By Bob Avakian
Revolutionary Worker #1140, February 24, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
The RW is currently running this series of excerpts from an unpublished work by RCP Chairman Bob Avakian, "Great Objectives and Grand Strategy." Although written over a year ago, this work - and these excerpts in particular - contain much that is very relevant to the current crisis and war. This is the 14th in this series.
A passage from For a Harvest of Dragons*, to which we frequently refer, puts forward the basic orientation that: we must maintain our firmness of principles and at the same time our flexibility, our materialism and our dialectics, our realism and our romanticism, our solemn sense of purpose and our sense of humor. In relation to this, I want to comment briefly on what was said by someone we have worked with, in one of the projects in L.A. He commented--and not in an appreciative or a positive way--that, judging from his experience, we are the kind of revolutionaries who are "too nice." The more I've thought about this and studied things relating to it (including reports on our own work as well as books like Uprising, Code of the Street, and Street Kingdom which among other things analyze or reflect the "gangster mentality"), it has increasingly struck me how, among a certain section of basic people, and youth in particular, especially those more influenced by "the life," this notion of "being nice" is regarded as a fundamental weakness. This is the spontaneous view on the street, and among the section of the masses who adhere to the "code of the street." Being "nice" is regarded as something that makes you "soft," vulnerable to potential enemies out there, including other masses. This is obviously a viewpoint that has strong sway within the prisons, but also on the street (and we know that there is a very close interconnection between the prisons and the street).
This made me think of what was said at the start of "End/Beginning,"** where it takes that phrase--that piece of Americana--"nice guys finish last," and makes the point that what we are out to do is something very radical indeed, which is to remain "nice" and to "finish first"--to win. To "finish first"--that gets back to what Mao said about striving for greatness, not for ourselves but for our class and our cause. What's essentially involved is the question of winning...and winning--of seizing power but also what we're striving for in seizing power, what that power has to serve and what ultimate aim we have in struggling to seize and exercise power.
There is, of course, a class content to all these concepts, including being "nice." From the standpoint of the revolutionary proletariat, this doesn't mean liberalism. It doesn't mean an attitude of "softness" toward the enemy--it doesn't mean we lose our strategic contempt and our hatred for the enemy and its system, and our determination to lead the masses to rise up and make revolution to abolish this system and its death grip over the masses of people.
But, in accordance with that same proletarian class outlook, being "nice" means, as Mao spoke to (I believe it was in "Combat Liberalism"), putting the interests of the masses of people, the interests of the Party and the revolution, above narrow and personal interests. It means fighting to make revolution not just for revenge--and not out of personal considerations--but for the emancipation of all the exploited and oppressed people all over the world, and ultimately all of humanity. It means being more concerned about others than about ourselves. It means not only boldly propagating but putting into practice, to the greatest degree possible at every stage, and embodying in what we do, the principles of the future society that we are striving to bring into being. That's what it means, and this is fully consistent with, it is another expression of, what is said in that oft-quoted passage from Harvest.
This relates to what we could call the "transcendent position" of the proletariat--or what I have elsewhere termed (with a certain irony but also to make a very serious point) the "god-like position of the proletariat": the ability of the class-conscious proletariat to see beyond the immediate situation and narrow and personal interests; to see the whole historical sweep of human development and the broadest and highest interests of the masses, and to approach everything--even personal relations, but beyond that broader social relations and the struggle to transform them--from that sweeping historical viewpoint.
In that sense, with that kind of world-historic sweep, our approach should be, "putting our arms around the past and the present and moving to the future." We've talked about the orientation of "putting our arm around the masses" and advancing together with them while criticizing and struggling with their shortcomings. In another sense, in the world-historic dimension, we should "put our arms around the past and the present"--and also "around the great diversity of humanity"--and in this way advance to the epoch of world communism.
What we must aim for is the synthesis embodying the emancipation of all humanity. This synthesis, this future of communism, will integrate, even as it gives a new context--and, in some aspects, a new content--to what is positive from history and tradition. And, at the same time, this synthesis will constitute a world-historic radical rupture, a shattering of all tradition's chains.
* FOR A HARVEST OF DRAGONS, On the "Crisis of Marxism" and the Power of Marxism, Now More Than Ever, written by Bob Avakian and published by RCP Publications 1983.
** "The End of a Stage--The Beginning of a New Stage," a talk by Bob Avakian, published in Revolution magazine, Fall 1990.
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