Revolution #117, January 27, 2008


Overcoming Obstacles and Limitations, “Mobilizing All Positive Factors”

Editors’ Note: The following is the fifth 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, 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

Overcoming Obstacles and Limitations, “Mobilizing All Positive Factors”

There is something very important that can be learned from experience in relation to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and more particularly what we have summed up about the limitations and shortcomings of our Party in relation to that. I am referring not only to our limitations in terms of our organized strength and numbers, and so on, but also instances where initiative was not taken where it could have been, where people bowed to the difficulties of the situation, including the repressive force of the state, when there was a basis to go up against that, together with masses of people, and transform necessity through struggle. We should go back to our summation of that,1 study that deeply, and draw the lessons very fully, in order to be able to do better in the future, including on the many occasions in the future when major events will suddenly erupt, often seemingly “out of nowhere.”

Who predicted, or could have predicted, everything that happened with Hurricane Katrina? Now, of course, after a certain point, meteorologists predicted that there would be a major hurricane in that area at that time. But, ironically, the hurricane itself came and went—and many believed, for a moment, that the worst was over—and then the levees broke. Who predicted that? Well, once again, there was accident and causality. There were reasons why the levees broke, and it appears that there were some people in positions of authority who had good reasons to believe they might break. But who could have predicted, or did predict, everything that gave rise to? This emphasizes again the importance of not proceeding with a “determinist realism”2 in engaging reality and the possibility of radical change.

What could have been done by an organized communist vanguard in that situation was way more than what was done. Now, the effect of the vanguard acting fully in accordance with its responsibilities as a vanguard, and everything that might have come about as a result of that—what we sometimes refer to as the revolution/counter-revolution/more revolution dynamic—would have been tremendous, in the sense of being very intense. But if we think we’re going to get from here to there (from the present circumstances to one where the whole direction of society is “coming up for grabs”) without that kind of dynamic, repeatedly along the way—and then in a greatly magnified way when, finally, a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people, in the millions, does emerge—then we are deluding ourselves and we should just forget about the whole thing—which, of course, we are not going to do.

So, again, I seriously suggest that we study this summation regarding the experience relating to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, from the perspective of learning to do better. Many things that are similar to that experience—particularly in the sense that they embody sudden eruptions of dramatic change—are going to present themselves from many different directions. In some cases, we will be able to see, somewhat in advance, at least the outlines of, or the possibility of, what is coming; while in some other situations, even that will not be possible until the tumultuous event is suddenly “right upon us.” This is a matter of fundamental orientation and is crucial in terms of our overall work and objectives, but also more specifically in enabling masses of people—uniting with and leading these masses—to undertake meaningful revolutionary activity even when there is not yet a revolutionary situation, in order to contribute to the revolutionary goal and to bringing about the advance—as far as possible, at any given point, and as fast as possible—toward the situation where there is a revolutionary people in the millions and the objective possibility of revolution poses itself in immediate terms.

Along with this, we need to be focusing on and applying the orientation of, as Mao put it, “mobilizing all positive factors.” All these contradictions among the people, for example, even when they mainly take a negative expression, are not just something negative—they also have a positive side, at least potentially—they have the potential to be transformed into something positive. Now, to be very clear, that doesn’t mean they are positive now and all you have to do is “accentuate the positive.” No, you have to wrench the positive out of what is now, principally and essentially, negative—you have to transform a bad thing into a good thing.

Again, a sharp example of this is the intensifying Black/Latino contradictions today. This is right now, in its principal and overwhelming aspect, a very negative thing, but there is potential for it to be transformed into something positive by our correctly “working through”—or, better said, struggling through—this contradiction, to bring to the fore what is positive within this situation, which is the unity of the fundamental interests of these masses of different nationalities, along with the reality that—even while, in immediate terms, it has a negative expression, in the main—there is a positive aspect, and a positive potential, in the fact that masses of people are being awakened to political life and are grappling with major social issues and events. The challenge is to bring the positive elements, which do reside in this, to the fore and to transform things by stressing, and winning growing numbers of people to see, their fundamental common interests. And this means enabling them to see that the ways in which things are affecting them—including the ways in which, right now, they are being influenced and impelled toward being in conflict with each other—all this is rooted in, and is part of the essential workings of, the capitalist-imperialist system. This is how we have to approach all the contradictions we face. There are potential, if not immediately expressed, positive factors in all these social contradictions we encounter; and we have to be good at identifying the positive factors and bringing them to the fore, so we can “eat up” the negative. At the same time, it is crucial to understand—and to enable growing numbers of the masses to understand—that, while real progress can be made in transforming these contradictions (in turning bad things into good things), in the context of resisting the many outrages and injustices of the system, this cannot be fully realized—the fundamental unity of the masses of people around their highest interests cannot be achieved in a qualitative sense, and in an ongoing and further developing way—until we do make a revolution, overturning the rule of capital and establishing the rule of the proletariat and masses of people. Here again, is another expression of the D-O-P principle.3 But the point—the dialectical materialist understanding of this—is that we can, and we must, bring forward powerful elements of the future—including the unity of masses of people in struggle, increasingly motivated and guided by a scientific, communist understanding of where their common and highest interests lie—as part of building, and in order to build, the revolutionary movement toward the goal of abolishing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This year, for example, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation, on October 22nd,4 has importance both because this continues to constitute an important concentration of social contradictions and, as an additional element, because it is one important vehicle for transforming, in a positive direction, the contradictions among the people, including the Black/Latino contradictions, through emphasizing the common oppression they face and the common interests they have.

I have been following accounts, in the mainstream bourgeois media but also in Revolution, about what happened on May 1st in Los Angeles. Now, it is a fact that a lot of the Black masses had a backward attitude toward the immigrant rights demonstration on that day. And a lot of the immigrants were caught up in a very reformist and “assimilationist” orientation. But, in one sense, and even though this was a painful lesson, the bourgeoisie did the masses a favor by showing its true nature, with an unprovoked and brutal attack on this demonstration. These immigrant masses are, in large numbers, at this point, trying to be accepted, and even in many cases bending over backward to prove how respectable and hard-working they are—and the ruling class unleashed the dogs on them. And a lot of the immigrant masses, especially but not only those who were directly attacked in this way, began to understand a little bit more about what it is that they’re up against here, and that the operation of the system and the powers-that-be are not going to just let them become part of this set-up on some basis of dignity and equality. And a lot of the Black masses said, “Oh, I see, they don’t like these people either. That’s the kind of shit they do to us all the time.” Now all this is spontaneous, but it’s the raw material, if you will, from which we have to work, and can work, to recast and transform things in a still more positive way.

And, in an overall way, we also have to be continually grasping and applying an understanding of the dialectical relation—the potential “positive synergy”—between the “two maximizings,” that is, maximizing the development of a politicized atmosphere and a revolutionary movement, with a communist core, among the basic masses, and doing essentially the same thing among the middle strata. It is really only from the communist standpoint that you can see the potential for the positive dialectic here. A lot of different sections of the people, on their own and spontaneously—with their spontaneous viewpoint and the way in which that is largely influenced by the dominant ideas and media and other means of molding public opinion—don’t see how these different things can be, or can be transformed into, positive and favorable factors. They don’t spontaneously understand the significance of different things happening among different strata, how all this fits into an overall picture, and how this can be made to serve something positive, even while much of it is going in different directions.

In Bringing Forward Another Way,5 I talked about how we have to increasingly develop our ability to correctly handle the contradiction between, on the one hand, struggling with people to cast off their bourgeois-democratic illusions and, on the other hand, uniting with them in a lot of struggle in which people are largely proceeding from those bourgeois-democratic illusions. This is, in a sense, parallel to—or involves the same principles as—correctly handling the “two maximizings,” and getting a positive dialectic going in that kind of way, through a lot of struggle.

From our communist viewpoint and with our communist methods, and by applying this science, we can see how a lot of things that fall far short of where we need to go—and which may not seem, spontaneously, to be of any immediate benefit to different sections of the masses or to the overall revolutionary objective—actually can be mobilized and marshaled to be part of this whole process that goes toward where we need to go. And it is up to us to make that—the links between these different things, the ways in which they have important things in common and the roots they have in the same system—come alive for the basic masses but also for other sections of people.

This is another expression of “mobilizing all positive factors” but as it applies particularly to the interrelation between things more directly affecting different strata, how that all can be marshaled toward our strategic revolutionary objectives, and how the necessary positive dialectic (or “synergy”) can be fought for and brought forward in the course of, and as a crucial part of, building toward those objectives.

1. This was a statement by the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA—“On Hurricane Katrina: Three Fundamental Lessons”—which appeared in Revolution #14, September 18, 2005, which is online at Following is the text of that statement:

Three fundamental things to be learned from what has been happening, including the role of the government, in relation to hurricane Katrina:

1. The real nature of those who rule over the people, and real weaknesses of this ruling class, have been further revealed before the world. The “superstitious awe” that people are conditioned to have toward the powers-that-be and their state—their whole machinery of rule, and of repression—has been dramatically shaken through these events and in particular through the actions of the government itself. In the eyes of large numbers of people, the ability to rule as well as the right to rule of this current regime, and indeed of the ruling class as a whole, has been called into question in significant ways. Things which this ruling class attempts to keep hidden, to deny or to distort and misrepresent—including the oppression and the extreme poverty of large numbers of Black people in the U.S. itself—has burst through the “normal” web of deception and the iron hand of suppression. What does and does not matter to the powers-that-be—and in particular their complete lack of concern for the masses of poor and oppressed people, and indeed for the people in society in their great majority—has stood out for all to see, throughout the U.S. and all over the world. At the same time, it has been graphically illustrated that, even though they remain very powerful, the rulers of the U.S., and their armed forces and other machinery of oppression, are not all-powerful.

2. Not only the need but also the possibility of revolution, and of a radically different society, shows through in these events—once they are understood in their true light. Masses of people, in the areas most immediately affected, were being left by the government to suffer, day after day, in conditions not fit for human beings, yet they showed their humanity in many ways and put the lie to the slanders that portrayed them as criminals and animals. Where they took matters into their own hands, the great majority did so with right on their side, in the attempt to meet needs that could be met no other way. Overwhelmingly, the people trapped in these conditions have responded by supporting and helping each other, especially those in most desperate need, while expressing outrage at the indifference and inaction of the government; and in this they have been supported and assisted by people all over the country. In all this can be seen the potential for masses of people to be mobilized to bring into being a society in which relations among people are radically different than the daily dog-eat-dog that this capitalist system pushes people into. Yet what has also stood out very clearly is that the masses of people are not fully aware of and organized on the basis of an understanding of how the whole operation of this system is in direct and deep-going conflict with their real and fundamental interests. When they gain that understanding, and are organized to act on that basis, then a revolutionary struggle of millions and millions of people, combined with the development and sharpening of certain objective conditions, could make it possible to break the hold of the class of cold-blooded capitalist exploiters who rule over this society (and much of the world) and to bring into being a new society and a new state which would put the interests of the great majority of the people at the foundation and at the center of everything it stands for and everything it does. But for this to happen, the masses must have revolutionary leadership. And that points to a third and final crucial point.

3. There is such a revolutionary leadership—the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and its Chairman Bob Avakian. But to put things squarely and honestly, while the Party has been exerting real efforts to take up its responsibility in relation to the events surrounding hurricane Katrina, the ability of the Party to actually lead in these dire and urgent circumstances has been far short of what it needs to be. If the influence of the Party and its organized ties with masses of people had been much greater, leading into these events surrounding hurricane Katrina, the Party would be able to play a far greater role in raising the understanding of the masses of people as to what was happening and why: why the government and the whole ruling class reacted the way they have—with the loss of thousands of lives, and terrible suffering for hundreds of thousands more, much of which could have been prevented or significantly lessened—and what this says about the nature of their system and why we need a radically different system. The Party could have been playing a far greater role in enabling masses of people, in the areas immediately affected and throughout the country, to be organized to respond to these events and to wage organized political struggle, on a much higher level and in a much more powerful way, to force steps to be taken immediately to save hundreds and probably thousands of lives that have been, and are still being, needlessly lost. And all this could be having the effect of raising the consciousness and the organized strength of masses of people to a far higher level, with the necessary goal of revolution more clearly and sharply in view. These events surrounding hurricane Katrina and all that has been forced into the light of day in connection with this, has shown the great need for the Party to rise to its responsibilities and play its leadership role in this way, on a whole other level, and for masses of people to rally to, to support, to join and build, and to defend—this necessary and crucial revolutionary leadership, as embodied in the Revolutionary Communist Party and its Chairman Bob Avakian.[back]

2. “Determinist realism” is spoken to in the first installment of this series, “Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism,” in Revolution #113, December 23, 2007. It also appears in “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part 1: Beyond the Narrow Horizon Of Bourgeois Right”—available at—and, in the serialization of Part 1, is found in “Marxism as a Science—In Opposition to Mechanical Materialism, Idealism and Religiosity,” in Revolution #109, November 18, 2007.[back]

3. D-O-P refers to an earlier part of this talk where emphasis is given to how the continuous outrages people suffer, and the way social contradictions are repeatedly posed, in the present society point powerfully to the need for revolution and a radically different society and state: the dictatorship of the proletariat.[back]

4. This talk by Bob Avakian was given before October 22, 2007. For coverage of protests on that day, see Revolution #107, November 4, 2007.[back]

5. Bringing Forward Another Way is a talk given by Bob Avakian in the fall of 2006. An edited version of this talk is available at, and this was serialized in Revolution in #83, March 25; #85, April 22; #86, April 29; #87, May 6; #88, May 13; #89, May 20; #90, May 27; #91, June 10; #92, June 17; #93, June 24; #94, July 1; #95, July 15; #96, July 22; #97, July 29, #98, Aug. 19; #99, Aug. 26; and #100, Sept. 9, 2007.[back]

This series will continue in the next issue of Revolution.

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond