Setting the Record Straight on Communism and Socialist Revolution


October 14, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


LIE #1: Human nature undermines and invalidates the aims of communism, no matter how noble are its principles, or how sincere are the intentions of its advocates.

This is probably the most popular and accepted “evidence” against communism. But it is totally unscientific and totally self-serving of the status quo. Bob Avakian (BA) has pointed to Marx’s insight that all of human history has been one of the continuous transformation of “human nature.” Societies change, and people’s consciousness changes. The dominant notions of what “human nature” is—as projected and instilled by the superstructure (i.e., the institutions, culture, values, ideas, etc.) of any given society—change.

People, Society, and Consciousness Change

What makes human beings unique among all the species on this planet is what is known as our “plasticity.” Instead of being born “hardwired” and only able to stick to the same behavioral patterns over and over again, humans are born with a tremendous potential to constantly change and adapt to new circumstances and to learn new things through the course of their lives—especially through changing those circumstances and in interaction with other people. BA points out that human beings have “the ability to respond in a variety of ways to things, and the ability to change how they see and respond to things when they change their conditions and change themselves in dialectical relation to that.”

Cooperation has been absolutely necessary to the development of human society. For example, in early primitive hunting and gathering societies prior to the emergence of classes, humans could not exist a day without cooperation to fend off threats of nature, from wild animals, to dangers of weather and habitat, etc. And that is true for most of human history. There is no human survival without various forms of cooperation. For example, the human baby requires the help and care of others. You can’t run a nursery school or kindergarten without forms of cooperation. Modern society could not survive without complex webs of interlinked production requiring that people actually work together worldwide. So people are fully capable of cooperating and of organizing societies around that cooperation. But currently, this cooperation all exists within a framework of private ownership and competitive struggle within the system of capitalism-imperialism.

Capitalism and the Logic of “Look Out for Number One”

Capitalism is organized around private ownership and competition and the private accumulation of wealth. It has not always been that way—but it is in this epoch (i.e., period of history), and this economic reality of capitalism pervades every aspect of human existence—the social relations, the institutions and the values.

Because this system is organized around the competitive accumulation of wealth based on exploitation and oppression, it measures and rewards according to standards that further that exploitation. So values of competition, greed, individualism, and “looking out for number one” are constantly promoted and reinforced until they seem “natural.”

Stop and think how ridiculous this logic is. In reality, human beings are capable of a wide range and variety of behaviors including rape, murder, genocide... but also compassion, sacrifice for the greater good, and altruism (i.e., selflessly helping others even if at risk to oneself). So, you say, socialism goes against “human nature.” But then why have laws and regulations against murder and rape in capitalist society, aren’t you legislating against “human nature”?

And there is the reality of socialized production, the fact that world humanity is more dependent than ever on the objectively interlinked efforts of millions of human beings. The goods; the services; the infrastructure; the science, medicine, and technology of today’s world all depend on cooperation. All this stands out especially in times of natural disasters like during earthquakes and hurricanes. Never has the notion of the “self-made individual” been more absurd yet more widely embraced.

How the Revolution in China Radically Changed “Human Nature” for the Better

To make this more concrete: We can look at China as a kind of “social-historical” laboratory of how “human nature” can radically change for the better... but also go backward for the worse.

In 1949, the Chinese revolution came to power. Mao Zedong led hundreds of millions to stand up, and put an end, to centuries of exploitation, crushing poverty, and hopelessness. Peasants in the countryside had lived under the dominance of cruel landlords. During famines and bad years, many had to eat leaves and bark, and even sell children to meet debt obligations. It was a horrific struggle for survival in the cities as well—with people desperately scratching out a living and pitted against each other in a society where resources were controlled by an exploiting minority.

China’s socialist revolution of 1949-1976 changed all of this. It became possible to develop an economy to serve the needs of the people. Resources were used for the benefit of society and the advance of the world revolution. New social institutions and revolutionary culture promoted cooperation and working for the betterment of humanity. People were measuring their lives and evaluating the actions of others through the lens of “serve the people.” Not that it was perfect or without problems. But a new ethos took hold. People changed... and were changing themselves.

But in 1976, new capitalist forces staged a counter-revolution and came to power. They restored the old dog-eat-dog economic relations of capitalism. They promoted the slogan “to get rich is glorious.” This is the China of today. People are competing for jobs, housing, and everything... with the lure of some “getting ahead.” People, and the dominant values, have changed again... back to the old “me against you” and “everyone for him/herself.” Not because some unchangeable human nature reasserted itself—but because society has changed back to capitalism!

A socialist economic system—because it is organized around social need as opposed to private profit—calls forth, reinforces, and makes possible new collective and cooperative ways that people can interact. And socialist society promotes values of cooperation and maximizing people’s ability to contribute to a liberating society and the emancipation of humanity. A socialist society can tap the potential of socialized production towards creating a society free of exploitation and scarcity.




Drawn from talks, interviews, and writings of Bob Avakian:

*The Problem, the Solution, and the Challenges Before Us. Summer 2017.

*What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism, An Interview with Bob Avakian. 2012 (see pages 13, 75, 78 online version at

*BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—Nothing Less! Disc 1: “How Long Must This Nightmare of Oppression & Brutality Go On? Chapter 1—Not God, Not ‘Unchanging Human Nature,’ Not Conspiracy... A SCIENTIFIC APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING REALITY.” Fall 2012.

*Birds Can’t Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon, Part 1—“Revolution and the State. Chapter on: The Notion of ‘Human Nature’—As a Reflection of Capitalist Society.” November 2010.

*Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation. Part 1—“Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity: Changes in Society, Changes in Human Nature.” May 1, 2008 (see pages 15-16).

*Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World. 2008 (see pages 226-234).

*Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About. Chapter on “Isn’t the problem ‘Human Nature’?” 2003.

Other key sources:

*The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters, by Ardea Skybreak, 2006 (see pages 170-175 in book).

*Science and Revolution: On the Importance of Science and the Application of Science to Society, the New Synthesis of Communism and the Leadership of Bob Avakian, an interview with Ardea Skybreak. 2015 (see page 132 in book).


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