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 opening section, “Introduction and Orientation,” and from part of the section titled “The Cultural Revolution Within the RCP,” and is accompanied by the Table of Contents for the work as a whole.
This gathering is taking place at a very important time, when masses of the oppressed in this country, and in particular those most bitterly oppressed, have been rising up— refusing to take the brutality and murder to which they are continually subjected, particularly by the police, acting as the enforcers of this system of oppression—and these uprisings have been joined by people from other sections of society. Rebellion and resistance on this level around such a crucial contradiction and “fault line” of this system, the depth and determination of this rebellion and resistance, and the way in which it has continued, and continues, to “flare up” with new outrages—this is something that has not been seen in a long time. And, with the aim of propelling this resistance to a qualitatively higher level and concentrating it in a qualitatively more powerful way, impacting all of society, and the larger world—and, from our standpoint, working to make this serve the strategic goal of an actual revolution that will put an end to this, and other outrages that concentrate major social contradictions of this system, as embodied in the “5 Stops”1—a massive mobilization of people, demanding that the outrage of police brutality and murder, as well as mass incarceration, must be stopped, has been called for this fall, RiseUpOctober,2 focused in New York City on the days of October 22-24, putting forward the challenge to all of society around this: Which side are you on? All this poses great potential, great necessity, and great challenges for those working for an actual revolution that would put an end to this, and to all, oppression. At the same time, in the larger context in which this is taking place, the contradictions within this system are sharpening, internationally as well as within particular countries, and in some places—many places, in fact—these contradictions are boiling over. And there is the fundamental reality that communist revolution, and nothing less, is necessary to deal with the egregious outrages and injustices, and the profound contradictions, that mark the current world and the system of capitalism-imperialism that still dominates the world, at the cost of so much suffering for the masses of humanity.
In this context, in reading reports on work in various areas over the recent period, and looking at our website (revcom.us) in particular, I think of the comment by people in Baltimore, when people went out to them with revolution—and it’s a comment you hear quite frequently when you go out to masses of people, taking the revolution to them. They sharply posed the question: “Will you be here? We’ve seen people come here, we’ve seen groups come and go and talk a lot of talk. But is this serious? Will you be here?” This is a very important question and poses a very direct challenge for us. We have to meet this with the answer “yes” in the immediate sense, but also in the most profound and all-around sense. We have to be here, now—and we have to be here for the whole thing. Whether any particular individual is there at a given time, that’s not the question that’s really at stake; it’s whether or not the movement for revolution and, above all, the Party, the leadership that people need to get out of this nightmare, is going to be there, in an overall and fundamental sense, because when you get down to it, ultimately the people really do have nothing if they don’t have a party based on the science that can lead them to emancipate themselves and emancipate all of humanity. This is true whether, at any given time, the people know it or not.
And I was thinking about something even heavier when reading about the work being done in Baltimore: the comment of a woman, one of the basic masses in Baltimore, who said, “I am getting worried”—when people were bringing the revolution to her—“I’m getting worried.” Now, you might say, why was she getting worried? She explained: “Because I am beginning to hope.” Now, think about what that means for the masses of people, that they are afraid to hope. Afraid to hope that maybe the world doesn’t have to be this way, that maybe there is a way out of this. Afraid to hope, because their hopes have been dashed so many times. Now, we know there’s a ruling class out there. We know how, along with the vicious repression they carry out, they maneuver and manipulate whenever the people rise up. We have seen it already again in Baltimore, for example: Oh, all of a sudden there’s a crime wave, they say; and they insist that they have to come down even heavier with the police and that they need the federal authorities to come in and help out the police, because the masses are running wild, and the police can’t go out and kill them with impunity, right now.
So, all this is why people say, “I’m getting worried.” They are afraid to hope. And if we don’t intend to meet the responsibilities that we have, if we don’t intend to follow through when we go to people and say there is a way out of this, we should get up and leave right now. Because the masses of people do not need anyone else who comes along, fly-by-night, and leaves them to the miserable conditions they will be subjected to, and the even worse horrors of this system coming down on them. We have to mean it when we say we’re serious about revolution.
This brings us to the question of for whom and for what are we doing what we’re doing. This is not about any individuals, including ourselves. This is one of the first things you have to come to grips with—that this is not about any individual, but is about something much bigger. Look, many people do come to revolution out of their own direct experiences, what this system has done to them, even though they don’t understand it’s a system—or even if they have heard this word “system,” they don’t really know what that system is. But a lot of people do come to this out of their own direct individual experience—they don’t immediately understand that it’s part of a larger picture of what’s happening to literally millions and even billions of people around the world. This is the understanding we have to bring to them. But, first of all, we have to understand: for whom and for what? This is for the emancipation of humanity. This is for the masses of oppressed humanity who desperately need this revolution. It’s not about anything else—and it’s certainly not about ourselves; it’s not about our egos, it’s not about whether we look good or don’t look good, or any of these kinds of questions that should be completely out of the picture.
I’ve talked about this before, but think about it in these terms: People are going to go out here to make a revolution, and the people who are acting as the leadership, as the vanguard, are going to sacrifice, there are going to be big sacrifices. You don’t make a revolution without tremendous sacrifice, and if we don’t understand that, once again, we should just fold up and go away. There’s going to be suffering. There’s going to be dying. There’s going to be terrible repression. There’s going to be torture. I’m not saying this to make some kind of religious-sounding appeal—“let’s gather up our courage like monks whipping themselves”—or something like that. But this is the reality of what you have to go through to get to a better world.
And here is what makes it even harder, ideologically, in terms of how you think about this, how you feel about this. People are going to sacrifice in all kinds of ways. And let’s say you have a revolution, and you’ve lost comrades, you’ve lost friends and loved ones— you’re part of the vanguard of this revolution, or you’re part of the masses who are the backbone of this revolution, and you’ve lost many friends and many comrades, you’ve seen people torn away, tortured, subjected to all kinds of horrors. Meanwhile, a lot of people sat there with their arms folded, or even sniped at you from the sidelines and tried to undermine everything you were doing. And then you get to the new society and you have a new constitution—think about the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America3—you have a new constitution, and all of a sudden, all these people who didn’t do a damn thing to help the revolution, and maybe even tried to undermine it, come out of the woodwork, and every time you’re trying to do something with the economy, or you’re trying to build new political institutions and bring into being new social relations, or you’re sacrificing for the world revolution—they come along and they go blee, blee, blee, blee, blee, blee, blee, blee, blee, blee, with all their little petty complaints about how they don’t have this and that, that they had in the old society. You feel like saying to them: “Shut the fuck up! You didn’t do a damn thing when people were out here sacrificing and dying in all kinds of terrible ways, and now you want to come around with your little petty complaints.” But you can’t do that. And that’s what makes it so hard. You can’t do that. You can struggle with them, you have to struggle with them. You can say, “You don’t know what the hell is going on. You don’t understand any of the contradictions we’re up against, and you should try to actually come to grips with what we’re doing here and what we’re up against.” You can struggle like crazy with people. You have to. But you can’t take revenge on them. You can’t even say, “Who the hell are you to raise any criticisms of what we’re doing, because you didn’t do anything to help—in fact, you tried to undermine things when people were out here fighting and dying.” Why can’t you do that? For whom and for what? This is not about us. If we aren’t prepared to sacrifice, then we’re not serious. This is about getting to a different world where all these horrors for the masses of people don’t go on any longer. And that’s the way we have to approach this. This is our role. This is our responsibility to the masses of people of the world who are suffering so terribly—and, what makes it all the worse, suffering so unnecessarily.
So this has to be our orientation in everything we do, in the way we struggle with each other, in the way we struggle with masses of people. There’s a need for a tremendous amount of struggle. But for whom and for what? This is what we have to keep uppermost in our mind.
Now, I want to turn to the question of why are you here, in particular. Many of the people here come from among the basic masses of people, or have ties with basic masses. And, in any case, people here generally can play a very important role as “levers,” if you want to put it that way, in bringing forward to the revolution growing numbers of people, from among basic masses, as well as students and others.
So, with that in mind, let me turn to the purpose and aim and the approach in what we are doing here—what it is, and what it is not. To begin, as I think you’ve been advised, this presentation will cover a lot of ground, speaking to fundamentals of the communist revolution, and what should guide us in working to bring about an actual revolution. Then we will grapple together with key points that have been raised. So everybody should buckle in, in your seatbelts, and get ready for the ride. There will be a great deal to “take in,” but that’s because, as Mao once put it, so many deeds cry out to be done—to rise to the challenges and responsibilities we face, to do all we can to work actively for the revolution that is so urgently needed by the masses of humanity, and to continually bring forward more people to join the ranks of this revolution and the Party as its leading core. Here, I want to emphasize this important point of orientation: No matter whether we have been involved for a long, or a relatively short, period of time, we all have to keep on learning—and everyone here is fully capable of taking part in the process of what we are doing here and contributing to it while learning from it. We should all have the approach of wrestling together and struggling, in a good way, with each other, based on a sense of the importance of the questions we’ll be digging into. Everybody should fully plunge into the discussion following this presentation—and do so with a conquering spirit, based on an understanding of the need, and the basis, for everyone to apply a scientific method and approach to the biggest problem facing humanity: how to put an end to this system that is the fundamental source of so much misery and torment in the world, and bring something radically different and much better into being. It’s with this orientation and this goal in mind that we should grapple deeply with what will be discussed here, learning and contributing as much as we can.
This is an unusual opportunity—to, in a sense, “step back” and dig into these big questions. And it is very important, even with everything going on in the world, and all the responsibilities we have in relation to this, that we have carved out the time to get into the big questions we will be taking up here. But it needs to be understood that this is NOT just some kind of “study group” or “discussion group” in some aimless sense, where “interesting ideas” are batted around just for our own intellectual stimulation or enjoyment—or as some kind of “diversion” from what we are normally concerned with. We will be dealing here with theory, and going deeply into some things on a high level of theoretical abstraction. Ooh, right away that may sound scary. And it’s gonna be challenging. But this is a challenge we should all welcome, because whether or not there is going to be a scientific approach to revolution and a group of people, a growing group of people, organized to apply that science to really transforming the world toward an actual revolution—that makes all the difference for the masses of people. What we will be doing here is, in one sense, far removed from what, spontaneously, masses of people are concerned with and thinking about on a daily basis; but it has everything to do with whether the masses are going to be brought forward and led to emancipate themselves and contribute to the emancipation of humanity from the systems and relations of oppression and exploitation that weigh down on masses of people all over the world, and all the horrors that flow from this. For it is a very real and profound truth that without revolutionary theory—theory based on a consistently scientific method and approach, and in particular the scientific method and approach of dialectical materialism—and without this theory being taken up and applied by growing numbers of people, there can be no emancipating revolution, and the horrendous outrages and abuses to which the masses of humanity are continually subjected will go on—and on. It is also profoundly true that anyone who applies themself to this, and does the work, can take up this scientific method and approach, can continually deepen their grasp of this theory and the ability to apply it and popularize it, learning and doing in a dialectical—a mutually reinforcing—relation between theory and practice. With this understanding, the basic orientation and goal here is to make leaps, real leaps, in grasping this theory in order, then, to return it to practice—and not just “any old kind of practice,” but practice, guided by this theory, which is in fact aimed at revolution, an actual revolution, and nothing less.
To return for a minute to what the approach is NOT—it is not, and must not be, an approach where things are taken up here in a certain “heavy” and lofty way, and then this is forgotten, or “put aside,” in returning to the “normal, everyday” situation and political work that all too often is marked by the implementation of some other orientation, method and approach. Nor can people’s approach here be, “Let me see if there are some things here that are useful for the work I am doing”—for then that work will not be the kind of work it needs to be; it will be something else than really working for an actual revolution. And, to emphasize it again, because it can’t be emphasized too many times: Our grappling here with crucial points of theory and of strategy should not be approached as some kind of “educational experience,” in the bad sense—as a kind of “scholastic exercise,” which will then find its mirror image in practice divorced from communist theory and from actively working for an actual revolution. At the same time, the point here is not to create expectations of being able to “master,” all at once, everything that is gone into here—and, in terms of this opening presentation, the way to approach it is not to try to fully “digest,” right away, every one of the points that is spoken to (or to become frustrated if that proves not to be possible!). A lot of points will be returned to, things will be woven together, and by the end hopefully things will become clear which perhaps weren’t clear right at first; and then we’ll go into the discussion where things will be drawn out more fully. So the point is to take in this presentation overall and keep in mind the process here, in which this presentation will serve as the introduction to and the foundation and framework for several days of vigorous discussion and struggle. To be clear also, the point is not to leave here with the expectation of taking everything that has been learned here and “force feeding” it, all at once, to people we are working with and going out to: “Hey, let me tell you, I’ve just learned a whole bunch of heavy stuff!” The purpose, what we are aiming for here, is to get a much stronger grounding in what we will be engaging here—and, above all, method and approach—with the orientation of correctly linking theory and practice; and, as we go forward from here, continuing to grapple with and grasp communist theory, more fully and deeply, in dialectical relation with carrying out this, and no other, line—this, and no other, method and approach—taking the basics of this to people, and working with them to get into this more deeply as we join with them in fighting the power, while at the same time we are consistently fighting, in the appropriate ways and with the right spirit, for this line, and no other, to in fact be the line that is in command in giving impetus and direction to building a movement for an actual revolution, with the Party as its leading core.
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.
1. The “5 Stops” refers to the following demands that reflect key concentrations of social contradictions (and is available in poster and leaflet forms at revcom.us):
STOP Genocidal Persecution, Mass Incarceration, Police Brutality and Murder of Black and Brown People!
STOP The Patriarchal Degradation, Dehumanization, and Subjugation of All Women Everywhere, and All Oppression Based on Gender or Sexual Orientation!
STOP Wars of Empire, Armies of Occupation, and Crimes Against Humanity!
STOP The Demonization, Criminalization and Deportations of Immigrants and the Militarization of the Border!
STOP Capitalism-Imperialism from Destroying Our Planet! [back]
2. In response to a call co-initiated by Carl Dix (spokesperson for the RCP) and Cornel West for a massive mobilization in New York City on October 22-24, 2015 to stop police terror and murder, thousands took part in three days of action. RiseUpOctober started with the reading at Times Square of the names of the Stolen Lives, those killed by police; the next day this was followed by nonviolent direct action to shut down Rikers Island prison; and then on the third day this culminated in a march and rally of nearly 4,000 people. Through the work building for these three days and through the actions themselves, a political and moral challenge was issued in society: Murder by police must stop—Which Side Are You On? [back]
3. Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP Publications, 2010). Also 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