Excerpt from:

BOB AVAKIAN

BREAKTHROUGHS

The Historic Breakthrough by Marx,
and the Further Breakthrough with the New Communism

A Basic Summary

BOB AVAKIAN

BREAKTHROUGHS

The Historic Breakthrough by Marx, and the Further Breakthrough with the New Communism

A Basic Summary

Copyright © 2019 by Bob Avakian. All rights reserved.

 

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The following excerpt from Bob Avakian's work Breakthroughs: The Historic Breakthrough by Marx, and the Further Breakthrough with the New Communism digs into key principles of the new communism in regard to building a movement for revolution. This week we especially want to call attention to the following excerpt:

And then, as an important part of “Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism,” there is the principle of putting the problems of the revolution before the masses, while, at the same time, struggling with them to take up the outlook, methods, principles, and program of this revolution. Why is this important? It’s not because, in accordance with a tailist orientation, you think the masses are going to spontaneously have the answer to these problems. If they did already, then we would have a much easier time, we wouldn’t even need a vanguard, they could just make the revolution. So what is the point here? The point is involving the masses, with leadership and with struggle, in the process of identifying and solving the problems of the revolution, rather than a kind of opportunist approach of trying to hide from the masses the problems of the revolution or, with “political truth,” trying to convince them: “Everything’s really going great; all you need to do is get involved”—in which case they’re likely to say, “Well if everything’s going great, why should I get involved, it requires a lot of struggle and sacrifice—you’re doing great, go ahead, let me know when you’ve got everything lined up and then maybe I’ll get involved.” Correctly understood and applied, it is a very important principle that, in a fundamental and ultimate sense, revolution is made by the masses. That is not, and should not be taken as, a recipe for tailing the masses and their spontaneity. But they are the ones who have to make this revolution and they need to be involved, at every stage, in grappling with and contributing to the process of coming up with the means for struggling through and transforming the contradictions you face, the problems of the revolution, in order to make breakthroughs and advance. This is a very important principle and it’s something which should not be identified with tailing the masses and thinking that, in a reified sense, all wisdom resides in the masses and all you have to do is tell them what a problem is and they’ll immediately come up with the solution. It is a matter of involving them, in increasing numbers, on a scientifically-led basis, in the process of struggling to confront and transform the contradictions that have to be fought through on the road to making the revolution.

. . .

 

The Strategy...For an Actual Revolution

The goal of communism, the necessary process leading to that—revolution and the thorough transformation of society, and ultimately the world as a whole, to achieve the “4 Alls”—and the possibility (not the inevitability but the possibility) of this revolution: all this is established not through some kind of subjective, and utopian, fantasy but on a scientific basis, through analyzing the basic contradictions of the existing system of capitalism-imperialism, viewing this in the context of, and examining its place within, the larger development of human society and the motive forces of such development, and in this way recognizing the basis and the potential forces for making a radical leap beyond this and all previous systems and relations of exploitation and oppression. Here, as indicated in the observation contrasting possibility with inevitability, is a crucial distinction and a profound question of methodology. In the history of the communist movement, from the time of its founding, there has been a tendency to “inevitable-ism”—the mistaken belief that historical development will inevitably lead to the triumph of communism—which has been more or less pronounced, at various times and in various expressions, but which in any of its expressions has run counter to the fundamentally scientific method and approach of communism, from its founding in the work of Marx (and Engels). In this regard, as well as in other key dimensions, the new communism represents and embodies “a qualitative resolution of a critical contradiction that has existed within communism in its development up to this point, between its fundamentally scientific method and approach, and aspects of communism which have run counter to this.”35 [Boldface in original]

The scientific approach of the new communism emphasizes that the basis for this revolution resides not in the thinking of the masses of people at any given time, but in the defining contradictions of this system that cause continual misery for the masses of humanity while at the same time these contradictions are built into the very structures and dynamics of this system and cannot be resolved or eliminated within its confines.

This finds a concentrated expression in the “5 STOPS”:

STOP Genocidal Persecution, Mass Incarceration, Police Brutality and Murder of Black and Brown People!

STOP The Patriarchal Degradation, Dehumanization, and Subjugation of All Women Everywhere, and All Oppression Based on Gender or Sexual Orientation!

STOP Wars of Empire, Armies of Occupation, and Crimes Against Humanity!

STOP The Demonization, Criminalization and Deportations of Immigrants and the Militarization of the Border!

STOP Capitalism-Imperialism from Destroying Our Planet!

You can see how very relevant and immediately urgent are these “5 STOPS” and the contradictions to which they refer.

So what about the question of an actual revolution in a country like the U.S., and how it’s based, once again, in these defining but unresolvable contradictions built into this system and its basic structures, functioning and dynamics?

In “On the Possibility of Revolution” and “HOW WE CAN WIN, How We Can Really Make Revolution36 (another very important document from the Revolutionary Communist Party), not only the need for this revolution but also the strategy for actually building a movement toward and then carrying out the overthrow of this system, when the conditions for that have been brought into being, is spoken to. Here, I am not going to go into this extensively and in depth—I have done that in “Why We Need An Actual Revolution, And How We Can Really Make Revolution,”37 in particular the second part, dealing with the strategy for revolution—which elaborates on what is put forward, in a concentrated way, in “HOW WE CAN WIN”—speaking to what we must do now to hasten while awaiting the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people in the millions, to prepare the ground, prepare the people, and prepare the vanguard for that situation, when it will be possible, and necessary, to fight all-out to win—to overthrow this oppressive system, dismantle its forces of violent suppression and the other institutions of its rule, and establish a radically different economic and political system, aiming for the complete and final abolition of all relations of exploitation and oppression. But I do want to strongly emphasize the importance of actually making real what is presented, in a concentrated way, in “HOW WE CAN WIN,” and elaborated on more fully in “Why We Need An Actual Revolution, And How We Can Really Make Revolution” (and, in this connection, Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon, in particular Part 2, is also very relevant, including the discussion there about ways in which the principles discussed in “On the Possibility of Revolution” may have application more generally in the revolutionary process in different types of countries).

Rather than elaborating extensively on the various aspects of revolutionary strategy that have been developed with the new communism, including significant ways in which this represents a break with what has been the “conventional wisdom” of the communist movement, I want to provide, once again, a basic summary of key aspects of this.

First of all, there is the decisive question of internationalism. Along with referring people to the polemic “Communism or Nationalism?”38 by the Revolutionary Communist Organization, the OCR of Mexico, in Demarcations #4, Winter 2015, and to the discussion of internationalism in THE NEW COMMUNISM, Part II, I want to touch briefly here on the material and the philosophical basis for communist internationalism and the further synthesis of this in the new communism.

The material basis lies in the development of capitalism more fully into an international system of capitalist imperialism and the various features of that, including its investment and exploitation much more fully on an international scale (rather than in the earlier stages of capitalism where production took place mainly in the home country and the search was carried out for markets for those products internationally). The process of production has been much more fully internationalized, increasingly so in the last several decades. This is one overall system with many different component parts and dynamics to each of those component parts within this overall system. The dynamics of this system as a whole on a world level—not solely, but principally and in dialectical relation with the situation within particular parts of the world and particular countries—is the main factor in setting the objective stage for the revolutionary struggle in particular countries. And when, through this dialectical process, the contradictions assume a particularly acute form in particular countries, that can lead to the emergence of a revolutionary situation there. So you have the dynamics within the particular countries but it’s not only, and not even essentially, out of that, that the material conditions emerge which influence the development of the revolutionary struggle and which can ultimately lead to the emergence of a revolutionary situation in those particular countries.

Grasping that also interpenetrates with the philosophical understanding that is necessary for a correct approach to and application of internationalism. As is also discussed in the polemic “Communism or Nationalism?” by the OCR of Mexico, this has to do with the different levels of organization of matter in motion. There are relatively discrete levels in all different kinds of matter (in motion): there are different organs within the human body, and then there’s the human body as a whole, which encompasses all those organs, and there are the dynamics within and between them; there are particular regions within a country, there are particular countries, and then there’s the world as whole. And so on. Each of these different and relatively—I stress relatively—discrete levels of matter in motion have their own dynamics, their own internal contradictions; but, in turn, they are part of a larger system, just as the organs of a body are part of the larger body, and it is that larger body itself and its interaction in turn with the larger environment that ultimately and fundamentally sets the terms for what happens within that body, including within the different organs of the body—although at times what is happening within a particular organ can influence, or even be determining in, what’s happening to the body as a whole, which is obvious if you have a heart attack, for example. So that is the materialism and the dialectics of all this.

And the same applies to the relation between countries and the world and the world system as a whole. There are discrete levels of matter in motion that constitute countries, just as there are discrete levels of matter in motion that constitute different regions within a country. But, in turn, those countries, even with their relative identity and discreteness and the contradictions that are particular within that, exist within a larger dynamic which (as I have pointed out before) is different than something like the relation between the earth and all the galaxies in the universe. In other words, yes, the earth is part of a solar system, which is part of a galaxy, which is part of billions of galaxies, and so on; but that relation doesn’t have the same operative meaning, in terms of social transformation, that the relation between countries and the dynamics of the imperialist system, as a world system, has in this era.

It is the fundamental dynamics of this overall world system which, to cite one profound phenomenon, has been responsible for two world wars. As was pointed out in that OCR polemic, World War 1 wasn’t caused simply, or essentially, by the internal dynamics within each country, which then somehow spilled over into other countries. Obviously, the internal dynamics within different countries played a part in that, but it was the larger world stage and the contradictions on that level that led to that war. And that’s why, for example, in one of his better statements, Stalin said that the reason that they could succeed in the revolution in Russia—or why the conditions were more favorable for revolution there than in some other places—is that the contradictions of the world imperialist system became concentrated and focused within Russia to a large degree at that time. So that’s another example of the correct understanding of the relation between countries and the world situation as a whole.

If you don’t get that relation right, if you reverse that relation—as is done by people who proclaim themselves communists but actually uphold nationalism in the name of communism and become, at best, radical nationalists, which ultimately devolves into bourgeois nationalism—you’re just proceeding on the basis of the internal dynamics of the country and you see that as the most important arena that you’re operating in. And that can become posed against another country with its own internal dynamics. Your internationalism becomes a form of international “intersectionality,” to use the parlance of the times, which can easily be turned into antagonisms between different “sections” that are “intersecting.”

There were tendencies in Mao to proceed “from the nation outward,” even in advocating and practicing internationalism—tendencies to eclectically combine nationalism with internationalism—even as this was definitely secondary to Mao’s fundamentally internationalist orientation. But these secondary tendencies in Mao have been made into a principle by certain “Maoists” (including someone like Ajith) who, in doing so, have effectively replaced internationalism with nationalism.

So it is fundamentally important to grasp the material and the philosophical basis for a correct approach to internationalism: seeing the world arena as fundamentally decisive while correctly grasping and dealing with the moving relations between the contradictions and dynamics within a particular country and other countries—and all that in relation to the capitalist-imperialist system as a world system.

There are definite practical implications to this, as I spoke to in THE NEW COMMUNISM, including that whatever socialist countries exist at any given time have to be approached as, above all—not solely but above all—as base areas to advance the world revolution, or else they’re ultimately going to be pitted against the advance of the communist revolution in the world as a whole; and, in fact, the basis for overthrowing and reversing the revolution in the particular socialist country will be strengthened. This is not a matter of proclaiming a glorious principle—“Internationalism, be above all a base area for the world revolution”—in some sort of abstract or almost religious sense. This involves a great deal of complexity because, more than has been recognized previously in the history of the communist movement, there can be very acute contradictions, which have the potential to be turned into antagonisms, between a socialist country that exists and the revolutionary masses and the revolutionary struggles in other countries. There are many ways in which imperialist and reactionary states and forces in the world will try to impose on the socialist country necessity to adopt policies and actions, in the effort to preserve itself, that are against the fundamental interest of advancing the revolution toward communism on a world scale. And if the revolution does not continue to advance toward communism in an overall sense, it is going to be set back overall, including where socialist countries have been initially brought into being.

So you’re dealing here with very complex, and at times very acute, contradictions. And without the correct approach to grasping the material basis and the philosophical basis for communist internationalism, you don’t even have a chance at approaching correctly, let alone dealing in the real world with, these very profound, and at times very acute, contradictions in a way that actually advances the overall world revolution. Someone once flippantly said, about the loss of socialism in China: “Well, easy come, easy go.” Millions of people suffered and died in order to bring socialism into being in China, and millions of people around the world supported that and to a very large degree, and largely on a legitimate basis, had their hopes riding with socialism in that country. It was a terrible setback when socialism was overturned and capitalism restored there. It is very important to preserve, and in fact to advance, socialism wherever power is wrenched out of the hands of the imperialists. At the same time, however, if the preservation and advance of a socialist state in any particular country is not handled correctly in relation to—and especially if it actually undermines in any essential way—the development of the overall world revolution, then it’s on the road to being reversed as well.

There is the whole question of communism really being communism, and this has been further emphasized with the new communism—communism really being communism and therefore really being internationalist in the way I’ve been speaking to this, as opposed to nationalism in the name of, or eclectically combined with, communism.

Next, I want to touch on the basic approach to building the movement for revolution, which is captured in the formulation “Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism.” Here it is worth noting and touching, even if briefly, on the fact that, while overall leading the newly-born Soviet Union on the road of socialism and contributing in some important ways to the development of the international communist movement, at the same time Stalin actually “reversed” Leninism on a number of important questions. On internationalism, for example—and this was strikingly so during the period immediately leading into and during World War 2, when the interests of the Soviet Union as a state were, on a rather nakedly nationalist basis, put ahead of the overall advance of the world revolution, in what were very acute and intensely contradictory circumstances, just to be clear. Lenin had emphasized that the proletariat in the different countries, in particular imperialist countries, had no “fatherland” to defend (and even though capitalism had not yet developed into capitalist imperialism as it had in Lenin’s time, this basic stand goes back to Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto, where they said the workers of the world have no countries and they called on the workers of the world to unite, which was a very important internationalist stand and declaration to the world). But, under Stalin’s leadership in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s, when they felt the impending war coming—and then, as a key part of that war, there was a massive attack on the Soviet Union by Germany, which had become Nazi Germany—there was explicitly a revising of the notion that the workers have no country and no basis and no interest in supporting the imperialist “fatherland.” Communists actually said things like, “That was true back when the workers had nothing, but now they have trade unions, seats in parliament, and so on, so now they have a stake in the fatherland.”

This was a rather grotesque reversal of the correct position that had been very strenuously and intensely fought for by Lenin, especially in the context of World War 1, in opposition to so-called “socialists” who were rallying to their various “fatherlands” once World War 1 broke out. So, with the approach of and then during World War 2, with Stalin there was a direct reversal, explicitly and rather crudely, of a basic principle and application of internationalism. They were facing very acute circumstances, but you can’t throw out principle just because there are acute circumstances. This is related in important ways to the statement that everything that is actually true is good for the proletariat.

Lenin put great emphasis in his important work What Is To Be Done? on not tailing the spontaneity of the masses, not worshiping the posterior of the masses, but instead bringing communist consciousness from “outside” their own experiences and daily struggles. Lenin stressed that the working class and the masses of people could not spontaneously develop communist consciousness—that they might gravitate toward it, but there were stronger forces in society pulling them back to (as he put it) a striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie.

But Stalin, as early as the 1920s, reversed some of this, too. I remember way back in the day when someone brought an essay by Stalin into one of our meetings in the Revolutionary Union, even before the Revolutionary Communist Party was formed. This was a time when we were trying to get oriented to go to the working class—to bring revolution to the working class—and somebody brought in this essay where Stalin said, we should go among the workers and be the best fighters for their immediate interests, and then they’ll see that we’re fine fellows and they’ll want to listen to us about our socialist and communist convictions.

This was extremely crude and was definitely a recipe for the economism that Lenin had polemicized against—the whole notion of reducing the struggle for socialism to something that supposedly evolved out of the daily struggles of the workers around their economic conditions—and it conformed more generally to the revisionist orientation that “The movement is everything, the final aim nothing.”

So, there was a reversal of some crucial principles that Lenin had fought for in What Is To Be Done? and other works. An ironic commentary, on how important Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? is, was made by Donald Rumsfeld during the course of the 2003 Iraq war, when he made an analogy, a very perverse analogy—he was talking about the reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces, and how “we” (the imperialists) should have stomped them out right away, and he made this analogy: Back at the time when Lenin published that little pamphlet What Is To Be Done?, if we had known then what it would lead to, we would have stomped it out right then. So, in a perverse way, that shows you the importance of “this little pamphlet” by Lenin and how serious it was that this was undermined to a significant degree after Lenin’s death, including in things directly done and led by Stalin.

One of the key things in What Is To Be Done? and one of the key things Lenin was fighting for overall—one of the key lines around which he’s attacked repeatedly—is the concept that, rather than just passively reacting to objective conditions, you should be actively “pushing on” them, actively seeking to transform them (“pushing on” is my phrase, not Lenin’s, but it does correspond to what he strongly emphasized). The accusation is made that all kinds of horrors started with Lenin because, instead of just letting the material conditions ripen more or less on their own and allowing the people to spontaneously arrive at what to do about those conditions, Lenin insisted that you need a vanguard to lead the masses, and a vanguard needs to bring communist ideas from “outside” the experience and spontaneous thinking of the masses—that you couldn’t just wait for the masses on their own to come to communist consciousness, with the idea that perhaps socialism could be achieved peacefully because there would eventually be so many people in favor of it that the bourgeoisie would just stand aside on the basis of the popular will. This is an intense attack on Lenin, and in particular Lenin’s What Is To Be Done?, that is made by all kinds of pseudo- and self-proclaimed “socialists,” as well as regular bourgeois forces. But Lenin was absolutely correct: You do need to “push on” objective conditions to move things toward the point where an actual communist revolution, to overthrow the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, becomes possible; you do need the organization of a vanguard force that brings the understanding of the need to do that to the masses of people and struggles with them to take that up.

And, in a real sense, in the new communism “What Is To Be Done-ism” has been “rescued” and “enriched.” Here again is the question, which I referred to earlier, of hastening while awaiting the emergence of a revolutionary situation. In this regard, I want to make reference to the first six paragraphs of Part 2 of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity,39 where important aspects of hastening while awaiting are discussed, including important discussion about the relation, the dialectical relation, between the objective and subjective factor—the objective factor being whatever the objective conditions are at any given time, including in their changingness, and the subjective factor referring, not to people who are subjective, in the sense of being emotional or half-cocked or something like that, but in the sense of the conscious subjects, the conscious forces, acting on the objective conditions. There, in those first six paragraphs of Part 2 of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, is important discussion of not only the dialectical relation between objective and subjective factors in a general sense but also, more particularly, the way that they can be transformed into each other.

What does that mean? It means that what’s out there in the world, especially as it’s correctly reflected in the minds of people, can become part of the consciousness of the subjective factor, the conscious forces, who can then act on the basis of that consciousness to advance the revolution. In that sense, the objective becomes transformed into the subjective. And the subjective can be transformed into the objective in the sense that, on the basis of an essentially correct reflection of reality, you can go out to change the objective conditions, and thereby what was subjective (what was part of your consciousness) interacts with and changes the objective conditions, and in that sense becomes part of them. So, rather than, “There are the objective conditions out there and all we can do is passively respond to them,” it is a matter of consciously setting out to continually transform those objective conditions in the direction toward revolution, on the basis of a scientific method and approach.

Another important point to briefly touch on here, in these first six paragraphs of Part 2 of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, is the fact that the conscious forces—the subjective factor in that sense—doesn’t just react on the objective situation in some abstract and unchanging, and sort of metaphysical, sense. There are objective factors that are constantly changing in the natural world—for example, look at something like Puerto Rico and what happened there with the hurricane and the aftermath of that (there are objective conditions that are constantly changing in that sense)—and then, as is emphasized in these six paragraphs, there is the constant interaction with the objective situation of other social forces, ultimately representing different class interests, all of whom are trying to operate on and transform the objective situation in line with how they perceive the interests that they represent. And there can be “unintended consequences” in what other class forces do that might actually lead things to become more favorable for revolution IF the communist forces correctly respond to that. So, it’s not just a matter of “OK, we have the objective conditions in some static unchanging sense, and we can ignore all the other social forces out there operating on those conditions and how that is influencing things.” The point is made, in opposition to that, that everything that’s going on with all these different forces—not just “the forces of nature” changing the objective situation, which they do in important ways that interact with social forces, but there are also all these different forces in society representing different class interests, ultimately and fundamentally, which are acting on the objective situation—at a certain point, all that can lead to a situation which you might not have been able to anticipate two months, (or perhaps even two weeks) before, which begins to head toward a revolutionary crisis—IF, once again, the revolutionaries, the conscious communist forces, on a constant basis and in a consistently scientific way, have been transforming the objective situation to the maximum degree possible in line with where things need to go to make possible the overthrow of this system.

This is not something aimless, or something in itself and by itself. There is a whole process that needs to go on of continually transforming the objective situation toward the goal of revolution, and accumulating more revolutionary forces at each point in that process, so that you’re hastening while awaiting, which means you’re actually changing the objective conditions. Pivotally within all this, you are changing the way people think, in response to those changes and in an overall sense: you’re struggling with them—not just ones and twos, here or there, but masses of people—to transform their thinking. Here is the importance of the slogan: Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. In this process, transforming the thinking of the people is pivotal and the key link overall. So, even as you’re uniting with people to fight against the outrages and abuses of this system, where many of the people don’t yet see the need for revolution, you’re struggling to transform their thinking in line with the objective need for revolution. And again, this process is not something aimless (in line with the revisionist notion that “The movement is everything, the final aim nothing”). No, it is a process aiming for, and building toward, something very specific: Revolution. This must be brought forward and popularized at every point in this process.

And then, as an important part of “Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism,” there is the principle of putting the problems of the revolution before the masses, while, at the same time, struggling with them to take up the outlook, methods, principles, and program of this revolution. Why is this important? It’s not because, in accordance with a tailist orientation, you think the masses are going to spontaneously have the answer to these problems. If they did already, then we would have a much easier time, we wouldn’t even need a vanguard, they could just make the revolution. So what is the point here? The point is involving the masses, with leadership and with struggle, in the process of identifying and solving the problems of the revolution, rather than a kind of opportunist approach of trying to hide from the masses the problems of the revolution or, with “political truth,” trying to convince them: “Everything’s really going great; all you need to do is get involved”—in which case they’re likely to say, “Well if everything’s going great, why should I get involved, it requires a lot of struggle and sacrifice—you’re doing great, go ahead, let me know when you’ve got everything lined up and then maybe I’ll get involved.” Correctly understood and applied, it is a very important principle that, in a fundamental and ultimate sense, revolution is made by the masses. That is not, and should not be taken as, a recipe for tailing the masses and their spontaneity. But they are the ones who have to make this revolution and they need to be involved, at every stage, in grappling with and contributing to the process of coming up with the means for struggling through and transforming the contradictions you face, the problems of the revolution, in order to make breakthroughs and advance. This is a very important principle and it’s something which should not be identified with tailing the masses and thinking that, in a reified sense, all wisdom resides in the masses and all you have to do is tell them what a problem is and they’ll immediately come up with the solution. It is a matter of involving them, in increasing numbers, on a scientifically-led basis, in the process of struggling to confront and transform the contradictions that have to be fought through on the road to making the revolution.

In connection with all this, I want to speak briefly to the separation of the communist movement from the labor movement. I referred to Lenin’s struggle with the economists of his time and the emphasis in What Is To Be Done? that socialism would not be brought about as the extension of the economic struggle of the workers, and reducing the struggle for socialism and communism to that would lead to the continuation of the situation in which the masses are chained within the existing system—the understanding, emphasized by Lenin, that the masses of people, proletarians and other oppressed people, will never gain communist consciousness just out of the immediate struggle with their employers and the struggle overall for their immediate needs, as important as those are. And, going back to what I said earlier about the development of capitalism into capitalist imperialism, and the changing of the class configuration in the imperialist countries, Lenin made the important analysis that, with capitalism’s development into capitalist imperialism, there was what he called a split in the working class, between certain sections that were more bourgeoisified—bribed, as he put it, from the spoils of imperialism and colonial depredation in what we now call the Third World—and those he referred to as the lower and deeper sections of the proletariat that remained intensely exploited and were the basis for an actual revolutionary movement. This represented an initial rupture of the communist movement from the labor movement—Lenin’s fight against economism and his recognition of a split in the working class in the imperialist countries.

And then, as the communist struggle shifted increasingly to the Third World for a period of time, particularly after World War 1, Mao developed a model in China of a peasant-based people’s war, which obviously was not based on the labor movement. In the early struggles in China, in the 1920s, they tried to base the communist movement in the labor struggles in the cities—and they were devastated and massacred by the ruling forces and their vicious repression. So, obviously, with this peasant-based people’s war there was a further separation of the communist movement from the labor movement.

To take this further, in terms of how it has been developed with the new communism, I want to repeat a formulation that I used one time to drive home this point about the separation of the communist movement from the labor movement. I said, we’re seeking to make “a proletarian revolution with a proletariat that does not exist!” Now, I was being deliberately provocative to drive home an essential point: Not that, in reality, there is not a proletariat, but this was a provocative way of saying that this movement is not going to be an extension of the labor movement, not going to be done with the economist vision of the working class fighting against its employers as the pivotal means for advancing to socialism, and it was not even going to be done by just going to the lower and deeper sections of the proletariat in a country like the U.S. and trying to overwhelmingly base the revolutionary movement there, although masses of people in that position in society obviously need to be involved in and play an important role in this revolution.

Clearly, there is in reality a proletariat, including in countries like the U.S.—there are masses of bitterly exploited wage-workers, within the U.S. itself and on an even greater scale internationally. But the point, and what I was getting at with this deliberately provocative statement, is this: The proletarian revolution will not, and cannot, come about as an extension of the struggle between wage-workers and their employers; the abolition of the rule of capitalism will not come about through some kind of general strike of labor; nor is it necessary, nor even likely, that the main fighting forces in the battle to overthrow the armed repressive force of the capitalist state (the bourgeois dictatorship) will come mainly from employed wage-workers, and it certainly will not come from among the better-paid and more bourgeoisified strata of the working class.

So, what are the backbone, or potential backbone, forces for revolution, particularly in a country like the U.S.? Well, they are the impoverished and bitterly oppressed and repressed masses who do exist in their tens of millions in this country; and this interpenetrates to a great degree with people among the oppressed nationalities, although it is not limited to that. We do have to recognize, at the same time, that there is a phenomenon among many of these masses of what could be called “deproletarianization”—people who were themselves formerly exploited as wage-workers (or the previous generations of whom were exploited in this way) but who now can’t even find themselves in that position (can’t find a job, to put it simply). This has been accompanied by a lot of what could be called “petit-bourgeoisification,” as well as “lumpen-bourgeoisification,” among sections of the oppressed masses—people who get into small-scale activity, which is essentially petit bourgeois in the sense that it involves small scale ownership and trading, and things like that, and people who are into the life of crime, including those who rise to fairly powerful and wealthy positions within that, even though their situation is often and generally very precarious.

There are these phenomena, and there is the phenomenon that in the realm of culture, for example, a certain, relatively small but influential, section of people has managed to rise from within these masses to basically a bourgeois position. The reason I refer to “lumpen- bourgeoisification” is that this includes people who have not only utilized the realm of culture but also in some cases the realm of crime to wrench out a position in which they become quite wealthy, and then they invest in lines of cosmetics and clothes, and so on—they become real bourgeois, even as many of them are part of an oppressed nation or people. And they have the corresponding outlook to a very significant degree. I won’t even talk right now about Kanye West! But, more generally, there’s the phenomenon where you are witnessing a profound silence on the part of many of these cultural figures and others on some of the burning issues for the masses today. Some may tweet about different things, but they don’t step out and take a strong stand in response—as a phenomenon there are many who do not step out and take a strong stand around glaring acts of oppression and injustice against the masses of people. And that’s because their position has changed. Not only is there a fairly significant “petit-bourgeoisifcation” among oppressed masses but there is also the “lumpen-bourgeoisification” that I referred to—and there is a culture which mirrors the extremely individualistic and acquisitive character of the dominant culture as a whole.

There is the phenomenon of what could be called “Reaganism among the masses of people,” the whole “ethos” that came in with Reagan in the 1980s, this extreme individualism—and not just individualism in the abstract, but one that is posed in terms of antagonism toward everybody else: “You can’t trust anybody else; nobody else cares about you; you gotta get over on other people before they get over on you.” To a significant degree, this has become a model for the masses, even though (once again going back to Marx’s statement in the Grundrisse) in their masses they are totally incapable of following this path, only a few can do that. In fact, there are millions of talented people in sports, in the arts, and so on, but only a tiny number of them can ever rise to a position of wealth and prominence. Nevertheless, this is held up as a model. Not only is this held up as a way out for people, it is more generally upheld as a model for people to follow and a way that people should think and conduct themselves. This does pose a real problem—and, more than that, it is an acute expression of a much larger problem in terms of the prevailing culture that has to be struggled against. People’s thinking in this regard has to be radically transformed.

At the same time, with all this, there is the poverty and immiseration, and the relentless injustice and oppression, to which masses of people are continually subjected and which, to go back once again to Marx in the Grundrisse, they have no way out of other than by overthrowing the system. Even short of revolution, all this to which they are continually subjected causes people to rise up against the system and its outrages, and provides a powerful part of the objective basis for masses, particularly (though not only) those who catch the worst hell under this system, to be won to, and to play a decisive role in, the revolution that is required to meet what are in fact their fundamental needs and interests. But this will require a tremendous amount of ideological struggle, transforming the thinking of masses of people, while uniting with them in fighting the oppressive powers-that-be, winning them to become, not people out for revenge and out for themselves, but emancipators of humanity, and in this way to act as backbone forces for the proletarian-communist revolution.

As I indicated, this is closely intertwined with the fight to abolish the oppression of Black people and other oppressed nationalities within the U.S. and the whole question of the relation between national liberation and proletarian revolution, particularly in a country like the U.S., which is spoken to in THE NEW COMMUNISM and is addressed, concretely and in an overall strategic sense, in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.40

At the same time as there are these basic forces for revolution, suffering in this way, who have to be won to this revolution through a tremendous amount of struggle, in which transforming their thinking is pivotal, there is a need for a broader united front, with the leadership of the proletariat—not in the reified sense of individual proletarians representing the essence of this leadership, but in the sense of what are the fundamental interests of the proletariat as a class and, going back to Marx, the fact that the proletariat can only emancipate itself by emancipating all humanity, by eliminating oppression and exploitation throughout the world with the achievement of communism. Being based on that understanding, and proceeding in that way, is what is meant by the leadership of the proletariat. And what is in the fundamental interests of the proletariat, and required for the revolution to realize those fundamental interests, is bringing into the revolutionary process as many forces as possible from the broader ranks of society, and continually struggling to win people to the revolutionary communist position. It is matter of bringing forward those who catch the worst hell under this system, but also—and fundamentally by bringing them forward—working at the same time to bring forward all different strata of the people, including in particular youth and students, who constitute a crucial force that has an important role in this revolutionary process.

This requires a scientific, dialectical materialist approach to the situation and spontaneous sentiments and inclinations not only of the basic masses who can and must be brought forward as the backbone and driving force of this revolutionary process, but also of the middle class in this country, and the different strata within this middle class, whose situation is significantly different than it was 50, or even 20, years ago. It requires a living and constantly deepening understanding of the material position and outlook—the conditions of life and spontaneous thinking—of these different sections of the people and how to carry out the necessary struggle to bring about a profound change in the outlook and values of large and growing numbers of them, winning them to active and increasingly conscious involvement in the revolutionary process whose final aim is the abolition of all relations of exploitation and oppression, all antagonistic relations among human beings everywhere, and all the agony and anguish that is bound up with those relations.

All this—the whole ensemble of “Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism”—involves a fundamental rupture with economism in all the different dimensions in which I’ve spoken to this. And one of the ways in which this gets crucially expressed is in regard to the oppression of women and the struggle for the emancipation of women. There has been a strain in the communist movement to reduce this, once again, to merely an economic question—to where the struggle against the oppression of women is reduced to just changing the economic system. And there has also been a way in which this has been posed in antagonistic relation to the struggle against national oppression. For example, in the 1960s there was a very influential line, in a negative sense, that insisted that, with regard to Black people, you couldn’t bring up the oppression of women, because Black men have been so viciously oppressed, which of course is true. But, first of all, what about Black women and all the horrendous ways in which they’ve been oppressed throughout the history of this country and down to the present? And even more fundamentally, what about the emancipation of humanity as a whole? What about transforming all of those “4 Alls,” including that profound social relation which has been woven into class society, has been interconnected with class oppression from the very beginning of the division of society into oppressors and oppressed, namely the oppressed status of women?

There have been economist and nationalist tendencies, even in the name of communism at times, which have downgraded the importance of the struggle for the emancipation of women. And with the new communism, one of its key pillars is recognizing the pivotal and essential role of the struggle to emancipate women and its interconnection with and its decisive role in the overall process of abolishing all oppression and exploitation. Closely interconnected with this is the radical break that the new communism has made with the previous history of the communist movement in regard to sexual orientation and traditional gender relations. While, on the one hand, and principally, the communist movement historically made crucial breakthroughs in scientifically analyzing the origins of the oppression of women, the basis for its final abolition, and the relation of this to the overall development of human society and the struggle to abolish all relations of exploitation and oppression—notably in the seminal work by Engels The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State—at the same time there has been a secondary, but significant, influence within communism of patriarchy which, among other things, has been manifested in a negative orientation toward sexual orientation and gender relations which are in conflict with traditional gender relations—something which those of us who became revolutionary communists out of the upsurge of the 1960s “inherited” from the existing communist movement and traditions and carried forward for a time—too long a time—and which was finally broken with as one important dimension of the development of the new communism. In breaking with this, the approach of the new communism has not been to tail identity politics and attendant relativist and other unscientific methods and approaches, including populist epistemology, but to apply a scientific method and approach to the study of human sexuality and gender relations, throughout history as well as in contemporary society, including by learning from and drawing from the work of others whose outlook and approach are not communist but who have nevertheless done important work in regard to these crucial questions and whose position on this has been more in line with reality than what has been the traditional position of the communist movement. The result of all this is a scientific synthesis which is presented in a concentrated way in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, which emphasizes that the goal is not just equality between men and women, but:

to overcome all “tradition’s chains” embodied in traditional gender roles and divisions, and all the oppressive relations bound up with this, in every sphere of society, and to enable women, as fully as men, to take part in and contribute to every aspect of the struggle to transform society, and the world, in order to uproot and abolish all relations of oppression and exploitation and emancipate humanity as a whole.41

It needs to be understood in relation to the emancipation of women and overcoming all oppression bound up with traditional gender relations, as well as in an overall sense, that only if you’re proceeding from the communist viewpoint, with the scientifically-established recognition of the need to achieve the “4 Alls”—only then are you going to be able to overcome the divisions and potential antagonisms among and between different sections of the people, and only then are you going to be able to bring to the fore all the various elements of the necessary struggle for revolution, as represented to a significant degree in those “5 STOPS.” Nothing less than that will make it possible to fully overcome the divisions that exist spontaneously and are constantly fostered by the workings of the system objectively and by the conscious actions of its representatives of various kinds. The ruling class repeatedly seeks to pit different sections of the people against each other and, contrary to the illusions of “intersectionality,” the ruling class has many powerful ways to do that if you’re not proceeding from the point of view of the emancipation of humanity as a whole.

There is a whole history of different sections of the people being pitted against each other. You have the egregious example of the Buffalo Soldiers after the Civil War—Black soldiers who fought to put down and kill off the Native Americans and steal their land—while in the Civil War, among the different Native American peoples, there were some who sided with the northern Union while others sided with the southern Confederacy, based on their narrow perception of their immediate interests. Only coming from the point of view of communism can you unify the masses of people to overcome every manifestation of oppression and achieve the “4 Alls.” This is crucial in an overall sense and it becomes particularly acute around the woman question, because there is a continual tendency, including in the communist movement, to subordinate this, or not to fully give expression to it, in the perceived interests of the moment, and with the narrow, economist outlook regarding what should constitute the working class movement or the communist movement. So, a very important component of the new communism is the recognition of the need to give the fullest expression to the struggle for the emancipation of women and its critical and pivotal role in relation to the overall struggle for the “4 Alls.”

Building on what was discussed earlier in regard to democracy, and its character and role under different systems and with the dictatorship of different classes, there is (as I have put it in the title of a book) the need to “do better” than democracy. This is one of the key elements and also one of the most controversial and often attacked elements of the new communism, for reasons one can well imagine. Once again, there is Mao’s important emphasis on the fact that democracy is part of the superstructure. With the new communism this has been further developed to systematize the understanding that going beyond class divisions and class rule (class dictatorship) also involves going beyond “democracy.” (I will speak to this further shortly, particularly in the context of discussing the question of leadership, and the development of the communist understanding of the character and role of the vanguard party, both before and after the seizure of power and the establishment of the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.)


Notes

35. Revolutionary Communist Party, “Six Resolutions of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA–January 1, 2016.” Available at revcom.us. [back]

36. Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, “HOW WE CAN WIN, How We Can Really Make Revolution,” Revolution #457, September 19, 2016. Available at revcom.us. [back]

37. Bob Avakian, “Why We Need An Actual Revolution, And How We Can Really Make Revolution.” Film of a speech given in 2018. Available at revcom.us and thebobavakianinstitute.org. [back]

38. Revolutionary Communist Organization, Mexico (OCR), “Communism or Nationalism?,” Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic, Issue Number 4, Winter 2015. Available at demarcations-journal.org and revcom.us. [back]

39. Avakian, Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part 2: “Everything We’re Doing Is About Revolution” begins with the following six paragraphs:

“Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism”

Hastening while awaiting—not bowing down to necessity

Next I want to talk about “Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism” and its role in building a revolutionary and communist movement. I want to begin by reviewing some important points relating to the whole orientation and strategic approach of “hastening while awaiting” the development of a revolutionary situation in a country like the U.S.

I spoke earlier about the outlook and approach of revisionist “determinist realism”*** which, among other things, involves a passive approach to objective reality (or necessity), which sees the objective factor as purely objective—and purely “external,” if you will—and doesn’t grasp the living dialectical relation between the objective and subjective factors and the ability of the latter (the subjective factor—the conscious actions of people) to react back on and to transform the former (the objective factor—the objective conditions). In other words, this “determinist realism” doesn’t grasp the essential orientation, and possibility, of transforming necessity into freedom. It doesn’t really, or fully, grasp the contradictoriness of all of reality, including the necessity that one is confronted with at any given time. So, one of the essential features of “determinist realism” is that it dismisses as “voluntarism” any dialectical grasp of the relation between the subjective and objective factors, and sees things in very linear, undifferentiated ways, as essentially uniform and without contradiction, rather than in a living and dynamic and moving and changing way.

Of course, it is necessary not to fall into voluntarism. There are many different ways in which such voluntarism can be expressed, leading to various kinds of (usually “ultra-left”) errors and deviations, if you will—including in the form of giving in to infantilist or adventurist impulses—all of which is also extremely harmful. But—particularly in a protracted or prolonged situation in which the objective conditions for revolution (that is, for the all-out struggle to seize power) have not yet emerged—by far the much greater danger, and one that is reinforced by this objective situation, is this kind of determinist realism which doesn’t grasp correctly the dialectical relation between the objective and subjective factors, and sees them in static, undialectical, and unchanging terms.

It is true that we cannot, by our mere will, or even merely by our actions themselves, transform the objective conditions in a qualitative sense—into a revolutionary situation. This cannot be done merely by our operating on, or reacting back on, the objective conditions through our conscious initiative. On the other hand, once again a phrase from Lenin has important application here. With regard to the labor aristocracy—the sections of the working class in imperialist countries which are, to no small extent, bribed from the spoils of imperialist exploitation and plunder throughout the world, and particularly in the colonies—Lenin made the point that nobody can say with certainty where these more “bourgeoisified” sections of the working class are going to line up in the event of the revolution—which parts of them are going to be with the revolution when the ultimate showdown comes, and which are going to go with the counter-revolution—nobody can say exactly how that is going to fall out, Lenin insisted. And applying this same principle, we can say that nobody can say exactly what the conscious initiative of the revolutionaries might be capable of producing, in reacting upon the objective situation at any given time—in part because nobody can predict all the other things that all the different forces in the world will be doing. Nobody’s understanding can encompass all that at a given time. We can identify trends and patterns, but there is the role of accident as well as the role of causality. And there is the fact that, although changes in what’s objective for us won’t come entirely, or perhaps not even mainly, through our “working on” the objective conditions (in some direct, one-to-one sense), nevertheless our “working on” them can bring about certain changes within a given framework of objective conditions and—in conjunction with and as part of a “mix,” together with many other elements, including other forces acting on the objective situation from their own viewpoints—this can, under certain circumstances, be part of the coming together of factors which does result in a qualitative change. And, again, it is important to emphasize that nobody can know exactly how all that will work out.

Revolution is not made by “formulas,” or by acting in accordance with stereotypical notions and preconceptions—it is a much more living, rich, and complex process than that. But it is an essential characteristic of revisionism (phony communism which has replaced a revolutionary orientation with a gradualist, and ultimately reformist one) to decide and declare that until some deus ex machina—some god-like EXTERNAL FACTOR—intervenes, there can be no essential change in the objective conditions and the most we can do, at any point, is to accept the given framework and work within it, rather than (as we have very correctly formulated it) constantly straining against the limits of the objective framework and seeking to transform the objective conditions to the maximum degree possible at any given time, always being tense to the possibility of different things coming together which bring about (or make possible the bringing about of) an actual qualitative rupture and leap in the objective situation.

So that is a point of basic orientation in terms of applying materialism, and dialectics, in hastening while awaiting the emergence of a revolutionary situation. It’s not just that, in some abstract moral sense, it’s better to hasten than just await—though, of course, it is—but this has to do with a dynamic understanding of the motion and development of material reality and the interpenetration of different contradictions, and the truth that, as Lenin emphasized, all boundaries in nature and society, while real, are conditional and relative, not absolute. (Mao also emphasized this same basic principle in pointing out that, since the range of things is vast and things are interconnected, what’s universal in one context is particular in another.) The application of this principle to what is being discussed here underlines that it is only relatively, and not absolutely, that the objective conditions are “objective” for us—they are, but not in absolute terms. And, along with this, what is external to a given situation can become internal, as a result of the motion—and changes that are brought about through the motion—of contradictions. So, if you are looking at things only in a linear way, then you only see the possibilities that are straight ahead—you have a kind of blinders on. On the other hand, if you have a correct, dialectical materialist approach, you recognize that many things can happen that are unanticipated, and you have to be constantly tense to that possibility while consistently working to transform necessity into freedom. So, again, that is a basic point of orientation.

***The subject of “determinist realism” is spoken to in Part 1: “Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right”—available at revcom.us and the bobavakianinstitute.org—and, in the serialization of Part 1, is found in “Marxism as a Science—In Opposition to Mechanical Materialism, Idealism and Religiosity,” in Revolution #109, Nov. 18, 2007. [back]

40. Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). Authored by Bob Avakian, and adopted by the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, 2010 (RCP Publications, 2010). Also available at revcom.us and thebobavakianinstitute.org. [back]

41. Ibid., p. 6. [back]