Excerpt from "Revolution: Why It's Necessary - Why It's Possible - What It's All About"

Overcoming the Wounds and Scars that are Left Over from Capitalism

Revolutionary Worker #1246, July 18, 2004, posted at http://rwor.org

The following is an excerpt from an historic talk by Chairman Bob Avakian, now available on video and DVD from Three Q Productions - REVOLUTION: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About. This talk, delivered in 2003, followed by questions and answers, is a wide-ranging revolutionary journey, covering many topics. As Three Q has described it, "It breaks down the very nature of the society we live in and how humanity has come to a time where a radically different society is possible. It takes us deep into the heart of the horrors we see around us - from the oppression of whole peoples and parts of the world to what underlies brutal wars of domination - and why we live in a world where profound poverty, starvation and exploitation co-exist with unprecedented wealth. From the American nightmare to a sweeping vision of a whole new world, he breaks it all down, and shows how and why a radically different world can be brought forward."

Order the DVD onlineThe following excerpt is taken from a transcript of the talk, edited for publication by the RW.

In order to advance through socialism to the even greater goal of communism worldwide, we need to move beyond and overcome the wounds and scars left over from capitalism. That's one of our main missions, in fact, in socialist society and in the transition of socialism to communism. This means putting an end to all the inequalities that are so much a part of a society like the one we live under now. Inequalities, as I've spoken about, between men and women, between different nationalities, but also inequalities like the one that's described in the difference between mental and manual work.

Now let me explain what that means. Mental work means like people who sit in offices and plan and work largely with their minds. Manual work is obvious; manual, mano, has to do with the hands. Manual means working with your hands and your back. Another way to say it: physical labor and mental labor. In this society there is a very great gap and division between people who work with their minds and people who work with their hands and their backs. And in general, the ones who work with their minds are the ones who lord it over the ones who work with their hands and their backs. That's another inequality that we have to overcome. This is a big gap in society. It runs through all of society and every part of society.

And we're just told that that's the way it is. Some people have superior minds. They are meant to think up ideas and come up with plans and other people are meant to just carry them out because they have inferior minds or somehow they just didn't get a good education so now all they can do is carry out the orders of others, all they can do is do the physical labor while these other people do all the thinking and the mental labor. This is a big division that has to be overcome. So is the division between men and women. All these inequalities. I think, for example, of China. Before the revolution succeeded and won power in China in 1949, a common thing for women in China is what's known as bound feet. Now this doesn't mean that they just tied something around their feet. They took the feet of women, they bent the toes, and then they broke their bones, crushed them, and then bound them in that way, to give them small and dainty feet which would be more sexually appealing to men. This was done... even prostitutes couldn't be prostitutes if they didn't have bound feet in most cases, let alone be a wife or in some other way be appealing to a man. Think of that brutal tyrant Mao Tsetung, who led the people to do away with this time-honored tradition in China. (Laughter and applause) Imagine, imagine, going against the grain of all of nature and denying the women the right to have their bones in their feet crushed and bound.

When you look at China and think, in 25 years of socialism there, the great things that were accomplished in terms of women coming forward in every sphere of society. Think about even something like the arts in China. They made breakthroughs in the ballet. We hear all this terrible stuff about Chiang Ching and everything. But do you know something? They made breakthroughs in ballet in China, revolutionary ballets, that women were making moves in the ballet that had never been done before in the history of ballet anywhere in the world, these were women 25 years away from having their feet bound and they tell us how horrible this was. Imagine them forcing these women to unbind their feet and dance in revolutionary ballets.

But this gives you an idea of the tremendous inequalities. In this society, we don't have bound feet, but we sure as hell have high heels that are ridiculous. (Applause) And all for what? So your ass thrusts out and your booty looks better. This is the whole idea of it. It's the same thing. It's just a different form. Maybe not as extreme.

But these are just outward symbols of the much deeper oppression that has to be thoroughly uprooted. And the ways of thinking as well as the customs that have to be fully transformed by the conscious and willful act of the people...not simply by enforcing it.

Then we have the inequalities and differences between nationalities which are very deep-seated throughout the world and especially in this society. Everybody knows, and let's not pretend anything different, that it's not going to be easy to overcome the long years of oppression and racism that are deeply embedded in this society and frankly deeply ingrained in the thinking of the people. This is going to be a tremendous struggle. This is another great inequality we're going to have to overcome.

There are also inequalities between different parts of the country and in particular, between the city and the countryside. The countryside on the one hand is in more backward conditions, more isolated. The culture tends to be more backward. This is reflected in how people talk, you know. People say, "oh man you're country." It means you don't really know what's going on. You're backward. You're kind of a fool. You don't really understand what things are happening. Well it's true, the means of culture, the means of art, the means of education, aren't distributed to the countryside in capitalist society, the same way they are in the cities. The cities have their own problems, and the countryside does do very important things, such as providing food for people to eat. So we're going to have to work at this from both sides to overcome these inequalities -- to work it out, so that in the cities, some things that are valuable from the countryside are brought to the cities, and in the countryside, some things that are very valuable from the cities are brought to the countryside, and these inequalities are overcome from both sides as a whole new set of social relations and culture to go along with it is being developed.

We have to overcome all these inequalities, not just in one society, but in the world as a whole in order to get to communism.

This lopsidedness that I'm talking about - this has to be overcome throughout the world so that one or a few countries are not sucking the lifeblood out of the rest. This is one of the problems we'll face when we have a new society. We're not going to organize it and develop it any more by exploiting people all over the world and paying them a few cents an hour and working children to death like that. So we're going to have to organize and do it ourselves without exploitation. (Applause)

Now these inequalities have to be overcome, but they can't be overcome all at once. You can't wake up and say "okay everybody's equal in everything they do, that's it." Why not? Well, because some kinds of work, for example, take more development, more education, more training to learn how to do than other kinds. It's more specialized. And so, people who do that kind of work, who put in more time and have to go through more education and training to develop the skills and knowledge for that job, have to be paid more as long as you have that division. Not only would it be unfair not to do that, but the bigger problem is, you would wreck your society if you didn't do it. Remember what I said earlier about how the foundation of everything that goes on in the world is the exchange of labor among people. Well, if you screw up your exchange of labor, if you have people spending years learning how to do something, and you only pay them the same amount as somebody who doesn't have to spend years doing another job, then the amount of labor that goes into learning how to do that job will be wasted, in effect. And your economy will get out of whack. And it will break down.

So that's a problem we're gonna face because if you leave those inequalities alone, we're gonna go right back to capitalism. So we have to figure out how to overcome these inequalities step-by-step and at certain times taking leaps. We have to get to the point where we can bring forward whole new groups of people who can do all these different kinds of jobs. But that can't be done just like that in one fell swoop either. Because people have to eat. Because there needs to be medical care. Because there needs to be housing. All those things I talked about, those things have to be, those needs have to be met. And since we're not exploiting other people here and around the world to do it, the people themselves have to organize and do that work. And while you're doing that work, you can't be off studying medicine. So it's going to be a while until we break down and overcome these divisions so that everybody can spend part of the day learning many different skills in many different spheres of knowledge and part of the day working to produce the things that are needed for the basic requirements of people.

And we're also, as I said, going to need an army. Imagine if we made a revolution and everything that went into that and then we said okay, that's it, time to rest. That's enough struggle and sacrifice, so we'll just put down our arms and just see what happens. Well, we know what will happen. The imperialists and other exploiters and oppressors will crush us in a minute, and all the nightmare we've just struggled to get out of finally, will be brought back with a vengeance. So, we're gonna need an army. An army is a professional body of people, whose vocation, what they do, is military affairs. They specialize in that. So, while they're doing that, they can't do other things. So you have to, it's a long-term process to overcome all these inequalities and divisions in society so we can get to the point where everybody can do all these things, and finally get to the point where we don't need armies any more.

We also have to get beyond commodities and money. Yes, we're gonna get beyond money. You have to do that. Because as long as things are produced as commodities, as long as money is the means of circulating things, then we're going to get all the effects of capitalism, and money can be used to hire people again and exploit them again. But it's gonna take a struggle to get beyond money and commodities. In order to do that, you have to be able to produce enough things in enough abundance that they can be distributed among people not just in one country, but all over the world, without having to use money as a means of measuring how all that's happening. That requires getting to a whole different place, where we can produce the things people need in much shorter time, and produce them and distribute them all over the world. And when we can do that we can also free up people not to have to work at doing one thing or another, but they can do many different things. And we can also get beyond a situation where someone has to be given more in exchange for one kind of job as opposed to someone who's given less in exchange for another kind of job, because whatever you do won't be measured in money like a commodity any more. It'll just be what you do to contribute to society and you'll get back what you need in order to live, and in order to develop. So, that's a long term struggle, full of contradiction, full of problems, in order to get to all that. Again all this cannot be eliminated all at once but that has to be the goal and we have to never lose sight of that goal. We have to keep advancing toward it to the greatest degree we can at any given time, once we've made the first great leap of seizing power.

Now let me be clear - this doesn't mean that in the future society, everyone will be the same, or that everyone will have exactly the same thing, or everybody will have to use the same toothbrush, like they say sometimes. I'm very confident that we'll have plenty of toothbrushes for everybody. (Laughter) What it means is that people's needs will be met and that the diversity among people will be celebrated as part of the overall unity of the people...but differences, including different needs among people, will not be turned into relations in which one person oppresses another, or one part of society or of the world, exploits the rest.

Until we have moved beyond all these inequalities, and beyond money and commodities, and everything that still carries the birthmarks of capitalism, until that has been completely and finally left behind all over the world, we will need the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This dictatorship is crucial in making it possible to move beyond commodities and money and the great inequalities that capitalism and every other form of society based on exploitation has handed down to the people of the world. This is the great inheritance they will have left us, an inheritance we do not need or want, an inheritance we must refuse and renounce, which we must thoroughly overcome and eliminate. The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is a key instrument for us in accomplishing this. It is the instrument of the proletariat and the masses of people for achieving all this, until finally inequalities and all the scars and wounds from the past have been eliminated and the needs of all the people will be met in an ever increasing way and the idea of some people being inferior or superior to others will no longer have any meaning or any basis. It will be seen as ridiculous, outrageous, and crazy by people everywhere in the world. (Applause)

Order the DVD Online of REVOLUTION: Why It’s Necessary * Why It’s Possible * What It’s All About; A Film of a Talk by Bob Avakian