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."
Now, those general observations bring me to this Party in particular. There has been—it was recognized, more than a dozen years ago now, that there was a need for—a Cultural Revolution within this Party, with everything that implies: a thoroughgoing struggle to transform the whole direction the Party was taking, and the whole character the Party was taking on. This stood in very acute contradiction to the indispensable need for this Party to actually be a revolutionary communist vanguard. Why was it necessary to do something as drastic as this?—and it was and is something drastic, to have a Cultural Revolution within this Party. Because, owing to a lot of the factors that I’ve mentioned, and some others that I’ll touch on, the whole character of this Party was beginning to turn into its opposite, was very seriously on the precipice, on the very edge, of descending into not being a revolutionary communist vanguard, and degenerating into just a clique of reformists who had lost the whole orientation of scientifically going after the problem of radically changing society, bringing about the kind of profound transformation that’s represented by the communist revolution. All this had become very powerfully asserted within this Party, despite and in opposition to the “official line” of the Party and my work and the leadership that I was struggling to provide, to keep the Party on the road of revolution and communism.
There were a lot of different manifestations of this. People here should be familiar with much of this, but there was a whole way in which the Party was turning into what we’ve described as an alternative lifestyle: just a place to hang out with other people who didn’t like the way the world was. The goal of revolution was going out of consideration—it was some far-off, abstract thing that maybe, “one fine day,” some other people would make—while this Party would just sort of keep the banner fluttering weakly in the wind. There was a turning inward, there was a tailing after identity politics, and other reformist trends, rather than an approach of “solid core with a lot of elasticity on the basis of the solid core” (even if that specific formulation had not yet been brought forward, that was the basic orientation and approach that should have been what people were basing themselves on, but instead they were going somewhere else). The work that I was doing, which has been further developed since but which was already quite developed in the direction of what I have outlined about the new synthesis of communism: All of that was being ignored—perhaps “appreciated” on one level and then put on a shelf to gather dust—or it was being opposed, either directly or, to use the parlance of the times, passively aggressively. The whole orientation of being a vanguard of an actual revolution was being given up on—which, it hardly needs saying, was a betrayal of everything the Party is supposed to be about.
In confronting this, it was necessary to approach and analyze it scientifically. Are we still for—do we still understand the need for—the dictatorship of the proletariat? Do we still understand that the goal is communism—and that communism is not just some vague idea of equality, but actually what Marx was talking about when he put forward what has been encapsulated in the formulation the “4 Alls”? Do we even understand that you need a vanguard party—which is kind of a sharp contradiction if you think about the fact that you’re supposed to be a vanguard party, yet you’re falling into questioning whether you need a vanguard party—and is there the orientation that this has to actually be a vanguard party, not some gathering of veteran activists from a previous era when people felt more revolutionary, and felt buoyed up by revolutionary struggle in the world, which has since ebbed? All this did become concentrated around my leadership and the work that I was doing, because, as I said at the time, these questions—do you need the dictatorship of the proletariat? is the goal communism in the sense of what Marx set forth, in fundamental terms? do we actually have to overthrow this system? do we need a vanguard party, that is an actual vanguard of communist revolution, to lead in achieving all this? and what method and approach do we need to learn from the experience of the past, and from broad spheres of human activity, in order to forge forward on this road?—these were the kinds of questions I was working on, assuming, for a long time, that this whole Party was in the same place, grappling with these same contradictions, when it turned out not to be the case at all, with very few exceptions, on every level of the Party. In fact, the rest of the Party was leaving all that aside and—again with very few exceptions—going off into something else, which really didn’t have to do with revolution and communism at all, even if the words were still spoken.
Now, here, let me speak to the question: Why was I doing the work I was doing? Once again, we’re back to for whom and for what. I wasn’t doing this work for myself. When I was young, in middle school and then even more so in high school, my life got changed in a very major way by coming into contact with people that I hadn’t really known that much before, in particular Black people. I started learning about their situation and how that relates to what goes on in this society as a whole. I was drawn to the culture—not just the music and the art overall, but the whole way of going through the world—of the Black people who became my friends, and the world they introduced me to. And I came to the point of recognizing: these are my people. Now, I knew they had a different life experience than I did. But these are my people—I don’t see a separation—it’s not like there are some other people “over there” who are going through all this and somehow that’s removed from me. These are my people. And then I began to recognize more deeply what people were being put through, the oppression they were constantly subjected to, the horrors of daily life as well as the bigger ways in which the system came down on them. And as I went further through life and began to approach the question of what needs to be done about this, and was introduced to taking up a scientific approach to this, I realized that my people were more than this. I realized that my people were Chicanos and other Latinos and other oppressed people in the U.S.; they were people in Vietnam and China; they were women... they were the oppressed and exploited of the world... and through some struggle, and having to cast off some wrong thinking, I have learned that they are LGBT people as well.
These are my people, the oppressed and exploited people of the world. They are suffering terribly, and something has to be done about this. So it is necessary to dig in and systematically take up the science that can show the way to put an end to all this, and bring something much better into being. You have to persevere and keep struggling to go forward in this way. And when you run into new problems or setbacks, you have to go more deeply into this, rather than putting it aside and giving up.
So this is why I’ve been doing the work that I’ve been doing. And this question of what I was doing, the leadership I was providing and what this had brought forward, became the central question—or, as we have put it, the cardinal question—of this Cultural Revolution within the RCP, because this concentrates the fundamental question of whether this Party is going to be a vanguard of the future, or a residue of the past.
This was a very sharply posed, in fact a very dire, situation because, a real vanguard party is a really precious thing for the masses of people. Look, how many times can the masses of people say—in going through life in this shithole of a system—how many times can they say: “We have a force that’s really on our side, all the way, and won’t stab us in the back, or stop short of what we need”? How many times can people say that in the course of their lifetime, and can it really be true? So, it is a precious thing for the masses of people to have a party like that, which did come out of the upsurge of the 1960s and into the early ’70s, and was, in fact, the most important achievement that came out of that whole period and that whole upsurge in this country. Lots of things went backward; lots of forces either got crushed, or went off track, or gave up; lots of people got demoralized, settled in and accepted, went along with, the way things are, or got broken down by the workings of this system—people who’d once been much better. This Party came through that and didn’t do that. But over the decades since, it was worn down by the workings and the influences of this system, and by the fact that people had not been carrying forward the struggle to resist and overcome that, and to follow the leadership that was leading them to have that not happen, and instead to fight to forge further forward on the road we need to be on. Still, you just can’t throw away a party—unless it’s absolutely clear that it can’t be brought back from the road of revisionism and is going into the sewer.
I have to say that, in the twelve years since the Cultural Revolution in this Party was initiated, there have been many times when I’ve said: “Well, we’re just not succeeding with this Cultural Revolution, we’re still not getting this Party back on the road it needs to be on.” This comes up in lots of little ways as well as big ways. For example, I was reading a report about somebody working around RiseUpOctober, and they were carrying out correspondence with a minister they wanted to get involved in this important struggle. Well, the minister sent this comrade an email—this was during the time when the finals of the NBA, the professional basketball championships, were going on, and this was in the Bay Area, where the NBA team there, the Golden State Warriors, was in the championship series, playing against the Cleveland Cavaliers—and the minister is all caught up in this, and in part of his email, while talking about political questions, he also says that he really hopes the Warriors win. And the comrade sends back an email and, among other things, says, Yeah, I hope the Warriors win, too; but, by the way, you really ought to listen to this NBA talk by BA.64
Now, there is a really acute contradiction involved here: The NBA talk by BA is all about how the NBA is not a real contest that takes place mainly on the basketball court, but is more governed by the marketing strategy of the NBA executives, and that they shape the way the playoffs and the championship get worked out. So what’s happening on the court is happening on the court, but it’s being governed by much bigger things, by billion dollar marketing, which is much more shaping which teams are gonna be playing in the championship series, and which will win. So here you have this person saying, Listen to this NBA talk by BA, but, yeah, I hope the Warriors win, too.
If I were the minister reading this, I’d be thinking, “Well, you send me this talk by BA, but, when I listen to it, it seems like you don’t really believe what he says, because you’re also talking about how you hope the Warriors win.” So that, to understate it, is kind of a problem. Once again you have two kinds of goods you’re promoting here. On the one hand, you’re trying to develop something that is very important, RiseUpOctober, but you’re tailing this minister. Instead of coming at it like we have different ideologies, and different views of the fundamental problem and solution, but we have a common interest in fighting this horrible police brutality and murder and mass incarceration, and therefore we should work together to make RiseUpOctober as powerful as it can be, you’re trying to find a way to sort of suck up to this minister, if you want to put it crudely. “Yeah, I want the Warriors to win, too”—instead of presenting the world the way it actually is, including what the NBA is, and then uniting and struggling from that standpoint. This is perhaps a small-scale example—and I don’t want to blow this one example, in and of itself, out of proportion, and pick on the person who fell into this kind of thing in this case—but the fact is that this type of thing has gone on, and still continues to go on, over and over again: You come with a mishmash of communism and populist reformism, and try to maneuver around and tail people, in order to get them to do what you want them to do in the immediate situation, forgetting the larger picture and where it all needs to go.
So this is a real problem, and sometimes it gets discouraging. But, we still need to keep the struggle going, for two very important reasons. Under the present conditions, it would be very difficult to bring into being a new party that could play the vanguard role that’s needed. You don’t just create a party because you want to—you don’t just conjure up a party out of your head—and you can’t just call one forth out of nothing, or out of conditions which at this time are not very favorable for creating that. Secondly—and this is very important—there is still a significant number of people in this Party who do want to be what they’re supposed to be, who do still want this Party to be the vanguard it needs to be, and there are many people out there who need to be brought into this Party on the basis of what it needs to be, and not on something opposed to that. So, even with all the disappointments, we have to keep carrying forward the fight for that. But I’m just putting this out in very straight terms: This Cultural Revolution has not yet been fully won in this Party. And it is not a Cultural Revolution that has ended, by the way. All too often you hear people talking as if it’s a thing of the past—like, “Yeah, back in the time when we had this Cultural Revolution in the Party....” There are all too many people, on different levels of the Party, referring to this in the past tense—but that is not the case.
The fact is that this Cultural Revolution is still continuing—but in some new forms and in a new framework: continuing the struggle to further transform the Party in the context of transforming the larger world, building the movement for an actual revolution, and, yes, bringing forward waves of new people as a key part of building and strengthening the Party as the leading core of that revolution, even as we’re continuing the struggle to transform the Party to be more and more what it needs to be.
64. Bob Avakian, “The NBA: Marketing the Minstrel Show and Serving the Big Gangsters,” one of the 7 Talks from 2006. Audio 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