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

Contribute to the Debate

Revolutionary Worker #1202, June 8, 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 published several comments on the RCP's Central Task. In this issue, we continue with more comments on the Central Task.

The following are excerpts from two letters received by the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF). The first excerpt is from a letter printed in the RW in January.

How Does the Central Task* Apply to Prisoners?

Living in prison as a revolutionary has many aspects to grasp and build upon....

First, I do not believe that being locked up has to be a situation where all we can do is wait (although it does feel like that). Yet, at times, wait we must do. It is what we do as we wait that will help determine what we can do when the time for "action" arrives.

In prison there are many people who are confused about the process of making revolution (I was, and to some extent am, one of these people), who think that fighting the system is all about the physical actions that are taken against the enemy. These physical actions are usually hurtful to a handful of individuals who might be bourgeois but are not the capitalist system that is exploiting us. That is how I got here. I had always heard of "for the cause" and "fuck the system," but I was not exposed to true revolutionary lines. I was on my own to determine which methods to use in my battle against the beast....

....."How does the central task of the party apply to prisoners and prison life?"

By continuing and stepping up the process of spreading the MLM (Marxism-Leninism-Maoism) theory and making prison a virtual production site of true and thorough revolutionaries instead of confused, damaged and worsened lumpen-proletariat, we are actively and aggressively struggling against the system.

Even if one learns strictly on a personal level, which might be the case for some brothers and sisters in isolation, they are still preparing themselves. To not study and learn would be the contradiction and that can lead to a backwards course of action(s).

As Revolutionary Prisoners, our struggle is constant and urgent. On the last page of the Draft Programme , in the section "Standards Set by the Vanguard Party," it says, "They should be fearless in the face of the enemy and be prepared for persecution, imprisonment and even death in the service of the revolution." Plus in the RW I am reading of the increasing risk posed to communists and others who oppose the imperialists, that they stand an ever greater chance of being arrested for their dissent. We should be ready for them because the threat is real. It will be terrible to neglect the support that the PRLF is offering and then when the time comes that revolutionaries are being thrown in prison and we, those who have this time to prepare, are not ready.

Jumping back to page 60 of the Draft Programme , in the "Prisons and Prisoners" section, it states clearly and correctly, "The prison system is an instrument of bourgeois dictatorship designed to terrorize the masses broadly and to further degrade them. It offers no real retraining or rehabilitation, but rather unspeakable brutality and increasingly, slave labor."

As Revolutionary Prisoners we will be instrumental in making those conditions change. We might not get the vocational training or college degrees that we want, but we can participate in the revolutionary training offered by the PRLF. It is a great thing what the PRLF is doing and I think that we should and can show them that the struggle will be picked up and carried out in prison. We should make prisons a "stronghold," the same as those brought up on page 50 on the "Central Task."

I'll sum this up with two more passages from the "Central Task," on page 49 in the "Building the Party Itself Is a Crucial Part of Revolutionary Preparation" section: "The party is made up of the most dedicated fighters for revolution, those who devote their lives to this cause and who struggle wholeheartedly to grasp and apply the revolutionary ideology of Marxism-Leninism- Maoism."

In the next paragraph: "The party must continually bring in and train fresh forces, particularly from the proletariat as well as the revolutionary youth, training all members to constantly deepen their grasp and application of MLM."

I'm not trying to say that we are the Party, and I know that there are many, many obstacles in our way, but we can use these last two paragraphs as models, along with the generous PRLF to give our lives a strong revolutionary purpose.

In struggle,


Creating Public Opinion Inside Prisons

Revolutionary greetings your way! I recently received your letter which was very mentally stimulating, I'm glad you enjoyed the article and artwork I sent... These concrete walls have not conquered my mind or spirit.

Concerning the works of Bob Avakian, yes he truly is a hero to the movement! I would like to read a biography on comrade Bob, is there anything remotely similar to a bio on Bob Avakian? I have been enjoying his writings, they seem to be nourishment to the mind. One particular article you spoke on "new situation and new challenges" I agree with you although I got excerpts of it--I don't think I got the whole article. However it did bring to light the situation of the current juggernaut the U.S. is waging against Iraq and the world for that matter. This article expressed how masses in America taking on the aggression and repression creates unity of people of the world and reveals the common cause. I enjoyed the reference to Lenin speaking on how reactionary ruling classes have need of two functions, hangman and priest. Thus today's bombs and polls... The movement in general may become discouraged because of the imperialist victories in Iraq and Afghanistan, [and] reading this prepares us so that we do not become demoralized, rather expect different possibilities. I would love to receive "new situation and great challenges" in its entirety.

The "notes on political economy" also sounds interesting. I just started reading about economics. I think it's one required element of many that all comrades should familiarize themselves with to really grasp the struggle. I just finished reading a book called "the annexation of Mexico." I had to kind of sort through some of its contents. However the author John Ross delivers a powerful breakdown of the IMF/World Bank and the undermining work they do on impoverished countries. I have heard of those who argue that the U.S. does not have a proletariat. I would like to take them out to the agricultural fields, where men women & children slave under inhumane conditions, without running water, restrooms, health care all for slave wage. I would like to take them to the sweatshops of NY where people are locked into barbaric warehouses.... I would tour the U.S. prison system where men/women endure hard forced labor for little or at times no wages. Wherever there is exploitation of workers there are proletarians, as I like to say, wherever there is a capitalist there are many proletarians. Any proletarian can be a backbone & lead as long as leadership properly guides and directs them. Any working class I believe can be mobilized whether it be in the U.S., Guatemala, or Brazil (as has been seen in recent events) the workers just need proper direction. Thus the Central Task .

On the question of how the central task applies to those incarcerated I would say we are currently partaking in the central task. Those of us who read/study RW , Draft Programme & any other material are having our minds prepared. When we write letters articles & submit artwork to RW we are participating in "create public opinion." Those of us who are incarcerated can also be an organized force so that when time comes we can have a hand in the transformation of society. Those who have dates can prepare their own minds so that once they get out they can participate in the movement. Those who do not have dates can prepare their own minds so that they can in turn participate in the central task by preparing the minds of other comrades behind the walls. By those of us behind the walls enlightening others to the common cause, we are creating public opinion behind the walls, as well as exposing the inner workings of the U.$. injustice system.

On the question of how to liberate oppressed peoples from the national oppression of the U.S., how do we end white supremacy and racism: Well, oppression and white supremacy can only be annihilated by the transition to socialism, for only a communist society can truly have equality with a world community. The need to abolish imperialism is a necessity when combating oppression and white supremacy being that Imperialism is like a parasite which feeds on the labor of oppressed nationalities--thus imperialism and equality can never co-exist. The Proletariat revolution must spark in order for the transition to socialism.

On the question of a party, it is apparent that the need for strong leadership will be vital once the proletariat revolution becomes reality. Is RCP the party that should lead? What kind of party is needed? Well I believe the party should definitely be a MLM party. These principles seem to be an efficient formula for socialism. I think through applying the programme that is in the pages of the Draft, the RCP can be an efficient party to lead us to socialism. The policy of unity-struggle-unity will create a strong leadership....

With a fraternal embrace comrade,



The following are previously unpublished comments by a Party supporter.

Relationship Between Mass Struggle and Agitation/Propaganda

This is another area where I think the Draft Programme needs to be deepened. Lenin refers to agitation and propaganda as the "chief and permanent task of communists" (I can't remember where this quote is from). And I think the orientation of being a tribune of the people rather than a trade union secretary (or a militant fighter or good organizer in the mass movements) that Lenin puts forward is important, and in fact I think there should be some explicit statement of this (not necessarily a direct quote from Lenin) probably somewhere in the section on the Party and what it means to be a communist. This orientation is a big part of being "What Is To Be Done"-ists: recognizing that the consciousness of the masses developed in the course of their day-to-day struggle and experience cannot become true class consciousness, which can only be developed from outside the daily struggle or experience of any proletarian.

At the same time I think it is significant that our Chairman Bob Avakian starts out his famous point about the Central Task by saying, "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 by revolutionary ideology and serves revolutionary aims..." In other words, at least in my interpretation, the Chair is saying that the starting point of carrying out "Create Public Opinion, Seize Power" is the struggle of the masses of people.

Writing shortly after the L.A. rebellion, Chairman Avakian wrote:

"As important as our ideology is--as important as it is to popularize proletarian ideology and to go up against all this `boozh-wah' ideological shit--above all we have to transform things in practice, through the real life struggle against bourgeois rule, in the battle of the oppressed against the capitalist system and its enforcers. In that context we have a lot of ideological work to do.

"As I said nobody is going to do this for us. We are the ones who have to do it--and we want to do it. Sometimes you see things or hear about things--outrages committed by the system--and you say `why didn't somebody do something about that?' Well, when you get down to it, we are the ones who have to do something about it. And to say it once again, to do this we have to get our class on the historical stage--we have to bring forward the proletariat as a powerful revolutionary force."

This point is recognized and developed in the section on "Schools of War and the War Itself" (p. 48). Here, in addition to the quote cited above, is the orientation that before the objective conditions are ready for revolution we can't just stand aside and "just keep beating the people down and robbing them without resistance." This section also makes the point that "Viewed from the vantage point of preparing for such a revolutionary war, today's mass struggles are immensely important." (emphasis in original).

One criticism I have of this section (Schools of War) is that there needs to be additional emphasis on the need to fight to actually win these struggles.

However, more fundamentally, I think the "schools of war/struggle" of the masses point is not given sufficient emphasis in the DP. To be a little provocative (and probably go too far in my criticism), sometimes there seems to be almost an apology for engaging in the struggles of the masses.

I think the orientation should be more along the lines that no one can call themselves a revolutionary or a communist who stands aside from the struggle and resistance of the masses. [It's also true that no one can call themselves a revolutionary or a communist who tails these struggles or doesn't view them from the perspective of seizing power.] It needs to be more clear that revolutionaries cannot conduct their work outside of the struggles of the masses but only by fighting together with the people.

When I first started on this paper, I thought that I wanted to argue for abandoning the phrase "Create Public Opinion, Seize Power" as the description of the Party's Central Task. I thought that even with the "preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution" addition, the focus was too ideological, making it seem as though the main aspect of our work is educational.

In thinking about this, what really won me over to keeping the "Create Public Opinion, Seize Power" formulation is this paragraph from the section on the Party and the Masses:

"While at times the party must and should play a direct role in tactically leading, or striving to lead, these struggles, its most crucial and essential role lies in raising the consciousness of the masses, and developing their fighting capacity and organization--all as preparation for going over to something different: the struggle to seize power from the capitalist class when the time is ripe." (p. 37)

What this means to me is that both through the newspaper and work leading the masses in struggle, the most important thing that comes out of this from the standpoint of our revolutionary goal is the consciousness (and organization) of the masses. This is a key point; if we deviate from this and make anything else the key measure of our work we'll end up falling into revisionism (the movement is everything, the final goal nothing). Even if we continue to talk about revolution it will become more and more distant and more and more separated from our work. For me this is the heart of the Central Task and why as it is only with the adoption of the Central Task that the Party could really begin forging the links between the present and the future.

Related to this is the question of the newspaper as the "hub and pivot" of our work. There has been some debate and questions about this recently on the 2changetheworld website which I think is important.

I interpret this to mean that the newspaper is the center of all of our work and the point on which the rest of our work turns. Initially, I had some questions if this was correct formulation or a leftover from an earlier period.

In the course of working on this paper I've come to have a deeper understanding of the role of the RW as the "hub and pivot." This is for all the reasons stressed in the section linked to the key point that the most important aspect of the Party's work is how much the consciousness and organization of the masses is advanced.

Key strengths of the section on the Central Task

"Lenin talked about how one of the hallmarks of revisionism, one of the main features of revisionism, was the viewpoint that `the movement is everything, the final aim is nothing.' And you see this repeatedly. People get into a movement, and yes, it's great to have a movement--it's great to be part of struggling against the enemy, it's great to be debating questions-- this is all tremendously important. And there is a real element of why people should draw inspiration from this and love it more than the horrible daily grind of this system. But we can never get intoxicated with that to the point that we forget about or lose sight of the final aim--of the need to overthrow and bury this system and bring a whole new world into being. Everything we do has got to be part of building toward that, or else it all gets turned into its opposite. In the final analysis we don't need `the movement is everything, the final aim is nothing'--we need to carry out the final aim and we need to build the movement always toward achieving that final aim, wherever we are in the process." (from "The Movement Is Great... But The Movement Is Not `Everything'... The People Need Revolution," by Bob Avakian, RW #1104)

I want to add some of the things that I think are really important about this section and that are key points to uphold (not a complete list):

1) I think it's important that the section on the People's War comes before the section on the Central Task in the appendix, putting our work and Central Task in that context. And I think it's important that the section on the Central Task starts out with "Without state power all is illusion" and that the need to make revolution and build a new world is our starting point .

2) Linked to this I like the way the "revolution back" orientation is put and fought for.

3) I also like the section on strongholds and stretching a line, particularly the paragraph about political authority. I think that this paragraph captures some of what I'd like to emphasize more overall in the appendix.

4) The Party as the key aspect of organizing forces.

5) The need for organized ties to make revolution.

6) Hastening while awaiting. This relationship between the subjective and objective factors is complicated but I think it's really important, especially for revolutionaries of the new generation to grasp. For me this was a key point of methodology that I learned from the Party over the years and wasn't something I got spontaneously. It really helps people when they get this and don't fall into subjective or passive thinking.


An Exchange on the Role of the Revolutionary Press

The following exchange between Helot and Times Up! is excerpted from the 2changetheworld.info website .

From Helot:

Times Up says: "A hub is the center part of a wheel and it is also a center of interest, importance or activity. For me it is helpful to think about the role that the RW plays for those who do read it."

But we aren't discussing making this newspaper into "the hub" for "those who do read it."

Aren't we are talking about the paper being the "hub" for the revolutionary activists ? Isn't that different?

You wrote: "The RW plays a role of drawing connections for people of all the different injustices of this system and points to their source. After reading the RW you begin to see the interconnectedness of the injustices and oppression--and how it has a foundation in this capitalist/imperialist society." etc.

Sure. I know this newspaper is important. I read it, I love it, I sell it and share it.

But the RCP Draft Programme does more than say "it is important and helpful."

The DP quotes Avakian saying "Build the places where we live and work as strong bases of support for proletarian revolution, with a deep and firm Party organization as the bedrock foundation. Spread our influence throughout society, especially where people are protesting and rebelling. Use the Party's newspaper as the hub and the guide in all this, in doing everything to help bring about, as quickly as possible, the conditions where we can begin the highest form of struggle--the fight for power over society."

He and the DP are talking about it being the hub for the Party's work--not just for the political life of the paper's readers. That's what I'm trying to understand. I'm trying to understand how it is the hub for the Party and for those of us who support that Party. How we make it "the hub" and what that means.

See the difference?

From Times Up!:

Helot raised a number of interesting points and questions regarding the role of the Revolutionary Worker newspaper. (Thanks) The questions were trying to address the role of the newspaper from a number of different angles, but principally, as I understand it, in relationship to the revolutionary process. And more secondarily in relationship to actual organizing efforts and more the organizational role the RW plays now in building the Party.

In wrestling with the questions that Helot was posing in the two posts I kept feeling that there was somewhat of a mechanical approach. By that I mean that the approach seemed to be putting a separation between the various mass struggles that the Party is involved in or helping to initiate and the role of the RW , both politically and (corresponding to that) organizationally. Let's look at the question that Helot posed: "Let me try being provocative in a friendly way: Is leading the masses in class struggle (in a non-economist way!) essentially now the unspoken `center of gravity' of communist work or is the newspaper and related work of agitation still really the `hub' of political work?"

So my question is why is it an "either or" formulation? I think by posing the question this way--it is essentially negating the role of the RW . Why do I say that? Well "leading the masses in class struggle" is not divorced from the role that the RW plays as a hub of political work.

Bob Avakian makes this really important point in the pamphlet "If There Is To Be Revolution There Must Be A Revolutionary Party." In the part I'm referring to, he is summing up some of the past line of the party when it was more influenced by economism. (When speaking about economism--I am referring to the view that the immediate struggles of the masses is most important and the final goal of revolution is essentially off the map--or also phrased "the mass movement is everything the final goal is unimportant.") Bob Avakian makes this point that the "Party is the most important organization that the proletariat has." He goes on to sum up: "objectively, the more that you treated struggles as things unto themselves, and as things which had their own dynamic, their own dialectic and their own process which was treated as self-contained--the more the role of the party would be downgraded. And on the other hand, in opposition to that, the more that you see that all of your work is work of preparation in the sense and with the content expressed by the formulation of the central task now, Create Public Opinion...Seize Power, or the formulation of `preparing minds and organizing forces'--the more you see that really the party is the most important organization."

And the reason I refer to this quote is because if you follow the logic of leading the masses in class struggle--without the view of training and organizing the masses around a revolutionary line (through the exposure and agitation in the pages of the Revolutionary Worker )--you will end up with an economist approach to the very class struggle you're seeking to lead the masses in.

My question is how do we lead the masses in class struggle without the Revolutionary Worker playing a central role? I mean it is possible to lead youth to walk out of school, or people to demonstrate against the police in a more organizational format "without the newspaper." But how do we continue to lead the masses without the guidance and leadership of the RW ? How do we turn fighters on one particular front--say against the treatment of immigrants--into fighters against the whole system without the RW playing a pivotal role? The DP makes this point at the end of page 49 which I think gets at the heart of Helot's question: "The Party must continually bring in and train fresh forces, particularly from the proletariat as well as the revolutionary youth, training all members to constantly deepen their grasp and application of MLM. Here, too, the newspaper is pivotal--both in ideology and politically leading and training the masses and the Party members, and in its ability to serve as one important organizational connection between the Party and masses. The paper is a key link not only in creating public opinion very broadly, not only in "preparing minds," but also in organizing forces."

Helot also raised a quote from Bob Avakian and raises a couple of questions--off of my post I would like to explore a bit more:

"The DP quotes Avakian saying `Build the places where we live and work as strong bases of support for proletarian revolution, with a deep and firm Party organization as the bedrock foundation. Spread our influence throughout society, especially where people are protesting and rebelling. Use the Party's newspaper as the hub and the guide in all this, in doing everything to help bring about, as quickly as possible, the conditions where we can begin the highest form of struggle--the fight for power over society.'

"He and the DP are talking about it being the hub for the Party's work--not just for the political life of the paper's readers. That's what I'm trying to understand. I'm trying to understand how it is the hub for the Party and for those of us who support that Party. How we make it `the hub' and what that means.

"See the difference?"

Again I would say I feel this is being approached somewhat mechanically. The RW plays a central role in "building the places where we live and work as strong bases of support for proletarian revolution." The RW plays a central role in training and bringing forward that "deep and firm Party organization as the bedrock foundation." That is why I think Chairman Avakian makes this point at the end around the "Party's newspaper as the hub and guide in all this...."

Helot, you make this point in the same post, speaking to my point of "it being helpful to think of (the role of the RW by) those who read the RW ." You respond by saying "But we aren't discussing making this newspaper into `the hub' for those who do read it."

Well why not? Maybe it is helpful to take a step back for a minute and look at the audience the RW is seeking to reach, bring forward and train--at least in the given period. The RW is directed mainly--though not exclusively--at the advanced forces in society. Folks who have a lot of questions about the way things are due to their life experience as proletarians or oppressed nationalities or in a lot of cases both, folks who are compelled to question the way things are by the workings of the system and its various outrages. (Now I think the point of it not being "exclusively" the advanced is important because a lot of people who are more intermediate can be moved to look more deeply at what's causing all these fucking problems and can be moved to side much more with the people.)

While I am by no means speaking as an expert here--imagine if you did have tens of thousands of people in each of the major cities across the country and thousands more in the rural areas reading and supporting the RW and following the line and approach it takes to the various questions of the class struggle or larger philosophical, methodological and of course ideological questions Bob Avakian has written on--while at the same time, on different levels, engaging in various forms of class struggle.

In that case the RW would be acting as a hub, a guide and at the same time playing a very central role in the process of "Creating Public Opinion and Seizing Power, Preparing Minds and Organizing Forces for Revolution."

So I think that the key is not to separate the role of people reading and getting organized and trained around the RW from the various class struggles they are involved in. And in some cases, I think, it will be the case that people will principally be organized around the RW , in fact in many.

I'll sign off with one last quote from Chairman Avakian, an excerpt I found helpful in thinking with your question(s). This is from the Ask the Chairman series where someone was asking if the Central Task was really just "patient education":

"This is what the Central Task of the RCP is all about. `Creating public opinion' must not be understood narrowly--as simply a process of `patient education' or the waging of class struggle only or mainly in the realm of ideas. It refers to an all-around process and all-around struggle through which the consciousness and also the organization and fighting capacity of the masses is raised in preparation for going over to the armed struggle to seize power when the revolutionary crisis breaks out.

"Even though the form of struggle we must be focusing our efforts on now is essentially political, and not yet military, it is laying the basis for waging the all-out military struggle when the opportunity for that does ripen. Even though the battles waged by the masses in resisting the system are not today part of an actual revolutionary war, they have a crucial role to play in laying the groundwork for such a war.

"This orientation must be popularized among the masses, enabling them to view and to take part in everything--all major world events and struggles in society--in terms of how this will influence and move things toward the eventual armed insurrection. Raising and popularizing this, now and in an ongoing way, is a necessary and crucial part of overall preparation for the armed struggle--for the shift in emphasis to the `seize power' aspect of our Central Task.

"Within this whole process, the newspaper plays a pivotal role, in exposing the enemy and its crimes but also in rousing the people to rise in struggle and in supporting the outbreaks of protest and rebellion that do repeatedly erupt among the masses. Our experience has repeatedly shown that when major social and political questions grip society and major struggles break out--the Persian Gulf War, the 1992 L.A. Rebellion, the battle against Proposition 187 in California, the slashing of welfare and other ruling class assaults on the poor, the attacks on affirmative action, the fight to stop the execution of Mumia Abu- Jamal and to win his freedom, the battles around abortion, and so on--people who have been regularly reading the RW and have been trained in (or at least significantly influenced by) the line of the Party and the viewpoint and methodology of MLM are able to more fully grasp the essence and importance of these questions and generally to act in a more conscious and determined way around them.

"In short, the role of the newspaper is in line with the basic Marxist principle that the point is not merely to understand the world but to change it. Once again, the newspaper is pivotal in the carrying out of our Central Task as an active process of engaging the enemy in struggle, in the appropriate ways at the appropriate time--preparing for and then, when the conditions are ripe, waging the revolutionary war, with the prospect of winning."


* The Central Task of the Party

The central task of the Party is to Create Public Opinion, Seize Power--Prepare Minds and Organize Forces for Revolution. This central task describes an all-around process and all-around struggle through which the consciousness, organization, and fighting capacity of the masses is raised in preparation for going over to the armed struggle to seize power when the revolutionary crisis breaks out. Through carrying out this central task, the Party brings the masses to a position where millions see that the whole system is worthless and must be overthrown, and are ready to put everything on the line for revolution.

From the Draft Programme, p. 30

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