The Historic Breakthrough by Marx,
and the Further Breakthrough with the New Communism
A Basic Summary
Copyright © 2019 by Bob Avakian. All rights reserved.
Published as an eBook and in PDF in 2021 by Insight Press.
ISBN: 978-0-9977798-4-4 (ePub)
ISBN: 978-0-9977798-5-1 (Mobi)
ISBN: 978-0-9977798-6-8 (PDF)
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Editors’ Note: Given what seems to be a definitely negative trend among some Black people, especially younger Black men, of attraction to Trump, the following excerpt from Breakthroughs: The Historic Breakthrough by Marx, and the Further Breakthrough with the New Communism, a Basic Summary, is very relevant as a context and scientific understanding of these trends. Bob Avakian has recently written a number of timely polemics against these trends, including KANYE WEST, ICE CUBE—FOOLS, AND WORSE THAN FOOLS, CANDACE OWENS: SHAMELESS HYPOCRITE—SUPPORTER OF WHITE SUPREMACIST FASCISM, etc.
When referring to the quote from Marx’s Grundrisse below, Avakian is referring to the following:
In... speaking to the social mobility that is often raised as one of the great features of capitalist society, Marx, in another major work of his, the Grundrisse, pointed out that individuals may change their social and class position within a society like this, but the masses of people can only escape from oppressive production and social relations by revolutionary means—by overthrowing and abolishing the system that is founded on and embodies those relations.
So, what are the backbone, or potential backbone, forces for revolution, particularly in a country like the U.S.? Well, they are the impoverished and bitterly oppressed and repressed masses who do exist in their tens of millions in this country; and this interpenetrates to a great degree with people among the oppressed nationalities, although it is not limited to that. We do have to recognize, at the same time, that there is a phenomenon among many of these masses of what could be called “deproletarianization”—people who were themselves formerly exploited as wage‑workers (or the previous generations of whom were exploited in this way) but who now can’t even find themselves in that position (can’t find a job, to put it simply). This has been accompanied by a lot of what could be called “petit‑bourgeoisification,” as well as “lumpen‑bourgeoisification,” among sections of the oppressed masses—people who get into small‑scale activity, which is essentially petit bourgeois in the sense that it involves small scale ownership and trading, and things like that, and people who are into the life of crime, including those who rise to fairly powerful and wealthy positions within that, even though their situation is often and generally very precarious.
There are these phenomena, and there is the phenomenon that in the realm of culture, for example, a certain, relatively small but influential, section of people has managed to rise from within these masses to basically a bourgeois position. The reason I refer to “lumpen‑bourgeoisification” is that this includes people who have not only utilized the realm of culture but also in some cases the realm of crime to wrench out a position in which they become quite wealthy, and then they invest in lines of cosmetics and clothes, and so on—they become real bourgeois, even as many of them are part of an oppressed nation or people. And they have the corresponding outlook to a very significant degree. I won’t even talk right now about Kanye West! But, more generally, there’s the phenomenon where you are witnessing a profound silence on the part of many of these cultural figures and others on some of the burning issues for the masses today. Some may tweet about different things, but they don’t step out and take a strong stand in response—as a phenomenon there are many who do not step out and take a strong stand around glaring acts of oppression and injustice against the masses of people. And that’s because their position has changed. Not only is there a fairly significant “petit‑bourgeoisification” among oppressed masses but there is also the “lumpen‑bourgeoisification” that I referred to—and there is a culture which mirrors the extremely individualistic and acquisitive character of the dominant culture as a whole.
There is the phenomenon of what could be called “Reaganism among the masses of people,” the whole “ethos” that came in with Reagan in the 1980s, this extreme individualism—and not just individualism in the abstract, but one that is posed in terms of antagonism toward everybody else: “You can’t trust anybody else; nobody else cares about you; you gotta get over on other people before they get over on you.” To a significant degree, this has become a model for the masses, even though (once again going back to Marx’s statement in the Grundrisse) in their masses they are totally incapable of following this path, only a few can do that. In fact, there are millions of talented people in sports, in the arts, and so on, but only a tiny number of them can ever rise to a position of wealth and prominence. Nevertheless, this is held up as a model. Not only is this held up as a way out for people, it is more generally upheld as a model for people to follow and a way that people should think and conduct themselves. This does pose a real problem—and, more than that, it is an acute expression of a much larger problem in terms of the prevailing culture that has to be struggled against. People’s thinking in this regard has to be radically transformed.
At the same time, with all this, there is the poverty and immiseration, and the relentless injustice and oppression, to which masses of people are continually subjected and which, to go back once again to Marx in the Grundrisse, they have no way out of other than by overthrowing the system. Even short of revolution, all this to which they are continually subjected causes people to rise up against the system and its outrages, and provides a powerful part of the objective basis for masses, particularly (though not only) those who catch the worst hell under this system, to be won to, and to play a decisive role in, the revolution that is required to meet what are in fact their fundamental needs and interests. But this will require a tremendous amount of ideological struggle, transforming the thinking of masses of people, while uniting with them in fighting the oppressive powers‑that‑be, winning them to become, not people out for revenge and out for themselves, but emancipators of humanity, and in this way to act as backbone forces for the proletarian‑communist revolution.
As I indicated, this is closely intertwined with the fight to abolish the oppression of Black people and other oppressed nationalities within the U.S. and the whole question of the relation between national liberation and proletarian revolution, particularly in a country like the U.S., which is spoken to in THE NEW COMMUNISM and is addressed, concretely and in an overall strategic sense, in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.41
At the same time as there are these basic forces for revolution, suffering in this way, who have to be won to this revolution through a tremendous amount of struggle, in which transforming their thinking is pivotal, there is a need for a broader united front, with the leadership of the proletariat—not in the reified sense of individual proletarians representing the essence of this leadership, but in the sense of what are the fundamental interests of the proletariat as a class and, going back to Marx, the fact that the proletariat can only emancipate itself by emancipating all humanity, by eliminating oppression and exploitation throughout the world with the achievement of communism. Being based on that understanding, and proceeding in that way, is what is meant by the leadership of the proletariat. And what is in the fundamental interests of the proletariat, and required for the revolution to realize those fundamental interests, is bringing into the revolutionary process as many forces as possible from the broader ranks of society, and continually struggling to win people to the revolutionary communist position. It is a matter of bringing forward those who catch the worst hell under this system, but also—and fundamentally by bringing them forward—working at the same time to bring forward all different strata of the people, including in particular youth and students, who constitute a crucial force that has an important role in this revolutionary process.
This requires a scientific, dialectical materialist approach to the situation and spontaneous sentiments and inclinations not only of the basic masses who can and must be brought forward as the backbone and driving force of this revolutionary process, but also of the middle class in this country, and the different strata within this middle class, whose situation is significantly different than it was 50, or even 20, years ago. It requires a living and constantly deepening understanding of the material position and outlook—the conditions of life and spontaneous thinking—of these different sections of the people and how to carry out the necessary struggle to bring about a profound change in the outlook and values of large and growing numbers of them, winning them to active and increasingly conscious involvement in the revolutionary process whose final aim is the abolition of all relations of exploitation and oppression, all antagonistic relations among human beings everywhere, and all the agony and anguish that is bound up with those relations.
41. Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). Authored by Bob Avakian, and adopted by the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, 2010 (RCP Publications, 2010). Also available at revcom.us and thebobavakianinstitute.org. [back]