Part 4: The Actual History of Socialist Societies-- The Great Achievements, and the Reasons for Setbacks

Bob Avakian Speaks Out, Interviewed by Carl Dix

On War and Revolution, On Being a Revolutionary and Changing the World

Revolutionary Worker #1159, July 21, 2002, posted at

The Revolutionary Worker is very excited to present to our readers this interview and exchange between Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and Carl Dix, national spokesperson of the RCP.

In coming weeks, the many different subjects covered in this important and wide-ranging interview will be made available. This week is Part 4. In the future, the complete interview will also be published and made available online.

The transcript has been slightly edited for publication.


In heavy times like these, the people require extraordinary things to help prepare them for the challenges we face. What follows is truly extraordinary, something that will help arm those who want to take on the U.S. rulers' juggernaut of war and repression with the kind of understanding they need to deal with these times -- the immediate challenges in front of us and a whole lot more involved in changing the world. The Revolutionary Worker is publishing an important interview with Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.

I had the honor of doing this interview with him in early 2002. Going into it, I knew there were burning questions many people would've wanted to put to him if they had the chance. They had been putting those kinds of questions to me when I went out there around the Party's Draft Programme or got down with people around the "war without limits" the U.S. imperialist ruling class has unleashed on the world. I was going to have the responsibility, and the opportunity, to put these questions to him for them.

Doing this was intense. It was hard, and it was fun. I hadn't had a chance to get into it with Bob Avakian like this for quite a while. He was the same "fired man" (to borrow a term from Peter Tosh) who had provided crucial leadership for the revolutionary movement at key junctures so many times in the past. He was right on top of what was going down in the U.S. and around the world. And he had the same boundless enthusiasm to dig into world historic questions concerning the process of proletarian revolution. We spent several days doing the interview, getting into everything from the current situation to the role of religion to what sustains him as a veteran revolutionary leader. And then, when we finished our work, we went deep into the night talking about basketball, movies and more.

I hope those who read this interview get as much out of it, and enjoy it as much, as I did in the process of doing it.

Carl Dix


Carl Dix : Okay, just in response to the kind of stuff about revolution and the need for a vanguard that you've laid out, a lot of times what people come back with is that "Well, we've seen that tried before and whatever your intentions, what it works out to be is that when the vanguard party leads people in making a revolution, the end result of that is not going to be a system in which the majority of people are in power but that in fact the Party is in power and instead of a dictatorship of the proletariat, it's just a dictatorship of the Party, so that while people have risen up against one oppressive system, what ends up getting put into place is another system where a minority of people are still dictating to the majority."

Bob Avakian : Well, I think one answer to that is the actual reality of socialist revolution so far as opposed to the memos that have been sent out and the distortion of reality that's been propagated by the same people who (laughs) have been the targets of this revolution--and that is the ruling class, the capitalists. And it should give people pause to think that the people who are most insistent upon presenting this "history" of "communist" revolution so far are the people who are going to be overthrown by that revolution--they're people who want to fortify oppression and exploitation--they're the people who are most pronounced in popularizing these notions along the lines of what you were just saying. That should give people pause. If the oppressors and exploiters are casting something in a totally negative light, at least that should be an indication that maybe we should think critically about what they're saying and look at it from another side. That's just a methodological point, if you will, but also the reality of these societies--let's take China for example--was vastly different than that.

There is no question that as compared to the previous societies in the history of China, under the rule of feudalism and imperialism or whatever, or as compared to any other society in the world, for the masses of Chinese people, when that was a socialist country, with Mao leading it--that was a society in which the participation of the masses and their conscious activism in all kinds of spheres of society was completely unprecedented and went way beyond anything in the so-called "democratic societies" like the U.S. or other countries that are pointed to, at least sometimes, as democratic societies. Not only was the general slogan for the Party and for the masses of people--a slogan that was propagated and popularized-- "Serve The People," but also there was a call for the masses of people to take up affairs of state, for peasants and workers to be concerned about the realms of philosophy and science, and not only be concerned about them and read about them perhaps, but to be actively involved in them, in combination with people who were more full-time scientists, or to take up the sphere of the arts and transform the sphere of the arts so they more corresponded to the actual revolutionary interests of the masses of people and gave expression to their struggle to transform society and put forward an outlook that was consistent with that and encouraged that. You can go down the line, for example the sphere of medicine--the same thing. The masses of people, millions of ordinary peasants were trained--that's what they called "barefoot doctors," for example--to go out for the first time in the history of China and give basic health care to the peasants in their hundreds of millions in the countryside, which again had never been done before. And you can go to the sphere of education, you can go down one sphere after another.

Now it's true that there remained a contradiction between full-time revolutionaries, particularly as concentrated in the Party, and the broader masses, but those contradictions were being broken down and overcome step by step and through certain leaps, such as the much maligned and slandered Cultural Revolution--which was really about making further leaps in breaking down the division between leadership and led. It's just the opposite of how it's slandered and caricatured and distorted by the imperialist propaganda organs. So, the actual history, if people really look into this, is the exact opposite of what's portrayed and, in fact, in a society like China when it was on the socialist road, as we say, was one in which the division between leadership and led was being gradually narrowed and all these other inequalities I spoke of--including things like the division between mental and manual labor--were being broken down step by step through combining the efforts and conscious activism of the masses with people who were more professionals in these spheres.

There was a long way to go with that, but what happened in China was not that all that failed, but that the forces who were in fact being upended by that--the people whose privileges were being undermined by that and most concentratedly those people, yes, in leadership of the society who themselves didn't want the revolution to continue deepening but thought it was enough to just have a powerful and modern China which could take its place in the world as a powerful country and even as a world power-- those people moved to pull off a coup and to subvert and stop this revolution and reverse it. And unfortunately that's what happened, but it didn't happen because there was the Communist Party ruling over the masses of people. It happened because there were different forces in society, some of whose interests ran against the continuation and deepening of this revolution. And then there were those who wanted to continue to carry this revolution forward and who were mobilizing the masses of people to do so. But unfortunately, because of the very inequalities we've being talking about, and the fact that these had only been partially overcome, there were some real advantages that those who wanted to maintain and deepen those inequalities had in the short run in seeking to turn back the revolution, and that's what they were able to do.

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