by Bob Avakian

Revolutionary Worker #899, March 23, 1997

QUESTION: What will it take? This is a question that takes a considerable amount of understanding and knowledge about history, technology, and a lot of other aspects of human beings and nature, the effects and ultimately the consequences of trying to achieve our goals. We also have to look at the rapid failures and down side to what we are trying to achieve. Communism is crumbling in some of the most powerful places it was ever held. So this is something that we badly need to understand.

B.A.: You are right--we do have to look at reality, in an all-around way, and as it actually is, and we need a real grasp of history and of how things develop and change in society as well as in nature. And we do have to deal with both the positive and the negative in relation to our cause. But what has actually happened is not that "Communism is crumbling in some of the most powerful places it was ever held," such as the Soviet Union and China. The actual situation is that the communist revolution has been defeated, socialism has been overturned and society has been dragged back to capitalism, in these countries. (This happened in the Soviet Union in the mid-'50s, and capitalism is now coming completely out into the open there, throwing off any "communist" disguise; and it happened in China in the mid-'70s, although the present-day capitalist rulers of China continue to pose as some kind of "communists"). This is the result of a very real, very intense and complex, class struggle--between the forces of communist revolution and those of capitalism and imperialism, within the socialist countries themselves and on a worldwide level.

It is true that "this is something that we badly need to understand." And we need to speak to the lies and confusion spread by the media mouthpieces and the worn-out "wiseheads" of this system about how "communism has failed." But it is not the case that we have no basis for understanding and explaining all this. Already, before the reversal of the revolution in China, Mao Tsetung had summed up important negative as well as positive experience of the communist revolution in the Soviet Union and the basic reasons for the rise to power of revisionists there--phony communists who "revised" the revolutionary heart out of Marxism, who actually upheld narrow, bourgeois interests and moved to take society back down the capitalist road and to establish themselves as a new ruling clique of exploiters. And Mao called urgent attention to the problem of similar types seeking to restore capitalism in China--which they did succeed in doing after Mao's death in 1976.

Beyond that, Mao made a basic analysis of the decisive contradictions on an international level and within socialist society itself--in the fundamental economic relations and in the political institutions and structures and the ideological and cultural fields--that make it possible, and even inevitable, that such "capitalist-roaders" will arise within socialist society and will attempt to carry out their program of capitalist restoration. Mao summed up that socialism, the first stage of communism, is a society where the proletariat has seized political power and has taken the road of revolutionizing all of society, but has not yet completed this task and still must deal with many divisions and inequalities left over from capitalism which provide the soil for capitalist forces to arise and to try to overturn socialism and reverse the revolution. But that is not all.

Mao also made clear the basic means and methods for combatting these forces of capitalist restoration: mobilizing the masses of people to continue making revolution--to continue transforming and developing the economy and all aspects of the politics and ideology and culture of the socialist society and to do everything possible to advance the worldwide revolutionary struggle--toward the goal of achieving communism in its higher form, which means the abolition of all exploitative and unequal social relations throughout the world.

Marxism-Leninism-Maoism does not "promise" us that we will have a straight and simple path to communism. Just the opposite--it enables us to see that this will be a steep and winding upward path; that monsters will repeatedly jump out to attack us as we ascend; that even some within our own ranks will want to turn back and will turn against us; and that at times the difficulties and the forces arrayed against us will get the better of us and push us back down. But, more than that, it enables us to see that because of the very nature and the basic contradictions of the system of capitalism, new forces will continually be brought forward to swell the revolutionary ranks and to once again push forward the revolutionary struggle, and that we can finally complete the ascent and reach the goal of communism, worldwide.

As you point out a little later in your letter, Marx did show how capitalism carries within it the seeds to its own destruction--and it creates its own gravediggers. Through analyzing the basic contradictions of capitalism and what is called forth in opposition to it, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism enables us to look to far horizons and to grasp, in basic terms, what lies ahead, at the summit and beyond, and why this is worth fighting and sacrificing for. We are still in the beginning stages of this world-historic ascent--we have a great deal more to learn, and to do, even though we have already accomplished truly great things, never before done in the history of the world, in the short time that our class has been in power in countries such as China and the Soviet Union. We must steel ourselves for the battle and be prepared for defeats as well as victories. But MLM gives us a scientific basis for revolutionary optimism and confidence in our final victory. As Mao so powerfully expressed it: "The road is tortuous, the future is bright."

Q: I love the concept and would love to live in a world where we are all equal, and I personally think the unequality we are faced with today is not mainly a capitalist way (though that is a very important and strong factor) but an Identity and racial egoistic one more so. Just think for a minute about the way people have been brainwashed over so many years. This is a very sensitive point because people have been trained like animals that the dog-eat-dog system is the only way. People have been taught inferiority because of skin color. This needs a considerable amount of attention of the masses.

B.A.: It is true, and it is a real problem, that people have been brainwashed with the dog-eat-dog mentality and that people, in particular white people in the U.S., have been indoctrinated with racist ideas. This is something that requires a great deal of attention and struggle. The question is: how are we going to change this, and what is the relation between changing the basic relations in society and changing people's thinking? The fact is that these backward ideas that do hold sway in society as a whole reflect the exploitative and oppressive relations that form the foundation of capitalist society and reinforce and perpetuate those relations.

How are people brainwashed and indoctrinated with this mentality? Through the mass media, the educational system and other means through which ideas are spread and drummed into people's heads. And who controls these mass media and other means of communication and indoctrination? The capitalist rulers of society, who control all of the political structures and institutions and the spheres of ideology and culture (the superstructure of society) on the basis of their control of the economic foundation of society and their organization of production through relations of exploitation.

In this capitalist economic system, the great majority of society is under the domination of the few who monopolize the means of production (land, factories, machines, and so on) and therefore monopolize the wealth produced. Because of all this, we will never be able to win people away from racism and the dog-eat-dog mentality just by arguments and reasoning alone, no matter how true and how powerful our arguments and reasoning may be. Arguments and reasoning alone can never change the basic economic, social, and political conditions in capitalist society which not only promote backward thinking but, more fundamentally, FORCE people into dog-eat-dog relations with each other and STRUCTURE things so that exploitation is the "engine" driving society, so that white supremacy and male supremacy are woven into the very fabric of society, so that inequality is THE RULE in society.

But we have something more powerful than arguments going for us--the very contradictions of capitalism itself continually give rise to upheaval and uprising. And, in that context, in building all-around resistance to this system and its many different forms of oppression, our arguments--our revolutionary propaganda and agitation and exposure of the imperialist system--can have great effect. It is in rising up against the system that masses of people begin to change their way of seeing things and become more open to new ideas and above all to the revolutionary ideas that represent the outlook and program of the truly revolutionary class, the proletariat, and that point the way forward toward overthrowing this system and abolishing its relations of exploitation and oppression. And it is in carrying out this revolution that people will also revolutionize their whole way of thinking. It is only in the process of changing the world that people can and will fundamentally change themselves. We can get rid of this racist garbage and all the rest, but we can only do it through getting rid of the system that continually produces this garbage and that thrives on it.

Q: We need to fight and win. We have to instill pride and self-worth into people so that they will be willing to fight a strong fight and not half-hearted. We have to make a light at the end of the tunnel that they can see clearly, that they will want to die for. We need leaders that can teach and lead without a closed mind on optimism and possible failure, a person with a very clear insight so to give the masses a clear insight. We know that Karl Marx once said that capitalism carries the seed to its own destruction (and if you look closely at economic structure and governmental structures today you can see the fall coming). Right now today the dollar's worth is falling, business corporations are given in to high technology, computers, land value is continually going down and the stock market is plunging at a steady pace. Are we looking at this? Do we see ourselves and where we fit in to this, or are we just being narrow-minded, looking only to fight physically?

B.A.: I agree with much of what you say here. And, again, the big question is HOW are we going to do this--how are we going to fight and win--and what does it mean to WIN, IN THE FULLEST SENSE? We do need to raise people's morale as part of leading them to fight and win. We need to give people a sense of not only their own worth and great potential but of the utter worthlessness of the system they now live under and everything it puts people through and pushes them to do. We need to be ruthlessly and tirelessly exposing and combatting the racist and chauvinist lies and other reactionary garbage of the system and its propaganda machinery. But, beyond that, we need to give the masses a living sense of the role they have to play in carrying out the truly historic and liberating mission of the proletariat--we need to give them the *I*scientifically based*I* revolutionary optimism that represents the proletarian class.

I also agree that we need to have a broad vision and not be narrow-minded--we need the broadness of mind representing the revolutionary proletariat and its communist ideology. We need to continue studying the changes in the world economy and the upheavals and crises within the system in order to better understand the enemy's weaknesses and strategic vulnerabilities. And we need to fight the enemy in every sphere and in an all-around way. But all this will get concentrated in fighting physically--it will all come down to revolutionary war to overthrow this system and open the way to revolutionizing all of society, as part of the world revolutionary struggle.

Even now, before it is time to launch the revolutionary war, it is crucial to mobilize the people to resist the oppression and brutality brought down by the system and its enforcers. As Marx strongly pointed out, if the masses do not resist their daily oppression, they will be reduced to broken wretches who are not capable of waging the larger struggle to throw off the whole system of oppression, finally and completely. On the positive side, in rising up to resist their oppression, and with the leadership of conscious revolutionary forces, the masses of people can develop and strengthen their unity, their understanding of who are real friends and who is the real enemy, their ability to organize themselves in ways that the enemy cannot fundamentally disrupt and destroy; and they can lay important groundwork for being able to wage the larger fight--to wage revolutionary war when the Time comes, when the conditions come together to make that possible.

Q: I don't think we can handle a guerrilla war. Yes, it was done in the Vietnam war and it taught the enemy of them wars a lesson about tunnel fighting and with the technology of today I just don't think one can be won, especially with a small group of poorly trained and lack of confidence people. So I think what we need to do is know our enemy and get smart on his weakest points and put a great deal of concentration there. Disrupt and cause chaos among them and try to cripple the economy, unstabilize the system and work on breaking that down. Get to their power and shake it up. Another reason I don't think guerrilla warfare would succeed is we will lose too many people fighting the people that is made to protect the system instead of breaking down the system itself, and I think the best way to fight a system is by what make the system work. I also wonder what makes us have a need to change a world that can't survive all of itself anyway?

B.A.: We need to change this world, through revolutionary struggle, because left to itself the world will not change for the better. Unless it is overthrown, the system that oppresses and exploits us will keep on going, will somehow find a way through its crises, and will continue to make life a chain of horrors for the great majority of humanity. A guerilla war like in Vietnam is not the form that revolutionary war has to take in a country like the U.S. And, unlike in countries throughout the Third World, we cannot launch the revolutionary war--or make armed struggle the main form of struggle--from the beginning and throughout. Instead, we have to carry out political work and struggle--including, very importantly, mobilizing and organizing the masses to resist the oppression and brutality of the system and its enforcers--to prepare for the time when a revolutionary situation develops. Then, when revolutionary crisis has reached an intense point, it will be the Time to launch the revolutionary war in the form of armed insurrection beginning in the major urban areas, which will be followed by civil war to win and consolidate power throughout the country as a whole, thoroughly defeating the armed forces of the ruling class (and any forces allied with them) and smashing and dismantling their apparatus of political power over the masses of people.

It is important to understand that our enemy does try to learn from his own experience, including his defeats, such as in Vietnam. And we must definitely be no less willing and determined to learn from history and from the errors and shortcomings as well as the great successes and achievements of our class and its vanguard leadership. But, however much the capitalists seek to learn, and however much they may be able to draw particular lessons, THEY CANNOT CHANGE THEIR FUNDAMENTAL NATURE AND THEY CANNOT AVOID THE FUNDAMENTAL CONTRADICTIONS OF THEIR SYSTEM. This is the basic reason why the proletariat can and will finally defeat them. But the better we learn from history, from positive and negative experience, the more we will be able to accelerate the revolutionary process and hasten the time when this system can be buried and a far better world brought into being.

In a powerful imperialist country such as the U.S., a revolutionary situation and crisis occurs only rarely. This is another significant difference between imperialist countries such as the U.S. and the colonies and neo-colonies under imperialist domination throughout the Third World. That is why, on the one hand, in a country like the U.S., we cannot try to wage revolutionary warfare, in the form of guerrilla war, all the time and in the absence of such a revolutionary situation. And, on the other hand, it is why we must gear everything we do, during the period before such a revolutionary crisis erupts, to preparing the masses and their revolutionary vanguard for precisely such a revolutionary situation, so that we do not miss or throw away such a rare and decisive opportunity. And we should never forget that, when the Time does come, in finally rising up, all-out and in an organized way, to overthrow this system in the U.S. itself, we will be striking a tremendous blow for the liberation not just of the oppressed and exploited people in the U.S., but for the masses of people enslaved and tormented by this system, all over the world.

Q: From what I have read and from the little I know about revolution I have discovered that revolution has never taken place where it was not wanted or where people was not oppressed or in fear of being oppressed in the greatest way possible (lose everything they can possibly have) and they are afraid which turns to wanting to fight out of fear, and [we have] a country that was built on capitalism and imperialism [and] is afraid of changing itself and is willing to go through all the steps in keeping it that way. I personally think it would be better to find a country that has open arms with understanding and make a way for people to live the kind of life that all people are equal. If I hit a little off the mark I don't apologize because I think the only people [who] should make this move is the people that want it, instead of fighting for a world change. Changing the world don't interest me and a lot of people dying don't either, so I think the best thing to do is to let this country itself destruct and try to help as many people as possible get out that want the communist way.

B.A.: There is a great deal of truth to what is said here about what is necessary for revolution to take place, in terms of the situation and the sentiments of the masses of people. And this has a great deal to do with why it is not yet time to launch the revolutionary war in a country like the U.S. But, again, there is a tremendous amount of revolutionary work to be done, and struggle to be waged, to prepare the masses and their vanguard party for the Time when it will be possible to launch this war. And this Time can come suddenly and seemingly "out of nowhere"--a revolutionary crisis can erupt, even in a powerful country like the U.S., when "all of a sudden" a number of major contradictions in society and the world come together in a particularly intense and powerful way. We have to be ready for that. All those who see the need for revolution, all those who dream about a better world, without inequality and exploitation, must act in a conscious, organized, and determined way, with the leadership of the vanguard party, to prepare for this Time, so that the precious opportunity to make revolution in a country like the U.S. is not lost or thrown away when it does come about. And, at all times, we have to be doing everything we can to help push forward the proletarian revolution worldwide and especially to support revolutionary struggles that are on the front lines of the worldwide battle at any particular point.

The fact is that, in the world right now, there is no country that would welcome people seeking to make a way where all people are equal. No ruling class anywhere in the world today will embrace communists with "open arms"--when you get down to it, they will confront us with force of arms! Even when we have once again established real revolutionary countries under communist leadership in various parts of the world, it will still not be possible for the masses of people throughout the world to just pick up and move to those countries. And we cannot be "satisfied" with just a part of the world--our revolution has to go forward and eliminate the basis for exploitation and oppression everywhere, in order to liberate our class and the masses of people, worldwide, and in order to prevent exploiters and oppressors from having a base, anywhere in the world, from which to make a comeback.

As long as it exists and continues to be in effect, this system will continue to exert its power and fuck up things for the people everywhere. Little children starving to death in Africa; people dying of cholera in Peru; people caught up in reactionary wars among competing cliques from central Europe, to India, to Rwanda--all this is happening under the domination of the system of imperialism, and because of the operation of this system, throughout the world. Even people in seemingly "isolated" places like small islands in the Pacific have been made the victims of nuclear weapons testing by the imperialists. We cannot escape this system--we have to OVERTHROW and BURY it, ONCE AND FOR ALL.

To be honest, I don't believe it when you say that "changing the world don't interest me." I think you are VERY interested in changing the world; and, as you say, you would love to see a world without inequality and all the rest of the madness of this system. Maybe what it really is, is that you are not yet convinced that it's possible to make a communist revolution and ultimately achieve a communist world, so therefore you're not convinced it's worth all the struggle and sacrifice. But the fact is that "a lot of people dying" is exactly what is going on every day, all over the world. And, far too often, it is for no good reason and no good purpose.

Tens of thousands of children die every day in the Third World from starvation and disease that could be and should be prevented. All over the world, our class brothers and sisters are being slaughtered by the "forces of order"--the armed enforcers of the oppressive system. In the U.S. itself, especially throughout the inner cities, we are being continually brutalized and murdered outright by the police. And we are killing ourselves, killing each other, in many ways, over stuff that, if you think about it, is nothing but some petty bullshit and the dog-eat-dog madness of this system. Who and what is responsible for the fact that we are caught up in all this? Did we create the conditions, and do we enforce the conditions, that give rise to all this and that continually encourage it? Is it us--or is it the system? And, on top of all this, we are the ones who are forced to fight in the wars that are waged by the very system and the very ruling classes that exploit, oppress, degrade, brutalize and murder us day in, day out--wars in which they have already caused tens of millions of people to be slaughtered.

These imperialists make life unlivable for the great majority of people in the world and they threaten the very future of humanity as a whole. This system is the problem--it is the cause of all this--and there is only one solution to it. If there is going to be killing and dying--and there is, one way or the other--then let it be for something that is in our own interests, our highest interests. Let it be in the cause of making revolution to get rid of this system and to bring about a new world without all the horrors caused by this system, a world in which people really can and really do relate as equals and in peace, where they unite and struggle with each other as comrades to continue learning about and changing the world for the betterment of humanity. Let's quit giving our oppressors cheap and easy ways to take us out. Let's stop doing their work for them, fighting and killing each other while they laugh at us and call us "animals" who don't deserve any better than what they give us. Let's direct our anger, our energy, our creativity and our knowledge to fighting them in an organized and conscious way, with leadership and philosophy and strategy that can show us how to win, in the fullest sense, so that whatever sacrifices we make will bring us closer to the time when we, when all human beings, don't have to go through this any more. Let's inspire more and more people with both the vision of what we're fighting for and the ways in which we carry out this fight.

When you get down to it, we don't really have any choice but to do this--the need to do it, and the cost for not doing it, will continue to confront us. And the point is, this CAN be done. It will not be easy. It will not be something that goes forward in a straight line, with all victories and no defeats. It will not happen all at once or all in a short time. It will not happen without great struggle and sacrifice. But there is the basis, within the very contradictions of capitalism itself and what this calls forth, to make this revolution, to come back from defeats and win new and greater victories, advancing wave after wave and through a long and complex struggle, to win final victory, worldwide. And we can know that, by consciously joining in the revolutionary struggle, we have made a contribution to this world-historic process. The way Mao put it is exactly the way it is: The road is tortuous, but the future is bright.

Q: This is just what little knowledge I do have so don't take it into real consideration.

B.A.: In fact, you have raised some very important questions that are on the minds of many people who also would love to see a revolution and a new world without exploitation and inequality--questions that are crucial to take on straight up and to keep getting into, more and more deeply, as part of making this revolution.

QUESTION: I like the idea of revolution but, since revolution is so hard, can't we do something less?

THE CHAIRMAN ANSWERS: You're already doing that--how does it feel?

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