A Salon on BAsics 4:10

April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

I and some revolutionary friends recently held a salon to take up the "food for thought" that BA calls for in the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! (RNL). In the chapter about the Rosetta Stone of communism and communist leadership, BA reads quote 4:10 from BAsics and asks "is this true, and if so why." Here's the quote:

For humanity to advance beyond a state in which "might makes right"—and where things ultimately come down to raw power relations—will require, as a fundamental element in this advance, an approach to understanding things (an epistemology) which recognizes that reality and truth are objective and do not vary in accordance with, nor depend on, different "narratives" and how much "authority" an idea (or "narrative") may have behind it, or how much power and force can be wielded on behalf of any particular idea or "narrative," at any given point.

In talking this over, it got clearer that this isn’t just going up against how the system trains people to think (that the idea with the strongest force backing it up should be accepted as valid, instead of whether it can be shown to correspond to objective reality, which exists as it does regardless of what anyone thinks), but this quote focuses up an important way that the new synthesis of communism BA has forged represents an actual further rupture in communist understanding, a rupture with trends in even the best of the communist experience so far. Some examples that were part of this discussion were the ideas that held sway in China, when it was a revolutionary socialist country, of "class background" (that the class your family came from could decide if your ideas are correct) and "class truth" (that ideas belong to a specific class, and correct ideas must belong to the proletariat). Related to that we talked about the example from the chapter of RNL that we just watched about the gap in ability between a woman from the projects in Harlem and people with college education and intellectual training, the gap that just having equal time on the mic does not overcome. What is true does not get decided by what class the speaker is from, and what is true is also not decided, in this case, by how educated the speaker is. The real truth of an idea depends on how accurately it describes what objectively exists. And as BA is arguing in this chapter of RNL, the key—the decoder—is science, particularly communist science, and communist leadership. This is the key that enables masses of people, including that woman from the projects, to really participate in evaluating what is true and what to do about it.

At one point one person posed the question of why is it that other epistemologies, that don’t base themselves on recognizing that there is objective truth, would not be able to get to a society that is really past “might makes right.” And again we talked about "is this true, and if so, why?" Why can't you overcome the 4 Alls and get to communism without this approach of recognizing that reality is objective regardless of the force of any narrative? What if it’s the communists who have the most authority and force to their arguments. Would this quote still be true?

One example I've been thinking about since this discussion was when someone brought up there would likely be times in the course of making revolution, including where the revolution has won power and is struggling to go forward, when communists would have to get up and struggle with an angry crowd about why something they are strongly swayed by is not objectively true. As part of struggling that through we'd have to bring not only evidence of our argument to win people over, but be consciously working on this as part of training people, leading them, to themselves be better able to evaluate what is true and how to act on this. Without this, you may make some progress in revolution for a time, but it will run into limits and get turned back since people generally wouldn’t be able to figure out which argument on how to go forward is correct, and the numbers of those who are working to lead won’t be able to grow. And for that matter the communists won’t learn from their mistakes, either. In the course of revolution, not only does the science itself need to continually get deepened, but the world we're understanding and transforming doesn't stay the same either. The key thing is communist science—and communist leadership, without which communist science won't develop and won't increasingly take hold among people, in opposition to other ways of understanding the world, as the world itself changes and contradictions go through dramatic changes and give rise to dramatically new contradictions.

One person brought up that many people involved in the Occupy movement thought they were going up against might makes right, but objectively they were not. They thought that everyone having an equal say is the way to get at truth. But you need leadership to do this, you need that Rosetta Stone. Even in communism there would be unevenness, it's not the case that everyone would think the same or have the same abilities. But there would be a basic approach among everyone that there is objective reality that is not determined by the force of some argument or what authority is behind it. If that wasn't true it couldn't yet be communism, which is a society where humanity is consciously changing itself and the world, the real world. When this is generally true, the struggle among people will have an amazingly different character to it than how this plays out today.

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