of Mao, who said: These are real contradictions, but under the dictatorship of the proletariat, these things can only be restricted, you can only restrict bourgeois right, you can’t eliminate all these contradictions, especially not right away—contradictions like those between mental and manual labor, the use of money, the persistence of commodity relations—all those things we can only restrict, Mao said, until we get to a whole different place, not just in China, but in the world as a whole. I talked earlier about what the material basis is for why that is the case, that for some time under socialism you can only restrict these things. So, Mao had the correct way of dealing with these contradictions, but the Khmer Rouge had a really crude way of dealing with it, which was this way of thinking: because these things will tend to give rise to capitalist impulses, we have to stomp them all out. And, as a result of that, they undermined the economy and in that way, too, made enemies out of a lot of people that they shouldn’t have made into enemies.
I don’t have time now, and I don’t want to try here, to go into a more elaborate analysis about Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, but there are a lot of important lessons by negative example to learn from this. These are the kinds of contradictions you have to deal with, if you’re gonna be part of leading a revolutionary movement. And in a strategic sense, we can say two things about this: It gives you a terrible and repeated headache; and we should welcome it. Both things are true, because this is what leads to where we need to go—working and struggling through these contradictions in the right way, with the right orientation of for whom and for what, and with the right scientific, dialectical materialist method and approach.
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