On the Road Toward the Finalization of the Party Programme During World Historic Times--We Need World Historic Answers

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Revolutionary Worker #1201, June 1, 2003, posted at rwor.org

May Day 2001 the RCP released its Draft Programme with the slogan "Looking For A Plan To Change The World?...It's Here!" Since the release of the Draft Programme, or DP, the RCP has learned from the sentiments, thoughts and opinions of thousands of people checking it out. All the while the RCP has been popularizing its revolutionary strategy and vision.

Over the past few years a new generation has stepped forward to oppose imperialist globalization. Since 9/11, literally millions more have come into political life and struggle against the juggernaut of war and repression. Mao Tsetung teaches us the fundamental law that "people fight back, then they seek philosophy." Many are asking why things are this way--and do they have to be this way, is another world possible.

Over the next several months the RW/OR will be putting a spotlight on the DP, highlighting important parts of the Draft Programme. Along with this the RW will publish selected comments, criticisms, and suggestions from people studying the DP--including comments from Party supporters, debates from the 2changetheworld website, and letters from prisoners.

Readers of the RW are encouraged to contribute to the debate by sending in comments. Comments can be sent to "Draft Programme Debate" c/o RCP Publications, PO Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654. They can also be given to your local RW distributor.

The RW will not be able to publish all the comments sent in. However all such commentary from the debate will aid in the finalization of the DP. So don't hold back--join the debate!

Last week, we reprinted the appendix from the DP on the RCP's Central Task. In this issue, we have several comments on the question of the Central Task.

On Federations and Direct Democracy

The following was posted at 2changetheworld.info website by Rise.

I think some of the questions raised earlier about "how do we get to freedom" are really valid, and i'll try and explain how anarchists like myself think we should get there, and how we work towards that goal through movements of oppressed peoples, whether they be workers, unemployed, homosexual, women, and how the equality gaps in between countries affects this.

First of all, we believe in organizing on a local basis for struggles that are of primary importance for oppressed people in that area. For example, there are many anarchist "anti-poverty" groups that deal with these issues, that organize locally, in addition to anarchist groups attempting to organize in the workplace. There are groups like Mujeres Creando [Women's Action] in Bolivia that work towards the freedom of women. Anarchists believe that the basic starting point for these struggles is in the community, not page b14 of some overpriced trotskyist paper.

We think that the basic units of organization for any revolutionary body should be formed from the units of organization developed in local, day to day struggles. The affinity group, the collective, and so on. But we realize that this is not enough. Our efforts must be co-ordinated, and that is why we form federations of these collectives, or even groups of collectives, to help us communicate with each other and co-ordinate our efforts in the class struggle.

Allow me to explain the principle of the federation, because it is where anarchism differs sharply from marxism, and indeed from maoism as well. The anarchist federative body is based on principles of direct democracy, and delegate democracy. Direct democracy means that the people of a given collective or group have to work out amongst themselves whether or not they will do certain things, and how they will conduct themselves, and so on and so forth. It's about making decisions at a local level in a societal setting of a very small kind. Delegate democracy is the idea that instead of using representatives,you use delegates.

So you're asking, "What's the difference?" Well, for the purpose of this conversation, a delegate as I've used the term is someone who has been appointed to conduct a specific task or set of tasks, and not a broad agenda. Anarchists do not believe that one individual, or even a small group of individuals [such as a party committee, etc.] can be responsible for setting a broad agenda... that has to come from the revolutionary self-activity of the oppressed classes within the anarchist movement themselves. So for example, no delegate has the "authority" to represent a group, unless that group specifically mandates that delegate to do so on a specific occasion. In short, in an anarchist federation, there are no established bureaucratic positions [no central committee, etc.]

As revolutionaries, we agree on the necessity of organizing our day to day work in the class struggle with other people, and taking our energy towards breaking down smaller parts of the class system into fighting the class war head-on. As anarchists, we believe that a federation emulates the kind of society we are trying to achieve. We believe that the means shape the ends, and that accordingly our means must be representative of the society we wish to create, before during and after a "transition period" from capitalism to anarchist communism.

That being said, doubt lingers. Some say that we do not need a revolutionary form of organization that reflects the type of society we wish to create: they claim that we must borrow bourgeois structures of oppression, like the state, officer-led army, and so on to "win" a revolution and suppress our class enemies.

As anarchists, we disagree with this argument. For us, we have seen that not only theoretically but practically and historically that it is incredibly efficient, and in line with the means and ends of a revolution, to organize along principles of liberty and socialism. That we must not use a "state," because such a structure is not merely the tool for "the oppression of one class by another" but a tool for the oppression of a majority by a minority, by a class that for whatever its original nature is or becomes a bureaucracy. Moreover, we believe in coordinating our class struggle through the revolutionary self-activity of the oppressed class. We do not believe in the principle of a bureaucratized vanguard, as we see that this is not only a "remnant" from capitalist society by the seeds of capitalist restoration.

As for the question of whether or not you can make a revolution without the middle class, surely you can make a revolution without the support of the entire, or even most, of the middle class. However, you do need a certain degree of skill that the middle class offers [doctors, and other educated professionals who have experience "running things" or "fixing things"]. The question for us is not whether you include these people in the revolution [since seeking revenge is wasteful and immoral] but whether or not you adopt a revolutionary, "proletarian" line or a semi-revolutionary vanguardist "petit bourgeois" line. We adopt the former, and reject the latter. It is the criticism of countless anarchists that do pander to the middle class with statist forms of organization and the establishment of class inequalities within society [such as rendering greater monetary value for the work of middle class educated professionals, as Avakian advocates] that are beneficial to the middle and ruling classes are negative developments. We believe the middle classes must join the revolution and abandon class society, or they are clearly class enemies. This is why we see the "unite all who can be united" line in relation to the middle class put forward by the RCP as being a form of class collaboration.

An Exchange on the Central Task

The following is an excerpt of an exchange posted at 2changetheworld.info. between posters Times Up! and RosaRL.

From Times Up!:

Hey folks,

Rosa said "It's like I'm missing some important information--how has this actually changed from the previous central task? What are these groundbreaking things you are talking about? It is not that obvious to me."

Well first--I think that this whole Central Task section is actually pretty hard to grasp--because it is very dialectical and is dealing with the whole process of preparing for a revolutionary situation when that time comes. I was glad Rosa asked what things I was talking about that I thought were ground breaking. I have thought this for a while--but it made me go back and re-read the old Programme's section on the Central Task and then the new DP's section. As I was reading, many new thoughts, questions were going on in my mind. So I would highly suggest a review of both for those who are digging into this.

There are several things that stood out. For one thing as I was reading the new DP after having read the old Programme on this section--I found myself reflecting on how important it is that there exists a mature revolutionary communist party in this country. And I think that this maturity is reflected a lot in the deepening of this section. For one I felt it really illustrates the responsibility a vanguard party has to deal with preparing for revolution in a country like this. And certainly the question of the need for a vanguard is a contradictory question in its own right. But if your gonna make revolution you best have thought this shit through and this section really reflects that, I feel.

As I had mentioned in a previous post, I think that there is something very important and new about this hastening while awaiting orientation. In particular there is a very important point that in an imperialist country like the US--a vanguard party does not or cannot "create a revolutionary situation." But the DP goes on to say, "But it can and must hasten the arrival of the conditions for the armed struggle for power. The party does not overall determine the political challenges that it faces, but how it meets those challenges can have a huge effect on the political terrain itself." In re-reading the previous programme--I think this whole formulation and orientation in the new DP actually represents a deepening but also a leap in understanding.

In looking at this new situation today--post 9/11 and how all this is developing in the US and around the world, this very orientation can certainly be applied. For example if you start from the question--how legitimate is this war? People start to question that right, I mean even objective conditions push many to start questioning that. Then many people start to raise more questions as they oppose the war itself. Many learn more about the nature of imperialism. And in this process people can be helped to see how illegitimate not only the war is but also the very system that is carrying it out. For some it is a process of breaking out of the Matrix. (Not to forget the whole process of people rebelling against the war and being attacked, spied on and harassed by the police and government--which also sharpen things up for people.)

The role the Party plays in this process of people starting to see the illegitimacy of the system itself, is very important. As well helping people to see that things don't fundamentally have to be this way, how they could be and what that will take. I think that Chairman Avakian's point, that the present juggernaut of war and repression can be derailed short of a revolution is correct. And it would be wrong to see the process of hastening a revolutionary crisis, in relationship to the present war, in a straight line or as an absolute. At the same time the point made in the DP under Hastening While Awaiting--that the party does have to "play a very dynamic role at all times, and that role will greatly influence when, how, and even if a revolutionary crisis actually does emerge," is very true and very relevant.

Again in reflecting on the previous programme, it seems there is an important deepening and even a leap in the understanding of how to apply this whole central task, that comes out in the DP.

From RosaRL:

Hey Time's Up!,

Here are a few of my thoughts on this:

One thing I can say is that the approach of the Central Task certainly isn't "whatever happens to work right now"! It doesn't start from whatever will turn out the most people at any given moment or some idea of what "the average Joe" might like to hear. Its not, "oh, if you say revolution then the people won't be down with that," or any other pragmatic shit like that. In fact the Central Task is quite to the point that it is about making revolution. It's about what its going to take. It's about how to get to that point.

The Central Task doesn't leave working for revolution off in some distant future. It puts working for that as the main consideration. Everything is done with that in mind, rather than working first to get X number of people in this or that movement and then, sometime later, starting to work towards a revolution. Revolution has to be the goal and everything has to be a step toward that goal, in one way or another (although not in a mechanical strait line way) or you are going to end up off the road altogether.

That was a big realization for me! And it makes sense! If you were going to take a long trip to somewhere you wouldn't just start off down whatever road is easiest. You would get out a map and then with the goal in mind, you would plan how to get there. You certainly wouldn't forget where you were headed 10 miles down the road anyway. But, if you do happen to get off the road or something happens and you can't go on like you thought you would be able to, then it's possible, if you keep the goal in mind, to figure out how to get back going again toward that goal. I know that's just a rough sketch, but it's how I picture it.

That's what I think of when I read this "hastening while awaiting" section in the DP. While it's not possible to just create a revolutionary situation, the way forward is to work now to create the public opinion--to prepare minds/organize forces. But this acts back on the situation itself actually moving closer to a revolutionary crisis where the seizure of power would be possible.

So no matter what breaks out or what kind of turn things take, it's still possible to keep the goal in mind, to keep working toward it and to have a very real impact on the situation by reaching more and more people all along the way. A big part of that impact is through agitation and propaganda, through exposure and education because that IS how you reach people. They have to be able to hear Revolutionary ideas and in fact they NEED to hear revolutionary exposures and analysis! People can't just come up with this stuff on their own!

Now, there is something I have been wondering about. I was following Bob Avakian's last series on Grasp Revolution/ Promote Production very closely and really fighting to try to get an understanding of it. The more I think about this question of the Central Task, the more I wonder what the relationship of GR/PP is to the Central Task. How is it applied to carrying out the Central Task?


The following are previously unpublished comments on the DP by Party supporters.

Rewording the Central Task

In the first go round, before the Draft came out, I think the way I characterized my disagreement with the way the CT was stated was something like "If it could reflect the essence of what the Chair is saying in the Silver Book quote, ("You have to lead the people to fight back, you have to move masses of people to battle the system in a way that is guided¬") that would be right." When the draft came out with "prepare minds and organize forces" on an equal footing with "create public opinion, seize power," at first I thought, OK that does it. But, upon further reflection, not so much based on what is said in the excerpts from the Web site, but based on the whole "struggle around struggle" that's been going on forever since the first Programme, I think the CT should be: "Create Public Opinion, Seize Power. Fight Back, Prepare Minds and Organize Forces for Revolution." I think it's necessary to put the Fight Back back in the CT, but without the economism. I think it's too much leaning over backward to avoid the main danger to the movement to leave it out. Instead of arguing with the masses (and others) that we really do give importance to mass struggles, I think we should put some preparatory struggle in the CT and continue to strive to put out our independent line to divert the struggles toward revolution, which is going to be our main challenge any way you word the CT.

The section in the Appendix on the CT about the "Final Aim" (p. 52) I think does not emphasize enough the final aim, namely communism. I agree with strategizing "from the SP back," and having a pit-bull attitude about SP, but this is within the framework of this country and within the time frame of however long it will take to SP. Perhaps a distinction needs to be made between the "Prize" and the Final Aim.

"The Create Public Opinion, Seize Power... Section Needs to be Tweaked"

...In relation to the arguments raised at the web site, I think our overall orientation on our central task stands out as extremely far sighted and precious. I think the emphasis on the paper is going to "come alive" more and more as things sharpen up. At the same time, in light of our experience in the post 9/11 period, and more generally, I feel the CPO, SP... section needs to be tweaked to more accurately reflect the role of struggle in preparing the ground for rev. I've heard that maybe some comrades are planning to write this up but I haven't heard what their positions are. I think the formulation itself, the expanded one (Create Public Opinion, Seize Power! Prepare Minds and Organize Forces For Revolution) doesn't quite get it in terms of the role of struggle. My proposal is not very poetic and kind of clunky: Create Public Opinion, Seize Power! Prepare Minds, Organize Forces, and Build the People's Fighting Capacity for Revolution.

I think some of the formulations in relation to this are a little contradictory. For instance, in the section on the Party (before seizing power), pages 35-37, there is a lot of cautioning about the limitations of tailing spontaneous struggle, but no mention (did I miss it?) of the need, at times, for the Party to initiate and lead key struggles. Even the formulation "The Spontaneous Struggle and the Party" is a little bent, I think--since there is spontaneous struggle, and also relatively more conscious struggle--and struggle initiated by the Party. This point is made, I think correctly, on page 48 in the "Schools of War..." section. Not that it needs to be repeated, but I think the discussion on pages 35-37 appears to cut a little against this. I think this reflects the fact that we are still grappling in practice, not just in theory, with the process of preparing for rev in a country like this. I think that there will be a tremendous pull to the "traditional" error of pragmatism as things heat up.

I spent some time (daydreaming a bit) thinking about the experience of the old CP, which in its best period led tens or hundreds of thousands of workers in very fierce struggle without any real serious vision or plan or methods of connecting this to the goal of revolution. Is such a deviation possible in the coming period? I think it's the main danger. So I think the warnings against this are far from a relic of an old struggle with the Mensheviks or something.

And, the DP does have a whole discussion of the role of schools of war, etc. At the same time, I think we've come to appreciate that in many cases the proletariat does have to lead, and even fight to lead, mass struggles around critical battles. This is something I think has to be grappled with more. There's nothing inherently revolutionary in the struggle against police brutality. But, on the other hand, there's a reason why we're focused on this while other class forces or trends focus on union struggles (to take an example).

I have a very minor question in the central task section--the first paragraph on p. 47 refers to the paper revealing things "involved in all such events." The word "such" doesn't seem to make any sense here. Should that be "all major events" or something like that? Am I missing something here?

Comments/Questions/Suggestions on the Central Task.

I think the whole appendix on the Central Task is really sharp. I do have a few comments/questions/suggestions though.

I read excerpts from the 2changetheworld website. It was interesting to me in the post by Scott H. that he didn't see how producing a flyer like the 9-14-01 flyer [statement from the RCP in the wake of 9/11] was part of organizing the masses (not to mention "not using the mass line"!). It seems to me that the way he measures leading the masses is by the number of demonstrations you call for. I had this in my mind though as I was reading the Central Task appendix, particularly the part on "The Pivotal Role of the Party's Press." I know I at one time didn't understand how selling the newspaper was anything more than education. And I think a lot of people probably view it that way.

Overall I think this section explains the use of our press, not only correctly, but in a way it can be understood by people who read this. The only thing I was thinking maybe could be different is the first paragraph. There's nothing wrong with the first paragraph in and of itself. But I was wondering if maybe that introductory paragraph, instead of speaking generally of exposing the system and battling the bourgeoisie in the realm of public opinion, should place more emphasis on what the paper accomplishes in terms of bringing forward the masses. For example:

The newspaper builds class-consciousness among the masses, helping them to understand how all the different outrages/attacks come from the same system of capitalism/imperialism It trains people in being able to consistently fall out on the right side of things--to be able to analyze events/occurrences here and throughout the world, seeing who/what to unite with and who/what to oppose. It helps people to see and recognize the strength, the potential and the importance of resistance happening. Through all this the paper brings clarity to the masses on the real problem and solution and the basis on which we are really going to be able to change all this. The paper is not about patient education--it infuses revolutionary analysis into the struggles of the masses, strengthening these struggles and exerting influence toward more revolutionary aims.

Not necessarily these words--but something to this effect. All of these points are addressed within the section on the press, but I thought it would be good to kind of lay it out there like that at the very beginning of the section, so there is no confusion as to how we understand the role of the revolutionary press.

The other thing I thought regarding the revolutionary press is actually a question. Towards the end of the next section of the Central Task, "Schools of War and the War itself," it reads, "Here once again the Party's newspaper plays a critical role. Its exposures of the enemy propel the masses into battle." This is similar to what it says in the "Pivotal Role" section, paragraph 2, "...it rouses the people in struggle...". These two sentences kind of stand alone, without really an explanation of how it does that. And I guess my question is, does it really do that? In other words, while it is true that exposing the crimes of the system rouses people in struggle, is it true that doing this through the newspaper literally has that effect? Is it the idea that we sell the newspaper expecting people to read it and be outraged and go out and do something? The more I think about it, I guess it does in some ways. For example, the stories on police brutality might compel people to hook up with protests in their area around a particular outrage. And again on a more mass level in work amongst the base, for example, part of the idea in selling the paper regularly, getting subs, is that through regularly reading the paper the masses will be compelled to act--because they will be learning who's responsible for the outrages, but also, beginning to see themselves as part of a class--breaking with the "look out for myself" outlook, and learning about the heroic resistance of others like themselves. So, I guess I've answered my own question--yes, the paper does propel the masses into battle. But maybe it'd be good to explain that a little more in the Programme.

The other thing I thought could be explained a little more in the Central Task appendix is in the section, "Strongholds and `Stretching a Line.'" In paragraph 3 it says, "These strongholds serve to create public opinion very broadly and play a key role in preparing the minds and organizing the forces who will lead..." For the basic masses, who feel so completely isolated from the rest of society--like discarded, forgotten, decaying trash--I think it is very difficult to see how the things they do can affect society in a huge way. Maybe a sentence or two describing this would be warranted, using examples like the rebellion or the Black Panther Party.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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