Revolution #162, April 19, 2009

What is communist leadership?

Excerpt from:
On the Importance of Marxist Materialism, Communism as a Science, Meaningful Revolutionary Work, and a Life with Meaning

[Editors’ note: The following is an excerpt from a talk by Bob Avakian, earlier this year. Click here for the text of the entire talk.]

There is a great deal of misunderstanding and confusion about the question of communist leadership, confusion which is bound up to a large degree with misconceptions about—and in some ways opposition to—the principles and objectives of communist revolution itself. Leadership—and in particular communist leadership—is, as I have been speaking to, concentrated in line. This does not simply mean line as theoretical abstractions, although such abstractions, especially insofar as they do correctly reflect reality and its motion and development, are extremely important. But in an all-around sense, it is a matter of leadership as expressed in the ability to continually make essentially correct theoretical abstractions; to formulate, to wield, and to lead others to take up and act on—and to themselves take initiative in wielding—the outlook and method, and the strategy, program, and policies, necessary to radically transform the world through revolution toward the final aim of communism; and through this process to continually enable others one is leading to themselves increasingly develop their ability to do all this. This is the essence of communist leadership.

It is not a matter of being physically present among this or that group of the masses. I have read reports which recount how people say: "How do we know Avakian really is everything you say he is, why can't we talk to him—how can we tell if he's really all that, if we're not able to see him, or if he's not right out here in our midst?" Among other things, this reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what communist leadership is and of the practical realities as well as the strategic orientation involved in building a movement for revolution. We are aiming to build a revolutionary movement of millions, toward the goal of actually taking hold of the reins of society and radically transforming it, when the conditions for that have come into being. As much as it is genuinely a great thing to be able to talk to masses, and to learn from them as well as to struggle with them, is it really conceivable that a leader (or any number of leaders, for that matter) of such a revolutionary process, and of the party leading that revolution, could mingle among and talk personally with all those millions of people who must ultimately make up the ranks of the revolution? If we were just thinking in terms of small little circles, and we were not really thinking about transforming society and ultimately the world as a whole, well then, OK, maybe it would be a realistic thing to demand that the small numbers of people who would then be involved be able to have personal contact ("face time") with the leader of that. In that case, however, who cares—it wouldn't have anything to do with what we are supposed to be, and really must be, all about: making revolution and advancing toward the final goal of communism throughout the world. If we are really thinking about millions of people being involved—and, yes, being led—and at the same time learning from those millions of people, and synthesizing all this in a scientific way, in the service of the kind of revolution that is actually needed, then we have to understand that communist leadership means something radically different from notions of direct, one-to-one contact between leadership and all the masses of people who must be involved in that.

The following (an excerpt from the talk last year, "Out Into the World—As a Vanguard of the Future," which was recently published in Revolution) touches on important aspects of this:

"First, the purpose of my writings and talks, and indeed of everything I do as a communist leader, is to apply the outlook and method of dialectical materialism to continue developing a scientific understanding of the world and to provide leadership in radically transforming it toward the goal of revolution and the final aim of communism.

"In this connection, while I should, and do, hold myself to a very high standard in terms of intellectual integrity and rigor, and while I respect those who apply the same standards in the realm of academic work, my purpose and approach is not the same as academic scholars who do not play the role of communist leaders. My responsibility, in my particular leadership role, involves (although it is not limited to) addressing the most fundamental contradictions and the most pressing problems in relation to actually making revolution and advancing toward the final goal of communism, and giving leadership to others in doing so. One aspect of this is to continually make, and popularize, an analysis and assessment of the ever changing 'political terrain'—the objective conditions and the role of different political and social forces in relation to those objective conditions. Another key dimension of this is to speak to the questions on the minds of proletarians and other basic masses, as well as people of other strata, particularly with regard to things that may weigh on them and pose obstacles in relation to their seeing both the necessity and the possibility of communist revolution, and acting on that understanding—questions which most academics largely ignore and which many are frankly ignorant of. In a larger sense, with regard to theory and intellectual work, my particular role is not only to strive myself to meet the pressing and profound needs in the realm of developing theory, line and strategic orientation, to serve the goal of revolution and the ultimate aim of communism, but also to inspire—and, yes, to provoke—others in this regard and more generally in terms of taking initiative in working with ideas and wrangling in the realm of theory, broadly speaking; to help provide a continually deepening foundation and developing framework for those seeking to apply the outlook and method of communism to engage in theoretical and analytical work, covering a broad range of fields; and to challenge others, beyond the ranks of communists, to seriously engage with such a communist method and approach and the theory and analysis that results from the application of that method and approach." ("On The Role Of Communist Leadership And Some Basic Questions Of Orientation, Approach And Method, in Revolution no. 156, February 15, 2009, emphasis in original)

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