Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
MAKING REVOLUTION AND EMANCIPATING HUMANITY
PART 2: EVERYTHING WE’RE DOING IS ABOUT REVOLUTION (CONTINUED)
Meaningful Revolutionary Work
A culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization
Editors’ Note: The following is the third in Part 2 of a series of excerpts from a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, last 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
A culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization
One important aspect of boldly spreading revolution and communism everywhere is the work of building what we have characterized as a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work and the method and approach of Bob Avakian. Now, I recognize that some people (especially among the middle strata, frankly) may find it “immodest” (and perhaps, to some, strangely disturbing) for me to speak about this (and, for god’s sake, to refer to myself in the third person!). But, first of all and fundamentally, “modesty” (or “immodesty”) is not the essential issue, not the heart of the matter. This, like everything else, is a matter of a scientific approach—objectively assessing what is represented by a particular person and their role, their body of work and their method and approach—and it should be viewed and evaluated, by myself or anyone else, in this way and according to these criteria (and, let’s be honest, would those who object to my referring to myself in the third person here really be any less “put off” if I were to talk about “a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work and the method and approach of myself”?). No, the essence of the question is: what is objectively represented by this leadership, this body of work and method and approach, and what does this have to do with the larger question of transforming the world?
As Lenin emphasized in What Is To Be Done?, one of the key tasks of communists is to set before all their communist convictions and aims. And this means presenting what is, at any time, the most advanced representation of those convictions and aims. In fundamental terms, the principles involved are the same as in all fields of scientifically based endeavor (physics, biology, medicine, and so on): breakthroughs are very often associated with a particular individual, and to speak about the most advanced understanding at a given time would be impossible without reference to and, yes, a certain focus on, that individual—and attempting to avoid such reference and focus would be extremely artificial and wrong, and not at all helpful. So, once more, while of course there are particularities to the sphere of political (and ideological) leadership, and more specifically to communist leadership,1 with regard to anyone whose role has a significant influence (or is put forward as something which should have a significant influence), the basic question comes down to: what is the content of that role, and in particular the content of the body of work and the method and approach of that person, and what effect would it have, one way or another, if that were to have greater, or lesser, impact and influence?
Why am I—why is my body of work, and method and approach—important? Because this is bringing forward an advanced understanding, a heightened understanding, of what revolution and communism are all about and how to move toward the objective of revolution and communism, as well as a method for engaging and struggling through the contradictions that are inevitably going to be encountered in that process. (Some things are inevitable—and, while the achievement of communism is not inevitable, it is inevitable that in the struggle to achieve communism we are going to encounter many complex and difficult contradictions. We can guarantee that.)
That is what this is all grounded in—what it is all for. When we’re taking this out, and working to build this culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization, we are not doing so in order to build a cult around a person, in some religious sense. We’re doing so in order to enable people to engage the most advanced understanding we have of where society and humanity needs to go, and can go, what this body of work and method and approach has to do with that and why it’s important in relation to that—why, in reality, it is indispensable for masses of people to engage with this in relation to—to serve, and to advance towards—that, and not anything else. Even the aspect, which is secondary but not unimportant—the aspect of the person Bob Avakian—is important only in the framework of, and on the basis of, being a revolutionary communist leader, the leader of a communist vanguard party which is capable of leading people toward the goal of revolution and ultimately communism—which has to continue developing its ability to do this, but has a basic foundation for actually leading people toward that goal. That is the point of all this.
It is on that foundation, and in that context, that it is important to build a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization, and in fact to take energetic and innovative steps to better acquaint the masses of people of different strata with this leadership, this body of work and method and approach. If we are in fact being guided by the scientific understanding that human society needs to, and can, advance to communism, that the struggle to achieve this objective must be the conscious act of masses of people, on the one hand, while at the same time this must have, and has no prospect of being realized without, leadership—leadership that, in relation to this goal, embodies the most advanced understanding and methodology—and that what is concentrated in the person, yes, but most fundamentally in the body of work and method and approach of Bob Avakian represents that leadership; then what flows naturally from that is the recognition that this is something the masses of people must be made aware of and acquainted with, and must take up as their own, with the understanding of how crucial it is, in terms of their own fundamental interests and ultimately the highest interests of humanity as a whole. As a document of our Party on the question of revolutionary leadership emphasizes:
“the fact that certain individual revolutionaries emerge as a concentration of this process, and themselves become a concentrated expression of the best qualities of revolutionary leadership– including a selfless dedication to the revolutionary cause and deep love of the masses, as well as a strong grasp of the scientific methodology needed to unleash the masses and chart the path of revolution in line with their objective interests– then the existence of such an individual leader or leaders is not something to lament but something to welcome and celebrate! It is part of the people’s strength.”2
It is very important to grasp the dialectics, as well as the materialism, involved in this. In this regard, of real significance is the way in which, and the basis on which, a number of Black artists and intellectuals, many of whom have differences with some of what I am putting forward, have in various ways (including by signing the Engage! Statement3) helped to create an atmosphere where what I have to say can be engaged by a broader audience and where efforts to suppress my voice and to carry out repression aimed at me will meet with stronger resistance. What is noticeable is that, even while they have varying degrees of differences with my communist views and convictions, many of these people, including a number who have read my memoir (From Ike To Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist), are interested in or drawn to me more in the personal dimension—or, perhaps better said, my “personal history” and in particular the ways in which it is clear that I have been deeply affected and influenced by personal relationships with Black people as well as by the larger political and revolutionary struggle of Black people. But, at the same time, while we respect where they are coming from and greatly appreciate the support they have given, coming from their own viewpoints and despite certain differences with my political and ideological outlook, what we are seeking to do, in accordance with our own viewpoint, is to strive to have all this contribute, in an overall sense, to our fundamental, strategic objectives of revolution and ultimately achieving a communist world. From our point of view, that, and nothing else, is what everything we are doing is about and is aiming for.
Why are we working to make it all contribute to communism? Because “that’s our thing”? No. Because that’s where things need to go in order for there to be a radically different and far better world. Key concepts that we talk about—perhaps too often with too much “shorthand”—such as the “new synthesis,”4 along with principles of epistemology and philosophy, as well as of politics, which are concentrated in the body of work and the method and approach that I have been developing—and which, yes, do get concentrated to a certain extent in the person who is bringing forward this body of work and method and approach—all this is about revolution: its basis and purpose is to serve the masses of people in making revolution and advancing toward communism.
What we are about, and what we base ourselves on, is most emphatically not a religion. In its philosophical outlook and its methodology, as well as in its political understanding and objectives, it is grounded in, and guided by, a scientific understanding and approach. The whole discussion, previously in this talk, on Marxism as a science should make that very clear.5
We are not a cult but a group of scientists (a group that aims to be continually expanding), straining to solve vexing problems—making mistakes, yes, and doing our best to learn from our mistakes, doing our best to learn from others, including those who have different outlooks and objectives than we do—approaching all this in a systematically and comprehensively scientific way. We have never argued, nor believed, that the Party collectively or the leader of the Party—or any individual or group of people—is endowed with supernatural qualities or powers, or that the Party or the leader of the Party is “infallible” or should be “worshiped” or followed blindly. All notions of that kind are completely alien and fundamentally opposed to what we do believe and set out to put into practice—namely, that it is possible, and necessary, to apply a critical and revolutionary scientific outlook and method to continue learning more about reality and, in dialectical relation with that, to carry forward the struggle to radically change reality, in the direction toward communism.
We do believe—and are confident that this belief is scientifically grounded—that the Party collectively, and in a concentrated way the leader of our Party, Bob Avakian, has acquired and developed an advanced understanding and method and approach in terms of that scientific process of understanding, and radically transforming, reality: a scientific approach which rejects any notions of “infallibility” or of some kind of final and complete knowledge, but which recognizes and insists that what we are, and must be, engaged in is a process of continually deepening our understanding, and our ability to apply our understanding in revolutionary practice, through the dialectical relation—the back-and-forth interplay—between practice and theory, and between applying to reality our best understanding of what is true at any given time and continuing to learn more about reality—including what is shown not to be true about what we had previously believed—learning (and enabling others to learn) from our mistakes as well as what we accomplish by applying our understanding, learning from many others, in a wide array of fields and with a broad diversity of views, at the same time as we continue learning from our own practical experience and our own efforts and struggle in the realm of theory and “working with ideas.”
The development of what we have referred to as the “new synthesis” is a clear and salient example of this. This new synthesis—regarding the historical experience of the communist movement and of socialist societies led by communists, and regarding the objectives as well as the outlook and method of communists—has been developed (and, in fact, is still being further developed) primarily and essentially by Bob Avakian, as the leader of our Party and in the overall context of the collectivity of our Party (and as part of the broader communist movement internationally) over a period of nearly 30 years, through a process of extensive and intense work and struggle in the theoretical realm, in dialectical relation with developing policies with regard to the practical struggle, guided by the fundamental objective of revolution and the ultimate aim of communism, and summing up the results (positive and negative) of the efforts to implement these policies, during the course of this whole period of nearly 30 years. Not only does all this not rest or rely on religious notions or approaches, but, again, such notions and approaches are complete anathema to and are in fundamental antagonism with what this is all about; and criticism of and struggle against religious tendencies, of any kind—among the ranks of the communists as well as more broadly in society—is precisely one of the main principles of the body of work and method and approach of Bob Avakian.
With regard to the question of individual leaders—as well as leadership collectively—our approach is one of applying the scientific outlook and method of dialectical, and historical, materialism to this as well. We are aiming for the ultimate achievement of communism, throughout the world. And, yes, it is true: when that goal is reached, then there will no longer be a need, or a basis, for vanguards and for leaders in the sense in which we now think of leaders. But at the present time, and for some time to come, there is, and there will be, a great need for and a great importance to leaders. This is an expression and a result of underlying contradictions and profound divisions in society (the division between mental and manual labor in particular, and more fundamentally the contradictions between the forces and relations of production and between the economic base and the superstructure—and the interrelation and interpenetration of these contradictions—as this takes form in this era where the world is still dominated by the capitalist-imperialist system). And, so long as that is true, the essential questions will remain: What is the content and effect of that leadership—where will it lead people, and how? What does it enable people to do, or prevent them from doing? Does it contribute to their capacity to actually comprehend reality, and to act consciously to change it, in accordance with the fundamental interests of humanity—or does it interfere with and undermine that?
This point has been made before but, especially when there is so much confusion and misunderstanding about this—much of it consciously and deliberately spread by the ruling class and its intellectual camp followers, as well as some others—it is necessary to emphasize it again: Given the nature of the society and world in which we live; given that this society and this world are still under the domination of exploiting classes and are fundamentally shaped by the dynamics of a system of exploitation, capitalism-imperialism; and given the profoundly unequal and oppressive social divisions that are bound up with this—given all this, society, and the people who make up society, are going to be disproportionately influenced by one set of ideas—and one group of leaders—or another, whether they acknowledge it or not. And again the essential question is: which ideas and which leadership, in the pursuit of which purposes and aims, toward what ends and by what methods and means?
On the foundation of this understanding, actively, energetically, and creatively building a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around Bob Avakian, among growing numbers of people, and enabling them to grasp the crucial importance of engaging with his body of work and method and approach, while taking up the challenge of protecting and defending the person who is bringing this forward and providing this leadership—this is a key part of boldly taking revolution and communism out everywhere. It is one of the key means, one of the main vehicles, we have for doing that. But that is what we are doing, in building this culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization. This has its own particularity, but ultimately and fundamentally it is about—it is in the service of—nothing other than spreading revolution and communism and building a revolutionary movement of masses, consciously taking up the orientation of being emancipators of humanity.
1. Footnote by the author: With regard to communist leadership in particular, I have discussed the social contradictions, as well as the historical experience, with which this is bound up, in a number of writings, talks, and interviews. See, for example, “Interview Series with Michael Slate,” and in particular the section “On Leadership,” available online at bobavakian.net.[back]
2. From “Some Points on the Question of Revolutionary Leadership and Individual Leaders,” part 2 of 1995 Leadership Resolutions on Leaders and Leadership, which was released by the Party on the 20th anniversary of its founding. These resolutions were originally published in the Revolutionary Worker (now Revolution), October 1, 1995 and are available at revcom.us. Part 1 is titled: “The Party Exists for No Other Reason than to Serve the Masses, to Make Revolution.” For additional discussion of these questions see also “The Crossroads We Face, The Leadership We Need,” Revolution #84, April 8, 2007, available at revcom.us.[back]
3. The statement “Dangerous times demand courageous voices. Bob Avakian is such a voice” can be found at the website of Engage! A Committee to Project and Protect the Voice of Bob Avakian, at www.engagewithbobavakian.org.[back]
4. A discussion of this “new synthesis” is found in Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part 1: Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right, and in particular the final segment of part 1, “Historical Experience and the New Synthesis.” Part 1 is available online, as one document, at revcom.us, and has been serialized in Revolution. “Historical Experience and the New Synthesis” is the final installment in that series; it appears in Revolution #113, Dec. 23, 2007.
The following is a pivotal part of that discussion of the new synthesis:
“To try to concentrate—or to present a basic synthesis—of what is represented by this new synthesis, it can be said:
“This new synthesis involves a recasting and recombining of the positive aspects of the experience so far of the communist movement and of socialist society, while learning from the negative aspects of this experience, in the philosophical and ideological as well as the political dimensions, so as to have a more deeply and firmly rooted scientific orientation, method and approach with regard not only to making revolution and seizing power but then, yes, to meeting the material requirements of society and the needs of the masses of people, in an increasingly expanding way, in socialist society—overcoming the deep scars of the past and continuing the revolutionary transformation of society, while at the same time actively supporting the world revolutionary struggle and acting on the recognition that the world arena and the world struggle are most fundamental and important, in an overall sense—together with opening up qualitatively more space to give expression to the intellectual and cultural needs of the people, broadly understood, and enabling a more diverse and rich process of exploration and experimentation in the realms of science, art and culture, and intellectual life overall, with increasing scope for the contention of different ideas and schools of thought and for individual initiative and creativity and protection of individual rights, including space for individuals to interact in ‘civil society’ independently of the state—all within an overall cooperative and collective framework and at the same time as state power is maintained and further developed as a revolutionary state power serving the interests of the proletarian revolution, in the particular country and worldwide, with this state being the leading and central element in the economy and in the overall direction of society, while the state itself is being continually transformed into something radically different from all previous states, as a crucial part of the advance toward the eventual abolition of the state with the achievement of communism on a world scale.
“In a sense, it could be said that the new synthesis is a synthesis of the previous experience of socialist society and of the international communist movement more broadly, on the one hand, and of the criticisms, of various kinds and from various standpoints, of that experience, on the other hand. That does not mean that this new synthesis represents a mere ‘pasting together’ of that experience on the one hand, and the criticisms on the other hand. It is not an eclectic combination of these things, but a sifting through, a recasting and recombining on the basis of a scientific, materialist and dialectical outlook and method, and of the need to continue advancing toward communism, a need and objective which this outlook and method continues to point to—and, the more thoroughly and deeply it is taken up and applied, the more firmly it points to this need and objective.” [back]
5. This discussion of Marxism as a science is found in part 1 (“Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right”), which is available, as one document, at revcom.us. In the serialization of part 1 in Revolution, this discussion is contained in the installments entitled “Marxism as a Science—In Opposition to Mechanical Materialism, Idealism and Religiosity” and “Marxism as a Science—Refuting Karl Popper,” which appear in Revolution #109, Nov. 18, and #110, Nov. 25, 2007.[back]
This series will continue in the next issue of Revolution.
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