Part 11: Leadership -- The Right, and the Wrong, Standards and Criteria

Bob Avakian Speaks Out, Interviewed by Carl Dix

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

Revolutionary Worker #1167, September 22, 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 11. 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 : What about moving on to this viewpoint that a yardstick, in fact the crucial yardstick, against which revolutionary organizations should be measured is whether its leadership is predominantly people of color? And that if its leadership isn't predominantly people of color then it's not going to be able to stay on the revolutionary road -- that it's going to conciliate with the system and the white supremacy that the system is based on.

Bob Avakian : Well, I think one thing that we have to face up to, just to come at it from a certain angle and be a bit provocative, if you want to put it this way: Anybody can sell out to the system who wants to. I don't care who you are, if you want to sell out they'll find a way very quickly to enable you to sell out. So being of any particular nationality is not any guarantee against selling out. And also there are pressures on people and pulls on people to seek easy ways out which amount to giving up on the struggle, and this is going to be true for any leadership, whatever its nationality, its gender, whatever.

That's one point,'s true that in the U.S. -- and this is a general principle -- that any revolution, as we've been talking about, has to bring forward, as its backbone and driving force, that class and those groups closely allied with it that have the most interest in and have the most strategic position for making such a revolution. In the U.S., that obviously involves a lot of people from the oppressed nationalities in the proletariat and people from other strata within the oppressed nationalities. That should be reflected in the vanguard party itself, including in its leadership, over any period of time. That is a basic truth. But, with all that, the essential thing is going to be -- again it goes back to what's the line of the party, what is its analysis of objective reality? And, I keep using this phrase -- I heard somewhere or read somewhere that someone said if you go around using the phrase "objective reality" that in many circles you are immediately identified with the party. Because we do believe there is such a thing as objective reality and that you have to base yourself on objective reality -- not in a static way, but on what it is but also how it is changing, what is its motion and development. But if you don't begin from objective reality, then you are bound to go off the track somewhere.

If you are out of line with really understanding what's really going on in the world, what the real problem is and therefore what the real solution is, you are bound to get off the track and not be a real vanguard and not lead people to where they need to go, regardless of your gender or nationality or whatever. So, the most important thing is line -- do you have a correct outlook and methodology for understanding the world and do you correctly apply it to come up with an actual analysis and programme that can lead to the solution to all this and can actually lead people in making revolution? And that takes revolutionaries drawn from anywhere -- whether they're intellectuals, whether they're people from the proletariat, whatever, who take up the world outlook and methodology and line of the proletariat and apply it concretely to making revolution as part of the overall world revolution, because we are part of a world revolution which involves people, nations and countries all over the world.

We need revolutionaries, all revolutionaries -- of whatever nationality in particular, speaking to the nationality question -- who take up and unite around that proletarian world outlook and method and apply it to develop that political line that corresponds to and leads forward to that kind of revolution. So, that's the decisive question: Is your leadership actually united on the basis of a correct line -- understanding that not in some absolute metaphysical sense, that you develop a line and that is the end of it and you have nothing more to learn. It's not like that. Life is always changing, you are always learning more, there is always a contradiction between ignorance and knowledge, between what you understand and what you still have to learn. Conditions change. I mean, in an essential sense, in a basic sense, is your line correct and have you united revolutionaries as a vanguard force around that correct line? That's the essential question. And, on the basis of that line you should bring forward people from among the proletariat and among the oppressed nationalities in increasing numbers, and that's what our party is working to do and that's what we're doing.

At any given time in an overall sense to make the nationality of someone the decisive question-- rather than (to put it in simple terms) whether they have the truth in their hands--is to establish the wrong standard and is to set up a basis which cannot really enable people to distinguish the correct from the incorrect and also to actually find the correct road and to go forward on it. Right there you've set up the wrong standard.

And, as I spoke to earlier as well, there are many different--and we have been talking about this repeatedly, and we just talked about it in terms of, once again, the identity politics--there are different classes and strata among all these different oppressed peoples and nationalities, and they have different viewpoints on things which more or less correspond to their class position, not in a mechanical sense but in an overall sense. They're not all going to...people of this or that oppressed nationality, or taking the people of the oppressed nationalities in general, are not all going to agree by any means. It's still going to come down to what kind of line they unite around and bring forward and what kind of analysis they have of the problem--what kind of programme for achieving the solution--that is always going to be the decisive question. Life shows this all the time. Everybody among Black people, or Puerto Ricans, or Chicanos, or whatever, or among women, is not going to agree on what the problem or the solution is. It's going to vary according to their line and according to, ultimately, what class viewpoint that represents.

I know some people who raise this or who consider themselves revolutionaries would say, "Of course I am not talking about reactionaries, but once you're talking about the revolutionaries then it's a matter of having to have a majority of people of color who have the correct line." But that sort of begs the question, because the question is: What is the correct line? And that's not determined by color or nationality--that's determined by, once again, objective reality and a correct understanding of it. So you're kind of going around in a circle there. Once you acknowledge that the correct line is the main thing, then that isn't determined by nationality. It's determined by your line, by what your actual understanding of reality is and how to change it.

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