Interviewer: After reading The New Communism (2016), and thinking about issues that in only five years’ time have manifested more severely, as spotlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, calling even more urgently for changes to the “system that is the fundamental source of much misery and torment in the world” (8), there are several topics—climate, migration, press freedom, labor-and-supply chain, class, and human rights—that I wonder if you would be willing to speak on. I’ll enumerate below.
BA: Before turning to the specific questions you pose, which are serious and substantial, touching on important and urgent developments in the world, I wanted to make a few brief overall observations, based on my reading of these questions. The answers to these questions are, on the one hand, simple and basic, and on the other hand complex: simple and basic in the sense that the problems involved can be solved—and can only be solved—with a revolution and a radically different system, a socialist system aiming for the final goal of a communist world; and complex in that actually making this revolution, and then achieving the transformations that this radically new system will make possible, will require working and struggling through some difficult and at times intense contradictions. In my responses here I will do my best to provide answers that speak to the essential matters involved, while referring to works which provide more extensive discussion of what is raised in these questions. In particular, I refer the reader to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, which I have authored. This Constitution was written with the future in mind—as a guiding set of objectives, principles, and concrete provisions for a socialist society brought into being through the overthrow of the capitalist-imperialist system that now rules in this country and dominates the world as a whole. In my responses to the questions posed for this interview, I have quoted fairly extensively from this Constitution, as it provides important answers, in a concentrated way, to much that is raised in these questions.
Very relevant as well, particularly in regard to the socialist economy and its interaction with the larger environment, is the article “Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development.” Also, in addition to the book The New Communism, another work of mine, Breakthroughs, The Historic Breakthrough by Marx, and the Further Breakthrough with the New Communism, A Basic Summary, is relevant as background to, and in terms of further elaboration on, the answers to important questions posed in this interview. And a recent major work of mine analyzes in depth why an actual revolution could be possible in the U.S. itself, amidst the acute and intensifying contradictions that mark this society, and the world as a whole, and how this revolution could be carried out—a revolution that would make possible the kinds of profound changes discussed in this interview. (This work—Something Terrible, Or Something Truly Emancipating: Profound Crisis, Deepening Divisions, The Looming Possibility of Civil War—And The Revolution That Is Urgently Needed, A Necessary Foundation, A Basic Roadmap For This Revolution—was written before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the further intensification of contradictions between Russian imperialism and American imperialism/NATO that has accompanied this war, with the heightened danger of direct military conflict between them; but this work provides essential analysis of the underlying and driving forces of the major conflicts in this country and the larger world, and their possible positive resolution through revolution.) These works, as well as the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America—and ongoing analysis of the war in Ukraine and other major world events—are available at revcom.us.
The New Communism—both the book and the overall method and approach—is mentioned a number of times in the course of this interview, in both the questions and my responses, and although this is not the place to extensively discuss the principles and methods of the new communism, it does seem relevant and appropriate to indicate what is at its core: The new communism represents and embodies a qualitative resolution of a critical contradiction that has existed within communism in its development up to this point, between its fundamentally scientific method and approach, and aspects of communism which have run counter to this; and what is most fundamental and essential in the new communism is the further development and synthesis of communism as a scientific method and approach, and the more consistent application of this scientific method and approach to reality in general and in particular the revolutionary struggle to overthrow and uproot all systems and relations of exploitation and oppression and advance to a communist world. This method and approach underlies and informs all the core elements and essential components of this new communism.
A concentrated expression of this is the basic orientation and approach of scientifically seeking the truth and pursuing the truth wherever it leads, including with regard to the history of the communist movement, in terms not only of its principal aspect—its very real, genuinely historic achievements—but also, secondarily but importantly, the truth about its real, and at times even grievous errors (what I have referred to as “truths that make us cringe”).
A crucial extension of this is the principle, discussed in a number of works of mine, including Breakthroughs, that
the new communism thoroughly repudiates and is determined to root out of the communist movement the poisonous notion, and practice, that “the ends justifies the means.” It is a bedrock principle of the new communism that the “means” of this movement must flow from and be consistent with the fundamental “ends” of abolishing all exploitation and oppression through revolution led on a scientific basis.
It is this basic orientation, method, and approach that I have applied to the discussion of the important questions raised in this interview.
Finally, by way of introduction, I wish to thank others who have read the questions posed for this interview and offered helpful observations in this regard, and in particular Raymond Lotta, who provided considerable valuable commentary.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE LABOR CHAIN
Interviewer: Within the labor-and-supply chain, you’ve highlighted the “people around the planet who are crushed and pulverized by the daily workings of this system—whether in garment factories in places like Bangladesh, Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador—human rights, and individual agency are sacrificed” (58).
Nationals from such places are often showing up at borders in search of more viably economic circumstances, adding another push factor into the migration equation.
How does, or would, a new communism protect human rights? Even with an international charter in place (1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights), those rights are quite difficult to enforce given that each nation has its own way of governing and own version of “human rights.”
BA: In terms of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and other such declarations, there is a fundamental aspect in which these rights, as enumerated and proclaimed, are abstract theoretical claims (leaving aside how they are also used as a diplomatic-ideological cudgel in inter-imperialist rivalry, and as a pretext for bombings and military interventions in the name of “human rights”). As you mention, within the current power relations obtaining in the world, there is no real way to “enforce” these rights—and, in a more basic sense, there is no real way to “effect” these rights within the confines of a capitalist-imperialist world economy and political system. In a capitalist society of private ownership and production for profit, the ability to hire and fire wage workers in response to shifting market conditions and profitability, to have a mobile (readily exploitable) workforce and reservoir of labor, is an essential requirement and ongoing condition of this system. Unemployment is not some temporary or aberrant condition of life under capitalism. It is built into and a necessary feature of its functioning. So there can be no “effective” human right to work and income; it is incompatible with this system.
You mention the United Nations. The “international community” as represented by the United Nations, is not in reality a community but rather another expression of an imperialist dominated world, a world divided into exploiters and exploited, oppressor and oppressed nations, and contending imperialist rivals. The UN is not a supra-national body but an institution reflecting (and perpetuating) these divisions and conflicts. In today’s world, the legal systems in individual countries, and on a global scale, rest on and reinforce definite exploitative economic and oppressive social relations. The fact is that social justice cannot be achieved within the confines of the existing legal systems that serve capitalism-imperialism and other reactionary systems of rule.
In contrast to all this, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic embodies—and speaks in detail to—basic rights of the people, many of which are not even envisioned in the constitutions of the U.S. and similar capitalist-imperialist countries, and the most essential of which are impossible to achieve under the rule and within the confines of this system. And these rights are formulated in the context of, and in important relation to, the goal of abolishing all exploitation and oppression. This is reflected in the heading of Article III of this Constitution, “Rights of the People and the Struggle to Uproot All Exploitation and Oppression,” where this is extensively and concretely elaborated. And it is expressed in a concentrated way in the following, under Section 1 of this Article:
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.
Further, in opposition to the much-propagated distortion that communists regard the socialist state as the perfect embodiment of the interests of the masses of people, and an institution to which all must be slavishly subordinated, the following from this Article III is a powerful refutation of that:
The purpose of the government of the New Socialist Republic in North America is to act in accordance with the principles and objectives set forth in this Constitution, in order to meet the basic needs and above all to serve the most fundamental and largest interests of the proletariat, together with the broad masses of people, within this Republic and ultimately in the world as a whole, with the aim of contributing as much as possible to the emancipation of all humanity, through the advance to communism.
At the same time, owing to remaining and still deep-seated contradictions, within this Republic and in the world overall—including contradictions between this Republic and imperialist and reactionary states, as well as contradictions within the economic (production) relations and the social relations, and the reflections of all this in the political, ideological and cultural spheres in this society itself—there are, and for some time will continue to be, contradictions between the people and the government in this Republic, and there is the possibility for the government, or particular agencies or persons with authority within the government, to act in conflict with the purpose and rightful role of this government. For these reasons, provisions must be made, and adhered to, which shall afford people in this Republic protection against government misconduct and abuse. And essential guidelines must be clearly set down by which the policy and actions of the government can be evaluated, with regard to particular rights, and above all the most basic right of the people in this Republic. [Emphasis added here.]
And Section 2 of this Article, “Legal and Civil Rights and Liberties,” spells out concrete rights of the people, and protection from government abuse, in a way that is significantly different from—and beyond—formal rights that are contained in bourgeois constitutions, but which are, in practice, often egregiously violated.
In regard to all this, I refer to the following, from my New Year’s Statement of a year ago (January 2021), with the invitation to seriously engage what it is asserting and the contrast it is drawing between the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America and the Constitution of the USA (and, for that matter, any other constitution, even that of previous socialist countries such as China and the Soviet Union):
It is a fact that, nowhere else, in any actual or proposed founding or guiding document of any government, is there anything like not only the protection but the provision for dissent and intellectual and cultural ferment that is embodied in this Constitution, while this has, as its solid core, a grounding in the socialist transformation of the economy, with the goal of abolishing all exploitation, and the corresponding transformation of the social relations and political institutions, to uproot all oppression, and the promotion, through the educational system and in society as a whole, of an approach that will “enable people to pursue the truth wherever it leads, with a spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity, and in this way to continually learn about the world and be better able to contribute to changing it in accordance with the fundamental interests of humanity.” All this will unchain and unleash a tremendous productive and social force of human beings enabled and inspired to work and struggle together to meet the fundamental needs of the people—transforming society in a fundamental way and supporting and aiding revolutionary struggle throughout the world—aiming for the final goal of a communist world, free from all exploitation and oppression, while at the same time addressing the truly existential environmental and ecological crisis, in a meaningful and comprehensive way, which is impossible under the system of capitalism‑imperialism.