Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
Millions of Egyptian people from all walks of life, drawing inspiration from the people of Tunisia, have heroically risen up, defied the hated regime of Hosni Mubarak and forced Mubarak to resign. This has shattered the notion that "things can never change." It is a powerful demonstration that there is no permanent necessity to the existing conditions under which the great majority of humanity suffer so terribly. Oppressed people and people who hunger for an end to oppression, in every country all over the world, have deeply shared in the joy and hope of these massive uprisings. And the stirrings of revolt continue to spread.
At the same time, while Mubarak has stepped down, the same basic forces that have so cruelly ruled over and exploited the Egyptian people remain in power. And, despite their honeyed words of praise for the masses of youth and others who have risen up, despite their promises of "freedom" and "democracy," in reality they are determined to bring about a "transition" that will ensure that there is no fundamental change—that whatever new arrangements are engineered in the political process will still keep the masses of people in Egypt, in Palestine, and other countries of strategic importance for U.S. imperialism, in unbearable conditions. After all, the armed forces in Egypt—which are now supposed to carry out this "transition"—are the same armed forces which for decades faithfully and brutally enforced the rule of the Mubarak regime, while the heads of this military enriched themselves through becoming major exploiters of the Egyptian people; and the imperialists of the U.S.—who fully backed Mubarak and his cronies and kept them in power for 30 years, without any regard for the suffering of the people—are the very same imperialists who are now seeking yet again to call the shots and give the ultimate orders in terms of what the "transition" in Egypt will be.
The plans and designs of these oppressors and exploiters are NOT what the masses of people desperately want and need. Theirs is the cry of "freedom," and the struggle must be carried forward until real freedom is achieved—freedom from the rule of the imperialists and their local henchmen and junior partners, freedom from all forms of oppression and exploitation. Freedom from both the outmoded forces which would enslave women, and the people as a whole, in medieval darkness and oppression—and from the outmoded forces who would enslave people in the name of "democracy"..."freedom"...and capitalist-imperialist exploitation marketed as "progress."
It has frequently happened in history, as has been the case in Egypt (as well as Tunisia), that the domination of imperialism and the rule of local exploiters has taken a concentrated form in the regime of a "strong man" butcher. This was the case, for example, in Iran, with the torture-chamber rule of the Shah, in the Philippines with the tyranny of Marcos, and in Indonesia with the long monstrous reign of Suharto—all brutal dictatorships put in power and long kept in power by U.S. imperialism. In Iran in the late 1970s, in the Philippines in the 1980s, in Indonesia more recently, massive uprisings of the people forced the U.S. imperialists to throw aside these hated tyrants and to allow some changes. But in every case, the ultimate result was not one which led to real "freedom" for the people—instead they have continued to be subjected to cruel oppression at the hands of those who replaced the old, hated rulers, while these countries have remained within the overall framework of global imperialist domination and exploitation. But historical experience has also shown that the continuation of oppressive rule, in one form or another, is NOT the only possible outcome.
In Russia, in February 1917, another brutal despot, the Czar (absolute monarch), was overthrown by the uprising of the people. Here again, the U.S., British, and other imperialists, and the Russian capitalists, tried to continue the oppression of the Russian people in a new form, using the mechanisms of "democratic rule" and elections which, while allowing for some broader participation of different parties, would still be totally controlled by the exploiters of the people and would ensure their continuing rule, and the continued suffering of the masses of people. In this case, however, the masses of people were enabled to see through these maneuvers and manipulations, to carry forward their revolutionary rising, through many different twists and turns and, in October 1917, to sweep aside and dismantle the institutions and mechanisms of bourgeois dictatorship and to establish a new political and economic system, socialism, which for several decades continued to advance in the direction of abolishing relations of exploitation and oppression, as part of the struggle throughout the world toward the final goal of communism. The crucial difference was that, in the uprisings in Russia, there was a core of leadership, communist leadership, that had a clear, scientifically grounded, understanding of the nature of not just this or that ruthless despot but of the whole oppressive system—and of the need to continue the revolutionary struggle not just to force a particular ruler from office but to abolish that whole system and replace it with one that would really embody and give life to the freedom and the most fundamental interests of the people, in striving to abolish all oppression and exploitation.
Even though the revolution in Russia was ultimately reversed, with capitalism restored there in the 1950s, and today Russia no longer seeks to disguise the fact that it is a capitalist-imperialist power, the lessons of the Russian Revolution of 1917 hold valuable, indeed decisive lessons for today. And the most decisive lesson is this: When people in their masses, in their millions, finally break free of the constraints that have kept them from rising up against their oppressors and tormentors, then whether or not their heroic struggle and sacrifice will really lead to a fundamental change, moving toward the abolition of all exploitation and oppression, depends on whether or not there is a leadership, communist leadership, that has the necessary scientific understanding and method, and on that basis can develop the necessary strategic approach and the influence and organized ties among growing numbers of the people, in order to lead the uprising of the people, through all the twists and turns, to the goal of a real, revolutionary transformation of society, in accordance with the fundamental interests of the people. And, in turn, when people massively break with the "normal routine" and the tightly woven chains of oppressive relations in which they are usually entrapped and by which they are heavily weighed down—when they break through and rise up in their millions—that is a crucial time for communist organization to further develop its ties with those masses, strengthening its ranks and its ability to lead. Or, if such communist organization does not yet exist, or exists only in isolated fragments, this is a crucial time for communist organization to be forged and developed, to take up the challenge of studying and applying communist theory, in a living way, in the midst of this tumultuous situation, and to strive to continually develop ties with, to influence and to ultimately lead growing numbers of the masses in the direction of the revolution that represents their fundamental and highest interests, the communist revolution.
In my writings and talks, in Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, a Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and in other major documents of our Party, we have striven to draw as deeply and fully as possible the critical lessons from the historical experience of the communist revolution and the socialist societies it has brought into being—the very real and great achievements, and the serious errors and setbacks—and to learn from the broader experience of human society and its historical development, in order to contribute all we can to the advance of the revolutionary struggle and the emancipation of oppressed people throughout the world. As the Constitution of our Party states:
"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....
"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."
It is in this spirit, and with this orientation and goal in mind, that I extend heartfelt support and encouragement to the millions who have risen up. To all who truly want to see the heroic struggle of the oppressed masses develop, with the necessary leadership, in the direction of real revolutionary transformation of society and genuine liberation: engage with and take up the emancipating viewpoint and goals of communism, and the challenge of giving this organized expression and a growing influence and presence among the struggling masses.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
Get Ready for the Publication of
...and for the April 11 Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World
Last issue, we announced two big upcoming events in our centerspread. These were the release of the book BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian; and a major event on April 11, "On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World." Taken together, these initiatives can have a major impact on people's thinking at a time when, suddenly, new possibilities are in the air.
BAsics will concentrate more than 30 years of Avakian's work on everything standing between humanity and complete emancipation into a single concise book of essential quotes and short essays.This book can not only introduce many many more people to the thinking of someone who has put communism back on the agenda as a vital and viable force—it can play a major role in bringing forward and forging a new wave of revolutionaries. To look at the table of contents (on this page) is to look at the key questions that present themselves to someone agonizing over the question of whether and how they can actually change the world in a fundamental and meaningful way. We're going to be talking more about BAsics over the weeks to come—for now, though, we want to alert people that we expect the book to be out sometime in mid- to late March and to encourage people now to get out there to raise money to enable the book not only to be printed, but to be promoted in a serious way.
The $200 "BAsics Challenge" printed in Revolution #224 should be a major tool used by every regular reader of this paper with everyone they know. Enabling people to contribute to making sure this work has the needed impact means giving people a chance to make their resources count for changing the world. You are also informing them about this book—and you should definitely use the table of contents, along with some of the quotes we've printed on the back page of this paper over the past year or so, to give people a flavor of what to expect, and to bring home the fact that..."you can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics!"
The host committee for the April 11 event, still in formation, includes
Aladdin, actor and playwright; Herb Boyd, journalist and author; Elaine Brower, National Steering Committee of World Can't Wait* and anti-war military mom; Carl Dix, founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party; Nicholas Heyward, Sr., father of Nicholas Heyward, Jr. (murdered by the NYPD in 1994), Russ Jennings, theatre producer and writer; Erin Aubry Kaplan, journalist and author; Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, St. Mary's Church, Harlem*; Mike Ladd, mc and poet; Philip Maysles, visual artist, co-director, Maysles Cinema*; Matthew Shipp, musician; Cornel West, Professor of Religion, Princeton University* and David Zeiger, film maker.
(* for identification purposes only)
To mark this book's publication, on Monday, April 11, Harlem Stage will be the venue for a major cultural celebration: "On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World." This event will bring together well-known musicians, writers and actors, and people from the community and the youth. People from different perspectives and different spheres—but all animated by celebrating revolution and the vision of a new world, and taking the publication of BAsics as a very appropriate time to do that—will come together.
The night will include poetry, music, visual arts, and readings of letters from prisoners responding to Avakian's words and to the ideas of revolution and bringing into being a new world. These will be interspersed with people's own reflections (from the stage or via video) of what it means to them to celebrate revolution and the vision of a new world, and will include some readings of quotes from BAsics as well.
Already the over a dozen hosts for the event and the growing list of artists who will perform gives a sense of the potential for a celebration like this. (Go to www.revolutionbooksnyc.org for these lists.) How often do people come together to celebrate revolution and the vision of a new world? How often do people—and all of society—get to see a range of viewpoints and all kinds of different art coming together with the voice of a leader like this and the content of what is in this book? Even to raise these questions is to underline how unique and unprecedented this event is going to be and how, especially in today's landscape, this should be able to really stand out and offer a vision not only of a new world, but of a world in which people would really want to live. There's going to be a message coming out of Harlem that night—in short, that revolution and the vision of a new world is something to celebrate... and that this author needs to become much more broadly known and his ideas and works need to become a major point of reference among people who are disturbed about the state of the world and seeking (or seriously engaging with the question of whether there could be) another, better world. That's a powerful and very important message linking up with and amplifying a powerful and important book.
But for this celebration to be what it needs to be, for it to reach its potential, for it to play the role it has to play in shining a light on this important new book, a lot of work must be done—AND YOU NEED TO BE PART OF DOING THIS NECESSARY WORK!
Here's some of what needs to be done:
A Call To Prisoners—Celebrate the BAsics!
Let us hear from you your thinking on the publication of BAsics, and on celebrating revolution and the vision of a new world, as contributions to the April 11 event called for above.
And be sure to spread the word to ties on the outside about this event, this book, and this leader.
All this will require a broad range of people contributing their time and energy in the ways and on the level that they are able. It will require the collective efforts of everyone who recognizes that it is crucial for what Bob Avakian has been bringing forward to become a major part of the discourse in this society.
BAsics will have just gotten published when the April 11 celebration occurs. People will be starting to read it in the projects, on campuses and elsewhere. So think about this book, and its author, becoming a significant point of reference in society and in the world. Think about those whose eyes are opening to new possibilities as they witness the massive upheaval roiling Egypt, Libya, Iran and other countries finding out about Avakian and the work he's been doing. Think about how this could both fuel the inspiration they draw from these events and give guidance for realizing the most positive aspirations that are sparking these upsurges—providing a solid, scientific basis for both hope and daring among a new generation rising up, and among more than a few from the previous generations who maybe had given up their dreams of there being any better way for people to live. Think about this, and then act to make it happen!
Taken together, Basics—and the celebration on the occasion of its release—will introduce many, many new people to the most radical revolutionary on the planet; to a leader whose sense of humor is as sharp as his hatred for oppression is fierce; to a visionary who deeply understands that humanity can and must radically transform the world without "turning out the lights" on artistic and intellectual experimentation. The night of April 11 will bring together a broad range of people—including prominent, influential voices—who want to celebrate revolution and the vision of a new world and who have an equally broad range of reasons for wanting to see Avakian and his work become a mass question in society.
So...let's make it happen!
Send us your comments.
Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
A Statement from the
Revolutionary Communist Party
Under this system of capitalism, so many in this society and so much of humanity are forced to endure great hardship and suffering, exploitation, injustice and brutality, while wars and the ongoing destruction of the natural environment threaten the very future of humanity. In the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) our Party has set forth an inspiring vision, and concrete measures, for the building of a new society, a socialist society, aiming for the final goal of a communist world, where human beings everywhere would be free of relations of exploitation and oppression and destructive antagonistic conflicts, and could be fit caretakers of the earth. But to make this a reality, we need revolution.
Many people insist, "there could never be a revolution in this country: the powers-that-be are too powerful, the people are too messed up and too caught up in going along with the way things are, the revolutionary forces are too small." This is wrong—revolution is possible.
Of course revolution cannot happen with conditions and people the way they are now. But revolution can come about as conditions and people are moved to change, because of developments in the world and because of the work of revolutionaries...as people come to see that things do not have to be this way...as they come to understand why things are the way they are and how things could be radically different...and as they are inspired and organized to join the revolutionary movement and build up its forces.
Revolution will not be made by acting all crazy—trying to bring down this powerful system when there is not yet a basis for that—or by just waiting for "one fine day" when revolution will somehow magically become possible. Revolution requires consistent work building for revolution, based on a serious, scientific understanding of what it takes to actually get to the point of revolution, and how to have a real chance of winning.
In order for revolution to be real there must be: a revolutionary crisis, and a revolutionary people, numbering in the millions and led by a far-seeing, highly organized and disciplined revolutionary party. Clearly, this is not the reality now. So, how can this come about? And what is the strategic plan?
The potential for a revolutionary crisis lies within the very nature of this capitalist system itself—with its repeated economic convulsions, its unemployment and poverty, its profound inequalities, its discrimination and degradation, its brutality, torture and wars, its wanton destruction. All this causes great suffering. And at times it leads to crisis on one level or another—sudden jolts and breakdowns in the "normal functioning" of society, which compel many people to question and to resist what they usually accept. No one can say in advance exactly what will happen in these situations—how deep the crisis may go, in what ways and to what extent it might pose challenges to the system as a whole, and to what degree and in what ways it might call forth unrest and rebellion among people who are normally caught up in, or feel powerless to stand up against, what this system does. But two points are very important:
1) Such "jolts" in the "normal functioning" of things, even if they do not develop all the way to a fundamental crisis for the system as a whole, do create situations in which many more people are searching for answers and open to considering radical change. The work of building the movement for revolution must be consistently carried out at all times, but in these situations of sharp breaks with the "normal routine" there is greater possibility, and greater potential, to make advances. This must be fully recognized and built on to the greatest degree possible, so that through such situations, leaps are made in building up the movement and the organized forces for revolution, creating in this way a stronger basis from which to work for further advances.
2) In certain situations, major events or big changes can happen in society and the world and can come together in such a way that the system is shaken to its foundations...deep cracks appear and magnify within the ruling structures and institutions...the raw relations of oppression are more sharply exposed...conflicts among the powers-that-be deepen, and cannot be easily resolved, and it becomes much more difficult for them to hold things together under their control and keep people down. In this kind of situation, for great numbers of people, the "legitimacy" of the current system, and the right and ability of the ruling powers to keep on ruling, can be called seriously and directly into question, with millions hungering for a radical change that only a revolution can bring about.
More needs to be learned, and will be learned, about how the revolutionary struggle can win when these conditions have been brought into being, but the basic strategic conception and approach has been developed for actually defeating and dismantling the oppressive forces and institutions of this system—and bringing into being new institutions of a new, revolutionary system—when there is a revolutionary crisis and a revolutionary people. (This basic conception and approach is set forth in "On the Possibility of Revolution"—and this is also included in the pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation—published by our Party.)
But the possibility of revolution will never really ripen unless those who recognize the need for revolution are preparing the ground for this politically and ideologically even now: working to influence the thinking of people in a revolutionary direction, organizing them into the struggle against this system, and winning growing numbers to become actively involved in building the movement for revolution. This is what our Party is all about, and what we mean when we say we are "hastening while awaiting" the changes that make revolution possible. This is the key to breaking through the situation where there are not yet the necessary conditions and forces to make revolution, but those conditions and forces will never be brought into being by just waiting for them to appear.
All along the way, both in more "normal times" and especially in times of sharp breaks with the "normal routine," it is necessary to be working consistently to accumulate forces—to prepare minds and organize people in growing numbers—for revolution, among all those who can be rallied to the revolutionary cause. Among the millions and millions who catch hell in the hardest ways every day under this system. But also among many others who may not, on a daily basis, feel the hardest edge of this system's oppression but are demeaned and degraded, are alienated and often outraged, by what this system does, the relations among people it promotes and enforces, the brutality this embodies.
What is the way to carry out this work? Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. This is a big part of the answer. People need to fight back, and people do fight back, against the many ways human beings, and the environment, are exploited, degraded, ravaged and even destroyed by this system. But to make that fight more powerful—and, more, to carry it through to put an end to all this—people need to learn that the fundamental problem is this capitalist system, and the solution is getting rid of this system and bringing into being a new system, socialism, aiming for the final goal of a communist world. Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution is a key part of our strategic approach, which provides a way for the Party to unite with and give leadership to people to change themselves as they take part in the struggle to change the world...to lift their heads and broaden their vision, to recognize what kind of world is possible, what their real interests are, and who their real friends and real enemies are, as they rise up against this system...to take up a revolutionary viewpoint and revolutionary values and morals as they join with others to resist this system's crimes and build up the basis for the ultimate all-out revolutionary struggle to sweep this system away and bring in a whole new way of organizing society, a whole new way of being...to become emancipators of humanity.
For all this to happen, and for the revolution to have a real chance of winning, leadership is essential. And there is such leadership. But there is also much work to do.
To support and strengthen our Party as the overall leadership of this revolution. The more our Party's revolutionary viewpoint and strategy is spread and gains influence throughout society...the more that people come to understand and agree with what the Party is all about, and join its ranks on that basis...the more the Party's "reach" extends to every corner of the country...the greater its organizational strength and its ability to withstand and to lead people forward in the face of government repression aimed at crushing resistance and killing off revolution—the more the basis for revolution will be prepared and the more favorable the chance of winning.
To learn from the Chairman of our Party, Bob Avakian, spread the knowledge and influence of his pathbreaking leadership, and defend and protect this rare and precious leader. Bob Avakian has dedicated his life since the 1960s to the cause of revolution and communism. While providing practical leadership to the Party and the revolutionary movement, he has deeply studied and summed up the world historical experience of the communist revolution and the socialist societies it has brought into being—the great achievements and the serious problems and errors—and has studied many other fields of human experience and knowledge. He has advanced the science of communism and made decisive breakthroughs in the theory, method, and strategy of revolution and the final goal of communism throughout the world. It is crucial for growing numbers of people to know about and study his talks and writings...to defend and protect him...to take up the leadership he is providing, which opens new pathways for revolution.
To much more fully wield our Party's newspaper, Revolution. This plays a pivotal role in carrying out our strategy. Through publishing works of Bob Avakian, and through many different articles, interviews, letters, graphics, and other features, Revolution enables people to really understand and act to radically change the world....It gives people a living picture and scientific analysis of what is going on in the world, and why....It exposes the true nature of this system, and shows how major events in society and the world are concentrations of the basic contradictions of this oppressive and putrid system....It brings alive the need and possibility for revolution and a whole new society and world....It heightens the ability of growing numbers of people, in all parts of this country, to act politically in a unified way, and to wrestle with and help find solutions to the problems of our movement, on the basis of a growing revolutionary consciousness....It is the key instrument in developing an organized political network, among the most oppressed and other sections of the people, which can have a growing impact on the political scene and the society (and the world) as a whole, building up the forces of revolution and influencing ever broader numbers of people....It provides a foundation and a means for extending the "reach" of the revolutionary movement and building up bases for this movement—in neighborhoods, where people work and go to school, and wherever people come together—and especially where they resist and rebel against this system.
All this can enable the revolutionary movement, with the Party at the core, to confront and overcome the very real obstacles in its path...to advance and grow, through ongoing work, and through a series of critical leaps in times of sudden breaks and ruptures with the "normal routine"...to prepare the ground, and accumulate forces, for revolution—and have a real chance at winning. It is how thousands can be brought forward and oriented, organized and trained in a revolutionary way, while beginning to reach and influence millions more, even before there is a revolutionary situation...and then, when there is a revolutionary situation, those thousands can be a backbone and pivotal force in winning millions to revolution and organizing them in the struggle to carry the revolution through.
For those who have hungered for, who have dreamed of, a whole different world, without the madness and torment of what this system brings every day...those who have dared to hope that such a world could be possible...and even those who, up to now, would like to see this, but have accepted that this could never happen...there is a place and a role, a need and a means, for thousands now and ultimately millions to contribute to building this movement for revolution, in many different ways, big and small—with ideas and with practical involvement, with support, and with questions and criticisms. Get together with our Party, learn more about this movement and become a part of it as you learn, acting in unity with others in this country, and throughout the world, aiming for the very challenging but tremendously inspiring and liberating—and, yes, possible—goal of emancipating all of humanity through revolution and advancing to a communist world, free of exploitation and oppression.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
Last week, Revolution posted an important new statement from the RCP,USA—"On the Strategy for Revolution." This statement very concisely lays out just that, in a way that is easy to understand. And next week we will be focusing on that statement in an important special issue.
This will be a two-week issue. We call on our networks of regular readers to begin planning now for how to reach out with this statement, making the strategy for revolution known to many thousands beyond our regular readership, and drawing new people into the revolutionary movement. The first step in that, of course, is studying and discussing the content of the statement itself. But then, let's be creative.
Beginning on Thursday, February 24, we are going to post ideas on getting this out on our website, and beginning the following Thursday, March 3, we will post experiences that people have. Please send in postings by Wednesday night.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
The next issue of Revolution will be focused on the Party's new statement, "On the Strategy for Revolution." This will be a two-week issue—one that must get out everywhere. At a time when people are inspired by, and in many cases closely following and thinking about, the uprisings in the Middle East... when tens of thousands take to the streets in Madison, Wisconsin and this too raises people's sights, and questions, as to what is possible... this statement should be getting everywhere!
Many of the ideas printed last week about getting out Bob Avakian's statement on Egypt apply here. But we also want to highlight some responses from readers of this paper—responses which both engage the content of the statement itself, and give ideas on how to spread it. These responses were not originally written for publication, but were more in the nature of reflections. It is not as though each and every notion is correct or necessarily even fully worked out, or that absolutely every suggestion should be taken up. But there ARE in fact many good and important ideas in what follows, that people can sift and bounce off of and apply to their situations. And there are also some interesting reflections on the statement itself, that should help spark further wrangling and digging.
What follows are excerpts from these responses, lightly edited for publication:
This is really fucking good!! It concentrates an incredibly synthesized understanding of our strategy—without oversimplification. It captures the motion, and the need for tenseness... and that this is working on real world contradictions which can't be willed into being, but can be affected by revolutionary forces. It is understandable, concretely applicable—and measurable (not measurable in an empiricist sense, but measurable in terms of "oh, I see how this newspaper, promoting this book from BA, being part of [different initiatives the Party is involved in] is part of an overall strategy for actually making revolution") for the Party and the masses.
I was just batting around with someone a few days before we got this how to break down in basic terms what our strategy is. I get asked a lot what it means to be a Revolutionary Communist, "what that looks like in your day to day," and I will often answer both in relation to a lot of what I do, and that I am a supporter of a Party that has an overall strategy for revolution. But I have found myself beginning the answer to what this is, "well, there's a whole ensemble of revolutionary work." And then frankly, fall into a list of what that means... I don't feel I've really been able to "connect" this, make it plain for people so they see the full coherent, "synthetic" (as in synthesized) approach... and how that is working on and interpenetrates with the objective situation.
This is concentrated here.
I also think it importantly speaks to how sentiments among the broad masses can change, and who the social base for revolution is, on two levels (in the "accumulating forces" paragraph). This is something that people don't see, and that is systematically covered over and distorted.
In terms of how to make use of this...
Those are my thoughts for now... this does fill a great need... and as BA has discussed, making our strategy known (and now in this powerful, concentrated form)... is part of the overall strategy for revolution, it's part of people seeing "there is no permanent necessity," it's part of repolarizing and this movement for revolution becoming a magnetic, shaping pole in society.
I have had a chance to study over the statement. It is quite good, amazingly succinct yet concentrates what it means to be hastening while awaiting in both senses: what are the developments being awaited and how those result from the very workings of the system itself, the outlines of how a legitimacy crisis can take shape in scientific, living terms and how all the work, especially around the two mainstays [spreading the Party's newspaper and promoting the leadership and work of Bob Avakian] can shape the terrain and how a revolution can be hastened and wrenched out of those objective conditions. How for instance the jolts along the way, even if they do not plunge society completely into a revolutionary crisis are the situations where the revolutionary forces have to make as many leaps as possible. This piece concentrates why the two mainstays are the foundation and how together with "fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution" give a good sense of what these together have to do with transforming the situation to one as favorable for revolution as possible, so that when the objective conditions emerge that do not exist now, it will be a real possibility.
It cuts against the idea that this can not be done, showing how things make leaps as well as [being] an objective polemic against an evolutionary view. Critical to all this is leadership—both BA, and the Party and its newspaper—and it is a powerful and poetic call for people to join this movement for revolution and it really conveys what difference this makes as part of hastening, while awaiting (and in all the ways big and small—the sense of the Ohio comes through). [editor's note: Ohio refers to a metaphor involving the Ohio state marching band—how people in the band seem to move through the letters to spell out Ohio—and it pertains to the process of people getting involved in the movement for revolution on many different levels and from many different sources, and moving through the movement, deepening their understanding and involvement as they do.]
This fills a big need—do people know we have a strategy? And the question that comes up whenever people come to seriously consider the possibility—how could you possibly do that in a country like this?
I have been trying to figure out how in a scientific judicious way can we maximize its impact. In terms of pathways—I do think this is an important pathway that is currently an obstacle for many who are desirous of seeing a far better world brought into being and that it weighs on people and keeps reinforcing that they keep their heads down.
Here are some suggestions:
1) The newspaper website—[the website needs] an easily navigable section that could feature this, "Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution," "There Is No 'Permanent Necessity' for Things to be This Way—A Radically Different and Better World Can Be Brought Into Being Through Revolution," and a few other core things– [like] an FAQ type section but without that name...
2) This next suggestion relates to a point I have been thinking about which is it seems like there is a beginning awakening from the Obama kool-aid coming from different quarters and that it would be very worth our while to have [some people who speak for the Party] seek out some key people both in relationship to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America and to [the upcoming book] BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian with this new piece as part of the package—it helps make it real that there is a strategy. I think it would be good to do these before BAsics comes out so that people can see how that fits into the revolutionary strategy and be part of making the event in April and the use of it a success.
I noted the following in Ted Rall's book, Anti-American Manifesto...: "Though small in numbers, anarchists and 'deep green' anti-civilization environmentalists are highly influential in what passes for the American Left, publishing well-regarded books, magazines, and blogs that inspire many people. Deep-green types fantasize about a collapse scenario that will save the world without anyone having to lift a finger. They imagine an involuntarily de-industrializing economy that allows the earth to heal while people gather to form small clans and low impact villages based on ideals of equality."
Literally a primitive communalism. [I heard] one such deep green theorist who blurbed Rall's book on the radio. He seems genuinely agonized about the environmental crisis and 'that we keep losing ground.' I don't know how much [he] was counting on Obama, but he seemed to expect at least some positive changes around the environment among the population as a whole that has not happened.
While there are undoubtedly huge questions about what kind of revolution, for what ends and with what goals, [and about] the desirability of Communism—I wonder if the combination of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic of North America AND this piece on revolutionary strategy would open up discussion/debate with these forces. There is genuine urgency and no solutions on the environment.
Part of the objective should be to see if there are people in these movements who will open the door to serious engagement over the problem/solution and the strategy (which reflects the vision of the solution and the ultimate aims) to get there and how do we get these materials out before people who feel very strongly about the crisis the planet is facing? Some of these might be people we should debate/dialogue with publicly...
(As an aside, [there is a recent college graduate] who is with Greenpeace which does regular work on the campus—he has the Constitution and the environment issue and wants to sit down and talk because he is very frustrated with the fact that even though they do really good things that it is not enough to deal with the scope of the problem; an undergrad doing Pakistan flood relief tabling asked to speak to our people in the wake of a social justice conference asking—how would you change the productive forces? The person showed him the part on the economy in the Constitution, said read this while I go deal with some things and then came back and had some beginning discussion.)
Similarly, there seems to be an increasing number of Black intellectuals and others who are dismayed at the destruction of the youth in unprecedented numbers going on multiple generations to whom we should take this too. Obviously Cornel West is a very prominent example, but there are others who are agonized and while not necessarily for revolution I think would be open to a discussion from the most sweeping perspective. [There are many people we've worked with around October 22 and the prison ban on Revolution newspaper that we should be talking with.]
I don't know who are the forces among the immigrant rights movement and in particular the students and youth who are being hit from all sides and in particular in Arizona, but of course not only there—but I think our Constitution and the whole approach to this question, bi-linguality etc. is enormously liberating. The fact that even talking about the borders not being sacred is being ruled off the agenda in Arizona education should stand in contrast. I wonder if there should be another billboard in Tucson—in Spanish advertising the Constitution?
3) My last suggestion is that after the two-week push with this piece as called for that we print up this piece in a little tract like the one done on Willy Mobile Shaw that would make it easy to back pack, cheap to print and so it could be used for some time. It would not be cost prohibitive to give... people a few copies to use with others. All circles forming up around the paper should discuss and wield it...
4) Finally, the developments in the Middle East—Tunisia and Egypt—these illustrate the phenomenon of how societies can erupt into legitimacy crisis. I was listening to an Egyptian reporter who was explaining that he knew many people who just a few weeks ago were fed up but resigned and apolitical; would never have considered going to a demonstration—but as a result of what happened in Tunisia, now have begun to think that major societal change is possible and that what they do can make a difference and so have leapt into political life. The programs and strength of the contending forces that will be seeking resolution of the crisis that has erupted points to the importance of the strategy of hasten while awaiting for revolution. Whether or not outcome is a good one for humanity will be determined by everything that led into those kinds of situations.
5) I wanted to propose that we have a short box that runs frequently in the newspaper that points people to this piece online.
I have been thinking about the youth and how great the centerfolds have been but don't get used anywhere near enough. One idea on this would be to do not just a centerfold but 4 pages that "stand alone" even 1 or 2 times a month for now...
We could print extra... of the 4 pages and start to use them at key high schools, youth centers etc. very systematically...
The new piece, "On the Strategy for Revolution," is very powerful and fills an important gap in our revolutionary literature. This document is part of our Enriched What-Is-To-Be-Done-ist approach–putting the questions of the revolution to the masses and drawing them into working on these questions and finding solutions to them practically and theoretically. This piece combats some of the myths about not being able to make revolution because the other side is all-powerful, that people are too messed up and the revolutionary forces are too small, while bringing out in a living and dynamic way "how revolution could come about as conditions and people are moved to change because of developments in the world and because of the work of revolutionaries..."
"On Strategy..." is written in a very poetic and powerful way and presents a whole process of making revolution in a way that will be accessible to someone who is new to the movement for revolution and to masses who are coming forward with a more advanced understanding of the problem and the solution but who do not have a comprehensive understanding of our strategy. It struck me in discussing "Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution" that work needs to go on to deepen the understanding of [revolutionary-minded] people around us in what we mean by a "strategic approach to making revolution."
But this new piece will enable people to get into the whole sweep of what it means to have a strategy for revolution and to grapple with key elements of that strategy. The document is the equivalent of Strategy 101; it is written accessibly but it is at the same time rich and textured and anyone who grapples seriously with it will gain a deep understanding of a process of making revolution and the decisive role of a vanguard Party in that process, creating public opinion for the seizure of power and preparing mind and organizing forces for revolution.
I want to give more thought to how the strategic orientation of Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution is presented. Of course, this is not new, but it is given significant emphasis in what is presented. This is also not new because in "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" the point is made that this whole orientation is crucial and without it things can tend toward scholasticism. In any case, the emphasis given to this slogan is correct, and I want to think more about its juxtaposition within the overall piece, which gives added emphasis to it. The events in the world of late—including what is going on now—do bring home how important it is for the masses of people to stand up and what impact that can have globally, causing people in that area and indeed throughout the world to stand up and take note.
(I thought what was written in the newspaper about a dam suddenly breaking was important and illustrates how it can be relatively quiet over decades and then something leads to the bursting of the dam. But the point is that there needs to be a vanguard which is actively preparing all along the way, hastening while awaiting, in order to seize on such situations when they arise. Clearly this is a case of the legitimacy of the regime being called into question. While following events in the Middle East, I have been thinking about what driving out the Bush Regime might have looked like and what possibilities it might have opened up if that struggle had been successful. Events such as those going on in Egypt do cause one to think about things like this and more, including what would be the impact of vanguard leadership in a situation like that. I know there is a lot involved in the situation, but these are some of the things that I have been thinking about and trying to learn more deeply through watching events unfold in Egypt. I think the call for people to translate the Manifesto into many languages is right on time and necessary, as is the guidance in this issue of the newspaper for people to take out the Manifesto together with coverage in the newspaper of what is going on in Egypt and beyond.)
In terms of what we should do with "On Strategy for Revolution," I think it is correct and important that it is going to be printed in the newspaper. While this piece is written in a very accessible way, the understanding of strategy in it is a major breakthrough in terms of making revolution in a country like this one, a breakthrough not dissimilar from the breakthrough that Mao Tsetung made in bringing forward the strategic understanding of revolution in colonial and dependent countries. Before the breakthrough that BA made in terms of strategy, there was not understanding of this question in relation to a country like this one. This understanding of revolution in an advanced imperialist country has been missing until the breakthrough that BA made and is continuing to deepen.
"On the Strategy for Revolution" has [some of] the feel and texture of the statement: "The Revolution We Need...the Leadership We Have." And I think we need to get it out there really broadly in society in a concentrated way through the publication of it in the newspaper...and also through periodically publishing it. Making it into a pamphlet would also be a way to get it out there broadly, but having it appear at regular intervals in the newspaper is one way to get it out there in a way that does not work against [being] "scientific, systematic and judicious." I think it would also be important to have bookstore programs on this piece when it is published in a few weeks.
It objectively is a polemic against rightist/revisionist notions of building a mass movement that goes over to revolution or other notions of slow patient economist work, even as it objectively argues secondarily against tendencies toward "another strategy," which, of course, is not a big trend right now. There is also a role for this piece on the world level where there are tendencies, even in the ICM [international communist movement], to give up on the prospect of revolution in an advanced country like this one.
This new piece should be circulating among the base, among the youth, and on the campuses, including among students but also academics. It would really be important for this piece to become part of the youth scene in various cities.
It should be prominently displayed in the bookstores.
It should be distributed among nationalist forces and sections of oppressed nationalities. What about distribution of it among African students and students from the Middle East?
Most striking to me is how this statement is filling a great need in the world—in the broadest sense among people who either have given up on, or never really considered (or even encountered) revolution as something that "could happen here" and "could happen in our lifetimes"; among those who are beginning to relate to the vanguard and the movement for revolution and weigh their own involvement and relation to it; and among the vanguard itself in more deeply rooting our own understanding and guiding our work in carrying out this strategy.
To speak to the third level of this first: In the last year or so, we have been going through a lot of struggle repeatedly to not merely "do a bunch of good things" but to carry out revolutionary work in a way that is actually strategically advancing towards revolution. Up until really wrangling with this statement, this tendency had struck me as being due mainly to positivism and getting buried into "movement is everything" thinking (even towards things like the Campaign, to say nothing of parts of the campaign). And, while I do think these revisionist tendencies are very much part of what have asserted themselves, it also strikes me that there has been a need for us to make a leap in our own understanding of our strategy and all of the dynamisms involved in it.
This statement doesn't only distill and make popular our understanding—it is actually much more integrated and synthesized than most of us were understanding. I recall, for instance, ...a couple months ago [in thinking about efforts to explain the role of the paper] telling others, "I can make a list of all the things our paper is part of in terms of our strategy... but capturing the dynamism involved in all of it as a coherent approach is very hard." But here, in this very short and extremely popular statement, there is an even greater scope (our full strategy—not just one mainstay, as important as that is) and even more complexity—and it is all an integral whole that fits together and makes sense as part of a process. Frankly, one of the biggest things I felt in reading it is that it requires, and enables, people to think differently about change and how it happens than anyone does spontaneously. And it does this without any "premises" that you have to accept to think about and evaluate and begin to relate to this strategy (i.e. you don't have to already agree that revolution is the only way out, or have studied Lenin on what the three conditions of a revolutionary situation are, or have already been won over to the need for leadership or a party or BA in particular, etc.)...
Informally, one comrade told me that this statement gave her a whole deeper appreciation of the "Katrina criticism" [Editor's note: This refers to a criticism that was made of the Party's work during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 by Bob Avakian in, among other places, "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, part 2"] and this really got me thinking as well. I think, up until now, my thinking has still been a bit flat, or a bit "all or nothing" about how to view crises. Like, the problem with how we responded to Katrina was mainly (or only) because no one could say in advance that it might not have developed into an all-out legitimacy crisis or even revolutionary crisis. And, that we never will know because the vanguard didn't act on it as it should have.
Now, that is certainly true. But, that is still flat. Even if it hadn't ripened all the way to the full revolutionary crisis, it was a context and a situation in which leaps on all fronts of hastening and awaiting—of leading people to fight the power and transform themselves for revolution, of bringing forward and tempering various levels of a revolutionary people, of making advances in making our Party and our leader and our strategy and future known, of enabling people to break with the sense of "permanent necessity," and various other ways of "creating in this way a stronger basis from which to work for further advances."
The point of the "no one can say in advance" point is not merely relevant to the fact that some crisis at some point will go all the way—and therefore you have to spring into motion to the maximum degree around each (with the corresponding, if not consciously recognized, thought that, "Most likely this one won't be the one that goes all the way... and we have a lot of really important other work we are responsible for and advances we need to be making"). The fact is, there is a fundamental unity in the way that revolutionary forces must approach any significant break and rupture in the "normal routine" of things—maximizing advances and making leaps in hastening and awaiting, fighting the power and transforming the people, accumulating forces and repolarizing, etc.—that is not preconditioned by how far we think that particular break in the routine might go. And, it is only by acting in this way that maximum advances can be made—whether that means leaps along the way towards revolutionary preparation or a full out revolutionary crisis (which will never ripen if revolutionary forces are not working on it in this way... and through that whole process, big leaps in forging a revolutionary people and organization can be telescoped).
The world is not like different levels in a video game, you pass one and then you start the next level which is preset in the same way each time and you see if you can pass that one. (Probably video games are more complex these days, but that is how the video games were back when I was in high school.) What we do at every stage is part of shaping the terrain. And, the way we interact with it, and what we do to accumulate forces and deepen and train those forces at various levels, at every point is shaping what strengths we have in continuing to influence the terrain and make leaps and advances. So, the Katrina mistakes were not just because we may have squandered the biggest level crisis (not to dismiss that possibility), but while no one can say in advance how far things will go—you can know for sure that how you respond and what you are able to wrench out of every [crisis] is going to be a factor all the way going forward, including in the ripening of a full out revolutionary crisis when that does become possible.
It's important that the statement puts these kinds of crises and breaks in the routine ahead of the ongoing work of the revolutionaries all the way along. Contrary to most people's thinking, we are not expecting revolution to come about primarily through our efforts and "good organizing"—BUT, our ongoing revolutionary work and forging of organization is going to be decisive in shaping the terrain, hastening the development of a revolutionary situation, and being able to wrench something positive out of it for humanity. In that context, at that time, everything leading up to that and continuing in a heightened way in the intensity of a developing revolutionary crisis will prove to be key. How this is the case is usually big news to people and makes them take not just us, but the possibility of revolution and their involvement in it, much more seriously...
Even among folks who are closer to the movement and weighing their involvement, a lot of them still think of us as well-intentioned people doing something good but something very unlikely to come to fruition in their lifetimes. One of the biggest things that people said after [some sessions devoted to getting into our strategy] was, "The Revolution got real!" This was linked up with them beginning to get, through those sessions, a sense that we actually have a strategy. And that our strategy is reality-based and they could begin to see how things might come together in a way where revolution could succeed. And, because they began to understand this strategy, they could offer ideas and contributions to it, their involvement and their potential contributions, meant more—and the corresponding responsibility they felt was much greater, as well as the inspiration that many felt.
BA has been making the point that letting people know we have a strategy is part of our strategy—this is extremely important! When people think revolution is just an idea and that the revolutionaries are just well-intentioned people, they cannot—and are not moved to—play the kind of active role that many can be playing even now. The more that they see there is a strategy for revolution, and begin to understand what that strategy is and how it can work (both of these are important and while they overlap and interpenetrate they are not the same, even when people don't fully grasp our strategy themselves yet, even their sense that we have one makes a huge difference—but obviously, the more they grasp the strategy the more they are compelled and enabled to play a dynamic role in it) the more this revolution gets real to them. This is a big part of challenging the sense of "permanent necessity" for the existing order. And, it changes how they consider their own involvement, whether it is just a "morally good thing to do" or whether the fate of humanity will actually be influenced by how they and others act, and that there is the leadership and organization with some sense of how that can have a real impact. And, it influences what kind of contributions people can make—just "helping us with our thing" or dynamically contributing both to the things that we have identified as key links as well as through many other channels as part of a whole growing revolutionary movement and broader spirit.
But [even most people who have a sense that we have a strategy] still don't really have a good sense of what that strategy is as an integral whole and really utilizing this statement with them is going to be tremendously important in [strengthening the core of this movement].
There is also, in this statement on strategy, a much more integral role that accumulating forces plays—and this statement and its approach is a very important tool and method for doing so. It is not an "add-on" to our work (which is still too much the approach). By giving people the whole strategy—we both work at knocking down some of the biggest obstacles in the way of them taking up the revolution—and let them relate to the whole thing and contribute to that. Over and over again, this statement poses the process of making revolution and challenges/invites people into it—around the Party, around the Chair, around the newspaper, around the questions of further learning how to win, around fighting the power and transforming the people... in many ways. This is very different than calling on people to "help us" with "our thing" around different projects without any strategic sense of how they make revolution more possible.
The end of the statement, in particular, models this...: "For those who have hungered for, who have dreamed of, a whole different world, without the madness and torment of what this system brings every day... those who have dared to hope that such a world could be possible... and even those who, up to now, would like to see this, but have accepted that this could never happen... there is a place and a role, a need and a means, for thousands now and ultimately millions to contribute to building this movement for revolution, in many different ways, big and small—with ideas and with practical involvement, with support, and with questions and criticisms. Get together with our Party, learn more about this movement and become a part of it as you learn, acting in unity with others in this country, and throughout the world, aiming for the very challenging but tremendously inspiring and liberating—and, yes, possible—goal of emancipating all of humanity through revolution and advancing to a communist world, free of exploitation and oppression."
There is no "jacking people up" to participate—there is laying bare a very materialist understanding of how all this can be changed and the conscious dynamic role of revolutionaries and many others in this—and then a very embracing invitation/challenge to participate at the highest level people are ready to.
I think this can actually accelerate the process of making revolution—and be a key part of anchoring this Party and our movement as we are really continuing to push out in the world with the campaign and relying on a lot more of the Party—and growing sections of the masses—to take a lot more initiative in doing this.
Also, together with the Constitution, these two things really provide a huge answer to a lot of what is standing in the way of people taking up and getting involved in this revolution. People won't consider a different world because "you'll never get there"... or they won't consider trying to get there (i.e. working for revolution) because "communism either won't work or will be a disaster." Add into this mix BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian and the possibility of actually succeeding in this strategy and where it can go, and a whole lot of levels for people to come into and relate to this, and we have a tremendously powerful answer and challenge to the whole ideological and political ceiling that is fixed on people's thinking and action.
One idea is to really get the ideological challenge and impact of these three things together—not just see them as "materials to get out," but actually the statement that could be made, and the process begun, by stepping out with big displays on campuses and busy spots in neighborhoods, at conferences and concerts, along with a table with mounds of each of these items. The display could be simple, maybe just three big panels (I mean really big) with the titles of each of these three works and then beneath the display have three big mounds of each of these items. People could get any single item, but they would encounter them in the context of each other and the full effect of that.
I think we have to make use of this statement—together with the Constitution and BAsics—in particular among gatherings of the types of folks who were attracted to the U.S. Social Forum. Folks who have a line against states that is both influenced by their verdict on the first wave [of socialist revolutions] (which is challenged indirectly but in a very effective and visionary way through the Constitution) and their recoiling from the current state (which is challenged by the piece on strategy and that there IS a way that a revolutionary force and revolutionary people could get into a position to win) and in their celebration of the "leaderless" approach (which needs to be gone at theoretically in its own right—but also through straight up "meeting" BA). Those who are seeking to build up alternatives on the margins—many of them are coming from very good intentions and need to be challenged by this combination. Things like the events sponsored by Platypus around the country, but also some of the environmental models. A LOT of radical-minded young people spend their summers on organic farms... or the folks who have relocated to New Orleans and are part of alternative schools and other small community projects there. Obviously, there are those who are entrenched in a different model and hostile to what we are about—but a great many of them are not entrenched but are seeking to live their lives in the most meaningful and impactful way they can. Can we do some research and plan some excursions to some of these places (organic farms and other alternative marginal communities, especially where there are young people concentrated)—and look into when they are holding conferences or gatherings of various types? A lot of this seems to be connected with key schools and departments (there were students strategizing on these models and planning semesters on organic farms at U of C, for instance).
Also, there are still periodically gatherings of former Black Panthers or art or movies about them or people who have been inspired by them. The question of a strategy for revolution is a lot of what they ran up against and couldn't answer. This statement could have a big impact—attracting and engaging the best in those scenes (both among the older generation but also the youth who are attracted to this, and the positive synergy that could come between some of them getting into this).
Even where major societal efforts are being made with BAsics and the Constitution—these things will be strengthened by being combined with this piece on strategy and we should be sure that this doesn't get underplayed or left out.
There are, in the very immediate sense, the gatherings and questions posed and sights that are raised by the events in Egypt and the Middle East lately and these are places—especially on campuses—where we need to be bringing in our newspaper, the Manifesto, but also this strategy statement. As one student put it to us, they had heard us talk about things changing suddenly but never really believed it till now. It seems—especially where we have had some ongoing presence—there is a moment to seize here.
Comments on, making maximum use of, and giving maximum impact to:
ON THE STRATEGY FOR REVOLUTION
This is really an important statement! And much needed (a fact that jumps out at you when you read it!). It does build off of the Message and Call, which provides a more sweeping, and very concrete (new) synthesis of the need for revolution, and the leadership we have. This new statement on the strategy elaborates in a very accessible, scientific, and compelling way why and how to make revolution today, linking the urgent work of today in preparing the ground for revolution to being in a position to actually make revolution when the necessary conditions come together.
And with the publishing of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), it provides an important pathway to those inspired by the Constitution, and trying to understand how to work toward that today.
Overall this statement clarifies, and gives direction to those stepping forward and taking up as their mission making revolution! In that sense, it can contribute significantly to achieving the third objective of the campaign; and with the emphasis it gives to the two mainstays, it will contribute to advancing all three objectives, and the campaign as a whole. [editor's note: The three objectives of the campaign "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have" include making this revolution known far and wide; making Bob Avakian a major point of reference among politically awakening people in this society; and bringing forward cores, even if small at first, of initiators of a new stage of communist revolution.]
This statement at the same time provides further clarity for the Party in carrying out "hastening" while awaiting in a more focused, and disciplined way.
Making Maximum Use, and Having Maximum Impact
An important aspect of this, without looking at it in a stage-ist way, is the impact it can have on [people who are coming around and getting involved in the movement for revolution]. That would include having forms for organizing collective discussions/grappling... Some of these could be incorporated into a major event organized by the bookstores; but others would take place separately. And out of this there should be an enthusiasm among [some of those who come] to want to take this everywhere as an important statement that answers the question about how to work today for revolution.
Plans should be made ahead of time for where to distribute this two-week issue: to high schools; to campuses; to key neighborhoods of the oppressed. But also getting it out among all strata, and into the superstructure. Carrying out the 'two maximizings' orientation will also be important; having politically conscious basic masses coming to campuses, as part of forays to distribute the statement more broadly, and then joining in discussions with the more advanced students who come forward. And in the other direction, having college students coming to discussions with youth from the high schools/middle schools, and the neighborhoods.
The discussions should also incorporate "Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution," and discuss some of the concrete examples of social contradictions, e.g. Detroit, Arizona, and the oil spill into the Gulf, enabling the masses to grapple with this strategic approach themselves, and appreciate the role of the newspaper in erecting the scaffolding and giving direction to the movement for revolution everywhere.
I don't know the plans for the form in which BAsics will be published, but I think it would be good, after it comes out in our paper, for this statement to be produced in a small, back pocket-able pamphlet form so the masses, especially the youth, can have it on them constantly. It would also be good to have a recording of it made quickly, so that this work can be most accessible to those that have difficulty reading. Getting this on Youtube, and many other of the 'social network' methods on the internet [in a conscious way], could make a major difference enabling many new forces to hear it and take it up.
And as we are expanding the core of people on a mission to make this revolution, they should be unleashedto use all of their forms for networking, and popularizing, and spreading the word.
There need to be concrete plans and goals that incorporate those who are coming forward, while giving play to the initiative of the masses to develop/use their own forms for getting this out very broadly.
A significant aspect of this statement is that it is a 'primer' for those who see the need to make revolution today, that can be taken up by people in areas of the country (or beyond) where the Party and the revolution don't yet reach. This can synergize with the promotion of the two mainstays, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) as people leap from theory to practice, guided by the statement, as well as the other crucial works concentrating the new synthesis.
This is very initial thought on the statement which I've read a couple of times to date and would like to study much more closely and send further thoughts then. But I did want to convey now that I think it is extremely powerfully done and NEEDED. I like the way it starts out highlighting the importance of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) and then goes right to a concentrated answer in why revolution is possible and then lays out the process/strategy to get there—objective conditions and the work of the subjective forces to hasten and await, including the emphasis on hasten. The sharp way it speaks to and links the (relationship of) key aspects of "the ensemble"—fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution and the two mainstays (including the needed elements of both projecting AND protecting BA) will be great popular guidance for broad masses, [as well as the more conscious forces] for traversing this specific juncture of our revolution...
Send us your comments.
Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
Discussion on the CONSTITUTION for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)
We thank you for writing Revolution about the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). This letter appeared in #224, as "Prisoners Debate the Section 'Minority and Formerly Oppressed Nationalities.'"
You raise a number of criticisms and concerns. The heart of the criticism is contained in your statements "it should be the right of all [oppressed nationalities] to self determination" and "any way I look at it, I see you can't allow African Americans the right to secede but not Mexican-Americans or Native Americans. I see no reason why RCP could not have gone across the board with Blacks, Mexicans, and Natives having equality in determining their future."
Here we want to answer these and related points.
The Preamble to the Constitution states:
The New Socialist Republic in North America is a multi-national and multi-lingual state, which is based on the principle of equality between different nationalities and cultures and has as one of its essential objectives fully overcoming national oppression and inequality, which was such a fundamental part of the imperialist USA throughout its history. Only on the basis of these principles and objectives can divisions among humanity by country and nation be finally overcome and surpassed and a world community of freely associating human beings be brought into being. This orientation is also embodied in the various institutions of the state and in the functioning of the government in the New Socialist Republic in North America.
This passage is vitally important, and your letter gives us a chance to explore its meaning and to sharpen up why we disagree with the thrust of your argument. We hope this stirs more dialogue and debate.
A way to start is this. The aim of communist revolution is not to create as many independent national republics as possible. The aim of socialist-communist revolution is to abolish the division of society into different classes...to overcome all inequality and oppressive relations between different peoples and nations...and ultimately to move beyond the fragmentation of the Earth's peoples into separate nations.
There is both a material basis and a great necessity to achieve this "world community of freely associating human beings." Let's get into this.
The material basis lies in the fact that human society has reached a certain threshold. The productive forces—tools and machinery, technology, transport and infrastructure, as well as people themselves with their knowledge and capabilities—have developed to a level that now makes it possible to put an end to all exploitation, to overcome material scarcity, and to allow for the all-around development of society and the individuals who make it up.
These productive forces are highly socialized: they can only be utilized by vast numbers and networks of people, interconnected with each other and working together to produce what is used by people throughout society. These productive forces are also highly globalized: think about auto assembly or computer manufacture, the production of parts, the sources of raw materials, the transport of goods, and so forth. The labor of hundreds, even thousands, of people, from distant and different parts of the planet, can (and typically does) go into a single product.
But these productive forces are privately controlled by the capitalist class. The wage-laborers who are the backbone of this socialized production—the proletarians who own no property other than their capacity to work and who must work for capital in order to survive—are exploited for capitalist profit. This system of capitalist ownership and production for profit leads to immense suffering and deprivation for the great mass of humanity; it leads to destructive competition, rivalries, and economic crises; it leads to the devastation of the ecosystems of the planet.
And in its imperialist stage, capitalism results in the systematic plunder and oppression of entire nations and peoples by a relative handful of "great powers," with wars of conquest and domination against those peoples and wars of division and redivision among the imperialist powers.
The proletariat is the class that represents cooperative labor and efforts. It is an international class, and the proletarian revolution is an international revolution to bring about a radically different and profoundly liberating way of utilizing productive forces and organizing society: on the basis of social cooperation and common social ownership. This revolution institutes new relations that make it possible to utilize highly socialized and highly globalized productive forces in a rational way on an international scale—for the benefit of world humanity and to enable humanity to truly become caretakers of the planet.
But we face a great challenge. The world proletarian revolution proceeds unevenly: socialist revolutions will not take hold in all of the world at once, or over a short time span. This presents an acute contradiction that Bob Avakian's new synthesis speaks to.
On the one hand, in those countries or regions where revolutions do take place, it will be necessary to consolidate power and to build and defend socialism in a world in which imperialism will still be dominant for some time. On the other hand, any new socialist state must be developed first and foremost as a base area of the world revolution. But, and Avakian's new synthesis also addresses this, the material-social reality of a relatively independent socialist state will exert conservatizing pulls on the new society to look at the world "from that country on out" and to place its interests above the larger interests of humanity—and this will provide soil for new capitalist forces seeking to restore the bourgeois order. And this will be the case very far into the transition to a world of freely associating human beings.
Further, in the final analysis, the problems confronting world humanity and the challenges of meeting the environmental emergency and protecting and preserving the planet's ecosystems cannot be fundamentally solved within a nation-state framework, even if the entire planet were made up of socialist states determined in intent to advance along the socialist road. This emphasizes from another angle why our goal is not to create as many independent republics as we can.
But this does not mean that overcoming inequality between nations is unimportant—far from it! It is a major task and necessity of the transition to communism. Given the existing state of the world, we will not be able to achieve a world community of freely associating human beings without waging deepgoing revolutionary struggle and transformation to overcome the division of the globe into oppressor and oppressed nations; to combat national inequality in all its manifestations; and through this whole process to forge the voluntary union of nations, peoples, and nationalities.
The oppression of whole peoples—Native Americans, Black people, Mexican-Americans, and other minority nationalities—is foundational to the history and development of what is today the United States. Overcoming the legacy of the oppression and injustice perpetrated by the old order requires a multipronged struggle and would be a crucial task of the new revolutionary power. It would require a society-wide orientation for overcoming national oppression.
This includes policies of combating discrimination in all spheres of society, and waging society-wide struggle against the ideology of racism. It includes upholding the equality of languages and cultures and promoting diversity of cultures in all spheres—conducting education around the histories and cultures of these oppressed nationalities among all peoples. The new socialist state will promote integration on the basis of equality in workplaces, neighborhoods, and schools, bringing people of different nationalities into closer contact with each other. There are still other dimensions. For example, the Constitution sets forth policies for overcoming uneven regional development that reinforces national oppression (as in the rural areas of the Southwest) and for giving social-economic priority to "raising up those on the bottom" of society.
Another aspect of this societal approach to uprooting national oppression is providing the opportunity for oppressed nationalities, including African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Native Americans, to live in areas of significant concentration of that nationality and to exercise self-government in autonomous regions. This would take place within the overall territory and legal-economic framework of the New Socialist Republic. (The Constitution also makes provisions to form autonomous areas in cities with significant concentrations of particular oppressed nationalities.) The Constitution sets out the principle that "autonomous regions not only have the necessary territories but also the resources that will enable a real flourishing of these peoples." At the same time, nobody from an oppressed nationality would have to live in such an area and different oppressed peoples may or may not choose to exercise the option to set up such areas.
The Constitution upholds the right of self-determination, up to and including secession, for African-Americans. Many people will join the revolution out of a desire to liberate their own peoples. This will be an important strand and element of the struggle for power and to remake society—and our revolution must give powerful expression to that. The Constitution takes account of the fact that the demand for a separate state for Black people has an historical basis (more on this in a moment) and may gain ground and be raised by different forces and sections within the African-American population.
The right of minority nationalities to form autonomous regions and the right of self-determination for Black people are inscribed in the Constitution. But rights are not requirements. Whether these rights will be exercised will be decided through careful deliberation—and the provisions for exercising these rights, if people so desire, are treated with great seriousness and in considerable detail in the Constitution.
In your letter, you refer to "the Leninist principle of oppressed nationalities to self-determination." But the right of oppressed nations to secede and form an independent state, though it was one critical aspect, was not the totality of the Leninist approach. The Soviet revolution that came to power in 1917 under Lenin's leadership developed a variety of solutions for eradicating national oppression.
The Soviet revolution created the world's first multi-national state system based on equality of nationalities. The right of self-determination for the former oppressed nations of the old tsarist empire was recognized. In the cases of minority nationalities which were not nations (and we will return to that distinction shortly), autonomous regions or areas were established, and considerable resources were devoted towards their economic, social, and cultural development. Party leaders and government, school, and enterprise administrators were trained from among the former oppressed nationalities. Russians, who had been the dominant nationality and whose language had been imposed on people before the revolution, were encouraged to learn non-Russian languages—as part of the larger struggle against what was called "great nation Russian chauvinism." Native cultures and languages flourished (the state even helped create written alphabets for languages that previously had none). In short, the attack on national oppression took many different forms.
To return to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic of North America (Draft Proposal), the ensemble of measures set forth in it—and the whole orientation embodied in it—opens up a vision of a whole different kind of society. The framework in this Constitution builds on the revolutions of the past, but it goes beyond what's previously been achieved. In the new society the struggle against national oppression will be ongoing, proceeding through waves, and it will be a site and source of tremendous ferment and vitality...part of keeping the entire society on the revolutionary road.
In your letter, you also argue that the right of self-determination applies to all oppressed nationalities. But this right applies to oppressed nations, which have the basis to form independent states—and not all oppressed nationalities have developed into nations.
Whether a community of people is a nation is something that can only be determined according to objective criteria. A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a common territory, common language, common economic life, and common culture. Historically, the emergence of nations has been linked to the spread of commodity production, the rise of bourgeois classes, and growth of capitalist markets over definable territories.
Of particular relevance to this discussion: the processes welding a people into a nation result in an economic and social interconnectedness that provides the material basis, a cohesiveness, to establish an independent nation-state. Lacking a material basis, the right of self-determination is not meaningful.
African-Americans were forged into a nation through a distinct historical process. This process began in the period of enslavement and took a leap following the Civil War. Stripped of their rights and denied land after the reversal of Reconstruction, Black people were transformed in their great majority into semi-feudal sharecroppers. On the foundation of an oppressive plantation-industrial system, a common economic life and a process of class differentiation gradually took shape among Black people in a common territory, within the southern part of the United States.
In the 20th century, the situation of Black people underwent further development, when in great numbers they were transformed from peasants into urbanized proletarians subjected to new forms of national oppression. A great migration, in two waves, took place from South to North, but there remains a large concentration of Black people in the South.
The common experience of oppression, and the fact that African-Americans had been welded into a grouping of people with all the basic characteristics of a nation in the South, underpins the right of self-determination. There exists a material-social and historical basis for the creation of an independent African-American state.
But the right to form an independent state is not presented in the Constitution as the highest goal or the solution to the oppression of Black people. It is posed as one possible pathway, a right people would have. The Constitution also poses that actually undertaking secession would be a very consequential and momentous decision. For this reason, provisions are made to allow such a decision to be made voluntarily and with the kind of deliberation required.
Now if we turn to the situation of the Native American peoples, their historical development is different from that of the African-American people. The various Indian peoples have their own common histories, as well as common linguistic and cultural bonds. The federal "reservation" system functioned to keep the Indian peoples in an enforced state of dependency. Internal economic development (on the reservations) was blocked and class differentiation was held back. As a result of these and other historical and social factors, the Indian peoples did not develop into a distinct nation or nations, in the scientific sense. Their historical development does not provide the basis to form viable, separate nation states.
Yet Native Americans have suffered, and continue to suffer, savage oppression. Their rights as peoples have been brutally violated: rights to land and resources, to the preservation and development of distinct cultures, and to equal participation in society as a whole. The Constitution speaks to this. It upholds the right of autonomy for the Indian peoples as part of the larger societal effort to overcome the scars of oppression and injustice perpetrated by the old system.
To say that the right of self-determination applies to African-American people but not to all oppressed nationalities is not to say that one people's oppression is "worse" than another's, or that one deserves "more" than another. It is to say that specific historical and socioeconomic factors have shaped the development of different oppressed nationalities. And the socialist state must take account of these particularities in order to develop appropriate policies and effective measures to overcome national oppression and establish the most favorable conditions for the voluntary union of nationalities.
But these particular policies flow from the same common imperative of overcoming inequality and digging up the roots of national and all oppression. And these policies serve the common long-term struggle to revolutionize and move society towards that "world community of freely associating human beings."
In your letter, you also argue that the Constitution is wrong in not providing the same decision-making mechanisms for establishing a separate state in parts of the Southwest that apply to the African-American people—and, thus, equality is being compromised. We want to speak to this.
The Constitution anticipates a complex situation in the Southwest region of what is today the United States. It highlights major variables: "the nature of the society and government, and the level and character of revolutionary struggle in Mexico" and "the actual extent of territory which has been liberated through the revolution" that led to the creation of the New Socialist Republic in North America.
To this it adds: "At the same time, the necessary consideration shall be given to the situation in the world as a whole, in determining how to proceed with regard to this region. In this overall context, and also taking into account the sentiments and the aspirations of the people in the region, in particular those of Mexican origin and descent, the question of whether to return at least parts of this region to Mexico, and/or whether there should be established, within parts of this region, a country that is separate from both Mexico and the New Socialist Republic in North America, shall be taken up by the government of the New Socialist Republic in North America" (emphasis only in this reply).
This would be a situation where many complicated and interweaving factors would be in play, and all kinds of unforeseen circumstances. The Constitution is emphasizing that the new socialist government would have the responsibility to scientifically assess and sort things out, again "taking into account," as the Constitution says, "the sentiments and the aspirations of the people in the region, in particular those of Mexican origin and descent." In doing so, it must be guided by principles of proletarian internationalism (what will most advance the world revolution) and the commitment to redress the historical oppression of the Mexican-American people. On this basis, the socialist government would develop specific policies and appropriate mechanisms of popular review and decision-making.
In your letter, you state that the Party's position on Mexican-Americans reflects "that Mexicans must not be a major voting bloc in the RCP because it's difficult to see such a vital issue as self-determination not being vital enough to correct."
This is wrong. A genuine communist party, its leadership and membership, does not approach issues on the basis of "my nationality first." Were it to do so, such a party would be communist only in name and degenerate into a hodgepodge of competing interest groups, each "looking out for its own." We are proceeding from the needs of world humanity...that is what guides us.
Communism is an international movement whose goal is to emancipate all of humanity. The socialist society we strive to build, and whose principles and structures are set forth in the Constitution, must function first and foremost as a base area for the advance of the world revolution towards communism. If we were to put the interests of this or that nationality, or even the entire population of the country, above the larger interests of the world revolution—we would no longer be a vanguard leading people to radically remake society and the world to get rid of all forms of exploitation and oppression and all enslaving ideas and traditions. We would be stopping short of that, ultimately becoming an obstacle to the realization of that goal, clinging to narrow and particular interest.
Further, we are materialist in our basic approach—we analyze the world as it is, scientifically ascertaining the underlying dynamics and motive forces that give rise to the phenomena in the world. In short, we dig into material reality, scientifically, to grasp why things are the way they are, and how they can change, in a way that can actually open the pathway to where humanity can go, and the only positive resolution to the problems it confronts—communism.
Now in making revolution and in building the new socialist society, many people will be proceeding from the standpoint of overcoming the oppression of their nationality. The hand of unity must be held out to these people and we must join together and learn from each other in struggling to overcome national oppression. This will be critically important to the whole of society. But the solid core of the leadership of the new society must proceed from nothing less than the emancipation of all of humanity and base itself on the science of communism.
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Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
From "A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity"
The following excerpt is taken from a special issue of Revolution newspaper, "A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity," published for International Women's Day, March 8, 2009. Anyone who has any desire to know why HALF of humanity remains in chains because of their gender... who wants to understand the oppression of women AND what can actually be done to radically uproot this oppression and bring into being a world without it... needs to read, discuss and get deeply into this Declaration. Go online at revcom.us, visit a Revolution Books store (listed on page 15), or ask your local Revolution newspaper distributor to help you get a copy of this Declaration.
Imagine if the pent-up anger, as well as the creativity and yearning for a different way of living, that burns inside women were unleashed and given conscious direction; if it became fuel in not only challenging any and every form of women's oppression but in contributing to the development and revolutionization of society and the world as a whole.
Imagine if half of humanity were no longer forced to live with the ever-present knowledge that at any time of day or night, in their own homes or on the street, they could be attacked and raped—by conquering soldiers, predatory strangers, and most often by their own so-called "lovers." Imagine what it would feel like if women could walk the earth truly free of that kind of fear.
It's not just a dream—it is possible.
In many ways, and particularly for men, the woman question and whether you seek to completely abolish or to preserve the existing property and social relations and corresponding ideology that enslave women (or maybe "just a little bit" of them) is a touchstone question among the oppressed themselves. It is a dividing line between "wanting in" and really "wanting out": between fighting to end all oppression and exploitation—and the very division of society into classes—and seeking in the final analysis to get your part in this.
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Imagine if never again did a woman know what it was to sell her body as a desperate last resort to feed herself or her children, or in any other way have her sexuality forced or coerced.
Imagine, instead, if sexuality and intimacy became for everyone something only engaged in when it was free and voluntary and on the basis of mutual respect, equality and a shared desire. Imagine young people growing up with the education and support they need to explore healthy relationships and sex when they are ready, unburdened by physical danger or unnecessary emotional harm.
It's not just a dream—it is possible.
Think what it means that today for men there is no insult that hits harder than being called a "pussy" or a "fag." Now, imagine a day when people look back at today's restrictive notions of gender—of what it is to be a "man" and what it is to be a "woman"—as mind-boggling absurdities of humanity's oppressive past.
Imagine a society in which women were not evaluated on the basis of physical beauty standards, their human worth and potential reduced to one or another body part—but instead were related to as human beings, in the fullest sense.
Imagine if abortion and birth control were available to all women at all times without stigma or apology. Imagine if everyone learned the science surrounding women's biology—as well as science and the scientific method more broadly—so that never again could so-called "holy men" prey on people's ignorance to heap the weight of tradition, the shackles of forced motherhood, and the suffocation of shame on women for exercising these most fundamental rights.
It's not just a dream—it is possible—and it is urgently crying out to be done.
But imagine more than this.
Imagine if all this were insisted on and given guidance and resources by a new revolutionary state and its communist leadership. Now imagine, if in that context and on that foundation, a whole process were unleashed in which debate and dissent were actually encouraged throughout society. Where those who were impatient at the rate of change were not suppressed, but given a platform to criticize and the reins to experiment. Imagine if people from all parts of society and different backgrounds were working together to spring into the air, and to radically change, all of human relations established through thousands of years of tradition's chains.
Imagine if, instead of being a place where people's need for love and compassion is so often frustrated and even mocked, families themselves were undergoing a radical transformation. Imagine marriages and partnerships forged on a truly voluntary basis in a context where love, respect, compassion and equality were increasingly characterizing the way people related throughout society. Imagine if people had privacy and ease of mind within their homes, but if, at the same time, everyone knew that if they experienced abuse or other forms of degradation they would be supported by society and its institutions if they came forward to expose it, struggle against it, or leave.
Imagine if people were aiming to go even further, developing new forms of community and ways in which people sustained each other, and mutually flourished together, that were increasingly breaking down and creating the basis to finally transcend the institution of family based on the narrow—and narrowing—ties of biological kinship.
Imagine if, as a transition to that, in diverse ways, from among different communities and in their interrelations, society as a whole—both men and women—began taking responsibility for and finding joy in the rearing of new generations. Children would no longer be the property of their parents—neither expected to fulfill their parents' dreams nor lacking options because of their parents' hardships—and the idea of "illegitimacy" would again go out of existence and be regarded as the outmoded and outrageous notion it is. Imagine a whole new generation reared with play that no longer inculcated young minds with notions of boys being better than girls or one people better than another. Imagine each new generation coming up instilled with the ethos of a new society that prioritized the common good while unleashing critical thinking, creativity and individual expression.
Imagine a society where creative energies were no longer channeled into ever-descending new ways to demean women and accentuate oppressive social divisions, but instead, without the restrictions of gender or other unequal and oppressive social divisions, people broadly were brought into the process of creating art that uplifts people, challenges them to think critically, and expands their horizons. Imagine boys and men not mired in stupid and exploitative "guy culture," no longer influenced by a lifetime of bombardment with images of women's bodies, half-naked and half-starved, used to sell everything from consumer goods to ideology and wars—boys and men able instead to relate to women as equal human beings. Imagine the flowering of this radically new and liberating culture–founded on equality and mutual respect between men and women and between different cultures and peoples, teeming with diversity, and filled with fun as well as seriousness, meaning as well as humor, critical thought as well as exploration and beauty.
Imagine how all this would create a whole different atmosphere in which people would encounter each other and relate. Imagine the conversations it would give rise to and the new thinking it would generate. Imagine if, as one young woman said after having her horizons expanded by stepping into the revolutionary movement, "you walked into coffee shops and overheard young women talking about philosophy and how to solve humanity's biggest problems instead of the size of their butts." Imagine how this would help fuel and give initiative to, and interact positively with, innovations in the sciences and sports, education and philosophy, and all the other realms of human activity and thought.
Imagine if outbreaks of struggle against vestiges of the oppression of women—even where they ran up against or "disrupted" other important efforts to solve real social needs—were not squashed down or suppressed, but drawn forward, given life and enabled to play a key part in the process of changing the world. If leadership were given so that these challenges, too, became part of learning more deeply about the social transformations that were needed and how the needs of society could be met in new ways, ways that are in line with and a living advance towards the ultimate aim of a communist world, free of all forms of oppression and exploitation.
Utopian? Not in the least.
The RCP, USA has set its sights on making revolution, learning from the world historical experience of the communist revolution and the socialist societies it has brought into being—drawing on the great achievements and summing up the serious problems and errors of those revolutions. To dig more deeply into all that is "imagined" in this excerpt...and how this could actually be brought into being, check out Bob Avakian's talk, "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution" and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (both available at revcom.us, Revolution Books stores and from local Revolution newspaper distributors). Such a visionary and liberating revolution is not a pipedream. There is an actual way to accomplish this—described in the article, "On the Strategy for Revolution" by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. This is now available at revcom.us and next week, this will be published in a special issue of Revolution.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
Interview with Raymond Lotta About Events in Egypt
Revolution: We want to ask you about the uprising in Egypt and its larger implications regionally and internationally. Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world, and the eyes of the world are focused on what is going on there. How would you assess the significance of what has been going on?
Raymond Lotta: There are important issues to get into. The events of the last few weeks mark a major and possibly historic turning point in the imperial status quo in the Middle East.
On the one hand, a new generation of Arab youth has announced that the "normal" workings of society are unacceptable. They have announced that they are ready to die to make a change in how society is governed. They have stood up to the brutal, stifling, and decrepit ruling order headed by Mubarak. This has inspired not only the people in the region but people all over the world.
Now, no one can say with any certainty where all this will go...but already the uprising in Egypt is changing the political landscape and political equation in the Middle East. It is emboldening masses in the Arab world. You hear imperialist ideologues and policy experts talking their talk about the "danger of contagion."
On the other hand, this upsurge is creating new necessity and new difficulties for imperialism, the U.S. in particular. The imperialists have to cope with the possibility that the upsurge will continue to draw support and lead to more massive confrontation with the Egyptian state, and the loss or severe weakening of this regime. There's the potential for rebellion to spread and erupt on a similar scale in other countries in the region—to places like Yemen, Jordan, and even Saudi Arabia. All this is putting tremendous strain on the structures of imperial control in the Middle East, especially America's alliances with local Arab regimes.
This uprising is a big blow to Israel, America's watchdog and most trusted ally in the Middle East. The Israeli political-military leadership is openly concerned that things could rapidly go in a direction where Israel can no longer count on a pliant Egypt to advance its regional agenda. The Israeli-Egypt relationship began with the Camp David agreement engineered by the U.S. in 1979.
So there is this potential unraveling of a certain imperialist status quo in the region.
Revolution: The U.S. has over the years staked a lot on the Mubarak regime and the Egyptian military.
Lotta: Hosni Mubarak has presided over—he's been the extreme personification of—a client regime that serves U.S. interests. The centralization of Mubarak's presidential authority...the intertwining of the Egyptian armed forces with the executive arm of the Egyptian state...the close links between these armed forces and U.S. military and intelligence services...and the way that the Egyptian economy has been structured—all of this serves the needs of U.S. imperialism.
For the last 30 years, Egypt has been a keystone of U.S. imperial dominance in the Middle East. Egypt has opened its air space to U.S. warplanes. It has given Western imperialism unimpeded access to the Suez Canal for commercial and military purposes. It has worked to cajole and pressure governments and political forces in the Arab world to go along with U.S. plans for the region. The Mubarak regime has been used by the U.S. to hold in check Islamic fundamentalist forces that, coming from their own reactionary agendas, are posing obstacles to U.S. imperialism.
As a "peace partner" to Israel, Egypt has enabled the Israeli military to focus its attentions away from the Egypt-Israel border. As a "peace partner," Egypt has been an active accomplice to Israel's violent subjugation of the Palestinian people, as well as enabling Israel to pour hundreds of thousands of Israelis into settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. The regime has helped enforce Israel's blockade of the Palestinian population in Gaza, preventing basic supplies from reaching people. And speaking of supplies, Egypt provides nearly half of Israel's natural gas—gas that fuels Israel's military and its apartheid-like economy.
Part of the strategic calculus of U.S. imperialism has been to solidify client states that can keep a lid on the masses. People need to understand that the U.S. has propped up and legitimized one of the world's most repressive regimes. I saw an estimate that there is 1 police officer per 35 people in Egypt. There's the Emergency Law in effect since 1981 that allows security forces to declare any congregation of four young people an illegal gathering.
You hear Obama now calling for a less repressive and more open regime. It's sickening and it's the height of hypocrisy. Mubarak has been a loyal servant of the U.S. in that part of the world, carrying out its dirty work, and kept in power by American dollars and the American guns.
Revolution: Egypt has been a society of lockdown.
Lotta: Yes, and part of what has made this uprising so electrifying is that this was "not supposed to happen in Egypt." You know The Economist did this special survey last year on Egypt. They made the point that this was the place that Western leaders could go to give a speech and push new policy initiatives when developments in the region dictated...and Mubarak would convene some regional summit. The operating assumption was that Egypt was a stable platform from which the U.S. could project its power and influence, and that Mubarak had effectively fortified the political and social order against any serious resistance.
Now it's not as though there was no opposition and resistance. Over the last decade there have been major strikes and sit-ins by workers, and scattered social protest. But the fact is...an oppressive pall had gripped Egyptian society. Then suddenly, and the rebellion of youth in Tunisia was the spark and inspiration, pent-up anger and frustration burst forth.
It's interesting, I heard this neoconservative pundit on Fox TV. He was saying, Okay, there are a million or two million taking part in this protest, but Egypt, after all, is a country of 80 million. Well, here we have an unintended exposition that "there are masses...and there are masses."
At the very early stages of this uprising, before it was actually an uprising, those determined youth and students who called for and organized for a day and act of protest... they were the advanced masses. And then this took on a whole new dimension and momentum. Then tens and hundreds of thousands were involved—they were the masses stepping forward. They were setting new terms in society...that the status quo as concentrated by and enforced by the Mubarak regime is completely unacceptable...that society as it has functioned has to change...and can change.
The youth in Egypt galvanized the population. And the "unthinkable" happened: the legitimacy of the regime's ruling authority was challenged and the security apparatus defied. One scholar said that the "barrier of fear had been breached"...he meant this on a societal level. It cut across a wide swath of Egyptian society. Lawyers, doctors, and other professionals have joined the youth in the streets. People from the arts and intellectual life are speaking out. One of the things I've heard about—and I've been reading about this on blogs from Cairo—was that during lulls in the showdowns with police and vigilantes in Tahrir Square, the central plaza in Cairo, there have been organized poetry readings. And some of those reciting their verses were wearing head bandages.
Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, has emphasized how the belief that there is "permanent necessity to existing conditions" is a tremendous ideological weight on the masses. It is a belief that keeps people within the confines of what is. The uprising in Egypt is a powerful demonstration that "things do not have to be this way"...this is part of its profound significance.
Revolution: People want to know why this broke out in Egypt with the fury that it did. You've talked about the repressiveness of the regime and the awakening of the youth. But how do you see the role of economic and social factors in what has happened?
Lotta: It's important to understand that this rebellion is also an expression of a deep structural crisis in Egyptian society. You see, there have been vast economic, social, and demographic changes over the last three decades.
Egypt's population grew from 42 million in 1980 to 80 million today...and close to two-thirds of the population is under 30 years of age.
In terms of the economy: Beginning in the late 1970s and taking a big leap in the mid-1990s, the Egyptian ruling class has carried out the "neoliberal" growth model pushed by the U.S. and the IMF and World Bank. This set of policies and priorities revolves around opening the door wider to foreign investment...privatizing and selling off government assets to rich investors...and greatly cutting back government support for housing and social services and education relative to the growth of the population.
Revolution: So what have been the consequences of this?
Lotta: Much of the globalized foreign capital entering Egypt, and Great Britain and the U.S. are the largest foreign investors...much of this capital has gone into finance and natural gas, sectors that generate few jobs. The work force is growing rapidly, but the majority of workers now have to rely on low-paying and irregular jobs with no protections or benefits. This growth model has also given rise to rampant and rapacious land speculation and to bloated investment in tourism. In the last few years, Russian and Chinese investment capital has opened sweatshop factory production.
The Egyptian military is up to its eyeballs in this. I'm talking about retired army and security officials holding lucrative posts in state-owned textile companies and the petroleum industry, the military being heavily invested in hotels and construction.
This whole trajectory of development has diverted resources from agriculture. The peasantry has been pressed harder and is losing land to government-favored developers and landholding elites. Egypt depends on the world market to supply half of its food needs. People probably don't know that Egypt is the world's largest importer of wheat. Meanwhile, globalization has made Egypt more vulnerable to jolts in the world economy, like the unprecedented rise in world food prices.
A tiny stratum of Egypt's wealthy has benefited, while poverty and squalor have spread. 40 percent of Egypt's population lives near or below the poverty level...I'm talking about families subsisting on $2 a day. The unemployment rate for young people is 75 percent. With wealth becoming more concentrated...with foreign capital becoming more dominant...and with the economy more skewed to financial services—you have a situation where traditional opportunities for advance have been closed off. Much of the middle class has been disintegrating. And it says a lot that 30 percent of Egypt's university graduates are unemployed.
Revolution: So that's the economic side of Egypt's dependent and client state relationship to imperialism.
Lotta: Well, it's a major part of the story. And the social impacts have been enormous.
There's chaotic urbanization. There's unsustainable geographic concentration of population...unsustainable economically and ecologically. Greater Cairo is now a city of some 18 million people. Half of Cairo's population lives in shantytowns and self-built neighborhoods, and lacks basic social services. Diseases that had basically been wiped out, like smallpox and tuberculosis, have become epidemic again.
The region's ecosystems are severely stressed. The water level of the Nile River is declining. The cities are thick with air pollution. Soil fertility has declined and agricultural land has been lost to urbanization and desert winds. Infrastructure is lacking and there is a sewage crisis...
You know, an Arab literary critic wrote an essay last year in New Left Review that starts with an account of the transformations of urban space in Egypt. He then talks about how a new wave of Egyptian fiction has been narrating the fragmentation and desperation of social life...the widening chasm between popular sentiment and the collusion of the Egyptian ruling class with the crimes of the U.S. and Israel...and how everything seems to conspire against change. The essay ends with this incredibly suggestive phrase that the "the novel of the closed horizon is the genre of an intolerable condition."
This brings me back to the upsurge. You see, these convulsive economic, social, and demographic changes have been straining against the existing institutional framework of social order and governance. And now this uprising has seriously ruptured that framework—punctured its ideological legitimacy and undercut its political efficacy. This is part of the political and social combustibility of things. It's another expression of the fact there is "no permanent necessity to existing conditions."
Revolution: So here we are, more than two weeks out from the initial protests, and the crisis continues. It would be helpful to get some of your thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of the upheaval.
Lotta: This uprising has shaken the foundations of Egyptian society, throwing it into a profound legitimacy crisis. Almost overnight, diverse sections of the population have come into political life. You see these new energies and new mixes...highly educated youth rubbing shoulders with the urban poor along the barricades.
As communists, we support this rebellion. It is of great moment in the Arab world and for the world as a whole. At the same time we have the responsibility to examine and analyze this upheaval in a deepgoing way.
A complex array of social and political forces is in motion. The youth at the heart of the uprising are setting an example for others, and changing the whole discourse in Egyptian society and the Middle East. But there are also real limitations of understanding and outlook. And as this struggle takes new turns and faces new challenges, these limitations stand out the more.
There is great confusion about the Egyptian military. Many people in the mass movement have been influenced by the official mythology that the military is an independent force standing above society and would not turn on the people. But the military is the institution that enforces the dominant economic and social relations of exploitation and subordination to imperialism. In its organization and training and hierarchy, the military reflects these relations. The paramount mission of the military is to maintain the existing social order—at the point of the gun.
The U.S. plays a major role in the Egyptian military. It equips it with advanced weaponry, like F-16 fighters and Abrams tanks. It also helps train Egypt's military leadership. For three decades, high-ranking members in the Egyptian officer corps have studied at U.S. military schools.
The article in last week's issue of Revolution ["The 'Grand'—and Deadly—Illusion"] is very important. It talks about the lessons of history, when people have not understood or wished away the class nature of the military and its role as the pillar of existing state power. Lessons paid in blood in Chile, Indonesia, and other places.
Right now, the Egyptian military is U.S. imperialism's most vital asset in its plans to engineer and push through some kind of transition that keeps the client state and its regional role intact—whether Mubarak stays or goes.
Revolution: The U.S. is extolling the Egyptian military, and also calling for elections.
Lotta: Yeah, the bullet and the ballot. With the old systems of control in Egypt being challenged, Obama and other representatives of imperialism peddle this notion of "free and fair elections."
But let's look beneath the surface. The U.S. imperialists, Israel, and the Egyptian ruling class are maneuvering to defuse and crush the rebellion. You have reactionary social forces, like the Muslim Brotherhood, and various liberal-bourgeois forces, like those grouped around Mohamed El-Baradei, associating with the upsurge...but seeking to ride it to their advantage. In the name of this upsurge, they want to negotiate new arrangements and accommodations with the dominant fractions of the Egyptian ruling class. The U.S. imperialists have encouraged their participation in a "transition process" that suits U.S. interests. Without a real revolution, without a real transformation of the underlying economic and social relations in society, any elections—if they should happen—would be for the purpose of legitimizing a new arrangement of social forces which would be as beholden to imperialism as Mubarak.
Revolution: This interplay of different social and class forces is part of the dynamic of a crisis situation, where a critical mass of the population has rebelled and stood up to the regime.
Lotta: Absolutely. The youth don't want a return to the old order. Both El-Baradei and the Muslim Brotherhood are advocates of the capitalist market system. Neither has a program or the intention of breaking with dependency on the world market.
As for the Muslim Brotherhood, well, its medieval view of social relations, its stand towards women...that says a lot in itself. And, though it is not now openly calling for an Islamic Republic, regressive Sharia law is foundational to its view of how society should be organized. Politically, the Muslim Brotherhood has had on-again-off-again relations with the ruling regimes. In the 1970s, it was used by then president Anwar Sadat as a battering ram in the universities against left and socialist forces.
These bourgeois liberal and Islamic forces cannot speak to the depth of people's outrage or the loftiest sentiments people have for change. This is the reality of the situation. But another part of reality is this: without a communist movement and pole in society, people will not be able, in their thinking or in their actions, to get beyond the economic, political, and ideological horizons of the bourgeois world.
We communists stand for a revolution that can put an end to the horrors of the world. A revolution that empowers people to construct a society where human beings are no longer exploited, no longer competing with each other, no longer brutally oppressed. A revolution that can put a stop to the plunder and destruction of the planet and that can unleash the creativity, the critical thinking, and highest aspirations of masses everywhere. A revolution that makes it possible for people to join together to transform the world and themselves in the most liberating ways.
The first decisive step is to defeat and dismantle the oppressive structures and military force of the old order—and on that basis to establish a radically new and different state power and socialist economy that serve the struggle to achieve a communist world without classes and social divisions.
Bob Avakian has developed a vision of socialist society that speaks to people's desire for truly fundamental change. He has built on but gone beyond the experience of socialist revolution in the 20th century. He has developed the path for humanity to get to a whole other place. This is a factor of enormous potential in today's world, especially in relation to the kind of awakening taking place in the Arab world and the need to "bring forward another way" that can enable people to break out of the ideological vice-grip of Western imperialist ideology, on the one hand, and Islamic fundamentalism, on the other.
Revolution: This is a very dynamic and fluid situation in Egypt, with the Egyptian state and its U.S. backers moving to take control of things...and with the masses of people showing continuing determination.
Lotta: I've stressed how the upsurge and crisis of rule in Egypt reveal that there is "no permanent necessity to existing conditions." But this situation also brings into acute relief the importance of political and ideological and organizational preparation by revolutionary communists, influencing the thinking of people in a revolutionary direction. This is the strategic work of hastening while awaiting a revolutionary situation, work that has to be going on all along and before the emergence of a crisis like this.
Now in the absence of genuine communist forces, even in a crisis this severe, there won't, at least in the short run, be fundamental and radical change. But that's not the whole, or the end, of the story. Where communist forces do not exist, there is a special responsibility to spread analysis and understanding that can help nurture the development of such forces in this part of the world. It is very exciting to hear that efforts are underway to translate into Arabic Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Look, the upheaval in Egypt has brought forward all kinds of positive elements: in people's courage and determination...in the ways that diverse sections of the population have joined together in common action...in how people have taken collective responsibility to solve problems of security and provisioning of supplies. Coming on the heels of the uprising in Tunisia, a certain quiescence in the Arab world has been shattered.
The ground is shaking in Egypt. This upsurge and showdown with the government is posing incredible challenges. The masses need communist leadership to maximize advances towards revolution at all times, and especially in a situation like this where the right and ability of the ruling powers is being called into question. But this is also ground on which a new generation of communists can be forged. It is ground on which people can make great leaps in understanding and organization, as they confront the government and in the swirl of contending currents and programs. This can be a major impetus towards catalyzing revolutionary sentiments and revolutionary organization.
My point is that a non-revolutionary and reactionary resolution of this crisis is not the only possible outcome.
Revolution: Earlier you touched on some of the geopolitical implications of this crisis. Maybe we can get into this some more.
Lotta: We have to pull the lens back. The Middle East is a region of immense geostrategic importance for imperialism. I mean this in terms of energy supplies and trade routes crucial to the functioning of the world capitalist economy. I mean this in the historical sense...the Middle East has been a fulcrum of rivalry among the imperial powers. Since the end of World War 2, U.S. dominance in the region has been critical to its global dominance.
U.S. imperialism has launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it's built a network of alliances with client states, it has forged tighter economic linkages and tried to build up new social bases of support among the middle classes. It's done these things to maintain and tighten its grip on the region. As I've emphasized, Egypt has been critical to U.S. dominance in the region. It has allowed for the continuous flow of oil. It has had a de facto alliance with Israel. It has served as a counterweight to Iran or any other country that the U.S. sees as gaining too much power and influence in the region.
Events are unfolding rapidly in this crisis, and in unexpected ways. The U.S. is seeking to salvage the Egyptian client state...seeking to limit the spillover effects of this uprising in other parts of the Middle East...seeking to shore up its flanks in other countries while not appearing to "meddle."
But this is a tall order. The crisis in Egypt could go towards civil war, and introduce a whole new level of instability in the region. In Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, pro-U.S. regimes are sitting atop populations that are angry with government repression, corruption, and collusion with the U.S. If the masses in Egypt push Mubarak out, this could set off firestorms elsewhere. Some of these lackey regimes are also worried that the U.S. might decide to carry out its own preemptive regime shifts.
How the Israeli settler-colonial state reads these developments will also be a major factor in the developing situation. If events get more out of hand in Egypt, if a new regime appears to jeopardize Israel's access to the Suez Canal...Israel may decide to redeploy military forces to its southern border with Egypt. If regional developments tilt things towards Iran's regional advantage, whether or not Iran acts to press any such advantage directly...Israel might decide to assert its regional military dominance and launch a strike against Iran.
There are other elements in the larger picture. For instance, Western Europe has significant Arab populations and the upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East could light a spark there.
Revolution: Avakian analyzed what he called a "cauldron of contradictions." This was at the time of 9/11 and as the U.S. was making its war moves. These things seem to be an expression of that cauldron.
Lotta: Yes, and there are significant developments, regionally and globally, that are interpenetrating with this political crisis in Egypt. To begin with, the U.S. has encountered major difficulties in waging its wars for greater empire in Iraq and Afghanistan. The weakening of the Mubarak regime in these circumstances adds to its mounting difficulties in the region. And then there is the global economic crisis that broke out in 2008-09. The crisis has introduced new instabilities into the world imperialist system. It has accentuated economic rivalry among the great powers. It has heightened the suffering of the masses of the world.
In the Middle East, country growth rates have declined. The earnings of migrant workers, and these earnings are important sources of family incomes, have fallen greatly. Investment capital has been flowing into and out of countries of the region with greater volatility. The employment crisis I mentioned earlier with regard to Egypt has grown more dire throughout the region with the onset of the global crisis. The problem of food—the run-up in food prices, the growing inability of governments to subsidize food purchases, and food shortages—is very defining of social-economic distress in the region.
Revolution: You are arguing that these are politically volatile elements of the current situation.
Lotta: Yes, and they are part of why I believe that what is happening in Egypt right now, and possible convergences of contradictions, can have enormous effects on regional and international relations.
The upheaval in Egypt is bringing the masses onto the stage in a geostrategic part of the world. It is a fresh wind for all who yearn for liberation, for radical change, it is a summoning to all who are dissatisfied with the way things are. At the same time, this is a highly fraught situation. Already, 300 people have been murdered by the security forces, and thousands have been detained throughout the country. A vicious military crackdown is clearly part of the Mubarak-Suleiman regime's immediate contingency planning.
The recent article in Revolution puts it well. A challenge has been issued by the courageous youth of Egypt, and everyone who wants to see another way brought forward in this world of oppression is called upon to support them politically.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
Communism: the Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA has been released in English, Spanish, Turkish and Farsi. The Manifesto needs to be gotten out as broadly as possible, including to those who speak Arabic and other languages.
Millions of people are driven to the U.S. by the very workings of U.S. imperialism. Distributing this Manifesto far and wide in this country can serve as an avenue to reach out with this Manifesto to all corners of the world. At the same time, there are millions of people who need to have access to this Manifesto who do not read the languages it has been published in to date. We need this Manifesto to be made available to those millions who speak other languages.
We are calling on people who have the ability to translate into these languages and more (from either English or Spanish) to step forward and step up to meet this pressing need for translations that can reach all those who need to know there is new stage of communism. We envision a movement of people working to produce high quality accurate translations in many languages which can then be distributed all around the world on the Internet and in print.
Anyone who wants to contribute to this should write us, send us drafts of your translations, and ideas on how you can assist in getting the Manifesto translated and out into the world.
Send translations or offers to assist with translation to
RCP Publications, Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654 or email@example.com.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP,USA
[Editor's note: These observations date from early February of this year (before Mubarak's fall) but remain quite relevant.]
** Among other things, what is happening with Hosni Mubarak calls to mind Mao's pungent observation that it is no fun being a lackey of imperialism! Mubarak has, for decades, been kept in power and backed to the hilt by U.S. imperialism, whose interests he has faithfully served and enforced, while collaborating as a junior partner with Israel, in oppressing and suppressing the Palestinian people as well as the people of Egypt.
These imperialists cannot be allowed to get away with keeping in power brutal oppressors of the people, in one country after another...and then, dumping and denouncing them when they prove to no longer be a benefit but a liability to these imperialists.
** Along with all the other outrages—and something which gets at only a part of the towering crimes U.S. imperialism has used these regimes (like Mubarak's) to commit, and the utter hypocrisy of Obama and other U.S. ruling class figures in now condemning the thuggishly repressive nature of these regimes—the questions must be raised: How many of these countries, where hated regimes are now the target of mass upsurges, has the U.S. government "rendered" people to, in order for them to be tortured as part of the so-called "war on terror"? To how many of these countries was the U.S. government, under Obama, continuing to "render" people to be tortured, right up to the time that these mass upsurges against these regimes erupted?
** Amidst the palaver once again, from Obama and other representatives of imperialism, about "free and fair elections" in Egypt and other countries, it is important to point out that what they mean by "free and fair elections" is that things must not be dominated by just one bourgeois, pro-imperialist party, but at least two parties must be allowed to compete, within a framework in which upholding the interests of imperialism is the standard and measure of what is legitimate and acceptable. Look at the U.S. itself as a "model" in this regard: Every election, what do you have? The Democrats and Republicans compete. Two bourgeois, imperialist parties.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
As we go to press, Wisconsin state employees, along with students and supporters from around the state are protesting inside and outside the state capitol building in Madison. Tens of thousand of students, teachers, health workers, public service union members and supporters have been part of the protests—sparked by a plan by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to double health insurance costs for public workers and restrict their collective bargaining rights to only the issue of wages. Hundreds of students are sitting-in and sleeping at the Capitol rotunda and thousands of others are marching throughout the central city area every day. One student from Madison said, "Egypt caught the wave from Tunisia, and now we are surfing the wave from Egypt." Broader forces that currently define American politics are all focusing attention on this confrontation, including belligerent Tea Party reactionaries who have mobilized in support of the governor and been given major promotion. Stay tuned to revcom.us for ongoing coverage.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
Madison, Wisconsin. On Saturday, February 19, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people are in the 5th day of a round-the-clock occupation of the state capitol building. Large and small protest marches demand the defeat of a bill to take away collective bargaining rights for teachers and all public sector employees except firemen or policemen.
|Madison, WI State Capitol Rotunda, Sunday, February 20, 2011
Photo: Larry Redmond
On Friday, February 11, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker introduced a bill that would strip collective bargaining rights from some 300,000 public sector employees in the state. The UK Guardian characterized this as the "most sustained union-bashing measures proposed in the US for decades."
On Tuesday, February 15, 13,000 people descended on the Wisconsin State capitol in Madison in protest and every day since then the crowds have grown. Across the state there was an immediate response, a defiant NO! The mass protest spread like wildfire. High school students staged walk outs in support of their teachers; 10% of the teachers in Milwaukee and Green Bay called in sick on Thursday. Schools closed for three days last week in Madison and on Friday in Milwaukee. Hundreds of University of Wisconsin students marched up State Street to the capitol, and thousands came from UW campuses around the state. People from small towns and cities, as well as Milwaukee, poured into Madison to protest this attack.
|Madison, WI State Capitol Rotunda, Sunday, February 20, 2011
Photo: Larry Redmond
The bill was scheduled to be passed on Thursday, February 17, by the Republican majority, but with thousands of protestors occupying the capitol and resolutely demanding "Kill the Bill", the 14 Democratic state senators left Wisconsin. This meant that the Senate could not constitute the quorum needed to take a vote. As of today (Tuesday), they are still in Illinois and the bill has been prevented from passing.
Coming into town you begin to see people with protest signs standing along the side of the road a mile before you get to the capitol building, the epicenter of the protest. On the way into town we went past West High School where a couple hundred people were gathered—with more coming in—and this protest was a small foretaste of the thousands and thousands at the capitol itself.
Inside the capitol building itself are thousands more, while huge crowds circulate around the building outside. There is a joyous feel to all this, a certain festival atmosphere of taking things into their own hands. Under the dome of the Wisconsin state capitol building, people are stacked wall to wall and shoulder to shoulder, three stories high; they have occupied the building 24 hours a day since Tuesday the 15th. The chanting is so loud that people congregate in little groups on the staircases to talk. The two main chants are "This is what democracy looks like" and "Kill the Bill." Banners of support from around the country vie for space with banners listing demands, including the principal demand to "Kill the Bill," as well as other demands such as "recall Scott Walker." At the official information center on the second floor there is a poster where people can list the schools that have been closed by teachers "sick outs."
Teachers, health care workers, social workers told us: "This is not about the money. They are trying to take away our ability to advocate for the peoples' needs. This will be a disaster for the kids, they want to privatize the schools. They want to silence our voice so they can destroy public education, public health care and social services. We are advocates for the students, for the poor. We care deeply about the children and the future of public education. If they can silence our voice, then it's their world."
One high school student expressed the sentiments of many: "I love my teacher, I came out to support the teachers. This will crush the teachers union. It will be more difficult to get the resources the schools need. It will destroy the schools. If we can get enough people out here, we can turn this around."
Political analysts from the Christian Science Monitor to the New York Times have posed that in a "time when large and tense demonstrations have been increasingly rare in America" this outpouring could spark an "Egypt like moment." (CSM) Salted through the crowds were references to the uprisings in Egypt and the Middle East: on an entrance to the Rotunda inside the capital building "Welcome to Wis-Cairo," "Mubarak, Walker—one down one to go." "Walk like an Egyptian." A couple women in their late twenties, who made a point that they worked for a union in the private sector but were there because this struggle was so important, commented that "Egypt caught the wave from Tunisia, we caught the wave from Egypt and now we are passing it on. We are all surfers now." We laughed together as we considered the image of surfing in the cold Wisconsin air.
People proudly identified themselves as NOT directly affected by the attack this bill represented—but were there in support of the rights of teachers and other public sector workers. Taking a stand at this crucial time in this crucial place. They carried signs like "I'm not part of a union but I still support those who are." Firefighters, who were exempted (along with police) from the attack, joined the protest in groups. Doctors in their white coats came to write excused absences for teachers who called in sick. A number of Green Bay Packers publicly supported the protesters, most prominently Charles Woodson, NFL defensive player of the year. Religious leaders in Illinois publicly offered their homes and churches as sanctuary for the 14 Democratic state senators.
One woman came up to us and said, "It's about time we stopped being nice!" It took a minute but we realized she was talking about this protest marking an end to "finding common ground" with right-wing fascists.
And references to the danger of fascism, permanent Republican Control, right-wing domination of the political agenda...these sprang up here and there as people reflected on what passage of this bill would mean broadly in society. Or commented on the fact that Walker was only one of a number of Republican governors pushing this agenda. A few people referenced Hitler's 1933 decree outlawing trade unions in the Third Reich.
The new statement "On the Strategy for Revolution" describes "sudden jolts and breakdowns in the 'normal functioning' of society, which compel many people to question and to resist what they usually accept." This is definitely one of those jolts where people have poured into the streets in resistance against a reactionary attempt to crush the union as part of an overall strategy of dismantling public education and public social services. At this point the people identify the problem as the Republican Governor Walker. But the statement makes a very important point that these are the kind of situations "in which many more people are searching for answers and open to considering radical change," and that through such situations, leaps can be made in building up the movement and the organized forces for revolution, creating in this way a stronger basis from which to work for further advances.
With this in mind we took out "The Revolution We Need, and the Leadership We Have" (the Message and Call) very broadly. It was crazy loud inside and outside the capitol and difficult to get into discussions but we were able to talk briefly. People were generally not thinking that revolution is what's needed, but most were very open to it, wanting to know "what kind of revolution are you talking about?" The palm card for Bob Avakian's Revolution Talk went like hotcakes because it said "Revolution" on it. The palm card for the Constitution For The New Socialist Republic In North America (Draft Proposal) raised more serious questions about communism and what kind of society are you talking about? In getting out Bob Avakian's statement on Egypt: "Egypt 2011: Millions Have Heroically Stood Up...The Future Remains to be Written" and Revolution with Egypt on the cover, many people did not know much about what happened in Egypt. University students were more aware and commented on getting inspiration from it.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
From A World to Win News Service
February 14, 2011. A World to Win News Service. The Egyptian people have accomplished something great. They are to be congratulated, admired and emulated. They have earned the right to a mighty celebration. Everywhere people are happy for them and for what their achievement may mean for today's intolerable order in the region and the globe.
In a word, they have made their voices and their lives count. Because this is real, not just rhetoric, it has consequences:
—They have brought down a tyrant whose rule has been a pillar of American domination of the Middle East, the dispossession of the Palestinian people, the enslavement of Egypt to alien interests and the robbery and humiliation of its people.
—In the course of a few weeks, they have awoken to political life and surged onto the political stage in their millions, breaking the chains of hopelessness and cynicism that have held them and too many of the world's people captive.
—They have truly taken the initiative in their hands, creating a situation all too rare in today's world, one where events have been driven mainly by the struggle of the people and not the maneuvering of reactionaries.
This has demonstrated a truth that far fewer people would have been able to see only a short time ago: that even in a region where the status quo has seemed as eternal as it is hated, the reactionaries big and small are not necessarily the masters of people's fate. Their power depends on guns, deception and the people's passivity, and now that the people have been able to shake that power mightily, we can all more clearly see how it might be possible to go even further.
In addition to revealing the weaknesses of the rulers, the Egyptian movement has also revealed something often hidden about the people themselves: their ability to transform themselves as they transform the world around them.
Without exaggerating what can be done in a few days in a few square blocks of one city, the people massed in Cairo's Tahrir Square gave themselves and the world at least a glimpse of another kind of society.
The square was once the location of a British colonial barracks. Later it was surrounded by vast buildings symbolizing the country's continuing foreign domination and the cement-worshipping, soulless might of a regime that has been foreign capital's greedy local partner. Once a venue for protests, its roundabout and roads were redesigned to exclude strollers and crowds.
But in the course of 18 days, it became a place where people demonstrated their determination to end oppression and their willingness to take risks and make sacrifices with no thought to personal reward, beginning to cherish and take responsibility for not just their own families but brothers and sisters near and far, and finding themselves able to make more individual contributions to collective strength than they ever might have thought possible.
As one demonstrator told a reporter, in Tahrir Square she had a taste of the kind of society people want to live in.
Now that the door to the future has been forced ajar, extremely powerful forces are conspiring to slam it tightly shut again.
Chief among them are the imperialist powers, especially the U.S., along with the UK, Germany, France, Italy and other countries whose rulers have fattened off the looting of the countries they dominate and the exploitation of their peoples. Like Washington and London, Beijing has emphasized its desire for "stability and normal order," not change, in Egypt. (AP, February 12)
Although imperialist hands are often all but unseen in Egypt, their grip extends throughout that society.
Economically, what Egypt produces, and how, is determined by the imperialist-dominated world market and ultimately by the interests of imperialist capital. That is why an exceptionally fertile country with a favorable climate and plentiful water went from being self-sufficient to becoming dependent on imported food, and why 40 percent of its population can barely eat even as others grow obscenely wealthy. The very so-called prosperity that Egypt has undergone in the last decade has meant ruin for many people, while the countryside has stagnated or worse and the capital has become swollen with millions of former peasants hungry for any work. Selling tourist trinkets and services has replaced any project to build up the country. One of Egypt's main sources of income has become the ten percent of its workforce who labor abroad. Educated youth and intellectuals are unable to find any permanent employment, let alone make the kind of contribution to their country's needs that could bring fulfillment.
Why, in a potentially agriculturally rich country with developed industry, one whose people have shown their desire to take care of one another, are there 50,000 children living and starving on the streets of Cairo alone?
The people's misery has been a source of wealth for some. This is not just a matter of corruption, although there has been plenty of it. The "normal workings" of capitalism in this country dominated by foreign capital have enriched the classes most closely associated with that capital, the owners of the banks and big businesses—often monopolies in their field—closely tied to foreign investment and the world market.
This economic set-up has political representatives to enforce it.
For more than half a century, the chief representative of foreign capital has been the army. The army overthrew the monarchy in 1952, bringing an end to British domination, and for several decades starting in the mid-1950s tied its fortunes to the USSR, then emerging as a social-imperialist (socialist in words, imperialist in facts) rival to the U.S.-led bloc. While the U.S. was happy to see the weakening of British influence in Egypt, it worked to make the Egyptian army an instrument of its own political domination.
For the last three decades, Egypt's senior officers have been systematically trained at the National Defense University in Washington and have been in frequent contact with their U.S. counterparts. Over this period the U.S. has handed over a total of $40 billion to the Egyptian military, which ranks second only to Israel as a long-term recipient of the "aid" money the U.S. spends to protect its strategic interests.
This is not just a matter of buying influence, but of shared interests. The Egyptian armed forces directly own a significant section of the country's factories and other enterprises and real estate. Other huge state companies in industries such as textile and petroleum are run by ex-generals. The military is not just the backbone of the state, as it is in every country; it is also a key player in the country's imperialist-dependent economy.
At the same time, while the armed forces have been Hosni Mubarak's political base, his family has used their political position to extend their influence through the private sector and help it expand. These private-sector oligarchs are in their own way also dependent on the state, but friction has broken out between them and some armed forces leaders.
No one can deny that the U.S. kept Mubarak in power for three decades, even though some people in the Obama administration are now trying to blame Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and not the president for the embarrassing fact that the U.S. tried to cling to him until his next-to-last day. (New York Times, February 14, 2011) Now it seems that even General Omar Suleiman, Mubarak's right-hand man and eleventh-hour Vice President, the man Washington officials publicly named as their second choice if Mubarak became unsustainable, may have become so closely associated with Mubarak's refusal to resign that he, too, has become politically unviable. But as Egyptians said when they heard rumors that Mubarak is dying, the dead have long ruled Egypt.
When it comes to those who represent the dead hand of the past squeezing the living, the U.S. can still count on the Egyptian armed forces. Mubarak personally appointed his generals and had the power to determine the composition of the entire officer corps. (Some people think that because 40 percent of soldiers are conscripts, the Egyptian army as an institution is "one hand with the people." Actually, the wall between officers and the rank and file is even more impervious in Egypt than most countries.)
Mubarak made the head of the Armed Forces Supreme Council now running the country, Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, Defense Minister in 2008, and also handed him the portfolio for the Ministry of Military Production—two posts he continues to hold. This makes Tantawi not only head of the military but also the country's chief CEO. His commitment to U.S. domination of the army, the country and the region is attested to not only by the praise U.S. officials are heaping on him by name, but by the fact that in 1991, he was head of the Egyptian forces that fought side by side with the American invaders against the Iraqi people.
(In this regard, nothing says more about American political goals in the Middle East and the world than the fact that the U.S. sent its troops to remove Saddam Hussein, but for decades did not even publicly criticize Mubarak, a bloodthirsty tyrant as hated as Saddam, and generally like his Iraqi cousin in every way but one—Saddam displeased the U.S.)
An analyst for the Whitehall think tank Royal United Services Institute, Shashank Joshi, concluded, Tantawi "embodies the reactionary forces still embedded at the heart of a regime that may have shed its figurehead but not its essence." (BBC, February 12, 2011)
A 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable made public thanks to WikiLeaks calls Tantawi "Mubarak's poodle," but the truth is that right now he is Washington's lead dog in Egypt.
As for the Supreme Military Council's second in command, armed forces chief of staff Lieutenant General Sami Enan, while he is less known to the public and not as closely associated with Mubarak, he is definitely a favorite of Admiral Mike Mullen. During the recent upheaval, the chief of staff of the American armed forces has frequently taken time out from overseeing the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan to call Enan, despite the Obama government's supposed non-interference in Egyptian affairs. In a podcast distributed to U.S. service members, Mullen expresses great confidence in Enan. "We've had a very strong relationship with the Egyptian military for decades," the American general said. "And as I look to the future, I certainly look to that to continue." (U.S. Department of Defense Website)
Even if we didn't know these men by their friends, we would know them by their works. Along with suspending the now-irrelevant constitution that assured Mubarak's political future, dissolving the completely discredited parliament Mubarak had stuffed with members of his own party (who are resigning by the thousands to set up a new party) and declaring itself in charge, the military Supreme Council's first acts were to ratify Egypt's shameful alliance with Israel—following the explicit public demand of an Obama spokesman—and approve the cabinet that Mubarak himself had appointed, headed by Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, the head of the Air Force like Mubarak once was.
Immediately after the military council declared itself the supreme authority, Tantawi met with the once and future Central Bank Governor, Justice Minister and head of the Constitutional Court, and then chatted on the phone with his Zionist counterpart, Israeli Defense Minister and chief Palestinian-killer Ehud Barak. The old/new Finance Minister, Samir Radwan, announced that there would be "no change" in government economic policies.
As if this weren't enough proof that the military is determined to act as the guarantor of the continuity of the country's political and economic structures, its first actions on the ground were to use a combination of cajoling and bullying in an attempt to clear protesters out of Tahrir Square, and to threaten to ban strikes by the independent labor unions and professional associations that have broken free of government control.
It's a good thing that the Egyptian people have shown their strength and determination, because they still have a lot of work to do.
They face political battles in the coming days that could be decisive, not in the sense that winning them would mean the final defeat of a whole filthy power structure and the kind of society it represents, but in that the immediate question is whether or not the forces of order are going to be able to stuff the genie back in the bottle. The movement must not lose its momentum and the initiative it has gained at the cost of such sacrifice.
There are additional immediate victories needed to survive and go forward.
Right now the question is posed of "stability" versus "instability." For the enemies of the people, "stability" is defined above all not by preventing looting, meeting people's immediate needs and cleaning up the rubble, but by the Supreme Council's repeated call that the crowds should stop making demands and go home.
That kind of "stability" would mean the end of the kind of fearless and vibrant political debate that the people have always been denied until now. It would mean an end to people meeting in voluntary forms of organization to take collective decisions and enforce their will. The people need the streets and the square, and they are furious with the continuation of the state of emergency that has been in force since 1967, with an 18-month interruption in 1980-1981. So far Tantawi has adopted the same hypocritical excuses made by Mubarak and then Suleiman—any consideration of dropping the state of emergency law must come later, after calm is restored. In other words, first shut up and then we'll see about your right to speak.
The emergency law is no mere formality. The military is still detaining people without charges, and in some cases torturing them. Human Rights Watch reported that they were aware of at least 119 people detained without charges by the army and the military police between the night of January 28, when the military moved to replace the regular police, and the time Mubarak resigned. The Guardian wrote that according to testimony it has gathered, the military detained "thousands" during the three weeks of upheaval.
As part of their test of strength with remaining forces of the old regime, the people are demanding the punishment of government officials and security forces who shed the people's blood, starting with those responsible for the murder of Khaled Said. Last June the police pulled that Alexandria youth out of a cyber café and beat him to death on the spot. That murder inspired the "We Are All Khaled Said" Facebook page that helped initiate what some Egyptians are calling "the revolution of dignity."
The importance of whether or not security forces pay for their crimes can be seen in the way this issue is still being fought out in demonstrations and violent repression in Tunisia, where clearly it has more to do with the future than the past. The current struggle in that country a month after the ouster of the Ben Ali regime shows another factor just beginning to make itself felt in Egypt: some social classes tend to be satisfied now that the tyrant is gone, while many basic masses are thirstier than ever for the kind of basic change in their lives that the still-standing system can't offer. Other major immediate issues will certainly take shape shortly. In the course of these battles the people can build their understanding, organization and strength.
It is particularly important that the people do not let themselves be fooled—and not fool themselves —with the illusion that they can wield power and obtain freedom through referendums and elections. If the military really does organize new elections and fulfills its promises to hand over government to some civilians, it will be for the purpose of demobilizing the people, driving them off the political stage and robbing them of their initiative. The purpose would be to "stabilize" the real power, the dictatorship of imperialism's local partners, with the army as their core and defender, no matter what kind of suit the prime minister and cabinet members wear.
In getting rid of Mubarak, the people have inflicted a serious blow to the power structure. The U.S. and the Egyptian military tried their best to hang on to him not because their domination depended on any individual but because the people driving him out creates a dangerous and unstable situation for these rulers.
For decades the army has mainly been able to hide its fist by outsourcing most of the day-to-day work of arrests and torture to the police, and even managed to stay out of the political limelight as an institution, despite Mubarak's military base and the role of the generals. It has benefited from the popular illusions this has made possible and people's confusion about the role of the army historically due to its role in driving out the British and defending the country against Israel. It has also benefited from people's hope for some other solution other than going up against an army, especially, although not only, because they don't as yet have an army of their own.
But now, against its will and against the hopes of the masters of empire, the army has had to move to the front lines politically, and if it uses the old police, the military police or any other armed body against the people, it will squander a vital part of its political capital. This is not a good situation for the people's enemies.
In the course of fighting the immediate battles, those who most want to see Egypt freed and especially those who hate all forms of oppression and exploitation have to confront the deep causes for the misery of the country and its people and for the criminal state of the world as a whole. They need to study the experience of revolution, both the failure of so many countries to achieve liberation after the fall of their own Mubaraks, and especially the communist-led Russian and Chinese revolutions which, despite shortcomings and eventual defeat, demonstrated the possibility of moving toward breaking free of world imperialism as part of a global revolutionary movement aimed at the liberation of all humanity.
Experience has shown that real revolution is very difficult, but it has also shown that nothing else has even a chance, in the long run, of beating back the forces seeking to "stabilize" everything Egyptians hate and breaking through to the future glimpsed, if only partially and briefly, during the days and nights of combat and solidarity, great pain and great joy, in Tahrir Square.
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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Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
NEW ONLINE RELEASE
a spoken word piece from Bob Avakian
We are excited to announce the upcoming online release of Bob Avakian's "All Played Out," a powerful spoken word poem. Avakian's heart and soul, outrage and humor, poetic spirit, and confidence in the masses to make revolution—transform the planet and themselves—comes out in this challenging declaration that the world really doesn't have to be this way, and we can make and live in a radically different and better world.
On January 25 be challenged and inspired.
YOU are needed to spread this!
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Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
At every point, we must be searching out the key concentrations of social contradictions and the methods and forms which can strengthen the political consciousness of the masses, as well as their fighting capacity and organization in carrying out political resistance against the crimes of this system; which can increasingly bring the necessity, and the possibility, of a radically different world to life for growing numbers of people; and which can strengthen the understanding and determination of the advanced, revolutionary-minded masses in particular to take up our strategic objectives not merely as far-off and essentially abstract goals (or ideals) but as things to be actively striven for and built toward.
The objective and orientation must be to carry out work which, together with the development of the objective situation, can transform the political terrain, so that the legitimacy of the established order, and the right and ability of the ruling class to rule, is called into question, in an acute and active sense, throughout society; so that resistance to this system becomes increasingly broad, deep and determined; so that the "pole" and the organized vanguard force of revolutionary communism is greatly strengthened; and so that, at the decisive time, this advanced force is able to lead the struggle of millions, and tens of millions, to make revolution.
Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.
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Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
We have a strategy—and our newspaper is, as "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" statement says, "the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for [the] whole process" of carrying out that strategy. This is the paper that cuts to the bone to tell you WHY things are happening... to show you HOW it doesn't have to be this way... and to give you the ways to ACT to change it. It is a call to action and a means of struggle. It is, and has to be much more, the scaffolding on which this movement is built, where those who are getting into it and following it can wrangle in its pages and on its website with how we can better build this movement. It is a guideline where today thousands, but soon tens of thousands and eventually millions, all over the place, stay connected and learn to act in a powerful and united way. It is the foundation where those who read it learn about the larger goals of revolution and communism and come to see the ways in which the struggles of today are connected to those larger goals... where they come to grasp the scientific communist outlook through its application to all the many particular events and outrages and developments in society... and where they get organizationally linked up to this revolution.
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Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
Revolution newspaper is the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for the movement we are building for revolution. Stop and think about it—how essential is that?! But the reality is that this newspaper will not fill this need without more people becoming regular monthly sustainers. Sign up yourself to contribute regularly. And then, wherever you are—at a protest, a concert, selling Revolution, at FaceBook... or just hanging out—struggle with people, including people you just met, to sustain Revolution regularly. Once a week, check yourself: How is this going? How many new sustainers did you sign up?
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Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
It is this system that has got us in the situation we're in today, and keeps us there. And it is through revolution to get rid of this system that we ourselves can bring a much better system into being. The ultimate goal of this revolution is communism: A world where people work and struggle together for the common good...Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings...Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.
This revolution is both necessary and possible.
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Revolution #225, February 27, 2011
In Bob Avakian, the Chairman of our Party, we have the kind of rare and precious leader who does not come along very often. A leader who has given his heart, and all his knowledge, skills and abilities to serving the cause of revolution and the emancipation of humanity. Bob Avakian came alive as a revolutionary in the 1960s—taking part in the great movements of those days, and especially working and struggling closely with the most advanced revolutionary force in the U.S. at that time, the Black Panther Party. Since then, and while many others have given up, Bob Avakian has worked and struggled tirelessly to find the way to go forward, having learned crucial lessons and built lasting organization that could continue the struggle, and aim to take it higher, while uniting with the same struggle throughout the world. He has kept on developing the theory and strategy for making revolution. He played the key role in founding our Party in 1975, and since then he has continued the battle to keep the Party on the revolutionary road, to carry out work with a strong revolutionary orientation. He has deeply studied the experience of revolution—the shortcomings as well as the great achievements—and many different fields of human endeavor, through history and throughout the world—and he has brought the science and method of revolution to a whole new level, so that we can not only fight but really fight to win. Bob Avakian has developed the scientific theory and strategic orientation for how to actually make the kind of revolution we need, and he is leading our Party as an advanced force of this revolution. He is a great champion and a great resource for people here, and indeed people all over the world. The possibility for revolution, right here, and for the advance of the revolution everywhere, is greatly heightened because of Bob Avakian and the leadership he is providing. And it is up to us to get with this leadership...to find out more about Bob Avakian and the Party he heads...to learn from his scientific method and approach to changing the world...to build this revolutionary movement with our Party at the core...to defend this leadership as the precious thing it is...and, at the same time, to bring our own experience and understanding to help strengthen the process of revolution and enable the leadership we have to keep on learning more and leading even better.
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