The following is an excerpt from the work by Bob Avakian, The New Communism. In addition to this and other excerpts posted on revcom.us, we will be running further excerpts from time to time on revcom.us. These excerpts should serve as encouragement and inspiration for people to get into the work as a whole, which is available as a book from Insight Press and as a PDF online at revcom.us.
This excerpt comes from the section titled "III. The Strategic Approach to An Actual Revolution."
First of all, the question poses itself: What is an actual revolution? A lot of people have a lot of misconceptions about this, or throw the word “revolution” around. “Occupy,” that was a revolution. What happened in Egypt, that was a revolution. But they weren’t— those were not revolutions. You could say that, in a certain sense, in Egypt there was a revolution that was aborted, or stopped short. Some abortions are bad. Aborted revolutions are bad. Anyway, what is an actual revolution? You’ll see this statement running continually on revcom.us, where it says:
An actual revolution is a lot more than a protest. An actual revolution requires that millions of people get involved, in an organized way, in a determined fight to dismantle this state apparatus and system and replace it with a completely different state apparatus and system, a whole different way of organizing society, with completely different objectives and ways of life for the people. Fighting the power today has to help build and develop and organize the fight for the whole thing, for an actual revolution. Otherwise we'll be protesting the same abuses generations from now!
This is profoundly true, and once again there’s a lot that’s concentrated in that paragraph. So let’s get into this whole thing.
One Overall Strategic Approach
I want to begin by talking about what is our strategic approach to an actual revolution, an approach which applies particularly to an imperialist country like this, even as it may have some important application more generally. This strategic approach to revolution is one overall strategic approach, with different, distinct but also inter-related, stages. Now, what do I mean by that? I mean that we’re working toward an actual struggle of millions of people to, as that statement says, dismantle this state power, break the hold of this state power over the masses of people, which is enforced through massive violence, and bring into being a different state power and a different system. That’s what this is all aiming toward. And, at any point, in whatever we’re doing, whatever part of a division of labor we might be part of, or whatever particular struggle we’re engaged in—whatever it might be—we should always be proceeding from that orientation, that everything we’re doing has to be building toward that.
That’s different than saying that we’re going for the seizure of power now, which we are not. That’s why I emphasized that these stages are distinct. But they’re also inter-related—they’re part of one overall strategic approach. It’s not like we’re doing political work now, with one strategy, and then, someday in the great distant future, we’ll do something else with a different strategy. There are forms of struggle, there are approaches, and so on, that are appropriate to the particular stage we’re in. But it’s still one overall strategic approach, one overall strategic orientation. Otherwise, it’s not about revolution. Even though these stages are different and distinct, and have their own particularities, they’re still part of one overall strategic approach, and if we wall them off, in some absolute sense, then we’re no longer working for revolution—we’re just puttering around, doing some things now that really are unconnected to what we need to be doing: working for an actual revolution.
And this gets us to “On the Possibility of Revolution,”48 which is another document which is way under-utilized in my definite sense of things: both in terms of whether people study it seriously, and go back to it repeatedly, and whether—in the appropriate ways, and not in inappropriate ways—they popularize what’s there, and discuss and struggle over the content of that with people very broadly. If we’re not doing that, then, once again, what is it we’re doing? With all that we are doing, what do we think we’re doing it for? A lot of work went into “On the Possibility.” Why? Because, for some reason, people felt like working hard? No. Because this is a very difficult contradiction—how to actually go for the seizure of power—and we’re still far from having a fully developed understanding of how to deal with this. But “On the Possibility of Revolution” is a breakthrough that gives us the basic principles and means for going to work on how to do that. It gives us the basic guidelines, the strategic orientation and the foundation to work to further develop our understanding of how to actually fight through to carry out the seizure of power when the conditions have come into being for that. And if this is not what we’re aiming to do—what’s spoken to in a concentrated way in “On the Possibility”—then we’re not really about what we say we’re about. There is an important difference between recognizing that this is not what we’re doing now—going for the seizure of power—on the one hand, and, on the other hand, recognizing that it is what we’re aiming for, and that everything we’re doing is laying the groundwork for this, even while it’s a separate stage of things from what we’re actually doing now.
So, in a real sense, we have to be working back from “On the Possibility of Revolution.” And you can’t work back from something if you’re not deeply grounded in it—that’s sort of elementary, as they say. You have to be deeply grounded in this, in order to be working back from it. You have to be going back to it and posing the question, not is this what I’m doing now?—that would be very mechanical, if that’s the way you proceeded, and in fact would be very harmful—but am I working in such a way that is leading toward that, and not just me individually, but is everything we are doing overall contributing to getting to the point where that’s what can be taken up? Otherwise, once more, we’re not working for revolution. And it’s not just rhetoric, and certainly not hype, to say that without this revolution, all the things that go on in the world, and all the ways the masses suffer, will just keep going on, generation after generation. That’s very true. And it’s very important.
Even now, we have to be doing some strategic thinking, and we have to be proceeding in a certain way, flowing from the necessary strategic orientation. For example, if you read what’s said about “On the Possibility of Revolution” in Part 2 of Birds and Crocodiles, you will see that it’s talking about the problem of “encirclement.” It’s talking about the very acute contradiction, a very pronounced contradiction of this society, that, on the one hand, you have tens of millions of people among whom, if there were a real possibility of revolution, many would immediately leap to it, even without fully understanding what it is. Another way to put that is: people for whom daily life really is a living hell, they desperately need, and feel the need, even if in a sort of unformed sense, for a way out of this. But, on the other hand, you have broad sections of society for whom that is not the daily reality. You have an increasingly apartheid society in America, along lines of nationality, but even in terms of social classes. You have an increasingly enclaved, privileged section of the population which is deliberately gating itself and sealing itself off from the rest of society—yes, especially from Black people and Latinos and other oppressed nationalities, but even from lower sections of the white people in this society. This is a very sharp contradiction—how are you going to make a revolution with that?
What’s being talked about, in terms of “encirclement and suppression,” is that if this revolution jumps off, at a certain point, with people feeling they have no other way out, and they are willing to wage a desperate struggle even against big odds—if that can be limited and contained to just those people who most desperately need it, it is almost certainly going to be crushed, with terrible consequences. So, if that’s the case, we have to realize that this is an acute contradiction that we have to be working on—not some time in the future, we have to be working on it right now, and in an ongoing way. I’m going to talk some about this, but we need to keep working on this problem: How do we transform this situation so that, when the time comes, it’s not going to be the case that they can easily contain this revolution to those sections of the people that they’d, frankly, just as soon kill off anyway, if you want to get right down on the ground with it. If that were the situation we were faced with, well, we’d have to do the best we could, but it’s not the situation we want, and it’s not the situation we need in order to have a real chance at winning—and that is the point, after all.
So we have to be thinking about this now. We can’t be saying, “Well, when some future time comes, maybe people will have to deal with the problem of how not to have that situation where they just come in and cordon off an area and start bombing the shit out of it—end of the revolution.” Just think about that. These people, these imperialists, are absolutely ruthless. There’s a point in “On the Possibility” about the utility of force, meaning that they can’t necessarily use everything they have in their arsenal. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t throw a lot at people. Anybody who thinks they’re not going to try to just absolutely pulverize any attempt at a real revolution is not thinking seriously. We have to both go to work on that problem at a strategic level, even now, and we have to politically work on those contradictions, now and in an ongoing way. We can’t have a lot of people in the middle strata talking, derogatorily and in racist terms, about the inner cities as “Africa this and that”—as if it’s a different country, and one they don’t like—just to cite one sharp example. We can’t have that! I’m going to talk about the roads to transforming that—I’m going to get into that some—but this is an acute contradiction. And if we are not proceeding in a way to have the best possible prospects—not an easy thing, but the best possible chance of winning—then, to go back to that woman in Baltimore, we are giving people a sense of false hope. And that is criminal. That is absolutely criminal. As I have emphasized, there is going to be sacrifice, on all levels—from the basic masses to the leadership of the whole thing—there are going to be tremendous sacrifices. That’s inevitable—that is inevitable, OK? But we cannot proceed in such a way that we’re not taking this seriously, and that we aren’t struggling now, and struggling in an ongoing way, to create the most favorable conditions, as opposed to very unfavorable ones.
48. “On the Possibility of Revolution,” Revolution #102, September 23, 2007. Available at revcom.us and also included in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008. [back]
Introduction and Orientation
Foolish Victims of Deceit, and Self-Deceit
Part I. Method and Approach, Communism as a Science
Materialism vs. Idealism
Through Which Mode of Production
The Basic Contradictions and Dynamics of Capitalism
The New Synthesis of Communism
The Basis for Revolution
Epistemology and Morality, Objective Truth and Relativist Nonsense
Self and a “Consumerist” Approach to Ideas
What Is Your Life Going to Be About?—Raising People’s Sights
Part II. Socialism and the Advance to Communism:
A Radically Different Way the World Could Be, A Road to Real Emancipation
The “4 Alls”
Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right
Socialism as an Economic System and a Political System—And a Transition to Communism
Abundance, Revolution, and the Advance to Communism—A Dialectical Materialist Understanding
The Importance of the “Parachute Point”—Even Now, and Even More With An Actual Revolution
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America—
Solid Core with a Lot of Elasticity on the Basis of the Solid Core
Emancipators of Humanity
Part III. The Strategic Approach to An Actual Revolution
One Overall Strategic Approach
Hastening While Awaiting
Forces For Revolution
Separation of the Communist Movement from the Labor Movement, Driving Forces for Revolution
National Liberation and Proletarian Revolution
The Strategic Importance of the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women
The United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat
Youth, Students and the Intelligentsia
Struggling Against Petit Bourgeois Modes of Thinking, While Maintaining the Correct Strategic Orientation
The “Two Maximizings”
The “5 Stops”
The Two Mainstays
Returning to "On the Possibility of Revolution"
Internationalism and an International Dimension
Internationalism—Bringing Forward Another Way
Popularizing the Strategy
Part IV. The Leadership We Need
The Decisive Role of Leadership
A Leading Core of Intellectuals—and the Contradictions Bound Up with This
Another Kind of “Pyramid”
The Cultural Revolution Within the RCP
The Need for Communists to Be Communists
A Fundamentally Antagonistic Relation—and the Crucial Implications of That
Strengthening the Party—Qualitatively as well as Quantitatively
Forms of Revolutionary Organization, and the “Ohio”
Statesmen, and Strategic Commanders
Methods of Leadership, the Science and the “Art” of Leadership
Working Back from “On the Possibility”—
Another Application of “Solid Core with a Lot of Elasticity on the Basis of the Solid Core”
The New Synthesis of Communism:
Fundamental Orientation, Method and Approach,
and Core Elements—An Outline
by Bob Avakian
Framework and Guidelines for Study and Discussion
Selected List of Works Cited
About the Author