Setting the Record Straight
on Socialism and Communism
50 years since Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

50 Years Since the Cultural Revolution in China: Upholding—and Going Forward From—a Historic Breakthrough for Humanity

May 9, 2016

Includes the following:

» No Wonder They Slander Communism
by Bob Avakian

» An interview with Bob Avakian:
The Cultural Revolution in China...Art and Culture...Dissent and Ferment...and Carrying Forward the Revolution Toward Communism

» Excerpt from You Don't Know What You Think You "Know" About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future, interview with Raymond Lotta

» "But How Do We Know Who's Telling the Truth About Communism?"

» Department of Mistakenly Plundered Archives
China Scholar Claims New Crimes by Mao

» From a member of the Revolution Club New York City:
Challenging the Anti-Communist LIES Told About the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Read more

Study, Popularize and Promote the Special Issue and New eBook

You Don’t Know What You Think You “Know” About...


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Read the whole Special Issue including the Interview with Raymond Lotta

Chapter 1: Introduction

People need the truth about the communist revolution. The REAL truth. At a time when people are rising up in many places all over the world and seeking out ways forward, THIS alternative is ruled out of order. At a time when even more people are agonizing over and raising big questions about the future, THIS alternative is constantly slandered and maligned and lied about, while those who defend it are given no space to reply. We thought it urgent that we answer the questions and tell the TRUTH about the communist revolution—the real way out of the horrors that people endure today, and the even worse ones they face tomorrow. To do this, we arranged for Raymond Lotta to be interviewed by different groups of people in different parts of the country, and other people sent in questions. What follows is a synthesized, edited version that draws on those interviews and adds new material since the interviews were first conducted.

Raymond Lotta is an advocate for Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism. He is a political economist, author of America in Decline, and writer for Revolution. He directs the “Set the Record Straight Project,” which brings out the truth of the Soviet and Chinese revolutions and provides web resources.

Question: What exactly are you referring to when you say the “first stage” of communist revolution?

Raymond Lotta: We’re talking about a sea change in human history, the first attempts in modern history to build societies free from exploitation and oppression. Specifically, we’re talking about the short-lived Paris Commune of 1871, the Russian revolution of 1917-1956, and the Chinese revolution of 1949-1976. These were titanic risings of the modern-day “slaves” of society against their “masters.” They aimed to bring about a community of humanity, a society based on the principle of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs,” and one where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.

Never have there been such radical and far-reaching transformations in how society is organized, in how economies are run, in culture and education, in how people relate to each other, and in how people think and feel as there were in these revolutions. Against incredible odds and obstacles, and in what amounts to a nanosecond of human history, these revolutions accomplished amazing things—and they changed the course of human history. Never before had the myth of an unchanging human nature—in which people are “naturally” self-seeking, and some people just “naturally” dominate others—been so decisively exploded. For those few decades, a better world seemed on the verge of birth. For the first time the long dark night of humanity—where society is divided into exploiter and exploited, oppressor and oppressed—this was broken through, and a whole new form of society began to be forged.

Continue reading the full interview You Don’t Know What You Think You ‘Know’ About…The Communist Revolution and the Real Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future.

Read comments at Responses to the Special Issue on the History of Communist Revolution.

No Wonder They Slander Communism

By Bob Avakian

If you step back and think about it, no wonder they slander communism so much. If you presided over a system that has such glaring, howling contradictions and disparities in terms of how people lived, a system which denied a decent life to the majority of humanity, and weighed them down with tremendous oppression and superstition and ignorance, while a relative handful in a few countries lived a life of unbelievable luxury—but, more than just luxury, they continued to accumulate capital while they fought with each other over who would beat out the other through this exploitation and accumulation of capital—if you stood back and looked at that... Imagine if you said to somebody: go to a drawing board and draw up the way you think the world should be. And imagine if somebody went to the drawing board and painted a picture of the way the world is now, and they said: this is the way the world should be. I mean, there would be tremendous howls coming from all quarters of humanity, saying: What the fuck—that’s the way you think the world should be, with these tremendous disparities and people, little children, dying of cholera and malnutrition and other things that could be prevented easily, while a small number battle each other to accumulate more and more wealth from the suffering of this mass of humanity—that’s what you think?!

Anybody who would actually draw that up on a board should actually be—and would probably be—rightly accused of criminal insanity. And yet, here’s a class of people, the capitalist-imperialist class, that presides exactly over a world that way, and argues it’s the best of all possible worlds. The only reason that people don’t—masses of people don’t, right at this time—say, “this is criminal insanity” is because they’ve been propagandized and conditioned to believe that, in fact, this is the only possible way, and that the radical alternative to it that does exist, namely communism, has somehow been a horror and a disaster. And it’s not hard to see why the ruling class of capitalist-imperialists would employ a lot of people to propagate that idea everywhere they could. If you presided over such a criminally insane system, you would undoubtedly do the same.

from What Humanity Needs: Revolution and the New Synthesis of Communism, An Interview with Bob Avakian by A. Brooks.

“[O]ne of the most important focuses [of the struggle in the realm of ideas] at this time is the struggle to confront and combat the constant attacks on the experience of socialist countries, and in particular the dictatorship of the proletariat, and especially the whole concept of totalitarianism; and at the same time, while doing that, to confront and critically examine the actual experience of socialist countries and the dictatorship of the proletariat, drawing the fullest lessons from this experience—mainly and overwhelmingly the positive lessons, but also facing squarely and digging deeply into the very real shortcomings and errors.”

Bob Avakian
Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
from Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism

Excerpt from

What Humanity Needs

Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism

An Interview with Bob Avakian

The New Synthesis of Communism—Putting This in Historical Perspective

Brooks: I wondered if you could talk a little bit about this point that the new synthesis of communism that you’ve brought forward is not based on either of the two dominant trends that are mentioned in the Manifesto from the RCP—either discarding and throwing out the past experience of socialist society, or kind of clinging dogmatically to it. It’s standing on the shoulders of that previous experience, but then actually going further. I wondered if you could speak a little bit to that.

WHAT HUMANITY NEEDSBob Avakian: Well, one of the ways to get at this—this flows from what I was just talking about, and, again, we do need to focus a lot of attention on setting the record straight around this, because we’re fighting an uphill battle against this massive assault, a massive and multi-sided assault against communism coming from the ruling class and the ruling and dominant institutions of society, from academia to the “popular media” to the so-called news media, and so on—but one of the ways to come at this, and to look at the experience in the Soviet Union and in China, is this: We’re always hearing about how in democratic, i.e. capitalist, society, the individual is valued in a way that was not true before in history and is not true in any other kind of society, especially not tyrannical or “totalitarian” societies like communist dictatorships. The “rights of the individual” are supposedly at the center of the whole political philosophy and the whole political process in these capitalist democracies.

Read on, pp 45-49 "What Humanity Needs"


Read and download COMMUNISM: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA


II. The First Stage of Communist Revolution

III. The End of a Stage—And What Conclusions Should, and Should Not, Be Drawn from this Historical Experience

IV. The New Challenges, and the New Synthesis

At a talk I gave, years ago now, someone asked: “How would you do better than the Soviet Union or China under Mao?” One of the things I said to him is: “I don’t believe in tailing people because they’re oppressed—we need emancipators of humanity.” When you are in a qualitatively different situation than what we have now—when the present system has been swept aside and the new, socialist system has been brought into being—there would have to be an army, as the backbone of an actual state, that enforces the new system, and that army would be made up of very basic people in large part. But we have to train them to understand that, as part of that, they are going to have to be out there protecting the rights of people who oppose this new system, and they are going to have to defend the right of these people to raise this opposition, while at the same time they would also have to stop people who really are making attempts to smash the state power we have. I said that this will be a struggle with masses, but we have to bring forward on every level people who have this kind of understanding of what we’re doing. The Constitution of the new, socialist system is going to enumerate the rights of people, and this state apparatus is going to protect people’s rights who don’t agree, so long as they don’t actively and concretely organize to overthrow that state apparatus. That is where the Lenin point comes in: As long as there are classes, one class is going to dictate, and “better me than you”—that is, better the dictatorship of the proletariat than the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (capitalist class). But what is that dictatorship of the proletariat?

BOTH aspects of this are important—solid core and elasticity.

BAsics from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian 2:27

Constitution for the New Socialist Republic

Read and Download Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

Revolution newspaper: The Cultural Revolution in China...

Listen to / Read the interview with Bob Avakian: “The Cultural Revolution in China... Art and Culture... Dissent and Ferment... and Carrying Forward the Revolution Toward Communism”





New eBook on The Truth about the Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation

You Don't Know What You Think You "Know" About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future

This eBook takes on and refutes the ruling and false narrative of capitalist society that communism has been a failure and nightmare. Raymond Lotta analyzes the actual reality of the Russian and Chinese revolutions: their liberatory aims and extraordinary accomplishments; their shortcomings and problems; and the causes of their eventual defeat. He discusses Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism and the basis to go further and do better in a new stage of communist revolution. The reader will come away with a new, scientific understanding of how these revolutions opened a whole new chapter in world history.

An account of the history of communist revolutions that focuses on the creation of new institutions, organizations and collective practices that have been largely ignored in the standard literature.

—Michael Brown, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Northeastern University

A welcome counterpoint to the contemporary treatment of communist history, demonstrating vividly why and how so many millions of people joined these movements, or drew inspiration from them.

—Thomas Lutze, Professor of History, Illinois Wesleyan University

Raymond Lotta’s research and argumentation demonstrate forcefully that a better world for humanity is indeed possible.

—Dongping Han, author of The Unknown Cultural Revolution:
Life and Change in a Chinese Village

Order eBook now at and other retailers. Order information at

Letter from a Prisoner:

“The point I want to make is that superficial analyses and condemnations of communism and socialist revolutions have real consequences. Too many people who could be led to be the backbone for revolution are having their sights lowered by those who pose as serious radicals dedicated to revolutionary change but who are much more willing to accommodate to capitalism-imperialism than fight for communism.”

The Importance of the Special Revolution Issue on the First Stage of the Communist Revolution


As always I hope this letter finds you and all the PRLF staff in good health and in high revolutionary spirits.

I’m excited about the special issue that is projecting the truth about the first stage of socialist revolution: “You Don’t Know What You Think You ‘Know’ About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future.”

A lot of harm is done by distortions and attacks on the history of socialist revolutions. Vilifying the history of socialist revolutions does more than keep people from learning about some interesting historical facts, it objectively robs us of hope and of the immensely better future that we could have if only we understood the role we should play in making revolution. I think understanding what communism actually is and learning the truth about the history of socialist revolutions has everything to do with that, it makes all the difference between people being inspired to carry on that struggle or becoming dejected by false solutions. A lot of “well-intentioned” activists are leading people, (while claiming to shun leadership) away from the only hope we have for a better world. Revolutionary potential is being veered off the path to communism by slanders on the socialist revolutions of Russia and China coming from people who seem to be very dedicated to radical change.

From talking to many prisoners I’ve come to realize that many of us come to hate the hypocrisy of the U.S. ruling class without even being exposed to radical literature.

Continue reading The Importance of the Special Revolution Issue on the First Stage of the Communist Revolution.

“But How Do We Know Who’s Telling the Truth About Communism?”

Some people reading this interview may be saying to themselves: “Ok, Raymond Lotta says these socialist societies were incredibly liberating, and that all these amazing things happened. But my teacher… my textbook… that magazine article I read… my friend whose family is from Russia… everything I have ever learned or heard about these societies… says that they were nightmares. How do we know who's telling the truth? Why should I believe Raymond Lotta?”

In response, two quick points must be made right away:

First, it’s not a question of what Raymond Lotta says vs. what your teacher, or textbook, or friend, or magazine article says. There are not two, or three, or four different competing “versions” of reality; there is one reality. In other words: Either something is true, or it’s not. Either something is in line with reality, or it isn’t. Either something happened, or it didn’t.

Second, here’s how you definitely don’t decide what’s true: By looking at what most people think. Very often what most people think is wrong! For example: At different points in the history of the world, most people thought that the earth was flat… that the sun revolved around the earth… and that slavery was completely natural and acceptable… and most people today still think that god created human beings and all life on earth. 0 for 4!

But then this leads to the question: How do we tell what is really true, and who is really telling the truth about communism?

The short answer to this question is: Be scientific. Examine the evidence, and examine the methods and criteria being applied.

Read the full article “But How Do We Know Who’s Telling the Truth about Communism?”

Communism: A Whole New World and the Emancipation of All Humanity—Not “The Last Shall Be First, and The First Shall Be Last”

Bob Avakian,
Chairman of the
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
BAsics, 2:1

“A Question Sharply Posed: Nat Turner or Thomas Jefferson?”

In this essay, Bob Avakian stakes out a position on this controversial historical question, and provides the basic way to argue it out. Then he uses that benchmark basic question to establish the framework through which to address the even more controversial historical questions and specifically the history of communism and the present-day struggle for communist revolution. Watch the video of Raymond Lotta discussing “...Nat Turner or Thomas Jefferson?” at Revolution Books NYC:

Taking on Lies about Mao’s Great Leap Forward

Over 300 students at the University of Chicago in the of Fall 2009 came out to hear Raymond Lotta speak on “Everything You’ve Been Told About Communism is Wrong: Capitalism is a Failure, Revolution is the Solution.” Video is from Q&A in Chicago:


Come to Set the
Record Straight at

Do we have to accept this world as it is? With endless war, environmental catastrophe, the subordination and degradation of women, racism, and mindless consumerism. Is capitalism the only and most optimal system for humanity?

The truth, the pervasively suppressed truth, is that the socialist revolutions of the Soviet Union (1917-56) and China (1949-76) opened new and unprecedented possibilities for human emancipation. You don’t know that because you have been lied to about communism and revolution. Through high-profile “memoirs” that recite tales of suffering and persecution...through supposedly scholarly works about the Cultural Revolution or Stalin...and through hall-of-mirrors repetition, where everyone says “what everyone knows” about communism—but really does NOT know!

If you yearn for a far better world, and care about critical thinking and historical truth, then you need to visit the website of the Set the Record Straight project, at This is where you can learn about the great breakthroughs, as well as the serious shortcomings and problems, of the first wave of communist revolutions. This is where you can become part of and help spread the debate about human possibility.

A Learning Resource

  • Explore the real history of the Russian and Chinese revolutions—their monumental achievements and their shortcomings as well.
  • See how Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism is being applied towards more deeply understanding and evaluating the rich and complex experience of the first wave of socialist revolutions.

A Practical Resource

  • For those involved in building the movement for revolution and come up against questions about the history of communism and charges about how awful communism is, you can direct people to Set the Record Straight and raise your own understanding by accessing valuable, fact-based information and analysis.
  • For teachers or professors who want to widen curriculum and stir debate in the classroom, there are many teaching aids here.
  • For students doing research, and wanting to learn the truth about communism.
  • For those who want to spark debate and discussion in different social and political movements, and in different intellectual arenas, about the first attempts to create liberating societies, go to Set the Record Straight for materials and ideas.

Available at

  • the truth about the Russian Revolution of 1917-56 and the Chinese Revolution of 1949-76
  • resources on the most basic questions about communism
  • video of talks by people who participated in the Cultural Revolution
  • new content includes discussion of the the 1932-33 famine in the Soviet Union and the Great Leap Forward in China.

Spread word of Set the Record Straight

Timeline: The REAL History of Communist Revolution

The short-lived Paris Commune of 1871, the Russian revolution of 1917-1956, and the Chinese revolution of 1949-1976 were titanic risings of the modern-day “slaves” of society against their “masters.” Against incredible odds and obstacles, and in what amounts to a nanosecond of human history, these revolutions accomplished amazing things—and they changed the course of human history. For the first time, the long dark night of humanity—the period when society has been divided into exploiter and exploited, oppressor and oppressed—was broken through. A whole new form of society began to be forged.

See the Timeline of the First Wave of Socialist Revolution in the 20th century

Drawing of Karl Marx

Drawing of Karl Marx, author of the Communist Manifesto, being arrested in Brussels, Belgium, 1848.

Reading Big Character posters during the Cultural Revolution in China

Big Character Posters during the Cultural Revolution in China

Social and economic change in the Soviet Union: Peasants discussing news on land reform in Uzbekistan, 1927

Social and economic change in the Soviet Union