Letter from a reader

There Is a Jolt! What Is Our Responsibility Now?

July 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Let's see if the following resonates in this current political moment:

The potential for a revolutionary crisis lies within the very nature of this capitalist system itself—with its repeated economic convulsions, its unemployment and poverty, its profound inequalities, its discrimination and degradation, its brutality, torture and wars, its wanton destruction. All this causes great suffering. And at times it leads to crisis on one level or another—sudden jolts and breakdowns in the "normal functioning" of society, which compel many people to question and to resist what they usually accept. No one can say in advance exactly what will happen in these situations—how deep the crisis may go, in what ways and to what extent it might pose challenges to the system as a whole, and to what degree and in what ways it might call forth unrest and rebellion among people who are normally caught up in, or feel powerless to stand up against, what this system does.

Let me stop there for a minute. That is from the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP)'s statement On the Strategy for Revolution, which can be found at revcom.us, as well as in the book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. Yes, there is an actual strategy—and an actual strategy statement—for real revolution in this country. Anyone reading this article who hungers for radical change, or even wonders if radical change is possible, should get serious, and get seriously into this whole strategy statement. Study it yourself, and also study and discuss it with many others!

I think it is safe to say that we are now experiencing one of these jolts in the normal functioning of society talked about in this strategy statement. I think it is safe to say this is a moment when people are questioning and resisting what they usually accept. Let's just look at the last 48 hours or so: Saturday around 10 p.m. ET, George Zimmerman was acquitted on all charges in the cold-blooded vigilante murder of Trayvon Martin. With this verdict, this system sent the message that more than 100 years after the infamous Dred Scott decision, a Black man in this society still has "no rights which a white man was bound to respect." Not only that, the system made it crystal clear that it is still the case that a Black man in this society—and, to an especially high degree, a young Black man—can be profiled, hunted down and murdered in an instant, anywhere, anytime, and for any supposed reason. And that all young Black men in this society must live in fear that this could happen to them at any moment. This verdict, outrageous far beyond words, is—and must be seen as— a blistering indictment of this capitalist-imperialist system, and of that system's supposed shining beacon and greatest superpower, the United States. The reality for tens and tens of millions of Black people in this society—and what that says about the true nature of this country and whole system—has been exposed for the whole world to see. It reminds me of New Orleans in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, when the whole world saw this system literally leaving hundreds of thousands of poor Black people to drown and making it plain that its rulers simply did not give a fuck about this.

But there's more. At the time the verdict was announced, mainstream news reports indicated there were perhaps 75 to 100 demonstrators outside the Sanford courthouse. And this was presented as a high number compared to the numbers who had been there in the days leading up. However, when the words "not guilty" came down, the anger, the anguish, the heartbreak and fury poured forth almost immediately. Some of the most haunting images that stick out in my mind from the first hours after the verdict are the pictures in various media of Black people sobbing, with centuries of angry, bitter tears pouring down their faces. I will come back to this point in a moment. In San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities, people took to the streets to express their outrage that night. The next day, Sunday, there was of course, a whole new wave of demonstrations across the country, including a crowd of thousands of people in Times Square, New York with marchers going all the way up to Harlem (roughly 80 blocks north) and some even going to the Bronx, according to New York media.

Flames of fury engulfed social media as well. Just a few of the prominent voices taking to Twitter to express their anger, disgust, outrage and shock in the aftermath of the verdict were pop stars Rihanna and Miley Cyrus, professional athletes Dwayne Wade, Kendrick Perkins and Stevie Johnson, and actor/comedian Will Ferrell.

Again, it is worth repeating that all this had gone down in the space of about 48 hours!!

Right now is a rare moment. What makes it rare is not that a Black youth was murdered and the racist vigilante who murdered him walked free—or because of all that concentrates. That happens every damn day, with millions of Black and Latino youth locked in this society's prisons, hundreds of thousands stopped and frisked by cops every year in New York City alone, and thousands murdered by police in the last few decades. No, what makes this a rare moment is the fact that all of this is being thrust before the eyes of the world, and that people are standing up and fighting back against all of this, with the potential for both the exposure and resistance to go to a whole other level. And this brings me to the next point: This is a moment of both tremendous opportunity and tremendous responsibility for the movement for revolution.

Let me go back to the RCP's statement on strategy, which proceeds to make two very important points about the jolts described above:

1) Such "jolts" in the "normal functioning" of things, even if they do not develop all the way to a fundamental crisis for the system as a whole, do create situations in which many more people are searching for answers and open to considering radical change. The work of building the movement for revolution must be consistently carried out at all times, but in these situations of sharp breaks with the "normal routine" there is greater possibility, and greater potential, to make advances. This must be fully recognized and built on to the greatest degree possible, so that through such situations, leaps are made in building up the movement and the organized forces for revolution, creating in this way a basis for which to work for further advances.

2) In certain situations, major events or big changes can happen in society and the world and can come together in such a way that the system is shaken to its foundationsdeep cracks appear and magnify within the ruling structures and institutions…the raw relations of oppression are more sharply exposedconflicts among the powers-that-be deepen, and cannot be easily resolved, and it becomes much more difficult for them to hold things together under their control and keep people down. In this kind of situation, for great numbers of people, the "legitimacy" of the current system, and the right and ability of ruling powers to keep on ruling, can be called seriously and directly into question, with millions hungering for a radical change that only a revolution can bring about.

With these two points in mind, let me go back now to those haunting images I mentioned of Black people sobbing wrenching tears of rage after the verdict was announced. And to be clear, I am definitely not saying that it was only Black people who should be—or are—crying tears of rage over the howling injustice of Zimmerman's acquittal. But here is what I am saying: When we see these tears and think about all that they represent, we should understand them not only as evidence of the profound need for revolution, but also of the profound possibility for revolution.

Why do I say this? Well, let me answer that by posing two questions. One: How many tens of millions of people, how many centuries of brutal oppression, are represented by each one of those photos? And two: Where do we think the great majority of these tens of millions of people would line up if things got polarized in society between the way things are now and the possibility of getting rid of this system through revolution and bringing a completely and radically different system into being, aiming for a whole new world? Which alternative would actually be in their interests?

Now, we are not going to win tens of millions, or even millions, to this revolution all at once, and in a straight line. Not even in a moment like this. But we are never going to win them if we simply wait and hope for them to join the revolution on their own, or all at once at some later time, or to figure out on their own that the source of the problem humanity faces is the system of capitalism-imperialism and the solution is communist revolution to get rid of that system and bring a whole new society into being, on the road to a whole new world. We must, must, must comprehend that this understanding does not occur spontaneously merely as a result of being oppressed, or in the process of struggling against oppression. If it did, there would have been many more communist revolutions in history than there in fact have been, because there has been no shortage of brutal oppression—or struggle against that oppression—throughout history. Rather, this understanding of problem and solution must be brought to people from outside their own experiences and struggles, and people must be challenged to change their understanding of the problem and solution and to get with the movement for revolution and the leadership we have for that revolution in Bob Avakian as they are learning more, and as they are standing up and fighting back against the outrages and crimes spawned by this system.

What we can do, what we must do, as the RCP's strategy statement says, is work now to bring forward, orient and train thousands in a revolutionary way, who are reaching and influencing millions, and who could, under different future conditions when there is a revolutionary situation, "be a backbone and pivotal force in winning millions to revolution and organizing them in the struggle to carry the revolution through."

One key point the strategy statement makes is that jolts in the normal functioning of society, when people are questioning and resisting what they usually accept, provide a greater opportunity to make leaps in accumulating forces for revolution. But while it is tremendously important to create a situation where people in society are constantly encountering this revolution and its leadership, thousands of people will not bring forward, orient and train themselves in a revolutionary way merely by being exposed to us, through some sort of "revolutionary contact high." We must actively work to bring them forward, orient them, and train them in a revolutionary way. Therefore, I want to end this article with a couple of thoughts about this process of actively working now to bring forward, orient, and train thousands in a revolutionary way who are reaching and influencing millions—doing this in an overall sense, and in the midst of this moment.

First, I want to return to the critical importance of the fact that we have an actual strategy for revolution, and a highly scientific statement on that strategy that we can wield, refer people to, and study and discuss with them. While I have been referring to different excerpts from the statement, it is really important to study and apply the whole statement, and to use it as a guide in our revolutionary work. To those reading this article—whether you have been part of this movement for revolution for a long time, or if you have just met the movement for revolution, or anything in between—I want to urge you to read, and re-read, and study this statement.

One thing that has really struck me in re-reading this strategy statement recently is how specific, detailed and concrete it is throughout—in terms of identifying the conditions necessary to make a revolution; how those conditions can come about; what, specifically, revolutionaries must do to hasten while awaiting these conditions, and how; what the tremendous resources are that we have going for us in that process; what the process of making revolution entails; and who the forces for this revolution must be. I cannot, in this article, go into this in depth—and frankly, people should just go straight to the source and read the strategy statement anyway rather than me trying to summarize it.

But in order to briefly illustrate this point about how specific, detailed and concrete the strategy statement is, and in order to speak a little further to this question of actively working to accumulate forces for revolution—bringing forward, orienting and training thousands in a revolutionary way—I wanted to highlight and refer people to a few sections of the strategy statement. First, I wanted to point out that the strategy statement emphasizes that the way we must be working to accumulate forces for revolution is to Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution (p. 108 in BAsics). The statement then immediately goes on to explain what fighting the power, transforming the people, for revolution means (pp. 108-109). And then the statement discusses the work that is involved in fighting the power, transforming the people, for revolution, identifying three specific bold points (pp. 109-110):

  • To support and strengthen our Party as the overall leadership of this revolution.
  • 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.
  • To much more fully wield our Party's newspaper, Revolution.

The strategy statement explains each of these three points in more detail. Rather than doing that myself in this article, I want to refer people to these sections of the strategy statement, and the statement as a whole, and make the point that our ensemble of revolutionary work needs to be constantly grounded in and guided by this strategy statement—again, both in an overall sense, and in the midst of jolts such as the one we are in now.

The second and final point I wanted to make regarding the process of actively working to accumulate forces for revolution relates to the method by which we are doing this, and specifically the tremendous importance of challenging and struggling with people. I think we can and must be learning a tremendous amount from how Bob Avakian approaches this.

This recognition and application of the need to challenge and struggle with the masses to transform their thinking, and to get with the revolution, is a thread running through BA's entire body of work, method and approach. But in these last couple of days, in relation to this point, I have been thinking a lot about two elements in particular of BA's body of work. The first is the final essay in BAsics, "The Revolutionary Potential of the Masses and the Responsibility of the Vanguard" (pp. 197-202). The second is the section of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live that is entitled "The Revolutionary Potential of Those Most Oppressed Requires Scientific Leadership." Notice that each of these titles begins by referring to the "revolutionary potential" of the masses, but neither leaves the question there: scientific leadership and the vanguard taking responsibility are required to actually bring that potential to bear.

In "The Revolutionary Potential of the Masses and the Responsibility of the Vanguard," for instance, BA makes the point:

I hate the way the masses of people suffer, but I don't feel sorry for them. They have the potential to remake the world, and we have to struggle like hell with them to get them to see that and to get them to rise to that. We shouldn't aim for anything less. Why should we think they are capable of anything less?

I would strongly encourage people to get into, or go back to, these sections of BAsics and BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, and even more importantly to go into these two works as a whole.

We cannot beg the masses to get with the revolution. Nor can we merely wait or hope for them to do it. We have to work with them, challenge them, invite them, and struggle with them to do it.

I want to return one final time to those who have been crying tears of anger, heartbreak, determination and despair during the last few days. These tears call to mind exactly what Avakian says in the film:

Those this system has cast off, those it has treated as less than human, can be the backbone and driving force of a fight not only to end their own oppression, but to finally end all oppression, and emancipate all of humanity.

We can and must stand with those who are outraged and sickened and heartbroken and who are channeling their anger and heartbreak into fighting back and refusing to accept the crimes of this system.

But what is our most important responsibility to them, and to all of humanity?

To bring them the understanding that this system is the problem and revolution is the necessary and possible solution, actively challenge them to get with that revolution and its leadership, and work and struggle through with them the obstacles standing in the way of them doing that.


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