Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #163, May 1, 2009
From A World To Win News Service
Revolution Editors’ note: The accompanying article dated May 4, 2009 from A World to Win News Service (AWTW NS) gives important information about significant developments in Nepal over the past week–specifically a crisis in the government in Nepal which has led to the resignation of Chairman Prachanda from the post of Prime Minister. We are publishing this article to inform our readers about the immediate power struggle that precipitated this resignation, and as things develop in Nepal we will be posting articles from AWTW NS providing further information. The change in who is heading up the government signals a certain nodal point in the process of the revolution in Nepal, with sharp contention between the UCPN(M) and political forces and parties tied to the old ruling classes and India. This contention is taking place within the framework of the current government, and it is not clear how things will develop from here, but clearly what line is taken by the Maoists in Nepal will be decisive.
The article from Revolution #160 “On Developments in Nepal and the Stakes for the Communist Movement: Letters to the Communist Party of Nepal from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA 2005-2008 (with a reply from the CPN[M], 2006)” introduces letters recently made public which contain a sharp polemical exchange between these two parties over questions of fundamental ideological and political line. All of this provides both a historical and present context for evaluating this recent turn of events and a political framework for evaluating the measures taken by all sides in the current crisis. The issues of two-line struggle that are gone into in great depth in these letters are of cardinal importance now— focusing up the life and death stakes for the future of the revolution in Nepal, and the larger struggle for genuine communism in the world today. We urge our readers to dig deeply into these materials, to take a serious approach and get involved in this extremely important struggle over line in relation to a revolution whose very life hangs in the balance.
The following is from A World to Win News Service.
May 4, 2009. A World to Win News Service. Prime Minister Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal) resigned May 4 in a crucial dispute over whether or not the head of the Nepal Army would be allowed to thumb his nose at his government’s authority.
Prachanda, Chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), had sacked Army Chief of Staff Rookmangud Katawal for continual and deliberately provocative insubordination to the civilian government, in defiance of the interim constitution and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that brought an end to the decade-long people’s war in 2006. But President Ram Baran Yadav overrode Prachanda’s decision and ordered the army head to remain in his post. (General Katawal had already refused to accept the government’s letter informing him he was sacked.) He also overrode the decision of the defense minister, Ram Bahadur Tapa, supposedly in charge of the Nepal Army, to appoint another general as interim army chief to take Katawal’s place “until an agreement is made.”
In his resignation speech the next day, Prachanda denounced the president’s move as “unconstitutional and illegal” and “an attack on this infant democracy and the peace process.” He said, “I will quit the government rather than remain in power by bowing down to the foreign elements and reactionary forces.”
President Yadav accepted his resignation and asked him to continue as caretaker prime minister pending the formation of a new government. The president called for an all-party meeting to discuss the way out of this crisis. The UCPN(M) responded that they would block all parliamentary business until the president came before that body to apologize for reinstating the general, and organize protests in the streets as well.
Asked by a correspondent whether or not his party would join a new government, UCPN(M) leader and Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai said, “The so-called president who is directly dictated by New Delhi has been sent messages to act against the elected government and has restored the sacked army chief. The president should (admit that it is an unconstitutional decision) and then only we can think of joining the government, otherwise we will go to the streets and gather the masses to fight against the anti-democratic party.” (The Hindu, May 4) The “anti-democratic party” refers to the Nepal Congress Party, the pro-Indian opposition party to which the president has ties.
After initially waffling, the other major party in the UCPN(M) government, the Communist Party of Nepal United Marxist-Leninist (UML), along with a smaller party, quit the cabinet to protest Prachanda’s firing of the general. This meant that the UCPN(M) faced a no-confidence vote in parliament that it may not have been able to survive even if Prachanda had not resigned. But this should not obscure the more basic issues at stake in this confrontation, which is not a parliamentary squabble.
There is the “parallel power” of the presidency, as Prachanda called it in his resignation speech, an office created to make sure his government could not weaken or disorganize the army, and most centrally the existence and role of the army itself. The armed forces are the central pillar of any state power, no matter who holds office. This general truth has specific applicability in Nepal, which has one of South Asia’s biggest armies proportional to its population. There the military has played a particularly important institutional function in society and an open and naked role in keeping the ruling classes in power through violence against the people, while working closely with India.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement was followed by the rebels’ surprise victory in the Constitutent Assembly elections, the abolition of the monarchy and eventually its formation of a government in August 2008. (The party adopted its present name earlier this year when the CPN(M) merged with the Unity Centre [Masal] from which it had originally split. Masal had opposed the concept of Maoism and the people’s war.) Despite the fact that it had won more votes than the other two main parties combined, in return for the UCPN(M) being allowed to lead that new government, those parties forced it to accept the creation of the post of a president who would be head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. At the time, the presidency was shrugged off as mainly ceremonial. But the president’s power turns out to be very great when used to legitimize the Nepal Army.
General Katawal is a man who has been entrusted with putting down revolution all his life. He won honours in his training by the U.S. Special Forces (Green Berets) and counter-insurgency Rangers, and command teaching in the UK, as well as in Indian and Pakistani military schools. As head of the Royal Nepal Army’s Western Division in 2003-04 and then RNA Chief of General Staff, he oversaw some of the most hard-fought battles during the people’s war in which his army was severely battered by the revolutionary forces. He also played a major role in the army’s murder, rape, torture and wanton destruction of homes and villages. He became overall head of the Royal Nepal Army a few months after the April 2006 ceasefire and before the Comprehensive Peace Agreements that brought a formal end to the war in November 2006. Adopted by the Nepali royal family as a child, he grew up in the palace. While undeniably a product of the monarchy, he showed even greater loyalty to higher interests when a consensus emerged among the Nepali ruling classes, political parties and foreign powers that Nepal could preserve social stability only by becoming a republic. In this way, he became a symbol of the political and social continuity of the armed forces.
While not opposing the abolition of the monarchy, what he has opposed is any attempt to touch what is now called simply the Nepal Army but is little changed. According to the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the People’s Liberation Army should be “integrated into the security forces.” This would mean that the revolutionary army would go out of existence; the contention has been over how that would happen. For the time being, some 19,000 PLA members have been living in UN-supervised camps, with their main weapons under UN-supervised lock and key.
Katawal has opposed allowing PLA commanders to retain their officer rank and PLA units to join the Nepal Army in bulk. In fact, he flatly stated that he would not allow the “politicized” PLA members into the Nepal Army, as if his army were any less politicized. As a result, there hasn’t been the slightest “integration” of the two armies.
Instead of allowing PLA members into its ranks, the Nepal Army has been recruiting on its own. There have been at least three recruiting campaigns, all widely advertised in the media and carried out with public rallies, most recently in late 2008 and early 2009. In reaction, the UN envoy in charge of the peace process, Ian Martin, declared that any recruitment by either side was in violation of “the spirit and the letter” of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. (December 23, 2008 press statement, cited by the International Crisis Group, “Nepal’s Faltering Peace Process,” February 19, 2009) Yet none of the foreign powers that have taken it on themselves to oversee the process have found this reason to complain. Instead, the general has held meetings with foreign ambassadors, or perhaps better said, foreign ambassadors have met with him, as if he were the real head of state.
Meanwhile, Prachanda’s government hasn’t been allowed any say about the army command. The current crisis began to come to a head earlier this year when the government refused to extend the terms of eight generals who had reached mandatory automatic retirement age. (The king had often extended terms, in a gesture that made them even more beholden to him.) Katawal ignored the defense minister and reinstated the generals anyway. In March the Supreme Court suspended the defense minister’s decision.
In mid-April, the government formally asked Katawal for “clarification” as to why he violated its orders on three issues: the recruitment drives, the eight retired generals, and, in a gesture whose only purpose was to provoke, the Army’s withdrawal from the National Games between various branches of the military and police, because it refused to play in an athletic competition against teams made up of its former enemies, members of the People’s Liberation Army. The general was given 24 hours to reply; two weeks later, Prachanda’s cabinet voted to sack him.
The general’s defiance is not simply a particular character trait or the residue of his lifetime of royalist training. Whatever his personal desires may be, he has been told to stand firm by greater powers.
The Nepal Army’s “strongest international ally, India,” as the well-informed International Crisis Group wrote in its February 19 report, “shares most of its concerns over integration and can be relied upon to resist any steps that appear to threaten its existing structure and culture.” The Brussels-based ICG is a consulting organization run by former Western heads of state, their advisers and other people they’ve trusted. When they say, “rely on India”, they mean exactly that: the interests of Indian expansionism are what the imperialist powers are relying on.
But the major imperialist states and other powers have done more than that. They’ve intervened directly on the political level.
During the period of political crisis when the UCPN(M) was proposing that the general be fired and its coalition partners were wavering, “envoys from eight countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, India, China and Japan reached the PM’s residency to discuss the issue collectively. The meeting is undergoing where Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai is also present. The international community has expressed dissatisfaction on the government move to sack the army chief, saying it would hamper the peace process.” (Nepalnews.com, April 12). How does asserting civilian control over the army “hamper the peace process”? Isn’t this really a reminder that the “international community,” like Nepal’s domestic reactionaries, intends for the monopoly of the means of armed violence to lie in the hands of people they can trust to serve their interests? In fact, isn’t this an implicit threat of violence against the UCPN(M) if it doesn’t behave as wished?
Following that “collective discussion” held in the most unconcealed gangster style, the Indian ambassador returned to New Delhi for consultations, and “warned that the current Maoist-led coalition would be overturned within days if the government ousted the army chief. Reports also say, the Indian foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee also telephoned UML chairman Jhala Nath Khanal and told him not to support the Maoists’s plan to oust the CoAS [chief of army staff Katawal].” (Nepalnews.com, April 25) Later a UML leader was to announce that while the civilian government had “a right to ask for explanation from its army chief for defying its order, ‘it did so with wrong intentions.’” (Nepalnews.com, May 1)
The U.S. sent its own unmistakable signal: on April 30, as the political crisis in Nepal reached a crescendo, the U.S. State Department released a statement declaring that the UCPN(M) would remain on its official list of terrorist organisations (Terrorist Exclusion List), despite the end of the people’s war and the Maoist electoral victory.
The pretext was alleged violent acts by the party’s Young Communist League. Of course, the U.S. is now waging two wars of occupation, with the Iraq war being illegal according to “international community” UN rules, and the Afghanistan war merely criminal in human, moral terms. So it is hardly in a position to condemn anyone else for alleged petty violence. Further, when did it protest the massive crimes of General Katawal’s army? But it should at least be noted that similar charges have been levelled against the UML’s youth organisation without that provoking international condemnation. The point was that the “boss of all bosses,” the gangster-in-chief of the “international community,” the Obama government, had spoken.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
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Available for download at revcom.us
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
January 29, 2009 Letter from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
November 4, 2008 Letter from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
March, 2008 Letter from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
October 2005 Letter from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
July 1, 2006 Letter from the Central Committee, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to the Central Committee, Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Appendices to October 2005 Letter from the RCP,USA to the CPN(M)
“The Creative Development of MLM, Not of Revisionism”, excerpt from a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
“Some Further Thinking on: The Socialist State as a New Kind of State”, excerpt from a talk given by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, to a group of Party members and supporters in 2005.
Article from Revolution #160, March 28, 2009.
On Developments in Nepal and the Stakes for the Communist Movement: Letters to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, 2005-2008 (With a Reply from the CPN(M), 2006)
Revolution #163, May 1, 2009
May First, May Day, is the international holiday of revolution. It is a day of revolutionary rededication and celebration.
Revolutionary May 1: A day when we renew our vision of a world that has gone beyond exploitation...beyond the division of society into a handful who own and control the world, and the vast majority who do not...beyond all the oppressive social relations and thinking that go with that. A day when we rededicate to bringing into being a society in which men no longer dominate women, in which one nation “or race” no longer dominates another, when everybody works both with their hands and their minds, and where people come together in a world community of freely cooperating human beings.
Revolutionary May 1: A day when we celebrate the great revolutionary milestones along the way to that vision. The first great attempt of the Paris Commune, which lasted but 80 days in 1871; the Soviet Revolution in the former Russian empire in 1917, which inspired the world for 40 years; and the Chinese revolution which achieved victory in 1949, and went on to the highest pinnacle yet reached in 1966, with the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Each of these revolutions was eventually defeated, and the system of exploitation restored, even if the label of “socialism” remained for a while. But these revolutions contain rich and essential lessons— in both their overwhelming achievements as well as their secondary shortcomings and mistakes—lessons that must be absorbed to advance further today.
Revolutionary May 1: A day when we prepare for the new challenges that must be met to make revolution in today’s world.
May First 2009 comes at a time of global economic, political, and moral crisis. This is a time when the question is sharply posed: Is this world of exploitation and oppression the best humanity can do? The answer, most emphatically—and proven in those milestones—is NO. Another world is possible—a world embodying a vision of freedom far more radical than the horizons of today—a communist world. And there is an international class of people with nothing to lose, the proletariat, which can lead the transition to that new society. This worldwide class, which works collectively to produce most of the wealth of the world but which is exploited and oppressed within capitalist society, must unite with and lead the oppressed, as well as all those who hunger for justice and liberation, in a revolution to emancipate all of humanity.
This May Day issue of Revolution speaks very directly to the urgent, and historic challenges bound up in that.
This issue of Revolution features the beginning section of Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage: A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. That document is just what it says it is -- in the spirit, and tradition of the original Communist Manifesto, it is a challenge and call for the emancipation of all humanity, and nothing less. Moreover—it is a scientific summation of the first stage of the revolution, and an outline for the advance to a whole new stage of communist revolution.
And, this issue Revolution begins the serialization of “RUMINATIONS AND WRANGLINGS. On the Importance of Marxist Materialism, Communism as a Science, Meaningful Revolutionary Work, and a Life with Meaning,” by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. In this talk, Chairman Avakian breaks further new ground on these essential questions, deepening and enriching the framework of communist theory – and challenging and provoking every revolutionary and radical to “get in on” struggle to understand the world as deeply as possible, in order to radically change it.
Both of these works are available now, in their entirety, at revcom.us, and Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage: A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA can be ordered from RCP Publications (see back page).
We call on everyone who refuses to accept that this world is the best of all possible worlds to dig into these works…. and struggle with your friends, fellow activists, co-workers, fellow prisoners, or colleagues to do so as well. Take up the challenge of getting this issue of Revolution out into society widely—everywhere people are protesting, thinking critically, rebelling in anyway against the way things are.
Get in touch with us at the nearest Revolution Books (see page 15) or contact us at RCP Publications (P.O. Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago IL 60654; 773.227.4188; email@example.com) to share your experiences, your insights, your questions, and to become part of this revolutionary movement.
On the occasion of Revolutionary May Day, 2009: take up the challenge; get with the revolution; join and build the revolutionary movement.
Revolution #163, May 1, 2009
The following is an excerpt from Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. This manifesto is available as a pamphlet from RCP Publications and online at revcom.us/Manifesto/Manifesto.
Despite what is constantly preached at us, this capitalist system we live under, this way of life that constantly drains away—or in an instant blows away—life for the great majority of humanity, does not represent the best possible world—nor the only possible world. The ways in which the daily train of life has, for centuries and millennia, caused the great majority of humanity to be weighed down, broken in body and spirit, by oppression, agony, degradation, violence and destruction, and the dark veil of ignorance and superstition, is not the fault of this suffering humanity—nor is this the “will” of some non-existent god or gods, or the result of some unchanging and unchangeable “human nature.” All this is the expression, and the result, of the way human society has developed up to this point under the domination of exploiters and oppressors...but that very development has brought humanity to the point where what has been, for thousands of years, no longer has to be—where a whole different way of life is possible in which human beings, individually and above all in their mutual interaction with each other, in all parts of the world, can throw off the heavy chains of tradition and rise to their full height and thrive in ways never before experienced, or even fully imagined.
Exploitative economic and social relations, including the systematic domination of women by men and the division of human society into different classes with conflicting interests, have not always existed among human beings. A situation in which a small group monopolizes not only wealth but the very means to live, and thereby forces far greater numbers to slave under their command, in one form or another, while that small group also monopolizes political power and the means of enforcing this exploitation and dominates the intellectual and cultural life of society, condemning the vast majority to ignorance and subservience—this has not always been part of human society. Nor is this destined to remain the way human beings relate to each other, so long as human beings continue to exist. These oppressive divisions arose thousands of years ago, replacing early forms of communal society, which themselves had existed for thousands of years, and which were made up of relatively small groups of people holding in common their most important possessions and working cooperatively to meet their needs and to raise new generations.
The break-up of these early communal societies was not due to some “natural inclination” of people to seek a superior position above others and to “get ahead” at the expense of others, nor to some supposed “genetic predisposition” of men to subjugate women or of one “race” of people to conquer and plunder other “races.” No doubt there were conflicts at times when people in early communal societies encountered each other and were not able to readily reconcile the differences between them, but these societies were not characterized by institutionalized oppressive divisions with which we are all too familiar today. To people in those communal societies the idea of some people within these societies establishing themselves as the masters over others, and seeking to acquire wealth and power by forcing others to work for them, would have seemed strange and outrageous. Rather, the emergence of class divisions and oppressive social relations among people was owing to changes in the ways human beings interacted with the “external” natural environment, and in particular changes in the ways these human beings carried out the production of the material requirements of life and the reproduction and rearing of new generations.
In particular, once the organization of this production and reproduction began to be carried out in such a way that individuals, instead of society as a whole, began to control the surplus produced by society, above and beyond what was necessary for mere survival, and especially once people settled more or less permanently on specific segments of land and began to carry out agricultural production on the land they settled, then the long night was ushered in, in which human beings have been divided into masters and slaves, the powerful and the powerless, those who rule and those who are ruled over, those whose role is decisive in determining the direction of society, and those whose destiny is shaped in this way, even while they have no effective role in determining that destiny.
Throughout these thousands of years of darkness for the great majority of humanity, people have dreamed of a different life—where slavery, rape, wars of plunder, and a lifetime of alienation, agony, and despair would no longer constitute “the human condition.” This yearning for a different world has found expression in different forms of religious fantasy—looking beyond this world to a god or gods who supposedly control human destiny and who supposedly will, in some future existence, if not in this life, finally reward those who have endured endless suffering during their time on earth. But there have also been repeated attempts to actually change things in this world. There have been revolts and uprisings, massive rebellions, armed conflicts, and even revolutions in which societies, and the relations between different societies, were transformed in major ways. Empires have fallen, monarchies have been abolished, slave owners and feudal lords have been overthrown. But for hundreds and thousands of years, while many people’s lives were sacrificed, willingly or unwillingly, in these struggles, the result was always that the rule of one group of exploiters and oppressors was replaced by that of another—in one form or another, a small part of society continued to monopolize wealth, political power, and intellectual and cultural life, dominating and oppressing the great majority and engaging repeatedly in wars with rival states and empires.
All this remained fundamentally unchanged—the light of a new day never appeared for the masses of humanity, despite all their sacrifice and struggle... Until, a little more than 100 years ago, something radically new emerged: people rising up who embodied not only the desire but the potential to put an end to all relations of exploitation and oppression and all destructive antagonistic conflicts among human beings, everywhere in the world. In 1871, amidst a war between “their” government and that of Germany, working people in the capital city of France, long exploited, impoverished, and degraded, rose up to seize power and established a new form of association among people. This was the Paris Commune, which existed only in that one part of France, and which lasted for only two short months, but which represented, in embryonic form, a communist society in which distinctions of class and oppressive divisions among people would be finally abolished. The Commune was crushed by the weight and force of the old order—with thousands slaughtered in a valiant but ultimately vain attempt to keep the Commune alive. But the first steps had been taken toward a new world, the path had been opened, the way shown, if only fleetingly then.
Even before the events of the Paris Commune, the possibility of a radically new world, without exploitation and oppression, had been scientifically established through the work of Karl Marx, together with his contemporary and collaborator, Frederick Engels, the founders of the communist movement. As Marx himself put it, only a few years before the Commune:
Once the inner connection is grasped, all theoretical belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions breaks down before their collapse in practice.1
And that is what Marx had done: He had scientifically excavated and brought to light not only the “inner connections” of the system of capitalism, which had become the dominant form of exploitation in Europe and was increasingly colonizing large parts of the world, but also the “inner connections” between capitalism and all previous forms of human society—and in so doing he had shown that there was no “permanent necessity” either for the continuation of capitalism or for the existence of any other society based on the exploitation and oppression of the many by the few. This was a profound breakthrough in human beings’ understanding of reality, which established the theoretical basis for a world-historic breakthrough in practice, for an unprecedented revolutionization of human society and the relations among people, all over the world.
The most fundamental discovery that Marx made was that the character of human society, and the relations among people in society, is not determined by the ideas and the wills of individuals—either individual human beings or fantastical supernatural beings—but by the necessity people face in producing and reproducing the material requirements of life and the way in which people come together, and the means they utilize, to meet that necessity. In today’s world, with the highly sophisticated technology that exists—and, in particular, for those who are more removed from the actual process of producing the basic requirements of life—it can be easy to forget that, if the productive activity is not carried out to meet these basic requirements (food, shelter, transportation, and so on), and if human societies are not capable of reproducing their own populations, then life will soon come to a standstill, and all the things that go on in society, whose functioning is more or less taken for granted so long as things are proceeding “normally,” will no longer be possible. To penetrate beneath all the complex layers of human historical development and social organization to this underlying foundation and essential core of human social functioning was a great achievement and invaluable contribution of Marx.
But Marx also showed that, at any given time, whatever the means are with which people carry out the production and reproduction of the material requirements of life—whatever is the character of the forces of production (the land and raw materials, the technology, whether simple or more complex, and the people themselves with their knowledge and abilities)—will basically and ultimately determine the way in which people are organized, the relations of production into which people enter, in order to best utilize the productive forces. Again, Marx showed that these relations of production are not a matter of the will, or the whims, of individuals, no matter how powerful, but must, of necessity, basically conform to the character of the productive forces at any given time. For example, if the information technology and related processes of production that are pivotal in today’s modern economies were introduced into societies made up of small groups of people foraging and hunting over large areas (relative to the size of their populations), which was the way of life in early communal societies, the introduction of this technology would bring about dramatic changes in the character of those societies: their way of life would be disrupted and changed in significant ways. Nor, for example, could modern technology be efficiently utilized in the plantation agriculture that was the backbone of the way of life in the southern United States, during the period of slavery and for nearly a hundred years after literal slavery was abolished through the Civil War in the 1860s. That plantation agriculture was marked by a low level of technology but very labor-intensive work carried out, first, by large numbers of slaves and then by sharecroppers and farm laborers: back-breaking toil from “can’t see in the morning till can’t see at night.” And in fact, in the period after World War 2 in particular, the introduction of new technology into southern agriculture—especially tractors and mechanized planting and picking machines, on an increasing scale—undermined the old plantation system and was a major impetus in driving many Black people, who had been formerly chained to the land in one form or another, off the land and into the cities of the North as well as the South. And this, in turn, constituted an important part of the material basis on which the struggle was waged to end legal segregation and open terror by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists—a struggle which, through tremendous sacrifice and heroism, brought about very significant changes in U.S. society, and in the position of Black people in particular, even while it did not, and could not, put an end to the oppression of Black people, which has been, and today remains, an integral and essential element of the capitalist-imperialist system in the U.S.2
This illustrates another crucial fact brought to light by Marx: On the foundation of the existing production relations at any given time, there will arise a superstructure of politics and ideology—political structures, institutions and processes, ways of thinking, and culture—which in a fundamental sense must and will correspond to, and in turn serve to maintain and reinforce, the existing production relations. And Marx further demonstrated, since the time that changes in the productive forces led to the emergence of production relations characterized by subjugation and domination, society has been divided into different classes, whose position in society is grounded in their differing roles in the process of production. In class-divided society, it is the economically dominant class—that group in society which monopolizes ownership and control of the major means of production (technology, land and raw materials, etc.)—which will also dominate the superstructure of politics and ideology. This economically dominant class will exercise a monopoly of political power. This monopoly of political power is embodied in the state—particularly the instruments of political suppression, including the police as well as the army, the legal system and penal institutions, as well as the executive power—and it assumes a concentrated expression in the monopoly of “legitimate” armed force. So, too, the dominant ways of thinking that hold sway in society, including as this is expressed in the culture, will correspond to the outlook and interests of the dominant class (as Marx and Engels put it in the Communist Manifesto, so long as society is divided into classes, the ruling ideas of any age are ever the ideas of its ruling class).
Then what is the fundamental basis, and what are the underlying, driving forces, of change in society? Marx analyzed how, through the activity and innovation of human beings, the productive forces are being continually developed, and at a certain point the new productive forces that have been developed will come into antagonism with the existing relations of production (and the superstructure of politics and ideology that corresponds to those production relations). At that point, as Marx characterized it, the existing production relations have become, in an overall sense, a fetter, a chain, on the productive forces; and when this situation emerges, a revolution must be carried out whose fundamental aim is to revolutionize the production relations, to bring them into line with the productive forces, to bring about a situation where the production relations are now more an appropriate form for the development of the productive forces, rather than a fetter on that development. Such a revolution will be driven forward by forces representing a class which embodies the potential for carrying out this transformation of the production relations, to bring them into line, essentially, with the way in which the productive forces have developed. But this revolution must, and can only, take place in the superstructure—in the struggle for political power over society, through the overthrow and dismantling of the old state power and the establishment of a new state power—which then makes possible the transformation of the production relations, as well as the superstructure itself, in line with the interests of the new ruling class and its ability to more fully unleash and utilize the productive forces.
Of course, revolution is an extremely complex process, involving many different people and groups with a diversity of views and aims, and those who carry out such a revolution may be more or less conscious of what are the underlying contradictions—between the forces of production and the relations of production—whose development has established the need and given rise to the dynamics that make such a revolution possible, and necessary. But ultimately the influence of these contradictions and dynamics will bring to the fore those who can and do act essentially in accordance with the need to transform the production relations to bring them into line with the development of the productive forces. This is what happened, for example, in the French revolution of the late 18th century and early 19th century, the most radical of all bourgeois revolutions: Many different class forces and social groups took part in that revolution, but in the final analysis it was political forces who proceeded to establish the capitalist system, in place of the old feudal system, who were able to entrench themselves in power, fundamentally because this transformation of the economy, and of the society as a whole on that foundation, represented the necessary means for bringing the relations of production into line with the way in which the productive forces had developed.
The American Civil War also provides an illustration of the basic principles and methods that Marx developed and applied to human historical development. This Civil War came about fundamentally as a result of the fact that two different modes of production—characterized by different systems of production relations: capitalism and slavery—had come into antagonistic conflict with each other, and could no longer co-exist within the same country. And the result of this Civil War was that, with the victory of the capitalist class, centered in the North, the slave system was abolished and the capitalist system became dominant in the country as a whole—even though, especially after a brief period of Reconstruction following the Civil War, the southern landowning aristocracy and developing capitalists in the South were re-integrated into the ruling class of the country as a whole, and in fact have had a major influence within that ruling class, while the former slaves were subjugated once again, in forms of exploitation and oppression hardly less onerous than slavery (and some forms of actual slavery continued to exist, particularly in the South, long after slavery was legally and formally abolished).
From these historical examples, it can be seen how, in the revolutions that have brought about qualitative changes in society but have nevertheless only led to the establishment of a new exploiting class in the dominant position, the pattern has repeated itself that the masses of oppressed people sacrifice (or are sacrificed) in these revolutions (for example, 200,000 former slaves fought on the side of the North in the U.S. Civil War, once they were allowed to do so, and they died in much greater percentages than others in the Union army) yet, in the final analysis, exploiters of the masses, new or old, reap the fruits of this sacrifice. This is the way it has been since the time that class divisions, and domination by exploiting classes, have emerged in and have characterized human society. This was all that was possible...Until now.
The most significant, and liberating, thing that Marx brought to light is that the development of human society, as a result of the dynamics which he unearthed, has led to a situation where a radically different world is possible. We have reached the point where, through all the complex development that has only been sketched out here in very basic terms, the productive forces now exist which make it possible to create, and to continually expand, an abundance which, in fundamental terms, can be shared among humanity as a whole and utilized to meet the material needs of people everywhere, while also providing for an ever-enriched intellectual and cultural life for everyone. It is not only that the technology has developed which makes this possible in a general sense, but also that this technology can be—and in fact must be—used by large groups of people working cooperatively. Marx revealed the fundamental contradiction of the capitalist system which dominates the world today, at such great cost and with such great peril for humanity: the contradiction between the socialized way in which production is carried out, and the fact that this process of production, and what it produces, is controlled and appropriated privately, by a small number of capitalists. As the Constitution of our Party emphasizes:
[I]n today’s world the production of things, and the distribution of the things produced, is overwhelmingly carried out by large numbers of people who work collectively and are organized in highly coordinated networks. At the foundation of this whole process is the proletariat, an international class which owns nothing, yet has created and works these massive socialized productive forces. These tremendous productive powers could enable humanity to not only meet the basic needs of every person on the planet, but to build a new society, with a whole different set of social relations and values...a society where all people could truly and fully flourish together.3
To achieve this—to resolve, through revolutionary means, the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, and to move beyond the division of human beings into exploiters and exploited, rulers and ruled—is the aim of the communist revolution. This is a revolution that corresponds to the most fundamental interests of the proletariat, which carries out, under conditions of capitalist domination and exploitation, socialized production and which embodies the potential to bring the relations of production into line with the productive forces, and to further unleash those productive forces, including the people themselves. But, unlike all previous classes which have carried out a revolution in their interests, the revolutionary proletariat does not aim simply to establish itself and its political representatives in the ruling position in society; it aims to move beyond the division of society into classes, to uproot all oppressive relations, and with that to eliminate all institutions and instruments through which one part of society dominates and suppresses others. As Marx succinctly summarized it, this revolution aims for—and will be concluded only once it has achieved—what have come to be called the “4 Alls”: the abolition of all class distinctions, of all the production relations on which those class distinctions rest, of all the social relations that correspond to those production relations, and the revolutionizing of all the ideas that correspond to those social relations. Marx also succinctly and powerfully captured the essence of this in emphasizing that the proletariat can emancipate itself only by emancipating all humanity.
All this is why the communist revolution represents the most radical, and truly liberating, revolution in human history.
In surveying the immense historical experience that went into the conclusions he drew, Marx pointed to the profound understanding that indeed people make history, but they do not make it in any way they wish. They make it on the basis of the material conditions—and in particular the underlying economic conditions and relations—which they have inherited from previous generations, and the possible pathways of change that reside within the contradictory nature of these conditions. As Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, has pointed out in “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity” (Part 1):
We can make an analogy here to evolution in the natural world. One of the points that is repeatedly stressed in the book on evolution by Ardea Skybreak is that the process of evolution can only bring about changes on the basis of what already exists…. Evolution in the natural world comes about, and can only come about, through changes that arise on the basis of, and in relation to, the existing reality and the existing constraints (or, to put it another way, the existing necessity).4
This provides the basic answer to those who raise: Who are you to say how society can be organized, what right do you communists have to dictate what change is possible and how it should come about? These questions are essentially misplaced and represent a fundamental misunderstanding of the dynamics of historical development—and the possible pathways of change—in human society as well as in the material world more generally. This is akin to asking why birds cannot give birth to crocodiles—or why human beings cannot produce offspring that are capable of flying around the earth, on their own, in an instant, leaping tall buildings in a single bound, and having x-ray vision that can see through solid objects—and demanding to know: Who are you to dictate what can come about through reproduction, who are you to say that human offspring will have particular characteristics and not others? It is not a matter of “who are you” but of what the material reality is and what possibilities for change actually lie within the—contradictory—character of that material reality. The point here is twofold:
For the first time in the history of humanity, the material conditions have come into being that make possible the final abolition of relations of domination, oppression, and exploitation; and the theoretical understanding to guide the struggle toward that goal has been brought into being on the basis of drawing from the material reality, and its historical development, that has brought this possibility into being.
At the same time, this world-historic transformation of human social relations can only come about on the basis of proceeding from the actual material conditions and the contradictions that characterize them, which open up this possibility but which also embody obstacles to the achievement of this radical social transformation; and it requires a scientific understanding of and approach to these contradictory dynamics—and the leadership of an organized group of people that is grounded in this scientific method and approach—in order to carry through the complex and arduous struggle to achieve this transformation through the advance to communism throughout the world.
While providing overall leadership to our Party, Bob Avakian has, over the past 30 years, continued to deepen a scientific analysis of the experience of the international communist movement and the strategic approach to communist revolution. The result of this work has been the emergence of a new synthesis, a further development of the theoretical framework for carrying forward this revolution.
As our Party’s Constitution points out, the situation in the world today—including the defeat of the initial wave of communist revolution—actually “poses, anew, the great need for communism.” And:
While there are no socialist states in the world, there is the experience of socialist revolutions and there is the rich body of revolutionary, scientific theory that developed through the first wave of socialist revolutions to build on. But the theory and practice of communist revolution requires advances to meet the challenges of this situation—to scientifically address, and draw the necessary lessons from, the overall experience of this first wave of socialist revolution and the strategic implications of the vast changes taking place in the world.
Bob Avakian has taken on this responsibility, and has developed a communist body of work and method and approach that responds to these great needs and challenges.
From the ending of the Manifesto:
We mean what we have said here, and we mean what we say in the Conclusion of our Party’s Constitution:
The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA has taken the responsibility to lead revolution in the U.S., the belly of the imperialist beast, as its principal share of the world revolution and the ultimate aim of communism. This is a great and historic undertaking—and all those who yearn to see this happen should rally to and support this vanguard, working together with the party, building support for it and, on the basis of taking up the cause and outlook of communism, joining it.
The emancipation of all humanity: this, and nothing less than this, is our goal. There is no greater cause, no greater purpose to which to dedicate our lives.5
All that we have spoken to here, and what we have laid bare, in direct and unvarnished terms, should give even greater meaning and emphasis to the call for people who share, or respect, our determination to bring a new world into being, without exploitation and oppression, to rally to the aid and support of this Party.
To the revolutionaries and communists everywhere, to all those who thirst for another, radically different and far better world: Let us not retreat into and retrench in the past, in whatever form—let us instead go forward boldly toward the goal of communism and the emancipation of humanity from thousands of years of tradition’s chains.
End of Part 1
The entire Manifesto is available on revcom.us at revcom.us/Manifesto/Manifesto.html
Get into and learn about the first stage of the communist revolution; the conclusions that must be drawn from this experience; the new challenges, and the new synthesis brought forward by Bob Avakian; the crossroads faced by the international communist movement; and the Cultural Revolution within the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
1 Marx to Kugelmann, 1868, cited in Raymond Lotta, with Frank Shannon, America in Decline, An Analysis of the Developments Toward War and Revolution, in the U.S. and Worldwide, in the 1980s, Vol.1, Banner Press, Chicago, 1984, p. 10. [back]
2 For a fuller analysis of the relation between the oppression of Black people and the historical development of U.S. capitalism and imperialism, see Bob Avakian, Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, RCP Publications, Chicago, 2008; also available online atrevcom.us. [back]
3 Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, Chicago, 2008, Preamble: Basic Principles of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, p. 2, emphasis in original. This Constitution is also available online at revcom.us. [back]
4 “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,” Parts 1 and 2, is available at revcom.us and in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008. The book by Ardea Skybreak referred to here is The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism—Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters, Insight Press, Chicago, 2006. [back]
5 Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Conclusion, p. 24; also available online at revcom.us. [back]
Revolution #163, May 1, 2009
Editors’ note: The following is an excerpt from the text of a talk by Bob Avakian, earlier this year. The excerpts are being serialized in Revolution, beginning with this issue. The text of the talk has been edited and footnotes have been added for publication. The entire talk can be found online at /revcom.us/avakian/ruminations/BA-ruminations-en.html
I want to begin by returning to the question of individuals, classes, and the abolition of classes—themes that were explored in various dimensions in "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" and a talk last year (2008), "Out Into the World—As A Vanguard of the Future." What I am going to speak to here is also, in certain aspects, following up on themes that are discussed in Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy.1 These are questions that require further discussion, in particular by way of contrasting the communist with the bourgeois understanding and approach.
There are a number of contradictions that are bound up with the fact that on the one hand people exist as individuals, while on the other hand their existence is a social existence. Individual existence is part of material reality—it's not something people invent as a bourgeois individualistic device—people do actually exist as individuals, that's a material reality which we should understand; and yet at the same time their lives are shaped essentially by social and, most fundamentally, production relations.
In "Out Into the World—As a Vanguard of the Future," I began this discussion by citing what's in America In Decline about how the historical basis for capitalism was the violent separation of the producers from the means of production, and I went on to discuss the implications of this, including the fact that this has a determining influence, if you will, on the whole question of individuals pursuing their own particular interests—and even how they perceive their own individual interests. I stressed that, beyond their existence as individuals, more fundamentally their social existence as members of a social group—or in class society, as members of a class—shapes even the way in which they perceive and then the way in which they pursue their individual interests. I pointed out that this is in fact a refutation of the notions of Adam Smith and Immanuel Kant: the categorical moral imperative of Kant (which tries to make an absolute out of the idea that each individual should be treated only as an end in himself or herself and never as a means to an end) and the Smithian and generally the capitalist theoretical notion that if each individual pursues her/his own individual interest, the greater societal good will be served. These ideas are fundamentally in conflict with and are contradicted by the greater reality, the more profound and fundamental reality, that people's existence, even their individual existence, is always a social existence.
This is a point that Marx emphasized strongly: people's individual existence—even their individuality—always, and can only, take shape as a social existence. Outside of society, of social interaction and social relations, individuals' lives are very different and, in fact, they are very circumscribed, compared to what they are when they are in a social context and carrying out (to use that expression) social intercourse. This is a very fundamental point, which the bourgeoisie with its apotheosization of (its making a god-like quality out of) individuality and even individualism, seeks to deny—or which, in fact, it objectively ignores and doesn't take account of, even without this necessarily being conscious in the case of every advocate of this system.
The whole idea that the individual, for example, is the essential category of bourgeois society (or of "democratic society," as they like to characterize capitalist society, particularly in its bourgeois-democratic form), the idea that the individual is the highest representation and the highest point of reference of the best possible society, is in fact in fundamental conflict with, and is refuted by, the reality of capitalist society and, in a more general and broader sense, all of human society. It is refuted by the reality that people find their existence within the framework of definite social relations—most essentially and fundamentally, production relations—that are independent of the wills of individuals, and that this is most determining even of their individual inclinations, ideas, aspirations, and so on.
So, while the bourgeois theoreticians and moralists and ethicists, and so on, might argue—and this is another way of stating the Kantian categorical moral imperative—that, in the best and most just society, the individual should always be a subject and never an object, and that even laws and constitutions have as their highest principles and concepts, and their deepest grounding, the protection of the rights of individuals, in reality this is in violent conflict with the actual operation of any society divided into classes, or more particularly any society that is grounded on and proceeds in accordance with relations of exploitation.
This is a point that was emphasized in "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity," where (toward the end of Part 1) it refers to all the great and grand talk from proponents and apologists of the capitalist system about the rights of individuals, and yet this system functions, and can only function, by—quite literally and with no exaggeration or hyperbole—grinding into the dirt the lives of millions and even billions of individuals, including hundreds of millions of children, people whose individuality, whose individual aspirations, are counted as nothing in the actual operation of this system.
Another dimension of this is the parasitism of imperialism. It is most of all in the imperialist countries, and especially among the more privileged strata in those countries, that the notion of "the inviolability of the individual," and individual rights being the highest principle—approached in a way that divorces all this from fundamental social relations—can hold the most sway, precisely (and in a bitter irony) because all this is grounded in not only utter disregard for, but the utter pulverization of, individuals and of any individuality and individual aspirations of masses of people throughout the world. And were it not so, there would not be the privileged position that some hold from which they can pontificate about the rights of individuals. So all of that's on the one hand.
On the other hand, going back to the point I started off with, it is a part of material reality that people do exist as individuals. And any attempt to ignore this, or to negate individuality—which, as we have repeatedly stressed, is very different than individualism, which involves making a principle out of one's self as above all other things and as the thing that deserves the highest regard: individualism in that sense is very different than individuality—any attempt to negate or to somehow ground down the individuality of people, and to actually fall into the stereotype of communists as seeking to reduce the diverse masses of people to one undifferentiated whole, made up of parts all interchangeable with the other, and so on and so forth (I'm only slightly exaggerating, if in fact I am exaggerating, the vision of communism that's presented by people like Hannah Arendt), to actually fall into that kind of thinking and approach, which would conform to that kind of stereotype, would not only be morally wrong, but would be disastrous politically and disastrous in regard to any attempt at positive radical social transformation.
So we have to have a continually deepening understanding of this contradiction—this moving contradiction between the fact that on the one hand people exist as individuals and yet their lives are shaped essentially by social and most fundamentally production relations. And we have to give the proper weight to each aspect of this contradiction. As I've stressed before, the principal aspect involves the social relations, and most fundamentally the production relations, into which people enter, independently of their wills—relations which largely shape even their individuality, their individual wants, needs, aspirations and so on, as well as the means they have for pursuing those wants, needs, etc. But on the other hand, not only in the future communist society when classes will have been eliminated (but not production relations as well as other social relations, and not all social constraints), not only in that future society but all the way in the transition toward that—in the struggles for the first great leap to overthrow capitalism and establish socialism with the dictatorship of the proletariat, and then during the whole transition through that socialist stage to a communist world—we have to correctly appreciate, understand and correctly handle this contradiction.
That people exist as part of, and that their lives are essentially shaped by, social and most fundamentally production relations—this is a very profound and principally determining material reality. But also an important part of material reality is the fact that people exist as individuals and that people think as individuals. There is not one common human brain: we have not reached the stage—and I myself am definitely not an advocate of ever trying to reach the stage—where there would be one common brain directing all of the human bodies, which would somehow be linked to that brain.
So there is a great diversity and richness to human society as a result not just of the fact that there are billions of different individuals, but as a result of this contradiction between the fact that people exist as individuals while at the same time their lives are shaped essentially by social and most fundamentally production relations. This, if you want to put it that way, is another expression of the "multi-layered and multi-colored map" metaphor—of understanding the rich texture and diversity and complexity of reality and seeing these things as fluid, and (to paraphrase The Communist Manifesto) not as fixed, fast, and frozen.
1. Bob Avakian’s talk "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" appears in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008, and is also available online at revcom.us/avakian/makingrevolution (Part 1) and revcom.us/avakian/makingrevolution2 (Part 2); "Out into the World—As a Vanguard of the Future" is a talk given in the first part of 2008 that was serialized in Revolution in issues #156, #157, #159, #160, and #161 (February-April 2009); Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy is available as an audio file online at revcom.us/avakian and as online text at revcom.us/Comm-Jeff-Dem/Jeffersonian-Democracy, and a pamphlet based on the talk was published by RCP Publications, 2008. [back]
To be continued.
Revolution #163, May 1, 2009
April 22, 2009, marks 29 years since my friend and comrade Damián García was brutally murdered in a housing project in East Los Angeles, the act of cowardly LAPD operatives in the service of this system. Just one month before, in an act of revolutionary internationalist defiance to the whole imperialist system, Damián had proudly scaled the walls of the Alamo in San Antonio Texas, tearing down the U.S. and Texas flags, and raising high the red flag in their place. The Alamo is a hated symbol of the oppression that resulted from the U.S. wars that stole large sections of Mexican territory, and this act was heralded not only by the oppressed people in Texas but in other countries as well.
Damián was one of those Chicanos who grew up poor and discriminated against in the barrios of Southern California, and he became active in the struggles of the 1960's against the Vietnam War, and against national oppression of peoples inside the U.S. He was one of those who was able to go to college and had a chance to “be somebody.” He was a very talented and likeable person. But Damián, like many people those days, came to understand that there was a whole system responsible for all the things he saw that were wrong, and he decided to dedicate his life to the struggle for freedom from oppression all over the world. This was the Damián that I knew. As I said, he was my friend and comrade. Damián became a revolutionary communist and joined the Revolutionary Communist Party.
In 1980, along with many others, he answered the call for Revolutionary May 1st 1980—a call to bring revolution and internationalism to the working class and oppressed of this country and make a powerful statement in the streets on that day. As part of that he worked tirelessly to bring that message to the kinds of people who need to be the core of a revolutionary movement. Teams went out to the factories and into the housing projects in places like Watts, East Los Angeles—and San Antonio Texas—with the Revolutionary Worker newspaper, calling on people to take history into their own hands. The red flag has long been the symbol of rebellion and revolution all over the world, and so this was the flag that Damián raised atop the Alamo. And it was the flag he carried on April 22 when a man proclaiming “my flag is red, white and blue” stepped out, drew his knife and cut the life from Comrade Damián García.
As those of us who were part of the movement for Revolutionary May Day 1980 grieved for the loss of our comrade, cut down so early in his life, and as others whose hopes for revolutionary change had been lifted heard about this crime by the system, we received a message from Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, USA, which he quotes in his Memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond:
"To die in the causes for which the imperialists and reactionaries have and will on an even more monstrous scale enlist the people, or to give up living and to die a little death on your knees, or to consume oneself in futile attempts at self-indulgent escape; all this is miserable and disgraceful. But to devote your life, and even be willing to lay it down, to put an end to the system that spews all of this forth, to live and die for the cause of the international proletariat, to make revolution, transform society and advance mankind to the bright dawn of communism—this is truly a living, and a dying, that is full of meaning and inspiration for millions and hundreds of millions fighting for or awakening to the same goal all around the world. Such was the life and death of Comrade Damián García, a fighter and martyr in the army of the international proletariat."
This was, and is, a profound truth, and a great source of strength for those of us who, like Damián, burn with hatred for the way the world is, and see the struggle for a communist world as our only hope and cause worth dedicating our lives to. This statement was the leadership that we had at that moment which inspired us to carry forward the movement for Revolutionary May Day that year and beyond.... and these words have stayed in my heart ever since.
In April 1980, as word went out all over the country about Damián’s assassination, a prisoner in a jail in Atlanta, Georgia wrote a poem with the line “I never knew I had a flag until Damián García died...” Thinking about this today, it is all the more true that far too many of the oppressed in this country and all around the world do not know they have a flag, do not know about communism, do not know they have a cause worth living and dying for, and they don’t know they have a leader like Bob Avakian—they don’t know there is a way out. At a time when those millions are condemned to live lives of suffering and degradation under this system, the meaning of Damián’s life can inspire many to step forward now to help change that situation, dedicating their lives to bringing an end to this unnecessary suffering, and to creating a whole radically different, communist world.