Revolution Online, March 21, 2011
Two different views on: Accumulating Forces for Revolution
We received the following from a reader:
In a recent discussion of the RCP’s new statement "On the Strategy for Revolution," someone observed that they had always thought of "accumulating forces" simply as winning people to become communists. Beyond that, they thought revolutionaries were mainly just seeking to create broad public opinion in favor of revolution and communism. This person is still relatively new to the movement for revolution, but I have observed that quite a few others—including veterans of this movement—still too much share in this same wrong conception of our strategy. For this reason, I felt it was important to compare and contrast two different approaches and where each of them lead.
To put it simply, winning people to become communists—and to join the Revolutionary Communist Party on that basis—is extremely important. So is creating broad public opinion for revolution and communism. But to think that is all that is meant by "accumulating forces" is both to envision a different—and far less realistic—strategy for revolution and to envision a different—and far drearier and less viable—vision of a new world.
Here are a couple of questions that sharpen this up.
When someone first encounters this revolution, when they first express an openness to learning about it, when they first find something attractive and inspiring about Bob Avakian and/or his re-envisionment of revolution and communism, when they step forward to fight the power or to contribute to the revolution in some other way, do we see this as a good thing to be worked with and learned from and transformed over time through an ongoing strategic relationship? Or, do we see those parts of the person’s thinking and behavior that still reflects their lifetime of being trained and shaped by capitalism and decide that they really are a long way away from becoming a communist and so it’s really hard to fit them into this movement?
This may sound like a no-brainer, but I have heard communists get frustrated that people who are relatively new still believe in god or don’t really know how to explain to others what this revolution is about. I have even heard some communists complain that a person who is one of the first people in a certain neighborhood to start distributing Revolution newspaper is paying for the papers themselves and just giving them away rather than selling them!
Yes, we have to struggle with people to break with ways of thinking and acting that this system has trained them in... and yes, we have to train people in the full strategy of this revolution and enable them to act with increasing initiative... but to do any of this—and to do any of it in line with our strategic aims—we have to let people in to this revolution.
Are we seeking to learn everything we can from those who are beginning to step forward into this revolution and what clues this might offer as to potential pathways to bring forward others? Are we appreciating what a leap it is for people in society today to begin to relate to the movement for revolution and working together with them to develop forms that enable them to contribute in a meaningful way even as they learn more and get in deeper? Are we listening to—and learning from—the criticisms that people have, including about the "all or nothing" feeling they still too often get from us? And are we fighting for, and in line with, a society where everyone falls in line and carries out work in the same way, or are we really going for, and fighting in a way that reflects the kind of wild and woolly, vibrant and ferment-filled socialism that Bob Avakian has re-envisioned?
Further, do we really get that at the time of the all-out struggle for the seizure of power if there is going to be a real chance at winning the revolutionary movement will need to have organized into it many millions who are not communists? Do we get that while it is extremely important that a growing core of people do make the leap to becoming communists, no one can say in advance which people will travel that whole road? And, do we get that no one develops only through the work that we do with them, but rather through the whole multi-level reality that is influencing them which includes us, but also others who are themselves unevenly taking up this revolution, as well as the whole broader world?
When we make plans, do we comprehend the full scope of those who would want to contribute, in one way or another, and make sure that we are giving them opportunities to do so? Are we comprehending the ways that people with diverse views and levels of commitment coming together can actually create/unleash new energies? Are we building "we’s" at all different levels... "we’s" that interpenetrate with one another and create a whole greater than the sum of its parts?
If we are not finding the means to work with many different people who are at many different levels of political and ideological development, if we are not finding the ongoing ways to carry out ongoing political and ideological struggle with them, and if we are not increasingly developing the means for them to engage in this struggle together with each other, then almost no one will make this leap and even if they do they—and we—will still be very isolated and encircled by the broader non-revolutionary mood of society... as well as pretty brittle and dogmatic.
On the other hand, many people can make a meaningful contribution to the movement for revolution—including in influencing and reinforcing others towards this revolution—even as they themselves are still learning more and figuring out where they stand. This can mean things like giving money to particular efforts, helping to distribute Revolution newspaper or other materials, ushering at an event, inviting someone to make an announcement in their class, being part of fighting the power, and many other things. This can also mean things like raising their questions and reservations, offering their suggestions or their criticisms, and sharing with us the work and ideas they are passionate about.
A lot of this has to do with understanding how the concept of "solid core with a lot of elasticity" applies, and can be applied, to reality. I’ve emphasized here the elasticity—but this elasticity can only contribute on the basis of a solid core that is constantly expanding and deepening. To put it another way—none of what is talked about above can be unleashed in a way that can really contribute to revolution without the party being strengthened. The recently released RCP statement, "On the Strategy for Revolution," gives a great deal of emphasis to the importance of this in order to make revolution. Here’s what it says, in talking about the work that has to be done now:
"To support and strengthen our Party as the overall leadership of this revolution. The more our Party’s revolutionary viewpoint and strategy is spread and gains influence throughout society...the more that people come to understand and agree with what the Party is all about, and join its ranks on that basis...the more the Party’s "reach" extends to every corner of the country...the greater its organizational strength and its ability to withstand and to lead people forward in the face of government repression aimed at crushing resistance and killing off revolution—the more the basis for revolution will be prepared and the more favorable the chance of winning."
It goes on from there to emphasize the need to "learn from the Chairman of our Party, Bob Avakian, spread the knowledge and influence of his pathbreaking leadership, and defend and protect this rare and precious leader," as well as the related need to "much more fully wield our Party’s newspaper, Revolution." On the basis of doing and constantly strengthening this kind of work—on the basis of this solid core— we should be able to recognize the basis for and to do much better at unleashing all kinds of elasticity.
Finally, let’s stop writing people off if they don’t come around for a while. Are we only interested in those people who come forward in a straight line? Why not let’s make much more systematic use of our newspaper—sign many more people up for the e-subs and get many more people to subscribe—while we encourage them at the same time to "get into Bob Avakian"... so that as they pursue other priorities and interests they are able to stay in touch... and to reconnect when events in the world cause them to think again.
With all this in mind, it is worth returning to, reflecting more deeply on, and really using as a guide for our practice the very broad invitation and challenge at the end of the Statement on Strategy:
"For those who have hungered for, who have dreamed of, a whole different world, without the madness and torment of what this system brings every day... those who have dared to hope that such a world could be possible... and even those who, up to now, would like to see this, but have accepted that this could never happen...there is a place and a role, a need and a means, for thousands now and ultimately millions to contribute to building this movement for revolution, in many different ways, big and small—with ideas and with practical involvement, with support, and with questions and criticisms. Get together with our Party, learn more about this movement and become a part of it as you learn, acting in unity with others in this country, and throughout the world, aiming for the very challenging but tremendously inspiring and liberating—and, yes, possible—goal of emancipating all of humanity through revolution and advancing to a communist world, free of exploitation and oppression."
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