Revolution Online, February 21, 2010
An Historic Contradiction: Fundamentally Changing The World Without "Turning Out the Lights"
These are some initial thoughts but in actually writing this I realize there is much much more provoked by this exercise than I had initially thought and much more to grapple with and think about. Also, given the new aspect to this contradiction, I wanted to get some foundational framework points in and then proceed to examples of the real-world contradictions to grapple with but time has proved short. But I am going to think and write more on this in coming months.
"And the world stays fundamentally unchanged. Capitalism-imperialism continues humming in the 'background,' crushing lives and destroying spirits in its meat-grinder of exploitation. And the horrors continue unabated."
This is our standing and powerful refutation of every other trend in the world. On the other hand, the way that a lot of people look at what we're about—and not entirely without justification—is: "Here come the communists, turn out the lights, the party's over."
I think the first point to recognize is that this view of "Here come the communists, turn out the lights, the party is over"—while significantly colored by bourgeois prejudice, slander and disinformation—is "not entirely without justification." The first wave of socialist experiences and the international communist movement more broadly has been marked, to a significant degree, by an approach that radically transforming the world has an attendant social cost of 'turning out the lights'—even if to a degree.
Is it the inevitable cost of radical social transformation? Is this what the world needs to go through to get to communism?
The second point is that the answer to these questions above was: yes ... till now. Till the new synthesis, there was no approach to this contradiction of transforming the world without the attendant social cost of 'turning out the lights' ... to a degree, and yes, secondary to the real accomplishments that did mark the first wave of communist revolutions and socialist societies. And with the perspective of the new synthesis, there is an even greater scientific understanding and appreciation that the previous approaches as a whole — the means taken, within the previous constrained and limited framework — would not ultimately get to communism. In fact, without striving to 'keep the lights on' in a framework and process that is radically changing the world, if you will, there is no getting to communism. With this framework of the new synthesis, there is a communist approach to the contradiction (not bourgeois democratic) that then needs to be grasped and popularized by growing cores of leadership and the masses, grappled with and applied, including in particular, and developed further through this process.
The third point is that, in grappling with this, it seems that all of the new synthesis, the entirety and the coherence of it, would be needed to approach this contradiction correctly—i.e., you need the full package, so to speak—principally, the approach of the solid core with a lot of elasticity, with the interrelated further scientific developments of living with and transforming the middle strata based on a more materialist and dialectical understanding of what Bob Avakian has called the 'parachute' point; a profound understanding and appreciation of the leadership on 'going to the brink of being drawn and quartered' in this process; a more materialist and dialectical understanding of freedom and necessity, and of social reality as a multi-level multi-textured map with many channels for transformation; ruptures with class truth and reification of the proletariat; a communist approach of 'embraces but does not replace' to realms 'in their own right'; fuller ruptures with nationalism and economism in the ideological sphere, and aiming for nothing less than the emancipation of humanity; and fuller ruptures in the philosophical and methodological sphere with positivism, pragmatism, and mechanical materialism.
With all of this, it is still a lot of very hard work, including actually grappling with the real contradictions involved (let's not be utopian here; it is a unity of opposites—not letting the 'world stay as it is' and not 'turning out the lights' to a degree—flowing from real-world contradictions in what it will take to change this fucked up world) and 'how do we do this', both using our science and stretching our imagination and creativity. [Imagine what a communist revolution and socialism would do to the ideological tenor and how that affects, influences, recasts what artists think and therefore what art they 'spontaneously' will be driven to produce, what people find beautiful and what peoples' cultural needs are, what it would mean to 'keep the lights on'—all as opposed to a static transposition of the art/culture of bourgeois society into socialism—I'm still trying to get my head around this! On the other hand, imagine being taken to and going to the 'brink of being drawn and quartered' with all of what is unleashed if we do this right!]
Mudbone, Richard Pryor's character, says "the truth is gonna be funny, but it's gonna scare ... folks." While Pryor's main reference is to those avoiding confronting the reality of the horrors of this world, and those lying and obscuring this reality, including reactionaries, there is a way in which this statement has some applicability to communists and this contradiction, both in looking at the historical experience (I don't know about 'funny' in this regard) and in concentrating this contradiction historically because what constitutes 'keeping the lights on' encompasses truths, whether in the political, intellectual or artistic realm, (some 'that's gonna be funny') but that causes problems for communists in power, especially in the short term and in relation to immediate objectives. At one level of reality, what constitutes 'keeping the lights on', what makes society vibrant and a place you'd want to live in, appears as—and is fact, often truly—oppositional; or at best a distraction or irrelevant for the communist project of the revolutionary transformation of society.
It is important to understand that this is not manufactured by the communists, a product of our power-hungriness, our desire to impose our will on society and turn out the lights or anything of the like but rather a contradiction that arises from material reality itself, the vestiges of class society that have to be transformed to get to communism. The bourgeois prejudice, slander and disinformation obscures what underlies this contradiction, attributing it to authoritarian leaders, dictatorial vanguards, totalizing ideology, condescending view of the masses, social engineering, and the like, instead of a scientific view that identifies and grasps the real material contradictions in reality that underlie this.
This contradiction is profound. It is not simple. There are strong and real material pulls that lead to an approach and create conditions where the lights objectively get turned out, where in the face of necessity, there is a 'circle the wagons' mentality that leads to the air, the color and the vibrancy being sucked out of society. 'Keeping the lights on' will necessitate giving room to and even fostering scenes and new movements of art and culture (without the party's leadership) and some of this will be informed by bourgeois content in the early stages of socialist society and potentially even at times of crises, and can be fostered by the bourgeoisie and used to its ends; some will 'compete' for social resources and funding with meeting the basic needs.
As historical experience has shown and as Bob Avakian has pointed out repeatedly, the necessity is very real and often very severe, whether from external threats or capitalist restoration, resistance to socialist transformations or problems in meeting the basic needs of the people, among many.
To take just the last instance, even with unlocking the revolutionary initiative, energy and enthusiasm of the masses, and the level of advanced productive forces in an advanced imperialist country like the U.S., we cannot underestimate the degree to which meeting the basic needs of the masses is going to pose severe necessities, coming through a revolutionary struggle for power with its attendant destruction of productive forces, rupturing a country like this out of imperialist and exploitative relations with the rest of the world, embargoes from imperialist and reactionary powers, to say nothing of how to produce the necessities of life without relying on exploitation of the masses here, the potential resistance of formerly privileged sections of workers and experts, the impact of rationing on the middle strata, and many such et ceteras.
These necessities, especially concentrated in the need to hold onto state power in the face of the dangers of imperialist invasions and capitalist restoration, are the context and a correct starting point for understanding this contradiction, the profundity and the material bases for it, and for clearly demarcating from a bourgeois democratic approach to it. For example, this becomes really clear in talking to folks from the middle strata, including sincere people who do want to see a different world, however inchoate their understanding and vision of it may be. In approaching this from a spontaneously bourgeois democratic standpoint, not grasping the necessities faced and therefore the contradiction posed, the response often is 'what's the problem? of course we need dissent, largely unrestricted flourishing of the intellectual and artistic realms, experimentation, etc.'
In the context of these necessities, and a learning curve approach, our historical experience of the first wave of communist revolution and socialist societies has been marked with both errors and shortcomings in method and approach concentrated in narrowing the perspective to the immediate level of reality, what serves the revolution in its immediate goals and objectives, blinding oneself to and reducing whole layers of a multi-leveled, multi-textured reality thereby constricting the channels through which to affect the transformation of society towards communism. These pragmatic and non-scientific approaches have been coupled with secondary tendencies towards the reification of the proletariat, reification of socialism, nationalism and economism.
Communism is a science, a revolutionary political movement and a goal of emancipating all of humanity, of getting beyond the 4 Alls. Tendencies that cut against any of this, philosophically, methodologically or ideologically, will lead to constricting the atmosphere and a degree of 'turning out the lights.' This is another way of saying that the degree of 'turning out the lights' has a lot to do with how far up the mountaintop are the actual contradictions on the ground being approached from. For example, drawing from historical experience, notions of class truth, reification of the proletariat, nationalism or economism will blind you to truths that emerge from whole sections of the people, if not outright censorship.
There was too much of a tendency to view art and the world of ideas in terms of what immediately served the revolution.
In Mao's approach to intellectuals (on which I am working on a paper—comparing and contrasting the historical experience and approach with Avakian’s approach to intellectuals), it seemed that overall there was some dualism in how intellectuals were viewed—an ideological 'distrust' (flowing from their actual class position and real unreliability in terms of revolutionary objectives; but not enemies as another line goes) on one hand, and a need flowing from their role in dealing with the mental-manual contradiction and in making contributions to the construction and advance of socialist society (not to the search for truth in the largest sense). This was compounded by class truth and the reification of the proletariat. All of this led to a significant constriction both in their role in the search for truth in its own right, and in playing a much greater role in sparking intellectual ferment and in the mental-manual contradiction than merely as 'educators.' Very critically, experimentation and inquiry into realms that did not serve the revolution were significantly curbed in favor of initiatives to meet revolutionary objectives and pre-set and pre-determined goals. The resolution of the mental-manual contradiction was seen in too linear and narrow a framework of educating 'the manual', and to a degree, 'manual-izing the mental'—ultimately all becoming the worker-intellectual.
Curbing of experimentation and new things not anticipated is a profound methodological error that leads to some of 'turning out the lights.' Mao himself was very firm on new truths emerging and being in the hands of the minority, needing to fight to survive and establish against conventional wisdom but as overall socialist state policy this was curbed, reinforced by the class position of most intellectuals (reification and class truth), their methods of inquiry (not dialectical materialism) and realms of inquiry that were not immediately useful to the revolution. Mao's education policies, out of necessity, had a very 'polytechnic' approach—and therefore most of the education, intellectual inquiry and experimentation was geared to actual material problems faced by the revolution. The issue is not that this is not critical but it was almost exclusive. An example is the horse vs. cow example from Breaking With Old Ideas.
In a similar vein, model operas with close attention from high-level leadership played an extremely important role in the revolutionization of society and breaking with feudal and reactionary outmoded culture but were promoted to the almost exclusivity of other art and culture. To be clear: it's completely correct to struggle against the reactionary feudal outmoded art and culture that were dominating the cultural life of the masses and society decades into socialism. I would like to learn more if there were other new movements and scenes that did emerge organically from the masses during this period but were suppressed. The suppression of jazz music and the essays on the class content of instrumental music are illustrative of these methodological problems of nationalism on one hand, and a very reductive and class-reified approach to art on the other (a non-reified approach to instrumental music would be interesting for Wagner still makes me cringe!).
Socialist societies so far have had a problematic relationship with truth and beauty. Truth has no class content, but was viewed as having such. Beauty definitely does have class content but was often viewed in narrow and reified terms, reducing realms of art and culture which have an 'in its own right' higher-than-reality dimension to merely reality and therefore assessed in narrower and reified ideological and political terms than should be synthesized within the larger revolutionary transformation of society towards communism.
Without a correct scientific and dialectical materialist approach to truth and beauty, and their role in the revolutionary transformation of society, there will inevitably be a constriction of the environment in which the lights do get turned out to a degree. In this, the notion of class viewed in reified terms has been a singular methodological culprit. Through this prism, what filters as proletarian ideas and truth, art and culture is way too narrow—and scientifically incorrect. Truth, beauty and social relations are among the substance of the 'lights' to constitute a vibrant society of intellectual, artistic and political ferment, of science, love and humor ...
As we are grappling with now, equality was fought for within social relations between people, especially between men and women, and this is very important. But at the same time the overall conception of these relations, including in the realm of love, sexual relations and sexuality, was marked by feudal morality and even Puritanism (don't talk about it at best! Even though it concentrates so much!). This was rationalized as serving the revolution, again reducing the 'in its own right' dimension which actually correctly understood, should get enriched within the larger context of subordinating to and serving the revolution. A communist approach to this question was not forged in line with an overall under-emphasis so far in the international communist movement on theoretical work on this question.
The new synthesis comprehends two over-arching philosophical points which are supremely relevant here:
First, that "freedom does lie in the recognition and transformation of necessity. The point is that this recognition and the ability to carry out that transformation goes through a lot of different 'channels' and is not tied in a positivist or reductionist or linear way to however the main social contradictions are posing themselves at a given time. If that were the case—or if we approached it that way—we would liquidate the role of art and much of the superstructure in general. Why do we battle in the realm of morals? It is because there is relative initiative and autonomy in the superstructure. And the more correctly that's given expression, the better it will be, in terms of the kind of society we have at a given time and in terms of our ability to recognize necessity and carry out the struggle to transform necessity." [Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity]
What poses as necessity, how to change the world without 'turning out the lights' actually affords freedom, more and different channels for the further transformation of society IF we recognize and approach this correctly.
Second, the points contained in "'Crises in Physics,' Crises in Philosophy and Politics" which are a further development of dialectics and "the unevenness within things—or within a given level of matter, with its relative identity—that holds the potential, and in fact provides the material bases, for change within those things."
In terms of conscious forces and our actions, what is the influence on other art—and the transformation of the whole scene—of something like a model opera (using this more metaphorically for a work led closely by the vanguard or brought forward among the masses but promoted by the vanguard because of its very high ideological content and artistic quality)? This is not the 'free marketplace of ideas' but how will it change what the masses 'spontaneously' desire after this?
Without the approach of solid core with a lot of elasticity, and all of what is comprehended in that, there is no approach through this contradiction. There are many different aspects to this:
First, a dialectical approach and understanding of the solid core, including in its relation to the elasticity on the basis of the solid core. In this regard, I found the following from Bob Avakian really helpful: "with regard to the aspect of solid core itself, you can't say, 'well, we have to have an absolute solid core before we can allow for any elasticity and initiative.' On the other hand, there is a real problem if the elasticity is not, in a fundamental sense, on the basis of the solid core—if in effect, the elasticity and the initiative that is taken amounts to, or results in, substituting some other solid core for the that that is actually, objectively, needed. But again, you can get metaphysical and absolutist about this: You can't say 'only when we have some "absolute" solid core, and everybody has exactly the same level of understanding and agreement with regard to that solid core, can we then have any elasticity.' First of all, you'll never achieve that kind of absolute certainty and absolute unity, you're never going to overcome all unevenness; and second of all, your solid core will dry up and turn into its opposite, into dogma. It will become lifeless and turn into its opposite, and it won't even be a solid core any more, in fact. There has to be space and life, even within a solid core; there are certain solid core things within any solid core, around which other things, within that solid core, are less solid and have more elasticity, if you will." ["The Basis, The Goals, and The Methods of The Communist Revolution"]
Second, the notion of unleashing a process vs. the linear fly-fishing model of everything extending out as a line from the party. In this regard, I found the following really helpful: "Yes, in an overall sense, it is necessary for the party to lead the masses, as long as there is a need for a vanguard party; but it is a very complex and contradictory process that I think we have to envision and that is envisioned in this new synthesis, which has to do with unleashing a lot of mass upheaval, turmoil, tumult, debate, dissent, and thrashing it through among and together with the masses, in order for the masses, in growing numbers, to synthesize what's true and correct and revolutionary out of all that. And yes, on that basis, to suppress what actually needs to be suppressed, but also to carry forward what needs to be carried forward, and to deal correctly at any point, with the two different types of contradictions ... This is a different way, a not so linear way. It's not like you're fly-fishing and throwing a line out—it's much more 'throwing out' a process that goes in many different directions and then working through, together with the masses, to synthesize it, without letting go of the core of everything. And that's the very difficult part, to do that without letting go of the core of everything." ["Views on Socialism and Communism: A Radically New Kind of State, A Radically Different and Far Greater Vision of Freedom"]
What I found myself further thinking/understanding in rereading this recently is that the "lights" do not all metaphysically reside in the elasticity (which is what is often conventionally understood) but in the actual dialectic between the solid core and the elasticity on the basis of the solid core. What I mean by that is how the ferment and "unleashing a lot of mass upheaval, turmoil, tumult, debate, dissent, and thrashing it through among and together with the masses, in order for the masses, in growing numbers, to synthesize what's true and correct and revolutionary out of all that" describes the dialectic of how the solid core expands and enriches (does not become dry and brittle dogma). It would be a fallacy to think of absolute categories like "model operas = solid core" and "other art/culture movements = elasticity" but rather that in this process there is relative solid core/elasticity in and within each (with obviously the model operas being much more solid core) and the interaction between each and within the larger process unleashed is what further revolutionizes society, expands and enriches the solid core. After all, in socialist society, with revolutionary transformations underway, and model operas led by the vanguard in play, what emerges as "organic" spontaneous scenes of art and culture—in this context — will be heavily influenced/informed by these in various ways and take these as reference points. There will for sure be oppositional works, but there will also be revolutionary works and works in between which in the process of thrashing it through and among the masses, helps further clarify two roads (socialist and capitalist), and synthesize what is true and revolutionary out of all that. [On the oppositional work—and things of cardinal import: After all the play Ha Jui Dismissed From Office, and the criticism around that as a political attack on Mao—correctly—was part of launching the Cultural Revolution—nothing wrong with that! Also, there are aspects of the 'unleashing a process' vs. the 'fly-fishing model' in how the Shanghai Commune and the Rev Committees arose among the masses (in relation to Mao) in relation to the contradiction of bringing in and training the masses to rule and run society—and what was synthesized was the revolutionary committees.]
I used to go often to the Nuyorican Poets Café Open Mic night. As one can imagine, the poetry is vastly diverse, mixed and with contradictory influence by revolutionary nationalism, identity politics, and religion/spiritualism (there does seem to be more of the open God than the 'Spirit' these days unfortunately). But in thinking about this question, I was thinking what would happen to this scene (in terms of ideological influence) in socialist society or even as society today acquires a more revolutionary ethos, and revolutionary politics/leadership/culture became a reference point? What would come to dominate? Then another thought: you actually need this whole scene even for someone like Saul Williams to come through, to hone his art. The notion of a scene/movement in art/culture is very important ... this is what gives the 'lights' substance and this is also what lends it ideological influence and weight. This is also what is going to take us to the brink of being drawn and quartered ... The scenarios for these are actually quite real, for example certain movies or movements (like the Beats) may just 'take off' without 'us having a chance to struggle this through' and then all of a sudden it is a mass phenomenon with mass following and influence, and it may not be very good ... such as a movie among more middle-strata youth that seemingly portrays rebellion, but the underlying ideology is of 'rebels without a cause'. This can get turned against the vanguard and leadership and if at a time of external crises when we need to rally the masses, and this gets very very hairy very very quickly. This gets even more compounded if the spontaneous inclinations/tendencies of the proletarian masses towards 'the first shall be last; the last shall be first' and other revenge-ist and economist/nationalist tendencies are rallied against the youth by sections of our social base. This is no easy contradiction to handle.... Need some very 'big arms’ to lead this all ... Also, in terms of times when the reins need to be pulled in more tightly (as will necessarily happen, as when under threat from imperialist invasion, etc), how to do this by bringing the masses into this orientation, and therefore without a BIG CHILL that then sows distrust or causes lack of ease of mind going forward?
[One of the major challenges in all of this is the struggle with our social base for this ... within them on questions of social relations, and within them and other strata on other aspects of this—all in the overall process of revolutionizing society. I was thinking of legitimacy questions in this regard and at the brink of being drawn and quartered if the solid core is not strong enough, how do you hold onto power? How do we assess this—with science and art? This is no easy question. Therein the last sentence of the previous excerpt: "And that's the very difficult part, to do that without letting go of the core of everything." If a wider social base for revolution has not been won over to this method and approach, how do we sustain this? ]
Critical to 'keeping the lights on' is that the 'in its own right-ness' of different realms has to be recognized, within the overall context of the transition to communism. One of the shortcomings in our historical experience in this regard has been the under-emphasis and sometimes even negation of this aspect—especially in the realm of social relations, such as on questions of love—not recognizing how within an overall revolutionary and correct context, this is actually further strengthening of the solid core for revolution, instead of undermining it.
A few days ago, I saw a production of the play Twelve Angry Men which is about a jury deciding the case of a boy accused of murdering his father. Briefly, the premise is that the evidence against the boy seems overwhelming and convincing, eleven of the twelve jurors being convinced he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but one juror stands out against this, both because he has doubts of the evidence and case made for the boy's guilt, and he feels a decision of this magnitude merits serious consideration. Taken from one perspective, he could have been determinist and given up against the odds, especially given the 'passionate intensity' (going into thuggishness and crude racist backwardness through the play) of some who are racing to convict the accused boy. But this juror, taking the stakes into account, initiates a process, playing a leadership role in putting forth his doubts and making a case for 'reasonable doubt.'
The play, in critical aspects, manifests how unevenness can be a source of transformation, the role of leadership, and an expression of solid core with a lot of elasticity. This lone juror (I think Juror #6) constitutes the initial solid core and through a whole process unleashed by him, of debate and thrashing it out with the others, eventually (spoiler alert!) succeeds in winning a 'not guilty' verdict. But the process itself is rather illuminating, as it unfolds in reality (the play's constructed but very believable reality). Initially an older juror supports Juror #6 because he respects people who stand against the odds and are a minority: 'it's not easy to stand up for what you believe in'. Then the game is on. With this, he starts sowing doubts in the prosecution's case. As he does this, there are jurors who slowly begin to express doubts and join his side, and an opposing solid core constitutes against him, and this polarization constitutes the heart of the debate. Through this process, others contribute in bringing to light their insights and observations, even while asking further questions on other aspects they are not convinced about, there is a vacillating middle, and the polarization becomes sharper. What is remarkably shown is the unevenness in the jurors' viewpoints, understanding and approach and how that becomes a source of struggle and transformation. At one nodal point, the 'guilty' solid core being put on the spot to make their case, makes a case not on the actual evidence but on pre-conceived prejudices and sentiments, including some crude racist backwardness. This tilts the whole case.
For me there was a whole application of how the solid core is forged and expands through this process, the tremendous unevenness within the solid core through the whole process, but that it could not have expanded without all of the debate and thrashing out of ideas. It still is fundamentally changing of what and how people think, which does not occur in a linear process but through the contestation and thrashing out of ideas, and assessing and synthesizing what is true and not true in a collective process—without letting go of the core.
In terms of the mirror opposite pulls: of bourgeois-democracy on one hand (elasticity not on the basis of the needed solid core) and dry dogma ('turning the lights out') on the other (all solid core). The first point to emphasize here is the correct understanding and relationship between the two aspects ... need the solid core and the elasticity on the basis of the needed solid core, but cannot get absolutist about the solid core .. which itself is a moving dynamic thing, full of unevenness and contradiction. There are pulls to both wait for that absolute solid core (which ironically, in the absence of the elasticity, cannot and will never cohere to any degree) and to then let go if it completely. There is some science and some art to this, and a lot of practice to get this right.
In this regard, there is the critical point of basic orientation that is supremely relevant here:
"If we try to embrace, encompass and explore non-communist people, ideas and perspectives ever more widely and flexibly (which we should do) but do so the basis of something other than a truly solid core and strategic grounding in OUR project and objectives, we will at one and the same time fail to harvest as much as we could from these wider explorations and initiatives AND, most unconscionably, we will LOSE THE WHOLE THING!"
The Arthur Miller article (Issue #4 + the PEN report) was a spectacular example of this ideological and methodological error. There is an analogy here of (big D to small d) 'if you try to get the democrats to be what they are not, (and never will be—this is a little different here!) you will end up becoming more like what the democrats actually are' and casting Arthur Miller into what he is not ('theatre to change the world') we become bourgeois-democrats, "losing the whole thing" while at the same time definitely failing to harvest as much as we could...including, in the particular context of this discussion, how someone like Arthur Miller can actually in reality play a role in the revolutionization of society from his standpoint and his perspective, as part of the larger process unleashed by the communists.
Very interrelated is the concept of living with and transforming the intermediate strata in the transition to communism. "This is a very profound point, and both aspects of this are important; this is once again a unity of opposites—living with and transforming the middle strata. If you set out only to live with them, you will end up surrendering power back, not to the petty bourgeoisie but in fact to the bourgeoisie; things will increasingly be on their terms. On the other hand, if you seek only to transform the petty bourgeoisie (speaking broadly, to refer to the intermediate strata of various kinds), you will end up treating them like the bourgeoisie and driving them into the camp of the bourgeoisie, seriously undermining the dictatorship of the proletariat, and you will end up losing power that way, also." There are many applications of this to the contradiction at hand, from the most obvious being the class origins and spontaneous inclinations of the vast majority of progressive intellectuals and artists as we make revolution from bourgeois society to the underlying methodological points of how to approach ideas, art and social relations that reflect petty bourgeois outlooks, and are and will be part of the necessary ferment and sub-strata if you will of 'keeping the lights on.' Two important points here are (a) that the concept of a united front approach all the way through instead of an official ideology in socialist society is critical; (b) the notion that if someone wants to just go play and have time to if you will "fuck around" and play, this is afforded room, including going off and trying to write poetry without committee or immediate oversight/supervision. This is the application of the 'unleashing a process' vs. 'the fly-fishing model'.
Two short concluding points on this:
First, this is an entirely different model than what was done in China — within the overall principal aspect of continuity, of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the institutionalized leading role of the vanguard party. There are some aspects in common, especially as things erupted during the GPCR, but as a framework for leading society ... a whole new framework. Within the old framework of how vanguard leadership was conceived of and exercised in socialist society, with shortcomings of reification, class truth, etc. the 'turning off the lights' does come as attendant social cost of radically transforming the world.
Second, all of this is really hard work.
A few questions I am grappling with, from serious to more mundane and humorous (thinking 'outside the box' of the China model, and with approach of the new synthesis):
How does the mental/manual manifest in an advanced imperialist society like the U.S.? It is crazy criminal that there are whole sections of functionally illiterate and those whose "curiosity is crushed by third grade" (Kozol) in the public schools of the inner-cities, but what is the particular full extent, scope, nature and texture of this contradiction? How does it impact how we will go about transforming this in the framework of the new synthesis? How does it impact transforming the world without 'turning out the lights' to any degree? [For example, art/culture for whole sections is Jerry Springer type reality TV (talk about 'skewing'), and this cuts across classes, but there is particular intersection with the mental-manual.]
What are social relations between men and women going to be like in a socialist society that is forged out of a bourgeois-democratic society (as opposed to out of feudal relations with remnants carried over) and with the approach of the new synthesis and its further theoretical work on the woman question. This is a big part—with the romance and the love on a different basis—of keeping the lights on. In the sixties, China had semi-feudal mores on this and the sixties struggle inspired by China had attempts at liberating women's sexuality and a whole lot of experimentation (like May '68 in France) (though not fully rupturing out of the realm of male right), though as the recent talk points out, there is now traditional roles and domination of men that have reasserted themselves. What sort of new art and culture will be produced by the struggle to end women's oppression and how will it be different and more advanced than the model operas in China breaking with feudal roles and putting women on center-stage? A friend yesterday at dinner posed the question of what the gender roles are going to be in socialist society with a new approach to the woman question. I cannot stop thinking about this now. At an extreme, given the biological (non)basis for gender, what is the social distinction going to be, if at all?
I have been rereading Skybreak's series on "Some Ideas on the Social Role of Art" and am very provoked by a communist approach to art that suggests further development from the 'best of the GPCR' (Art and Science was particularly humorous and thrilling, as illuminating was the point about breaking with the worship of spontaneity when it comes to the arts). Within the framework of the new synthesis (especially the Dictatorship and Democracy talk) which draws from the "Working with Ideas and Searching for Truth: A Reflection on Revolutionary Leadership and the Intellectual Process" there seems to be a coherent approach to the disciplines and the interrelationships between science (natural and social), art, religion (pretending to be reality but decidedly not; as opposed to science in correspondence to reality; and art as higher than reality) and the humanities (philosophy especially, including epistemology and ethics/morality) that is a further leap in approach to realms of intellectual inquiry and resultant policies in socialist society (curricula: core curricula on communism and dialectical materialism, on history but also other philosophies interrogating Marxism from without!).
I am still trying to get my arms around the recasting of all of U.S. academia and intellectual inquiry as we make revolution and go through to socialism. Currently, a lot of intellectual inquiry in the U.S. today rests on the spoils of imperialism including certain disciplines of scientific inquiry now, such as molecular biology (genome research) which involve billions of dollars of equipment, labs, etc and draw people from all over the world—but which is very useful for human knowledge and in saving lives. Thousands are involved in extremely esoteric research such as in fields of pure mathematics which only involve 1-2 people in the whole world (this is Goldbach conjecture to the nth degree, if you will). How is all of this going to be approached in socialist society and recast in socialist society under the approach of the new synthesis? This essential question is posed more sharply in “Materialism and Romanticism: Can We Do Without Myth?” I'm thinking of this a lot now.
Good humor and comedy are oppositional to the system—Pryor, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, etc and what we like of comedy today. In socialist society, comedians should—as solid core—have a field day in making fun of backward ideas and social relations as they need to be transformed further ... but Avakian has made a point that they should also extol socialist society and its changes. I have posed the question to some of my comedian friends and have been thinking of what that will look like? (mainly we need to get them to a better place on the woman question—god!!! And have them resist. The other day, I was hanging out with someone who is still on the circuit and he said to me that the manager of a club said he 'ain't getting paid if there are no dick jokes') But returning to point, there is a strong prejudice that non-oppositional humor cannot be funny. We need to help comedians break with this (and get with Mudbone). [I'm working on it!!!]
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