Revolution #175, September 6, 2009
RUMINATIONS AND WRANGLINGS
On the Importance of Marxist Materialism, Communism as a Science,
Meaningful Revolutionary Work, and a Life with Meaning
[Editors' note: The following is the 11th excerpt from the text of a talk by Bob Avakian, earlier this year, which is being serialized in Revolution, beginning with issue #163. Parts 1-10 appeared in issues #163, #164, #165, #166, #167, #169, #171, #172, #173, and #174. Part 11 is the from the beginning of the section titled “Further Wrangling with Meaningful Revolutionary Work.” The text of the talk has been edited and footnotes have been added for publication. The entire talk can be found online at revcom.us/avakian/ruminations/BA-ruminations-en.html]
With all this as background, I want to move on to engage in some further grappling with the question of meaningful revolutionary work, as this applies both to basic masses—and more specifically basic youth—as well as to college and university students. There is a need for more systematic summation of our party's practice in this regard, in relation to "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution"—understood in its full meaning—and overall. And, besides the need for more systematic summation of practice, there is a need for further wrangling in the realm of theoretical conception, specifically in regard to meaningful revolutionary work. And, as I spoke to in "Out Into the World—As a Vanguard of the Future," there is a need to grapple further, on the level of theoretical and strategic conception, with what a revolutionary situation would actually "look like" and how it could actually develop—a need which is underscored by the deep and multi-pronged crisis in which the imperialist system is now enmeshed.
Here again arises what we have referred to as the "George Jackson question"—the fact that, as George Jackson put it, the idea of revolution as some far off goal has no meaning to a slave who does not expect to live beyond tomorrow1 —and the contradictions bound up with this in terms of meaningful revolutionary work on the necessary road in a country like the U.S. (or, to put it another way, meaningful revolutionary work in relation to what is concentrated in "On the Possibility of Revolution"2 ). As has been repeatedly emphasized, this is "a tough nut to crack" and at the same time it is of decisive importance in relation to actually making revolution in a country like this. Continuing to make advances and breakthroughs in relation to this is critical in terms of really making our very advanced line—which is our great strength, or a concentrated expression of our great strength—making this very advanced line a material revolutionary political force among growing numbers of the masses of people.
A way of formulating the contradiction, which gets to the crux of things, or much of it, is this: All along the way, even before there is a revolutionary situation, and through all the work and struggle of preparing for the emergence of such a situation, how to make revolution, and the building of a movement for revolution real—and, yes, even palpable—without falling into the orientation of seeking palpable results as the means for building the movement, which would mean that it would be a non-revolutionary movement. This is a contradiction that we have to constantly be conscious of and continually working on, all along the way. (For a discussion of the fundamental error of seeking to build a movement pivoting on "palpable results," see "'Palpable results': economism, reformism and revisionism," in "Revolutionary Strategy, Bringing Forward a Revolutionary People," an excerpt from "Out Into the World—As a Vanguard of the Future," in Revolution #160 [March 29, 2009], available online at revcom.us/avakian/Out into the World/Avakian_Out_into_World_pt4-en.html.)
We hear from masses of people—and I've seen this in reports recently—statements or sentiments along the following lines: "I know revolution is needed," or "I know revolution is what's gotta happen at some point," but "what do we do now, what do we do in the meantime?"
Answer? Make revolution. Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. Prepare minds and organize forces for the time when a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people, in the millions and millions, emerges. Work actively and consciously to bring this time closer and to bring things to where we are in the best position to act decisively when this does come about. Devote your life, energy, daring and creativity to confronting, fighting through and overcoming the obstacles to making this happen, and to winning more and more people to doing the same.
That statement—that answer to this question of "what do we do now?"—is not meant to be facile or flippant. It is intended to embody all the content, and recognize all the complexity, that goes into doing that, but at the same time to stress the fact that making revolution is what we're doing every day, in order to actually be able to have a revolution, and that there is nothing more substantial or meaningful to which people can and should be devoting their lives. Of course, the meaning of this has to be fleshed out more fully—and I'm going to speak to this further here, to lay the groundwork, or some of the groundwork, for doing this more fully in an ongoing way.
In this context, I do want to emphasize a fundamental point of orientation and crucial dividing line, in the context of the already very deep and continually deepening financial/economic crisis which has gripped U.S. society and, indeed, world capitalism as a whole, involving a certain ideological "crisis of confidence" of capitalism, which is increasingly accompanying this material crisis—all of which is occurring in the context of profound challenges all-around for imperialism and U.S. imperialism in particular, with its wars for empire in the name of "war on terror." The basic point of orientation and line of demarcation is this: In the context of all this, we must not fall into the revisionist sinkhole that marked the CPUSA in the 1930s depression, or into the neo-FDRism that much of the so-called "left" and "progressives" are so abjectly and pitifully salivating and begging for now, with regard to Obama's presidency.
Here it is worth highlighting—specifically in relation to Obama, and along with the continuing exposure that has been done in our newspaper, and must continue to be done, around what Obama really represents—what is said in the statement by the March 8 Women's Organization (Iran-Afghanistan), exposing how Obama will not and cannot be fundamentally different from other imperialist heads of state, and his "good wars" are no different from what was done under Bush. (See "Revolutionary Women Cry Out: Revolution Is the Way Out for Humanity," reprinted in Revolution no. 156, February 15, 2009.) This, and other exposure of Obama, is something we have to drive home very forcefully to people.
But more generally, the point I'm stressing is that here is a deep crisis of capitalism—which all (or at least most) of the capitalist representatives, experts, pundits, and so on, are saying is not going to end any time soon—and we must not repeat the experience of the CP in the 1930s depression, of striving to crawl under—and actually crawling under—the wing of the bourgeoisie. We must very sharply struggle against that tendency, not only among ourselves, but more broadly in society.
We must remain all the more firmly grounded in a revolutionary orientation and work unswervingly and with great energy and initiative for revolution, aiming for the final goal of communism—and nothing less—as our strategic approach and the guide and measure in all our work. Let me put it this way: We really have to be about revolution, and we have to come across very clearly and boldly as being about revolution, in all we do. Not in some religious sense, not just with incantations or even just with very good exposure about the need for revolution, although that is in fact indispensable; but everything we do has to be about actually building a movement aiming for revolution, and we have to be continually straining against the limits and constantly coming back to the question of how to make revolution real and palpable without falling into fashionable means or gimmicks or, in fact, seeking palpable results as the means for building the movement.
We have to really be building a movement for revolution, consistently and systematically, and constantly struggling against the pull of spontaneity toward getting drawn into something else, something less. We have to firmly and consistently grasp, fight for and apply—and continually draw in others to take up and apply—the orientation of not just waiting for some "fine day" when revolution will come, but actually hastening while awaiting the emergence of a revolutionary situation. We have to understand more deeply and more consistently apply ourselves—and win continually greater numbers that we draw forward to understand, and act on the understanding—that "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism" (the overall ensemble of revolutionary work drawing from and expanding on the basic principles that Lenin stressed in his seminal work What Is to Be Done?), including the two mainstays within that overall ensemble, is meaningful revolutionary work. This is not something else, and it must not be reduced to or perverted into something else. The following from our party's Constitution is very relevant here:
"This work of 'hastening while awaiting' requires that the party must strain against the limits of the objective political situation it faces—working to transform the situation to the maximum degree possible at any given time and doing so in relation to, and maintaining its tenseness toward, any possible openings for revolution. To do this, it leads a whole ensemble of revolutionary preparations, with the party's press and the spreading of communist theory, especially as concentrated in the body of work, method and approach of Bob Avakian, as the mainstays of that activity." (Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, I. Preamble: Basic Principles of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2008, p. 10)3
That whole ensemble—including the two mainstays, as actual mainstays—is meaningful revolutionary work, not just for more educated and literate strata, but for basic masses, including in particular the youth among the basic masses.
There is a very real and pressing need to win masses of people to see that this is what they should be giving their lives to. Our party's line and strategy is a way to actually make revolution, in the correctly understood sense—not that we're carrying out the struggle for the seizure of power now, but everything we're doing is building for revolution, in all of its different dimensions, as concentrated in the overall ensemble of "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism."
1. Bob Avakian has addressed this "George Jackson question" in "Rereading George Jackson," part of the series "Getting Over the Two Great Humps: Further Thoughts on Conquering the World," in Revolutionary Worker (now Revolution) #968 (August 9, 1998), available online at revcom.us/a/v20/960-69/968/jackson.htm. [back]
2. "On the Possibility of Revolution" appears in the Revolution pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation (May 1, 2008), pp. 80-81 and in Revolution #102, and is available online at revcom.us/a/102/possibility-en.html. [back]
3. In addition to the Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, a discussion of "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism" and the two mainstays can be found in "Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity," Parts 1 and 2, available at revcom.us and in Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, a Revolution pamphlet, May 1, 2008; and in the speech "Making Revolution in the U.S.A.," which was serialized in Revolution newspaper beginning with issue #148 and is available online at revcom.us/a/148/speech-en.html. [back]