Revolution #216, November 14, 2010
Revolution Newspaper...and Making Revolution For Real
The following speech was given at Revolution Books stores this fall. It has been edited for publication.
The Revolutionary Communist Party is building a movement for revolution—we are hastening and awaiting, preparing minds and organizing forces to be able to seize on a revolutionary crisis when it does break out. We have a strategy to do that, and we have strategic thinking on how to make sure that the people can win... And there’s a whole lot that goes into that.
Central to all of this right now is the campaign the Party has undertaken pivoting on the statement it issued, “The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have,” with its three goals: to really put revolution on the map in a societal way; to make Bob Avakian a household word—someone referenced, debated, deeply engaged, and broadly known about; and to bring forward and train a growing core that is consciously and actively taking up this revolution and taking it out and fighting for it everywhere. Taken together, these goals are aimed at putting this revolution in a whole greater position to fight its way forward in a world undergoing profound changes, potential openings, and tremendous and pressing need for revolution.
But today I am going to be focusing on a specific part of this whole ensemble, actually the central hub and pivot of the whole revolutionary movement, and of the campaign I just mentioned... something we don’t talk about nearly enough or often enough, something that people don’t have nearly a scientific enough understanding of and something that the movement for revolution that the RCP is building is still not making a big enough deal about or taking full enough advantage of—and that is the revolutionary newspaper, Revolution.
Bob Avakian and the RCP have spoken repeatedly to what goes into a revolutionary situation—what kinds of conditions must come together and how this will be far from simple and predictable, but rather full of complexity, different levels and layers of developments in the world and among the people and many contradictory dynamics. Attempting to repeat all that now is beyond the scope of today’s talk, but here I will say just a few things.
How Revolutionary Situations Emerge
If you think that revolutions come about because people get more and more oppressed, more and more fucked over, and out of that grows more and more outrage, resistance, protest, and rebellion until finally people “just can’t take it any more” and then there is a revolution... you are wrong. There have been countless examples of times when great crimes against the people were met with quiet acquiescence... or, on other hand, when rebellions and upheavals have occurred when things were far from “their worst.” If you look out at the terrain today and say, man, people are so caught up in empty consumerism, in god or gossip, they won’t even resist torture... they will NEVER wake up to the world around them—you are wrong.
Sure, there’s an overabundance of backwardness among the American people—but there are also strains against this, strivings in a different direction, and there are times, especially when there are shocks and jolts in the world, when people in great numbers have been sprung into motion in resistance and defiance. No one can say when or how exactly things might develop, but when powerful rebellions, major crises and major upsurges have occurred—things like the U.S. during the 1960s or Iran in the last year and a half—they erupted out of a whole host of contradictions that had been intensifying for a while, but not all on the surface and not in linear ways. None of them grew gradually out of more and more resistance building up over time, and it certainly didn’t grow mainly out of the “good organizing” efforts of activists.
Societies leap into revolutionary crisis. These crises emerge out of contradictions that existed beforehand, but were largely buried and suppressed. That’s why a reactionary New York Times columnist like David Brooks, when writing about the upsurge of resistance following the last election in Iran, picked up on something written by Michael McFaul of the National Security Council, that: “In retrospect, all revolutions seem inevitable. Beforehand, all revolutions seem impossible.”
Now, part of the work of revolutionaries—and this is one of the functions of the revolutionary newspaper, as I will be discussing more fully later—is to be identifying, analyzing, and going to work to shape the development of these contradictions that could lead to a revolutionary situation, but even with that no one can predict exactly what contradiction, or combination of contradictions, will develop into the kind of crisis necessary to make revolution—and in many ways, even for those who have been looking for it and certainly for those who haven’t been, it will seem to “come out of nowhere.”
What Will Be Required in Such a Crisis?
But once that crisis has broken out, the question will be posed—is there an organization, a party, with a scientific understanding of the need for—and the strategy to make—revolution? Has it been trained and tempered over a whole period of time leading up to that crisis, through entering into and pushing forward the struggle of the masses, working to divert the spontaneity of that struggle into a revolutionary movement and a revolutionary people? Has this party been built over a whole period of time in such a way as to preserve its privacy and organizational integrity?
Does this party have deep roots and organized ties among all sections of society, but with its deepest roots among those who catch hell every day? Does this revolutionary movement have experience in—and is it organized and oriented in such a way as to be able to make leaps in—reaching out to and influencing, bringing forward and organizing, growing numbers of people—millions upon millions—as they are sprung into political life and looking for guidance on “how to live and how to die”?
Is there a broader mass that have been being influenced by this movement for revolution, over a whole period of time, so that they gravitate towards a revolutionary pole—or at least know of its existence and where to turn when things are really breaking loose? Has this party—through its direct work as well as through its broader influence on all these sections of people, and their interaction with and influence on each other—been helping to shape the way people are lining up, how they are seeing different faultline questions in society, like the role of women, or immigrants, or the role of the police and the imperialist wars? Is there, in other words, a contending revolutionary polarization on these and other questions, that people know about and are broadly considering and being influenced by?
The Role of the Paper
All of this relates to whether the sharp contradictions brought about by this system will actually develop into a major crisis, and what the contours of that crisis will be. And you can’t even imagine doing all this without a revolutionary newspaper.
How else, besides a newspaper, would what would even at the time of major expansion still be a relatively small core be able to reach out and have influence way disproportionate to its numbers as when millions are waking up and events are unfolding rapidly? How else—besides a newspaper—will networks of revolution be both steeped and trained in a line and understanding and, at the same time, forged in such a way they cannot all be easily suppressed or disrupted? How else—besides a newspaper—will the party itself be making a living analysis of the developing contradictions and setting out direction for the revolutionary people for how to impact the terrain? And when that crisis comes, this can’t just be pulled out of a hat. These deep roots, this influence on the broader mass, this ability to function, this kind of party—all that has to be being worked on and built up over a whole period of time.
And in all these dimensions, in answering all of those questions, the revolutionary newspaper is decisive. The newspaper is the main organ of a revolutionary party and a revolutionary movement—in its political, ideological, and organizational dimensions. And the revolutionary newspaper is the main way that this movement reaches out to and influences the broader society in all its contradictoriness, through the ups and downs of non-revolutionary times and leading into and through the emergence of a revolutionary situation where the all-out struggle for power can come on the agenda.
And even today, before the emergence of that kind of all-out revolutionary crisis, the role of the paper needs to be much greater. Even in a time like this, it needs to be getting out regularly in the hundreds, and sometimes the thousands, in key communities of the oppressed where the revolution is getting known and being taken up, developing understanding and building consistent partisanship in a growing swath of the community... it needs to be finding its way much more consistently onto the campuses and cultural scenes—entering into their all-night discussions and debates about how to understand the world and what to do with their lives... it needs to be provoking and unsettling people—causing them to go into print to argue against what it is saying but through the process stirring more people to begin to engage... it needs to be finding its way out to the disaffected youth in the suburbs... its website needs to become more and more of a place where people are checking in and sending correspondence, that is being linked to and hotly debated, meeting Bob Avakian and browsing everything from history and analysis to science, the arts, and philosophy... it needs to be providing a means for people to be coming together in groups to wrangle with its content and method—and to be forging organizational networks of people getting it out... it needs to be getting out to everyone who is lifting their heads in struggle... to people who are yearning for a different way and attracted to the idea of revolution... to people who tend to feel that’s too extreme but yet are dissatisfied and searching and willing to listen... to people who are driven crazy by what it is saying but who, nonetheless, are compelled to keep up with what we are saying...
Right now, there is the basis for this to be happening. What is standing in the way of this vision? Some of it is objective—we are a relatively small number of people and there is an intense relative calm in much of society—but even more, there are still shortcomings in our own understanding and even contending lines in our thinking on the importance and role of this paper in making revolution. It is crucial that we not only “do better work” and raise the level of distribution of this newspaper manifold, and soon! But also that we clear out the cobwebs in our thinking, the default mode of just plodding along “building the movement” with no real sense of strategy or direction... and rupture to an ever-deepening scientific understanding of the strategy for revolution and the centrality of the revolutionary newspaper within that.
The Struggle with Economist Thinking and Lines
It was over a hundred years ago now that Lenin first identified and ruptured with these very same wrong understandings within the communist movement in his pathbreaking book, What Is To Be Done. And it was only by doing this that he was able to lead people in the first successful communist revolution in 1917 and leave a treasure trove of understanding and orientation to the whole world communist movement ever since.
A lot of this wrong thinking has, since the time of Lenin, come to be referred to as “economism.” Originally this referred to the approach of focusing the efforts of revolutionaries on leading the workers in their economic struggles against their immediate conditions in labor—the bosses and such. But, since that time it has come to be understood as the overall approach of focusing the attention on involving the masses in the immediate struggles—not only in the economic sphere, but also the broader political sphere, but with the view that the most important and the first thing that must be done is to get people to resist, and only once that has begun are people “ready” to be introduced to communism and revolution. Together with this is the view that while people need revolutionary consciousness to make revolution, they will gain this consciousness primarily through their involvement in the struggle, or at most as an add-on to their involvement in that struggle.
Now, don’t get me wrong—resistance is extremely important. It matters tremendously—both in the immediate and in the ways things develop and unfold towards revolution. It matters in terms of keeping the system from being able to just totally crush and destroy the masses of people, in terms of training the masses and giving them a sense of their fighting capacity, in terms of waking more people up to political life. (A lot of times what stirs people from just going along with their routine is when they see others standing up in struggle and they think, what is it that they know that I don’t know that makes them feel so strongly as to do all that?) This has impact around how people view key fault-line questions of the day, it has to do with whether the ruling class has more room to maneuver when confronting new contradictions or whether their difficulties—including potential in-fighting—get compounded by the resistance of the people, and it plays into how people line up, what kind of broader polarization emerges as a full-on revolutionary crisis develops... and all this compels both those involved in these struggles as well as others to look to deeper and more fundamental contradictions in society, to the source of all this and its solution, making them more open to revolution ... because when people stand up they do lift their heads, they begin to get a broader view of the world and the other forces who make up society.
But resistance is just one part of a whole ensemble of what is necessary for revolution—and it is a subordinate part within something bigger. It must be approached from and built within the overall framework of making revolution—not revolution somehow unfolding out of resistance. At every point, we need to be approaching our work to understand and change the world from the final goal of communist revolution back, NOT: “first we have to get people resisting, and then we can bring in the final aim.” And in all this, the revolutionary newspaper is the most important means of hastening the development of—and preparing the people, ideologically, politically, and organizationally, for—the emergence of a revolutionary situation.
To understand why this is true, let's start with the basic fact that no one comes to understand the need for revolution, and they don’t get prepared for revolution through resistance alone. Spontaneously, even as people begin to question and to rebel they do so on the basis of thinking that someone is cheating or breaking the rules, there is a corrupt—or a stupid, or a really mean—politician or official or police officer, or that if only the people in charge understood what was really going on someone at the top would do something about it. A lot of times, even their efforts at resistance are aimed at forcing someone “in charge” to do something so that they can go back to their “regular lives” and not have to deal with politics and the world anymore.
As Lenin put it, “People always were and always will be the foolish victims of deceit and self-deceit in politics until they learn to discover the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. The supporters of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realize that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is maintained by the forces of some ruling classes.”
Just look at something like major mass movements that developed against the war on Iraq. In case people don’t remember, there was incredibly widespread and powerful resistance and this was extremely important and had great impact—and, its lasting impact is still being felt. Even if only for a while, it showed the world a different sentiment and a different force—coming right from within the most powerful empire—that was opposed to the crimes of its government. It ripped the cover of popular mandate and legitimacy off the Iraq war from the very beginning—a problem that continues to haunt the rulers of this system. It posed the question to millions about why all this was happening, what it revealed about the system behind it... this resistance shaped the consciousness and experience of a whole generation... it gave people a sense that their government—at least at times—lies to them and causes great suffering to real people in other parts of the world... It brought to the fore the common interests of different sections of people—and a different morality, that valued the lives of people around the world and valued sacrificing and struggle for something greater, not just devolving into consumption and self... even if only for a little while.
But, at the same time, many people largely entered into that resistance on the basis of being convinced that the war was a distraction from what they felt was a legitimate “war on terrorism.” And a big part of what caused so many to take to the streets was they felt that the normal channels were not available to them, that those at the top weren’t doing their job... but then, as soon as they were given a candidate who even mildly gave voice to sentiments against what had been done—calling the war on Iraq not a “criminal act of mass murder” but a “dumb war,” they flocked to him, they superimposed anti-war positions onto his very pro-war speeches, they deluded themselves into thinking that someone would take care of all this for them and they could get back to their regular lives, not having to mind the crimes of this system...
And this is how things will always spontaneously develop. Seeing the need—and the basis for—revolution requires science and it requires RUPTURING with spontaneity.
Take the example of Oscar Grant. Anyone with a heart can look at the YouTube video of him being shot point blank in the back by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer as he lay face down on the ground—and every single person ought to be horrified and outraged. But this is not enough. Think about it: you can go out in the very neighborhood where that happened and find Black people who’ll tell you, “Yes that was horrible and yes it happens all the time. But God has a plan... He works in mysterious ways.” Or you can go to another neighborhood and find people who’ll say, “Yes, that was horrible. They really need to give those police better sensitivity training.” Or they’ll go on about “human nature”—how anytime someone puts on a uniform “human nature” causes them to abuse their power.
The Need for a Scientific Outlook
To understand why both of those “explanations” are complete bullshit—and why the problem is the nature of this system itself, and how this system can be done away with and replaced with something much better through revolution—understanding all that requires SCIENCE.
Making revolution is like curing a disease. Anyone who has ever had cancer—or even who has known someone with cancer—can tell you that the disease causes great suffering and potentially death... but to explain how it develops and spreads, how this impacts on different organs and their functioning, what is going on beneath the surface that gives rise to the symptoms of pain and discomfort—that requires SCIENCE. And to be able to cure the disease—to develop the correct method of treatment and care... that requires not only a general understanding of cancer, but of the particular patient and the stage they are in, how that cancer is developing and the strengths of the body overall... and, on that basis, a prescription of treatment.
And when they confront a really bad disease a lot of people go into denial, they don’t like to confront how bad it really is. They don’t like the implications—that they will have to change the way they are living and acting. And trust me, if you are trying to convince a cancer patient to undergo chemo—with all the pain and discomfort, all the disruption that brings—you aren’t going to convince them without making a very compelling and scientific argument as to why all that will be worth it. But you CAN convince them—convince them they not only need this treatment, but that they themselves have to actively strive to understand what is killing them and what to do about it.
The same is true of revolution. People resist the need for revolution. Most people will try everything else out before turning to revolution. Why? Because revolution is HARD. It takes struggle. It takes sacrifice—not because of the intentions or actions of the revolutionaries, but because of the nature of the system and all the ways it will try to defeat and crush attempts at revolution. Making revolution means going against the tide. It means you can’t leave things up to the politicians and the people who are “supposed to be dealing with things like that.” It means going up against the state—and everything it will bring down on the revolutionary forces and masses more broadly. It means standing out from your friends and family and others...
Now, not everyone is going to become fully convinced of the need for this revolution all at once, or even at all. But this paper is working on a lot of different levels. Let’s look at another example:
Let’s look again to some of the major developments in the world and how our newspaper is relating to them. Take something like the recent law, SB1070, in Arizona attacking immigrants. It matters tremendously that people stood up against that law—the Los Suns... the student protests... the major musicians’ boycott... the revolutionaries who went down there, along with many others, to Arizona Freedom Summer... but it also matters the understanding that people enter into that struggle with—and how that gets deepened and transformed.
Our paper covered all this—brought this alive. And it issued calls for people to act—to get down to Arizona, to join in this resistance... and it reported on and popularized the experience of this resistance. But, as incredibly important as all that is, to reduce the role of our paper in the Arizona struggle to that would be gross economism. The paper much more importantly, and much more principally, worked on how people were understanding what they were up against.
Do people see it as just a racist governor beholden to a reactionary redneck social base? Do they oppose this extreme measure which requires racial profiling and deportations by the state police by instead supporting Obama’s plan for workplace enforcement and thousands of more troops on the border? Or, do they see that all this is fundamentally rooted in a system—the way the operation of this system has so plundered Mexico that many can no longer survive in its countryside while at the same time, because of many of the same economic shifts driven by globalization, many of those immigrants are being sucked into the shadows of the U.S. economy as a source of super-profits? And do they see that it is no longer necessary for humanity to live in a world carved up into oppressor and oppressed nations, where the side of the border you were born on and the color of your skin will determine and shape whether you are treated with the dignity of a human being? Do they see that both Governor Jan Brewer and Obama, for all their profound differences, are both operating from the framework of wanting to preserve, stabilize and extend this system and neither of them are operating on the concern for the lives of immigrants or other oppressed people? But do they also get that there are real contradictions within the ruling class over this—how the changing role of immigrants is destabilizing their system and how they are actually contending over different visions of how to hold this thing together, even as they are very addicted to this immigrant labor? The point is that people spontaneously don’t get the real weaknesses, or rather the real necessity facing the enemy, and so they don’t see how this could be part of a revolution developing. And how will they see that WITHOUT a paper? How will they understand—in fact, how will WE understand—the meaning of something like the court decision that stopped part of the act, but upheld the rest?
Through this example of Arizona I am again underscoring the importance of how people think and that people won’t get all the understanding they need to make revolution just through their experience in the struggle. People act on what they understand, and the more they scientifically understand the living dynamics and contradictions of this system that give rise to all the outrages that stir them and distress them, the more they will see the need and the basis for making revolution, and act increasingly and increasingly consciously on that foundation. As part of this, the paper acts on many levels—giving them an understanding of the contradictions of the system and the strengths and potential strengths and potential revolutionary unity among different sections of the people. And the paper has a broader impact on shaping the masses and their views already on a small scale—but frankly, too small a scale. Our paper needs to be—right now—reaching out to thousands who are aroused through struggles like this and that includes many who don’t even themselves become active, but are thinking and questioning and interested in answers.
Resistance—On the Basis of Revolution
All this makes a difference, it makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE—not only today, but as events develop towards a revolutionary crisis. It makes a difference in whether that resistance is able to grow and become more deep, broad and determined—or go with the spontaneity back under the wing of a section of the bourgeoisie and back into politically “safe” and meaningless channels designed to absorb and render impotent the outrage of the masses. It makes a difference in terms of whether growing numbers of people are coming to a fundamentally better view of immigrants, viewing them as human beings worthy of the same rights and lives as anyone else, forging unity with them in the course of that struggle, whether immigrants and other oppressed people are feeling less isolated and more emboldened to think about and step forward politically to act to change the world, and whether people broadly are coming to see that it is this system itself that is the problem. It makes a difference in terms of a growing core—even if a minority at any given time—who out of this are gravitating to a more radical understanding and solution, and beginning to take up that outlook and get trained in it. And it matters in terms of whether, when that movement dies down—which all movements do eventually as long as the system of capitalism remains in operation—those who have become radicalized get demoralized and give up or whether they are brought into a movement with a strategy and given a meaningful way to contribute to hastening the development of revolution, even as we all must fundamentally await the conditions which make it fully possible. It makes a difference if significant numbers of people have some experience—even if partial and contradictory—in stepping outside the official channels of bourgeois politics, if many more people have heard of BA or seen even a clip of his speeches and have a sense of what he stands for, if the idea of revolution has been circulating broadly in the minds of millions... if people know there is an organization and a leader prepared to lead all this to an actual revolution. Because all this comes together again when the system goes into crisis the next time... and nobody knows exactly which “next time” will be THE time when revolution becomes possible.
One of the hallmarks of Bob Avakian’s leadership has been that he has dug up, defended—and frankly rescued—these tremendous contributions of Lenin which were all but buried in the communist movement, including within the RCP itself for some time. At the same time, and through the process of defending this whole approach of What-Is-To-Be-Done-ism, BA has further developed and enriched this understanding.
As he put it in Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity:
“In speaking of an ‘enrichment’ of ‘What Is To Be Done-ism’ we are referring to what more has been learned since the time of Lenin—including in terms of the dialectical relation between consciousness and the transformation of material reality, or between the subjective and objective factors—and an even more heightened emphasis not only on enabling increasing numbers of the masses to engage with what’s going on in all the different spheres of society and how that relates to the fundamental nature of society and the fundamental question of transforming society and the world, but also an emphasis on breaking down, to the maximum degree possible at any given time, the barriers to their engaging in the sphere of ‘working with ideas’ and the struggle and contention in the realm of ideas (in the spheres of art and culture, science and philosophy, and so on) as well as putting before these masses the problems of the revolution—drawing them, as much and as fully as possible, at every point, into grappling with crucial questions relating to the need for communist revolution and the means for making that revolution. The point of all this is not simply to create a situation in which growing numbers of masses will ‘feel involved’ in the revolutionary process, but to actually help find the solutions to these problems and to enable the Party, as well as the masses, to learn in this way.”
Think of the letters from the prisoners that have been run in our newspaper, for instance. One of the things that is striking—in addition to the deep appreciation many of them express for the all around leadership of BA—is the profound impact of Ardea Skybreak’s series on evolution (which has since been published as a book, but first appeared serialized in Revolution newspaper) or Bob Avakian’s Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World. Many of them wrote about how they learned, through these works, to think critically... to break with their religious outlooks... to seek the causes for things in the natural world rather than the supernatural. It is one of the profound crimes of this system—and one of the big challenges for our revolution—that those who most need revolution are the most systematically locked out of the ability to work with ideas. So, it is through the newspaper that not only are people trained politically and ideologically—but also where the things which are obstacles to them even engaging in those realms get taken on and transformed. As they begin to see things this system keeps hidden (about other sections of people or about science or about politics), it is not just that they find out one truth they didn’t know before; in addition to that, they start to ask, “what else has been hidden from me?”
The newspaper is not the only way this goes on, but the newspaper is a key means through which this goes on—and it is a key training ground for the more developed revolutionaries in modeling how to take this revolution out and make it the property of those who need it the most.
And—it is also through these pages—that people connect: prisoners with professors, students with street youth, people born in this country with people from all corners of the world—they come to understand each other’s experiences and their common interests in revolution. This breaks down their isolation—and it has an impact on how they are thinking overall.
As for this point about putting the questions of the revolution before the masses of people and drawing them into wrangling with and developing answers to these questions, we need to be doing much, much better. When the paper puts out, as it has been recently, that we want people to send in their toughest questions—the people listening to this talk right now have to be doing that, both going out and drawing forward the toughest questions of the masses as well as sending in your own, so that this paper can much more be crackling with the things that really weigh down on people and pose obstacles in their thinking. Or when BA says something like, “Over and over we are confronted by the fact that people can’t see beyond the way things are now... This has to do with the importance of constantly wrangling with what a revolutionary situation would look like and how a revolution could actually be made,” in his piece, “There IS NO ‘Permanent Necessity’ for Things to Be This Way; A Radically Different and Better World CAN Be Brought Into Being Through Revolution.” We should take him up on that—we should be pulling together to stretch their minds to do this. Then they should find the appropriate ways to share their thinking and insights, their questions and thoughts, with the Party. We need much more of a culture like this in the revolution.
Another thing we should all be wrangling with much more—as well as seeking to apply, are the two paragraphs on strategy that we’ve been running every week from BA:
Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution:
“At every point, we must be searching out the key concentrations of social contradictions and the methods and forms which can strengthen the political consciousness of the masses, as well as their fighting capacity and organization in carrying out political resistance against the crimes of the system; which can increasingly bring the necessity, and the possibility, of a radically different world to life for growing numbers of people; and which can strengthen the understanding and determination of the advanced, revolutionary-minded masses in particular to take up our strategic objectives not merely as far-off and essentially abstract goals (or ideals) but as things to be actively striven for and built toward.
“The objective and orientation must be to carry out work which, together with the development of the objective situation, can transform the political terrain, so that the legitimacy of the established order, and the right and ability of the ruling class to rule, is called into question, in an acute and active sense, throughout society; so that resistance to this system becomes increasingly broad, deep and determined; so that the ‘pole’ and the organized vanguard force of revolutionary communism is greatly strengthened; and so that, at the decisive time, this advanced force is able to lead the struggle of millions, and tens of millions, to make revolution.”
The Leadership of Bob Avakian
Now, here I am not going to delve into everything that he poses, but I will highlight one particular element within this because it relates to our greatest strength overall and one of the greatest—yet still under-appreciated—strengths of the newspaper: that is BA. The promotion of Bob Avakian is a major means through which we “can increasingly bring the necessity, and the possibility, of a radically different world to life for growing numbers of people.”
Key to bringing this alive is bringing alive the fact that we DO have the leadership we need: BA... and the Party he leads and has fought for. And every week in this newspaper people get a sense of this leader—through his short quotes that concentrate powerful truths and enable people to find their bearings and their compass on key political or moral questions of the day. Through his memoir - where people come to understand more fully his life and his thinking, his sense of humor and his depth, his influences and his method of learning and pursuing questions, what kind of person he is and what it means to live a life with meaning and purpose, not just for oneself but for the whole of humanity. Through his analysis of major political developments or philosophical debates which enable people to see the world more fully—and the potential for understanding and changing the world more vividly and more scientifically. The more people get into his work, the more they understand the nature of this revolution, and its possibility, and the more they are enabled to contribute their thinking to the key questions and in many other ways play a role in this revolution.
And through his fuller body of work, including in many of the major theoretical talks and pieces that we run in our paper, people get an understanding of his new synthesis on revolution and communism as well as its significance. Through his work they come to understand more fully the tremendous and liberating things that were accomplished during the first stage of communist revolution and the lessons and legacies that must not be lost, but must be defended and built upon—even as, at the same time, BA reveals the real limitations that these revolutions ran up against in their own conception, philosophical framework and practical experience. The fact is that after these revolutions were defeated—with the devastating and disorienting and rolling impact that has had for nearly two generations now—humanity found itself at a crossroads where communist theory and the communist movement either had to make a leap into the future, bringing forward a whole new stage of revolution, or become a relic of the past—and BA stepped up to fill that need. The theoretical framework that BA reforged—his new synthesis—has answered the questions posed by the end of the last stage of communist revolution and the changes in the world since that time, and it forms the foundation out of which a new stage can be launched... and BA is fighting to lead that as well. All of this has given people the means to understand what they are up against and the way to shape the future. It’s the foundation of the Party’s ideological and political line, and of our paper.
In these, and many other ways, BA is a game-changer for this revolution and the bigger a deal we make out of him the better it will be for the prospects of revolution.
That is why he is in the paper every week—but not only that, that is why this paper is also where people sum up and learn about their experience in making BA and what he’s all about a household word—which is, as I said earlier, one of the main objectives of the crucial campaign we are now involved in. The paper highlights experience in getting out the new image of BA, it features correspondence where people write about how the Revolution talk has influenced and shaped them, it has the particularly deep response of prisoners to what he has been bringing forward... and this is all crucial today even as many don’t even yet know they are searching for this... and whether the revolutionaries, over a whole period of time, have been fighting to make this leader known VERY, very broadly—even among many who right now only have him “circulating in their minds”—will be all the more crucial as major crises break out and millions and millions are looking for someone to lead them.
Preparing Minds for Revolution
Now, not everyone is going to understand everything about this revolution or about this leader or about this newspaper all at once. But that is not surprising. Lenin made the point that “there are masses and masses.” That is to say, he distinguished between those who were politically awakening and those who were, so to speak, relatively still asleep, and he went on to say that, at any given time, you mainly aim your work towards those who are politically awakening. Sometimes that might only be hundreds or thousands of people—at other times that means tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and millions. But, at any given time—while you need to be reaching the broadest numbers of people possible, what you need to be bringing them needs to be determined not by “what people are ready to hear” but by what is true and what the events of the day reveal and where things ultimately need to go and how they can get there.
But no one can say in advance how different sections of the people will line up—and no one can say in advance who among the people, among every strata, will come all the way forward to take up the outlook of communism and actively dedicate themselves to being fighters for this revolution. So, you have to be stretching this out to the broadest numbers of people at any given time—working on all of them on many different levels.
A lot of people, including a lot of revolutionaries, seem to think that you only get the newspaper to those who are already “ready for it.” In fact, the opposite is true. This newspaper is central to getting people ready for revolution. In reality, people are all filled with contradictions. They are filled with illusions, they are filled with distractions, they are filled with questions—many of which are quite perceptive and sharp, by the way—but they are all part of the same reality and that reality is confronting us all—every day—with a million reasons for revolution. Yes, we have to be reaching those who are most inclined towards revolution—but we also have to be going much more broadly, to everywhere people are dissatisfied or angry, everywhere they are standing up or just searching, even where people may be put off by this but are willing to listen.
The point is, through many different ways our strategy for revolution involves working on that side of people that is open to this revolution—deepening that side of people and developing it. We need to be learning from these people even as we are struggling with them and transforming them through the process.
Look, we ourselves constantly underestimate the significance and potential impact of this newspaper—how powerful a tool it is in all of this. A lot of it has to do with this short attention span culture and need for immediate gratification or to see results and impact immediately—“I got them the paper and they didn’t become a communist.” Or, “I took the paper out to the May Day demonstrations, but man—all those immigrants were waving American flags!” Okay, we want people to become communists and there is a BIG problem with the American flag and all the plunder and ruthlessness it represents, but people are contradictory and the point is that we want to be part of what is influencing how their own internal contradictions unfold over time and as they interact with each other and with the events that develop in the world.
Being Serious—About Revolution
Now, before moving to a conclusion, I want to say a few things to those who advocate “excitative” actions—who say, “If you were for real about revolution, you wouldn’t be dealing with a newspaper,” and then they go on to advocate isolated acts of violence, by individuals or small groups, divorced from masses of people and attempting to substitute for a revolutionary movement of masses of people.
Now, if you are really serious, you’d understand that this is very wrong and extremely harmful. As it says in Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution, “Even—or especially—if this is done in the name of ‘revolution,’ it will work against, and in fact do serious damage to, the development of an actual revolutionary movement of masses of people, as well as to the building of political resistance against the outrages and injustices of this system even before there is a revolutionary situation. It will aid the extremely repressive forces of the existing system in their moves to isolate, attack and crush those, both revolutionary forces and broader forces of political opposition, who are working to build mass political resistance and to achieve significant, and even profound, social change through the politically-conscious activity and initiative of the masses of people.”
If YOU are serious you’ll understand that revolution must be the act of masses of people in their millions and if you are really serious, you’ll be applying yourself to developing the kind of strategy, methods and organization in which you can draw those masses forward, forge them into a revolutionary people, and then organize and lead them to make revolution when the time is right. Anything else, anything less, will not only lend itself to getting the revolutionary forces isolated and crushed by the state before the opening for real revolution and will only leave the masses without the ability to act when they are aroused and ready to do so.
The Voice of the Party
Finally, I want to talk about the importance of the newspaper as the voice of a party.
Recently someone said to me that we need the newspaper because we can’t always bring out the most experienced communists to talk directly with everyone who is coming forward and really break down the line.
But look, while in one way this is true and important, more this itself reflects the kind of thinking that we need to rupture out of. The newspaper is NOT a substitute for meeting a really good communist.
The newspaper is the voice of a Party. It is an instrument through which individuals come together as a collectivity—founded on a common line and method for understanding the world and making revolution and acting as a team of scientists in that process, wrangling deeply and scientifically with key questions of the revolution and acting in a disciplined and unified way to lead masses of people in making revolution.
What comes out in this paper—week in and week out—is the product of a lot of scientific work—analyzing what are the key contradictions that need to be spoken to, wrestling with how to understand different phenomena in the world which perhaps are unanticipated... or which maybe are highly routine but working to get people to see them as the outrages they are. Figuring out how to bring alive the common interests of people this society keeps divided and ignorant about each other's lives. Going deeply into the phenomena concentrated in this Tea Party movement, or the Christian fascists, or the rise of Glenn Beck. Even things like quizzes or satires lampooning the things that people have come to accept (for instance, our recent piece on “entre-manure-ialism”...) that enable people to see things with fresh eyes and to laugh at the ways they themselves, or people they know, get caught up in the putrid culture of this world. All this is led by the Party—it is what enables people to pull together and produce something that no individual communist could produce or spontaneously understand on their own.
And then, each week it is translated into Spanish—reflecting this Party’s internationalism and its strategic appreciation for the role of immigrants as well as people living on the other side of the border in learning about and joining in the struggle for this revolution.
It is very important that this newspaper is the voice of a party—the Revolutionary Communist Party. This is extremely important because without this Party, the dream of revolution can only remain that—a dream. To make revolution for real, there needs to be a vanguard force—forged on the basis of a scientific understanding of the need and basis and methods of the revolution that must be made, organized on the foundation of democratic centralism in order to be learning as fully about the world and coming together in a unified and disciplined way to act on and change the world and withstand repression as it does so—and people need to know of the existence of this Party. This is a very important element of what this newspaper does—even more than any single analysis in this newspaper, people get the living and developing voice and leadership of a party...
And the paper is the key way that people come to work with this Party—and to get organized around it, even as many do not yet fully agree with everything the paper says, they can get organized around it, work on it, dig into it and study it, develop networks to distribute it... some of them out on the corner or at tables on campuses... but even more of them being organized so wisely and so well that the other side cannot stop it.
All of this is not something separate from the campaign the Party is currently leading, “The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have” with its three goals of putting revolution back on the map in a powerful and society-wide way, making BA a household name, and drawing forward and training a growing core of fighters for this revolutionary understanding and cause. This newspaper is a key means through which this campaign is led and summed up, lessons are analyzed and popularized, new people are connected up with the need for revolution and introduced to BA and then, if and as they get deeper into this movement, trained. Making more use of this paper—in all these ways I have been describing—is going to be key in making these advances.
Let’s get this paper widely read and distributed... let’s get rungs and rungs of people alive and unleashed with the potential of this newspaper—how it fits into the strategy of hastening while awaiting a revolutionary situation... how it pits our greatest strengths—that is, our very advanced revolutionary line and leadership and organization—up against the very big challenges in this world—that is, the tremendously lowered sights, unscientific thinking, passivity and acquiescence, the widespread ignorance and fear, the isolation and segregation among different sections of the people—and go to work on transforming all this at a time when a great deal is in motion and transformation... this paper is a way for people who are new and checking things out to learn, to be trained in the science, to come to understand events in the world, in history and philosophy and to—even while they are learning and wrangling, resisting and debating—be a part of spreading this very wide and broad, making a huge and meaningful contribution in the advancing to a much better world.
The Scaffolding of the Revolutionary Movement
The other thing which we haven’t spoken much about in this discussion which I want to at least highlight before we conclude the formal part of the evening is people getting organized around this paper. We’ve just heard way too many times that people think we’re doing really good stuff, they think we’re really good people, they like the ideas that we come with—or sometimes they do. But they don’t have a sense of our strategy and they don’t know we have a strategy and they don’t know what our strategy is. And we have to give them a sense of how our strategy is working on and helping shape and influence the terrain even while we are fundamentally awaiting the developments which are objective to us. But we’re not just awaiting. We’re working on them and we’re organizing forces.
It’s both those things. We’re working on the ideological and political terrain overall...we’re not just preparing a few people and waiting for things to change. We’re working on and shaping the terrain and we’re preparing minds but we are also definitely organizing forces. And this organization part is crucial. It means people all over the country following this paper, getting direction from it, getting common understanding, seeing each other in it—people from all sections of society in it—the revolutionary movement, nationwide, as well as people in resistance and revolution all over the world. In that way, this paper is like the scaffolding of a building, and the movement for revolution is the building itself—the paper is a way that the people working on that building are seeing what’s developing, what’s going on, what are the things we have to work on, what is the experience we can learn from, and where can we really go forward.
And we really need networks of distribution—in the projects, on the campuses, in people’s workplaces—starting now on one scale, but with the potential to get really vast. And in ways where it’s not so obvious how everybody gets the paper—who gets it to them—but where people are engaging it regularly. And the reason I bring up strategy is people have to understand that all of this is part of our strategy for how a revolutionary people is shaped politically and ideologically, how a core is trained, how a broader mass is being influenced over a whole period of time and how forces are being organized now in a way where they can continue to move and act politically and increasingly reach out and absorb and be able to grow when people are jolted into political life by the millions and millions. This is a key part of that strategically.
At some point the potential for the revolutionary forces to really grow exponentially could emerge. But when you get to that point, there actually has to be a mechanism through which people when they are jolted awake can get organized. How does a small number of people, a relatively small number, a core of people... even if you have tens of thousands, in a country of 300 million that’s a relatively small number of people. So when tens of millions of people are convulsed into political action, how do you grow? And how do you grow not just on any old basis, but actually where you’re training forces to understand the need for revolution and what goes into making that revolution? It’s through a newspaper, where they’re being trained ideologically and politically and where they’re being organized. That’s the kind of organization that can expand exponentially—networks of people coming and reading and wrangling with and distributing the newspaper and branching out and branching out.
And that’s not all ... it is important that it be on the internet, that it be a website that’s being debated and spreading and reaching out to people in isolated areas, but it’s also important that not everything of the revolutionary people, not every single person, and not every network of organization is carried out where it’s easy for the other side to get its prying eyes in there and know everybody’s business. The newspaper on all those levels—I said this in the beginning and I want to end with this—organizationally, politically, and ideologically—it is the way this movement for revolution gets led, understands and analyzes the world in a living and dynamic way.
Because revolution is not made by a formula, and it’s not made by just build up your forces, build up your forces. There are changes in the world. A lot of them are unexpected, a lot of them you don’t know the full implications of until you do the work. And where are the openings for revolution? Where are the openings for hastening? Where are the openings for shaping the contours of the contradictions? Those are being analyzed. That work is being done for the Party itself, as well as for the movement for revolution, in this newspaper. So even understanding the openings and how to act on them and seize on them to ripen the revolutionary situation, and even to recognize that revolutionary situation—that happens in this paper. To have people trained in the strategy of this revolution and sharing with each other the experiences: we went out over here, we encountered this backwards shit, but there was a countervailing dynamic too, and here’s how we worked on that. And here’s what are the broader lessons for the movement for revolution that can be popularized. And here’s where people can hear the voices of other sections of people, and see the potential for a different alignment and for a society where the people on the bottom being part of running it is not a nightmare, the people on the bottom being part of running it as emancipators of humanity with this leadership is actually something quite inspiring and full of potential. Again, a scaffolding on the building under construction.
Those things people get a sense of, and all these dynamics, understanding the terrain, leading people to act on the terrain, understanding the biggest questions of where it’s going, breaking down the obstacles for people getting into this revolution and taking it up, and being able to grow and reach and have people all act together, on a common aim, and wield disproportionate influence and impact when jolts in society come—and they will come repeatedly and die down and come in different forms and die down. And everything that you reach out and maximize and influence in every single one of those mini-crises, or mini-eruptions, or mini-tremors, all the way leading in is going to be part of what shapes how things line up. And then there will be a continual—that’s the point of revolutions are complex, they’re not just one side and the other side. There’s a continual fight through every revolutionary process for the forces for those revolutions. Who’s going to line up on what side? And that’s contested and reforged and it shifts and it changes and everything you’ve done up to that point influences that and then whether you can seize on that has to do also with the organization that’s been built up. And in all of this it’s the paper that’s very central.
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