"Create Public Opinion-Seize Power"?

Question: A vanguard revolutionary party should work in such a way which involves the support and participation of the people to the greatest degree possible. However, where I disagree with the RCP is what it sees as its central task, "Create Public Opinion...Seize Power." As a strategy this is more like patient education. We must expose the enemy and the crimes that it commits, but we mustn't educate each other to death. The people need a revolutionary party that does mass political outreach and also carries out small-scale guerrilla actions now. Once people see revolutionaries challenging the power structure in a real and militant way it will forge a very strong relationship between the proletariat and the party which in turn would spark sections of the middle class into motion.

The Chairman answers: I agree that the point is not to "educate each other to death"--the point is to make revolution. Our Party's Central Task is not a recipe for "patient education"--it is a guideline for revolutionary action.

This Central Task refers to the whole process of preparing for and then waging revolutionary war when the time is ripe, and it definitely includes "challenging the system in a real and militant way" as a key part of that preparation. At all times the people should resist their oppression and defend themselves against the attacks of the oppressors and enforcers of this system--the Party should lead them in this and work to make this serve the overall preparation for revolution, developing the places where the masses live and work into strongholds for revolution. But in the U.S. and other imperialist countries it is only right to get into a "war situation" and engage in actual acts of warfare against the system when the conditions exist for carrying that war forward toward victory.

As Mao said, revolutionary war is a war of the masses--only if masses of people are prepared and determined to support and to actively take part in this war can it have a chance of success. The objective of Maoist people's war is not just to militantly challenge the system but to actually OVERTHROW this system--not just to fight but to WIN.

As Mao explained, the seizure of power through the revolutionary war of the masses is the essential first great leap in revolutionizing society. But this comes about differently in different types of countries.

In the case of China in Mao's time, and generally throughout the Third World today, there is an economic and political situation such that it is possible for the revolutionaries to carry out armed struggle as the main form of struggle all the way through--to begin in parts of the countryside and over a fairly long period build up their forces mainly through waging warfare, gradually encircling the cities from the countryside and then finally seizing the cities and winning power throughout the country. But in a country like the U.S., with its highly developed economy and highly centralized political power and extensive military force, the launching of revolutionary war depends on the eruption of a revolutionary crisis in society as a whole.

Such a crisis is marked, among other things, by sharp divisions within the ruling class itself, reaching into its major pillars of power, including the armed fores. A key element in all this is the emergence of a revolutionary people onto the scene in a big way--significant sections of the proletariat and other oppressed people, including in the middle class, "taking to the streets" and "mounting the political stage" in an all-around way. And this must be given an increasingly conscious and organized expression under the leadership of the vanguard Party. On this basis--and building on all the political work and organizing and the struggle of the masses that has taken place during the entire period preceding the development of the revolutionary situation--the Party can and must lead the masses to seize on the eruption of a revolutionary crisis: to forge a revolutionary army and to wage a revolutionary war, with its bedrock among the most exploited sections of the proletariat but drawing in people broadly from different parts of society.

I have spoken to all this fairly extensively--if still in a beginning way--in COULD WE REALLY WIN? and I have also summarized the basic point here in this way: In a country like the USA, once it is underway the people's war will, at the start, take the form of massive organized uprisings, insurrections, in the cities. But you can't start up these insurrections until the system has gotten in deep crisis and the ruling powers are weakened and fighting among themselves, while growing numbers of the oppressed people are more and more refusing to put up with the system and more and more ready to put everything on the line to bring it down. But before you reach that point, you definitely cannot let the system and its enforcers just keep on beating the people down and robbing them without resistance. You have to lead the people to fight back, you have to move masses of people to battle the system in a way that is guided by revolutionary ideology and serves revolutionary aims. And through all this you have to build up the revolutionary consciousness and organization of the masses, with the Maoist vanguard Party at the very core, and prepare the revolutionary people to wage the people's war when the conditions for that are ripe.

This is what the Central Task of the RCP is all about. "Creating public opinion" must not be understood narrowly--as simply a process of "patient education" or the waging of class struggle only or mainly in the realm of ideas. It refers to an all-around process and all-around struggle through which the consciousness and also the organization and fighting capacity of the masses is raised in preparation for going over to the armed struggle to seize power when the revolutionary crisis breaks out.

Even though the form of struggle we must be focusing our efforts on now is essentially political, and not yet military, it is laying the basis for waging the all-out military struggle when the opportunity for that does ripen. Even though the battles waged by the masses in resisting the system are not today part of an actual revolutionary war, they have a crucial role to play in laying the groundwork for such a war.

This orientation must be popularized among the masses, enabling them to view and to take part in everything--all major world events and struggles in society--in terms of how this will influence and move things toward the eventual armed insurrection. Raising and popularizing this, now and in an ongoing way, is a necessary and crucial part of overall preparation for the armed struggle--for the shift in emphasis to the "seize power" aspect of our Central Task.

Within this whole process, the newspaper plays a pivotal role, in exposing the enemy and its crimes but also in rousing the people to rise in struggle and in supporting the outbreaks of protest and rebellion that do repeatedly erupt among the masses. Our experience has repeatedly shown that when major social and political questions grip society and major struggles break out--the Persian Gulf War, the 1992 L.A. Rebellion, the battle against Proposition 187 in California, the slashing of welfare and other ruling class assaults on the poor, the attacks on affirmative action, the fight to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and to win his freedom, the battles around abortion, and so on--people who have been regularly reading the RW and have been trained in (or at least significantly influenced by) the line of the Party and the viewpoint and methodology of MLM are able to more fully grasp the essence and importance of these questions and generally to act in a more conscious and determined way around them.

In short, the role of the newspaper is in line with the basic Marxist principle that the point is not merely to understand the world but to change it. Once again, the newspaper is pivotal in the carrying out of our Central Task as an active process of engaging the enemy in struggle, in the appropriate ways at the appropriate time--preparing for and then, when the conditions are ripe, waging the revolutionary war, with the prospect of winning.

And a bedrock part of carrying out this whole Central Task, at every point, is strengthening the Party and its organized ties with the masses--continually bringing fresh forces into the Party and sinking the Party's roots deeper and broader among the masses, above all the basic proletarian masses--doing this in such a way that the enemy cannot know where the lines of organization run and cannot destroy or fundamentally disrupt this organization. This has everything to do with being able to wage--and having a real shot at winning--the revolutionary war when the time comes. In talking about how, and from where, the future Revolutionary Army of the Proletariat (R.A.P.) will be built, I have made this point:

"All the great revolutions and all the great revolutionary leaders of this era in history have taught us that only the class-conscious proletariat can form the backbone force of a mighty revolutionary army fighting for an all-the-way revolution. This means a force with a vanguard party and those systematically trained in the party's line at the core. Only such a force will be capable of being the backbone of the future R.A.P. and the future revolutionary war, which will involve millions of oppressed people whose willingness to risk all for revolution must be quickly forged into a united and disciplined fighting force when the time is ripe.

"Thus, building our Party, and bringing many, many fresh forces into it and training them politically, is not only a key link in carrying out our central task now; it is also a key link in building toward that future R.A.P. and the armed struggle it must wage--and win."

Anyone who is really serious about challenging the power structure in a real and militant way--about doing this in a way that is part of a winning strategy--should join with the RCP to carry out its Central Task, in an all-around way and all the way through.