Revolution#116, January 20, 2008
MAKING REVOLUTION AND EMANCIPATING HUMANITY
PART 2: EVERYTHING WE’RE DOING IS ABOUT REVOLUTION (CONTINUED)
Meaningful Revolutionary Work
Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution
Editors’ Note: The following is the fourth 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
Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution
In dialectical relation to spreading revolution everywhere—and fundamentally serving the same revolutionary objectives—there is the need to mobilize increasing numbers of the people, from various strata, in “massive political resistance to the main ways in which, at any given time, the exploitative and oppressive nature of this system is concentrated in the policies and actions of the ruling class and its institutions and agencies” (as it is put in “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution”—see Revolution #102, September 23, 2007).
Why, for over a decade now, have masses of people, particularly from within the inner cities (but also people from other parts of society), mobilized every year on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation? Because this does concentrate major social contradictions—it is one significant concentration of the contradictions of society and the nature of the system and the ruling class, and the way this affects masses of people. The same applies to many other mass organizations and other forms of mass struggle. And it is very important to grasp the dialectical relation—the back-and-forth interplay and mutual influence—between building this kind of resistance and spreading the need for revolution boldly and broadly, in every corner of society.
Why am I stressing this? Because it is important as a basic point of orientation, but also more specifically because, in resisting and opposing tendencies toward the revisionist line of “the movement is everything, the final aim nothing,” it is necessary and crucial not to turn the idea of spreading revolution and communism into just another “academic” exercise—another form of scholasticism, or sterile and uninspiring dogma. Spreading revolution and building resistance are dialectically related and there should be a “positive synergy” between them—all contributing toward our strategic objective of getting to the point where we can go for the all-out seizure of power when the objective conditions—including the mood, the inclinations and sentiments of millions of people—are such that this becomes possible.
We have to continually develop and strengthen our ability to identify and handle the actual living relationships between these two things: spreading revolution and communism everywhere—boldly, with strategic confidence and a conquering spirit, “taking on all comers” who want to offer other alternatives and criticize ours, and advancing through the back and forth between studying and wrangling collectively over how to do this, and actually doing it—and, at the same time, building resistance in an increasingly powerful way, including through identifying the major concentrations of social contradictions at any given point.
Speaking to an important dimension of this, another comrade in the leadership of our Party suggested a formulation which I believe captures some of the essential aspects of building the revolutionary movement: Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.
It is true that we are not simply seeking to transform the people, abstracted from and in the absence of mobilizing them to resist the outrages and injustices of this system; but, in fact, transforming the people is a big part of what needs to be done—and the masses of people know it. One of the main things that masses of people say when the question of revolution comes up—besides “they’re too powerful and there are too many people against us”—is that “we are too fucked up” (and many will say, “everybody else is too fucked up”). [Laughter] People understand that we have to transform the people. But we also do have to fight the power. We have to do all this, however, for revolution—and not for anything else, anything short of that. We have to correctly handle the dialectical relations involved in this, and bring this whole orientation to life, more and more powerfully, through the “positive synergy” of these two aspects—fighting the power, and transforming the people—for revolution.
We need to make this a mission of the youth—and of the masses of people more generally. The organized forms in which we join together with masses of people need to be an expression of what’s being captured in this slogan. For example, Revolution Clubs should not just be places to watch the DVD (of the talk Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About). Doing that is important—it is one part of what these Revolution Clubs should be doing—but if that’s all they are doing, then they will lose their purpose. These Revolution Clubs should be a place and a vehicle through which masses can come together to spread revolution and to build resistance—to fight the power as well as transforming the people, with the objective of revolution constantly in mind. And, yes, people will be learning more about what this means—what this revolution is all about, why it’s a revolution aiming for communism, what communism means, what the transition to communism involves—they’ll be constantly learning more about all that. But what is captured in the slogan Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution—along with what is the unifying principle of the Revolution Clubs: Humanity Needs Revolution and Communism—this has to be the leading edge and identifying essence of what we’re about, and what mass forms like the Revolution Clubs are about. This relates to the point that was discussed earlier, and the emphasis that was given, to diverting masses and movements of mass opposition from “the striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie.”1
Communists, and people being drawn forward to revolution and communism, have to be out there aggressively and boldly bringing forward the need for and the goal of revolution. This flows from the profound reality that humanity really does need revolution and communism. This will require, and should involve, a tremendous amount of struggle with people—waged in a good way, a living and compelling way—to bring alive the reality of revolution and the fact that this is not just some abstract idea unrelated to what is going on in the world now. To be clear, the point is not that revolution is an immediate reality in this country, in the sense that the struggle for the seizure of power is a possibility under present conditions—once again, the possibility of waging this struggle for power can only emerge with a major qualitative change in the objective situation—but I am emphasizing the reality of revolution now in the sense of its being concretely built for, all during the period before there is a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people numbering in the millions and millions.
What is captured in the slogan Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution is a big part of not only building the revolutionary movement in general, but also diverting masses and movements of mass opposition away from being subordinated to the bourgeoisie and its representatives. A growing revolutionary force, galvanized and mobilized around a revolutionary and communist orientation, has to be increasingly out there as a “magnet,” as a pole of attraction for people who—however latently and however much it involves contradiction—are searching for and desire a different world than this one, who have a sense that this world is very fucked up and want to know if another way really is possible, as well as others who have temporarily given up on the idea that this is possible but need to be jolted awake to the reality that it is possible—that there can be another way—and that this is the way.
Meaningful revolutionary work has to revolve around things that give life and expression to what is captured in Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. This has to actually be meaningful revolutionary work—and it has to feel like meaningful revolutionary work to people who are coming forward and taking it up. And let us be very clear here: This is not all going to be neat and orderly, it’s not all going to be everybody marching in formation with us tightly controlling everything—which we shouldn’t be trying to do anyway. We shouldn’t be trying to keep everything from getting “unruly” and from involving any risk. You are never going to build a revolutionary movement, you are never going to enable the masses to take up meaningful revolutionary work, if you try to approach it in that way.
And, yes, this means walking another razor’s edge, because there is an enemy out there—there is an oppressive state out there—they will take advantage of every foolish thing that’s done, every amateurish thing that’s done, by people who are newly involved in the struggle and are inexperienced. So, throughout this process, it will be necessary to struggle with people—and struggle sharply some times—about what does, and what does not, serve the revolution that we’re all about and the means to actually bring that revolution about. And, yes, without allowing paranoia to set in—which would in fact seriously undermine the revolutionary movement as well—it will be necessary to be alert to, and not be naive about, people who may be sent into the ranks of the movement in order to try to divert it—not only back under the wing of the bourgeoisie, but into forms that would make it easier for the bourgeoisie to crush it, which it will try to do in any case.
This is another expression of the “drawn and quartered” point,2 applied to this question of meaningful revolutionary work and activity. But if we don’t inspire in masses of people a sense and a spirit of going out and challenging people with revolution, and a sense of taking out to people, “if you want to fight the power, then get with us,” there will be no meaningful revolutionary work, and no revolutionary movement.
There will at times be sharp struggle with masses over these questions: what is and is not the best way to build the revolutionary movement, what will and will not contribute to revolution, what represents really being serious about working for revolution and what is giving in to infantile impulses—and, on the other side of it, what represents just getting off into a reformist dead-end, as opposed to staying on the road of revolution? There will be, and there should be, all kinds of struggle about those questions. But people should have a sense: If you want to know about, and work toward, a different world—and if you want to stand up and fight back against what’s being done to people—this is where you go. You go to this Party, you take up this Party’s newspaper, you get into this Party’s leader and what he’s bringing forward, you come to the Revolution Clubs, you join in with the people carrying out political activity that embodies this—spreading revolution and building resistance, and the “positive synergy” between the two—all aiming for revolution.
Now, of course, we’re going to be engaged in many forms of “united front” mass organizations, if you want to use that phrase—organizations made up of a diversity of people and forces whose objectives and whose basis of unity is not revolution. But, at the same time, and of great importance, there should be some forms of mass organization whose basis of unity and objective is revolution—forms besides just the Party, which masses can join in, such as the Revolution Clubs. And within broader “united front” movements and organizations, there should be that element of the Party, and those partisan to the Party’s viewpoint, bringing forward its outlook and objectives, in the appropriate way—in a way which recognizes and respects the integrity and basis of unity of the broader mass movement/organization and does not confuse or conflate that with what the Party stands for and is working for.
And again, as part of putting forward revolution and communism, in a living and compelling way, we should be “taking on all comers” in healthy debate and ideological struggle. You want to talk about Hannah Arendt? Let’s talk about Hannah Arendt. That is one foolish person, that Hannah Arendt. [Laughter] That is one unscientific person, propagating all kinds of distorted, unscientific notions about communism and “totalitarianism,” and so on. Let’s talk about that Hannah Arendt. We should be anxious to get into these kinds of debates and struggles. And, as Mao said, what we don’t know we can learn. That’s why we have theory, and that’s why we have the collectivity of a Party. That’s why we have a scientific outlook and method to enable us to do these things.
As I have been emphasizing, the Revolution Clubs are one key form and means through which to involve masses, including masses newly awakening to political life and struggle, in the revolutionary movement. And it is very important to correctly handle the contradictions involved in enabling the masses themselves to take increasing initiative in building the revolutionary movement and, at the same time, giving them the leadership they need in order to do this. In the course of working to build the revolutionary movement, new people—as well as people who have been around for a while—will run into all the contradictions out there that you run into as soon as you start carrying this out. How do you spread revolution? What do you say when people come back at you with this and that, when you put forward revolution and communism? How do you build resistance? What is the correct way to take on this or that particular attack or outrage? This requires leadership—leadership which helps provide the answers to these questions and which unleashes more and more initiative among the masses—which doesn’t stifle and suppress that initiative but, increasingly over time, enables masses themselves to take greater initiative to take matters into their own hands, and to lead others. The notion that masses don’t need leadership—and acting in accordance with that notion—will only lead to suffocating the initiative of the masses and to demoralizing them. You don’t take people who have never been swimming and throw them in the deep end of the pool and say, “we don’t want to stifle your initiative.” Thanks a lot! While they’re drowning we can repeat incantations about how the masses can do this themselves, and they don’t need leadership. No. It is up to us to work together with masses, and to lead them, without being overbearing—without suffocating them, without extinguishing their initiative, but giving fuller and fuller expression to it.
Building the Party
In relation to all this, and as a crucial element of building the revolutionary movement overall, we have to give the necessary emphasis to the crucial importance of building the Party itself. We have to grasp firmly the basic point that, from the point of view of the necessity, and the strategic objective, of revolution, the most important form of organization of the masses is the Party itself, as the vanguard of the broader revolutionary masses. Building the Party is crucial and pivotal in terms of being able to hasten while awaiting a revolutionary situation, and being in a position to lead a revolution when the revolutionary conditions and the revolutionary people do come forward. We need to be systematically approaching the building of the Party quantitatively—that means we need to bring in many more new members, we need to recruit boldly and recruit widely among the basic masses and among all strata.
Back in the day, at the time of the RU (the Revolutionary Union—the forerunner of the RCP), some people had a method of recruiting on any old basis, if someone would express any sort of agreement, even in a vague kind of way, with the idea of communism. So we had to struggle against that and insist: no, there has to be some substance to this. Well, one of the people advocating this kind of “loose” recruiting, raised the formulation that we needed to “recruit widely and boldly.” And we answered: yes, but not wildly and badly. That is an important distinction. [Laughter] And this distinction still needs to be applied. We need to continually build the Party quantitatively—we do need to recruit boldly and, yes, widely, among the basic masses and among all strata—but we need to do it correctly, on the basis that we are recruiting into the Party people who have made the leap to being revolutionaries and communists in their basic outlook and orientation, who have grasped and are united with the basic principles and objectives—the basic line—of the Party.
The Party needs to become rooted, much more broadly and deeply, among the masses of people of different strata, but especially among the proletarians and other basic masses who have the greatest interest in the revolutionary transformation of society and the world. We have to win people to be communists, and then actively take up a concentrated process of recruiting them. We need to recruit communists, people who are prepared and determined to dedicate their lives to revolution and the final aim of a communist world—to being emancipators of humanity—to contributing as much as they can, in an organized and disciplined way, to that cause.
And it is important not to underestimate the potential for significant numbers of people now—and, as things develop, for greater numbers of people—to be won to revolution and to communism. Yes, it is true, we are going up against a lot of spontaneity and the reality that socialism has been reversed, and capitalism restored, first in the Soviet Union, and then in China; there is the influence of these objective developments, along with the ways in which the imperialists and their intellectual camp followers have moved to seize on these historic setbacks. As part of this, there is the irony that in reality socialism was overturned, and capitalism restored, in the Soviet Union 50 years ago now, but for much of that time the rulers of the Soviet Union continued to maintain an increasingly threadbare camouflage of “socialism” and “communism,” until finally, in the early 1990s, they dropped this altogether, and the Soviet Union, and the states which succeeded it when the Soviet Union was finally dissolved, became openly capitalist. This demise of the Soviet Union, and the open embrace of capitalism in the former Soviet bloc, has further unleashed a hungry pack of rabid bourgeois ideologues who are piling on and trying to tear to pieces any remaining respect for socialism and communism in the minds of the masses. So, yes, we are going up against all that—the imperialists and reactionaries (and more “liberal” or “progressive” antagonists of communism) have all that going for them—but what is not in their favor is the reality of what the capitalist-imperialist system (and other outmoded systems and social relations and related ideas) actually do and what they actually mean for the masses of people and, on the other hand, the reality of what communism actually stands for, and what has been the actual—principally very positive—experience of the communist movement and of socialist countries led by communists. There is, in reality—sometimes openly expressing itself, often not too far beneath the surface, or sometimes even further beneath the surface but still alive—great potential to win people to revolution and communism and to recruit people into the Party and continually build the Party quantitatively.
At the same time, there is the need to further build the Party qualitatively, to continue to further transform the Party to strengthen its revolutionary and communist character—ideologically, politically, and organizationally. But it is important to emphasize that this must be done in the context of—and for the fundamental purpose of—transforming the larger objective world. We have to carry forward the struggle to further revolutionize the Party itself in that context, and we have to bring people forward to make the leap to joining the Party in that context and with that fundamental objective.
In all these ways, including systematic attention to building the Party, both quantitatively and qualitatively, our orientation and our aim has to be making revolution and communism—making the orientation and challenge of being emancipators of humanity—an increasingly powerful pole of attraction: for basic masses, for the youth among the basic masses and youth generally, and for others throughout society.
1. The striving of mass movements to “come under the wing of the bourgeoisie”—and the need to combat this “spontaneous striving”—is discussed in the first installment in this series, “Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism,” in Revolution #113, December 23, 2007.[back]
2. The “drawn and quartered point” is discussed earlier in this talk—see Part 1: “Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right,” which is available at revcom.us, and in particular the last section of Part 1, “Historical Experience and the New Synthesis,” which appears in Revolution #112, Dec. 16, 2007.[back]
This series will continue in the next issue of Revolution.
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