Revolution #184, November 29, 2009
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 eighth 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 seven excerpts appeared in Revolution #184, #185, #186, #187, #188, #189 and #190. The entire talk can be found online at revcom.us/avakian/driving.]
II. (Some Observations on) The International Movement
To begin, I want to re-emphasize a point which is by no means an exaggeration and certainly not hyperbole: the communist movement in the world at this juncture is truly at a crossroads, with the stakes really being "vanguard of the future, or residue of the past." We have to be fully aware of this in all we do—fully recognize the reality and implications of this and act accordingly, including with regard to our internationalist responsibilities. So I want to speak briefly to a few points with that understanding and in that framework.
Repolarization Through Struggle
The task with regard to the existing communist forces in the world, particularly the organized communist forces, is, again, one of repolarization through struggle. The question of whether there are going to be organized forces in the world which are, in fact, basing themselves on communism in its most advanced expression is one that is going to be determined through struggle; the only way there is going to be a positive resolution is in fact through very systematic and determined ideological struggle on the part of those who do adhere to this communist viewpoint, and we have to find the best and most appropriate forms for that struggle to be waged.
At the same time, there is another significant dimension to the forging of the communist movement on this basis, which is bringing forward and winning to revolutionary communism new forces, people who are not at present affiliated with or organized into a particular communist grouping in this or that country, and people who may not even at the present time be advocates of or won to communism.
Both these aspects—both repolarization of the existing communist forces and the winning to communism of new forces—present themselves as important challenges in the context of the framework which I began this discussion with—that the communist movement, without any hyperbole or any exaggeration, is truly at a crossroads and the stakes really are vanguard of the future, or residue of the past. This is not just some abstract formulation, not just some moral injunction nor still less some sectarian concern of a few vestigial forces left over from the high tide of the 1960s revolutionary upsurge. It is a matter of profound importance for the masses of people in the world. If you think back to what was being discussed in terms of the "two historically outmodeds"—that whole dynamic and the logic and momentum of that, and the overall trajectory of things in the world now, which offers no way out for the masses of people other than being shackled more deeply within the confines of this horrific world as it is—you can understand why the question of whether there is going to be a vanguard of the future, or only a residue of the past, is truly a world-historic challenge, one which we have to confront and meet.
In this dimension too—the "shifting of allegiance" of a section of the intelligentsia
There are particular parts of the world where the absence of communist forces especially stands out, but on the world scale as a whole this is a very stark phenomenon—the lack of, or the real weakness of, the communist forces, and the struggle between communism and revisionism within the communist movement, as well as the need to reach out to, to influence and to draw toward communism, new forces. Now, with regard to the aspect of bringing forward and winning to revolutionary communism new forces, there is once again a particular importance to people among the intelligentsia. There is the necessity for the shifting of allegiance, the winning over to revolutionary communism, of even a small—but nonetheless in today's context, a significant—force among the intelligentsia.
Here it is important to recall and apply to this situation and this challenge Lenin's point on "masses" and "masses." Lenin emphasized that the definition and meaning of "masses" differs according to differing objective situations. At certain points, when the objective and subjective factors are not particularly developed, in terms of favoring revolution—when the communist forces are weak, when there is not a great deal of revolutionary upheaval more broadly in society and in the world—the term "masses" can legitimately apply to even a few score or a few hundred people. In periods when there is massive social upheaval, and particularly when society as a whole is convulsed in a profound crisis, "masses" means not only thousands but hundreds of thousands and millions.
It is important not to have a static or metaphysical understanding of "masses," as a category that always constitutes a majority, or in any case a very large part, of society. It can be meaningful to speak of "masses" in terms of scores of people in a certain context, and specifically in terms of the disproportionate—and in this case disproportionately positive—influence that can be exerted by a small core of intellectuals, even a few score, or certainly a few hundred, in the world today who are won to, and become ardent and active advocates and fighters for, communism. Winning over a core of such people at this point, both within a particular country such as the U.S., but also on an international level, is an extremely important challenge that has to be taken up.
The New Synthesis as the Basis, with the Manifesto Pivotal
In all this, it is important to grasp that the New Synthesis is the basis on which the struggle must be waged and the basic framework within which people must be won to communism. At the same time, the Manifesto of our party, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, is pivotal in this. The Manifesto includes a concentrated presentation of the New Synthesis. Of course, the New Synthesis is addressed in other works,1 and there is the larger body of work of communist theory, as it has been developed up to the present. But within all this, this formulation is important: The New Synthesis is the basis and the Manifesto is pivotal.
Here, again, we can see the tremendous importance of polemics—and in particular a crucial role for Demarcations, beginning with the very important and substantive polemic against the political philosophy of Alain Badiou—in relation both to repolarization of existing communist forces and winning new forces. This is important not only within the U.S. itself, but has much broader application and importance in the international dimension, as a key aspect of repolarizing forces around revolutionary communism in its most advanced expression.
1. For a discussion of the New Synthesis, in addition to the Manifesto (Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, Revolution #143, September 21, 2008, also available online at revcom.us) see "What IS Bob Avakian's New Synthesis?"—which is serialized in Revolution newspaper, beginning with issue #129 (May 18, 2008) and continuing through issue #133, and is available in its entirety online at revcom.us—and "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity," a talk by Bob Avakian, also available in its entirety (Parts 1 and 2) online at revcom.us and serialized in Revolution newspaper, beginning with issue #105 (October 21, 2007) and continuing through issue #120. ("Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity" is also included in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008.) [back]