Revolution #94, July 1, 2007
Editors' Note: The following are excerpts from an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in the fall of last year (2006). This is the 11th in a series of excerpts we will be running in Revolution. Subheads and footnotes have been added for publication here. The entire talk is available online at revcom.us/avakian/anotherway.
The Necessity That Is Being Confronted
Now, having spoken to some questions of basic analysis and of outlook and methodology, and with that as a foundation, I want to return again to the situation, to the necessity, that has to be confronted now. From what has been discussed so far, it is possible to see that the necessity facing the U.S. imperialists and in particular the core at the center of power now in the U.S.—and what they have done and are doing in the world in responding to that necessity, as well as how they are moving in relation to the freedom they have perceived that they have in the current situation, particularly since the "end of the Cold War" and the demise of the Soviet Union and its bloc—all this is in turn imposing necessity on all different strata and groups throughout the world, including within the U.S. itself.
Again, to just touch on these points quickly—but as bases and focuses for further reflection and wrangling—for the class of U.S. imperialists themselves, this situation is now impinging on them, and this necessity is making itself felt, in increasingly acute ways. They can't roll back the clock and go back to the situation before they invaded Iraq this time (in 2003) and ousted Saddam Hussein. Some of them might actually wish now that they could do that—but they can't. Some of these right-wing commentators were, for awhile, making joking remarks like: "Here's what we should do. We should get Saddam Hussein out of jail, apologize to him, put him back in power, tell him to whip this shit in shape while we ignore what he has to do to get this done." Now, clearly they can't do that. But these jokes themselves are a reflection of "the fine mess they have gotten themselves into," and the fact that, as a result, the necessity that is confronting them is greatly heightened.
And one of the ways this finds expression—and in fact this is another manifestation of, or dimension to, the point about "the pyramid of power"1 in the U.S. now—is this: Especially in these acute circumstances, as well as in an all-around and basic sense, to really take on and answer the right-wing section of the ruling class and its program and where it is driving things, it would be necessary to get down to, and to hit strongly at, the underlying assumptions and foundations upon which this rests. And that the other representatives of the ruling class—including as this is embodied in the Democratic Party leadership—can never do—and do not want to do.
If, for example, you are going to really challenge the thrust of the Iraq War, and the "let's go after Iran" logic, and so on, you have to call into question the whole assumptions of the "war on terror" and you have to bring forth what all that is really all about and is based on. Or, if you are going to take on something like the attacks on affirmative action, you have to talk about the actual history of this country—and all the atrocities, including genocide, slavery, and other horrendous forms of oppression, down to today—that this has involved. And that you cannot do from a ruling class perspective. Or to defend the right to abortion in a truly powerful way, which can answer the many-sided attacks on this—practical, political, and ideological—you have to get into the role of women in this society and the whole historical oppression of women—how that is bound up with other fundamental social and class relations. That, again, is something you cannot do while remaining within the dominant and "acceptable" framework of bourgeois politics and ideology.
This is especially acutely posed in today's circumstances. Bourgeois politicians can't even do what the Church Senate Committee (named after Senator Frank Church) did back 30 years ago. Then, as a result of a whole mass upheaval and growing mass consciousness about the real nature of what the U.S. does around the world, this Senate Committee came out and exposed some of the things the U.S. had done, like in Chile and other countries where the U.S. pulled off coups and committed other crimes. Today, if you want to represent the ruling class, you cannot do even what the Church Committee did. It's nowhere on the agenda to talk about that stuff. The current situation—and not just the freedom but the necessity of the ruling class—doesn't allow for that kind of discourse, even in watered-down terms.
I was watching this guy Jeff Cohen on Amy Goodman. He was the founder of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting). He's got this book out: Adventures in Cable News Media.2 It's an interesting book. It provides exposure of how the mainstream media operate. This is coming from a certain standpoint, different from our own, but it's not without its insights.
Cohen makes an observation that objectively has to do with the "pyramid point." He recalled how, during a break when he was on one of these CNN Crossfire shows, he turned to the right-winger, Robert Novak, and said, "Do you really think Pat Buchanan is a liberal?" And, Cohen recounts, Novak went into a whole tirade about how Buchanan is an economic "New Dealer" and a populist and all that. And then Novak said: I was an Eisenhower Republican in the '50s, and everyday since then I've gone further to the right. In commenting on this, Cohen makes the very true and very telling point that you could not get somebody on TV, as a regular and mainstream commentator, who said: "I was a Kennedy Democrat in the '60s, and every day since then I've gone further to the left." No way such a person could ever have any place in the mainstream media—except as some sort of object of ridicule. I mean, Noam Chomsky has been declared to be "from the planet Saturn"—he's way beyond the pale of respectable and acceptable discourse in the mainstream media.
Cohen, who was a producer for the Phil Donahue show before it got kicked off of MSNBC, talks about how, if they wanted to have even a relatively mild left-winger on that show, they were told they had to have at least two or three right-wingers to "balance" that left-winger. And the Donahue show was supposed to be the liberal answer to the right-wing talk shows. But when it got to the question of someone like Chomsky, the "joke"—or, really, more-than-half-serious point—was that if they were going to have Chomsky on, they'd have to have 38 right-wingers for "balance." [laughs]
Again, this is not just owing to the organized strength of right-wingers, nor is it merely a matter of corporate dominance in the mainstream media. More essentially, it is a reflection of the necessity that the U.S. ruling class faces–-not just the freedom they are seeking to seize on, but also the necessity and the way in which how they have responded to that necessity has created further necessity impinging, yes, even on them.
But this is also impinging on and confronting all different strata throughout the world—other imperialists in other countries, other ruling classes, for example, like in China and India, or Pakistan. Remember, there was that whole thing about Richard Armitage, the friend of Colin Powell and assistant secretary of state in the first Bush administration—how, right after September 11th, Armitage went to the head of state of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, and basically gave him the "offer he couldn't refuse" routine—insisting that he allow Pakistan to be used as a base for the attack on Afghanistan, and for the "war on terror" more generally. Recently, when Armitage was asked about this, he said—continuing the Godfather routine, or at least his role as the henchman of the big Don—"I never make a threat I'm not in a position to carry out, and I couldn't personally carry that out." Well, that was never the point. [laughs] The threat was coming from U.S. imperialism—you were just the one delivering the threat.
But, beyond the particularities (and peculiarities) of that, in one way or another what the U.S. is doing impinges on all kinds of ruling elites, and other forces—and not just through direct Mafia-type threats. Every ruling class--in India, China, Russia, France, Germany, and so on—and even lesser ruling classes in various parts of the world, which are fundamentally dependent on and beholden to imperialism—all of them are forced to respond to this. They are all being confronted with this necessity.
And so are all the "popular strata" throughout the world. All the non-ruling class strata, all the different groupings among the people in the U.S. and in countries all over the world, are being confronted with necessity which is stemming mainly at this point from what the U.S. ruling class, and its core at the center of power now, is doing. On a deeper, more fundamental level, all this is stemming from the underlying dynamics of the imperialist system, but in more immediate and proximate terms—in terms of what's directly affecting people right now—it is proceeding to a significant degree out of how the core at the center of power of U.S. imperialism now is perceiving things, including its necessity as well as its freedom, and how it is acting in relation to that. But, again, it is very important to stress that this is not a matter of "all freedom" for them—as powerful as they are, it is far from the case that they can just "do whatever they want." And what they are doing not only involves necessity as well as freedom for them ; it presents necessity but also—at least potential—freedom for those forces, of various kinds, who are opposed to them. Here, once again, I am using "freedom" not in a more "conventional" sense, but in the sense of confronting and transforming necessity—material reality—in ways that are favorable, are in line with one's objectives.
So there is not a single group in society—and, for that matter, ultimately not a single individual, but in any case not a single stratum or group in society anywhere in the world, from ruling classes down to the most basic masses—which is not being impinged upon and being confronted by these dynamics. Of course, most people are unaware of this, or only vaguely conscious of it—or, even if aware of it in varying degrees, they do not yet have a scientific understanding of it and therefore are not able yet to consciously act to change all this in their own interests, and most fundamentally in the interests of humanity. So the challenge this poses for us, as communists—as those who have the responsibility of acting as the vanguard of the proletarian revolution and moving humanity to a whole new stage and a whole new world—this challenge once again revolves around Mao's "amendment" to Engels: that freedom does not lie just in the recognition of necessity, but in the transformation of necessity, through struggle. And, especially in these acute circumstances, the orientation, the perspective, and the approach has to be one of wrenching freedom out of all this.
This is being more and more acutely posed. It is true, as I pointed out not long ago: If there are a few more major changes in the world—particularly in this dynamic where Jihad and McWorld/McCrusade mutually reinforce each other while opposing each other—it is going to be qualitatively harder to break out of this dynamic. And this is one of the things we have to join more fully, and struggle over more deeply, with people. You know, sitting on top of a rumbling volcano might somehow seem more comfortable than trying to move, but it's actually not a very good position to be in. [laughs] This is what we have to get people to understand.
1 In a number of talks and writings, Bob Avakian analyzes the relations at the top of U.S. society—as well as the relations between various contending forces "at the top" and social bases at various levels of society—in terms of a "pyramid." This analysis can be found, for example, in the DVD of the talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About (Three Q Productions, available at threeqvideo.com). See also the articles "The Pyramid of Power and the Struggle to Turn This Whole Thing Upside Down" and "The Center—Can It Hold? The Pyramid as Two Ladders," available online at revcom.us. [back]
2 Jeff Cohen, Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media (Sausalito, CA: PoliPoint Press, 2006) [back]