Revolution #223, January 23, 2011

Reflections on the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)

(The following is adapted from a talk given at meetings that were held shortly after the publication of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal))

The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) is nothing less than the framework for a whole new society: a new political system in which the will of the people will be expressed... and a new economic system that will actually be geared to meeting people's material needs, as well as taking care of the environment and contributing to the revolutionary international process of eliminating all exploitation. Even more fundamentally, this is a framework to advance to a communist world—a world in which exploitation and oppression will be things to read about in history books and people will no longer be divided into antagonistic social groups but will instead live and work together as a freely associating community of human beings, all over the planet.

This is a draft proposal for an actual Constitution: the framework, the guiding principles and the processes of a radically new government, a radically new form of state power. We ARE building a movement for revolution—a revolution that WILL put this document into practice. These are the rules of a whole new game, to put it that way... a guide for those who will lead the new power for what to do on Day One, and after.

This isn't a pipe dream. It's based first of all on 40 years of deeply summing up the experience of the two main previous genuine socialist revolutions—the Soviet Union, from 1917 until the mid-1950s, when a counter-revolutionary, state-capitalist system was consolidated... and China, from 1949 until 1976, when a coup d'etat overthrew the revolutionaries who wanted to keep the revolution going forward. What were the accomplishments of these revolutions? What were the shortcomings, and errors? Why were they defeated? And what can we, and must we, learn?

It's based also on digging more deeply into, summing up and taking further the method and approach, and the content, of the science of communism—particularly in the realms of internationalism, method and philosophy, the socialist transition to communism, and the strategy for revolutionary struggle. Bob Avakian's body of work in these spheres has formed the basis for a new synthesis of communist theory—the foundation of our Party's understanding, and the groundwork for this Constitution.

This Constitution is a plan for the new society, and that is its main and overarching function. But it is also a vision of that society that can inspire people today... that can let people know that there is an alternative...that there is an answer... that it does NOT just have to be this way. With that in mind, a few reflections on this work.

* * *

Try to envision Day One of the new revolutionary state power. What will you be facing? And what will you have going for you?

First off, you will have in a certain sense "a new people"—a people millions strong that has come forward and withstood all the violence and repression that this system could throw against them, and has emerged victorious. The old institutions and apparatus of repression—the massive army and police, the courts and prisons, the bureaucracy—will have been dismantled. You will also have the rudiments—just the rudiments, but rudiments nonetheless—of new, qualitatively different organs of power. A terrible weight will have been removed, the ground will have been cleared, something new will be coming to life—and that is no small thing! And these millions will have not only made this monumental change but will have also, through all this, changed themselves in fundamental and important ways—even as, in another sense, that process has only just begun.

You will have a party—a vanguard leadership that has been tempered and tested in the crucible of preparing for, then seizing on, the emergence of a revolutionary situation and the all-out struggle for power. A vanguard rooted in a scientific method that it can apply to every sphere, a strong sense of where things need to go and how to get there on that basis, and experience in applying all that to many different and extremely challenging junctures. And you will have a bond that's been forged between the people and its vanguard leadership, the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and what the preamble calls their "interaction and mutual reinforcement" that constitutes "a decisive the founding of the new, revolutionary socialist state."

This too is no small thing.

All that is very positive. And that's good—because this new state is up against quite a bit! The revolution will have been won in enough territory to form a new state, but it is almost certain that capitalism will remain in effect in most of the world and the new revolutionary state may be surrounded by capitalist states that will work for its isolation and destruction. Lenin, writing during the Civil War of the Russian Revolution, said that the resistance of the bourgeoisie was ten times stronger after it was defeated.1 The bourgeoisie—that is, the capitalist-imperialist ruling class—never really believed it would lose its paradise, he said, and once it does it reacts with incredible fury. The imperialists have connections to ruling classes of other countries that they use. In Russia, over a dozen different countries invaded during the Civil War or otherwise gave support to the counter-revolutionary army. In China, the U.S. came right to its doorstep, threatening to cross into its territory and even drop atomic bombs on it just nine months after the revolution won nationwide victory. The defeated bourgeoisie still has its own military people who retain their skills—and their mentality. It has people still within the new socialist society, working to bring things back. It knows how to rule and it has the sense of entitlement to rule, and that should not be underestimated.

Not only that—as with any great storm, the material base of the new socialist republic will likely be devastated. Not only will it have to be rebuilt, but now you will no longer be living off of and exploiting the rest of the world. Moreover, this rebuilding will have to be done in new ways—ways that take the environment into account, ways that correspond to overcoming exploitation—and this is more complex than just nationalizing the preexisting capitalist industries, agriculture, mines, transport, and so on. And this will have to be done in a situation where people have enormous material needs to be urgently fulfilled.

And yes, the revolution will have going for it, at the core of the new society, a section of revolutionary people and a leadership of the Party who have been forged through the revolution with enthusiasm and a basic understanding of its means and ends. But, their understanding will itself have to develop with new conditions. Moreover, there will be other people in the new society.... tens, if not hundreds of millions more, will now be at one and the same time happy that the revolutionary conflict is over and victorious, even supportive of how they understand its basic objectives up against the forces of the old order, but will also have their own ideas—aspirations for what kind of life they want—needs and desires which have been largely conditioned and molded by the world of capitalism.

Added to that will be people who were neutral during the revolution, and others who opposed it bitterly and still oppose it. The core that fought the revolution cannot just build the new society for these people, let alone over them—these people also have a role and a voice in this new society, and the leading core has to be able to allow for and encourage that, even while keeping the whole society moving on track in a certain overall direction.

To be clear: those who committed war crimes, or who actively commit or conspire to commit criminal acts against the new power will be denied rights. But that cannot be the main way that the state handles the question of outright and fundamental political opposition, let alone what will almost certainly be the largest phenomenon of those who may share certain objectives and goals of the new state, or may be more or less favorably inclined toward it, but do not share the longer-term perspectives.

At the same time, you inherit the inequalities of the old society. Some people know how to run factories, how to coordinate production, how to plan, how to administrate... and others do not. Some people have been trained to work with ideas... and others have not only not been trained, they have been locked out of that. Some people have special skills—they can do surgery, they can construct physics experiments—and these skills require years of training and a lot of social resources. These inequalities do not get magically done away with overnight.

And you also inherit the values, the traditions, and the force of habit of 5,000 years of class society. Now some of that, even a lot of it in some cases, has been transformed—but not all of it, and not evenly in every single person. All these things—the international strength of capitalism, those within the society unreconciled to the victory of the revolution, the unevenness in commitment and understanding between the minority who are communists and the rest of society, the real inequalities in training, the force of habit and old ways of thinking and doing things—all these form the soil on which bourgeois-capitalist relations can and will grow, and over which there will be struggle in society—including within the Party itself—and which the new state has to be able to contend with and transform—to overcome, in fact, through mobilizing people. And to do it in a way that gets you to a whole different world. So this is the context in which this Constitution would come into effect.

* * *

But there's something even more important than the contradictions that the new society faces on "Day One," and that is this: where is this Constitution designed to get society to? What is it founded on? How do its basic principles reflect all that? To that end, it is valuable to do a "close reading" of the Preamble. The Preamble sets the terms for everything that follows—so if we don't take the time to root ourselves in that, if we just go to this or that particular, we're going to miss the forest for the trees.

First, let's look at the goal. The Preamble2 says that:

In contrast to the way in which the capitalist-imperialist state serves and enforces the interests of a small ruling group of exploiters, the New Socialist Republic in North America, with the continuing leadership of the Revolutionary Communist Party, bases itself on, and proceeds from, the fundamental interests of those most bitterly exploited and oppressed under the old system, and the masses of people broadly, and provides the means for them to play an increasingly widening role in the exercise of political power and the functioning of society in accordance with those interests—in order to carry forward the struggle to transform society, with the goal of uprooting and finally eliminating all oppressive and exploitative relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.

This is a process and goal which, fundamentally and in the final analysis, can only be achieved on a global scale, with the advance to communism throughout the world. The orientation and principles of this state, as embodied in this Constitution, are internationalist: While giving due emphasis to meeting the material, intellectual and cultural needs of the people within this state, on a continually expanding basis, and to promoting the further transformation of this society to continue uprooting social inequalities and remaining aspects of exploitation and oppression, the socialist state must give fundamental priority to the advance of the revolutionary struggle, and the final goal of communism, throughout the world, and must adopt and carry out policies and actions which are in accordance with and give concrete effect to this internationalist orientation.

So that's the foundation. And it's pointing to a contradiction, a source of tension and potential pitfall for the new society—and a source as well of spurring things forward. Read again that last part: "While giving due emphasis to meeting the material, intellectual and cultural needs of the people within this state, on a continually expanding basis, and to promoting the further transformation of this society to continue uprooting social inequalities and remaining aspects of exploitation and oppression, the socialist state must give fundamental priority to the advance of the revolutionary struggle, and the final goal of communism, throughout the world, and must adopt and carry out policies and actions which are in accordance with and give concrete effect to this internationalist orientation."

So, that's at the very foundation. Bob Avakian goes at it another way in "Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon,"3 the very important new talk. He says:

A socialist Constitution must be based on, and must flow from, a scientific, dialectical materialist understanding of the dynamics of the historical development of human society, the basis and role of governments, and specifically the emergence and role of the state... It should correspond to the nature of socialism as an economic system as well as a particular system of political rule, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and as a transition to communism; and such a Constitution, at any given phase of this process—any given stage in this overall transition—should both in a general sense embody the relations, principles and objectives which are appropriate to that stage and give space to and foster the struggle to carry forward that transition toward more advanced stages of socialism, and fundamentally toward communism, together with the struggle for that goal throughout the world.

So that Constitution has to comprehend and encompass two different and, yes, contradictory purposes. And it has to handle those contradictory purposes in a way that is ultimately complementary.

But let's step back even further. What is communism, anyway? The Message and Call of the RCP, USA—"The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have"—gives a clear and concise definition. Communism is "[a] world where people work and struggle together for the common good...Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings....Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world."

Now with everything said earlier about what things look like on Day One of the revolutionary state power, it's plain to see that there's quite a road yet to travel to reach that communist world. In fact, all the monumental changes made possible on Day One, significant as they are—and they are incredibly, almost unimaginably significant in terms of how the revolution will change people's lives for the better right from the start—are only the first step to that communist world.

To get to that communist world, you need a state—a transitional state, but a state nonetheless. But what is a state? Here let's look again at the Preamble:

Regardless of differences, even very great and qualitative differences, in their political structures, institutions and guiding principles, all states have a definite social content and class character: they are an expression of the prevailing social relations, and most fundamentally the economic relations (relations of production), which have a decisive and ultimately determining role in regard to how the particular society functions and is organized. The state serves to protect and expand those relations and to enforce the interests of the social group—the ruling class—which holds the dominant position in society, as a result of its role in the economy, and in particular its ownership and control of the major means of production (including land, raw materials and other resources, technology and physical structures such as factories, and so on). In capitalist society, it is the capitalist class which holds this dominant position: the government structures and processes—and above all the organs of the state as an instrument of class rule and suppression (the armed forces, police, courts and prisons, the executive power, and the bureaucracies)—are controlled by this capitalist class as a means of exercising its rule over society and its repression of forces whose interests are in significant opposition to, and/or which resist, its rule. In short, all states are an instrument of dictatorship—of a monopoly of political power, concentrated as a monopoly of "legitimate" armed force and violence—exercised by, and in the interests of, one class or another. Any democracy which is practiced in this situation is democracy on the terms of, and fundamentally serving the interests of, the ruling class and its exercise of dictatorship. And it will remain the case that there will be a state, and that the state will constitute a dictatorship of one kind or another, serving the interests of one ruling class or another, so long as society is divided into classes (and other groups) with interests that are fundamentally antagonistic—a division rooted in the underlying social relations, and above all the production relations, which predominate in the given society.

The examples are as close as any recent issue of Revolution. Take issue #218 (November 28, 2010). Students protest in Berkeley, and out come the cops—and now, out come the guns as well. Or people protest the verdict on the cop who murdered Oscar Grant as he lay face down, hands bound, on a train platform—which itself was a naked and ugly example of dictatorship—and are met with over 100 arrests. Or look at the center spread of the issue that came out on Thanksgiving—the one on how the U.S. got and maintained the empire that we're all told to "give thanks" for—using armed force to kill off Native peoples and enslave Africans, and then using armed force to go all over the world to plunder and dominate. These are tools of coercion, not persuasion; they use these tools to dictate to people what they must do and not do, and even what they can and cannot express. And this is based on and serving specific class interests—those of the capitalist-imperialists.

* * *

The new socialist republic is also a state—that is to say, it is a dictatorship—but it is a dictatorship serving different class interests. Again, quoting from the Preamble:

The New Socialist Republic in North America is, like all states, a form of dictatorship—the dictatorship of the proletariat—which means that, in its essential character and its basic principles, structures, institutions and political processes, it must give expression to and serve the fundamental interests of the proletariat, a class whose exploitation is the engine of the accumulation of capitalist wealth and the functioning of capitalist society and whose emancipation from its exploited condition can only be brought about through the communist revolution, with its goal of abolishing all relations of exploitation and oppression and achieving the emancipation of humanity as a whole. In accordance with this, the governing bodies and processes of this socialist state, at all levels, must be vehicles for the furtherance of the communist revolution; and, as a key dimension of this, they must provide the means for those who were exploited and oppressed in the old society—and were effectively locked out of the exercise of political power and the governance of society, as well as the spheres of intellectual endeavor and working with ideas overall—to increasingly take part in these spheres, with the aim of continually transforming society in the direction of communism. All this is given expression through the principles and provisions, and the institutions, structures and processes which are set forth and provided for in this Constitution.

Now, here two ironies come to mind. The first is that the U.S. Constitution claims to be a democracy, not a dictatorship; yet you have this massive repressive apparatus—millions of soldiers on over 700 military bases around the world, a police force in New York City alone of over 30,000—and they are not here to debate with you. They are here to dictate to you and anyone else who stands in the way of the rule of the capitalists.

The second irony is one pointed to in "Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon" and this one is also very important. Here Bob Avakian makes the point that the U.S. Constitution claims to recognize no divisions among people. And yet this Constitution has served as a framework for generating and protecting and reinforcing inequalities and oppressive divisions between groups of people on an incredible scale. Their constitution guarantees a very specific form of private property—capitalism, mainly, though also slavery at its foundation and the first eight decades of its existence—and those economic relations cannot help but produce these huge inequalities and oppressive divisions. And then you get the state, backing that up. And yes, you get democracy too—democracy mainly practiced among the ruling class to thrash out their differences, and democracy also in the sense that the masses are allowed some leeway to protest, within certain very tight terms which are—as those Berkeley students once again experienced—very constricted, as well as being allowed the "right" to choose which representative of the rulers will preside over this horror (though that process too is very tightly controlled).

Unlike the bourgeois U.S. Constitution, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America—a constitution of the dictatorship of the proletariat—recognizes those divisions, those inequalities, and so on—in order to overcome them. And it recognizes and openly puts forth its fundamental character as a dictatorship—as part of getting beyond the need for such things as armies and prisons, and institutionalized leading groups, and the social antagonisms which necessitate the very existence of such institutions. The part of the Preamble I just read also makes the very essential point that the institutions have to have a different character in socialist society—and that this state, again, "must provide the means for those who were exploited and oppressed in the old society—and were effectively locked out of the exercise of political power and the governance of society, as well as the spheres of intellectual endeavor and working with ideas overall—to increasingly take part in these spheres, with the aim of continually transforming society in the direction of communism."

But here's an extremely important point: this is not a society about making the last first, and the first last. It's not about revenge, or about "the workers"—or "those on the bottom"—now ruling over others. The Preamble emphasizes the united front that brings the new socialist republic into being, and it says that "while it must be recognized that the essential nature, and the basic principles and processes, of this Republic are oriented in accordance with the interests of the proletariat, as a class, in the most fundamental and largest sense—abolishing all relations of exploitation and oppression through the advance to communism throughout the world—the struggle to achieve this goal cannot be, and will not be, carried out simply by PROLETARIANS, as some idealized 'perfect embodiment of communist principles,' and in some uniform and linear sense. As the new synthesis brought forward by Bob Avakian has given emphasis to, the process of making revolution, and then continuing the revolution in the new socialist state toward the final goal of communism, must involve the active participation of broad ranks of the people, of different strata, and will proceed through many different 'channels,' involving many diverse forces among the people in many different spheres of human endeavor, not only those more directly political or relating more directly, at any given time, to the functioning and objectives of the leadership of the revolution and the new socialist state; and the orientation and aim, consciously taken up by growing numbers of the people, must be to work so as to enable all this to contribute, in the final analysis, to the struggle to further transform society in the direction of communism."

The Preamble then gets into a critical principle in doing that, a key element in the way Avakian has built on, but gone beyond, the previous socialist societies—and that is the "solid core, with a lot of elasticity." Returning to the Preamble:

This means that, on the one hand, there must be a continually expanding force in society, with the revolutionary communist party as its leading element, which is firmly convinced of the need to advance to communism and deeply committed to carrying forward this struggle, through all the difficulties and obstacles; and, on the basis of and at the same time as continually strengthening this "solid core," there must be provision and scope for a wide diversity of thinking and activity, among people throughout society, "going off in many different directions," grappling and experimenting with many diverse ideas and programs and fields of endeavor—and once again all this must be "embraced" by the vanguard party and the "solid core" in an overall sense and enabled to contribute, through many divergent paths, to the advance along a broad road toward the goal of communism.

From here on out, we need to be getting into how that is going to be done, the ways in which this will find expression—how it will come down in the real world. But what we also need is to appreciate how foundational this is—the importance of getting this relationship between that solid core, which has the whole goal and process in mind, and that widely diverse elasticity going off in a lot of directions—and yes, some of those directions in opposition to what the state may be doing at any given time—but with a solid core that can lead that so that it all contributes to people getting the fullest possible understanding of reality and how to transform it, and advance toward the goal of communism. To cite a passage at the end of the section of the Constitution on the media—and that section itself gives you a sense of the kind of diversity, the kind of elasticity, that is possible and necessary on the basis of this solid core—the point is made that "this is, once again, an application of the principle of 'solid core, with a lot of elasticity,' a key means for enabling the broad masses of people to be exposed to, and to debate and 'thrash out,' various ideas and viewpoints, in order to more deeply engage, come to understand, and transform the world in the interests of humanity. And, once again as well, all this must be 'embraced' by the 'solid core'—with the Revolutionary Communist Party as the most decisive leading element—and enabled to contribute, through many divergent paths, to the advance along a broad road toward the goal of communism."4

The Preamble goes on to underline that this finds expression through the Party's leadership of the state and its key institutions. This leadership is written into, embedded in, the Constitution. Why? On one level, because we do not intend to hand the power—which people will have sacrificed and fought for, and which in a real sense belongs to the masses of people around the world—back to the bourgeoisie. Let's remember, this will be a society in transition, which has to either forge its way forward to communism, through tremendous struggle to overcome the economic, political and ideological relations and traditions of the old world—or must otherwise go back to capitalism, in one form or another. Once again, socialist society is a society that, for some time after its founding, is fighting to advance in the midst of an overall imperialist world and one that retains many of the inequalities, social relations and ideas—many of the scars, if you will—characteristic of capitalism. This forms the soil which gives rise to and nourishes forces who wish to, and will fight to, fortify those differences and thereby take society in a different direction—and that different direction can only ultimately be capitalism. All you have to do to go backward is to stop the process at any stage, and the spontaneous force of these bourgeois relations will pull you back, one way or another, to some version of the capitalist hell we live in now.

On the other hand, and most fundamentally, to actually go forward, through all kinds of complex twists and turns, requires science—and a scientific, and expanding, leadership rooted in and proceeding from that science—to guide a whole wide and diverse process toward that goal. We are not going to allow a situation where the bourgeoisie can use international pressure and its overall dominance in the world, and the freedom that gives it in the military, political and economic spheres, along with the force of old ideas and old ways of thinking, to come back into power. So the Party has disproportionate weight in the leadership of the army and the courts, especially the Supreme Court—even as the Party itself does not directly control them, but has to obey the Constitution. And the Party has disproportionate weight in the electoral process as well.

"Who are you," some people will ask the Party, "to have such disproportionate weight?" Indeed, some people have even already raised, "Who are you to write a constitution?" The answer on one level is simple: we are people who have a scientific understanding of how societies can change, and an orientation to apply that to emancipating all of humanity.

Bob Avakian, as part of speaking much more deeply to this question in Birds/Crocodiles, put it this way:

[I]t is not a matter of arbitrarily "who gets to decide," but what are the actual dynamics of the material reality with which we are confronted and what pathways for change are there. And it really is either/or...: either it's the seizure of state power by masses of people, led by a vanguard of this kind, and then the advance to communism throughout the world, and the final abolition of state power and of vanguards; or it's back to capitalism, or the perpetuation of capitalism without ever having a revolution in the first place. Those are the choices. How come? Because that's the way reality is, that's the way human society has evolved. All we've done is recognize it and act on it.

In the framework of that leadership, there is room for quite a bit of diversity and dissent and initiative—in fact, this is envisioned on a scale far beyond anything that has ever existed, and certainly far beyond—an order of magnitude beyond, and of a qualitatively different character—than what there is here or in any other capitalist society. And there is a real need for the Party to find the ways for the masses to be enabled to "play an increasingly decisive role in the exercise of political power, as well as in every other sphere," as part of getting to the point where we can do away with states, and special institutionalized forms of leadership, altogether (though again—that can only happen on a world scale, and only once all exploitative and oppressive relations, institutions and ideas have been overcome).

Also essential and bedrock, and therefore in the Preamble: this state must be a vehicle to fully overcome national oppression and inequality. And it must likewise, to again cite the Preamble, serve "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." And this includes as well the struggle for full equality for gay, lesbian and transgender people.

Finally, this is a constitution—a framework—that takes fully into account the ways that the remaining strength of the bourgeoisie and bourgeois relations (which I have been talking about) will give rise to forces that "will emerge within the vanguard party itself, including at its top levels, which will fight for lines and policies that will actually lead to the undermining of socialism and the restoration of capitalism." This Constitution provides the framework for the consequently necessary "struggle," as the preamble says, "within the party itself, as well as in society as a whole, to maintain and strengthen the revolutionary character and role of the party, in keeping with its responsibilities to act as the leadership of the continuing revolution toward the final goal of communism, and to defeat attempts to transform the party into its opposite, into a vehicle for the restoration of the old, exploitative and oppressive society."

* * *

On the foundation of that close reading, let's look at the economy. This is the base of any society. People have to come together to produce the material necessities of life. If they did not, then they would, in very short order, die off. And they enter into specific relations with one another to do it.

What are these relations? First off, ownership: who owns the means of producing these material necessities. In the capitalist system, a relative handful of society monopolizes the ownership of these, and can compel others—who do not own such means—to work for them. They can open a factory—and they can close it, and move it elsewhere. They determine what is produced, how it is produced, and to what ends—ends which are, always, the profit of the owners.

This changes in socialism. The means of producing the material necessities required by society are owned by the state. And the very purpose of these means of production is radically different. To quote the Constitution, Article IV, these purposes are "Advancing the world revolution to uproot all exploitation and oppression and to emancipate all of humanity; ... Meeting social need, creating a common material wealth that contributes to the all-around development of society and the individuals who make it up, and overcoming oppressive divisions between mental and manual labor, town and country, different regions and nationalities, and men and women;" and "Protecting, preserving, and enhancing the ecosystems and biodiversity of the planet for current and future generations."

But ownership is not the whole story. There is the matter of how people relate to each other in production. Again, from the Constitution, Article IV, "Socialist production is based on and promotes relations and values of people working cooperatively for the common good and for the interests of world humanity. Socialist relations of production must enable the masses of people to gain increasing collective mastery over economic processes." And this must also mean overcoming, through waves of struggle, what Marx called the enslaving subordination to the division of labor and the contradiction between mental and manual labor (and the seeds of antagonism within that contradiction)—while doing this in a way that neither undermines the sphere of intellectual work nor reinforces an oppressive division between intellectual and physical work.

How are you going to motivate people in the new society? Under capitalism, people are motivated either by the prospect of personal gain, or the hunger that they, or their children, will experience if they don't do the job. But this new society has to be different. Socialist society can't use methods of motivation that work against those three overarching goals laid out above; instead, "To meet goals and solve problems of production, the state must mobilize the conscious activism of people in accordance with the principles and objectives set forth here and elsewhere in this Constitution. It must encourage initiative and creativity to advance the public interest."

And then there's distribution. The socialist economy has to continually expand the sphere of social consumption—that is, emphasizing goods that can be utilized communally (for example, public transportation for everyone is more important than producing cars for individual utilization; or providing good basic health care for all, instead of the class-tiered system we have today) and constantly narrowing the gaps in wages and compensation.

The inequalities in those latter two spheres—the relations between people carrying out production, and the distribution of what has been produced—along with the still powerful values engendered by generations of capitalism—to look out for yourself, to either seek advantage over others or do just enough to get by—will actually be a big part of the soil out of which new bourgeois relations can be regenerated, and new bourgeois forces can arise. And they will arise—unless and until that soil is dug up.

The socialist economy is going to be a planned economy—and this is very important. These plans not only give society the ability to rationally plan production—they are one very critical arena of mass participation and mass struggle in determining the actual direction of society. What gets produced and built? Where, and why? Who gets trained, and for what? How are long- and short-term interests of society balanced? How does the relationship between the needs of this society and the need to advance revolution in the world get worked through? How are the gaps between people to be narrowed as plans are carried out? How do these plans express and push forward core values of socialist society—for instance, how do they fit into overcoming the effects of the history of national oppression and racism, or overcoming the oppression of women? What is the application of solid core, with a lot of elasticity? All this is given expression in the Constitution, and the basic principles and framework laid out through which people's daily productive life can become part of a whole process of emancipating humanity... not struggling to survive a numbing, alienating job—if you have a job—to enrich a few.

Now this will not be a machine-like process in which you press a button and out comes socialism. This will be a question of ongoing class struggle—class struggle that is needed to dig out the soil that regenerates bourgeois relations, class struggle against the newly engendered bourgeois forces who will seek to restructure society back in a capitalist direction. The point made in Section 7 of Article IV is very important in this regard:

It is the right and responsibility of people in this society to interrogate, debate, and wage struggle over the actual content of socialist-state ownership and planning and the political-ideological outlook and policies in command of social production and development.

So those are a few points touching on the economy.

* * *

In the very short time that this Constitution has been out, there's been a number of points of controversy and discussion. This brief piece won't try to address most of them—this Constitution is going to be something that we're wrangling with for a while and there will definitely be the time made to get very deeply into every aspect of it. And there are many important different aspects to get into. But it would be valuable here to briefly speak to a point of controversy now: the right to self-determination, up to and including secession, for African-Americans, and the right to autonomous regions for oppressed nationalities more generally; and the ways in which overcoming inequality of the formerly oppressed nationalities relates to freedom of expression for people with backward or racist ideas.

In even thinking about this question, you have to approach it from how foundational the oppression of whole peoples is to America. This country—the USA—wouldn't exist without the dispossession and near-genocide of an entire set of peoples that were living here first. It wouldn't exist without the enslavement, over centuries, of millions of people who were kidnaped from their homes in Africa, who even after the end of slavery were maintained first in near-slave-like conditions and then, in the main, as superexploited wage workers, and finally, today, as an oppressed people in which literally millions have been cast aside and treated as prison fodder. It wouldn't exist without the theft of land from Mexico, and then an ongoing predatory and oppressive relationship with the Mexican nation, and Latin America more generally. It couldn't exist today without a superexploited labor force made up of millions of immigrants, driven here by the oppressive conditions in their home countries under imperialist domination.

And, to paraphrase Bob Avakian, there never will be—and there never should be—a revolution without the struggle against this oppression finding tremendous expression. It is very likely that there will be different forces in the field fighting against imperialism during the all-out struggle, some focused on the liberation of their peoples from the yoke of imperialism, allied with—but not sharing the same outlook or final goals as—the revolutionary communists. And whether there are such forces or not, the fact remains that many many people will join with the communists for revolution but with goals short of getting to communist society—and a huge part of that united front will be those who are struggling against the oppression of whole peoples as peoples.

Doing away with the division of humanity into separate nations is an integral part of the fundamental interests of the proletariat, a bedrock element of the communist mission. But if you really want to do that, you can't wish away, or fail to pay attention to, the scars that you have inherited from all that has gone on before the revolution. The new social order has to first overcome the inequality that actually does exist, it has to dig it up by the very roots. The Preamble makes the point:

The New Socialist Republic in North America is a multinational and multi-lingual state, which is based on the principle of equality between different nationalities and cultures and has as one of its essential objectives fully overcoming national oppression and inequality, which was such a fundamental part of the imperialist USA throughout its history. Only on the basis of these principles and objectives can divisions among humanity by country and nation be finally overcome and surpassed and a world community of freely associating human beings be brought into being. This orientation is also embodied in the various institutions of the state and in the functioning of the government in the New Socialist Republic in North America.

The Constitution goes on to make clear a sort of two-pronged approach to this. It begins by stating that:

In light of the egregious crimes, oppression and injustice perpetrated by the former ruling class and government of the United States of America against various minority nationalities, to give expression to the voluntary union and growing unity of the various peoples within the New Socialist Republic in North America, and to give the most powerful effect to the principles and objectives set forth in this Constitution, discrimination against minority nationalities, in every sphere of society, including segregation in housing, education and other areas, shall be outlawed and prohibited, and concrete measures and steps shall be adopted and carried out, by the government at the central and other levels, to overcome the effects of discrimination and segregation, and the whole legacy of oppression, to which these peoples have been subjected.

It then immediately goes on to say that:

As one important dimension of this, in regions (or other areas) of significant population concentration of minority nationalities which were oppressed within the borders of the former imperialist USA, there shall be the right of the people of those nationalities to autonomy, in the form of self-government within the overall territory, framework and structure of the New Socialist Republic in North America and its unified socialist economy, system of law, armed forces, and conduct of foreign relations.

After laying out the procedures for this, the Constitution makes the point that:

...[W]here such autonomous regions are established they provide an opportunity for people of the nationality concerned to live in areas of significant concentration of that nationality, if they so choose, but they shall not be required to live in such areas, and once again it shall be the orientation, policy, and active purpose of the government, at all levels, to prohibit and work to overcome the effects of discrimination and segregation that have been directed against these nationalities, and generally to promote integration and unity among the various nationalities throughout society, on the basis of equality.

To be clear, this is a right that can be exercised—it is not a requirement. And the provisions for exercising this right, if people so desire, are treated very seriously in the Constitution. And whatever forms are chosen, the struggle to overcome the effects of literally centuries of oppression, down to today, will be far from a static thing or a secondary matter—either society will go forward very dynamically on the basis of resolving, through waves of struggle, this and other major contradictions which will still be unresolved when the revolution comes to power, or the power will be turned into something else. The revolution will in a very real sense clear the ground to resolve this—through conscious and determined struggle in every sphere of society, in the framework of this Constitution.

* * *

Finally, to return to the question of state power. First, look at the title of Article III, Section 1: The Basic Right of the People, the Purpose and Role of the Government, and Contradictions Between the People and the Government, in the New Socialist Republic in North America.

Two things are addressed, straight off: first, that the "most basic right of the proletariat, together with the broad masses of people, in the New Socialist Republic in North America is to be enabled to have the fundamentally decisive role in determining the direction of society, and to join in struggle with others throughout the world, in order to finally abolish relations of exploitation and oppression; and to bring into being, and increasingly play the determining role in regard to, government which will be an instrument toward those ends." The first two articles of the Constitution are mainly concerned with instituting state structures for that purpose. But there is something else involved too—the rights of the people are to be protected from "government misconduct and abuse."

When you read through this section—and when you see the expansive conception of rights in both these dimensions—you do get a sense of a society that will be extremely vital and full of ferment, but where people will also have ease of mind. You get a sense as well of how these two dimensions of rights relate to each other, and react back and forth on one another. For example, without the constraint that forbids the government to prohibit expressions of opposition, even fundamental opposition, to it, you would not have the richness of the process that I referred to earlier which enables "the broad masses of people to be exposed to, and to debate and 'thrash out,' various ideas and viewpoints, in order to more deeply engage, come to understand, and transform the world in the interests of humanity. And, once again as well, all this must be 'embraced' by the 'solid core'—with the Revolutionary Communist Party as the most decisive leading element—and enabled to contribute, through many divergent paths, to the advance along a broad road toward the goal of communism."

Without this, people would not themselves come to more deeply understand society, in all its nuance and complexity, and learn how to transform it on the basis of that understanding... and through the course of it transform their own thinking as well. Now this will be a wild and wooly process; it will take those leading this society to the brink of being drawn and quartered. But this process is the only way for all of society to advance to communism, and there is definitely an exhilarating aspect to it!

There is much to be learned from, and a critical important need to get into the study of theory, and for this study to go on widely, in many different forms and in all kinds of venues, throughout society; but there is also no substitute for the learning that takes place in the broad swirl and no-holds-barred debate of a society in ferment—indeed, it is the dialectical link between the two that will yield the richest and most comprehensive understanding. And this, in turn, drawing from and interacting with the struggles of billions to transform the world in the spheres of politics and productive activity and scientific experiment, will enable humanity to advance to a whole new stage of freedom, a whole new level of being able to understand more deeply and transform more fully the world around them—including their own social relations—without the fetters that weigh so painfully on us today.

Obviously, these reflections only touched on what is an extremely important and very wide-ranging section of this Constitution. There is the whole question of the different branches of government; of the army; of the organs of power, including on a local level; of how the party exercises leadership, which maintains the essential principle learned from past revolutions on the necessity of the party's institutionalized role but has a different and far more expansive conception of what that means; and of other things besides. The point now is to further a process of people getting deeply into this constitution, in all its different aspects, and to wrangle with this.

* * *

In summary, what we have with this Constitution is a framework, a map, a set of rules that provides a way for humanity to work its way through to a whole higher plateau of existence—one far beyond the commodified, exploitative, oppressive, predatory and putrid society and culture that we have today. The Manifesto from the RCP, USA has said that we are fighting to initiate a new stage of communist revolution.5 This Constitution gives even greater concreteness to the content of that—and on that basis, can serve as a magnetic pole of attraction.

Toward the end of Part 1 of "Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon" contrasting the society we are fighting for with the one we are fighting against, Bob Avakian states that:

To bourgeois theorists—and again you can see this reflected in writers like Paine, Madison and Jefferson, as well as the leaders and (so to speak) the inspirers of the French revolution—freedom is conceived overwhelmingly in essentially negative terms. It is cast in terms of protection from the encroachment of government, and protection from other people in society lest they resort (or regress) to a "state of nature." But communism embodies a vision of freedom based on the understanding that freedom lies in the recognition and transformation of necessity—and this actually involves a conception of freedom in a much greater dimension and, yes, a positive character, as well as encompassing aspects of negative freedom, that is, protection from government abuse and abuse by other individuals. This freedom lies fundamentally and essentially in the ability of people to act together, and to struggle over how to act together, to radically transform society, in interrelation with transforming nature: to first of all uproot exploitation and oppression and social antagonism and move to a whole new era beyond all that, and then to interact with each other, and with nature, through non-antagonistic relations, to continue transforming the world and, yes, people, on an increasingly conscious and voluntary basis—not an absolutely conscious and absolutely voluntary basis, which would fly in the face of reality, but an increasingly conscious and voluntary basis. This is a very powerful expression of positive freedom.

Capitalism is mired in, and gives constant expression to, not only relations of exploitation but, bound up with that, "commodity fetishism"—the way in which people are impelled, and in a real sense compelled, to relate to each other not essentially as human beings but as owners (virtually as embodiments) of commodities to be exchanged. With this comes the atomization of individuals. All this rests on and is driven forward by concealed social relations of exploitation—as well as more overt relations of exploitation and oppression—and it is marked by the corresponding conceptions of freedom, and of the role of government and its relation to individuals in society. This is very starkly illustrated in the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution. What is expressed there is a viewpoint of individuals as property owners and owners of commodities who are, in significant ways, in conflict with each other, even as they attempt to function together in one society to overcome "the state of nature," and to somehow utilize force and counterforce to keep things from becoming antagonistic within that society.

Socialism represents the open recognition of existing antagonistic social relations, and a conception of freedom and of association among people based on the fundamental goal of overcoming such relations and divisions, achieving the "4 alls" and transcending the "narrow horizon of bourgeois right." It involves conscious initiative and momentum to move beyond commodity relations and the corresponding division, and alienation, among atomized individuals, replacing all this with forms that give expression to and foster social intercourse on a cooperative basis among the members of society while actually, in this framework, giving greater scope to individuality.

He went on to conclude that: "This orientation, and the recognition of continuing struggle to create the basis for the fuller expression of this with the achievement of communism throughout the world: that is what needs to be"—and we could add what IS—"embodied in the principles and provisions of the Constitution for a socialist state and laws based on that Constitution."

1. V.I. Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1972. [back]

2. Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2010. The Preamble begins on page 1 and can also be found online at [back]

3. Bob Avakian, "Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon. Part 1: Revolution and the State," online at [back]

4. Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal, page 40. [back]

5. Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage—A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2009. The Manifesto can also be found online at [back]

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