Revolution #188, January 10. 2010
EDITED TRANSCRIPT OF A TALK BY BOB AVAKIAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST PARTY, USA, FALL 2009
UNRESOLVED CONTRADICTIONS, DRIVING FORCES FOR REVOLUTION
[Editors' note: The following is the fifth in a series of excerpts from the text of a talk by Bob Avakian in Fall 2009, which is being serialized in Revolution. The first four excerpts appeared in Revolution #184, #185, #186, and #187. The entire talk can be found online at revcom.us/avakian/driving.]
Resistance and Building a Movement for Revolution
This brings us to the question of meaningful revolutionary work. This has been touched on in other works, including most recently "Ruminations and Wranglings,"1 and here I just want to emphasize a few basic points. The whole orientation that's concentrated in the formulation "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" is a key part of repolarizing forces in society and, in particular, bringing forward that force that can actually be the bedrock basis for revolution.
Without bringing forward a significant force from among that social base, it is not going to be possible to achieve repolarization, in anything like the full dimension necessary. In particular, without a significant force of basic masses who are rising up in resistance and increasingly taking up a revolutionary communist orientation, it is not going to be possible to win, on the correct and necessary basis, people broadly from among the middle strata, including the many who are horrified by what is represented by these fascist forces and beyond that are also, to a significant degree, horrified by many of the crimes that are carried out by this system—whether it's torture, or wars of aggression, or the oppression of women, or police brutality and murder and other ways in which Black people, Native peoples, Latinos and immigrants are oppressed under this system—but who are paralyzed in terms of acting against this for reasons that I pointed to earlier.
Without being crude about this, the fact is that while we have to work among and win forces from among these middle strata by carrying out penetrating and compelling exposure of this system and bringing forward policies and programs that can lead people in opposing these outrages that they do abhor, and by struggling with them ideologically to move in this direction, it is not going to be possible to do even that on the scale that is necessary unless, to use a metaphor—and let me underline that this is a metaphor—unless a fire is lit, politically and ideologically, underneath them by bringing forward a force of people for whom the idea of upheaval and chaos is not some dreaded prospect that they seek to avoid, almost at all costs, but something that is much more a part of their daily lives, even while it is true that in the course of resisting the crimes of this system and building a movement toward the goal of revolution, people will come up against the fact that the ruling class will seek to make them pay an even greater price for standing up than what the daily grind and the daily oppression of the system subjects people to. Pursuing the metaphor, it will be necessary, and critical, to light such a "fire"—one which inspires people broadly, including among the middle strata, when they see those who are much more oppressed and exploited standing up and in fact fighting the power and transforming themselves and others toward the goal of revolution, as happened on a very broad scale, for example, in this country in the 1960s. So this is not a negative thing when I use the metaphor of lighting a fire, but overwhelmingly a positive thing.
Very much related to this is the point that is brought out very boldly in the statement of our party—"The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have": "The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world... when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness... those days must be GONE. And they CAN be." As that statement also makes clear, now is not yet the time, the conditions do not yet exist, to go all out to seize power, but "now IS the time to be WORKING FOR REVOLUTION—to be stepping up resistance while building a movement for revolution—to prepare for the time when it WILL be possible to go all out to seize the power."
So I want to underscore again the importance of this whole orientation—and of giving life to this, mobilizing masses of people around the orientation of "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution." But this, at the same time, has to be understood and approached in the context of all-around work to build a movement for revolution. As we have repeatedly emphasized, and is emphasized again in the statement of our party, what is called for is not just sitting around waiting for a revolution to somehow happen "one fine day," but "hastening while awaiting" the development of a revolutionary situation and the emergence of a revolutionary people in the millions and millions.
All this is encapsulated in the formulation "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism": building on and further developing and strengthening the basic orientation that Lenin stressed in his classical work, What Is To Be Done?, where he emphasized that the role and orientation of a communist is not to be a trade union secretary—in other words, not to focus on fighting for reforms within this system—but acting on, and bringing to life for masses of people, the understanding that only through the abolition of this system and the bringing into being of a whole new system can the real and fundamental interests of the people, in their masses, actually come to fruition, actually be realized. Or, as Lenin put it, the goal of a communist is to be a tribune of the people.
What is involved in "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism" is sharply and scientifically exposing the system, bringing to light the causes and reasons for the oppression that different sections of the people suffer and the outrages that masses of people detest; showing, in a living way, how all this is rooted in and has as its source the system of capitalism-imperialism, which perpetuates and enforces this on a daily basis and in horrific dimensions; illustrating, through the application of a scientific, dialectical materialist method, how different sections of the people tend to respond to different events in society and the world, and how this relates to their position within the overall production and social relations; bringing forward and setting before all, and boldly struggling for, our revolutionary and communist orientation and convictions; and mobilizing people, yes, to fight back against oppression but to do so on the basis and with the orientation and aim of building a movement for revolution, toward the goal of sweeping aside the capitalist-imperialist system, bringing into being a new, socialist system and continuing to advance, together with people struggling throughout the world, toward the final goal of communism; and setting before the masses of people not only the goals of the revolution and the basic strategy for making revolution, as embodied in the line and policies of the party, but also the problems of making revolution, involving growing numbers of the masses in grappling with and helping to resolve these contradictions in the direction of revolution and communism.
All this is discussed in greater length in the pamphlet, Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, is presented in a concentrated way in the Constitution2 of our Party and spoken to in some other works, so I'm not going to go into this at greater length here. But I do want to emphasize the importance of this understanding: On the one hand, without resistance, without fighting the power, it will not be possible to build a revolutionary movement; on the other hand, if that resistance is not approached, on the part of communists, with the orientation of building a movement for revolution and the goal of sweeping away this capitalist system and bringing into being a radically new society and world, then that resistance will be reduced to the equivalent of being on a treadmill, leading to no fundamental change, and before long most of the people involved will become demoralized and fall into passively accepting, once again, their oppression and the overall outrages perpetrated by this system, or turning against each other and fighting over crumbs, as we've seen the system succeed in getting people to do over and over again.
Even while others we unite with in particular struggles will proceed from different perspectives, we have to proceed in everything we do with the understanding and from the standpoint that is concentrated in the formulation: "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution."
1. "Ruminations and Wranglings: On the Importance of Marxist Materialism, Communism as a Science, Meaningful Revolutionary Work, and a Life with Meaning," a talk by Bob Avakian in early 2009, is also available, in its entirety, online at revcom.us, and was serialized in Revolution, beginning in issue #163 (May 1, 2009) and continuing in issues #164-67, #169, #171-75, and #177. [back]
2. Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, A Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008. Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2008. [back]