Revolution #114, December 30, 2007
MAKING REVOLUTION AND EMANCIPATING HUMANITY
PART 2: EVERYTHING WE’RE DOING IS ABOUT REVOLUTION (CONTINUED)
Meaningful Revolutionary Work
Boldly spreading revolution and communism
Editors’ Note: The following is the second in Part 2 of a series of excerpts from a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, earlier this year (2007). This has been edited for publication and footnotes have been added. These excerpts are being published in two parts. Part 1 is available in its entirety, as one document, online at revcom.us, and has been serialized in (the print version of) Revolution (see issues #105, Oct. 21; #106, Oct. 28; #107, Nov. 4; #108, Nov. 11; #109, Nov. 18; #110, Nov. 25; #111, Dec. 9; and #112, Dec. 16, 2007). Part 2 is also available, as one document, at revcom.us.
Meaningful Revolutionary Work
Boldly spreading revolution and communism
Building on what has been said so far, I want to turn to the question: what is meaningful revolutionary work—especially, but not only, for basic masses who became part of the revolutionary movement in this period when there is not yet a revolutionary situation? As can be seen in other talks and writings of mine over a number of years, I have repeatedly come back to and wrangled with this question—it is a very crucial and very vexing problem. How do you actually find the means for masses to engage in meaningful revolutionary work—with particular but not exclusive focus on the youth among the basic masses, but others as well—how can this be done without getting pulled onto the wrong road? How do you give the correct expression, in today’s circumstances, to the desire of youth for radical change, and to their militancy?
In this connection, I want to recount a story I read in a report about work with a guy who teaches special education. He was talking about how some of these youth don’t have any sense of the possibility of anything bigger than what they are caught up in every day. Well, one day he walked into a classroom and there was this girl who is in one of his classes—she had her headphones on and she was listening to some “gangster rap,” with all of its misogyny and everything, and he went up to her and asked, basically: “Why do you listen to that crap?” And she replied: “Well, they don’t give a fuck—I like their anger.” In response to this, he posed the question to her: “If you could direct that anger that you feel and that you identify with into something more useful, something for more positive change, would you do that?” And her answer was very clear: “In a minute. But that’s not ever gonna happen.” And she put the headphones back on.
This is the challenge we’re faced with. A lot of people can’t even recognize the positive aspect in this alienation and anger because its expression—the form it is taking—is so often negative in its immediate terms. There is a reservoir of outrage there which we see come out repeatedly and take very diverse and, yes, often very dead-end and even harmful forms. But how do we give expression to this in a revolutionary way, yet maintain the tenseness not to get pulled onto the wrong road and not to give in to, or give vent to, the wrong impulses and not try to do things prematurely, before there is the development of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people can be and is brought forward in masses, in millions? This is a problem we need to continue to wrestle with. This is one of our major responsibilities—to break through on this—not simply to shake our heads and groan over the difficulty of dealing with this contradiction but, through back and forth with the masses, to actually realize and not abdicate our responsibility to be the ones who are applying the science to solving this problem.
I want to speak to this here—and what I have said so far regarding the pivotal role of the newspaper is a central and decisive element in this—but we need to continue to wrestle with it, in an ongoing way, because we have to make further breakthroughs on this. We are not going to have the kind of revolutionary movement that is needed—and ultimately we’re not going to have a revolution—unless, among the youth in particular but also more broadly, we break through and bring forward an increasing number of the masses to undertake meaningful revolutionary work in this period, when there is not yet a revolutionary situation in which there is the possibility, and the basis, to wage the all-out struggle for power.
Now, in this connection, there is importance to the relation between ideological factors—broadly defined, to include not only exposure of the crimes and nature of this system but, as Lenin put it, setting before all our communist convictions and objectives, and engaging the masses of all strata, including the basic masses, in grappling with questions of science, philosophy, culture, and so on, as well as major political and social events—the relation between all that, on the one hand, and political factors, including the desire and ability of the masses to resist oppression and injustice, and to do so in a way that contributes to building a revolutionary and communist movement, and not in a way that is aimless and/or once again goes under the wing of a section of the bourgeoisie.
One key aspect of providing a means and a vehicle for increasing numbers of masses—particularly youth and the basic masses generally but people from other strata as well—to be engaging in meaningful revolutionary work, is the orientation of spreading revolution everywhere—boldly and, in the correct sense, very aggressively. In the correct sense, right up in the face of all this reformism and all this dismissal of revolution and attacks on revolution and communism. We need to be unleashing this and guiding and leading this everywhere, boldly and with a conquering spirit. Once again, our newspaper, Revolution, is crucial and pivotal in this. But more needs to be done, on the foundation of this crucial and pivotal role.
I was talking with some people about this recently: Every day, if you are paying attention to what is going on in the world, and you are looking at things with a scientific, communist viewpoint, you find that life continually cries out for revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. In watching the reporting of various events and discussion of various questions in the mainstream, bourgeois media, you find yourself constantly in the position of wanting to call out: D-O-P. You read articles, or watch the television news, about Jena, Louisiana—the outrages there, with the persecution of Black youth, the Jena 6, and the contradictions that are boiling up—and the thing that comes to mind, if you’re approaching this as a communist, is D-O-P: this is what we need to deal with this, to get rid of profound injustices like this, and everything they represent. With the dictatorship of the proletariat, with a revolution leading to rule by the proletariat and aiming for communism, it will become possible to deal with these things in a way that they can never be dealt with by the present system and its ruling class of capitalists. This system and its ruling class can never deal with all this—except in ways that are harmful to the masses.
Or look at the whole controversy and upheaval around immigration, with all the talk about “securing the borders” and the different programs that are being brought forward by different sections of the bourgeoisie, and the reactionary contention this gives rise to. And, along with this, there are the Black/Latino contradictions that are being fanned and intensified, with the phenomenon on the part of many of the immigrants that they don’t understand the whole history of Black people and they are inclined to accept the bourgeois line, with its lies and distortions about what Black people are all about, while at the same time many Black people are feeling resentful toward the immigrants, pulled by the notion that these immigrants are “taking our jobs, we’re being pushed to the margins and somehow it’s the immigrants’ fault.” If you are approaching this as a communist, immediately what comes to mind is: D-O-P. With the dictatorship of the proletariat, we could resolve these contradictions—not with a snap of the fingers, but through struggle in a way that would be in the interests of all these different sections of the masses. Yes, it would involve contradiction and complexity—but it would not be that hard. But it is impossible under this system, and within the confines of this system, to resolve these contradictions in the interests of the masses of people—which is yet another thing that points to the fundamental need to sweep away this system through revolution.
Or when you see how conflicts arise between safeguarding the environment, on the one hand, and on the other hand the need for developing the economy—and, yes, people’s concerns about their jobs and livelihoods—when you see how these things sharply clash under this system and there’s no good resolution…D-O-P.
Or to take another key dimension of this: Recently, there was an article in Revolution exposing the repression of the youth in the schools—this was in New York City, but this is a phenomenon across the country.1 And there was a response to this Revolution article, from one of these disillusioned and disgruntled teachers, who said, in effect: “You try to teach these youth; you have all these romanticized ideas about these youth, but you have no idea how unruly they are.” Well, what is the answer to that—not only to this person’s distorted view but also to the real contradictions they are pointing to—how can this be addressed and resolved in a good way? D-O-P. This is what we need to deal with all these kinds of contradictions. The positive aspects that are there—not only among the youth, but even the desire of people like that teacher to do something good, which is being smothered and corrupted by the dominant relations and the corresponding ideas that prevail under this system—this could be recast and resynthesized in a positive way with the rule of the proletariat.
Or look at the contradictions bound up with the differences between intellectual and physical work, and between the different strata who, in this society, carry out the one and the other kind of work (what we call the mental/manual contradiction, for short): In fundamental terms, it is impossible to deal with this contradiction positively in this society. This contradiction can be resolved, and can only be resolved, in a positive way with the dictatorship of the proletariat and the advance to communism. Connected to this, there is the example I cited in a talk a few years ago on the dictatorship of the proletariat (Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism) in regard to religion, referencing the movie Contact, where here you have this glaring contradiction that the masses of people, who have the greatest interest in communist revolution, are to a very large degree caught up in religion and other mental chains that are binding them, while there is a relatively small section of people in the world at this time which understands questions of this kind (concerning religion and—the non-existence of—god) much more clearly but is, to a large degree, alienated from and has no real understanding of the basic masses. What is the answer? D-O-P. Revolution.
And the need for this is pointed to even by certain contradictions that arise in the course of building struggle. For example, in the battle to defend dissent and critical thinking in academia (and ultimately in society as a whole), we see how some individuals who are the target of attack by reactionary forces, and the state, can have a “stand-offish” attitude toward other people in academia who are in essentially the same position. In immediate terms, this emphasizes the need to bring out, and struggle with people to grasp, the larger picture into which this all fits, and to recognize the importance of uniting in struggle against all these attempts to suppress dissent and critical thinking; and at the same time, and most fundamentally, it points to the reality that to resolve the contradictions bound up with all this, we really need revolution—we need the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Yes, it is true—and it is a very important and profound truth—that the larger goal, and the aim of the dictatorship of the proletariat itself, is to finally reach communism, throughout the world, where the need, and the basis, for any form in which one part of society rules over others—any form of class dictatorship—will have been eliminated and surpassed. But the reality is that, without the dictatorship of the proletariat, without communist revolution, we will never be able to advance toward, and finally reach, that larger goal.
All this is another way of expressing Lenin’s point that communism springs from every pore of society. The need for communist revolution really does spring continuously from every event in society and the world. Once one has taken up the scientific outlook and method of dialectical materialism, one can see this very clearly. And on this basis we should be leading and bringing forward growing numbers of masses to be very boldly—with a conquering spirit and, in the right sense, very aggressively—taking this out everywhere, among all sections of the people. As we have emphasized a number of times, there is nothing more unrealistic than the idea of reforming this system into something that would come anywhere near being in the interests of the great majority of people and ultimately of humanity as a whole. On the basis of our scientific understanding and method, we have to have—and we have to inspire other people to have—a conquering spirit about this. This is extremely important: to be going out very broadly and very boldly and, in the right sense, aggressively with revolution.
Let’s get down to basics: We need a revolution. Anything else, in the final analysis, is bullshit. Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t unite with people in all sorts of struggles short of revolution. We definitely need to do that. But the proffering of any other solution to these monumental and monstrous problems and outrages is ridiculous, frankly. And we need to be taking the offensive and mobilizing increasing numbers of masses to cut through this shit and bring to the fore what really is the solution to this, and to answer the questions and, yes, the accusations that come forth in response to this, while deepening our scientific basis for being able to do this. And the point is: not only do we need to be doing this, but we need to be bringing forward, unleashing and leading, and enabling increasing numbers of the masses to do this. They need to be inspired, not just with a general idea of revolution, but with a deepening understanding, a scientific grounding, as to why and how revolution really is the answer to all this.
This series will continue in the next issue of Revolution.
1. This article, “NYC Public Schools and Criminalization of the Students: What Kind of System Does This to Its Youth?” appeared in Revolution #93, June 24, 2007.[back]
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