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 #1207, July 20, 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 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 web site, and letters from prisoners.

Readers of the RW are encouraged to contribute 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!

In issues #1200 to #1203, this series dealt with the question of the Central Task of the RCP. The DP appendix "The Party and the Masses" appeared in #1204. This week we are publishing three comments and criticisms from RCP comrades on that appendix.


Leaders, Leadership, and Collectivity

I think we gotta find a way overall to put more emphasis on--there IS such a thing as objective reality and that mass line corresponds to the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist theory of knowledge.

Someone recently asked me how I could possibly say "We think..." anything and agree with any[thing]. (WE in an overall way, rather than just representing myself.) I went at it from, first and foremost we base ourselves on objective reality--the world really exists. None of us has a complete knowledge of all of it or grasps it in an all-sided and dynamic way fully--but we have a scientific method and organizational structure so that we can best come to know the world as it really exists, and on that basis transform it. And by carrying out common practice and line, we can collectively come to more fully grasp reality and to transform it on that basis--testing ideas and learning and carrying out practice in the fullest way and uniting the masses and leading them in the fullest way. Anyway, somewhere in the DP we should get into objective reality and our science and organizational form being the best way to come to know [objective reality] and to move the masses and ourselves to transform it in a liberating way.

We should consider adding a section [on individual leaders] within the part on the vanguard party. A youth recently told me, "You guys don't just happen to have a chairman, it's part of who you are that you think you have to have a chairman." Her problem was not that he is a man, or white, or whatever, although she raised that secondarily--but mainly it was that we think we need a chairman.

I am not totally sure that we think we have to have a chairman as an absolute--but we do need leadership, defined and tested and accountable and [positioned] in our overall collectivity to best lead the vanguard as a whole and through this lead the masses. And we do have a line on the role of individual leaders. If the class struggle in this country hadn't produced our particular chairman, I don't actually know if we would have a single chair, or would have to--(assuming for a second that we would even have a party if the class struggle hadn't produced this particular individual who led the whole process of summing up key historic questions and leading in forging this vanguard). But my point is, maybe in some conditions, in some countries at particular times, or depending on the unfolding of things--a given party might not have a single chair...but it would still need both an organizational structure with a chain of knowledge and command that can centralize knowledge and based on this lead and unleash the whole vanguard party...AND there would still be a need for particular individual leaders who have been brought forward out of the people's struggles....

All this is a long way of getting at, I thought this young woman had a point. We do think we need individual leaders, and--given how things have developed here and what the class struggle has produced--we do have a particular individual leader, our Chairman [Bob Avakian], who we do think needs to be our Chairman. But we should actually break this down further in the Programme--not just the need for a vanguard in general, or even for leadership within the vanguard party, but how we see the role of individual leaders.

On page 38 of the DP it discusses how the vanguard seeks to organize on a basis that cannot be easily smashed or dismantled by the bourgeoisie. Again, in giving direction through this Programme when it is finalized, it should talk about the way to do this is fundamentally through relying on the people, including waging a political battle to realign people, win them to the need to defend and protect their vanguard and its leadership. This is not just a organizational question--this is a decisive political task as well, and the vanguard should conduct fierce political struggle around this, as well as develop tactical solutions, etc. I am not sure how much it should even give mention of finding tactical solutions--got to be careful these days, but I think it should specify the political aspect of this.

Democratic Centralism--[need to say] something about carrying out directives from above, because we do not make the assumption that the individual has the greatest vantage point on what must be done. Fundamentally we rely on people's conscious activism, but part of this conscious activism is consciously grasping the limitations of any individual's vantage point, the need to subordinate oneself to the greater collectivity. Like the story of a comrade in Iran who was supposed to wait all day in a house for a phone call, yet the masses were rebelling in the streets. The comrade wanted to be in the streets and so he went, and missed the call and I guess some thousands of people were massacred and it could've been avoided if he had got the call. This stuff MATTERS. A lot. We can't come off commandist and don't want to be commandist (even if it doesn't come off that way)--but do we need to give more of a sense of why this matters so much?

Fanning Dissent and Protest and the Need for a Vanguard Party

On page 36 of the DP, when it's talking about the question of what kind of organization you need depends on what you're trying to do--I agree with that, but I kind of feel like the point needs to be made that having a vanguard also strengthens your ability to "fan dissent and protest" because the strongest dissent and protest is the kind that actually goes up against the system in the fullest way. That's not why you have a vanguard, but because of the science and where the vanguard's sights are, they are the most able to "fan dissent and protest" in the most powerful way.

I think you can look at things recently to see that if it were not for the far-sightedness of our party, especially our Chairman [Bob Avakian], the movements (although spontaneously still very powerful) would not have had the same edge that we were a part of bringing to it (working with others in Not In Our Name). It was the vanguard [working in close unity with others in NION] that was able to see the need for the kind of movement that targeted, above all, the actions of the U.S. government and got people in this country to stand with people around the world. So actually, if you are only trying to fan dissent and protest, the fact that a vanguard exists, puts all of us in a stronger position to do that. That is not how I would put it in the DP because you also don't want to water it down to where you are saying that in effect, that's why the vanguard exists.

Some Points on the Party and the Masses

I think this section of the DP is very strong. Everything from the title to how it takes you through the question to the forthrightness...in answering these key questions. I especially like how it poses the questions as they present themselves in society, and then answers them.

I'm not sure how this fits in, or not, and I don't have it in front of me, but I think how the Chairman defines a vanguard in the interview [Carl Dix interviewing Bob Avakain] is good. Especially the parts about how it is a group of people who are unified based on a common ideology that best reflects reality (as opposed to nationality or whatever). And the part about taking responsibility. I think saying it like that both really reflects what it actually is, as well as speaking to people's incorrect views of a party. (We didn't will into being the contradictions that make a party necessary, but we have to confront and transform the objective situation we're faced with and that necessitates a vanguard).

The Party & the Initiative of the Masses--I think after the Bob Avakian quote--where he paraphrases Lenin that "the more highly organized and centralized the party was, the more it was a real vanguard organization of revolutionaries, the greater would be the role and initiative of the masses in revolutionary struggle..."--it should say something more on why. That's such an important, but also "counter- intuitive," point that I think needs to be expanded on a little.

I just spent the last ten minutes trying to think how I would answer my own suggestion, and this is the best I could come up with:

The more centralized and organized and revolutionary the leadership is, the better able it will be to play its role to the fullest--and the more it's grounded in our revolutionary future, the more that leadership will unleash the masses because the more that leadership will understand the importance of the masses making history to getting to communism. OK, that's a terrible sentence!!!! But I hope the suggestion makes more sense than my attempt.

Proletarian Ideology and the Masses-- Where it says: "And the experience of the masses of people, and in particular of the proletarians, provides the basis for increasing numbers of them to grasp the truth of and take up and wield the revolutionary ideology of the proletariat when it is brought to them by the vanguard party. For this reason, when the party brings this ideology to the proletariat it is bringing it home."

I'm not sure what exactly was meant by "the experience of the masses of people." I may be missing something, but it seemed to me it was talking about how the life experience of the proletariat brings them to see that this system is worthless and needs to be overthrown. I think that's Part 1 of why bringing this ideology to the proletariat is bringing it home. Part 2 is because they're the ones who are gonna take that ideology and run society by wielding it. It's because of their life experience, but it's also because it is a proletarian ideology, because it is the ideology that reflects what it says in the DP: "its conditions under capitalism, on the one hand, and its historic mission on the other." It's like taking it home because of where they are placed now (their life experience) AND where they need to go for the advancement of all of humanity...

The Spontaneous Struggle and the Party--There are two things I wanted to raise from this section:

"The struggles waged by the masses around their conditions are of vital importance..." Where do the struggles waged by the masses around conditions around the world fit in? Those happen less spontaneously from the proletariat, although they do happen--and when they do are very powerful--but are more spontaneous for youth and students and other strata (the anti-globalization movement, anti-sweatshop movement and obviously anti-war movement, some spontaneous, and some led). Is that sentence only pertaining to the proletariat and their struggles around police brutality, housing, welfare, etc? Or does it mean the masses of people more broadly and all their various struggles? I think it should be clearer, and I think given what that section is saying, I think the second is more encompassing and correct.

The other point is that I don't agree with the use of the word "divert" in the last paragraph. I don't know the Lenin quote that it's paraphrasing so there may be more that I'm missing. I looked up the word "divert" to get a sense of what that paraphrase is saying, and I don't think it reflects enough what we actually do or even all the stuff that precedes it. Anyhow, the dictionary definition is "1. to turn aside from a course or direction. 2. to distract." It keeps going, but that's the main part. I agree with what it's saying about how "the many different streams of struggle" will have a "spontaneous tendency to remain confined within the bourgeois framework." But I don't think our role is to divert them from that, but to challenge and lead them to "step by step transform them into a raging revolutionary flood tide against the system as a whole." To lead through different ways--by entering into the struggle itself, by putting out lines that don't remain confined within the framework, and by waging unity, struggle, unity (including through polemics)....

Also, "diverting" makes it seem like the masses need to be distracted from what they're doing, as opposed to a more mass line approach of taking what's right in what they're doing, synthesizing it, and leading them on that basis....

In the section "A Party to Serve the Emancipation of the Proletariat," I also have a few different comments.... I think it needs to mention specifically that the party is also made up of youth. That is inherent in a lot of what it lays out around it being made up of "proletarians and others who have fought back against oppression..." and "bringing forward into its ranks those who dedicate themselves to the cause of international proletarian revolution..." But there are many people, who even after studying all this, think that the party is only for grown-ups, and the youth have the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade (I thought it!). It could just add something brief like "It is made up of proletarians and others who have fought back against oppression, including the new generation, and, in the course..." Maybe that makes the sentence too long and someone else might think of better wording, but you get the idea.

This is pretty minor...but I think "revisionist" and "opportunist" need to be defined more. The thing I would add to the definition of "revisionist" (because it gives some definition in the DP itself) is that one of the ways it comes out is "the movement is everything, the final aim is nothing." I think that will ring familiar for youth who have been in the recent movements and struggles. I don't think this would be necessary to add, but also something that would ring familiar is the "we'll be everything, or anything, to everybody" line.

Another thought on the DP overall is that I think we need to say more on our Chairman. I'm not sure it should go in the section on the party and the masses, or be part of some kind of intro. It could say stuff about the process of the DP and getting to the final Programme (the mass wrangling, a product of the masses, etc.), but also say that throughout it was the leadership of the Chairman that was decisive in the Programme as well as forging and leading the party overall. Again, I'm sure there are others that could say this better or figure out how to weave in the importance of our Chairman throughout, but I think it needs to be in there. (And I'm guessing more would go into the Constitution about him as well).

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