This Interview has also been published as these excerpts, with the INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS included in each excerpt.
"INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS" were previously published as Part 1 of this series.
"CLIMATE CHANGE—CLIMATE JUSTICE" was published as Part 2.
"MIGRATION AND REFUGEES" was published as Part 3.
"HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE LABOR CHAIN" was published as Part 4.
"CLASS" was published as Part 5.
"JOURNALISM AND PRESS FREEDOM" was published as Part 6.
"GLOBALIZED SUPPLY CHAIN" was published as Part 7.
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.
Interviewer: You rightly differentiate seeing “the possibilities for what can be” with innovation and a willingness to upset the status quo, versus talk of change only “as determined and confined by what already is.” (46). The latter is well documented in the track record of climate accords.
Do you have any thoughts or insights into how the resolutions from COP26 (Conference of Parties—a summit of governments on the global climate crisis) will play out in terms of making real and necessary change?
Thus far, wars, plagues, and natural disasters have only served to further polarize people. How would a system reconfigured according to your party’s philosophy end exploitation and oppression, emancipate humankind, and give our planet a chance to heal and transform?
BA: To begin, I want to refer readers to the website revcom.us, where extensive coverage can be found of COP26, as well as substantive analysis of the overall environmental crisis and why it cannot be solved within the confines of this system of capitalism-imperialism.
Report after report by scientific bodies studying the climate crisis have come to the conclusion that this crisis is even more dire than previous studies had indicated. As a recent article at revcom.us calls attention to:
On Monday, February 28, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the results of its newest report, which UN Secretary General António Guterres called “an atlas of human suffering.”
The article notes that 3.3 billion people “live in countries with ‘high human vulnerability’ to the effects of climate change, according to the new IPCC report.” It spells out the terrible consequences of this:
Let that sink in for a minute: over three BILLION lives potentially upended, threatened by superstorms, rising seas, catastrophic drought, deadly floods, mass food shortages, and the outbreak of climate-change-induced viruses and diseases.
And it is a stark expression of the extreme “lopsidedness” in the world that the masses of people who suffer the most from the raging climate crisis are concentrated in the poorer countries of the world, which continue to be dominated by the capitalist-imperialist system, while it is the capitalist-imperialist countries that are the main “drivers” of this intensifying crisis.
The fact is that COP26—like the Paris Accords and other such conferences and agreements before it—will do, and could do, nothing to change the disastrous course of this accelerating crisis.
To cite one significant dimension of this, the U.S. (along with other major coal producers such as India, China, and Australia) refused to sign the agreement on gradually phasing out coal production that was a product of COP26, as limited as that agreement is.
The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, and it is a major emitter of greenhouse gases, second only to China (and U.S. per capita emissions is higher than that of China—higher than that of all countries with large populations, over 100 million). Not only with the climate crisis denier Trump, but with the Obama and now the Biden presidency, U.S. production of these fossil fuels has greatly increased. Oil is a strategic necessity and instrument of imperialist competition, rivalry, and domination. The U.S. military is the single largest institutional consumer of oil in the world, and to wildly understate matters, there is no possibility of eliminating, or even reducing, this massive consumption of oil, while this system and its military remains in power and enforces the interests of the capitalist-imperialist ruling class of which it is a highly destructive instrument.
Under the domination, and subjected to the dynamics, of the capitalist-imperialist system, the destruction of the natural environment can only continue and accelerate—and even “clean energy alternatives” that are proposed, such as the production of electric cars, will, under this system, involve further poisoning of lakes and rivers and destruction of some of the largest rain forests in the world, as well as extinction of species, and will actually give rise to further carbon emissions. A number of articles at revcom.us, including ones written at the time of and in the aftermath of COP26, scientifically analyze why these measures cannot solve, but in fact will only exacerbate, the environmental crisis—and fundamentally why the capitalist-imperialist system overall can and will only intensify and accelerate this crisis.
Another salient reflection of the extreme situation with the plundering of the natural environment—and of the marked “lopsidedness” in the world—is the fact that it would take the equivalent of five earths for the rest of the world to have the level of consumption that exists in the U.S. This is something that would need to be, and would be, radically changed with the society envisioned in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.
The environmental crisis is a global crisis for humanity and can only be ultimately addressed on an international level. At the same time, while it would very likely involve significant destruction—overwhelmingly as a result of the actions of the forces violently resisting the abolition of the rule of capitalism-imperialism—revolution in this country would represent a big leap not only in human emancipation in general, encouraging and supporting revolutionary struggle throughout the world, but specifically in terms of being able to address the environmental crisis, including through a much greater dimension of international cooperation, which the new socialist government would promote and struggle for. The radical transformations, in the economy, the social relations, the political institutions and processes, and the culture, the educational system and the realm of ideology and morality—as well as the fundamental internationalist orientation—that the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic embodies would give great impetus to approaching all of life and society in a profoundly different way.
In terms specifically of economic development and transformation, and its relation to dealing with the environmental crisis, I would refer once again to this Constitution and to “Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development,” where all this is addressed much more fully than is possible to do here. But to speak briefly to important dimensions of this, the whole system of transportation, as well as the overall approach to population configuration and work, including the relation between urban and rural areas, would need to be, and would be, fundamentally changed, transforming and moving beyond the ridiculous and fossil fuel dependent situation where transportation is automobile dependent and where, to cite one significant aspect of the problem, huge numbers of people are, often as single occupants of automobiles, driving large distances to and from work.
Beyond that, the entire energy grid (its storage, distribution, and consumption) would all need to be radically transformed to significantly scale up renewable energy sources. This is something that as a whole is not profitable under this system of capitalism-imperialism. The fact is that, while renewable energy sources exist, under this system they are out-priced and not as profitable as basing the economy on fossil fuels, and therefore are not “scalable”; and with what is essentially the approach of “get rich while going green”—with “getting rich” the guiding and determining principle (including with schemes such as the “Green New Deal”)—there is neither the economic basis nor the “political capital” for the massive investment (in the trillions of dollars) that would be required to really convert to an economy based on renewable energy.*
But with the abolition of this system and its driving profit imperative and constraint—and its replacement by socially determined production guided by the needs and fundamental interests of the masses of people—societal resources and people’s creativity and efforts can be unleashed and marshaled to meet social need, including the profound and urgent need to address the environmental crisis.
As an overall expression of these principles, on the basis of socialist state-public ownership of the means of production (factories, technology, warehouses, infrastructure, land, etc.) and comprehensive economic planning, it will become possible to rationally utilize society’s resources for the benefit of humanity; to consciously steer and regulate economic development; and to interact with nature sustainably. Most importantly, a new state power and economy will make it possible to unleash the creative energy and conscious activism of people: to meet all-around material and cultural-intellectual needs, overcome the great divides between mental and manual labor (those who work predominantly in the realm of ideas and administration, and those who work mainly with their hands); and go to work on saving the planet for current and future generations.
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic sets forth how the radically new political institutions and structures will be established and function—enabling the masses of people, including and especially the formerly most bitterly oppressed and exploited, to take ever greater responsibility for the direction of society. These institutions will be instruments for the continuing transformation of society, and the struggle to carry that forward.
Along with the transformation of the economy to uproot relations of exploitation, a fundamental objective of the new society and government set forth in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic is the elimination of the oppression of women, and all discrimination and oppression based on gender, as well as the emancipation of all nationalities (or “races”) that are brutally oppressed under the capitalist-imperialist system. Once again, concrete policies and measures in this regard are spelled out in this Constitution.
Interviewer: In addition to the mass migration triggered by war and conflict, climate chaos is a major push factor; and yet there are no real international laws or policies to address climate refugees.
How would a new communism factor in migrants and refugees?
BA: Imperialism has everything to do with the larger “refugee crisis”: the U.S. propping up brutally repressive regimes and sponsoring “death squads” in its so-called “backyard” in Central America; imperialist agribusiness and U.S.-engineered trade agreements like NAFTA ruining subsistence agriculture; U.S.-led invasions and occupations, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, that have decimated and destabilized society and economy; imperialist rivalry in Syria and Libya. And now there is the Russian invasion of Ukraine, giving rise to millions of Ukrainian refugees—a war also marked by the growing involvement of the U.S. and its “allies” in arming and otherwise aiding Ukraine’s military, and the increasing danger of a direct military confrontation between the U.S./NATO and Russia, with potentially catastrophic consequences posing an existential threat to humanity.
It is projected that over the next 30 years, some 200 million “climate refugees” will be fleeing extreme weather events and ongoing environmental degradation. Some eight million people currently suffer from food insecurity in the “dry corridor” that stretches from southern Mexico through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.
The imperialists have no answer to this, other than more horror: brutal apprehensions, detention camps of unspeakable misery and cruelty, family separations, border enforcement that spawns migrant smuggling rings that morph into trafficking for forced labor and sexual exploitation.
You are absolutely right that there are no international laws and protections that address this, that is, in any seriously humanitarian way. The laws in force are the laws of the imperialist dominators of the world: regulating and militarizing borders to safeguard imperial interests, and super-exploiting immigrants that do cross into the imperialist heartlands and are forced to “live in the shadows” without rights. It is a statement of our times that the U.S.-Mexico border and the Mediterranean have become burial grounds for migrants and refugees, that refugee camps become recruiting grounds for the global “sex trade.”
The chauvinist scapegoating, targeting, and genocidal program aimed at immigrants has been a central rallying point of the fascist movement and the Trump/Pence fascist regime in the U.S. (and similar fascist forces in other countries). The rise in the number of people uprooted from Third World countries who have emigrated into the U.S. and countries in Europe—in many cases bringing with them religious traditions and other significant cultural expressions which are different from what has been the dominant, and in some cases effectively the singular, “traditional culture”—has been seized on by fascists to promote xenophobia as a major element and driving force of growing fascist movements.
In opposition to all this, as articulated in the Constitution I have authored:
The orientation of the New Socialist Republic in North America is to welcome immigrants from all over the world who have a sincere desire to contribute to the goals and objectives of this Republic, as set forth in this Constitution and in laws and policies which are established and enacted in accordance with this Constitution. [Article II, Section 3,H]
And here, too, concrete policies are spelled out which give life to this basic orientation.
Of course, the severe and increasingly desperate conditions of masses of people who are, and increasingly will be, forced to migrate not only within countries but across the globe, cannot be solved solely by the policies and actions of any particular country, even the liberating society envisioned in this Constitution. This is another important dimension of why the fundamental orientation of the new communism, and of the socialist society it is aiming to bring into being through revolution, is internationalist, and advancing the revolutionary struggle against the rule of capitalist imperialism, and all oppressive forces, throughout the world, must be the most basic orientation of that new society. And this fundamental orientation is not, and must not be, merely proclaimed but actually given life in the practical policies and actions of revolutionary forces and the radically new and emancipating society they are fighting to bring into being. At the same time once again, revolution in this country, through the overthrow of this most powerful capitalist-imperialist ruling class, will strike a tremendous blow and provide inspiration for the billions of bitterly oppressed people in the world and all those, everywhere, who hunger for a world without the rule of exploiters and oppressors and the tremendous suffering they inflict on the masses of humanity and the existential threat their system poses to the future of humanity.
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.
Interviewer: Dialogue in the public sphere these days, particularly that which is conducted through the framework of intersectionality, says less about class as a construct than race, gender, and party politics. Homelessness, generally speaking, is a class issue, for example, and is at an all-time high worldwide, especially if we factor migrants and refugees into the numbers. Pundits and politicians typically overstate and shoot down a potential solution to providing housing, by citing “lack of inventory.” That perspective treats housing as a supply-and-demand commodity. Another treats housing, and the financialization thereof, as an asset to hoard and capitalize on. Then, there are those who view the issue through a more liberal human rights lens, which is to assert that housing is a human right.
You discuss transforming the underlying conditions that give rise to differences among people by transforming the social relations that are gendered and racialized, as well as between people who work mainly with their minds, carrying out mental labor, and those who carry out manual labor, in order to get beyond oppressive divisions. Profound, exploitative, and oppressive class divisions are, as you say, fundamentally rooted in the forces of production and the relations of production (20-21).
Does the discussion of labor and production extend to service industries and to work that’s now done remotely and online?
BA: The scourge of homelessness... the terror of evictions (now sharply on the rise as temporary pandemic moratoriums and limited financial support run out)... and the obscene lack of affordable and decent housing in the U.S.—all this is rooted in the nature and workings of the capitalist-imperialist system, and particular changes and transformations over the last several decades. There is no fundamental “right to shelter” under this system. This is not an economy organized around human need, in which social priorities are established and plans drawn up to allocate resources accordingly. Under this economy and system, housing is a commodity produced for profit. It is an object of financial investment and speculation. The subprime mortgage crisis of 2007-08 was a product of that—upending the lives and savings of millions of people, and roiling global financial markets to the precipice of financial collapse.
The expansion of whites-only suburbs, on the one hand, and segregated housing in the inner cities on the other hand, with huge numbers of Black people concentrated in housing projects, in the period after the end of World War 2—all this was the product of deliberate policy by the government, as well as private firms. (Suburban housing developments generally had whites-only covenants for many years, and government loans to finance home ownership were extended only to whites, while Black people in particular were excluded from this and directed toward public housing in segregated communities.)
Most fundamentally, these phenomena are illustrations of the determining role of the mode of production, and of developments and changes in this mode of production (capitalism-imperialism) interacting with other social contradictions.
In terms of an approach that can effectively deal with and overcome all this, the framework of “intersectionality” fails miserably. This is a framework which identifies and ranks different forms of oppression as independent yet overlapping systems of discrimination. It does not involve, and in fact runs counter to and undermines, the essential understanding of how this system as a whole operates. It does not comprehend that capitalism-imperialism, as a global system of production relations, sets the basic terms for, and limits of, change.
Consequently, among other serious problems, “intersectionality” fails to recognize, and cannot effectively counter, the many ways in which this system sets different “sections” of people against each other—within this country, and on an international scale—something which can be ultimately overcome only by uniting people to rise up against all oppression, with the orientation and objective of struggling against, and finally bringing down, the capitalist-imperialist system in which all this oppression, in its many different manifestations, is fundamentally rooted. There are deep-rooted forms of social oppression—of women and LGBT people; Black and other racially oppressed peoples; immigrants—embedded in U.S. society. These have their own particular features and history and are interwoven with the history of U.S. society and the development of the capitalist-imperialist system. It is this system that shapes and stamps the social relations and ideas of the time, that sets limits to the kinds of the changes that can take place—within this system.
The following passage from The New Communism (also included in Breakthroughs) concentrates a crucial understanding of the dynamic (or dialectical) relation between the underlying economic system (the mode of production) and various social relations of oppression—and the possibility and basis for their radical, emancipating transformation:
Ultimately, the mode of production sets the foundation and the limits of change, in terms of how you address any social problem, such as the oppression of women, or the oppression of Black people or Latinos, or the contradiction between mental work and manual work, or the situation with the environment, or the situation of immigrants, and so on. While all those things have reality and dynamics in their own right, and aren’t reducible to the economic system, they all take place within the framework and within the fundamental dynamics of that economic system; and that economic system, that mode of production, sets the foundation and the ultimate limits of change in regard to all those social questions. So, if you want to get rid of all these different forms of oppression, you have to address them in their own right, but you also have to fundamentally change the economic system to give you the ability to be able to carry through those changes in fundamental terms. To put it another way: You have to have an economic system that doesn’t prevent you from making those changes, and instead not only allows but provides a favorable foundation for making those changes.
All this is why we need a “total revolution” to establish a new socialist economy and society in transition to a communist world, to overcome all exploitation and relations of oppression, and all the ideas and values that correspond to and reinforce them.
You raise a question about the service industries and transformations in labor and production. There have been significant changes in “the social and class configuration” of the U.S., a shift away from a situation in which a large percentage of the population was “classically proletarian,” working in various spheres of industry as exploited wage workers, to one in which that is a relatively small percentage of the population. A research essay by Raymond Lotta posted on revcom.us explores these and other changes in depth (“Imperialist Parasitism and Class‑Social Recomposition in the U.S. From the 1970s to Today: An Exploration of Trends and Changes”). By 1970, the U.S. completed the transition from a society in which most workers were predominantly engaged in “goods-producing” sectors to one in which most were engaged in service-producing sectors, like retail, finance, health care, and education.
As Lotta points out, this service sector is heterogeneous and polarized: with highly paid engineers, money managers, physicians, lawyers, and other professional-technical strata on the upper end; and office workers, cashiers, hospital orderlies, etc., on the lower end. There are not only wide income inequalities and educational differences but also, as I note in The New Communism, a kind of “enclave”-like separation of social strata and groupings in U.S. society (schools, health care, entertainment, etc.).
To overcome all these divisions requires a revolution that takes all this into account. Revolution does not proceed according to stereotypes—and still less by clinging to outmoded concepts which no longer correspond to the actual reality (if they ever did). Specifically, in addition to the common distortions, in the “mainstream” media, and elsewhere—which put forward a “populist” version of (an essentially white) “working class” in the U.S., when the people being spoken of are in fact largely petit bourgeois (for example, small-scale business owners of various kinds)—there is the notion, clung to by parts of the “left,” that socialism will somehow be achieved by building a “labor movement,” reviving and expanding labor unions—which is a recipe for, at most, building a reformist movement which remains firmly within the confines of the current capitalist-imperialist order.
In this regard, it is important to take into account the important analysis by Lenin of the phenomenon of parasitism in the imperialist countries (the fact that their economies rest to a significant degree on extreme exploitation of people in the countries colonized by imperialism—what today is referred to as the Third World, or the Global South) and the fact that this has resulted in a split in the working class in the imperialist countries, between a section that is effectively “bourgeoisified” as a result of the spoils of imperialist plunder that it receives, and on the other hand lower and deeper sections of the proletariat which continue to be viciously exploited within the imperialist countries themselves.
In the time since Lenin made this analysis (more than a century ago) this parasitism and its effects have become even more pronounced, and have taken on new dimensions, particularly over the last 50 years or so, as Lotta analyzes with regard to the U.S., the most parasitic of all imperialist countries.
This poses major challenges for making and carrying forward revolution. Strategically, there is the task of winning over and mobilizing the bedrock forces for revolution, those who “catch the greatest hell,” the most brutally oppressed, under this system—many of whom work and/or survive outside the “formal” economy of regular employment (again, not fitting the description of “classical workers”) and there is the task of winning and mobilizing broad strata, including the better-paid in the service-providing sectors, to be part of this revolution. In this regard, it is worth noting that Mao Zedong led a revolution in China that was based mainly among sections of the population—in that case, the oppressed peasantry—which were not part of the working class that had been seen as the main force for socialist revolution, even as the ideology and program leading this revolution corresponded to the fundamental interests of the proletariat, in putting an end to all exploitative and oppressive relations. In this country, there will be a similar challenge, in terms of carrying out a revolution that will also not be based mainly among the “classical” working class, even though of course exploited proletarians, particularly among the lower and deeper sections of this class, will be a significant part of this revolution.
There is also the challenge that you explicitly pose of how the new socialist society will overcome social divisions among different sections of the labor force, for example between service workers and other segments (and among the differentiated strata of service workers).
In approaching this, we can’t freeze the existing social structure as a given but rather understand it as something to be radically transformed. Many jobs classified as service—in finance, real estate, and insurance—are wasteful and unnecessary from the standpoint of a rational, “needs-based” socialist economy. The whole edifice of the “consumer society” and its retail and advertising infrastructure is similar in this regard. All this (and more) is going to require a shift to a more self-reliant and sustainable base of production to provide for basic necessities and other needs—at the same time that this base of production and associated skills, and the technical and scientific capacities of the new society, and culture as well, must serve the struggles of the exploited and oppressed of the world. All this has implications for the labor force, for the kind of work needed. In this context of this radical restructuring and transformation, there will be a need to overcome remaining divisions. Let’s go back to the question of housing. I spoke earlier about economic planning to meet social need. It will be necessary—and in the new socialist society there will be a basis for—conducting lively society-wide discussion and debate feeding into the planning process, with ongoing interrogation of the plan and its application. This will involve mobilizing architects, civil engineers, urban planners, construction workers, youth, as well as basic people to join together cooperatively and collectively in the process of solving “the housing problem.” Specialized knowledge would be popularized, while experts would be learning from the knowledge, lived experience, and aspirations of basic people and youth. And all this would be carried out while also carrying forward the struggle to overcome the differences in people’s role in the economy and economic relations, in particular once again the contradiction between mental and manual labor. Solving the housing problem would be approached in a multi-dimensional way: combining work that is meaningful and fulfilling with residence linked to public space. This would be approached in a way that counters the atomization of social life and overcomes the legacy of segregation (80 percent of Black communities in major U.S. cities are more segregated today than they were 15 years ago!). And, crucially, this would need to be an approach of solving the housing problem with the environmental crisis in mind—in terms of materials, location, preparation for natural disasters, and health crises.
One of the things brought into sharp relief by the pandemic and its disruptions of “normal life” is the essential role that various kinds of service workers play in keeping society functioning. Obviously, there are the health workers, aides, and maintenance workers in that sector, as well as people in education. As set forth in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic, the health care system in that new society would be based on the principle and approach of “serving the people,” breaking down barriers between doctors and patients, among the different sectors of health workers, and between health institutions and surrounding communities. The pandemic has also revealed how vital warehouse and logistics and delivery workers are, most of whom are low-paid and subject to brutal work norms—and whose health is being sacrificed on the altar of profit. The pandemic has also brought into sharp relief just how lacking in overall coordination and direction the economy and social institutions are—in responding to and acting on this crisis in a way commensurate with its severity and spread and the well-being of people. And we have seen how the pandemic has heightened inequalities in society. Your question about remote work/telework is a provocative one. The growing use of remote work poses certain challenges. Some of that work—for example, much of finance, real estate, etc.—is, as mentioned earlier, socially unnecessary from the standpoint of the rational organization of production and society. Still, much of what will be socially necessary will likely require or involve a component of telework—for reasons of public health and also to enhance flexibility in work and life. But, under this system, remote work has itself been economically and socially polarized: as the pandemic unfolded, only nine percent of workers in the lowest 25 percent of wage-salary earners were able to “telework” from home, as compared with over 60 percent of those in the top 25 percent of wage-salary earners.
In the new socialist society, people will be working on solving the great problems and meeting the great needs of society and the world in virtual as well as real-life contact. But there are big questions to wrestle with. How do you combat social atomization under conditions of remote work? How can technology be developed and social media be deployed to counter that and enhance real socialization, sharing, and learning (as opposed to being a means to self-promote, angle for individualistic competitive advantage, etc.)? How does remote work that might be carried out from home in the new society not reinforce patriarchy and put new burdens on women as principal caregivers, as occurs now? This touches on the larger question of socializing childcare and moving beyond a situation where the nuclear family is a basic unit of survival and socialization in a commodity-based society.
Transforming the workplace and work environment, raising people’s horizons beyond the workplace, and forging real “connectedness” to the larger society and the cause of emancipating all of humanity—all this will be a central concern of the new socialist society, and something to be continually interrogated.
With the socialist economy envisioned in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic, the entire nature and content of work will be radically different, serving radically different means. A living sense of this is contained in Article IV of this Constitution, and in particular Section 8, “Employment and Work, Social Fabric, and Urban and Rural Relations,” including that “The right to employment and income is guaranteed,” and beyond that
The workplace is not simply a unit of production. The workplace is a site of politics, ideology and culture; it is a site of the struggle to remake society. Critical questions—from international affairs to educational policy, to the struggles to overcome national inequalities and to emancipate women—must be taken up.
The socialist economy seeks to overcome the numbing and alienating effects of the oppressive division of labor of the old capitalist society....
The socialist economy aims to break down walls between units of production and surrounding social life, and to combine work with residence and community. Economic-social planning strives to promote sustainable cities that thrive on a new kind of “social space” enabling people to meaningfully interact, organize politically, create and enjoy culture, recreate and relax. Economic-social planning seeks to integrate agriculture and industry, along with urban and rural activities, in new ways—and to connect people more closely with agricultural land and with nature.
Once again, as emphasized in the quote earlier from The New Communism, the most fundamental thing is the mode of production—and the relation of this to the revolutionary transformation of society as a whole. Here a statement by Marx, which has come to be encapsulated in the formulation “the 4 Alls,” is very relevant: As Marx put it, the socialist revolution, and the socialist state power (dictatorship of the proletariat) it brings into being, aims for the abolition of all class distinctions, all the production relations on which those class distinctions rest, all the social relations that correspond to those production relations, and the revolutionizing of all the ideas that correspond to those social relations. In short, the ending of all exploitation and oppression. This must be the fundamental orientation and goal of the revolutionary process, not simply in terms of a particular country but with the whole world in mind and in view.
Interviewer: The corporate press is not free as long as it’s “beholden to and controlled by powerful interests. They are in fact the propaganda machinery of the capitalist-imperialist ruling class” (14).
The corporatization of media points to the need for more independent journalism. Countless ethical journalists devote their life to deeply investigated, accurate reporting despite associated risks and notoriously low wages. Journalists are largely unprotected, and governments are often quick to throw them under the bus.
At this point, how could you imagine unraveling the mainstream media from corporate ownership?
BA: To begin with your last question here, the blunt truth is that there is no way, under this system, to unravel the mainstream media from corporate ownership.
The “corporatization” of the media is certainly a reality. You can look at any number of studies about the growing concentration of ownership of newspapers, radio and television stations, recording/copyright in the music industry... the list goes on. But the more fundamental fact is that the media under this system are bound to be, and cannot be other than, the instrument of the ruling capitalist-imperialist class, even as different media represent different sections of that ruling class—for example media such as CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post, which represent the “mainstream” section of this ruling class, and on the other hand Fox “News,” which is representative of the fascist section.
Notwithstanding the very real, and sharp, differences between them, the dominant (and dominating) media in this country (including major internet-based digital “news media”), both “mainstream” and fascist, are in fact propaganda instruments of the capitalist-imperialist ruling class.
Perhaps nothing has illustrated this more clearly than how these media have dealt with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Despite certain statements by various fascists, notably Donald Trump, praising Vladimir Putin, the “coverage” of this invasion and war (and related events), by the dominant media has consisted overwhelmingly, if not entirely, of unvarnished propaganda promoting the interests of the U.S. imperialists and their “allies,” in opposition to those of Russian imperialism. This has been the case from the beginning with the media representing the “mainstream” section of the ruling class, but even the fascist Republican Party and those speaking on its behalf have to a significant degree gotten in line with this—even as, on many fronts, they continue to attack Biden and the Democrats (and the deep divisions within the ruling class, and in society as a whole, remain and will continue to be reasserted and intensified).
As always in such situations, the media have been marked by the ubiquitous appearance of “analysts” consisting of former military officials, CIA agents and other assorted operatives and functionaries of U.S. imperialist power, and crimes against humanity. This “coverage” of the war in Ukraine, and related events, has been noticeably lacking in the participation of people coming from any perspective different than this.
As I have written about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and its relation to the larger situation of rivalry among imperialist powers:
Certainly, the big power bullying and aggression by Russia, with its invasion of Ukraine a clear example, is something that all decent people should oppose. But no decent person should be joining in with the U.S. imperialists in their rivalry with Russian imperialism. For reasons I will get into here, it is utter, disgusting hypocrisy for the U.S. imperialists, and their media mouthpieces and other representatives, to be self-righteously condemning this Russian invasion, when the U.S. is the country which has, by far, carried out the most invasions and other acts of violent interference in other countries.
Somehow, these “learned people” have “forgotten” about the U.S. invasion and occupation of another “sovereign country,” Iraq, in 2003—on the basis of flagrant lies about Iraq supposedly possessing “weapons of mass destruction” and being closely linked with Islamic fundamentalist terrorists like Al Qaeda. This U.S. invasion was a blatant international war crime, which set in motion events which have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, created millions of refugees, and unleashed a maelstrom of death and destruction in that part of the world. (One of the most disgusting spectacles on the “mainstream” media these days, such as CNN, is the presence of government officials who are “veterans” of this U.S. war crime in Iraq, and who arrogantly denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the illegal act of a powerful country aggressing against a weaker country! Somehow, the outrageous irony of these American war criminals denouncing the war crimes of others is “lost” on, or deliberately ignored by, these media.)
(This is from the article “Shameless American Chauvinism: ‘Anti-Authoritarianism’ as a ‘Cover’ For Supporting U.S. Imperialism,” which can be found at revcom.us, along with a “companion” article: “Imperialist Parasitism and ‘Democracy’: Why So Many Liberals and Progressives Are Shameless Supporters of ‘Their’ Imperialism.”)
In all this, the reality is not simply that these media are owned by powerful corporations and financial institutions, controlling billions of dollars; the deeper problem resides in the fact that the superstructure of this system—the political and legal institutions, as well as the realm of culture and ideology, including the media—will, and must, conform to the fundamental nature of the system, and in particular the underlying economic system, or mode of production. In a number of works, including Breakthroughs, I analyze in some depth why that is so. Here, the essential point can be summarized succinctly in the understanding that if the superstructure is, in any significant way and over any significant period of time, out of whack with the basic relations and dynamics of the underlying mode of production, society will be thrown into serious chaos, and things will ultimately not be capable of functioning. (A striking expression of this, which is cited in Breakthroughs, is the fact that, under this system, there can be no “right to eat”—or, more broadly, no right to the basic necessities of life—with the example of the chaos and breakdown that would ensue if, within the confines of this system where the basic necessities of life are produced as commodities, which must be purchased through the exchange of another commodity, money, the law declared that people had a “right to eat” and this meant that, if they could not afford to buy their basic necessities, people could simply take them without paying for them!)
Returning to the role of the media, this relation between the superstructure and the underlying mode of production means that (even with the very real differences between different sections of this ruling class) the dominant media in this country will, and must, conform to and be an expression of the basic interests of the capitalist-imperialist system and its ruling class—a fact that is graphically illustrated whenever vital interests of American capitalist imperialism are at stake, and notably when, in the international arena, the “national” (that is, imperialist) interests of this ruling class are significantly involved.
This reality accounts for the difficulty of any real attempts at independent, actually truth-seeking journalism. And it underlines the importance of support for those really seeking to carry out such journalism.
But, once again and most fundamentally, this speaks to the need for a radically different character and role for media—and the fact that this requires a radically different society. As spoken to in the passage I quoted above from my New Year’s Statement of 2021 (in response to question 3), the orientation and objective of the new socialist society, envisioned in the Constitution for that society, is to “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.” This applies not only to the educational system, but to the media as well—to the institutions of society in general. As the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic speaks to, there will be state media in the society it envisions, but with a very different role than the dominant media of this system (and, for that matter, a significantly different role than media in previous socialist societies). This essential role will be
to provide the people in society with truthful and important information and analysis regarding affairs of state, the functioning of government, and other significant developments in society and the world.... And, in the service of this same objective, in addition to the funding and facilitation of alternative media independent of the government, significant allowance must be made, and time and opportunity provided, for the presentation, through the government media themselves, of a diversity of viewpoints and analysis, including ones which differ from and are in opposition to those presented by the government and its representatives.
Further, not only must provision be made and funds and other resources allocated for independent media, but this must
facilitate the promotion and dissemination of a diversity of views and opinions, with a significant representation of views and opinions that may run contrary to those of the government at any given time, including even some which may oppose not only particular policies and actions of the government but the basic principles and objectives of the New Socialist Republic in North America.
These principles regarding the media (which are contained in Article I, Section 2,I of this Constitution) are based on, and flow out of, the scientifically based understanding that the process provided for here, as complex and even tumultuous as it may be at times, will contribute in a crucial way to the masses of people coming to an increasingly deeper understanding of reality, and in this way be strengthened in their ability to transform reality in the fundamental interests of humanity, in moving to abolish and uproot all relations of exploitation and oppression.
Interviewer: In a pre-pandemic discussion, you brought up the film A Day Without a Mexican (2004) to illustrate a point about labor, the mechanisms of production, and how goods are moved to the market; basically, it shows how dependent the world is on labor. That point, stressed by way of the film, asks a fundamental question: What if all the Mexican (and other Central American) laborers stopped working, even for one day? From there, you expanded by asking, what if all the people, all over the world, who produce and distribute all these things that people use every day, stopped working for a day or a week or a month?
We’ve basically seen this come to pass with the COVID-19 pandemic, begging for examination of the relationships that “people enter into in carrying out the production of things ... the relations of production, distribution, and transportation....”
You’ve stated that another way to analyze this is to ask “what’s the mode of production through which all of this is done?” Ultimately, you assert that this “sets the basic terms for everything that happens in society….” If production stops, society grinds to a standstill. (53)
Your words were prophetic. Could you expand what you meant by,
If someone or a segment of society attempts to produce outside of existing modes of production, that person or group will either fail, or make a revolution.
With the current state of our supply chain, what options do you see?
Moreover, our globalized supply chain is dependent on long haul transport that’s not environmentally friendly. What better alternatives are available now, or can be created, to help salvage the life of the planet as well as meet the needs of society?
BA: These globalized “supply chains” are most essentially instruments of capitalist-imperialist exploitation, and super-exploitation of ultimately billions of people, including more than 150 million children, in the Third World. And they are instruments of rivalry among different “constellations” of imperialist capital and capitalist-imperialist states.
It is also of note that a disproportionate number of people in the globalized assembly lines—from the maquiladoras in Mexico to the Bangladesh textile factories and the electronic assembly lines in China—are women subjected to intense super-exploitation, and frequently to sexual abuse.
Another important part of this picture is that the role and impact of the globalized supply chains took a qualitative leap with the overturning of socialism and the restoration of capitalism in China in the late 1970s and then the fall of the revisionist Soviet Union (socialist in name but capitalist-imperialist in fact) at the beginning of the 1990s and the transformation of its state-capitalist economy into a more “classical” capitalist economy.
The global supply chains connect factories, mines, and farms; transport; and warehouses and distribution. This is an expression of the highly interconnected process of production in today’s world that is carried out through a profound and exploitative division of the world into a handful of rich capitalist-imperialist countries and the impoverished, oppressed nations of the Global South, where the majority of humanity lives.
Apple’s supply chains—without which it would not be the nearly $3 trillion company that it is today—extend widely into factories in China and other parts of Asia that are run as monstrous sweatshops; and deeply into the cobalt mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where some 40,000 children dig tunnels and haul rocks without which there would be no iPhone. There is the dynamic of highly organized production by individual units of capital—such as Apple, Dell, GM, Toyota—imposing their efficiency standards, applying advanced technology to logistics, etc. But all this serves the competitive battle of large blocs of capital to minimize cost, extend and secure market share, and maximize profits. These supply chains are weapons to wage that battle.
All this is anarchic. There is no “long view” for what this does to the planet, no built-in metric for public health. These supply chains are pollution-intensive (contaminating and poisoning water and soil); transport is fossil fuel driven over long distances, as you mention; and all this generates enormous waste. The role of, and dependence on, these supply chains is both rational and irrational. It is rational from the point of view of, and in terms of the particular interests of, different blocs of capital, enabling them to extend their scope of operations, to take advantage of a global “division of labor,” including with regard to certain regional “specialization.”
But all this is completely irrational in terms of the essential conditions and needs of the masses of people who are super-exploited in order for these “supply chains” to function, and in terms of how this accentuates global warming and the overall environmental and ecological crisis. (Another stark example: container shipping, as the transport links of the “supply chains,” is one of the most polluting sectors globally, and is entirely dependent on Third World super-exploited labor.)
This rational/irrational contradiction is an expression of the overall organization/anarchy contradiction which is a driving force of capitalism and leads to constant upheaval and repeated crises of various kinds. (As Marx pointed out about capitalism: its total disorder is its order.) There is organization on the level of corporate planning and in the operation of the basic units of production, and so on, but there is anarchy in regard to the functioning of the economy—today what is a highly globalized economy—as a whole, and anarchy as expressed in the competition and rivalry between different blocs of capital and different capitalist-imperialist countries.
These “supply chains” are also a significant dimension of the phenomenon noted by Raymond Lotta (in his paper “Imperialist Parasitism and Class‑Social Recomposition in the U.S. From the 1970s to Today: An Exploration of Trends and Changes”):
The imperialist world economy is marked by a situation where the process of production (increasingly carried out in the Third World) and the final consumption of goods (focused in the rich imperialist countries) are increasingly disconnected from each other. This is a major expression of modern‑day imperialist parasitism.
With all the terrible suffering this causes, and all the chaos and disruption it can involve, there is no viable option outside of the operation of these supply chains—no viable alternative under this system of capitalism-imperialism. And this speaks loudly, once again, to why we need a radically different system—it speaks to my statement that you have cited:
If someone or a segment of society attempts to produce outside of existing modes of production, that person or group will either fail, or make a revolution.
As I have spoken to in my responses to previous questions you posed for this interview, the only viable solution to this is to put an end to it—to make a revolution that creates an alternative to the presently dominant capitalist-imperialist system, an alternative that is viable and sustainable, because it proceeds on the basis of the productive forces at hand, and removes the barriers to their rational utilization. What is required is a radically new economic system as the foundation of a radically new society as a whole, with new social relations and a radically different superstructure of politics and ideology, including morality, which corresponds to and reinforces this economic system. And the socialist economic system based on social ownership, social planning and production for social use and the betterment of humanity provides what I have described as the “favorable foundation” for making radical social changes in the direction of ending oppression.
Of course, as I have emphasized here, and in a number of works, this socialist transformation is, first of all, a matter of complex and at times intense struggle—mobilizing masses of people in increasingly conscious struggle to overcome obstacles, not least the resistance of forces within the socialist country itself seeking to pull things back to the old way of doing things, corresponding to the relations of the capitalist-imperialist system. And there is the need to advance revolutionary struggle and transformation in the world as a whole, in opposition to the remaining capitalist-imperialist (and other reactionary) states, and the influence and force they will still exert in many dimensions of international relations, including in opposition to any existing socialist states and their continuing revolutionary transformation.
As one significant expression of this, so long as these capitalist-imperialist (and other reactionary) states continue to exist, and especially where such states are still dominant in the world as a whole, socialist states that are brought into being will have to carry out economic development and transformation in that context. Among other things, this will necessitate a certain amount of trade, etc., with those imperialist and reactionary states, which will itself involve a process of intense struggle to achieve and maintain such economic interaction on a basis that is consistent with, and actually advances, revolutionary transformation within socialist countries themselves and, most fundamentally, in the world as a whole. To advance this overall process in line with, and on the basis of what is set forth in, “Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development” and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America will require extensive collective grappling and creative innovation to forge solutions and overcome difficulties—all of which must and can be unleashed with the overthrow of the capitalist-imperialist system and the establishment of the new socialist republic.
In this regard, the following from Breakthroughs speaks to some essential principles:
There is an important discussion of this in THE NEW COMMUNISM, as well as in Birds and Crocodiles [Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon]: how to correctly handle this so that revolution advances through stages, within the socialist country itself and in the context of the larger world situation—and, through each stage of this process, actually raises the level of the productive forces and the relative abundance, while at the same time narrowing the differences among people to the greatest degree possible, without overstepping what’s possible given the material basis that exists at that time. That this is another acute contradiction that has to be understood, and first of all has to be recognized, and then you have to go to work on it with a scientific, dialectical materialist approach, including the recognition that you are doing this in a context where your socialist country does not exist as an island unto itself but in a larger world with which you have to interact, including economically. You can’t be absolutely self‑sufficient economically, even as you have to be strategically self‑sufficient economically, as a socialist country. [Italics added here.]
In moving to a conclusion of my responses, let me further elaborate briefly on the profound and complex question of the relation between socialist development and transformation within a particular socialist country and the advance of the revolution worldwide toward the goal of communism. There is great importance to bringing into being socialist states as vehicles for the radical, emancipating transformation of society, in every dimension—but also, and above all, as base areas for the further development and advance of the revolution worldwide toward the final goal of communism. There are tremendous strides that can be made in radically transforming society, in an emancipating way, with the creation of a socialist state and then the continuing advance on the road of socialism. But exploitative and oppressive relations, which have characterized and dominated human interactions for hundreds of years in capitalist society—and for thousands of years in other forms of human society—cannot be finally abolished within the confines of socialist countries by themselves. This requires the advance to communism on a worldwide basis.
A number of years (or now actually decades) ago, I posed the following in the talk Conquer the World:
In terms of maintaining power and advancing further on the socialist road—and not just from the standpoint of a socialist state but in particular from the standpoint of the international proletariat—the question is much more that there is a limit ... to how far you can go in transforming the base and superstructure within the socialist country without making further advances in winning and transforming more of the world; not in terms of conquering more resources or people as the imperialists do, but in terms of making revolutionary transformations.
This underscores again the importance of internationalism and the recognition of the need to keep constantly in mind, as a guiding principle and objective: not only the urgent need for the overthrow of the existing capitalist-imperialist system, that is the cause of such horrendous, and unnecessary suffering, for the masses of humanity, and poses an intensifying threat to the very existence of humanity; not only the great advance that is represented by replacing this thoroughly outmoded system with a radically different, emancipating socialist system; but also the need to continue advancing toward the final goal of communism, throughout the world, with the achievement of the “4 Alls” and the emancipation of humanity as a whole from all systems and relations of exploitation and oppression, finally moving beyond the antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.
In light of all this, it seems fitting to conclude with the following, speaking to questions humanity will be able to consciously address, once having broken free from the constraints and moved beyond the confines of the present world—dominated as it is by the system of capitalism-imperialism, driven by wars and conquest, shackled by exploitative and oppressive economic and social relations, and marked by the degrading reduction of human interaction to commodity relations—with all the madness, misery and mental anguish this involves for the masses of humanity:
It is only possible today to conjecture, and to dream, about what expressions social contradictions will assume in the future communist society and how they will be resolved. How will the problem be approached of combining advanced productive forces, which require a significant degree of centralization, with decentralization and local initiative (whatever “local” means then)? How will the rearing of new generations of people—now carried out in atomized form, and through oppressive relations, in the family—be approached in communist society? How will attention be paid to developing specific areas of knowledge, or to concentrating on particular projects, without making these the “special preserve” of certain people? How will the contradiction be handled of enabling people to acquire all-around skills and knowledge and at the same time meeting the need for some specialization? What about the relation between people’s individual initiatives and personal pursuits on the one hand, and their social responsibilities and contributions on the other? It seems that it will always be the case that, around any particular question, or controversy, there will be a group—and as a general rule a minority at first—that will have a more correct, advanced understanding, but how will this be utilized for the overall benefit while at the same time preventing groups from solidifying into “interest groups”?
What will be the relations between different areas and regions—since there will no longer be different countries—and how will the contradictions between what might be called “local communities” and the higher associations, all the way up to the world level, be handled? What will it mean concretely that people are truly citizens of the world, particularly in terms of where they live, work, and so on—will they “rotate” from one area of the world to another? How will the question of linguistic and cultural diversity versus a world union of humanity be handled? And will people then, even with all their understanding of history, really be able to believe that a society such as we are imprisoned in now actually existed—let alone that it was declared to be eternal and the highest pinnacle humanity was capable of reaching? Again, these questions, and many, many more, can only be the object of speculation, and of dreaming, today; but even to pose such questions, and to attempt to visualize how they might be addressed—in a society where class divisions, social antagonism, and political domination no longer exist—is itself tremendously liberating for anyone without a vested interest in the present order. [BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, chapter 2, quote 4]
For all those without such a vested interest, here is the basis for informed, and inspired dreaming—and hope for humanity, on a scientific foundation.
* It is true that the cost of generating power with renewable energy sources like wind and solar has dropped significantly, largely the result of technological advances, along with more globalized, cheap-labor sourcing and production of materials (like rare earth minerals for batteries, for example, lithium, cobalt and others), components, and final products. And in absolute terms, renewable energy has grown significantly. But fossil-fuel production and consumption have skyrocketed. Technological advances like hydraulic fracking have opened up and cheapened production of new sources of shale oil and natural gas, making natural gas in particular highly competitive and profitable. Thus, over the 30 years between 1990 and 2020, the share of natural gas and coal in utility-scale electricity generation in the U.S. declined a mere 5 percent—from 65 percent to 60 percent! In other words, the “market” is not putting an end to “dirty energy” (no more so than are global climate summits).
For the larger-scale transition of the U.S. economy as a whole away from fossil-fuels—an economy that has historically evolved in relation to fossil-fuel dominance with its associated infrastructure and huge technology investments that must be profitably recouped—would require massive “capital investment” in new, cheap, and efficient forms of storage and modernized transmission in the electric utility grid nationally. This is so because the new sources of renewable energy are often intermittent (subject to changing weather conditions, for example), and this energy needs to be stored to meet demand as needed. Also, solar and wind sources are often distant from energy consumption centers like major cities, and therefore need to be transmitted more efficiently than the current system and infrastructure allow. Once this scale of additional investment is factored in (broadly estimated in hundreds of billions of dollars), the “fully loaded” costs of renewable energy sources increase significantly as part of the transition of the economy as a whole away from fossil-fuels. While particular corporations, competing blocs of capital, involved in renewable energy generation may or may not be profitable currently, this additional capital investment required is—and poses—a prohibitively high barrier under this system of capitalism-imperialism, its functioning and workings: which includes its global supply chains and transport that pivot on super-exploitation and cheap fossil fuels.
All of what is being described illustrates why this economic system does not facilitate the rapid and massive energy transition and restructuring to renewable energy so urgently needed to protect the planet. [back]