We Call Bullshit!

The following was written by two young revolutionaries:

Can we talk about the world? Over one billion people live in slums. In the past century, tens of millions of civilians across the globe have been murdered, tortured, and driven from their homelands by the leading global superpower—the United States—alone. That same global superpower imprisons nearly 2.4 million people, the majority of whom are Black and Latino, while working to the bone, terrorizing, detaining, and deporting millions of immigrants who cross its borders after making life unbearable in their home countries. Millions of women around the globe are raped, beaten, and trafficked as sex slaves each year. Tens of thousands of children die every day from starvation and preventable diseases. The planet itself faces the threat of literal extinction due to a multifaceted environmental emergency. And all this isn't even the half of it. Or anywhere close.

If anyone wishes to argue that the above statements are not true, that humanity can do no better, or that all this can be fixed with merely a few minor adjustments—let's hear it. And good luck! Otherwise, the following demands serious, substantive, and honest engagement:

There is a person on this planet who has dedicated his life to putting an end to these and countless other horrors confronting humanity. For the past several decades, that person—Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party—has been engaging in exhaustive, uncompromising, and ever-deepening analysis of why the world is the way it is and how it could be radically different. On the basis of the work Avakian has done over those decades to sum up the positive and negative experiences of the communist revolution so far, as well as many other streams of human endeavor, he has come up with a new synthesis of communism. Because of Avakian and the work he has done, there is a vision—and an actual Constitutionfor an entirely different and far better socialist society, on the road to a communist world free of all exploitation and oppression. Because of Avakian and the work he has done, there is a strategy—and an actual strategy statementfor how to make a revolution to reach that society and world. Because of Avakian and the work he has done, there is a Party and a movement—which Avakian is leading—working every day to hasten and prepare for the emergence of the future conditions that would make revolution possible.

It bears repeating: All this objectively demands serious, substantive, and honest engagement from anyone who yearns for a different world than the nightmare in which humanity is currently trapped. And indeed, as has been powerfully brought to life in the pages of Revolution newspaper, increasing numbers of people from all strata and in all spheres of society have been finding out about and engaging Avakian, transforming in powerful and exhilarating ways as a result, and contributing to spreading his work and vision throughout society. And yet, it is still the case that far too many people—including those who consider themselves radicals and progressives and say that they want to change the world—choose to dismiss Avakian and his work without even the pretense of engagement.

In no other realm would this fly. If a doctor had spent decades tirelessly studying cancer and, on that basis, announced that she had found a cure for the disease... if an astronomer made an unprecedented breakthrough in further understanding the origins and development of the universe... if a musician had pioneered a whole new style or sound or technique... if a sports coach had invented a whole new offensive or defensive strategy... and people, including those who fancied themselves enthusiasts of these various spheres, reacted by saying: "I don't need to check this out. I already know what I need to know"—this would be laughed out of town. But somehow, this dismissal without engagement is viewed as a perfectly valid and acceptable response to breakthroughs that forge the pathway for all of humanity to be emancipated from conditions of unbelievable misery and suffering.

We call bullshit.

In What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism, an Interview With Bob Avakian, Avakian makes the point:

"When people are falling into bullshit, they should be told so. Now, that's not all you should say. You should show them why. You should give them the substance. You should explain to them what's wrong. But this idea that everything has to be all so super-polite—this goes along with the relativist notion that everybody's ideas should be considered equally valid. Well, no. It's not a question of the person, it's a question of the ideas. It's not that one person counts for less than another person, but it's a question of whether the ideas are correct or incorrect. If they're incorrect, and if they're doing harm, they need to be called out sharply. Not in a way that puts people down. Not in a way that's antagonistic toward them—unless what they represent is really, fundamentally antagonistic to the interests of the masses of people, and they're digging in their heels around that. But among the people, so to speak, wrong ideas should be struggled over. Where people are putting forward different notions that are really wrong, and they are digging in their heels around them, they should be struggled with sharply. And where people say things that they don't have a basis for saying, where they haven't really investigated, they need to be told: you don't know what you're talking about."

In that spirit, and with that orientation, let's look at some of the common ways that this dismissal without engagement gets expressed, as well as some of the underlying assertions and arguments:

"I don't need to engage Avakian; I already know what I need to know."

We call bullshit.

You already know what you need to know? OK, then: What is your analysis of the system that we live under, its fundamental laws, dynamics, and contradictions, the things it does all over the world and how these things are connected, and the major global changes created by the unfolding of this system over the last several decades? What will it take to get rid of this system and completely uproot the global divisions and inequalities that exist between those who work with their hands and those who work with ideas, between men and women, between people of different nationalities and between nations? Do we really need to make a revolution? And, if so, then why is revolution necessary, what kind of revolution do we need, what's the strategy, and—when the conditions for this have been brought into being—how could we actually win against the most powerful, vicious, and repressive state in the history of the world? What are the key driving forces, obstacles to be transformed, and questions to be wrestled with in the process of making revolution? How would we go about building a whole new socialist society and ensure that it is a transition to a whole worldwide system of communism? What role can and should dissent play in a socialist society? What actually happened in China and Russia when they were genuinely socialist countries? Did communism "fail" in these countries, or was it defeated? What was tremendously positive about these socialist revolutions, and what must be done differently the next time we make revolution?

Since "you already know what you need to know," what are your answers to all these questions? Have you even thought of all these questions?

Avakian has spent more than three decades studying these and many other questions, and developing a new synthesis of communism that actually answers them. He has done this while learning very broadly from many different realms, including science, art and culture. He has dug into the rich history of the previous socialist revolutions—into their great achievements, and yes, their shortcomings. And through this work, and from continuing to learn from the masses themselves and the continuous struggles that have developed, he's forged a way out of the horrors of the capitalist-imperialist system. And if you actually care about the future of humanity, then you have a responsibility to get into his work and engage it. And you have a responsibility to examine for yourself whether it really does hold the answers we say it does.

"Communism is a nice idea on paper... but it doesn't work."

We call bullshit.

First things first: Where has capitalism ever worked? Can you name a period of even one day when capitalism hasn't meant the brutal exploitation of the masses in the name of profits? Can you name a capitalist-imperialist power that hasn't sat on top of a worldwide system of oppression that has led to the wholesale destruction of the planet and its resources? And let's talk about this country—the "good ol' US of A"—that has waged more murderous wars of terror than any other nation in history, that was born out of a history of genocide of native people and centuries of slavery, that today actually has more Black men locked away in torturous conditions in prison than it even held under slavery, and that imprisons more women than any country in the history of the world. So, again: where has capitalism ever worked? Even for a minute?

And guess what? That same capitalist system of destruction, torture, and murder is also a deceitful one! That capitalist system has fed you countless lies about the history of socialism and communism! Did you know, for example, that because of the socialist revolution in China, the literacy rate went from 15 percent to 80 percent in less than 30 years? That socialist China was able to wipe out prostitution in just a matter of years and lift the stigma off of women who had been victimized by sex trafficking while also doing away with the horrific practice of foot-binding that had been practiced for generations?

That before the socialist revolution of 1949, massive famines periodically caused the deaths by starvation of millions and millions of peasants in China and that even in "good times" severe hunger and starvation were common—but that within roughly 15 years after this revolution, China had solved its food problem and everyone had enough to eat? Did you know that socialist Russia—which emerged from a backward, semi-feudal society—made strides in the emancipation of women that had never been done anywhere else in the world? That before the socialist revolution of 1917, Russia had been characterized by such horrific oppression of minority nationalities that it was known as the "prison house of nations," while after this socialist revolution, Russia placed a priority on channeling resources to minority regions and working to uproot the tremendous inequalities between nations? [See the Set the Record Straight website, thisiscommunism.org.] Did you know that the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China was actually a movement of hundreds of millions to prevent the revolution from being betrayed and to instead carry forward that revolution's emancipatory and transformative mission in every sphere of society?

And guess what else? Avakian has not only dug deep into the real history of Russia and China and brought forward the reality that they were incredibly emancipatory societies that were really working toward a world free of exploitation and oppression. He has also shown why those revolutions were defeated, and how to do better and go further next time. And while upholding the overwhelmingly positive character of these societies, he's also made criticisms of this experience and made significant ruptures in areas including epistemology, strategy, internationalism, and the nature of socialist society—as part of developing a new synthesis of communism that forges the way for us to do even better in the next stage of communist revolution.

"Who is Avakian to say he has the solution to the world's problems?"

We call bullshit.

Who is Avakian to say he has the solution to the world's problems? He is someone who does have the solution to the world's problems. He's someone who has done the work. Engage that work honestly and you will see for yourself. He has dedicated his life to digging deeply into what the problem in the world is, and what the solution is. He has deeply studied Marx, Lenin, and Mao and the entire past experience—in theory and practice—of the international communist movement and the socialist societies it has brought into being. He has learned from history and science, art and culture, philosophy, and even sports and music and comedy—all to forge a new synthesis of communism! This new synthesis is not just a "cut and paste" job but a real re-envisioning of what it will take for humanity to be free and what we need to be doing to get there. He's someone who has also, all through that process, been leading a revolutionary vanguard party. A party that is forging a movement for revolution right here in this country! And he's someone who continues to learn very broadly, who continues to provide answers to the most vexing questions facing the revolution while also posing new questions that must be wrangled with in the process of working towards a radically different world. And he's someone who has taken the responsibility of leading the masses of people to understand all of this for themselves.

Now here's a question in return: Who are you to say Avakian doesn't have the solution to the world's problems? Are you someone who has actually deeply engaged his new synthesis and, on that basis, has a substantive argument to offer for why it is not what humanity needs? If so, let's hear it, because we are the last people to be afraid of a principled, substantive debate focused on the question of what is the problem facing humanity and what is the solution. And we are confident that this new synthesis does, in fact, represent the way out of the horrors facing the world.

Or, are you instead seeking to rule out of order the very idea of putting forward a solution to the world's problems, without even engaging the specific solution being put forth and hoping nobody calls you on this?

"I don't follow leaders."

We call bullshit.

Did you just wake up one morning and come up with the idea, "I don't follow leaders" all by yourself? Out of nowhere, without anyone or anything leading you to think that? You and how many other people?

News flash: Under this system, you didn't—and don't—get to decide anything of consequence about how this society and world function, about how individuals and groups relate to each other, and about the ideas, culture, and morality that predominate. Did you decide how the food you eat and the clothes you wear were made? Did you decide that the U.S. and other imperialist countries should slaughter and torture people around the globe? Did you decide that a woman should not be able to walk down the street without fear of being raped? That a youth of color should not be able to walk down the street without fear of being killed by the police? Did you get to decide whether or not you have a job, and what kind of job, and whether you earn enough income to have food and housing? And if you do have a job, when you go to work do you get to decide what you do there and how you can best contribute your knowledge and abilities to the betterment of humanity? Or even how long your lunch break is? Did you pick what is taught in schools? What is played on the radio? What is covered in the media? The programs that are shown on TV?

Wake up. You are being led every second of every day, in every sphere of your life. You are being led by a system of capitalism-imperialism in which nothing—including the basic necessities you need to survive—is made or done unless it generates profit. A system in which billions of people—and entire groups of people—are viciously and violently subjugated, and in which the entire planet is plundered. And you are being led—and forced—to accept all of this by the people who rule and enforce this system, and who shape the ideas that have influence in society.

And here's something else: Any idea you have about the state of the world and what should be done about it is one you were led to have. If you think this system is the best humanity can do, or that the world is the way it is because of human nature... if you think that the world is the way it is because of "god's will" and we need to "leave things to the lord"... if you think the problem is the "two-party system" and the solution is a third party... if you think that the problem is "capitalism run amok" and the solution is "more regulation"... if you think that the problem is that the U.S. "is not living up to its democratic principles" and the solution is "expanding democracy"... if you think that the problem is "hierarchy" and the solution is "horizontalism" and "leaderless movements"... if you think the problem is that "capitalism and communism have both failed" and the solution is "something in between these two systems"... there is not one of these ideas that you thought up on your own.

The question is not whether or not you follow leaders. The question is: What kind of leadership will you follow? Leadership that traps, tricks, and tails people—lowering their sights, in one form or another, to accept this system, its confines, and its ways of thinking as all that is possible? Or leadership that raises people's sights beyond the horizon, by challenging, training, and unleashing them to deeply understand and radically transform the world, and to unleash still others to do the same? Or, put another way: Leadership that is rooted in, reflects, perpetuates, enforces, and ultimately keeps things contained within this system and all the shit it brings down on humanity? Or radically different leadership to get rid of this system and bring an entirely different and much better world into being—leadership to emancipate humanity?

And if you don't want to choose the first of those two options, then here is a further question: Do you really, honestly think it is possible without leadership for millions of people to see the need for, and—when the future conditions have emerged—to actually make a revolution to defeat, dismantle, and abolish this capitalist-imperialist state and bring new institutions of a new, revolutionary system into being?... For the new society to go on from there to meet the material, cultural, and intellectual needs of the people while working to overcome inequalities and divisions that have been entrenched for centuries, keeping things moving in an overall direction towards communism while allowing for the maximum dissent and ferment at all times? Do you think all necessary societal tasks can be fulfilled, and all contradictions that are bound to arise in the process can be navigated? All in a way that advances—rather than undermines—the world revolution and works towards an entire planet without any exploitation, oppression, or antagonistic divisions?

Really?! You think all this can happen without leadership?

Here's what it all comes back to: The world is a horror, it has been for thousands of years, and it doesn't need to be. Either that is going to remain the case, or the world is going to be fundamentally and radically changed in a way that puts an end to the suffering of billions. When someone has done the work, forged the vision and strategy, and is providing the leadership necessary to emancipate humanity, it is the responsibility of anyone with a heart and a conscience to engage this.

As Avakian puts it in An Invitation:

"Let's go on a crucial journey together—full of unity against oppression and lively struggle about the source of the problem and the solution. Pursue your own convictions—that the outrages that move you are intolerable—to their logical conclusion, and be determined not to stop until those outrages have been eliminated. And if this, as well as learning about other outrages, and ideas about how all this fits together and flows from a common source—and how it could all be ended, and something much better brought into being—leads in the direction of seeing not only the need for bold and determined resistance, but also the need for revolution and ultimately communism, then don't turn away from that because it moves you beyond your comfort zone, challenges what had been your cherished beliefs, or because of prejudices and slanders. Instead, actively seek to learn more about this revolution and its goal of communism and to determine whether it is in fact the necessary and possible solution. And then act accordingly."

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