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THOUGHTS ON BOB AVAKIAN’S ANALYSIS THAT THIS IS A RARE TIME WHEN REVOLUTION IS MORE POSSIBLE

Some of us who are part of this revolution have had a lot of struggle recently over how we actually understand Bob Avakian’s analysis that this is a “rare time” when revolution is more possible. Speaking for myself, I feel like I’ve read this analysis dozens of times and have just now realized that I’ve understood it incorrectly—because of methodological errors on my part, and I think because collectively we need more of a culture of engaging this analysis in a living way, rather than repeating the same formulations.

So let me explain how I’ve understood it previously versus how I understand it now, and hopefully this will contribute to clarifying things for others.

What has been clear to me: an unprecedented moment

What has been clear to me is that we are in an unprecedented moment when—in the context of intensifying economic, geopolitical, demographic, and other changes and challenges for this system—the Republicans have become a fully fascist party, and have unleashed a fascist social base which is now “off the chain,” as BA put it in The RNL Show Interviews. The development of this fascist party and base has been a process, which has a long history going back to the Confederacy, a shorter history going back decades, and more recent leaps with Trump’s 2016 campaign, and then again in a major way in the context of the 2020 election and coup attempt, with the further purging of the party, further unleashing of lunacy in the context of COVID, and consolidation of the “big lie” within the party and base. All this BA has analyzed in depth.

Because of the hardening of this fascist party and base, and their determination to impose their fascist agenda—which they see as existential to maintain America’s dominant position and “make America great again”—they won’t accept any unity, except on their terms. In fighting to impose their agenda, they are eager to overthrow longstanding post-WW 2 societal norms (basic rights and accepted social values), and to overthrow even longer standing institutional norms of governance (treating the other section of the ruling class as enemies, either taking over or attacking ruling class institutions that stand in their way, undermining the rule of law or just making the judiciary a partisan tool toward their objectives, and same with elections). And their social base is increasingly armed and itching for (not reluctant, but wanting) civil war to wipe out all those they hate.

The non-fascist section of the ruling class can see the danger this poses on some level, but because of their class interests mainly wants to heal the divides—they’re strongly reluctant to call this fascism out for what it is, or to mobilize people against it, because of how that could call into question the system itself. The problem is, again, the fascists won’t accept reconciliation, except on their terms. And the efforts of the non-fascist section to combat and constrain the fascists just leads to more backlash from the fascists. For example, the Trump indictment has already led the fascists to declare the upcoming election illegitimate if they lose, and to further threaten violence. All this has led to deepening and sharpening divisions within the ruling class and all of its institutions (including armed forces), and in society—unprecedented since the Civil War. And, flowing from all this, as BA has analyzed, it is very likely that the fascists will move to seize and lock down power, one way or another, in the upcoming election.

Where I have understood this incorrectly: not just worsening horrors, but a legitimacy crisis

Where I have understood this incorrectly is in how all this makes revolution more possible. Let’s start with the section from “Something Terrible, Or Something Truly Emancipating” which explains this, and which we cite all the time:

This rare situation, with the deepening and sharpening conflicts among the ruling powers, and in the society overall, provides a stronger basis and greater openings to break the hold of this system over masses of people.

It is extremely important to deeply understand this:

As this situation develops, and the ruling class is more and more unable to rule in the old way, society and daily life for masses of people, from different parts of society, can become increasingly unsettled and chaotic, with frequent “disruptions” of the “normal” way things have been.

And as “the normal way” society has been ruled is failing to hold things together—and society is increasingly being ripped apart—this can shake people’s belief that “the way things have always been” is the only way things can be. It can make people more open to questioning—in a real sense it can force people to question—the way things have been, and whether they have to stay that way. And this is all the more likely to happen if the revolutionary forces are out among the people shining a light on the deeper reality of what is happening, and why, and bringing out that there IS an alternative to living this way.

To cut to the chase, I have misunderstood this as a linear process of the fascists doing increasingly horrible shit, from the big stage and down in people’s daily lives, which will increasingly jolt people, forcing them to question and making them more open to hearing what we have to say. One byproduct of this wrong understanding is that when reality doesn’t conform to that—for example when we’re out agitating about the current horrors of what’s happening to LGBTQ people and women, and the recent Supreme Court cases, and people are streaming by seemingly ignorant and ignore-ant of all this (not being jolted)—the rare time analysis starts to feel like some abstract deus ex machina that we use to make ourselves feel better, and you start looking for gimmicks (like verbal sparring with the reactionaries, who are not ignoring us) to wake these motherfuckers up.

Also, I have understood the significance of the divides at the top, and within the institutions, mainly in terms of the ways they literally weaken the ability of the ruling class to bring down repression on the revolutionary people.

The actual process described is much more ideological. Let’s go back to the first criteria for a revolutionary situation, also from “Something Terrible, Or Something Truly Emancipating”:

A crisis in society and government so deep and so disruptive of the “usual way of things,” that those who have ruled over us, for so long, can no longer do so in the “normal” way that people have been conditioned to accept.

Right there you can see that what’s being talked about is not just a matter of horrors coming down on people, but of the legitimacy of this system. In other words, the significance of the two sections of the rulers being at each other’s throats is not just that it distracts them from repressing the revolutionary people or something, it’s that it reveals to everyone the cracks within the edifice of this system, stripping away the sense of power and permanence and the superstitious awe that people have for this system and its institutions. The fact that the rulers are in constant gridlock and can’t even deal with basic shit like COVID and school shootings, not to mention things like homelessness and climate change (which points to the close interrelation between rare time and the crises being generated by the normal functioning of this system)—at the same time as China is rising, and in some economic ways surpassing the U.S., as an imperialist power—really dampens the “rosy glow” of this country. As the Declaration put it over two years ago:

These divisions and conflicts have ripped big holes in the camouflage of this system, further exposing its real nature and the lie that this is “the greatest country in the world,” the “shining light of freedom” and “leader of the free world.”

The fact that the normal means through which people have been conditioned to address their grievances—elections, reforms, etc.—are being battered by the fascists… and the highest court in the land has a fascist supermajority… and Biden and the Democrats have no solutions to the intensifying outrages that their system generates, and are thoroughly uninspiring to decent people… just adds to people’s sense the future is really bleak.

What is going on has much more to do with these lines from The Second Coming, by William Butler Yeats, than with the linear political concept I had:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

I thought the New York Times profile of Richard Haass (Council on Foreign Relations president) was very illustrative. This major ruling class thinker/operative, who has advised Democrat and Republican presidents for decades, says he misjudged Trump. He thought Trump would be moderated by the presidency, instead Trump doubled down and got more extreme. He is now saying that the U.S. is the biggest threat to the global order! And I want to highlight this paragraph from the article:

Over the past century, America has experienced other periods of division and discord — Jim Crow, McCarthyism, Vietnam, civil rights, Watergate. The assassinations and riots and war of 1968 often come to mind as a singularly miserable year in the life of the nation. But Mr. Haass sees this moment as even worse. “These were not threats to the system, the fabric,” he said. “That’s why I think this is more significant.”

Note, threats to the system and “fabric.” THIS is what is shaking people and in various ways calling into question the permanence of the current order. What I did not really grasp up until now is that we are already in the beginning stages of a major legitimacy crisis.

Something Terrible or Something Truly Emancipating - Square, wo "NEW"

 

Spontaneously, in the short run, the masses are getting worse… but the ground is shifting under their feet

I had been thinking the masses are mainly oblivious to the extreme objective situation (like there’s a brick wall between the masses and reality). In fact, this reality is affecting the masses in all kinds of ways. Spontaneously, in the immediate period, it is making them WORSE than they’ve been as long as I can remember! Mass hopelessness; depression, anxiety, and suicide at all-time highs; virulent, oblivious, and self-indulgent individualism running rampant; wokeness getting more and more unhinged; anti-Semitic conspiracy theories spreading; near universal capitulation and accomodation to horrors (Sunsara Taylor’s analogy about climbing higher on the sinking ship); people clinging even more desperately to bourgeois democratic illusions. Some social phenomena are more contradictory: people having less faith in the institutions and therefore taking matters into their own hands (as Lenny Wolff pointed out, this is part of the context for the reactionary vigilante murder of Jordan Neely); all political and social categories are arming themselves more, and polls show more support for “political violence,” and not just among reactionaries (a recent poll showed 12.4 percent of Americans believe the “use of force” is justified to restore federal abortion rights).

In the new piece from BA, “Revolution: Major Turning Points and Rare Opportunities,” he writes:

This possibility may not be, and generally is not, immediately apparent, and on the contrary what is often more readily seen on the surface is the way in which, in the short term, the situation is worsening.

This also reminds me of what BA wrote seven years ago in The New Communism about the deterioration of the “American dream”:

This is another phenomenon which, strategically, is favorable but poses a lot of contradictions in the short run. One of the reasons it’s strategically favorable is suggested by the subtitle of this book, The American Dream in Crisis, because the “American Dream” is what we could call a “cohering myth” of this society, an ideological glue that holds it together, and a key prop for the legitimacy of this system in this country. In other words, the idea that if you work hard, you can make it, or at least your kids will do better than you did. And, for a lot of people now, including a lot of white people, that’s not true any more...

There are definitely negative aspects that go along with this undermining of the “American Dream.” In some expressions, it drives people into openly reactionary and fascist-type positions and organizations, while in some other cases it just leads people into demoralized ways of life. One expression of that is the growing phenomenon of people, including people throughout rural areas and in small towns, addicted to drugs like oxycontin—pain-killing drugs—and then going on to heroin. But, at the same time, there are positive factors which we should also recognize and work on, from a strategic standpoint, toward revolution. It’s all to the good, strategically, if the “American Dream” myth is undermined. It doesn’t immediately produce all positive results by any means; but, strategically, it’s a favorable factor, and one we have to actively work on, in moving things toward revolution.

The point of quoting this is not that we’re in the same situation as 2016 when the book was written. Clearly things have taken a leap, and what we’re dealing with now is not just the gradual erosion of the American Dream by economic forces, but an acute crisis of legitimacy brought about by a fascist party that is waging war on the old cohering norms. But what I appreciate about this passage is the dialectical non-linear method, how BA is able to see the strategic advantage despite the negative ideological effect in the immediate sense. 

Right now, the ground is shifting under people’s feet, and they are being sprung into motion. The motion is not resistance in the street. The motion is mainly ideological right now, and it is overwhelmingly, historically, BAD. But the ground is shifting and they are in motion. In many ways, the ideological “hold of this system over masses of people” is actively being loosened. At the same time, there is the parasitism of this society, the relentless propaganda of this system, and the active intervention constantly of other class forces who are seizing on this moment to repolarize toward their objectives, and organizing forces, reinforcing the grip of this system over the masses in new and old forms. To BREAK the hold of this system requires ferocious struggle from us. But it does strengthen the basis and provide greater openings to do that.

To sum up, I have filtered Bob Avakian’s analysis through a kind of mechanical/linear/economist/populist framework—where the measuring stick for whether it’s a “rare time when revolution is more possible” is based on what the masses are thinking and doing now—which has prevented me from seeing (and in my case obscured with eclectics) the essence of what’s shaping up: not just accelerating horrors, but the fraying and fracturing of the old center (which people have been conditioned to accept as legitimate), and the actual basis NOW in the current legitimacy crisis (albeit the beginning stages) to make major advances toward revolution. While I have said “this is one of those rare times,” it has felt like it’s still on the horizon. 

A turning point, and a window now

It’s true that because of the dynamics of this situation new political shocks and jolts will come, and at an accelerated rate, with a critical turning point around the 2024 elections. If we correctly grasp this rare time, we can do more than just “tread water” while we await the coming storms, which is actually a recipe for drowning—remember, the new “two outmodeds” of fascist insanity and woke lunacy are constantly clashing, and reinforcing each other as they clash, and as Lenny Wolff emphasized with his magnets metaphor in his speech at Revolution Books NYC, the process of polarization and repolarization is happening constantly, and absent our intervention it is hastening disaster… and after all, the likely scenario in 2024 is a fascist attempt to seize power (quite possibly by winning the election “legitimately”) and move to resolve the crisis and division in a radically reactionary way, thereby creating a new “center” and set of cohering norms, and bringing down new levels of repression on the masses (and let’s not forget the increasingly violent rhetoric from the fascist politicians and base against “communists” and people who disrespect the flag). So we have a real window NOW, and a real need (not some arbitrary goal) this year in 2023 to put revolution on the map—impact the terrain on a national scale such that we can’t be ignored, developing a much more significant critical mass of revcoms, and networks of support… so that as the situation further intensifies people will have already heard about this revolution and know where to turn, and have organization on different levels that can integrate them in, as we go out and further impact.

As the new BA article on “Turning Points and Rare Opportunities” says:

Revolutions are made possible, in the most fundamental sense, as a result of the intensification of the contradictions of the oppressive system, leading to crucial turning points, providing rare opportunities for major revolutionary advance, even potentially opening the way for the victory of the revolutionAnd the prospects for revolution hinge to a great extent on whether the conscious forces for this revolution not only carry out consistent revolutionary work and struggle, but more specifically whether they recognize—and on that basis act boldly and with scientifically grounded determination, to take full advantage of—these crucial turning points and all-too-rare opportunities.

This “more specifically” clause is the key point here that has been missing, not just on my end but more collectively.

Imagine what we could open up now if we understood and acted on this rare time

When you really grasp the basis and openings in this rare time:

**Instead of routinism… you are filled with a new level of urgency, boldness, determination… and with scientific direction.

**Instead of empty formulations which you don’t really understand/believe and can’t really connect… you can bring alive to people the greater need and the possibility of revolution now.

**Instead of an impenetrable brick wall between the masses and reality… you can recognize and speak to the ways people are feeling this rare time, while fighting to wake them up to the larger and deeper reality—and most importantly, bringing people what they NEED: a way out of this madness.

**You can see the basis NOW to make this a MASS demand (in a way that wasn’t possible before): “The Existing Capitalist-Imperialist System And Institutions Of Government In This Country Must Be Abolished And Dismantled—And Replaced By A New, Socialist System Based On The CONSTITUTION FOR THE NEW SOCIALIST REPUBLIC IN NORTH AMERICA.”

**You are steeping yourself in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America and the popularization in We Need and We Demand, and increasingly able to wield and bring alive the radical difference between this system/constitution and that system/constitution, programmatically and in the essential difference over conceptions of freedom and the role of the masses.

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

Authored by Bob Avakian, and adopted by the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, 2010 

 

**You see even more clearly and urgently the need to struggle sharply, and in a mass way, against the fucked up ways people are spontaneously responding to the situation, the class forces that are misleading people, and the frameworks that are standing in the way of this revolution and furthering the nightmare.

**You are speaking to and trying to reach inside and move the people who are FED UP (a small percentage of the overall population at this point, but a large total number in the U.S.), while struggling with and influencing the broad ranks of “decent people” for whom this will circulate in their minds as events unfold.

**Instead of working within the current polarization, the ignorance and ignore-ance… you are fighting to carve out a different path, put something new on the map, set terms and make people relate to THAT.

**Instead of leaving it at a thumbs up… you challenge people to take up the concrete ways to come in and support this revolution, and in that process struggle with them over what time it is and what’s at stake.

Imagine what we could open up now if we understood and acted on this.

We Need and We Demand : A Whole New Way to Live, A Fundamentally Different System

 

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From the genocide in Gaza, to the growing threat of world war between nuclear powers, to escalating environmental devastation… the capitalist-imperialist system ruling over us is a horror for billions around the world and is tearing up the fabric of life on earth. Now the all-out battle within the U.S. ruling class, between fascist Republicans and war criminal Democrats, is coming to a head—likely during, or before, the coming elections—ripping society apart unlike anything since the Civil War. 

Bob Avakian (BA), revolutionary leader and author of the new communism, has developed a strategy to prepare for and make revolution. He’s scientifically analyzed that this is a rare time when an actual revolution has become more possible, and has laid out the sweeping vision, solid foundation and concrete blueprint for “what comes next,” in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America

The website revcom.us follows and applies that leadership and is essential to all this. We post new materials from BA and curate his whole body of work. We apply the science he’s developed to analyze and expose every key event in society, every week. Revcom.us posts BA’s timely leadership for the revcoms (revolutionary communists), including his social media posts which break this down for people every week and sometimes more. We act as a guiding and connecting hub for the growing revcom movement nationwide: not just showing what’s being done, but going into what’s right and what’s wrong and rapidly learning—and recruiting new people into what has to be a rapidly growing force.

Put it this way: there will be no revolution unless this website not only “keeps going” but goes up to a whole different level!

So what should you give to make 2024 our year—a year of revolution? 
Everything you possibly can! 
DONATE NOW to revcom.us and get with BA and the revcoms!    

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