Editors' note: The following is an excerpt from the new work by Bob Avakian, THE NEW COMMUNISM. In addition to excerpts already posted on revcom.us, we will be running further excerpts from time to time on both revcom.us and in Revolution newspaper. These excerpts should serve as encouragement and inspiration for people to get into the work as a whole, which is available as a book from Insight Press. An updated pre-publication PDF of this major work—now including the appendices—is available here.
This excerpt comes from the section titled "IV. The Leadership We Need."
Now, just one more or two more examples, on the “art” of leadership and it’s relation to the science of leadership. Back in the 1970s, when the RU was working to unite forces to form the Party, we were in a kind of liaison relationship, a working relationship, with some other organizations, including the Black Workers Congress (the BWC). And some people from the BWC did become part of this Party, which is a very good thing. But, at that time, very sharp struggle developed which was basically over nationalism versus communism—or communism versus an eclectic combination of nationalism and communism. One of the forms this took was that the BWC leadership was arguing that, as the Communist International (the Comintern) had analyzed, more than 40 years earlier (I believe this was in a Comintern Resolution of 1928), the Black national question in the U.S. was essentially a question of the Black peasantry (small farmers, sharecroppers and others) in the South. Therefore, the BWC argued, invoking this Comintern Resolution, the key to ending this oppression was the right to form a separate Black republic in the South.
Now, you’ll notice that in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic, it upholds the right of self-determination, the right to form a separate republic, for the Black nation within what has been the U.S.—within the New Socialist Republic when it’s formed. But the question back then was, not is there a right to do this, but is that right the heart of the struggle to end the oppression of Black people? And a lot depended on this. We were arguing that, yes, Black people are an oppressed nation, and, yes, there is a right to self-determination of that oppressed nation, but that nation is no longer primarily a peasant nation anchored to the land and spread, more or less evenly, throughout the rural areas of the South. Instead, we analyzed, this Black nation has become much more proletarianized, concentrated in the urban areas of the South as well as the North, and much more closely and directly linked to the proletarian revolution itself, even while there definitely remains a question of national oppression, which has to be taken up in its own right. (This has to do with what I was talking about at the beginning of this presentation, in terms of changes that were brought about in the forces of production and the relations of production in the rural South, coming out of World War 2 and continuing since then.) So, a very sharp struggle developed: Was the heart of the oppression, and the fight for the emancipation, of Black people the right to form a separate Black republic in the South—or was that a right, but it wasn’t at the heart of what the struggle for the emancipation of Black people, and the revolution overall, should be about?
I remember very well that, particularly because this was being raised by the BWC, I spent a considerable period of time, weeks and weeks, in a local library where I was living at that time (in Maywood, Illinois, just outside Chicago), looking into the census reports from every state in the South—looking at where Black people were concentrated in the South. First of all, I looked into the question: how many Black people lived in the North, and how many were still in the South at that time? More than 40 years earlier, when this resolution was written by the Comintern, overwhelmingly Black people lived in the South, and mainly they lived in the rural South, as sharecroppers and tenant farmers, and so on. Then World War 2 came along, and there were a lot of changes. So at this time, when I was doing this research, it was about 50–50: a lot of Black people had gone on the “Great Migration” to the North, millions of people; it was about 50 percent in the South and 50 percent in other parts of the country—the North, and the West.
I went further, digging into these census reports. Black people in the South—the 50 percent of Black people overall who were in the South—where did they live? And it was striking—the degree to which Black people in the South had become concentrated in the urban areas. For example, I remember that, in looking at the Black population in different states, county by county, it turned out that there were more Black people in Fulton County, which is where Atlanta is, than in the rest of Georgia. And the same kind of thing was true in Texas: there were many, many times the number of Black people in Harris County (which is where Houston is) as there were in any rural county in Texas. And it went on and on, as you looked into the statistics: South Carolina, North Carolina, and so on—you went through each of these states and you could see the pattern developing that there had been a major change, a major transformation not only in the sense that Black people had migrated, in their millions, to the North, but that the ones who remained in the South were, overwhelmingly, no longer peasants living and working in the rural areas, spread out more or less evenly on the rural farmlands. They had come into the urban areas and were then proletarians in much greater numbers than those who remained in the rural areas as farmers and sharecroppers.
The BWC was dogmatically invoking this statement from Stalin: the national question is in essence a peasant question. And, they claimed, if you say it’s not a peasant question, then you’re negating the national question, you’re not recognizing national oppression. Our position was: Look, you can’t approach this dogmatically. You have to proceed on the basis of what are the actual conditions of people: Are they peasants spread out over and working on the land, or are they people who’ve mainly migrated to the North—to the cities of the North, and the West—and to cities in the South itself? And what is their social position?
It wasn’t just a question of where they were located. In moving into the cities, they related to the economy in a different way. They became, in large numbers, wage workers, where they could get employment—working in large groups in factories and other work sites—rather than being peasants, spread out on small plots of land and fitting into the economy in that way. So there was a major change in terms of their relation to the economic system, to the mode of production, and you had to look not just at where were they living, but what went along with that in terms of their social position, and what implications that had for the revolutionary struggle. In approaching this with that kind of scientific method, it became clear that the masses of Black people were much more proletarians than they were peasants. I remember one of the people writing polemics against us, on behalf of the BWC, quoted that Comintern resolution and went on to argue: The resolution of the peasant question cannot come about under the rule of imperialism. So said the Comintern, in 1928; therefore, it could not have happened. But we said, Wait! We wrote back and demanded: Where in your dusty books, oh dogmatists, does it say that this change could not possibly come about?—because, in fact, it has. And just because, at a certain point, the Comintern analyzed things a certain way—you can’t superimpose that on reality. You have to look, you have to investigate, to see what actually has happened. Has this done away with the oppression of Black people as a people, as a nation? No! Has this changed substantially the conditions and the forms in which that oppression is taking place and, consequently, how it relates to the overall revolutionary struggle? Definitely yes!
So, we didn’t just say, “Oh, we have a new theory here about the national question.” We did a lot of work. I remember, it wasn’t like today, when you can go on the internet to do research. I had to pick up these big, heavy census tracts: I would go to a library in Maywood and put these heavy books down on a table and go through each county, in state after state, writing down the statistics for each county very systematically, because you have to be systematic and scientific. Look, if the BWC was right, they were right. And that would have had significant implications. If they were wrong, they were wrong. And there were serious implications that way, too.
But to cap this story off—and illustrate again the point about the relation between the science and “art” of leadership—a little bit later than this, after the split between us and the BWC, as well as the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (formerly the Young Lords Party) had become complete—I was on a party-building speaking tour going around the country. Well, in Cincinnati, I was in the middle of my speech—and the security was not very good, to say the least, because all of a sudden, I hear this ruckus at the entrance to the place, and in marched these members of the BWC. They proceeded to go right up to the front of the room, where I was—you can evaluate how good the security was! They unfurled this map that was shaded to show how many Black people were in the South. This was done by state, but not by county. Their map just showed, by state, where Black people were. Well, they came in and defiantly held up this map. So, I decided: since the security is shot to shit, I might as well just go ahead and make the best of this situation. I said, OK, I’m glad you brought that map, because there are a lot of important things we can learn by looking more deeply at what the situation is. And then I proceeded to talk about how, if you shaded the map differently—not focusing on how many Black people there were in different states, but if you looked at it in terms of where they were within the states—it would present a completely different picture of what the situation of Black people actually was. And then I proceeded to go through this: for example, if you look at Fulton County or you look at Harris County, and so on. And at one point, in the middle of this—you can imagine this very tense situation, where they are defiantly holding this map, and I’m illustrating points, using their map—I said, “Would you mind raising the map up a little bit?” And they did! So, I continued, using their map to help illustrate what were the significant facts about the Black population in the South (and the North and West) and what that said about their actual relation to the system—to the mode of production, and to the system overall.
What was involved here was a combination of the science and the “art” of leadership. It wasn’t just a matter of not being cowed in some abstract sense, or dealing with a difficult situation with a certain amount of finesse. It was a matter of having a scientific method and approach, and proceeding on that basis to do the work to actually see if reality conformed to what the BWC was arguing, or if it was very different. That was the basis for being able to deal with situations like the one that arose with that event in Cincinnati. It was necessary to have a dialectical materialist approach, because if you went at it superficially, you might not understand the significance of this transformation—from being more or less evenly spread out, through all these rural counties, to being concentrated overwhelmingly in the urban areas. But if you’re approaching it as a materialist, a dialectical materialist, you see that this represents a very significant change in the situation of Black people. It certainly doesn’t do away with their oppression as a people, it doesn’t do away with their status as an oppressed nation which, yes, has the right to self-determination; but it radically changes the concrete conditions of this, and there are real implications to that, strategically and in terms of how you go about fighting this oppression, how the right to self-determination fits into that, and how this relates, in turn, to the overall revolution aiming for communism. This is the difference between lazybones dogmatists—who say, “Well, 40 years ago, the Comintern said this couldn’t happen, so it can’t happen, so it didn’t happen”—and actually having a scientific method and approach. That scientific method and approach was the foundation for being able to quickly adjust to a very difficult situation, and even, in a certain way, enlisting those BWC people to help in illustrating an important point that they didn’t want illustrated—that the actual picture was vastly different than what they were presenting.
Introduction and Orientation
Foolish Victims of Deceit, and Self-Deceit
Part I. Method and Approach, Communism as a Science
Materialism vs. Idealism
Through Which Mode of Production
The Basic Contradictions and Dynamics of Capitalism
The New Synthesis of Communism
The Basis for Revolution
Epistemology and Morality, Objective Truth and Relativist Nonsense
Self and a “Consumerist” Approach to Ideas
What Is Your Life Going to Be About?—Raising People’s Sights
Part II. Socialism and the Advance to Communism:
A Radically Different Way the World Could Be, A Road to Real Emancipation
The “4 Alls”
Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right
Socialism as an Economic System and a Political System—And a Transition to Communism
Abundance, Revolution, and the Advance to Communism—A Dialectical Materialist Understanding
The Importance of the “Parachute Point”—Even Now, and Even More With An Actual Revolution
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America—
Solid Core with a Lot of Elasticity on the Basis of the Solid Core
Emancipators of Humanity
Part III. The Strategic Approach to An Actual Revolution
One Overall Strategic Approach
Hastening While Awaiting
Forces For Revolution
Separation of the Communist Movement from the Labor Movement, Driving Forces for Revolution
National Liberation and Proletarian Revolution
The Strategic Importance of the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women
The United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat
Youth, Students and the Intelligentsia
Struggling Against Petit Bourgeois Modes of Thinking, While Maintaining the Correct Strategic Orientation
The “Two Maximizings”
The “5 Stops”
The Two Mainstays
Returning to "On the Possibility of Revolution"
Internationalism and an International Dimension
Internationalism—Bringing Forward Another Way
Popularizing the Strategy
Part IV. The Leadership We Need
The Decisive Role of Leadership
A Leading Core of Intellectuals—and the Contradictions Bound Up with This
Another Kind of “Pyramid”
The Cultural Revolution Within the RCP
The Need for Communists to Be Communists
A Fundamentally Antagonistic Relation—and the Crucial Implications of That
Strengthening the Party—Qualitatively as well as Quantitatively
Forms of Revolutionary Organization, and the “Ohio”
Statesmen, and Strategic Commanders
Methods of Leadership, the Science and the “Art” of Leadership
Working Back from “On the Possibility”—
Another Application of “Solid Core with a Lot of Elasticity on the Basis of the Solid Core”
The New Synthesis of Communism:
Fundamental Orientation, Method and Approach,
and Core Elements—An Outline
by Bob Avakian
Framework and Guidelines for Study and Discussion
Selected List of Works Cited
About the Author