Transcript of Important Talk from the RCP:
“Where We Are in the Revolution”

August 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


In May 2014 an important talk from the Revolutionary Communist Party was delivered in several cities across the U.S. The following is an edited transcript.


I’m going to focus today on our strategy to actually make revolution, at the soonest possible time, and where we are in implementing this strategy. As a way to get into this, and to lay out how to approach and how not to approach this and any other question of importance, I want to tell you about an argument I had not too long ago. I went round and round with the person about the subject at hand, about what was true or not, and then, to sort of close the argument, she said “Well, everyone just tells themselves a story that makes sense of their world and lets them go on another day.” And I said, no, that’s just the problem—because there are all sorts of stories that seem to fit with how you see, or want to see, the world and that let you go on, but that are not true. That is, they do NOT correspond to the actual reality and its essential course of development. And what we need is the truth.

You see this all over. There’s religion—people will say that yes, there is needless suffering, but “it is all part of God’s plan.” And if you press them for their proof, some will say, well, I can’t prove it but I know it in my heart AND I need to believe it to make it through another day.

Or people talk about “narratives”—which is just a fancy word for stories. You can see this on a large scale with something like Israel, and its dispossession, domination and ongoing brutally violent suffocation of the Palestinian people. How is this covered in the media? When it isn’t outright lying and distortion on behalf of the Israelis, some of them will say, “well, there’s the Israeli narrative vs. the Palestinian narrative,” as if it’s just a matter of each side telling a different story and nobody can tell which is true. One side says that the Zionists came to Palestine, took the land, and either got rid of or subjugated the indigenous people through deception and often massacre—over 30 massacres, in fact, in their 1948 war to dispossess the Palestinians and establish the state of Israel. The other side says that “this was a land without a people for a people without a land,” as the Oscar-winning movie Exodus laid it out. But one—and ONLY one—of those “narratives” corresponds to what is true—to the actual objective reality and the essential characteristics of that reality. We know which it is, and that’s why supporters of Israel scream bloody murder when anyone compares them to South Africa during apartheid.

But in today’s world, instead of truth versus lies, everything is reduced to “competing narratives.” Or if there is truth, it’s true because “it works for you”—and NOT because it can be verified by studying and testing objective reality.

I’m starting here both because this so totally pervades the culture right now and acts as a real barrier to people acting... a point I’ll get into later... and because there’s a history of the revolutionary movement, the communist movement falling into this kind of thinking as well. Making revolution and then going on to wipe out all exploitation and oppression has proven to be very very hard—to extremely understate it. And there’s been tendencies in the face of that to fall into this kind of narrative thinking, or even a sort of religious approach—to tell ourselves that such a change is inevitable... to idealize or romanticize the oppressed... to focus almost solely on the “favorable” facts or the positive experience and not stare too long at the difficulties, the setbacks or the mistakes... or to fall into a mode of waiting for some almost supernatural force to intervene and do away with the very real obstacles to all this that we, collectively as a movement, have learned about these past 150 years.

I’m going to talk later about Bob Avakian, the Chairman of our Party, and his seminal contributions to communism—the new synthesis of communism that he’s brought forward. But at the very foundation of all BA’s contributions is a more scientific approach of going for the truth—of approaching the material world, including the very material world of human society, using the scientific method. I’m only going to touch on that today, but there is a really great new talk on this up on our website,, from BA that goes into this and that people should get into: The Material Basis and the Method for Making Revolution.

Now what do I mean by the scientific method? In the very good TV series, Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about this in the third segment. He begins with the ability of human beings to recognize patterns. That’s the foundation of science—people confront the material world, they figure out the patterns or possible patterns in their experience, they come up with ideas to account for those patterns, and they test out their thinking to see if it corresponds to reality... then they sum up whether their idea is true or to what degree it’s true, and this in turn enables them to spot even more patterns, and come up with deeper, truer explanations. You don’t just settle for the surface phenomena—you have to dig deeper.

Now Tyson also talks about “false pattern recognition”—early people ascribing comets, for instance, to the anger of the gods. So you have to be very rigorous in this, very unsparing. You have to not just notice patterns, you have to get to the essence, or the heart, of these patterns. What’s behind this pattern I’m noticing? Why is it happening? What’s the cause? What happens when I try to affect it? And what can I learn from that?

So when we talk about a strategy to make revolution today, we’re going to have to ask ourselves: is this true? Meaning: does this strategy correspond to the actual reality we face? Does it locate and deal with the real, material possibilities for change that exist within that reality? If we undertook this strategy, would there be a real chance to win?

Now our Party does have a strategy, and it’s laid out very succinctly and accessibly in our statement on strategy, available in BAsics, a book of talks and quotations by Bob Avakian. That statement on strategy begins by confronting the unvarnished reality. “Many people,” it says, “insist, ‘there could never be a revolution in this country: the powers-that-be are too powerful, the people are too messed up and too caught up in going along with the way things are, the revolutionary forces are too small.’”

People who say that are pointing to real things; but they are drawing the wrong conclusion. This is false pattern recognition. This talk will get into why revolution actually IS possible, taking fully into account—and correctly understanding—the reality reflected in those objections. And we’ll do it based on fully and deeply confronting the reality and going for the truth.

* * *

Let’s look at this first objection—that the powers-that-be are too powerful. A lot of people look at the great wealth these exploiters have sucked out of people all over the world and the immense strength of the organs of violence and repression they have built up on that basis and they conclude very quickly that there is no way you can defeat them.

But people still see the need for change, so they look for something short of revolution. You get someone like Chris Hedges, the journalist, who sees this system’s capacity for violence very clearly—he began as a war correspondent—and he comes up with ideas of a “nonviolent revolution.” When things go well he lets himself get carried away with this. During Occupy he said that Occupy was “too big to fail.”

But what happened to Occupy? Today the media acts like Occupy just “fell apart.” In fact, Occupy was massively, systematically and very violently crushed by the police. And, according to the mayor of Oakland, this violent and massive police repression was coordinated in a national conference call of the mayors of these cities—almost all of them Democrats. Now I’ll come back later to why the Democrats felt compelled to crush Occupy but today feel compelled to let Cliven Bundy, that racist rancher in Nevada, get away with threatening federal agents with guns and why the ruling class as a whole made him a celebrity and gave him a platform for his hateful racist rantings.

But for now, my point is that Occupy, as well as hundreds of other examples, show that with even a relatively mild challenge—and again, Occupy’s great “crime” was to peacefully occupy public spaces while pointing out the huge disparities in wealth in this country—is met with force. After the ruling powers have run out of arguments, they always come up with their main argument: might makes right. “Our ‘narrative’ has an army, and yours doesn’t.” I could talk from now ‘til next year with examples of this, and still not be done—this is one very basic pattern of social life ever since humanity became divided into classes—that is, exploiters and exploited, rulers and ruled—thousands of years ago. When those classes which benefit from a social order come to feel that their position is threatened by those they rule over, or even called into serious question, then they call out the army and police to contain or crush that threat or, if it’s an international threat, they go to war.

And this government bows to none in its willingness to deploy such force. Today people in the ruling class are on a serious campaign to “rehabilitate the legacy” of Lyndon Johnson, who was president in the '60s. They’ve even given him a play on Broadway, with the star of Breaking Bad, to get us to empathize with and “appreciate” this person... this criminal who presided over things so foul and monstrous that they beggar the imagination. They don’t want to talk about Johnson’s role in the murder of three million—three million!—Vietnamese through launching an unprovoked war to crush a revolution that no posed direct threat to the U.S. whatsoever but might set a “bad example,” in their view, to other oppressed people. And that war was carried out with a policy—and here I’m quoting the title of an excellent book by Nick Turse, who discovered secret archives of the Pentagon detailing the pervasiveness of war crimes that rival the Nazis—a policy of “Kill Anything That Moves.” A policy of massacre on top of massacre, whether on the land or from the air, a policy of a very sick society.

People justly revile Hitler for murdering six million Jews—well, what about the three million Vietnamese, and millions more Indochinese in Cambodia and Laos whose murder was set in motion or at least carried forward by Johnson? What about the half million to million killings in Indonesia that the CIA engineered and orchestrated in 1965, on Johnson’s orders? You could run a similar role call on almost every president. And no president has ever or would ever denounce any of his predecessors for any of these crimes against humanity. In fact, all the living ex-presidents along with Obama just recently honored Johnson in a ceremony at his library and nobody said a mumbling word about the atrocities that he knowingly presided over and, moreover, lied about to launch and then justify.

So, these are real monsters with real teeth, and they will use those teeth on the slightest provocation and sometimes without any provocation. You’re not going to make any fundamental change without dealing with that. To quote BAsics:

Revolution is not some kind of change in style, or a change in attitude, nor is it merely a change in certain relations within a society which remains fundamentally the same. Revolution means nothing less than the defeat and dismantling of the existing, oppressive state, serving the capitalist-imperialist system—and in particular its institutions of organized violence and repression, including its armed forces, police, courts, prisons, bureaucracies and administrative power—and the replacement of those reactionary institutions, those concentrations of reactionary coercion and violence, with revolutionary organs of political power, and other revolutionary institutions and governmental structures, whose basis has been laid through the whole process of building the movement for revolution, and then carrying out the seizure of power, when the conditions for that have been brought into being... (BAsics 3:3)

So you have to confront that: “the defeat and dismantling of the existing, oppressive state, serving the capitalist-imperialist system—and in particular its institutions of organized violence and repression.” BA has pointed out that it can feel as if we’re locked in a huge prison yard surrounded by a huge steel wall that reaches up past our field of vision and seems incredibly thick. All we’ve got against that is each other and—what else?—the scientific method. But that’s a lot. This scientific method is like having a microscope and x-ray machine. We can use that microscope and x-ray machine, and we can begin to see and trace the cracks inside that wall... we can see structural weaknesses within the wall that have caused the steel to rust here and there... we can see where the beams and joints weren’t put together so well and might buckle under strain... we can see that the weather will be working on this wall in different ways, and wearing it down.

To speak plainly, we can investigate and study the reality and search out the patterns, and the underlying dynamics and driving forces. So let’s ask some questions about the patterns and see what we can learn about this. Has a force that starts out small, inexperienced and lightly armed ever beaten a force that starts out with experience, size and heavy arms? It turns out that it has. Has such a force ever matched up to the one we’d be facing, if and as things develop in that way? It turns out that it has. What’s happened? Turns out that while, yes, there’s been many more victories by the more powerful against those smaller and lightly armed forces—no surprise there!—there have also been some stalemates and at least one major defeat—that very same Vietnam war I just talked about.

Let’s look at Vietnam for a minute. Not only did the Vietnamese finally defeat the U.S., but by the end of the war, after repeated defeats in battle and the growth of a determined and very defiant antiwar movement within the U.S., there had set in a certain wearing down of the U.S. army itself. Soldiers were dissenting and even resisting in different and sometimes very frontal ways. The question of whether the U.S. would be able to even reliably field this army began to come into play and figure into their calculations as to how and whether they could fight this war.

Here’s another very important lesson to learn both about that war and other things that were going on in the U.S. at that time. In most times, people might not like the way in which the state brings its hammer down, but they don’t question the right of the state to do that. Most of the time, people tend to concede to the state a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. You hear it all the time—“I’m not against all cops, just the bad ones.”  Not seeing that the “bad ones” and the good ones work together to play an overall role of keeping people penned in.

That’s what is meant by legitimacy: the state can use violence to enforce the order it is defending. Well, during the period of Vietnam, people began to broadly lose belief in the legitimacy of state-directed violence.  This was because of the growing political movement that questioned the justice of the order that that force was defending and the direct challenges to the monopoly of force that occurred within society at that time. Such a loss of faith would be an important component of any revolutionary situation—an important “crack in the wall.” People coming to see the illegitimacy of the power structure’s use of force—and correspondingly, coming to see the legitimacy of the revolutionary forces—will be an essential dynamic when the all-out struggle for power does come on the agenda and all the way through that struggle. And that’s a crack in the wall we have to start working on now, even before that all-out struggle is under way or on the immediate agenda.

Again, this is a science. We can’t directly experiment but we can study historical experience. We can study things going on around the world today, positive and negative. We can read the writings of revolutionaries, and we can study the writers on their side who have examined potential weaknesses and pointed to these weaknesses in these structures of violent repression, and we can learn from and recast their insights. And like all scientists we have to use, but not be ruled by, our imaginations.

Now asking these kinds of questions is just the beginning of figuring out whether meeting and defeating such overwhelming forces of violent repression in a revolution is possible. The experience in other countries, while very important also differs in some important aspects—including that when the Vietnamese drove the U.S. Army out of Vietnam, they did NOT have to thoroughly defeat, disintegrate and dismantle the repressive force of the old order. And this would almost certainly have to be done in a revolution within an imperialist country. There are still other problems and questions peculiar to an imperialist country that must be addressed. How would you avoid having the main base for this revolution just surrounded in the cities and pulverized? How would you carry out leadership of such a struggle up against their surveillance and repression? How would you, in such a situation, deal with the reactionary forces they’d be mobilizing among the people... and how by the same token should you look at the possibility of breaking off some of their forces, including their armed forces, when such a struggle comes on the agenda and then develops? And how does the political and ideological work that you do today, when the all-out struggle is not yet on the agenda and should NOT be launched, relate to when things do change?

Our Party has done that: we have confronted and posed the key contradictions and questions, we have laid the foundations and basic framework of a strategy that could win in a different situation than today, a revolutionary situation. We have done this in the works, “On the Possibility of Revolution,” in BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, and in BA’s talk Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon. In those works, some of the basic principles of what revolutionary communists call “people’s war” are laid out, applied and further developed.

Let’s stop here. What do I mean by people’s war? “People’s war” was developed by Mao Zedong in China, in the process of leading the party to lead the people through 22 years of war to seize power in 1949.  Mao led the Party to take a relative handful of people and build an army from the bottom up. The purpose of this army was to serve the masses in getting to communism, by defeating the oppressor and by modeling a whole different world. Because this was its purpose and reason for being—and NOT plunder or the defense of plunder—it had, and could carry out, a different form of strategy and tactics. What came to be called the People’s Liberation Army could draw on its support from the people to wage war that allowed it to wear down and gradually disintegrate a much stronger enemy. They were able to deny that enemy the kind of fight the enemy wanted, where they could bring their overwhelming advantage in force down to pulverize the People’s Army. Instead the revolutionaries forced the reactionaries to fight on terms that were more favorable to the revolution. The People’s Liberation Army had different forms of relations among its soldiers, and between its soldiers and the people than the reactionary army they fought—you can read in the Red Book of Mao’s quotations the points of attention and discipline they developed to ensure and reinforce that. Not only was this essential to the goal of the struggle and the way they were waging it, it also built up the legitimacy of the revolutionary forces and undercut the claim to legitimacy by the ruling regime. And over time, using the scientific strategy developed by Mao, this army fought battles and gained strength and played a major role in defeating the Japanese who invaded them in the '30s and '40s, and then totally defeating and disintegrating the regular Chinese army which was armed, advised and backed up by the U.S., and then finally, in fighting the U.S. Army to a standstill in Korea, not even a year after they had seized nationwide power in China.

Now we know that this is not then, okay? Much of that experience does not and would not apply in a country like this, today. But there are principles that do apply—which is why people like Petraeus, their war criminal general, study Mao and why we should too. And the works that I mentioned earlier DO directly grapple with what revolutionary forces in a country like this would face, and there is further thinking and “excavation” on a host of thorny questions. I’m not going to try to address the specifics of that any further today but I AM going to ask you to get into these works and others, and to wrangle with this, in the right ways, with each other and be part of the very important work—in the realm of theory, let me emphasize—to go further into this.

The important point here is this: based on confronting this for real, with a scientific method and approach, the fact IS that it IS possible to defeat this force... in conditions, to return to that quote, of “a deep-going crisis in society, and the emergence of a revolutionary people in the millions and millions, who have the leadership of a revolutionary communist vanguard and are conscious of the need for revolutionary change and are determined to fight for it.” Not guaranteed, by any means, and certainly not without tremendous sacrifice—but possible. So this is one part, the first part, of the answer to where we are in the revolution—we have developed this framework, which is extremely valuable and a real breakthrough.

Now in addition to our metaphorical, or imaginary microscope and x-ray machine—those images we’re using to talk about the scientific method—we also have a telescope. We can not only see into the wall, but over and past that wall. Let’s go back to that quote I just cited, and read a little further:

...the seizure of power and radical change in the dominant institutions of society, when the conditions for this have been brought into being, makes possible further radical change throughout society—in the economy and economic relations, the social relations, and the politics, ideology and culture prevailing in society. The final aim of this revolution is communism, which means and requires the abolition of all relations of exploitation and oppression and all destructive antagonistic conflicts among human beings, throughout the world. Understood in this light, the seizure of power, in a particular country, is crucial and decisive, and opens the door to further radical change, and to strengthening and further advancing the revolutionary struggle throughout the world; but, at the same time, as crucial and decisive as that is, it is only the first step—or first great leap— in an overall struggle which must continue toward the final goal of this revolution: a radically new, communist world.

What does it mean for the masses that the high iron wall finally comes down? A friend of mine was cleaning out her parents’ attic and she came across a LIFE magazine from 1950—right after the revolutionary victory in China—which was a special issue on Asia. LIFE magazine was a very popular picture magazine in the '50s and '60s. Anyway, LIFE very disapprovingly showed a picture of the peasants in newly liberated China—peasants who before the communists came to power had been bitterly exploited, denied land, chained down with debt, often starving in periodic famines and at times even forced to sell their daughters to the landlords, all of which was backed up by the laws of the land and the army—they very disapprovingly showed these peasants joyously celebrating as they burned the landlords’ title deeds and debt records.

Then LIFE magazine very very disapprovingly displayed another picture, showing some of these peasants with guns and saying that these people’s militias prevent the landlords from doing anything about this. And if you know anything about the lives of misery these peasants lived before the revolution, the horrifying injustices they suffered, you’re going, “Right ON, People’s Militia!” Because you also know that without armed power backing them up, these peasants would have remained disunited. The landlords would have played on and used the fears of the peasantry, they would have manipulated the mentality of servility and submission that thousands of years of exploitation had drummed into the peasants, they would have deployed their goons, and even with all the laws in the world nothing really would change.

But things DID change: the grip of the landlords in the countryside was shattered and land was divided; then different kinds of co-operatives were forged, step by step going to greater and greater collectivization. By the mid-1960s China had, for the first time in history, basically solved its food problem—basically had developed the capability to provide for the food needs of the entire population and to have reserves besides—along with bringing literacy and education and healthcare to the countryside for the first time. Not without tremendous struggle, not without mistakes and sacrifices. They had to go up against both the U.S. and the Soviet Union—but they did it. And this is not anybody’s “narrative”—this is true, and we have the facts to back that up.

All this led me to think again about Reconstruction in this country, 150 years ago, right after the Civil War was over. To really get freedom at that point, to secure even the most basic rights, those ex-slaves would have needed to seize the land that their blood had built up over generations. They would have needed to forge armed organs of power to ensure that the former planters would be prevented from “rising again.” They would have needed to use that power to then remold all of society, beginning with the education system. But this was NOT done. Instead, power remained with the Union Army, which was an instrument of the capitalists who controlled it... and when it no longer suited these capitalists to enable the former slaves to have even the bare minimum of rights gained through the Civil War, they withdrew their army and left those ex-slaves to the mercy of the lynching rope and the Klan, and what became generations of brutal exploitation. Without a people’s army—a whole new army—as the bulwark of a whole new state power determined to back up the masses in wiping out every vestige of slavery, there was no chance. That held true for then, and it holds doubly true for the socialist society we need to bring into being in these times.

Yes, there’s a lot of complicated things involved in exercising this new power and doing it in the right way. How to do that is one major part of the new synthesis of communism brought forward by BA. This path-breaking new synthesis, building on the achievements but also scientifically confronting and analyzing the shortcomings of previous revolutions, can be found in many works by BA and is concentrated in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). And this New Constitution definitely deals with the complexity of it all, as well as being very concrete and understandable.

But there are some very simple things you could start to work on the day after power is seized. At that point, the old army and police will have been dismantled and dispersed. New organs of power—both in terms of new political structures and new armed forces to be deployed by those structures—would now exist, based on the forces that would have been tempered and tested in the struggle to defeat that old order. Remember that one of the key ways that you could even conceive of these revolutionary forces winning is by the way that they fight and conduct themselves—that they must embody the values of the society that they are bringing into being and NOT the values of the society that they are fighting to overcome and transcend, and in doing so form a sharp contrast to the other side.

So, from day one, as these new organs assert authority: no more police shooting down Black and Latino youth in the streets, just for starters! We have parents in our movement who have suffered that—we know many people who have sometimes even called the police for assistance with a mentally ill family member or a family fight getting out of control, only to have the police come and murder that family member—in one horrific case, murder the woman’s husband and son at the very same time. Well, no more of that! No more desperate hungry immigrants dying in the desert, as over 6,000 have died in the past 15 years due to the fiendish policies of the U.S. government and their Border Patrol which violently enforces those policies, with the “deporter-in-chief” Obama presiding over it today—no more of that; and no more of the plunder and domination of the homelands of these immigrants that sends them into that unforgiving desert in the first place. No more youth, slaughtering one another because they don’t know where to aim their anger—that will have been rooted out by the all-out revolutionary struggle for power itself, which alone can direct that anger—and the initiative and creativity and daring of these youth—where it needs to go, into consciously emancipating all of humanity!

From day one: no more millions of homeless in the cities of America, living in the shelters at best, in the midst of towers of splendor and right among people who are hungering for jobs and could build housing if given a chance. No more bullying homicidal fanatics in the face of women who want to exercise their basic rights to decide whether and when to have a child. No more children forced to live on Kool-Aid and sugar sandwiches at the end of the month because the larger society chooses not to feed them when their parents’ money runs out. No more of that! No more standing paralyzed in the face of our planet being frog-marched to its doom by capitalism—no, instead we have a state power that immediately sets well-trained scientists to work on these problems and involves masses of people in both understanding and helping to solve them as well, figuring out how humanity can carve out a sustainable future in the midst of this environmental disaster—without the straitjacket of capitalism preventing them from even fully articulating the dimensions of the problem. All this could be done—and could only be done—by seizing power, bringing into being a NEW power.

Now having said what the seizure of power IS and what it’s good for, we have to talk a little bit about what the seizure of power is NOT. There’s a lot of confusion about this. The seizure of power is NOT a military coup carried out by a section of the army that professes sympathy for the people, nor is it the election of a populist who has the support of a significant section of the army and the oppressed masses. This has been tried numerous times, most recently in Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez first tried a coup and then came to power through elections, backed by a section of the army. In most cases, the leaders of these military coups or even popular movements represent the strivings of frustrated bourgeois nationalists in the oppressed nations. When I say “bourgeois nationalist” I’m not hurling an insult, I’m using a scientific term. It refers in this case to representatives of a class of people in the oppressed nations which aspires to, or to some extent does, play the role of the bourgeoisie, or ruling capitalist class, but is thwarted because of the domination of the nation’s economy and political life by imperialism. They dream of autonomy from the big imperialists and sometimes come into conflict, even violent conflict with them. They can be united with to an extent but if they’re left to their own devices and if they lead, they cannot chart a path independent of the imperialist world order. Eventually they will seek some sort of accommodation with it, even if on “better terms” than what went before. To do this, they will sometimes mobilize a section of masses around a program of reforms and call it socialism. The army itself in these countries, even when such forces have the upper hand, remains an instrument molded by the neocolonial structure to serve neocolonial ends.

Part of the problem here is that socialism is not an end in itself. Socialism is NOT just a few reforms and more equal distribution of wealth. Socialism is a transitional state, the purpose of which is to lead masses to actually uproot all exploitation, all the oppressive social institutions that arise on top of that, and all the backward ideas that are generated by and reinforce that system. It’s a transition to communism, where humanity has overcome all antagonistic divisions and no longer even needs a state power. But these nationalists are not aiming to liberate the whole world, but to get better terms for their part of it—and experience shows that if that’s all you’re about, you won’t even break the chains of imperialism. Hugo Chavez instituted reforms and doled out material concessions to the poor and even let people set up “alternate institutions”—but he did not actually mobilize the conscious activism of the masses to put the economy on a new foundation, or to revolutionize the institutions of society, nor did he unleash them to challenge the backward ideas and ignorance pervading society and chaining them down—indeed, in many cases he reinforced and fed on those backward ideas, promoting religion, for example.

Another thing that “seizure of power” does NOT mean is that somehow you will build up alternative communities within this rotting system which will become the incubators of new social relations and new economic relations, including relations with the environment, and slowly gain power. First, you are still embedded in the whole international workings of imperialism, you are part of that, and you are in this country at best playing around with some of the spoils of its imperialist economy. You may think you’re opting out, but meanwhile the meat grinder moves relentlessly on. They can let you do that and even encourage you, if they decide it suits them. But the moment they decide it doesn’t, they can call out the police.

Similarly, you can’t do this by electing a majority for socialism and passing a constitutional amendment socializing private property, a fantasy which used to be promoted by the revisionist—that is NOT-revolutionary but COUNTER-revolutionary—Communist Party, USA. First, in a country like the USA the rules that are set up and the very workings of doing things through elections—in which people act as atomized, passive individuals—ensures that you will never get a majority. But if somehow you did, you would again be crushed by the army—as was done, for instance, in Indonesia in 1965 and Chile in 1973, with the guidance of the CIA.

Why? Because, as the earlier example of China showed, armies do not just fall from the sky. They are created by people who ultimately represent one class or another to enforce the interests of that class. As such, they are concentrations of the social relations and values of the class they are created to serve. WHY does the U.S. Army, to take just one of its many putrid social relations and practices, have such a high incidence of rape not only of non-combatants but even within its ranks, to the point where female soldiers will literally not go to the bathroom at night for fear of assault? Because it reflects the dog-eat-dog, me-first social relations and morals of the society which gave birth to it and which it defends and, in particular, the misogyny—the contempt for and hatred of women—that forms such a major part of its cohering “social glue.”

On the other hand, why was the People’s Army in China able to institute totally different relations and values? Again, because it was created on the basis of the social relations characteristic of a different class, the proletariat, the class which has nothing to lose but it chains but which can only end its exploitation by ending ALL exploitation and oppression.

So there is no short-cut, cut-rate road to power—at least power that would be about actually setting out to eliminate all exploitation and oppression, and all potentially antagonistic relations between people. And in thinking about this, you come right up to the sacrifice that this would entail. Those who defend this order will bring down destruction on those who want a new one—tremendous destruction. This is no small question.

But think about what we face right now: think about the millions who have been shuttled into the hellish prison cages of this country since the 1970s, and the ways in which these youth have been degraded, generation after generation, put in a position in which they have no real future and no real hope, to where they take that out on each other, and end up either in an early grave or the living tombs that this country by far leads the world in... think about the immigrants, driven here by conditions so bad that they risk their lives in the desert just to find work, with hundreds dying terrible deaths each year and millions more living in the shadows... think about the one in five women who will be raped and sexually assaulted on the campuses of this country during their time in college and the pervasive, perverted and pornified culture that further fuels this and saturates and degrades everyone, and the ways in which the rights to abortion and yes birth control are being stripped from whole areas of the country... think about the literally millions and millions of children each year around this world who needlessly die from preventable disease or starvation, think about the lives of grinding exploitation and desperation that faces those who do survive, and think about the wars that these great powers pursue, whether directly or by proxy or by long-distance drone killing, to back all that up... in just the past 20 years the six million who’ve died in Congo, the ongoing slaughter in Iraq and Syria, and on and on... and think about the environment, where the very future of humanity is now being held hostage by capitalism. Hell, think about a culture where so many people have to make themselves numb just to face their days. That’s the actual choice humanity faces. Our orientation has to be this: everything these monsters do against the people, all the destruction that they wreak in defending capitalism, has to become one more reason to hasten the end of their system and this whole way of life... and way of death. And we have to start training people in that outlook today.

Finally on this overall point, let me say this, just so there’s no honest misunderstanding, nor any dishonest attempts to distort what I’m saying. Trying to “get it on” right now... trying to make revolution when you don’t have the conditions I laid out earlier... would lose and would be very damaging. For one, it would crush the hopes of millions who today don’t even dare to hope. And two, it would call down tremendous repression. So we have to, as we take this out to people, explain exactly what we mean... and exactly what we DON’T mean. This is not about acting big, or “selling woof tickets” this is deadly serious, with the lives and dreams and futures of literally billions of people at stake. This doesn’t mean that oppressed people don’t have the right to defend themselves against injustice; anyone who believes in justice should support that. But it does mean that any attempt to go all-out now would be very wrong.

So now we come to our second problem, because you can’t just do this with a few people. You would need millions of people on the side of revolution, ready to put everything on the line to have any chance at winning. You would need crisis among the rulers themselves, stretching into the government, in which everything they did to get out of their crisis just made it worse. You would need a situation in which the proponents of reform were paralyzed by indecision, and people were losing faith in them. You would need a vanguard force that was tempered enough, wise enough, well-organized and deeply rooted enough, to lead all that to revolution. And we don’t have any of that today.

But in fact we are working toward just such a situation where there IS a deep crisis and where millions ARE not only ready to put things on the line, but are oriented and organized and conscious enough to be able to win. And that’s what I want to turn to now. How do we get into a position where people could actually have a real chance to meet and defeat the forces of violent repression?

* * *

A few weeks back I heard a former Black Panther, Jamal Joseph, speak at Revolution Books in New York. He talked about those days in the Panthers—about how differently people saw things then. He also made the point that none of the demands of the Panthers’ 10-point program—which included decent housing, education, an end to police violence, racism in the courts and robbery of the community by the capitalists, and so on—had been met, even decades later. Afterward I went up to someone who turned out to be a young filmmaker and he raised to me: “Isn’t it worse in some ways today? Yet people aren’t really doing much. And why are so many people hurting and degrading each other and themselves instead of fighting back, or else just ‘trying to make it’?” This filmmaker had made a movie about some of the ways in which oppressed people take out their anger on one another, and he wants to make a film about the '60s—and he was clearly in anguish over this. And he’s not the only person.

Well, let’s try to face this too, full-on, scientifically, and answer it. First, what accounts for how people think?

Karl Marx, the founder of scientific communism along with Frederick Engels, made the point that the ruling ideas of any age are those of the ruling class. Think about it: the schools we go to teach us to compete with each other for grades, rather than cooperate for knowledge. The popular TV shows like Survivor send the same message: your team against theirs and then, on your team, you fight for advantage and stab in the back. And the news media? Dan Rather, the former news anchor for CBS, once said that if he didn’t toe the government line on important issues, his likely fate would be comparable to necklacing—that is, the burning tires put around the necks of informers in South Africa. And yes, he used that metaphor.

But while one big question is certainly why are people thinking in such isolated, fragmented and “me-out” ways today, another question, just as big and important, would have to be this: how is it that people came to be in such a revolutionary mood by the end of the 1960s in the first place? Maybe if we look into how it changed from one to the other, we could figure out how to understand the mood today and what might be—what needs to be—done to change it again.

Let’s turn to our wall metaphor, or comparison, again. Yes, the structure is designed to hammer certain ideas into people and reinforce those ideas. But there are weaknesses within it, ways in which other ideas come up and contend.

We can’t lose our grip on Marx’s point. But we also have to understand that there are other classes and social groups as well, and people come forward to formulate and represent ideas that represent those classes, and struggle for them. Look at Marx himself. He wasn’t from the proletariat, but he was greatly influenced by their early struggles and as a result of this, along with the broader course of his studies, came to develop the first great set of ideas that represented the interests, viewpoint and historic role of that class.

So, this is contended. The thinking of millions of people is mainly shaped by the institutions of society, but sometimes these other ideas can gain great influence—especially when there is upheaval and dislocation, for whatever reason, and things don’t seem so solid and unchanging, or the old answers don’t quite fit anymore. They are forced to look at things differently and they often change their thinking as a result.

So let’s look again at the '60s. On one level, you would have to go back at least to World War 1, 100 years ago, to get into even most of what led to the huge upheavals in action and thought of that decade. For one thing, there had been huge changes in the social and economic structures that profoundly influenced how people experienced and viewed the world. To focus for a minute on the experience of African-American people, who played such a pivotal social role at that point, there are real differences between the period when people principally lived in the rural South as sharecroppers and the period of the 1940s and '50s, when they mainly began to relocate in the cities, working for wages.

During this same period, beginning with World War 1, the U.S. went from just another great power to, over the course of the two world wars, the top dog of the imperialists. At the same time, there was a revolutionary tide gathering elsewhere in the world—in large part growing up in the wake of the massive dislocation and change caused by World War II in the 1940s. We talked about China earlier. Movements inspired by and drawing from that example flared up worldwide during the '50s and '60s, and often came into direct conflict with the U.S. itself who now—as top dog—had to enforce the imperialist world order.

Within the U.S. itself, the '50s were called the era of the Silent Generation—the conformist decade. But even within that Black people, especially in the South at first, but then spreading, responding to new horizons from moving to the cities and in part emboldened and inspired by what was happening around the world, demanded basic civil rights and would not be stopped. At that time, the legitimacy—there’s that word again—the legitimacy of the U.S. rested on its image as the “great democracy” which had won the war. But here were people being lynched, people being murdered for registering to vote, people being beaten for trying to go to school or ride a bus—right in the so-called greatest democracy in the world.

Meanwhile, the liberation movements overseas reacted back on and reverberated within the U.S.—and especially with the African-American people. Robert Williams, a Black army veteran from Korea, organized other Black veterans in his North Carolina town to stand up to the Klan with rifles and drive them out when they tried to burn a cross in the Black neighborhood. As a result, Williams got run out of the U.S. and went into exile, first in Cuba and then in China. Important leaders like Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael and then the Black Panther Party drew very direct inspiration from these worldwide struggles and this upheaval, including very specifically China, and identified with it. Malcolm X would put the contradiction very sharply to his audiences—you have lots of courage when it comes to going 5,000 miles to kill a Vietnamese man for Uncle Sam, but where’s your courage when little Black girls in Birmingham were murdered and nothing was done about it? Again, the legitimacy to their monopoly on force... right to rule... moral authority—all being called into question.

At the same time, in part responding to the changes in their social role, and in part to these same political and ideological currents, the women’s liberation movement arose to frontally challenge what society had deemed to be “human nature” for thousands of years. And at the same time, you also had massive unprecedented disaffection and revolt against a genocidal war of empire carried out by the U.S. in Indochina—by the youth of the “home country.” Disaffection and revolt which spread, as I said earlier, into the army.

Everything came into question at that point—if you were growing up at that time, you did not trust the powers-that-be—in fact, as a saying of the time went, you didn’t trust anyone over 30!—and you were determined that one way or another you were going to be part of bringing in something new and liberating. We didn’t know exactly what, and we didn’t know exactly how, but we—hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions—were bound and determined to bring in a new world and get rid of a manifestly unjust, genocidal, life-draining one and we were willing to put a fuck of a lot on the line to make that happen.

You had a situation in 1968 where, first with a major military offensive launched by the Vietnamese and then, with the assassination of Martin Luther King, there really was a crisis over legitimacy. Black people rose up in over 125 cities. Jamal Joseph said the other night—and I’ve heard similar things from many, many people—that when they killed King, even though he was only 15, he went to sign up with the Black Panther Party, because he wanted to do the most radical thing he could and he was ready for anything. Youth began to revolt on the campuses. Johnson, the president, was roundly called out as a war criminal and was forced to withdraw his candidacy for reelection. For a whole period of time, the revolution and the people had the initiative—that is, those who were saying that this system was unjust, immoral and illegitimate were setting the terms in society and we were challenging and changing the thinking of whole huge blocs of people.

Within all this, the idea of revolution—of communist revolution—was also beginning to influence people. The anticommunist brainwashing of the '50s began to backfire—the U.S. ruling class had lost so much credibility that people just naturally wanted to check out anything they said was bad. The consciousness-raising groups in the women’s movement grew out of similar forms in China during the revolutionary war. The Red Bookof quotationfrom Mao was spread and used by the Black Panther Party, taken up by the Revolutionary Union, our Party’s forerunner, and other youth groups, and beyond that became a mass social phenomenon. The Maoist ethos of “Serve the People” became a watchword in the movement.

And this was not just a few people. This was very broad. Just recently I came across an article from 1971, written by the head of the American Friends Service Committee—a Quaker pacifist who had worked in China before the revolution during the '40s and then visited the same area he had worked again in 1971. In this article he writes about the amazing changes in material well-being, in the health and vigor and confidence of the small children, in the development of both the cities and countryside in terms of productive capacity, education, health care, and especially in the serve-the-people ethos in the society and creativity of the masses. And yes, he has criticisms as well. But he ends by saying “The visitor to China today need not agree with, nor approve of, Chinese ideology and rhetoric to feel the radical moral challenge that China is offering to our own country.” Note that well: the radical moral challenge.

So people who had thought one way in the '50s now thought a different way. Why? Because they had been compelled to confront things about reality by the radical shocks to the system—the war, the radical changes in the mode of living of African-Americans, the ways in which women were leaving the home and entering the workforce; by the actions people took in response to those shocks; and by the ideas that were being promoted to explain all this, and point the way forward.

So what happened? The enemy adapted, regrouped and came back at the movement of the 1960s. They came down with tremendous repression—directly and baldly assassinating important and precious leaders like Fred Hampton and George Jackson, and fomenting other assassinations through informants and agents sent within groups, even as they pumped heroin and other demoralizing addictive forms of dope into the ghettoes.

At the same time, they made some concessions. They pulled back and cut their losses in Vietnam. They gave some opportunities to a slice of Black people to build up a buffer stratum, even as these opportunities were very precarious and contested and now are being once again snatched back away. They promoted working within the system for reforms. And they began to build up a reactionary fascist movement, drawing from the deep wells of racism, mindless American chauvinism, and the reactionary beliefs indoctrinated in men that they deserve to dominate women.

Now just to be clear, it’s not that movements are fated to go down when repression hits, as it inevitably does. On the contrary, if you can withstand the repression and mobilize people to come back stronger, you can re-seize the initiative. This in fact did happen in China, after 90 percent of the revolutionary forces were wiped in the mid-1930s, and Mao was forced to lead a “Long March” to the northeast of China, to fight from a more advantageous position; and this will be a pattern in any revolution—learning how to come back stronger against the repression and counter-revolution. Actually, more than a few people in our Party dedicated their lives to revolution in response to the attacks on the Black Panther Party. But you need a very strong line—that is, a strong scientific approach and theoretical understanding—and you need solid organization to do that. In this case the theoretical tools that we had, speaking here broadly of the revolutionary movement as a whole, were not sufficient to the challenges posed and our organizations were not very well-structured. Now let’s be clear: some people didn’t give up on revolution and worked to forge those tools and that organization—that’s where BA and our Party come in; but most could not sustain the commitment, and the ideas grounding that commitment, in the face of setback and confusion.

All this was interacting on, going back and forth with, big changes in the world as a whole. Because just as the struggle within the U.S. in the 1960s took place in the context of and was profoundly conditioned by, and influenced by, what was going on worldwide... so too developments in the world shaped things after the '60s and early '70s. The liberation struggles in Vietnam, in other parts of Asia, in Africa and Latin America, ran into limitations and in many cases were defeated. Most important of all, the revolution in China was reversed—on the death of Mao in 1976, counter-revolutionaries were able to carry out a coup d’état; that is, they used the army to arrest those revolutionaries allied with Mao and consolidated around people who would restore capitalism in fact in China, even as they maintained the name communist and some of the outer trappings of the revolution.

This defeat in China had and continues to have a devastating effect. Today we’ve almost become used to the endless flood of anticommunist half-truths, distortions, outright inventions and just plain vitriol that has been poured out since the death of Mao and the counter-revolution. We forget that millions once knew better.

The counter-revolution in 1976, and the slanders that have been heaped on the revolution since then, have deeply lowered people’s sights as to what is possible. Within the imperialist countries, the ruling class pushed a feeling—a conviction—that there is no real alternative to what we have now. The rulers brought forward Reagan, and the whole thing of entrepreneurialism, the Christian “Right”—or Christian fascists, more accurately—and all that. In the oppressed nations in particular, though not just there, religious fundamentalism of one kind or another stepped into the void and metastasized, grew like a cancer, promising a way out, even if that “way out” is fraudulent and fraught with ignorance, oppression and murder. For others a paralysis and, to be honest, an inward-looking callousness set in.

So people’s minds changed, radically, in the 1960s... and then, yes, the fact that ultimately the ruling ideas of the age ARE those of the ruling class reasserted itself. You see, people with revolutionary ideas can change a lot of thinking short of revolution; that’s the big lesson of the 1960s and '70s. This can be a source of hope; but it can also be a source of illusion—you begin to think things will never change back. Yet eventually the fact that people continue to live under capitalism and come under tremendous pressures of all different kinds to fit themselves into that plays out and, if no revolution IS made, then their thinking begins to change back... sometimes with a vengeance.

At the same time, there have been major changes since that period in the world and in the U.S. in the way people live, also working on people’s thinking. Around the world the traditional ways of life in the rural areas have been radically transformed, driving hundreds of millions of people into the cities, and many into the imperialist countries, desperately looking for work. Women have increasingly come out of the home and into the labor force. But because this has happened without a revolution and without a struggle to transform people’s thinking in an emancipatory direction, this has ironically been coupled with a very radically reactionary revenge movement on the part of men—taking the form of everything from fundamentalist fanaticism to epidemics of rape, from attempts to outlaw abortion and birth control in this country to the pornification of the whole culture.

And of tremendous significance in this period has been what Michelle Alexander has documented and analyzed as the emergence of a new form of Jim Crow, or white supremacy, brought down on African-Americans and Latinos. I’m speaking of the incredible criminalization and massive incarceration of minority youth, with the U.S. prison population quadrupling since 1970 and nearly half of those Black and many Latino. To give a sense of the scope of this, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that a Black boy born in 2001 has a 32.2 percent chance of going to prison. Think about that! A one-in-three chance of ending up doing time!! One in three men or boys scarred by prison, and every African-American living under the shadow of that! What kind of post-racial America is THIS?! What kind of “realizing the promises of the 1960s,” what kind of “more perfect union,” what kind of “proof of the greatness of our democracy” is THIS?!? This is horrific for the victims, this is shameful for those who do not fight this, and this is DANGEROUS. And it speaks volumes on the legitimacy—or more accurately, the illegitimacy—of any social order that has no better future for one-third of any nationality than time in prison.

But it’s worse than that. In the documentary film The House I Live In, the point is made that genocides typically proceed in stages—demonization, containment, extermination. I defy you to tell me that we are not in stage two of this—and tell me that we do not need to urgently act to reverse this, and as we do to urgently raise the question of what KIND of system has THIS as its answer to the “dream deferred.”

This new Jim Crow was hammered down in response to two things: first, to deal with economic changes going on even then and the fact that U.S. capitalism no longer had a profitable way to exploit millions of Black and, increasingly, Latino, youth; and second, as a pre-emptive “counter-insurgency-before-the-insurgency strategy”—a way to demoralize masses of people and to put them under the control of the criminal justice system to prevent the outbreak of rebellion similar to or greater than what happened in the 1960s. As part of this, they have flooded the communities of the oppressed with drugs now for decades. First heroin and then crack cocaine. By the way, that’s nothing new for these monsters. The British did this in China with opium and even fought a war when China tried to ban opium. The U.S. did this with the American Indians, coming with the firewater—and yes, the Bible—to back up the gun. On top of this, while gangs have always spontaneously arisen among dispossessed urban youth, the gangs assumed increased importance as the revolutionary movement of the '60s was defeated and they were to a degree built up as the alternative, even as the system worked to control them in different ways—the movie, Bastards of the Party goes into this.

So all this—along with other transformations in other spheres—has worked to put people in check and prevent them from even entertaining the idea that you could go up against these monsters for real, and to even in large part give up any kind of collective struggle. It is really no mystery as to why people are “too messed up and too caught-up in the ways of the system”—in brief, the wrong side, at least temporarily, emerged victorious from the whole first stage of communist revolution and the particular challenge posed by the worldwide revolutionary upsurge of the 1960s and early '70s. They used this defeat and they used their power to mess people up and to catch people up.

So, that’s another part of the answer to where we are in the revolution—that, no, people right now are mainly not in a combative mood, even as we can see some glimmers of change, but we understand why that is and how it changes.

Remember, earlier I talked about what would actually be needed to launch an all-out struggle for power. This included a major crisis in society and government and revolutionary people in their millions, along with a vanguard capable of leading those people to victory. Those factors are not, however, three separate things—they are interwoven, and they have to be understood that way.

Where would a crisis come from? Let’s go back to that high wall, and let’s remember how there are fault lines within it—hidden cracks along which the whole thing could split apart. Now let’s return to our Party’s strategy statement:

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.

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 stronger basis from 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 foundations...deep cracks appear and magnify within the ruling structures and institutions...the raw relations of oppression are more sharply exposed...conflicts 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 the 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.

Let’s take an example: Hurricane Katrina, which tore through New Orleans nine years ago, flooding the city and killing over 1,000 people. Here was a situation in which masses of people, mainly poor and mostly Black, were trapped inside a disaster-stricken New Orleans. The government simultaneously isolated those masses with absolutely no aid and then unleashed repression against them for trying to survive, including shooting people down on a bridge leaving the city. At the same time, masses of people powerfully put the lie to the slanders that had been heaped on them, including in the early days of the hurricane. The important documentary movie Trouble the Water with footage of the time of the hurricane taken by masses of people themselves, includes two young men who risked their own lives to rescue many people trapped in the floodwaters. And the striking thing is that these two young men were actually rivals in the drug trade—young people whose ingenuity and initiative and daring under this system could find no other outlet than that, and who would likely as not have killed each other in their everyday “normal” circumstance. Yet in crisis, a whole different potential became possible.

Lenin, who led the path-breaking monumental revolution in Russia, once said that a true test of a Party’s seriousness is NOT whether it never makes mistakes; every party and every person makes mistakes. The true test is whether and how it confronts and learns from its errors. Well, in “Making Revolution, Emancipating Humanity” BA talks very frankly about our Party’s shortcomings at the time of Katrina, where too often we bowed down to the real difficulties and did not LEAD to break through, and he called on us to draw the lessons fully, “in order to be able to do better in the future, including on the many occasions in the future when major events will suddenly erupt, often seemingly ‘out of nowhere.’”

So what should have been done? What could have been done? Those two young men were not isolated examples—there were many other people who heroically stepped forward, and more who would have if they had had the chance and the leadership. With the right orientation, you mobilize whoever you can to go down there and figure out ways to get into that city—to get through the National Guard lines—and to unite with people and give leadership to them, orienting and organizing them to stand up against those repressive powers and take them on, to concretely defend themselves against the murderers trying to pen them into the city and stand with them in doing that, to break through, while you are bringing out the real problem here and the real solution to it. Such actions would speak louder than many words—or to put it better, those actions would amplify and give life to very important words that expose the illegitimacy of this system’s use of violence against the people, and the legitimacy of people justly defending themselves against that. In that way, at key times when everyone’s attention is riveted, when “people are searching for answers and open to radical change” you give those answers in deed and word both, and you transform the thinking of millions in the process.

Giving leadership to that—stepping to the fore and bringing forward revolution—would not be without risk, sacrifice and loss. But that is a necessary part of the process, an absolutely necessary part of “working on the wall,” all along the way—and that is what we WILL do.

You can see even now, using our telescope and microscope, other possible fault lines within that wall. Let’s take another very revealing example: the shutdown of the government last October. This highlighted another development since the 1960s and, especially, over the past 30 years or so—the emergence of a serious split within the rulers of this country. BA has described this as a pyramid—where at the top of the pyramid are two sides roughly corresponding to the Democrats and Republicans. The Republicans have been harboring and nurturing an aggressive fascist movement while the Democrats have been conciliating with that, and giving it legitimacy—“let’s reach across the aisle,” they say. Meanwhile, the Democrats have been holding back the people who look to them for leadership—people who are more or less progressive. Now the conflicts between these two camps at the top is not just “politics”—this actually reflects very deep divisions. Not over whether the U.S. should ride roughshod over the world or whether this system should be preserved, but HOW. And these divisions are very sharp over the question of what should be the ideological and political “glue” holding society together—or to return to our concept of legitimacy, on what principles and ideals should the government rest its claim to its monopoly on legitimate force and violence? This took very sharp expression just last October with the government shutdown, where these contradictions rippled out internationally and came very close to causing a global economic crisis of extreme dimensions.

On a whole range of issues—the rights of immigrants; the role and position of Black people in society; the rights and position of women; science vs. Biblical literalism; and yes, gay rights—these religious fanatics are NOT reconciled to gay marriage for a minute, far from it, and I think we’re going to see some very explosive backlash, which we need to be preparing to counter—these reactionaries over here on this side of the pyramid are angry, and their anger is being stoked and given legitimacy by the Republicans. It’s sort of like the Republicans treat their base as Dobermans snarling and straining on a leash, every so often tossing them raw meat but not in some ways having full control of them, while the Democrats send their side to obedience school.

This is why these Christian fascists can murder abortion doctors like George Tiller in Kansas a few years back, and the Republicans can just wink at it... while the supposedly “pro-choice” Democrats don’t even send a single representative to the funeral! This is why that vicious racist Cliven Bundy is not only not touched when he mobilizes armed vigilantes against agents from the Bureau of Land Management, but is then given a platform to spout his racist rantings and to go on spouting them, for days and not just on FOX, which is bad enough, but CNN as well. People like him and that other fascist from Duck Dynasty are literally talking about going back to slavery! And they’re arming themselves and preparing for a civil war, sometimes quite openly, and increasingly, as with the murders of Trayvon Martin and then Jordan Davis, they are “taking matters into their own hands.” So it’s very possible that a whole thing could develop in this society where the government refuses to defend people against some kind of concentrated onslaught by these kinds of people—just as they are refusing today to actually effectively prosecute these racists who murdered Trayvon and Jordan—and masses of people who are under attack turn to those who “are willing and determined to lead them... and take it somewhere.” Or you could have something similar on abortion rights, or gay rights—it could be an uprising in Mexico that reverberates back into this country—or it could be a “flash point” that we can’t even anticipate right now.

This not only shows the danger we face, it also shows that this conflict could spin out of their control—no, the people who rule us are NOT all-powerful, they are not the “Illuminati” or some other mythical and supposedly all-powerful secret conspiracy, and yes, their system has DEEP cracks which could turn into fissures, or very wide splits. And all that gets again to legitimacy, and who has it—because the question of legitimacy bears not only on what they drum into people to get them to go along, it also has to do with the basic principles and rules that the ruling class itself is supposed to follow to iron out its differences. When these break down, as they began to do last October, then people’s superstitious awe can also begin to break down. The last time that happened in this country on a scale comparable to what you see now was the period right before the Civil War. Think about it!

We can’t predict today what combination of things—what shakings of fault lines—could set off such a crisis. We can see some possible outlines, and we can study and prepare. But nobody can say exactly when and from where the fissure could come. In Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, BA points out that as such crises develop they become extremely wild, with a big variety of different forces acting on things—not just the different sections of the imperialists and us, but all kinds of other political trends come into the fray. And he makes the point that “nobody can say exactly” what the active revolutionary forces may be able to accomplish in that crazy mix—that you can’t predict that just from looking at the relative strength of the different forces at the beginning, but you have to act on it to change it, and learn more as you go.

So this is some of what we’re talking about in that statement on jolts and some of the backdrop for it—some of the fault lines in that wall, including around their legitimacy. And what we DO in the face of these can change the first kind of jolt into the kind of situation where, to return to the statement on strategy, “for great numbers of people, the ‘legitimacy’ of the current system, and the right and ability of the 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.”

But—BUT—we cannot sit around waiting for that to happen. We gotta be working right now! Again, from the statement on strategy:

…[T]he possibility of revolution will never really ripen unless those who recognize the need for revolution are preparing the ground for this politically and ideologically even now: working to influence the thinking of people in a revolutionary direction, organizing them into the struggle against this system, and winning growing numbers to become actively involved in building the movement for revolution. This is what our Party is all about, and what we mean when say we are “hastening while awaiting” the changes that make revolution possible. This is the key to breaking through the situation where there are not yet the necessary conditions and forces to make revolution, but those conditions and forces will never be brought into being by just waiting for them to appear.

So how do we do this? One big part is captured in our slogan: Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. From the strategy statement:

Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution is a key part of our strategic approach, which provides a way for the Party to unite with and give leadership to people to change themselves as they take part in the struggle to change the lift their heads and broaden their vision, to recognize what kind of world is possible, what their real interests are, and who their real friends and real enemies are, as they rise up against this take up a revolutionary viewpoint and revolutionary values and morals as they join with others to resist this system’s crimes and build up the basis for the ultimate all-out revolutionary struggle to sweep this system away and bring in a whole new way of organizing society, a whole new way of become emancipators of humanity.

That does not mean “first we fight the power, and then we add in the other ingredients.” All these things have to work together...from the very beginning. People do need to stand up—but in many cases they cannot stand up without first struggling over their thinking in the course of challenging them to stand up... in other words, transforming the people. If people think that they hate what the powers-that-be have done to them, but they also hate the things that they themselves have done that have been monstrous or degrading AND they think that deep down, that is who they are and they can never change... we need to struggle with them. Not tail behind them and tell them it’s all right... but struggle with them both to break with all that AND to see the whole larger context all this takes place within and who is ultimately at fault. People blame themselves for making “bad choices”—but who set it up for THOSE to be the choices?

But if we just try to transform people’s thinking in an each-one-teach-one sort of way, forget it... you’ll never get to revolution and you’ll never even transform very much thinking. Standing up and fighting against the oppressive ways of this system... wrangling over the source of the problems and the solution as you do so... and coming to understand that there is a whole other way we could be living and the real possibility of bringing that into being through revolution... these work together.

It’s interesting to look on our website at the interview with the Rutgers student who was part of the victorious struggle to prevent the war criminal Condoleezza Rice doing the commencement speech at Rutgers. Some faculty had taken a stand against this, and got some students interested. But Rice was still set to speak and most people were letting it go by. Then some students—a relative handful—took a defiant—and yes, risky and definitely “outside the proper channels”—action of sitting in. They polarized the campus and galvanized debate, and suddenly people were learning, even as the people who were doing it were also going through changes; and the more people debated this out, the better the polarization became, and finally they won the concession they were aiming for. This kind of thing needs to spread, and we need to be part of and learning from and supporting that process and at the same time bringing in our understanding of the problem and the solution, and making it part of bringing in a new day on these campuses, along with actions taken by Black students in many places around Trayvon Martin, and affirmative action, by students around the environment, Palestine and the Brown University students who shut down former New York police chief Ray Kelly. If we don’t want to just bemoan young people’s lack of fire but to change it, students need to be a big part of it, and we need to be making that happen.

This—Fight the Power, and Transform the People, FOR Revolution—captures a whole process. Right now, we have what we call an ensemble of revolutionary work which deals with some key focuses, even as we are tense to other things developing in unexpected ways.

I’m going to get into this now, briefly—but I do want to refer people to a new talk on this by BA, just posted at, “The Strategic Approach to Revolution and Its Relation to Basic Questions of Epistemology and Method.

So, what are these focuses?

To begin with, our Party has joined with others to launch two mass initiatives: one against the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration, police terror and the criminalizing of whole peoples; and one directed against the war on women, in short—the campaign to stop pornography and patriarchy, to end the degradation and enslavement of women. These both have to really impact the political terrain in a very powerful way. Each of these have developed very ambitious plans, focusing on different elements, with real concrete ways to get involved right now. If you care at all about either of these questions, you really have a responsibility to talk to the people here and find out what they have planned. They have a way for you to participate in this, or to support this, large or small—a way that you can be part of changing the whole terms of how big blocs of people think in this country around these questions, even as you are learning more.

Around mass incarceration and criminalization, there is beginning to be a different, more combative mood. This has been building for a while, and our Party along with others has been part of building that. And now, suddenly, the Democrats—after at least 25 years of outdoing the Republicans in carrying out the imprisonment of masses of Black and Latino youth and the stripping away of legal rights to appeal, of outdoing the Republicans in lecturing these youth on “no excuses,” of indulging in those infamous racist code-words “tough on crime,”—have come to pose as “very concerned about mass incarceration.” They will promise you everything in order to damp down your resistance and lead you on a road to nowhere. Don’t be fooled; and don’t let others be part of fooling you on this. This is a critical juncture.

As one example of how NOT to understand what these rulers are doing and the real dangers involved in that, I want to talk about Angela Davis, who was recently on Amy Goodman speaking about mass incarceration. She said, speaking of Obama’s sudden “interest” in mass incarceration, that:

It’s pretty unfortunate that he’s waited until now to speak out, but it’s good that he is speaking out... I think after this world-historic election took place, we went home and decided this one man in Washington would carry the ball for us, not recognizing that, actually he was the president of the imperialist, militarist USA. And I think we might have had more victories during the era of Obama’s administration had we mobilized, had we continually put pressure on him, and also created the possibility for him to take more progressive stances.” (Democracy Now! March 6, 2014)

This is exactly the kind of thinking that has eased the way into the horror of the past 40 years. This is a false path—it is dangerous, but it doesn’t necessarily appear that way, so let’s break it down.

First of all, the only reason Obama is “speaking out” is both because other countries are increasingly using the outrage of mass incarceration to neutralize the U.S. claims to being a great champion of human rights AND because there is an increasing frustration among not only Black people but many other people who had invested hopes in Obama. If he didn’t “speak out” he risked losing control of “the Democratic base”—that is, the oppressed masses they are in charge of misleading and controlling. Second, what is this “speaking out”? Is he calling on people to move heaven and earth to end this outrage, or to at least protest? No. This “speaking out” has taken the form, in his White House speech of February 27, of, when you drill down to the essence, blaming Black people for supposedly not being good parents—and here I have to say it takes some gall to lock millions of men and thousands of women away on drug possession charges for years and years, hundreds of miles away from their impoverished kids, who don’t have the money to get to you or even call you... or to put poor Black women in situations where they are forced to work without money for childcare, thanks to Clinton’s ending of “welfare as we know it,” often battling eviction if not outright homeless at the same time… and then to turn around and blame them for supposedly not being good parents. So, no, it’s not “good” that he’s “speaking out.”

Third, the main “world-historic meaning” of Obama’s election was the way in which all too many progressive people willfully deluded themselves and others into a “feel-good narrative” about what that election was going to mean and why those who choose the nominees (and no, it’s not you and me) settled on Obama—precisely as a “trump card” to bring back the millions who had begun to lose their “faith in America” through the Bush years.

And, oh yeah, not everyone “didn’t recognize” that Obama was imperialist and militarist—we for our part not only recognized it but insisted on spoiling everyone else’s fantasy—everyone else’s “narrative”—by refusing to stop telling that “inconvenient” truth. If you’re finally going to admit that now, then at least tell it like it really is, which is that he is a war criminal. Words like “imperialist” and “militarist” are not meaningless buzzwords designed to show that you’re with it, they have a specific meaning—it means that someone is the head of a system which is characterized by the attempt to dominate as much of the world as possible and to do so by means of military violence or the threat of such violence. Imperialism and militarism are not a set of policies or attitudes which can be switched on or off or somehow mitigated depending on who is at the controls: they describe a SYSTEM. If someone is the head of that system then it means that every calculation he makes is based on advancing the interests of that system. What he decides to do or not do about mass incarceration is based on that, including whether by doing a few half-measures or even just talking some stuff he can prevent people from rising up or, if they do begin to stir, derail that into channels that are harmless to the system and which do not, in fact, even begin to touch mass incarceration and because of that end up discouraging and demobilizing people. We didn’t “forget” that and neither did some other people, and we didn’t “go home”—we joined together to FIGHT these outrages, taking arrests around stop-and-frisk, supporting the heroic hunger strikers in the California and other prisons, we worked with the people’s neighborhood patrols to stop illegitimate and illegal abuse under color of authority, and so on.

If we end up aiming our struggle at “creating the possibility for Obama to do better,” we are no better than calves clamoring to get into the veal pen because we’ll get more food, and hoping that the farmer won’t take us to the slaughter house. This October—when the Stop Mass Incarceration Network has called for a Month of Resistance—and in the time leading up to it, even as it has ways for many, many people to join in from many different points of view, has to also burst the bonds of respectability, it has to find the ways to take people in America out of their comfort zone and confront them with the reality of what they are letting happen and make clear that there are people increasingly determined NOT to put up with it any longer! And you can’t really do that if you’re thinking about “creating space for Obama.” Guess what—he doesn’t want that space. And he’ll tell you, like he called the immigrants’ rights activists to the White House this spring and demanded that they back off their protests. If you really understand that Obama represents a system—a system that admits that it is on track to imprison 1/3 of the Black male babies born in any given year... a system that really does have NO right to rule, no legitimacy whatsoever just based on that alone... then act on that belief, and bring it out to others. Be part of weakening that wall, don’t follow people who try to path up the cracks in the wall and paint over the rust.

In terms of the initiative around the oppression of women, this is a very sweeping movement with many facets, including a crucial fight to really change the ways in which pornography has just saturated the culture, with devastating and demoralizing effect. I just want to touch for a minute, though, on the emergency around abortion. Right now the right to abortion is not only hanging by a thread, in many parts of America it is de facto non-existent or heading toward non-existence. That’s not a narrative, it’s just the honest truth. And yet those who are willing to fight this face an incredible wall of denial. I heard a debate between Sunsara Taylor, who helps give leadership to this initiative, and the national head of NOW—National Organization of Women. And Sunsara was sounding the alarm, and this woman from NOW was in fantasy-land, talking about how “don’t worry, the Republicans were going to be defeated, the Supreme Court was going to protect this right, blah blah blah.” Please can’t we all just wake the fuck up and look at what has been going on. These lunatics around the Republicans are not going to be happy until they strip away abortion rights AND birth control in as many states as they possibly can and if you think a Supreme Court that has been re-installing States’ Rights doctrine and viciously stripping away rights from African-Americans is going to protect women, you are really refusing to face reality. And if you’re putting your trust in the Democrats to protect you—when they have totally ceded the high moral ground on this issue and in fact themselves continually compromise away basic elements of this right—well, please, again, stop going against the evidence of what 40 years of this sort of “defense” has gotten.

On the other hand, you have some people who say that they won’t take a stand because abortion is just a “white women’s issue.” How is it a “white women’s issue” when the very places this right is being taken away are focused in Texas, on the border, in Mississippi and so on—as well as in poor rural areas that are in fact mainly white? Yes, we should have full-out reproductive rights for ALL women and yes, the mainstream women’s movement, in league with the Democratic Party, seriously, seriously erred when it allowed the Hyde Amendment, which forbade federal financing through Medicaid for abortion and was extremely racist in its impact, to go through without raising holy hell about it. But to step aside now, when a battle that is all too one-sided is raging, compounds the first error and makes it even worse. Do you know that eight out of ten women and girls who cross the border from Mexico, desperately searching for work or just to be reunited with their families, are sexually abused during that passage? That teenagers setting out from Honduras try to find birth control pills because they know they may get pregnant from being raped—and all too often they can’t get those pills and their only hope was the clinic in the Brownsville, TX area which is now shut down? That women of every nationality, no matter what their circumstance, need the very basic right to decide when and whether to have a child? To force a woman to have a child is slavery. Why should a system that is on track to make that once again the law of the land in most of the country be seen as legitimate? And why should anyone refuse to get into this fight on such flimsy and frankly reactionary grounds?

Particularly in relation to this question, but really overall, we also have to wage a sharp struggle over how people are approaching the world, and in particular the really reactionary identity politics that is smothering the youth. You see young people go on campus ready to learn about and take on the world, and then some been-there-done-that professor or older student accuses them of “wanting to appropriate someone else’s struggle” and then in all too many cases the next thing you know they’re on the defensive and the day after that they’re intently gazing at their own belly button. So let’s put it sharply to these world-weary know-it-all purveyors of identity politics:

Do you want to “own” your own oppression, jealously guarding over it and criticizing those who might somehow “appropriate” it by fighting against outrageous expressions of that oppression? Or do you want to END all oppression?

Do you want to carve out “safe space” for a few within this very dangerous society? Or do you want to fight to change an inhuman society and in the course of that create communities where we live the new relations we’re fighting to bring into being?

I have raised these criticisms sharply because the stakes are high over which path people take. This is not a “squabble”—this is extremely serious today, and struggles like this will be literally life-and-death for millions in a revolutionary situation, when everything is on the line, and whether people can distinguish truth from deception and self-deception will make all the difference.

There are other battles as well that must be built and supported beyond these two—around the environment, or around immigration. Right now, we will do everything we can to support these struggles and stretch a line to them, through our website,—to show their common source in this system and their common solution in revolution. But the leading edge of all this, the one that puts all these other battles in a revolutionary context and framework, is the major, multi-faceted campaign to raise big, big funds to get BA Everywhere.

I talked earlier about the blows of the counter-revolution in China in the '70s, coming on top of the ruling class counter-attacks within the U.S. against the movements of the '60s. It really felt as if you were on the dock of a raging river, getting your boat ready to go to the other side, knowing that the rapids would be very rocky but you were eager to go—and then your boat was bombed to smithereens in the harbor, and you were seriously disoriented about why this had happened and what to do next. Most people gave up on getting to the other side. But one person stepped forward to not only defend the accomplishments of the revolution and the need for revolution... but to go beyond that and to critically analyze the whole experience that began with Marx and Engels, that led through the Paris Commune and then the Soviet Revolution in Russia, and finally reached its pinnacle in China and the Cultural Revolution. The new synthesis of communism that BA developed can be found in many, many works. It’s expressed in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North American (Draft Proposal)... it can be found in our strategy, both the statement itself and the great volume of scientific work that went into getting there... in the struggles over ideology we wage internationally, so that this method and approach and basic framework can be taken up by people in other countries, to hasten the development of the world revolution. The new synthesis brought forward by BA builds on and takes further the great foundational contributions to our understanding by the previous communist leaders while also, in some important respects, rupturing and breaking new ground. As such, it represents hope on a solid scientific foundation, and it needs to be spread. And that’s the mission of the campaign, BA Everywhere.

Without doing this, as the leading edge, the movement for revolution will not actually BE for revolution... it will degenerate into just one more feeble attempt to reform this hellish system. Why? Because there is an almost gravitational pull to “settle,” to fit what you are doing into their “proper channels”—to “come under the wing of the bourgeoisie,” or the ruling class, as it has been put—if for no other reason than simply because you have no guide to get anywhere other than that.

We’ve got to take this campaign everywhere—clearly putting out what BA stands for and the whole message of revolution, and at the same time opening the door to others who may not agree with parts or even much of it to still participate because they can at least see that having THIS alternative out there, having THIS being a point of reference in society, broadly debated—a “radical moral challenge,” if you will—is badly, badly needed. And this campaign has GOT to raise big funds—funds which can really get his thinking and leadership before millions.

Now the idea of this campaign is NOT that this will be uncontroversial! No. This is class struggle, in the ideological realm. This is wrangling with people over whether we need revolution, or something less; and what kind of revolution we need. This is going, or should go, right up against the understandings that people have of what is the problem we face and what is the solution to it. How could that be uncontroversial? No, this is contended—and that’s only natural—some people are going to love this, some people are going to hate it, and most people are going to agree with some elements and disagree with others. We should relish this, and we should learn from what must be a wide-ranging forward-moving process.

In thinking about this, I went back to the Cosmos episode that I opened up the talk with. Neil deGrasse Tyson goes on to talk about Edmund Halley—the scientist who discovered Halley’s comet. Halley at one point sought out this very unknown scholar Isaac Newton for help on a problem; and when he talked with Newton, and saw the work he was doing, Halley said “oh, this is something different; this is on another level; and if I don’t make it my mission to enable Newton to do his work and to get this work very broadly out into the scientific world, humanity’s going to lose something extremely important and precious.” And Newton, of course, basically founded modern physics. Those who get what BA has done should feel like Halley, with the responsibility and the JOY to spread this far and wide.

One thing that I know is being talked about in the BA Everywhere committees is promoting the wearing of the REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS tee-shirt, and raising money with a vision of youth very broadly wearing these shirts. That’s the shirt I’m wearing right now—and it’s important. This film lets people meet BA and makes these scientific advances very accessible. Along with BAsics, it lets people get into this and then go deeper, in the process of making revolution.

But let me add a suggestion—and as I do let me put on my BA image tee-shirt. A tee-shirt is often easily worth a thousand words. You see someone wearing a Scarface tee-shirt, they’re telling you that “I’ve been treated like an animal and if you mess with me, I’ll treat you like a lower one.” People wear a Che Guevara tee-shirt—the Latin American revolutionary with the beret and beard who was killed by the U.S. in Bolivia—and it’s like they’re saying that they cherish the dream of revolution, but they fear that revolutions can’t ultimately win and revolutionaries must become martyrs. If you see someone with a Bob Marley shirt, you get the sense that he or she burns with anger at the oppression of the African people and descendants of Africa the world over, but the only way out they see is a tied to the spirit world—a world which is, after all, imaginary. Or you saw people with these Guy Fawkes masks, or emblems, protesting in Albuquerque against police murder—you feel that they’re against a lot of the outrages and they want to disrupt things, and that’s good, but they have no real program for getting out of this madness.

Well, I want it that when we go down the street wearing BA shirts, people know who THIS person is: a revolutionary leader—not just an image— and that he’s about winning, in both the immediate, and the fullest, senses of that word: winning by defeating these monsters; and winning by not becoming monsters in the process of defeating them.

We’ve also talked about how whole generations now have been locked into prison; and we’ve talked about the relentless anticommunist offensive. But even that anticommunist offensive can at a certain point be turned into its opposite when you go out boldly with this, confidently telling people that they’ve been lied to, and giving the substance to back that up. There’s also a way in which the whole thing of locking people away for years has forced some of them to turn to reading not just to pass the time, but to find out WHY they are in prison—and in doing so, there’s a whole section of prisoners who have connected in a deep way with BA and what he’s brought forward. Can’t these prisoners who have truly “rehabilitated” themselves through getting into BA begin to play a role similar to the former prisoners of the 1960s—Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, George Jackson—who came from behind bars to awaken an entire generation? I know that BA Everywhere has plans to do this, to bring this connection to bear and strengthen it, and you can read about these as or talk to them today.

All of these initiatives have to take big leaps in these next months; and this includes our website, This is a great site—it gives you a picture of the world and it acts as the scaffolding for the whole movement of revolution. People come to it from all over the world –and that has to multiply many times over. At the same time, has to much more fully be the website of a group set on leading the masses to seize power as soon as possible, a website which bristles with life and debate, a website in which masses of people can see themselves at their best, hear their questions and sentiments, and wrangle with how to assess our experience and how to go forward. This site has to have sharp analysis of the biggest questions of the day... it has to struggle with not just what people think but HOW they think... and it needs to take everyone who goes there out of their comfort zone. And in doing that, it should give people as full as possible a picture of the world we live in, how every significant social force—including our movement—is working to transform it, and what we need to be doing now.

But let me make four very big points in talking about this ensemble:

First, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That is, the effect of all these working together, cross-fertilizing and synergizing, is much greater than any individual thing looked at or built as “their own thing.” Let’s not create divisions where we don’t need them. Last November on the very same weekend there was a major negative court decision on stop-and-frisk in New York, and there was also a need to demonstrate nationally to defend the lone abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi. Someone in Harlem came up with the idea to call an action taking up both, under the banner of “We Refuse to Accept Slavery in Any Form,” and to make sure that people were getting Revolution newspaper and materials about BA Everywhere at the same time. And it was great! More generally, we have to envision and create a situation where the whole swirl of things is working together on people’s minds... where people involved in one battle are crossing paths with and mixing it up with people who are into something different and all of this is in a situation where revolution is being debated with other solutions and trends... where there’s a vital ferment and vibrancy... where people from the mean streets are going to the campuses to reach students, and vice versa.

Second, let’s keep going back to what this is all about—preparing people to seize power. There are ways that each of these things and all these things taken together should be done with at least one-and-a-half eyes on the qualitative change we are trying to hasten—the revolutionary situation. How are we looking at everything? Let me give one example—if you have not built up a base of political sympathy and support in the suburbs and rural areas, then it would be quite easy for the enemy to just pulverize and crush the revolution in the ghettos and barrios if a revolution were to be begun, even with millions initially on its side. So from that point of view, how significant is it when you get something like Orange Is the New Black, the TV show which actually portrays prisoners as human beings, and not sub-human demons? Is it just a cool thing, “yay, good for our side, something we can actually watch on TV”—or is it something with potentially strategic significance? What about the alliances forged between Blacks, Latinos and alienated whites in the prison hunger strikes, on a principled basis? When we look at things through this prism of “taking down that wall,” when we look at things from the vantage point of tomorrow, then everything today takes on different significance.

Or look at what happens when the youth and others in the community take up whistles and blow them whenever a cop comes to make someone “assume the position,” as was done in some cities a while back. Obviously, blowing whistles does not have a direct or linear relation to seizing power! But blowing whistles on the police today demystifies and delegitimizes their monopoly on the use of force. You’re widening the “cracks in the wall.” And does it matter for “tomorrow” if today whole sections of the community learn how to work together, how to organize themselves, and how to resist in a united way when the police come and threaten the parents of these youth who take up the whistles? Might those build up important “muscles” that could come into play in a different way in a different kind of situation, when the all-out struggle against their full force of repression for power is under way?

Overall, in everything I’ve talked about—BA Everywhere, the struggle against mass incarceration, the struggle against the enslavement and degradation of women—we’ve got to constantly forge the links to tomorrow: going up against the system’s legitimacy; developing and organizing revolutionary ties everywhere; raising understanding of the duplicitous tactics that the ruling class uses today and will on an even greater scale use when more is on the line. All these have everything to do with whether the situation develops where power can be seized; and, if that situation develops, the masses will be led to seize it.

Three, people need to learn that there is a Party leading all this... that this Party is about seizing power and has a plan to do that... that it has a plan for what to do WITH that power... and that there is a place for them in relation to this Party. It is a great, great thing that this Party has come through this whole past period with all the difficulties and is determined to lead. So, to again quote—yes!—the strategy statement:

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.

Four, this work has to be done among all sections of society, with the movement building its strongest base among and making its greatest efforts, to quote the strategy statement, “among the millions and millions who catch hell in the hardest ways every day under this system,” while also mobilizing “many others who may not, on a daily basis, feel the hardest edge of this system’s oppression but are demeaned and degraded, are alienated and often outraged, by what this system does, the relations among people it promotes and enforces, the brutality this embodies.”

We also have to build community, and model a new morality as we do so—becoming an attractive force based on living now the communist values that we look to for the future, and opening wide to others who from their own viewpoints refuse to bow down to the madness, the money-worship, the misogyny and racism and anti-gay bigotry and chauvinism, the utter disrespect for the rest of nature, but who instead want to fight for and live in a whole different world. As part of this, we have to work urgently with artists and others to bring forward a culture of revolt against this revolting culture.

Finally, as we do all this, we have to be aware of and alive to crises and jolts coming through channels on which we are not working or to which we can pay only limited attention. This can be everything from things in the cultural realm that suddenly become lightning rods of controversy to major international events. And here, if anyone thinks that the U.S. is unchallenged master of the world, or that events cannot spiral out of their control, I would ask you to look at Ukraine—and in particular to look at our website, on this—and to ponder that World War 1, whose 100th anniversary we mark this year, began through miscalculations of different powers who were sitting on a tinderbox. We have to be tense to these kinds of developments and ready to shift focus in an instant. Should there be a war we have to be oriented to exposing the real imperialist interests behind the reasons that will be given, and the pretexts even now being built up, and do everything we can to make sure that something that begins one way can end a different way.

And all this has a very definite aim, a very definite perspective to measure ourselves against. We have to ask ourselves: are we all the time not just waging struggles and influencing public opinion, important as that is, but are we accumulating forces FOR revolution? Not just making more ties, but accumulating... forces... for... REVOLUTION. Our yardstick should be what I am about to quote from the statement on strategy:

All this [the revolutionary work described above] can enable the revolutionary movement, with the Party at the core, to confront and overcome the very real obstacles in its advance and grow, through ongoing work, and through a series of critical leaps in times of sudden breaks and ruptures with the “normal routine” prepare the ground, and accumulate forces, for revolution—and have a real chance at winning. It is how thousands can be brought forward and oriented, organized and trained in a revolutionary way, while beginning to reach and influence millions more, even before there is a revolutionary situation...and then, when there is a revolutionary situation, those thousands can be a backbone and pivotal force in winning millions to revolution and organizing them in the struggle to carry the revolution through.

So, above all, in everything we do: are we bringing forward now the thousands who can lead millions at the point when everything will turn on that?

* * *

So... where ARE we in the revolution? We’ve talked about the scientific method we need to approach reality, and how BA has further developed and applied that. We’ve talked about the existence of a strategic framework and the foundation of a doctrine to meet and defeat the violent repressive powers of the state, at a time when there is sharp crisis and millions have emerged as a revolutionary people. We’ve talked about the strategy to work right now to lay the basis for that to happen—to bring forward thousands to influence millions today in that direction, and then to lead them when conditions go through radical change—and we’ve gone into some of what we need to be about when we leave here, right now, to work on that. But what kind of movement, what kind of organization do you need to do this? And where do YOU fit in?

Let’s start with the invitation issued by BA a few years back:

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 this all 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 slander. 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.

Let’s break this down a little. “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.” Isn’t that the kind of movement we want—aware that what we are doing really DOES matter and on that basis cherishing unity while also in a principled way getting into our differences, trying to find the truth? “Pursue your own convictions”—NOT throw away your convictions, they’re all wrong, but “pursue your own convictions” about the intolerability of these outrages “to their logical conclusion, and be determined not to stop until those outrages have been eliminated”—not somewhat lessened, but eliminated. And if you find yourself coming to the need for revolution and communism, “don’t turn away from that because it moves you beyond your comfort zone”—”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.”

This is the spirit that has to animate and radiate from our movement. There have to be ways for everyone who wants to—everyone here today, and many people far beyond here—to get into this, to be part of this kind of process. There are the initiatives against the New Jim Crow and the degradation and enslavement of women, in which everyone who opposes those outrages or can be won to oppose them should participate. There is BA Everywhere in which, again, everyone who wants BA and what he represents way out there as a point of reference in society, or who can be won to that, should participate. There are the Revolution Books bookstores, which in every city where they exist badly need volunteers and a real base of financial supporters and patrons who want these stores to survive and thrive. There is the website which needs stringers, photographers and videographers, website whizzes, translators, proofreaders, fundraisers, and anybody who wants to learn how to do any or all of those things. There is the very, very important act of donating funds and, as you do, contributing your thinking, and there is the act of raising funds from others.

There is a real need to strengthen the role of the Revolution Clubs. These clubs can be rooted in the neighborhood or city-wide or on a campus, attracting all kinds of people, especially the youth, who want to see a revolution. The clubs themselves need to sum up what they’ve accomplished and learned, and how to make big advances in this next period. A few things for them to think about in doing this:

  • how can these clubs be more open to everyone who really does want to put an end to the days when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against the powers-that-be; how can they be more of a place where you go if you want to do something that really feels revolutionary, that dares to defy these monsters and rallies others to do so; a place that attracts those who can’t tolerate another day of this madness, those who have no patience for oppression and backwardness of any kind...
  • how can the clubs be places where people have all kinds of informal opportunities to get into the thinking behind the two main slogans at the foundation of the clubs: that is, that “humanity needs revolution and communism,” and specifically the new synthesis of communism; and “fight the power, and transform the people, FOR revolution.” Meetings are good and can be important, but how do the clubs generate a lot more informal collectivity and life as the main way to get into things...
  • most important, how does the spirit of what we got into today—that what we’re all about is the seizure of power—and the strategy that goes with that, both for the all-out struggle for power and then how what we’re doing now fits into that—how does that much more infuse the clubs?

These clubs have great potential and it’s the responsibility of every revolutionary to help them realize that potential. But where I want to end is with this Party itself. Again, let’s go back to those problems posed at the beginning: that the rulers are too strong... the people are too messed up... and the revolutionary forces are too weak. We’ve talked about where we’re at with the first two of those questions, and how things can change. But without a party—without THIS Party—the people really have no chance.

So once more, let’s look squarely at reality. This Party has a great line, and it has a great leader in BA and its members are very dedicated. This Party is something truly great to have, truly precious—the fact that the advances, the lessons, of a whole stage of communist revolution, including the great struggles worldwide of the 1960s have not only not been lost but have been advanced in the new synthesis AND that there is an organization determined to apply that new synthesis, that line to reality, to carry it out and make revolution, is extremely important.

But not only are we not anywhere near as large as we need to be and actually could be, even in today’s conditions, we face other problems. Over the past decade we’ve been going through a Cultural Revolution within our own Party—one going right up against the ways in which all the trends I talked about coming off the defeat of the 1960s and then, even more significantly, the reversal of socialism in China had not only worked on the world as a whole but on our Party as well—which after all, could not and should not be hermetically sealed off from the world—causing some people to turn away from revolution, to think it was not possible and not even desirable. This Cultural Revolution, led by BA, has overwhelmingly been a positive and rejuvenating thing—in a very real sense it saved our Party as a party of revolution—even as that struggle continues, in new forms. But it has also cost us—people have deserted, and some have gone on-line and made it their mission to justify that desertion by attacking us—and BA in particular—in ways that objectively serve the enemy.

At the same time, while we do have younger people at all levels of leadership, a large part of our leading core are veterans of the 1960s—and we are not getting younger; age is taking its toll.

To put it very bluntly—to tell it just like it is—we are at a stage where we are either going to reascend the peaks of revolution, getting on a trajectory where this line and Party is increasingly influencing society and growing in strength, even as it is battling against repression, attacks and difficulties of different kinds... or we are going to break our bones and go out of existence; and should that latter happen, this will have incalculably negative and painful consequences for the world.

And yet there is a world to conquer! Think about Egypt, where three years ago seemingly out of nowhere—but NOT out of nothing—people in their millions rose up against the ruling regime. What would it have meant if, say, in 2006 or even 2008 someone in Egypt had given a speech similar to what I did today—a speech that laid out the possible ways in which that society—which at the time, remember, seemed VERY stable if you just looked at the surface—could possibly split apart, where the sources of stability could turn overnight into sources of challenge and change. Then think of the challenges that did present themselves in 2011 and over the past few years to the people in Egypt who had for decades wanted real change. Think of the important difference that the presence of a vanguard like this, with a base of support and an active orientation, a vanguard which could give leadership in that situation... think of the difference that would have made.

No, you would not have started out with a majority, or even close to that; and yes, you would have to struggle against all kinds of illusions about “leaderless movements” and “Facebook revolutions” and “the army and the people are one hand,” and you would have had to go right up against the violent religious fundamentalism and the violent misogyny and all that. At minimum, it would have been very hard going. But that’s been true of every revolution—no genuine communist revolution ever had an easy go of it, genuine communist revolutions go against convention and against the spontaneous channels into which people’s thinking and activity tends to flow, revolutions win by surmounting and transforming those obstacles, not by finessing them.

But what would it have meant if some people had said, five or six or even two years before things erupted, “let’s do this—let’s put our efforts into forging leadership that could actually lead a revolution, and use the time we have now to prepare the ground and accumulate forces FOR that revolution?” But in part because of everything I’ve described, including the international weakness of communism, nobody did, and now let’s look at the horror show that’s resulted—almost made even worse by people’s hopes having been raised, only to have them dashed. This is what happens—either repression or chaos—when you DON’T have a vanguard that can lead people to take things all the way. It’s not a choice between upheaval and no upheaval. It’s not a choice between suffering and no suffering. It’s a choice about what might come out of the upheaval and suffering.

And it’s not a question of whether empires will fall; every single empire in history has fallen. The question is what replaces that empire. If it’s just some new form of oppression, slightly cleaned up, with different echo BA on this, no, we’re not interested. We need this method and framework spread around the world, and we need in this country to strengthen the only instrument that can do that—the RCP, USA.

So this is very critical—this is why we have added to our slogan that We ARE Building A Movement for Revolution, a phrase encompassing this point, so that now our slogan is:

We ARE Building a Movement For Revolution, and Building the Party as Its Leading Core...

This is something for everyone to think about—if you’re just meeting our Party today for the first time, learn about it; if you support it, deepen that support; if you work with it, let’s strengthen that bond; if you’re in it, strive to take greater responsibility and initiative and to contribute all you can; and if you are drawing closer to it, as some of you are, then actively grapple with joining it.

There are people today doing that. Such people, as they begin to join and contribute on that level to the process of revolution and strengthen it, can play a role out of proportion to their numbers. They are, in a real sense, part of the new initiators of a new stage of communism, on an international scale.

Now, we should be very clear: nobody should join this if they aren’t convinced about the basic principles of communism. Everybody has questions, and everybody has to go through ruptures in their thinking to be in a position to seriously consider making the lifetime commitment that joining the Party is. I know I did. On the other hand, what drove me to clarify my thinking and make those ruptures was a growing understanding, conviction and sense of urgency that nothing less than revolution would deal with what I found to be, and was, outrageous, about the society and that some kind of organized force was going to be necessary.

To you who are grappling now with this, we know this is absolutely not a decision to be made lightly. But two things: one, work through those questions, don’t let 'em just sit there; and two, don’t come at this from “me out”—come at it from what humanity faces right now, and what it truly needs, and then look at your life in that context.

Where we are in the revolution is that there IS a Party that has the line, the leadership and the determination to actually defeat these oppressors... a strategy that can prepare minds and organize forces FOR revolution, to bring forward the thousands today who will lead millions tomorrow... that is willing to shoulder the responsibility to do what needs to be done... but where there is an objective need for those who want to see a new stage of communist revolution to step forward to take the most responsibility they can for it and to strengthen that Party.

This is not necessarily an easy life—you don’t get a lot of social approbation, or “approval”—there is the constant prospect of repression and often the reality of it, and this will only intensify... but you don’t have to cringe and turn your head away from the hard truths, either, and “tell yourself a story that lets you make it through the day”... you don’t have to numb yourself until all your passion is gone... But even more— you get the joy and exhilaration that comes at those times when masses of people DO break through the chains and mire this system puts on them and show their potential and at those times when progress, real progress, is made toward solving the problems of revolution, in theory and practice both. You get the overall joy, as BA concluded in the New Year’s statement, of “striving for a world where the suffering and madness that is now daily life for the masses of humanity will be gone, and whole new dimensions of freedom and of human potential will open up for people everywhere, no longer divided into rich and poor, masters and slaves, rulers and ruled. No longer fighting and slaughtering each other, but working together for the common good. No longer destroying, but acting as fit caretakers for the earth. This is communism, the goal of our revolution, a future—for the youth, for all of humanity—that is truly worth dedicating our lives to... The challenge is there. The leadership is there. What’s you.

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