Revolution #128, May 1, 2008
Announcing the Publication of:
REVOLUTION AND COMMUNISM: A FOUNDATION AND STRATEGIC ORIENTATION
Revolution newspaper is excited to announce the publication of a pamphlet entitled Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation on May 1, 2008. This pamphlet contains Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, by Bob Avakian, along with On the Possibility of Revolution. “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution” is also included in this pamphlet.
This pamphlet emphatically challenges and refutes the message that revolution is impossible and communism unworkable and not desirable. In fact, revolution and communism are exactly what humanity needs! This pamphlet speaks to why communist revolution is not only necessary, but possible—and how it could be made. It concentrates the strategic foundation and scaffolding for advancing on the road of revolution and communism, and winning growing numbers of the masses to that cause, through hard struggle (both against the enemy, but also including sharp ideological struggle with the masses) and with all the twists and turns that will inevitably be encountered.
In Part 1 of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, “Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right,” Bob Avakian sets out the basic foundation, the overarching goal of our struggle, and the pathways for uprooting and overcoming all the traditional property relations and ideas that stand as barriers to liberation. He steps off addressing the question: can humanity break with and get beyond the narrow horizons of the society we live in and envision a radically different and far better world?
Avakian shows how the sights and aspirations of people today, the world over, are funneled and hemmed into looking at things in terms which do not go beyond the outlook and values which capitalism engenders and thrives upon, and the social relations in which those ideas are rooted. Today these are deemed to be the result of “human nature.” But another, radically different world is possible, with a different and far more liberating conception of rights and freedom. Avakian paints a compelling picture of a world where people would have the right not to confront each other in antagonistic relations...where there would be the right to eat for every human being—and no one would be worked to death for the profit of others, but people would work cooperatively to meet the needs of all...where all of humanity would have the right to engage in the arts, or in science and in other intellectual thought, and where the research and discovery in medicine and science that today is subordinated to the economic, political, and ideological demands of capital would be emancipated from that. A communist world where people are no longer constrained by the narrow horizons which are the product of and demanded by capitalism.
Avakian goes deeply into how societies have been structured and how they have changed. He shows the dynamics and wellsprings that drive forward change. Doing so, he lays bare the actual material basis for a communist world. Today, the possibility exists to move beyond all exploitative and oppressive relations. The proletariat, a class which has the basis, and potential, to emancipate all of humanity, has been brought into being with the emergence of capitalism. In its very organization and position in society, of collectively creating the vast majority of the wealth of the world...even though that vast wealth is privately appropriated by their exploiters and oppressors, the capitalists…this international class has both the interests and potential to lead in advancing society beyond the narrow horizons of capitalist society, of “bourgeois right.” (“Bourgeois right” has come to refer to production and social relations, as well as ideas, that are characteristic of capitalism but persist into the period of socialism, which is a revolutionary transition between capitalism and communism; as Marx put it, only once humanity has crossed the “narrow horizon of bourgeois right” can a truly communist society be brought into being.)
The seizure of power by the proletariat is the first gigantic leap in this process. Immediately, the new power will move to provide a better life for people, to wipe out injustice and radically transform the inequalities left over from the old system. People will be brought into the exercising of power and the conscious transformation of society. But these are only the first steps; they do not exhaust the tasks of the revolution. Socialism will “inherit” the productive forces and the people who have been living under capitalism (with all their inclinations and ideas—and the class and social relations embedded over centuries). Moving beyond that narrow horizon to a communist future is a protracted process and full of contradiction. It involves the dialectical, back-and-forth process between changing circumstances and changing people to emancipate all of humanity, to make the radical rupture with all traditional property relations and all traditional ideas.
A Scientific Approach and Method
It takes science and a thoroughly scientific method to transform society, and to make the radical rupture with all traditional property relations and all the traditional ideas. And it will take carrying out the hard work to develop both our scientific understanding of society and nature, and our ability to wrench freedom out of the challenges we face. Contained in this pamphlet is a major contribution on this front in particular.
In the history of our international communist movement, there have been great leaders and scientists...Marx, Lenin, Mao. And the core elements and principles of the communist science they brought forward have repeatedly been confirmed by the test of reality. But science must develop as the world changes, new discoveries are made, and people look at things anew. To embark on a new stage of revolution in the world, to actually correctly sum up what has come before and chart the path forward at this juncture of history, has required pathbreaking developments in the scientific method of Marxism. This Avakian has done, and his path-breaking method and approach is concentrated in Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity. It runs throughout—in his explanation and demolition of determinist and linear approaches, and in particular in a substantial polemic against Karl Popper, perhaps the most influential of the critics of Marxism.
The End of a Stage…and The New Synthesis
The communists of the Soviet Union and China led the masses to make revolution, seize power and to use that new revolutionary power, the dictatorship of the proletariat, to make amazing and unprecedented transformations. For the first time in history, the foundation and structure of society was oriented to meeting the needs of people and uprooting and doing away with all the oppressive relations in society. These revolutions inspired and gave hope to people worldwide. But both these revolutions were defeated—the Soviet Union in the mid-1950s, China in 1976—and a new capitalist class seized power.
These defeats weigh heavily on people’s aspirations for a different world. The task before communists has been to deeply sum up this first wave of revolution and to embark on a new stage of revolution. These were great accomplishments, but they ran up against their limits—and clinging to the past as if it is a recipe will not lead to emancipation. (Just as passing facile verdicts on this experience—or religiously relying on notions of the inevitability of communism, if we just keep plugging along—will only serve to keep people enslaved.)
Bob Avakian has led in defending, upholding, and building on the monumental achievements of those revolutions and the insights of its greatest thinkers and leaders. But he has also deeply analyzed the mistakes, and the shortcomings in conception and scientific method that led to those mistakes.
Bob Avakian has forged a coherent, comprehensive, and overarching theoretical framework—that is, a synthesis. While this definitely comes out of and builds on what has gone before, it is not a matter of cutting and pasting, of the arithmetic addition of the strengths of what has come before and the subtraction and correction of the errors and shortcomings. It involves real ruptures with the past understanding and experience as a crucial element, which is why we call it the new synthesis.
There have been many works over the course of 30 years that have excavated this new synthesis; at the same time, there is a certain level of concentration in Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity. The following sentence, discussing the new synthesis in an overall sense, gives an important grounding in this:
“This new synthesis involves a recasting and recombining of the positive aspects of the experience so far of the communist movement and of socialist society, while learning from the negative aspects of this experience, in the philosophical and ideological as well as the political dimensions, so as to have a more deeply and firmly rooted scientific orientation, method and approach with regard not only to making revolution and seizing power but then, yes, to meeting the material requirements of society and the needs of the masses of people, in an increasingly expanding way, in socialist society—overcoming the deep scars of the past and continuing the revolutionary transformation of society, while at the same time actively supporting the world revolutionary struggle and acting on the recognition that the world arena and the world struggle are most fundamental and important, in an overall sense—together with opening up qualitatively more space to give expression to the intellectual and cultural needs of the people, broadly understood, and enabling a more diverse and rich process of exploration and experimentation in the realms of science, art and culture, and intellectual life overall, with increasing scope for the contention of different ideas and schools of thought and for individual initiative and creativity and protection of individual rights, including space for individuals to interact in ‘civil society’ independently of the state—all within an overall cooperative and collective framework and at the same time as state power is maintained and further developed as a revolutionary state power serving the interests of the proletarian revolution, in the particular country and worldwide, with this state being the leading and central element in the economy and in the overall direction of society, while the state itself is being continually transformed into something radically different from all previous states, as a crucial part of the advance toward the eventual abolition of the state with the achievement of communism on a world scale.”
Part 1 ends with this point: “...in the world as a whole, to a very large degree, revolution aiming for communism and the vision of a communist world—this has been ‘ideologized’ off the scene—and with it the only road that actually represents the possibility of a radically different and far better world, in the real world, one that people really would want to live in and would really thrive in. The new synthesis has objectively ‘ideologized’ this back on the scene once more, on a higher level and in a potentially very powerful way.
“But what will be done with this? Will it become a powerful political as well as ideological force? It is up to us to take this out everywhere—very, very boldly and with substance, linking it with the widespread, if still largely latent, desire for another way, for another world—and engage ever growing numbers of people with this new synthesis in a good, lively, and living way.”
“Everything We’re Doing Is About Revolution”
A different and far better world is possible...but how to prepare for—and to work for—the revolution required to get to that world?
To begin, revolutions in a country like this can only take place once there is a major, qualitative change in the nature of the objective situation, such that society as a whole is in the grip of a profound crisis, owing fundamentally to the nature and workings of the system itself, and along with that there is the emergence of a revolutionary people, numbering in the millions and millions, conscious of the need for revolutionary change and determined to fight for it. Everything a vanguard does has to be about getting to that revolutionary situation and measured in relation to that. Everything it does has to be about revolution. Anything short of that leads to throwing away the opportunity for revolution when it does arise (if it is even recognized).
In Part 2 of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, “Everything We’re Doing Is About Revolution,” Bob Avakian sets out a basic scaffolding for building a revolutionary movement in this country. This work applies—and exemplifies—a method to be learned from and utilized: it gives a living sense of the multi-layered and multi-leveled, dynamically changing character of reality and a way to comprehend reality in its motion and development and to transform it.
Both common wisdom in imperialist countries and the program of organized “economist” trends within the movement have been to look at the strength of the imperialists and the ebbs and flows in the spontaneous mass struggle—and, on this superficial basis, to fail to see not only the urgent necessity, but the basis and potential for the masses to rise up in revolution. All that’s possible now, these “economists” say, is to narrowly focus the attention of the masses on their immediate demands and the fight to win those demands, and get a mass following on that basis. This kind of view doesn’t challenge people ideologically, other than to “take up the struggle” at hand. No one ever quite cops to not wanting to bring communism to the masses; they just say now is not the time, and that the battle around immediate demands is the best way to get in position to do that. The economist approach leads to the severing of revolution and the communist future from today’s realities and struggles. The criterion is narrowed to whether one is “getting somewhere,” without regard to whether it is actually contributing toward the strategic goals of revolution and communism. Underneath this is, as Avakian analyzes, a mechanical and determinist view that sees only what exists and assumes it will indefinitely continue in the same direction, without radical breaks or sudden changes, without anything impinging on that direction, and without the possibility of new things emerging in unexpected ways out of existing contradictions.
In actual fact all societies—and the world—are constantly changing and teem with contradiction and unexpected developments. And history, like nature, is full of sudden leaps. A revolutionary situation does not arise as the conclusion of a linear, step-by-step process which gradually builds up to a truly mass movement. Society “leaps” into a revolutionary crisis as the result of sharp contradictions in the objective situation coming to a head, giving rise to a crisis in society and in government, in conjunction with the political, ideological, theoretical, and organizational work of revolutionaries in the whole period leading up to that crisis. Tens of millions of people flood into political life as the result of and through the mix of—and back and forth between—many contradictions in the world as a whole, and in a particular country, in many arenas of society, the struggles within and between the many classes and strata in society—economically and politically, over the oppression of nationalities and women, in the spheres of art and culture, of big ideological battles in society, and so forth—and again, within this mix, the work of revolutionaries.
By working within and “working on” the sharp and varied contradictions in society, our work should and will be a critical and necessary element pushing at and influencing the direction society takes. The revolutionary movement works to hasten the development of the revolution, while awaiting (and working to shape) favorable developments—those times in which everything goes up for grabs and a revolutionary people has come onto the stage of history. The revolutionary movement must strain against the political framework that works to contain the masses. There is no guarantee that a revolutionary crisis will emerge, but what is clear is: 1) There is an absolute need for revolution and it is the only solution—and the contradictions which make revolution necessary will continually pose and repose themselves for resolution. 2) Only this kind of work—work that is proceeding from and aimed at the goal of revolution—will accelerate the development of and prepare for such a situation (in contrast to economist work of step by step building up the strength of the mass movement, which will some day “go over” to revolution).
Hastening while awaiting is a multi-leveled and multi-dimensional process. The need for fundamental, radical change jumps out from the exploitation, oppression and suffering of people the world over. It can be seen in the horrific and ongoing wars imperialism wages—and the repressive moves of the state and a thousand other crimes imperialism commits every day. Communists must be working on these things, bringing forward the ways in which the proletariat, when it seizes power, can move immediately to put an end to these crimes—and they must be building massive political resistance to these outrages. This is a very important and essential part of hastening while awaiting.
But revolution will not be made by simply building ever greater struggles around these outrages and then linearly going forward. The need for communism springs from every pore of society. Communist ideology and exposure—and the necessity and possibility of moving to a communist future—need to be a part of the debate and ferment in all arenas, from the arts and sciences to controversies over morality. This work also is an integral and important element of hastening while awaiting; it impacts on how people see things and understand the world, what they are willing to put up with and what they are willing and determined to fight for, and more broadly, how social forces in society look at the communists and revolutionaries —and their goals.
A very critical passage from this pamphlet—indeed, one of the most important passages in the work of Bob Avakian—gives a sense of the method and approach to all this: “But fundamentally (and, so to speak, underneath all this) freedom does lie in the recognition and transformation of necessity. The point is that this recognition and the ability to carry out that transformation goes through a lot of different ‘channels,’ and is not tied in a positivist or reductionist or linear way to however the main social contradictions are posing themselves at a given time. If that were the case—or if we approached it that way—we would liquidate the role of art and much of the superstructure in general. Why do we battle in the realm of morals? It is because there is relative initiative and autonomy in the superstructure. And the more correctly that’s given expression, the better it will be, in terms of the kind of society we have at a given time and in terms of our ability to recognize necessity and carry out the struggle to transform necessity.”
Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism: The Two Mainstays
Grasping this is central to the very important strategic concept of “Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism.” This concept builds on Lenin’s famous and essential work, What Is To Be Done?. It comprehends a living ensemble of different kinds of revolutionary work. Over the course of decades, Bob Avakian has not only upheld but fought for the crucial principles developed by Lenin concerning the importance of bringing communist consciousness to the masses and training them to respond to all developments in society and the world from a communist point of view—and no other. And he has enriched these principles with a further and qualitatively deeper grasp of the ways in which matter and consciousness mutually interpenetrate and transform each other. He emphasizes the importance of enabling the masses to engage with all spheres of society from the angle of knowing and transforming the whole world, as well as the need to “break down,” to the extent possible, the barriers to that engagement; and, very critically, he’s emphasized the importance of boldly promoting communism itself and of putting before the masses the biggest questions of the revolution.
In this work the elements are brought together, laid out, and discussed in their interrelations. There is not a predetermined way all this will unfold, but this does provide the strategy and scaffolding that indicates broadly how these elements work together to develop a revolutionary movement and bring forward a revolutionary people. Within all this, and as a crucial part of repolarizing society for revolution, communists must be working to bring forward a core of emancipators of humanity—and to build the vanguard party. What if there was such a core numbering in the thousands now—and bringing forward tens of thousands more throughout society? What if there were emancipators of humanity going into the debate and ferment in different spheres to expose the workings of the system—and to bring to others a scientific understanding, and their communist convictions? And what if there was such a core out in the neighborhoods and factories, and going into the outbreaks of protest and rebellion, boldly spreading revolution and communism and on that basis building “massive political resistance to the main ways in which, at any given time, the exploitative and oppressive nature of this system is concentrated in the policies and actions of the ruling class and its institutions and agencies”? What difference would this make to hastening the development of a revolutionary situation and the emergence of a revolutionary people?
Answer: a great deal of difference! And it is something to urgently work toward.
In bringing forward such a core, and in broadly reaching into and influencing every corner of society, the role of Revolution newspaper is pivotal. It exposes the truth about this system and how it works, revealing the roots of all the outrages and injustices this system perpetrates on people here and around the world. It brings to light the impact these things have on different classes and strata—and how these strata (with different interests and programs) are responding. It fans the flames of resistance and embraces all those who protest and rebel—while diverting those streams away from their “spontaneous striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie.” And through all this, the communist press points to the need for the proletariat to lead a revolution, establish socialism, and move forward to emancipate all of humanity worldwide. It sets before all our communist convictions, and plays a key role in forging the link between all that and the communist future.
Together with the newspaper, an essential component of meaningful revolutionary work in this period is building a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work, and the method and approach of Bob Avakian. His work is a concentration of the most advanced expression of where humanity and society need to go, and can go, and opens up the pathways for achieving this. People in their masses must and can face the world as it is, scientifically understand it, and consciously transform it. But that cannot happen spontaneously and without leadership. In that light, Bob Avakian is an extraordinary leader, a leader who has consistently confronted and worked to find the solutions to the burning and most difficult questions facing humanity and the revolution—and has consistently put these questions before and in the hands of the masses. This should be cause for celebration—but it must also be recognized that the forces of reaction take this very seriously, and it should move all of those who want an end to this madness not only to engage with his work, but also to defend his ability to continue this work and leadership. This means forging a core of people (of all strata) who are deeply studying, and applying, the work of Bob Avakian—and fighting to connect this leader and his work with people broadly in society. And it means this work must be engaged by and become a point of reference for many, many people all throughout society. This too is an integral part of all we are doing contributing to revolution. The newspaper and the efforts to promote this leader and his work: these are the two mainstays of revolutionary work.
“Fight the Power, and Transform the People, For Revolution”
Together with these two mainstays of revolutionary communist work, there are other, critical elements in this ensemble we call enriched What Is To Be Done-ism: There is the need to mobilize people around the slogan “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.” Under this slogan, people are organized to spread communism and revolution, and build resistance against the outrages and injustices the system brings down on the people, as a part of contributing to revolution. This is meaningful revolutionary work—and work that should feel like meaningful revolutionary work—work that is about and actually contributing today to making revolution.
Also important: very bold initiatives of different kinds (and including ideological battles) can have a galvanic and electrifying effect. But revolutionaries must also be acutely attuned to sudden changes, and be ready to respond instantaneously …and audaciously. For example, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, with the deaths of thousands—and the incredible suffering of tens of thousands more—the nature and the bankruptcy of this system, and the ability and right of the capitalists to rule, was called into question in significant ways for millions. And as the masses in New Orleans, joined by others from all strata of society, worked together to care for people who had been abandoned and left to die, this also revealed the potential for the masses to break with and get beyond the dog-eat-dog life that capitalism pushes people into—and to be mobilized to bring into being a society with radically different relations among people. A bold initiative to raise the banner of revolution and lead the masses in powerful resistance to the criminal way people were abandoned by the government with not even the basic necessities, an initiative to break through to the people left to die and against the killing repression, could have potentially changed what happened around Katrina but also would have held the potential to dramatically impact the trajectory of things broadly in society and contribute to bringing forward a revolutionary people. Avakian focuses on this example in some depth and challenges party comrades and other revolutionaries to dig into it.
Another component in the ensemble: Undertaking political initiatives around societal questions which concentrate key social contradictions at any given time (and which can, through the work of revolutionaries, call into question the legitimacy of the authorities’ “right to rule”), like the work to build World Can’t Wait and organize and unleash massive protest and struggle aimed at driving out the Bush regime. The importance of this work in particular—both its very significant contributions and some of the reasons for its shortcomings—is gone into in the pamphlet in some depth.
Through all this work to hasten while awaiting, we must be forging the United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat. To make revolution and advance to communism, the proletariat must unite with and lead broad and diverse forces—with different outlooks and programs. Forging that unity involves overcoming the divisions and distrust between different classes and strata and realigning different class forces in a way that the goal of revolution and the revolutionary communist outlook are brought to the forefront and established in the leading position. This will be accomplished only through a complex struggle to unite, but also to struggle with different forces ideologically and politically, while working with them on various fronts and to join the struggle around critical faultlines in society.
For all these reasons, the publication of both parts of the talk Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity as part of this pamphlet is a significant and very welcome event.
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Also contained in this pamphlet is the article On the Possibility of Revolution, which consists of a letter from a reader to Revolution newspaper, together with the response to that letter. The letter to Revolution poses the question: “...even in the best of circumstances, in a powerful imperialist country like the U.S., would revolution really be possible—and if so, how?” And the response speaks powerfully to this question in the realm of theory.
In regard to this whole question, in Bringing Forward Another Way (online at revcom.us), Bob Avakian emphasizes the following important orientation and approach:
“We have to take up the question and approach the question of winning in a very serious and not in an infantile way, and not in a way which makes it even easier for this kind of concentrated power of reaction [embodied in the imperialist ruling class] to crush any attempt to bring a new world into being.”
And from the beginning of “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution” (reprinted in this pamphlet as an appendix):
“Revolution is a very serious matter and must be approached in a serious and scientific way, and not through subjective and individualistic expressions of frustration, posturing and acts which run counter to the development of a mass revolutionary movement which is aimed at—and which must be characterized by means that are fundamentally consistent with and serve to bring into being—a radically different and far better world. Revolution, and in particular communist revolution, is and can only be the act of masses of people, organized and led to carry out increasingly conscious struggle to abolish, and advance humanity beyond, all systems and relations of exploitation and oppression.”
In line with this orientation, in Bringing Forward Another Way, proceeding on the basis of what is said in “Some Crucial Points,” Avakian calls for study, and wrangling in the realm of theory and conception, in regard to the problem of winning when the time comes. As he puts it:
“Now, in previous talks I’ve spoken about two tracks in relation to winning, in relation to the seizure of power when there is the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people of millions. In light of what I’ve just read (which was the whole of ‘Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution’), and with that as a template, if you will, or a foundation—and from a strategic, not immediate, standpoint—we should understand the role and the dialectical relation of these two tracks. These are separate tracks, and only with a qualitative change in the situation (as spoken to in what I just read from ‘Some Crucial Points’) can there be a merging of the two tracks. Until that point, they can only correctly be developed, and have to be developed, separately.
“The first track, which is the main focus and content of things now, is political, ideological, and organizational work, guided by the strategic orientation of united front under the leadership of the proletariat, having in view and politically preparing for the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people on a mass scale. This is what it means to ‘hasten while awaiting’ the development of a revolutionary situation.
“The second track refers to and is in essence developing the theory and strategic orientation to be able to deal with the situation and be able to win when the two tracks can and should be merged—with a qualitative change in the objective political terrain, with the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people (as I have spoken to that here and as is set forth in a concentrated way in ‘Some Crucial Points’). What is appropriate now in this regard is attention to the realm of theory and strategic thinking and understanding, learning in a deep and all-sided way from experience of different kinds. There is a need to study all these different kinds of experience and for it to be synthesized from a correct strategic perspective—all in order to accumulate knowledge to deepen theoretical understanding and strategic conception.”
And, elaborating on a point made by Mao Tsetung, Avakian has emphasized the fundamental orientation that it is extremely important not to be bound by superstition and convention—and by what has, up to this point, been held to be true—but instead to approach all problems with critical and creative thinking, grounded in scientific principles and methods.
With all that in mind, and in response to the question raised by that reader of Revolution, this article merits serious study and sober reflection.
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We urge all those who are wrangling with the questions of why revolution is necessary in this country, why is it possible, and what are the goals of that revolution to get their hands on and read Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation.
What better way to mark the revolutionary new beginning symbolized by May 1st?
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