Revolution #29, January 8, 2006
More on "The Coming Civil War"
Revolution #029, January 8, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Editors Note: The following are excerpts drawn from a talk given by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, to a group of Party members and supporters in 2005. This has been edited for publication here, and subheads and footnotes have been added.
Out of What Could This Civil War Arise?
The first question that needs to be spoken to here is: Where is this civil war coming from--out of what combination of factors could it arise? Now in this connection, some of what I'll be speaking to will be in response to something that has been raised--by way of criticism of this overall analysis--the question: "Why would they do that?" In other words, why would the "they" who rule this system let things go to those kinds of extremes? Well, first of all, I have previously spoken to how there is not one single "they"--and I won't repeat all of that here.1 And, secondly, I will talk about why and how this could, in fact, come about, whether or not particular individuals within the ruling class might desire this.
It has also been raised, in response to--again, that is, by way of criticism of--this "coming civil war" analysis, that it is possible to understand why there was a civil war in the U.S. in the 1860s, because you had two different modes of production then, which were increasingly coming into conflict with each other (a slave system, based in the South, and a developing capitalist system, based in the North); but now you don't have that kind of situation, so why would there be such a fundamental antagonism? Well, there have been experiences, for example in Nazi Germany, where sections of the ruling class were crushed by other sections without there having to be different modes of production involved. So conflicting modes of production is not a necessary requirement for there to be an all-out confrontation, in which one side or the other will be crushed, even for this to take place among the powers-that-be, although the Civil War in the U.S. in the 1860s did have a certain definite particularity--it represented the completion of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in the U.S.--that was its historical particularity and peculiarity.
But let's talk about "the coming civil war" in the U.S. today and relate this to the "Pyramid" analysis in different aspects, and what are similarities but also important differences in relation to the Civil War of the 1860s.2 And let's broaden this out to include the question of the Civil War and the "Weimar Republic."3 One of the striking things which comes through every day about the present situation in U.S. society, and in terms of contradictions and struggle within the ruling class--or the relative lack of struggle on the one side within the ruling class--does flow from the "Pyramid" analysis. That is, on the one hand, there is significant paralysis of the liberal imperialists (here I am referring generally to "liberals" within the leadership of the Democratic Party), in terms of contention with the opposing section (or sections) of the ruling class (those more generally grouped within the Republican Party), and at the same time on the part of these "liberals"--and generally on the part of the Democratic Party--there is a conscious and deliberate attempt at demobilization of the masses, particularly those on "their side of the pyramid" (that is, the masses of oppressed people and progressive forces in society, broadly speaking, who generally support and vote for the Democratic Party, even while they are consistently betrayed by it--and many even recognize this, at least to a certain degree, often voting for the Democrats as the "lesser evil"). These two things go hand in hand: paralysis in terms of fighting their "right-wing" rivals within the ruling class (which, yes, involves a definite fascist core) and deliberate demobilization of the "base of the Democratic Party." So that is the present dynamic within the ruling class: the initiative and the coherence, powerfully, around a program is overwhelmingly on one side of the divide in the ruling class (one side of the pyramid, if you will--"the right"), while the other side ("the left") is, on the one hand, paralyzed to a significant degree, putting up feeble and generally backpedaling opposition in relation to "the right," while working deliberately and systematically to demobilize any kind of mass outpouring against particularly egregious policies of the current regime and against the whole direction in which it is taking things.
This relates to the question of the bourgeois-democratic "Weimar Republic" in Germany after World War 1--how it was in many ways ripe for destruction by the Nazis after a certain point, and how the contradictions that were posed in Germany at that time (in the aftermath of Germany's defeat in World War 1) provided a certain favorable "environment" for the Nazis to grow and even to rise to power. Of course, there was an underlying basis of massive inflation, mass unemployment, and the situation of Germany in the international network of imperialist relations, where it had been deprived of territory it had previously held, had its armed forces severely restricted, and generally was put on rations and forced to pay reparations by the victorious imperialists, as a result of World War 1--those conditions, of course, don't exist in terms of the U.S. in today's world. But there still is a similarity with the Weimar Republic and in particular the flabbiness of the Weimar Republic. If you watch the movie "Cabaret" you'll see some of this portrayed. It's a very relevant movie to see now--you see how the fascists were able to play on a certain decadence of the Weimar Republic and on the way in which it was weak and flabby in relation to the interests of the bourgeoisie in that situation, the interests of German imperialism. I have written elsewhere about why and how the Nazis went after the Weimar Republic and what parallels there are with the situation in the U.S. today, which I won't repeat here. But there is that certain dynamic where the relativism and flabbiness, if you will, of the Democratic Party (the equivalent, in the U.S. today, of the Weimar Republic) becomes a perfect foil and target. You could see this in the whole Clinton impeachment crisis: Clinton and what he represented became a perfect foil and target for this whole fascist element of the ruling class in the U.S. today.4
One of the things that is expressive of this, or is part of the picture here, is that we have this whole phenomenon that arose out of the '60s and the contradictions which were set loose or intensified then, and the social changes that went along with that--some of which have been reinforced by changes in the economy, particularly having to do with the position of women in relation to work, and the reverberations of that back within the family and relations between men and women. But there was this whole ensemble of social conflicts that was set in motion by the '60s, which is still unresolved. That's one of the things Pat Buchanan was speaking to when, in his book The Death of the West--and I have given him credit for being far-seeing--he said: right after September 11 there was all this rallying around the flag and expressions of national unity, but it won't last, because there are these fundamental (as he calls them) "cultural divides." An important part of the picture here--and this relates to the analogy to the Weimar Republic and the Nazis going after the Weimar Republic--is that, because in the U.S. there has not been a revolutionary rupture to a whole other system, and a whole new and radically different framework--in terms of the economic base and the superstructure of this country and in terms of world relations--a lot of the things that the '60s set in motion which were positive have turned into their opposites in some important aspects. Some did so sooner and some after a longer period of time; and then they become convenient foils and objects of attack by these fascist forces. Some of this became readily apparent even during the '60s itself--for example, the "sexual revolution" and "free love" became, in significant ways, another form of preying on women. That contradiction asserted itself very rapidly. But a lot of more positive things that came out of that period were not able to find full expression and to become embodied in an actual radical rupture and transformation of society as a whole (and world relations), because they ran up against the limits of what could be accomplished within the confines of this system and its rule over society--this economic base of capitalism and its whole superstructure of political rule by the capitalist class, and of the dominant bourgeois politics, ideology and culture generally--and so these things that came forward through the '60s gave rise to their opposites in many ways. Forms of cultural expression that were positive did turn sometimes into forms of decadence. Things that were going against very strait-laced and confining and suffocating norms, degenerated into forms of relativism. Especially when you add in the defeats of the proletarian revolution internationally (and in particular the restoration of capitalism in China after Mao's death in 1976), then much of the opposition of various kinds to "faultline" forms of oppression in this society, such as the oppression of women and of Black people and other oppressed nationalities, were reduced to "identity politics," with the corresponding philosophical expressions of relativism.
These things have become, in many ways, easy targets and foils for right-wing forces. Because the proletariat is not yet leading and giving shape to the struggle against all forms of oppression, because this is not yet part of a powerful proletarian revolutionary movement and not being transformed in that context, then the ways in which, owing to factors both within the U.S. and internationally, some of these things have turned into their opposites, makes them convenient "cabarets" for the Nazis to go after. And distortions of what was raised through the movements of the '60s also become targets for the equivalent of Nazis in the U.S. So, this is all part of the picture as well.
Now when we think about this, one element that should cause us to become very sober, very quickly--this is something that was actually pointed out by Larry Everest in an article in our newspaper a little while ago5-- is this: If this section of the ruling class, with right-wing Christian fundamentalist forces (the Christian Fascists) as a major and driving force at the core of this section of the ruling class, consolidates its hold on the state of U.S. imperialism, this will be a force not like the Iranian theocratic fundamentalists who are apparently trying to develop nuclear weapons, but will be a theocratic fundamentalist ruling force, in the U.S., that already has an arsenal, a massive arsenal of nuclear weapons. It's bad enough in general that imperialism has these weapons of truly mass destruction, but this will heighten the madness that is concentrated in that.
You can see this, for example, with this Congressman (Tancredo from Colorado) who came out with a statement that if weapons of mass destruction were used by people "we" identified as "Islamic terrorists," we should respond in kind against Mecca and other Islamic holy sites. The State Department issued a mild criticism of this statement, but neither Bush nor Rumsfeld came out and said anything about how this was wrong. This Congressman, from what I understand, has refused to back off of this statement, and in fact it seems that he is being mentioned as a possible candidate for the Republican nomination for president. Just think soberly about what effect a statement like that has in the world, and particularly in the Islamic world. For some guy to make statements like this, who is a representative of the U.S. government--granted, he's a congressman, not the president, but he's a representative of the U.S. government--talking openly about launching nuclear attacks, or in any case massive strikes, on Mecca! Do you know what that means? Do you understand the effect of that in the Islamic world especially, and do you understand how the Islamic fundamentalists will seize on that--put it all over the Internet, and everywhere else? And it's not repudiated by the president of the United States.
"Why Would 'They' Do That?"
Why would they do that--why would "they" take things to the extreme of replacing bourgeois democracy in the U.S. itself with an openly despotic, in fact fascist rule, particularly in the form of a theocratic (Christian Fascist) state? Because the contradictions in society and the world have given rise to different forces within the ruling class in the U.S. who perceive the interests of the system--as they understand that system, and as they understand those interests--to lie in that direction. They have cohered around such a program, and they have material factors going with them to a significant degree. As one significant aspect of this, they are in accord with the interests of the ruling class broadly, to do away with the New Deal consensus that started with FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was President of the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s and most of World War 2) and the "Great Society" programs of Lyndon Johnson during the 1960s. With the heightened globalization and similar factors resulting from the resolution of the "Cold War," the ruling class in the U.S. has both a certain necessity and a certain freedom to abolish these "Great Society" programs--or what remains of them--and the whole "New Deal" orientation.6 I have spoken to this and analyzed it more fully elsewhere--for example in Preaching From a Pulpit of Bones and "The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy, and Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer."7 But to speak here to a key aspect of this: In the U.S. today, unbridled "free market" capitalism goes along with, and is reinforced by, not only a general emphasis on "personal responsibility"--as opposed to the recognition of any kind of societal responsibility for the conditions of the members of society--but, more specifically, this particular "free market" capitalism is served by the notion that if people are in difficult and even dire conditions it is because of their "sinfulness," and they need to seek salvation through religion, and in particular religious fundamentalism.
At the same time, the section of the ruling class which is at the core of power now looks at what they are setting out to do and feels that this new and extreme kind of cohering and "legitimating" norm is what is necessary in the new conditions that U.S. imperialism exists within, in the world, and with the ambitions that they have for U.S. imperialism in the world--to expand and more thoroughly enforce its domination in the world. These people (and this was spoken to in "Right-Wing Conspiracy") understand that there are centrifugal forces in U.S. society, forces which really do threaten to pull it apart, and that if you are going to hold it together while doing what they are setting out to do in the world, you need a "cohering logic" that is not only powerful in a general sense but one which has a definite "absolute" character to it. Look at what's already happening in Iraq. They have a real problem with these National Guard members that they've now put through three tours--they're refusing to let people out of the military when their time is up. They're doing everything to avoid a draft--and doing everything but re-instituting the draft.
In "Right-Wing Conspiracy" it talks about this: There are two major social phenomena working against this dominant program of the ruling class--two major phenomena that they have to try to deal with. One is everything unleashed by the '60s, which I've spoken about--including whole sections of people in this society who no longer accept the assumption that it is the right of the U.S. to go marauding in the world, and that an American life is more valuable than anyone else's life--there are large numbers of people, within the U.S. itself, who question and oppose those assumptions. That's a real problem if you're trying to do what these imperialists are trying to do in the world. Let's call that "the '60s phenomenon" for shorthand. Then you have "the '90s phenomenon"--all this "gold rush" (get rich quick) shit, and the extreme individualism that it gave rise to--which doesn't exactly mesh neatly with the idea that the "Bushites" are pushing, that people should sacrifice for the greater societal (i.e. imperialist ruling class) good. Both these things are working in significant ways against them.
And then there's the point that Edward Luttwak makes in the book Turbo Capitalism about the changing configuration of the population in the U.S. Again, the change in the production relations, and the change in the family structure that's called forth by that, means that you have very few farm families and generally they are much smaller; you don't have this whole group of people that they used to draw much of the military "grunts" from--large rural and farm families in particular, in situations where it was convenient to have a lot of "hands," i.e. kids. And so, Luttwak points out, in the past when you had a family with six kids and maybe three sons, in the days when they only put the sons into the military, which raises another question: what are they going to do if they re-institute the draft, are they going to draft the women?--that's a really tough contradiction for them, they're in a hard place if they do and if they don't--but anyway, now you've got families that have maybe two kids. Well, if you've got six kids, it's not that people don't "mind" giving up one for the "greater national good," but it's not quite the same as when you have two children, as Luttwak points out. It's a much bigger sacrifice for the family to give up one family member to die in a war for "the greater national good," or whatever.
This is another contradiction they're dealing with: how are you going to get people to subordinate individualistic inclinations of the kind that run counter to what these imperialists are trying to do? Not from a communist standpoint, of course, but from an imperialist standpoint, how do you get people to "sacrifice for the greater (imperialist) good"? And how are you going to counter all the assumptions that came out of the '60s? You have to create a situation in which all the foundations from which people oppose these things can be undermined and eliminated. That's why, as I'll talk about later, there's a whole attack upon critical thinking and dissent in academia.8 Although academia is not actually a "realm of leftist and communist dictatorship," unfortunately [laughter], it is the case that it is a place where a lot of dissent and critical thinking goes on--and that is part of what is supposed to go on in that atmosphere as it has existed. You do have broad numbers of professors who, when the U.S. goes to war, question what they're doing and expose the lies. And you have students who are encouraged to do the same. I don't know how many of you saw this, but when Noam Chomsky was on Bill Maher's show about a year ago, Andrew Sullivan (who is a right-wing writer, commentator and "pundit," but not one who generally supports fanatical religious fundamentalism, even of the Christian Fascist variety) was also there in the studio while Chomsky appeared via satellite. And in that kind of a setting Chomsky might not have been as effective as he is in other situations, where he can expand more on his points, but he did sort of start off with a bang, so to speak--saying that what the U.S. did by invading Iraq was a war crime, which of course it was. Andrew Sullivan just went absolutely bonkers, and insisted: "you can't say that." Essentially he was arguing: "That is beyond the pale of discussion; you can criticize how we're handling the war in Iraq, but you cannot question the underlying assumptions of what we're doing, and you cannot question, or raise for discussion, whether what the U.S. is doing is proceeding from foul rather than fair motives."
Academia is where that still does go on. And that's something which--from the point of view of the ruling class, and in particular the section which is bent on undisguised imperialist marauding--has to be brought under attack. And it is being brought under attack with what we can now recognize as a worked-out approach, in one sphere of society after another, particularly on the part of this more fascist and more openly and unapologetically marauding section of the imperialist ruling class. Step one: You claim you are being victimized. For example, David Horowitz comes along and says "conservatives are being discriminated against in the universities--we need academic fairness." Along with this, you promote relativism--for a certain time, within certain spheres, and for a certain definite purpose. You see this around evolution, for example: "let's consider all the different points of view, let's not dictate that one of them is true." Then, when you get in position, you suppress the points of view that are opposed to your point of view, and you suppress those who would express those oppositional points of view. It's like a familiar dance--one-two-three, one-two-three--the same strategy over and over: in the media, in the sphere of science, in the sphere of education, and so on.
This is an attempt to create a "self-contained world" in which there is no foundation to stand on from which you can call into question, in any kind of substantial or fundamental way, what is going on, what is being done on the part of the ruling class. (I'll speak more, at a later point, about a crucial aspect of this: what is at least a "symbiotic" relationship--a mutually beneficial and reinforcing relationship--between the Christian Fascists and the military.9). At a minimum, you have to have a force, which is a mindless force, that can be used as a battering ram and storm troopers to beat down any attempt at opposition. And what is it that they are forging, with these Christian Fascists, other than a mindless, unthinking force?
When people took out our Party's leaflet around the movie "The Passion of the Christ" and challenged people about all these horrendous things that are advocated in the Bible, some of the people said, "well, if that's what the Bible says, I guess that's what we have to do."10 What does that translate into, politically, when that's organized behind a reactionary political agenda?
So, you have a section of the ruling class that's identifying and proceeding from its conception of these contradictions and how they have to be dealt with. We should understand this. William Kristol is a major figure in all this, has major entree into and influence in the highest levels of government, and he was cited in "Right-Wing Conspiracy" saying, flat out: If we cannot succeed in outlawing abortion in the U.S., we will have failed as a conservative movement. What do you think that means?
Why would they do that? Because this particular and now very powerful "they" see this as the way things have to go.
Now what about the other side of the pyramid--at the top of the pyramid--the side generally represented by the Democratic Party? Right now, it's mainly characterized by backpedaling and paralysis in relation to the "conservatives" (or, as we have quite rightly pointed out: "Conservatives, My Ass--These People are NAZIS!"). But there are bigger dynamics at play in the world. There is the whole world situation and what the imperialists--driven by this core right now grouped around Bush--see the need to do. But it is interesting, somebody was recounting how one of these essentially fascist theoreticians (I think it was Paul Weyrich) was talking about how they have to look beyond Bush to a post-Bush conservatism--and start thinking in terms of changing the way the state functions in this society. These people think strategically. And what do you think that means: changing the way the state functions? Partly it's a pseudo-libertarian notion, but it also partly, and essentially, has to do with this whole fascist program.
Still, there are larger things going on in the world. Iraq did not go the way that they expected it to go. In fact, it's interesting that the Clinton administration, apparently, had reviewed all the options with regard to attacking Iraq and doing what the Bush administration did; but it seems Clinton and Co. rejected the idea because they could not come up with a viable "exit strategy." Very interesting in light of what's happening now. And yet, it is true, from the imperialists' standpoint, they can't just get up and leave Iraq. That would cause all kinds of problems for them and unleash and encourage all kinds of opposition forces, including crazy, fanatical forces--people who are the mirror image of them. So they can't let go in Iraq either, but things are not proceeding as they had expected. Now, how is that going to continue reverberating back within the U.S. and in terms of struggle within the ruling class? That's a question that's at play in a significant way.
Then there's the question of what the struggle of the people does--throughout the world, but in particular within the U.S.--and how that has repercussions within the ruling class. We can think here of the dialectical back and forth between the top and the bottom of the pyramid. Here we can draw a certain analogy, although it's a limited one, to the experience of the opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq. Specifically, during the build-up to this war, in 2002 and in early 2003, there was the back and forth between mass resistance in countries all over the world, on the one hand, and the opposition to U.S. war moves on the part of the ruling classes of rival imperialist powers, such as France, Germany, and Russia, on the other hand. And this is something of an analogy to a point I want to speak to here--what happens at the base of the pyramid, if you will, and how that dialectically relates back and forth to what's happening at the top of the pyramid, on both sides. It should be noted, however, in the case of this example I'm speaking of--the U.S. build-up to the Iraq war, the opposition to the U.S. war moves and the picture as a whole leading into this war--that things were reversed from what we need in this situation we are now confronting; because, as important as the mass resistance was--to the build-up of this war and at the beginning of this war--and as much as it really did affect what those rival imperialist ruling classes were doing (in France, Germany, Russia, and so on), they were still acting more out of concern and calculation in terms of their own imperialist interests, in conflict with those of the U.S., than they were being forced to act because of the "pressure" being objectively exerted by the mass outpourings, in their countries and all over the world, against the U.S. moves to war against Iraq.11 What we need in the present situation is the development of a mass movement so widespread and so powerful that every force in society is compelled to respond to this movement and the demands it is raising.
Now, just to be clear, what I'm talking about, what is being posited, and what I'm calling for, is not developing a mass movement whose purpose is to pressure the Democrats to put up more resistance on their side of the pyramid so we can have a civil war out of which we can make revolution. No. There is a crucial difference between "pressuring the Democrats" through mass mobilization and, in fundamental opposition to that, mobilizing masses to take independent historical action, politically. As for our Party, we are seeking to unite, and working to unite, with a broad range of diverse forces which have many different views in terms of what should come out of all this. And (as I have spoken to in a number of talks and writings, and will come back to again) we are very seriously committed to the objective of radically changing the political situation and rupturing things onto a radically different and more favorable political trajectory, even short of revolution. At the same time, yes, from our perspective we are strategically approaching all this from the standpoint of repolarizing things toward the overall strategic goal of revolution (just as others, with different views and programs, are striving to transform the political terrain in line with their, differing, overall and larger objectives). However, it is a fact that the more that mass resistance does develop in the form of masses taking independent historical political action, that will have ramifications within the ruling class, including on "the Democrats' side of the pyramid," so to speak; this will have significant impact on, and can change, the dynamic that's presently at play. It won't just "give the Democrats more backbone"--nor, obviously, is that the purpose, at least not from our point of view. It will cause contradictory effects on the different groupings within the ruling class. But if there is a truly mass outpouring of resistance, this will have an effect up to the top of the pyramid of power, and back down again--and we have to understand these dynamics and not think in linear and static terms.
Another way in which we have to understand the motion of things as they are actually developing, and not in stereotypical terms, is that when you talk about a civil war between two sections of society, if you will, what is presently shaping up, and the basic dividing line, is not between communism and revolution as we embody that and are striving for it, on the one side, vs. everybody opposed to that on the other side. That would be a very bad polarization right now. There is a different polarization that is affecting society and is expressing itself. There is a broad polarization which has been described in various ways. Pat Buchanan spoke to it, as I referred to earlier. It's a real thing, and it does continually assert itself. It was spoken to by Ron Suskind12 in that New York Times article: the reality-based vs. the faith-based communities. This interpenetrates with ruling class divisions, but is by no means identical to that. And the fact is, if this is left to its "own devices"--if this dynamic and trajectory that's presently at play is left as it is, and if we don't intervene by playing a significant part in mobilizing masses and making a material force of our line in relation to this--the outcome of this is almost certainly bound to be very negative and, very likely, very one-sided, including if there is civil war for real, if it becomes literal civil war.
Things Are Going to Extremes
Another thing some people say (even some people who consider themselves Marxists), in an effort (conscious or not) to avoid facing squarely what is going on and what the stakes are, is that maybe the imperialists can just "muddle on through this." Now, especially for someone who considers herself or himself a Marxist, or an anti-imperialist, to say this amounts to saying: "Why don't we help them muddle on through." Because the fact is that they will "muddle on through"--or much worse --if we don't do what we're called on to do. There could easily be a very one-sided resolution of the very deep conflicts in society. This depends on a lot of factors, including international factors. Now, it's not impossible that a different section of the ruling class could come forward and cohere and get more backbone, but "the odds favor"--and the way things are going now, they are pointing to--a one-sided conflict within the ruling class, and the continuation of the present dynamic. And, as for those people who are on the "reality-based" side of things, those who are on the progressive side of things (and these groupings overlap to a significant degree, although are not identical), so long as they continue looking to a section of the ruling class for "leadership," and so long as they go along with the spontaneity of things, they are going to be left leaderless, and to an overwhelming degree unable to recognize the profundity and the stakes of what's involved and what's in motion, and unable to rise to the occasion. So, if you say, "what if the imperialists can muddle on through?--let's not do something that would provoke them"-- you are actually favoring what is objectively the absolute worst resolution of this: that those who rule this system go to negative extremes, armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, and there's no significant opposition to it. That would be absolutely the worst resolution of this situation, and that is what will happen if we decide to allow them "to muddle on through," in the name of not provoking something worse!
The reality is--and it is crucial for people to grasp this--that even if we don't provoke them, they are going to the extreme with this program. What more evidence do you need? Read the mainstream press, watch the mainstream media, day after day. To cite here just one crucial dimension of this, they are trying to redefine the definition of science--to include religion right within the definition of science--on a societal level. You think that's just going to stay in a little small, confined sphere, in terms of its influence?
And, yes, if things go in a more two-sided way, if there are more positive forces in motion, if there is greater resistance to this whole direction--and if we do our work correctly--there will be many contradictory things in the picture. Many people will enter into objectively important, even historical, independent political action with many different understandings and perspectives on what this is all about and where it all has to go. But it is our responsibility to do everything we can to build this in the most powerful way and to strengthen the unity that is developed in opposition to this whole direction, with the common objective of transforming the political terrain and bringing forward so powerful a movement of political resistance that every force in society will have to respond to it. And it is our responsibility, as communists, to bring forward our own strategic revolutionary objectives in the correct way in relation to that, so that the distinction is clear between our revolutionary objectives and, on the other hand, the objectives of this mass movement of resistance, while at the same time the unity is strengthened among a growing and increasingly diverse array of political forces, including our Party, who share the common objective of transforming the political terrain in a positive way, in determined opposition to the current disastrous direction. Once again, from our overall and strategic perspective, the answer that is required, the resolution that is necessary in relation to all this, is revolution and the bringing into being of a radically different and better society, a socialist society, and ultimately a communist world. And, in the appropriate ways, we must boldly bring forward that perspective, as the viewpoint of our Party. But, at the same time, once again, we must also keep clearly in mind, and make clear to others, the very definite distinction between that and what is, and must be, the basis of unity of the movement of truly massive political resistance that must be built, bringing together a broad diversity of political forces, with many differing views on where the ultimate solution to this lies.
One very important point to grasp and come to terms with, in the context of all this, is the fundamental fact that we are not "setting the agenda " of what is going on in the society and the world. We do not get to sit around and choose when and how things become acutely posed. We do not get to put in a request to the New York Times to stop running articles that give grist to the mill of the Discovery Institute, in attacking evolution--that's out of our control, overwhelmingly. We can effect what happens with that, but we're not setting this agenda. The dynamic that is in play now is not one we have chosen--this gets back to necessity and freedom--it's not one we have chosen, but the reality of it, and the pace of it, is what we have to deal with, to confront and radically transform it, if we are going to be what we are called on to be, and do what we are called on to do.
We need to be very clear, and we need to struggle in a good way with others to win them to understand, that there will in fact be no "pendulum swing," back to "the center" of bourgeois politics and bourgeois rule. And if there were, we must ask: what after all is represented by that "center," that politics, and that rule ? There is no "self-correcting mechanism in the system" to keep it from going to extremes, whether you want it to or not. It's interesting that even a member of the Congressional Black Caucus spoke to this at one of these rallies that was held around the Downing Street Memo13; he got up and he said: Listen, some of you think there's a referee up there somewhere--there's not. [laughter] It is noteworthy that someone coming from that position was able and willing, at least on a certain level, to recognize and acknowledge this. There is no self-correcting mechanism in this system that will keep it from going to these extremes. And, let us never forget, for most of the world, what presently exists actually represents, and subjects them to, great extremes of oppression, exploitation, agony, misery, devastation and destruction, of themselves and of the environment--which, yes, can become even worse but which are never anything but a horror for the great majority. Look around the world.
So in this light I have two things to say to those who insist that, "if we can just keep things from going to extremes, if we can somehow keep things in the general framework where they have been, then things will be alright." First, a question: Precisely looking at the alignment of things right now and the dynamics in society and among the powers-that-be, on what do you base the possibility of "keeping things the way they are"? Where do you see the forces who are going to do even that--are you looking to the "liberals" among the powers-that-be, the "liberal" imperialists? Sorry, but let's be real! Second, and more fundamentally, it is NOT alright to have the world, including U.S. society, stay as they are and have been: To accept that would be to accept the horrors daily visited on the great majority of humanity, including the acute oppression and misery of tens of millions in the U.S. itself.
To want the world "to stay as it is," out of fear of extremes and/or "the cost" of trying to change things in any kind of essential way, is, at a minimum, to objectively acquiesce to these horrors--to accept and go along with them, even if you don't like them and wish they could somehow be eliminated without great cost and without things "going to extremes." This is bad enough for anyone to do, and for communists to do this would be worse than acquiescence--it would be capitulation and betrayal of everything communists are supposed to, and must in fact, stand for, and fight for. We have to confront the reality that things are heading to extremes. Yes, they could head to extremes with a minimum of civil conflict and civil war--and that would once again be the worst outcome, because it would mean there would be no real opposition to this. But things, one way or another, are heading to extremes, and the answer to this is not to seek to avoid this, or to try to live in denial of it, but to rise to the challenge of doing everything possible to actually determine the direction in which things will go and the character of how all this will get resolved.
So let us be clear once again: Whether or not we do anything, things are already, and increasingly will be, going to extremes--and this can only be in a very negative way if we don't do anything. And that relates to the fact that--well, let's just put it baldly--if we so decided, we could in effect guarantee that there is only one extreme direction in which things can go: the negative, extremely negative, extreme in which they are already heading, in a rapid and even accelerating way.
In concluding this section of this talk, let me just say, specifically from the point of view of those of us who are communists, that, yes, it is true, if we do everything we are called on to do, and rise in the fullest way to the challenges we face, we could be defeated and things could still go to the negative extremes toward which they are now headed. But the point is that if we do what we are called on to do, there will be a chance--not any guarantee but a chance--that things could get ruptured and vaulted onto a different, much more positive trajectory and dynamic, and even a possibility--again, not any certainty or guarantee but a possibility--that, out of this whole "cauldron of contradictions," a revolutionary opening could emerge--yes, right within "the belly of the beast." IF WE DO WHAT WE ARE CALLED ON TO DO!
We must confront, unflinchingly, the situation and the stakes--and not only the negative but the positive potential in this. We must recognize--and not try to hide from, or run away from--the possibility of very negative developments and even of real catastrophe; but we must also recognize the positive possibility--the possibility even of the opening to go for revolution, a possibility that is all too rare, particularly in a country like this, a possibility that it would be a crime, of historic proportions, not to politically prepare for and not to seize on if the chance arose.
1. See The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era (Chicago: RCP Publications, 2005), particularly the article "There is No 'They'--But There Is a Definite Direction to Things: The Dynamics Within the Ruling Class, and the Challenges for Revolutionaries." (Also available online at revcom.us)
2. See "Elections, Resistance, and Revolution: The Pyramid of Power and the Struggle To Turn This Whole Thing Upside Down," Revolutionary Worker #1237 (April 25, 2004). This article is a transcription of an answer to a question following Bob Avakian's speech Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About (Chicago: Three Q Productions, 2004).
3. See The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era (Chicago: RCP Publications, 2005), particularly the article "The Fascists and the Destruction of the 'Weimar Republic'...And What Will Replace It." (Also available online at revcom.us)
4. In "The Truth About Right-wing Conspiracy....And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer" (Revolutionary Worker #1255 [October 17, 2004], available online at revcom.us), Bob Avakian analyzed what was going on with the drive to oust Clinton (which led to his impeachment, though not his removal from office) and important factors and dynamics underlying this move against Clinton.
5. Larry Everest, "The Rise of the Christian Fascists: The Specter of a U.S. Theocracy and Why the People Must Stop It," Revolutionary Worker #1263 (December 26, 2004).
6. The New Deal was a series of programs brought forward under Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the period before World War 2, that included concessions to workers (like recognizing unions). The "Great Society" was a term used by President Lyndon Johnson for a set of programs that included the "war on poverty" and concessions to the Civil Rights Movement, including the Voting Rights Act that removed some overt barriers to Black people voting. Both these packages represented a general consensus in the ruling class--even while there was significant opposition to them within the power structure. The New Deal was implemented in response to the Great Depression and the need to shore up the capitalist system in the midst of that profound economic crisis. The Great Society was a response by the system to the civil rights and Black liberation movements and the overall social upheavals of the 1960s.
7. Bob Avakian, Preaching From a Pulpit of Bones: We Need Morality But Not Traditional Morality (New York: Banner Press, 1999) and "The Truth About Right-wing Conspiracy....And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer," Revolutionary Worker #1255 (October 17, 2004). Excerpts from this book and the full article "The Truth About..." are available online at revcom.us
8. Bob Avakian discusses the attack on critical thinking and dissent, particularly in academia, in the next set of excerpts in this series, "Polarization...Repolarization...and Revolution."
9. This is discussed in a later excerpt in this series: "The Christian Fascists and the U.S. Military."
10. This leaflet, "A Passion--for Plunder and Slaughter," a statement on the movie The Passion of the Christ from the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA, New York Branch, was published in Revolutionary Worker #1231 (March 7, 2004). An article reporting on experience in taking out the leaflet, "Protesting the Crimes of Passion," appeared in Revolutionary Worker #1232 (March 14, 2004). Available online at revcom.us
11. Footnote by Bob Avakian: Here, by the way, we can see how the addiction to the notion of "classless democracy" gets the better of some progressive people: A number of them have said things like, "in these other countries the governments responded more to the people, there was more democracy in those countries, whereas, in the U.S. there was no democracy." But that's not essentially what was going on. What was essentially going on--the principal aspect of things, for example, in terms of what happened at the UN and the way the U.S. was denied a "mandate" from the UN for invading Iraq in 2003--was the rival interests of these different imperialists being expressed. At the same time, however, there was a significant element of the mass outpourings within those other imperialist countries, and worldwide, including in the U.S., which did have an influence on and affected what these ruling classes (of the other imperialist countries) had to do. They did have to respond to this mass outpouring. It was not an irrelevant factor, even though it wasn't the decisive and determining factor.
12. This refers to the article by Ron Suskind, "Without a Doubt, Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush," in the New York Times Magazine (October 17, 2004).
13. The "Downing Street Memo" came out of a secret meeting of British government officials, and revealed that "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy"--proving that the U.S. government was lying, not just basing itself on "faulty intelligence," when it claimed Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction" and other factors that were supposedly the reasons for the invasion of Iraq.