Mobilizing the Masses to Fight-Not for Their Oppressors But For Their Own Interests

Revolutionary Worker #1146, April 14, 2002, posted at

by Bob Avakian

"Mobilizing the Masses to Fight-Not for Their Oppressors But For Their Own Interests" is an excerpt from a tape-recorded talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, USA, in the aftermath of September 11 and in the context of the war launched by the U.S. government, focused initially against Afghanistan. Major excerpts of this talk are available in a special magazine-"The New Situation and the Great Challenges"-and this week's article is part of a series of additional material from this talk. The magazine, featured in RW 1143, is available online at and at Revolution Books stores and outlets.

In order to rise to the challenges with which we are confronted, we are going to have to help people sort out what stance should be taken toward this whole situation-and we will need to wage struggle around all this, sometimes sharp if comradely struggle even among the ranks of the people.

To cite one example, I have read some reports describing how among some of the "gangsters" in some of the basic neighborhoods, there were a lot of mixed reactions, and one of the lines that was put out by some of them-right after September 11 and before the U.S. military started pounding Afghanistan-was that "Bush is a punk-why didn't he hit back right away? What a punk!"

Now, on a fundamental level, what this reflects is that people's interests are being mixed up with those of the imperialists. But, if you think about it, you can see how the spontaneous "gangster mentality" can give rise to this kind of thinking, and there are some hard core people into this gangster thing where it's not clear how they're going to fall out on all this-but the broad masses who are influenced or even caught up in this "gangster" stuff have profoundly different objective interests (and we've already made a lot of headway in winning many who were influenced by this kind of thinking away from it and in helping people broadly to sort this out). But, even among the proletarians and other basic masses, this is going to be a complex process, and one requiring struggle-spontaneously the inclinations of the masses will not always and "automatically" go in the direction of their real objective interests.

Tragically, there are many instances in history where the masses of people have been led to fight for their oppressors, against other people oppressed by the same system. For example, the Gurkhas from Nepal who became famous (or infamous) as a fighting force within the British army, fighting for the British empire, in the 19th century. And the history of the U.S. has many bitter examples of how the oppressors have used those against whom they have committed horrible atrocities, even genocide, to fight in their armed forces, or have enticed people into the ways of the system, only to betray and brutally crush them.

Look at the experience of the Cherokees. At a certain point major property owners developed among them in Tennessee. They bought plantations; they got slaves, African slaves. Andrew Jackson, himself a big slaveowner, promised them protection and a place in the scheme of things. And what happened? Well, when the needs of the larger white-dominated capitalist and slave-owning classes conflicted with those of the Cherokees who owned land and owned slaves, the same Andrew Jackson played a decisive role in turning against them. They were deprived of everything and driven out-forced into the horrors of the Trail of Tears, with terrible suffering and death.

And, on the other hand, you have the African slaves who won freedom through the Civil War and then enlisted to fight as Buffalo Soldiers, to be part of carrying to even greater extremes the genocide against the Indians and the theft of their land. (Is it surprising that these Buffalo soldiers are well known to be "role models" for Colin Powell?)

And, as we know all too well, there have been many instances in which white proletarians and other poor white people in the U.S. have been mobilized in the carrying out of oppression and atrocities against Native-Americans, African-Americans, Latinos, and other oppressed people.

How is this cycle of oppressed people being mobilized against their own interests-in the service of the oppressors against other oppressed people-going to be cut through and finally ended? What is decisive in this-what the oppressed people have lacked in all these situations throughout history, and what they need above all-is the leadership of a communist vanguard, which today means a party based on MLM. And we can see this very clearly if we look again-and in the present time-to Nepal, where the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is leading a people's war which is finally giving the masses of people the way and the means to fight in their own interests-against their real oppressors and for their own liberation-as part of the worldwide proletarian revolution. And in every country, ultimately the proletariat and the proletarian revolution is the only thing that provides this road to liberation for the masses of people.

There are many other forces among the oppressed peoples, within the U.S. and all over the world, with whom it is necessary to unite and to carry out a process of unity-struggle-unity as part of building resistance to the imperialist juggernaut of war and repression and the overall struggle against this system, but in the final analysis only the road and the outlook represented by the revolutionary proletariat and its ideology can enable the masses of people to fully distinguish friends from enemies and to unite with all real friends to oppose and finally defeat the enemy.

This is important not only in terms of general and fundamental principles but specifically in terms of the current situation and the contradictory trends among the masses of people.

"Bush is a punk"-leaving aside for the moment other problems with this term and concept of "punk," is that really the problem? Is that how the oppressed masses should be looking at it? Is that the basis for determining where and with whom we should stand, which forces and actions we should support and which to oppose? Well, frankly, if Bush were weak, so much the better for us. But that's not the basic problem, that he's a "punk." He's an oppressor; he's a representative of a monstrous system that lives off the people of the world, including masses of people "at home," not the least the people in the housing projects and the ghettos and barrios overall in the U.S. Our interests lie with the oppressed of the world and with uprooting and overturning and abolishing this whole system.

So we have work to do-we can't rely on spontaneity, among the basic masses or other strata in society. There are and will be many contradictory trends and tendencies among all these different sections of the people. And, on the other side of the picture, one of the things that has stood out, and that has been very upsetting to the bourgeoisie, is that there has been a very widespread and deeply held sentiment among various strata of African Americans, for example, of refusing to support what the government is doing, of taking the stand that "this is not our war." There has been a whole, long-standing collective experience of Black people "fighting for America" in one war after another, with the prospect and the promise held out of achieving equality in this way-only to come back to face oppression, discrimination, and brutality once again.

The point is not that there aren't already very important and even powerful positive sentiments and political viewpoints being expressed among Black people and other oppressed people and proletarians in the face of this imperialist juggernaut; this is something very positive to build on, but that is exactly the point-to build on it-even here we cannot just rely on spontaneity. And in an overall sense, it is not going to be automatic that people's response will correspond to their objective interests. We know that. We have a tremendous amount of work to do, once again, to win people to understand and to act on their real interests and to achieve a major repolarization, a realignment of political forces and the political terrain in society as a whole.

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