Dictatorship and Democracy and the Socialist Transition to Communism
Revolutionary Worker #1261, December 12, 2004, posted at rwor.org
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from the question-and-answer session following a recent talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party. This talk was given to a group of supporters of the RCP who are studying the historical experience of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and preparing to take up the challenge of popularizing this experience and engaging in discussion and debate with others about it, particularly on campuses but also more broadly.
In DICTATORSHIP AND DEMOCRACY,AND THE SOCIALIST TRANSITION TO COMMUNISM, Avakian discussed the whole concept of "solid core with a lot of elasticity" a principle Chairman Avakian insists should be applied in socialist society as well as to the revolutionary process overall, aiming for the final goal of a communist world.
Turning to an analysis of the U.S. ruling class, Avakian said:
"To a significant degree, what is happening in the ruling class in the U.S. at this time is that you have a group of people, open and unabashed reactionaries, that has a very solid core. They are constantly launching attacks on relativism. It’s interesting though--a lot of them, the people grouped around Bush, and a lot of the people who want to promote religious fundamentalism--they actually in some ways like to promote post-modernism. Because they like relativism in a certain way and up to a certain point. They like it when it is directed against science. [laughter] They like it when it argues that science is `just another narrative’ that is neither inherently true or not true, but just expresses its own "paradigm." Because then they can promote all kinds of shit like creationism on the basis of having knocked down the idea that science can lead to any truth.
"But in general these people hate relativism. And they want to promote absolutes. So they have a certain absolutist solid core, these people that are more--just a short-hand description--grouped around Bush, and in particular those who are part of what we call the Christian Fascist grouping, which has a powerful representation and support from powerful sections of the ruling class.
"So they don’t really go in for much elasticity. And it’s interesting that the sections of the bourgeoisie that do tend to go in for more elasticity, the `liberal’ sections of the bourgeoisie--and their reflections among more popular sections of the society--are actually very incapable of answering this absolutism. Their relativism doesn’t stand up very well to this absolutism, because it’s a relativism without a center, without a solid core. That is, without a center or a solid core that can answer the core assumptions of this other force, this more fascistic force. So the `liberals’ are constantly ceding ground to this more fascistic force, because liberalism actually shares many of the same assumptions, and it can’t find a solid grounding for its differences. It wants to be the nice guys in the face of very mean-spirited people, and sometimes the latter allow that, with the orientation of `all the better to eat you with.’ In other words, these more fascistic types are perfectly willing to allow the liberals to be tolerant of them. The problem is, you can’t fight a force like this with that kind of tolerance. It’s interesting when you hear about things like this new liberal radio station (`Air America’) and so on--it’s kind of a dud. Because they don’t really have an answer.
"We do have an answer. But our answer cannot be an absolutist solid core that’s just the opposite of theirs in outward form (the `mirror opposite’ of it). It has to be one that really is a solid core with a lot of elasticity, and in that way really brings to the fore the actual interests and increasingly the conscious initiative of growing numbers from among the masses of people."
This excerpt from the Q&A begins with a question posed to Bob Avakian on the solid core in the Christian Fascist element of the ruling class.
BA: I think it’s some of both. In other words, I don’t think it’s a "perfect fit" between the more Christian Fascist section of the ruling class and the objective interests of the ruling class. I think that would be mechanical. I think it’s much more contradictory than that. Let’s go back to the example of Germany in the ’30s. One thing that everybody in the military command and even in the political structure of Germany summed up off of World War 1 is: don’t fucking fight a two-front war again. They got themselves in a position of fighting on two major fronts in World War 1, and they did all right for awhile when Czarist Russia collapsed and then the Bolshevik revolution followed and they pulled Russia out of the war. But eventually it caught up with them anyway--they were fighting a two-front war in a major way, at the same time. And yet Hitler ended up dragging Germany, even against his own inclinations and plans, into a two-front war. And the outcome was not inevitably what it was, but there were real reasons why it turned out that way--there were real reasons why they didn’t want to do that again.
It wasn’t all preordained or scripted out that way. Hitler tried to avoid a two-front war, he wanted to conquer the whole west, including Britain, and then deal with the east, but that didn’t quite work out, and then the U.S. entered the war--which was a calculation that could have been made. The U.S.--as it did in World War 1 and did again in World War 2--has this thing, as Mao said, of sitting on the mountaintop watching the tigers fight, and then intervening when its interests dictate and when the opportunity presents itself.
But Hitler ended up, regardless of anybody’s intentions, dragging the German ruling class, if you will, into a two-front war. And I don’t think it’s because the Nazi program was the program that perfectly fit, in every aspect, the needs of the German ruling class. But it’s because Hitler had cohered a program, organized forces around it, developed a whole movement around it, and sort of bludgeoned his way into power. And the rest of the ruling class was kind of paralyzed, in terms of coming up with a means of opposing him, and ended up handing the reins of power over to him. And then he ran with his program until it ran to its limits. I think it’s much more like--not that these analogies are exact with Germany, that’s not my point, but I think it’s something more of that nature that’s going on in the internal struggles in the ruling class of the U.S. now. And I wouldn’t even say that some other program couldn’t come forward to oppose this right-wing program. I only say that, at this point, none is posing a coherent, powerful opposition to it. That doesn’t mean that things might not coalesce in a different way--that could happen. But I think that these right-wing forces are sort of driving things right now, because there are certain factors that favor their program, in terms of what’s going on in the world and the nature of U.S. society--everything from the collapse of the Soviet Union to the changes in the world economy, favor some of their program. But, on the other hand, there are factors working against it, and I think it’s much more that they’ve built up their forces, they have a powerful force in society. They have captured the Republican Party, for all intents and purposes--I think there’s some reality to that--and that group sort of sets the terms within the Republican Party, and it has a lot of initiative at this point. And, at this point at least, there’s no other section of the ruling class that has a coherent program with which to combat that.
It’s not that they’re entirely setting the terms within the ruling class or within society--it is very hotly contested. I mean, you have the Christian Fascists on one hand and gay marriage at the same time, and then the Christian Fascists use the gay marriage thing to build up their forces. Or when there is somebody else in the White House, like Clinton, they used Clinton as a foil to build up their own forces and their own program, while paralyzing most of what he was trying to do. And they’re more in a position to do that than vice versa--more in a position to do that to the opposing forces in the ruling class than anyone is in a position to do that to them.
But that could change, and it isn’t like it is a perfect fit between what they represent and what the larger interests of the ruling class are. I don’t think things always work out that way. I don’t think the larger interests are always able to prevail. For example, it wasn’t inevitable that you got a Roosevelt in there who did what he did during the 1930s Great Depression. That’s the way things turned out, there were factors favoring that, but it could have gone another way. And I think the same thing is true now. Life is much more dynamic and complex than boom! you get a certain situation and you’ll automatically get a certain resolution of that situation, even on the terms of the ruling class.
But the right-wing forces, and the Christian Fascists in particular, are a coherent and driving force that is increasingly setting the terms of things, and it is a very dangerous phenomenon. There is the rule of the imperialists in general, but also these people are trying to qualitatively change the character of bourgeois society. Now, that doesn’t mean we should fall into the errors that the Comintern made after the defeat of the revolution in Germany, and basically start allying with a section of the bourgeoisie--the so-called "liberal" or "democratic" section--because that section of the bourgeoisie is going to continue to operate according to the interests of the bourgeoisie, and it’s going to conciliate in a major way with this other program and these other forces. But it does mean we do have to recognize that making revolution in this country does have, as one important component of it, the defeat of this basically fascistic program--not as a thing unto itself, but as part of the overall struggle to overthrow the whole system, and not as a separate stage unto itself. Nevertheless, an important component of the overall struggle to overthrow this system is to politically defeat or at least strike major counter-blows to this whole fascistic kind of program that’s developing, while doing that as part of, and in the context of, the overall struggle against the system.
Which is a complicated thing to do. Because it means that you have to align with forces who are not part of the ruling class themselves but who support sections of the ruling class. And how to do that without paralyzing the larger revolutionary struggle and revolutionary objectives is something that is also difficult to handle. It can be done, but it’s a difficult thing to handle correctly.
I don’t know, did I speak to what you were raising?
I: Yeah, I had another point that kind of follows this in a sense, because there is this question in the ideological realm of their program is on one hand coherent, and on the other hand in a certain sense is unworkable as the basic structure of an advanced imperialist country. For instance, take the question of evolution: If they were able to completely ban the teaching of evolution in American schools, would they do that? That causes contradictions with the whole question of the development of science and technology in the United States. And you could go down a lot of the program along the same lines. It’s not only that there are contradictions with major social forces in the United States, but also it seems that it’s problematic in terms of a lot of the basic workings of an advanced imperialist country, the anti-intellectualism, and when you’re talking about science, it’s not actually possible to put that into effect. Or take another key part of this: women are a major force, part of the American workforce. So I’m wondering also to what extent is there a serious program, and to what extent there is an ideological bludgeon as part of a two-handed approach. It serves as that kind of a bludgeon, but on the other hand it’s hard to see how it is something that could actually be put into practice.
BA: Well, I think there are aspects in which that may be true and--let me put it this way. I think it’s ultimately unworkable. But these people are not totally without any sophistication. For example, in science: they’re perfectly capable of operating on two tracks, where for the masses of people they deny them an understanding of evolution, but for a certain section of people that they want to train in sciences and so on, they allow them to learn something about the actual workings of reality, so they can train a certain core of people. They can easily have, for a certain period of time at least, a "tiered" educational system where for political and ideological reasons the masses of people are actually trained in this know-nothingism. And there are forces, driving forces, who are very serious about implementing this program. I mean some of these people [laughs]--you know, I had to shake my head when some of the people around the gay marriage thing started saying, "Well if you want to protect the sanctity of the family, why don’t you just outlaw divorce?" They think that they’re saying something clever. But these people, these Christian Fascists, intend to outlaw divorce. And that’s something we should understand--they intend to make marriages "inviolable" in the sense of making it very, very difficult, if not impossible, to get a divorce. And we know what the effect of that will be, especially on women. So, sure, in the long run that’s an unworkable program in this kind of society; but that doesn’t mean there aren’t forces aggressively trying to implement that program, and there are ways in which, like I said, they can have tiers, different tiers, where different things apply.
I used to think that their putting so much money into the military was--inadvertently, so to speak--having the effect of bankrupting a lot of social services and programs and even education. But now I’m realizing, the more I’ve studied this, that this is actually part of a conscious program. This whole "compassionate conservative" thing has, as one of its key elements, that it is morally wrong and politically wrong for the government to provide a lot of these social services to people. That people should be self-reliant to get these things for themselves, and if they need help they should get it from people who will also give them the correct moral posture--namely, faith-based agencies. If people want to get off of drugs, they should be forced to be religiously indoctrinated. If people want an education, they should be given vouchers; and the schools that will really get underwritten are ones that promote religious education.
This is actually much more of a coherent, worked-out program. There are obviously forces in the ruling class that oppose it, and it is true what you say about women working, but you know they can have women working and still be in these kinds of "stable marriage relationships" that they can’t get out of. There’s a definite tension there that will become much more pronounced, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t forces who actually want to implement this.
O: An example is the welfare laws, where they’re forcing women to get married and to take jobs. So that’s actually an experiment in terror of that kind.
A: Forcing women out of some types of work--just the mass impact of having the highest levels of government saying that this is an agenda item. There are nine million people who’ve lost their jobs in this recession; if they can make women not go back to work, that’s cutting into that too. If people are more willing to hire men for whatever reason, including ideological reasons....
BA: It’s true that over the long term there are real conflicts between this program and the basic needs of an imperialist empire; but, as I said, things are dynamic and that doesn’t mean these forces couldn’t prevail in the shorter term and actually try to implement this program and make a big mess of things--and then try to use the military to basically hold in place the things that are flying apart as a result of the implementation of their program. Think of this guy Boykin, this general--he’s way out there, but he is not a unique character in the military command structure when he says basically that our religion is true and Islam is a false religion, and Bush didn’t win the popular vote but he’s in the office because of the Almighty, and stuff that like. This is a guy they promoted in the military, who has a major command in the military. And he’s not alone in the military command structure, by any means. And if it comes down to it, if the society is flying apart because of this program that they’re ramming through and it causes all kinds of chaos and disruptions, then the next thing to do is to bring the military into it. That’s their approach to the world anyway--you bludgeon things into shape. So there are sections of people, like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell--believe me, they will try to implement this, even though they will not now openly proclaim some of these things. But were they in a position to do so, or if they get into such a position, they will implement the program of executing homosexuals, believe me. And all this other stuff that’s in the Bible that no one wants to defend right now...
A: Old Testament shit, yeah.
BA: ...and I’m sorry to say, but it’s not just the Pentecostals. If you read about the miracles of Jesus in the New Testament, what do they consist of? Casting out demons. Which is kind of a contradiction if you think about it: here is supposed to be this emanation of god--this is one of the three parts of the trinity, this Jesus, right? And thousands of people got killed over that point in the early days of Christianity: was god, the father, the original substance and Jesus and the holy ghost were emanations and lesser expressions of that; or was it all one substance from the beginning?--which was the final resolution, but thousands of people got killed in slaughter-fests among Christians, fighting over that definition of the trinity. So Jesus, who is supposed to be of equal substance with god, the father, should know that epilepsy is a disease and not demons. And if he’s just "casting out demons" because that’s what people believed at the time, he should have told them. He says he’s coming to bring them the truth--he should have told them it’s not demons [laughter], it’s a matter of chemical and electrical problems in the brain, and so on. But he didn’t, he "cast out demons."
So if you take the Bible literally--and you hear these fundamentalists insisting, "Well, if it comes down to a conflict between what the Bible says and what science says about evolution, or if the Bible says we should execute homosexuals, that’s what the Bible says" --people are being trained in this. So it is a program which would heighten the conflicts and tensions within this society greatly, but that doesn’t mean that under certain circumstances you couldn’t get forces who come to the center of power who would actually try to implement that program, at least in large measure. Not without any subtlety and sophistication--I mean these people are political operatives, the ones at the top of this. But sometimes you get driven to extremes beyond what even you planned. I mean, Hitler didn’t go in saying "we’re going to exterminate every Jew we can get our hands on." The original plan was to drive them beyond the territories of Germany, but in the reality of it they ended up doing something else. I’m not saying all this will happen, there’s no basis to say that. But I’m also saying that we should take these people very seriously.
N: We can’t subject it all to a "cost-efficient" calculus, the genocide against the Jews, the strategic dimension on the eastern front, and ideologically. It has its own momentum.
BA: Yeah. And people miscalculate. Hitler miscalculated all over the place with regard to the Soviet Union. But he came close to realizing his objectives, on the other side of it.