The Strategic Approach to Revolution and Its Relation to Basic Questions of Epistemology and Method
by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party
August 4, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following is the text of a talk given by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, earlier this year (2014). In order to make this talk available more broadly, including for translation into a number of different languages, revcom.us has been authorized to publish the transcript of this talk with any editing that was felt to be necessary in preparing this for publication.
I want to start by looking a little bit into and digging further into some of what’s in the six paragraphs that have been focused on from Part 2 of Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity.
Now, those six paragraphs begin under the heading, the broad heading of “Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism” but the particular heading which once again encapsulates a very basic principle of our whole approach to making revolution, namely “Hastening while awaiting”—and then is added “not bowing down to necessity.” And this contradiction, or opposition, that’s posed—between the correct orientation of hastening while awaiting and an all too common tendency and a very powerful pull toward bowing down to necessity—is a very important one to examine a bit.
In the second of these six paragraphs, the one that begins, “I spoke earlier about the outlook and approach of revisionist ‘determinist realism,’” toward the middle of that paragraph it says that “this ‘determinist realism’...doesn’t really, or fully, grasp the contradictoriness of all of reality, including the necessity that one is confronted with at any given time.” Now, in another context, and in fact repeatedly, I have stressed, and we have been stressing, that the basis for revolution lies in the very contradictoriness of the system that needs to be overthrown, the capitalist-imperialist system—that it’s the basic contradictions of this system, its fundamental contradiction between socialized production and private/capitalist appropriation, and the driving force of anarchy as the main expression of that, but also other social contradictions that arise out of, or are encompassed within, the dynamics of this capitalist system—contradictions which this system cannot resolve in any way, in any fundamental sense, and certainly not in the interests of the masses of people and ultimately all of humanity. This is the basis for revolution, not what people are thinking or doing at any given time, how many people are with it or against it at any given time, whether people give it thumbs up or thumbs down at any given time—all that is not the basis for revolution, but the basis lies in these contradictions of the system itself.
So that is something that’s being spoken to here where it speaks to how “‘determinist realism’... doesn’t really, or fully, grasp the contradictoriness of all of reality, including the necessity that one is confronted with at any given time.” And elsewhere I’ve also pointed out that necessity is not just necessity in some abstract sense, or not just obstacles and problems or difficulties to be overcome. Necessity itself is contradiction, and should be understood in that way. And that is the basis on which necessity can be transformed into freedom through correctly analyzing and moving to transform necessity on a scientific basis.
Matter and Consciousness, Objective and Subjective Factors—A Living, Dialectical Materialist Understanding
And it goes on to say, in the same paragraph—the second of these six paragraphs that begin Part 2 of “Making and Emancipating”: “So, one of the essential features of ‘determinist realism’ is that it dismisses as `voluntarism’ any dialectical grasp of the relation between the subjective and objective factors, and sees things in very linear, and undifferentiated ways, as essentially uniform and without contradiction, rather than in a living and dynamic and moving and changing way.” Now this, too, is extremely important. Because of the very nature of the contradictions in all of life—including human society and its interaction with the rest of reality, with nature—the fact is that different aspects of a contradiction can be transformed into each other. Mao pointed this out, that consciousness can be transformed into matter—just as a side point here to clarify this, he wasn’t saying that consciousness is something other than matter in motion, but he was speaking about matter broadly, the relationship between the particular form of matter in motion that is human consciousness on the one hand, and broader material reality on the other hand. And he was saying that the one can be and is constantly transformed into the other. This is a very important point that we’re stopping on for just a brief moment.
Let’s take the one transformation—of the objective reality outside of human consciousness into human consciousness. If you think about this, this happens all the time. People interact with objective reality, and this is reflected in their consciousness—they make analyses, they make syntheses—and then what was objective becomes a part of their conscious or, if you will, subjective understanding. Not subjective in the sense that it’s erroneous or based on bias or prejudice or unscientific methods, but subjective in the sense of the subject, people with their consciousness, and the relationship of that to objective reality outside of those people. That objective reality becomes transformed into the subjective in the sense that people become conscious of things and therefore move to change them in certain ways. So that’s one way in which matter outside of conscious human beings becomes transformed into consciousness.
And the other is also true. On the basis of people making analyses and syntheses, in turn based on their interacting with reality, they go out into the world and act, and in that way affect the objective reality and change it. And so the subjective—the consciousness of the subject, subjective in that sense, conscious matter—goes out and changes the larger objective reality, and so becomes in that way part of that larger objective reality; the consciousness acting on that larger objective reality changes then and becomes part of it. When people put up with oppression because they don’t see any way out, for example, that’s one thing. When they, however, see the possibility and the necessity and become conscious of the possibility and necessity to act to change reality, then they actually do change it. You can see that in the history of any country. Look at the movements of the 1960s, for example, and the U.S. is just one example of how much changes were made in the objective situation, even though, unfortunately, that didn’t go all the way to a revolution. Let alone, where in societies, even going back to the bourgeois era like the French Revolution—or the era of communist revolution in the Soviet Union and then China—qualitative major changes have been brought about by people consciously reacting upon objective reality and their conscious actions actually changing and becoming encompassed within the changed objective reality.
So this is a foundation underneath this statement that this “determinist realism” doesn’t grasp the dialectical relation between the subjective and objective factors and sees things in very linear, undifferentiated ways, as essentially uniform and without contradiction, rather than in a living and dynamic and moving and changing way. And in particular doesn’t grasp the possibility of acting on objective reality by grasping its contradictoriness and transforming it, even before a major qualitative transformation can be brought about that is represented by and encompassed in an actual proletarian or communist revolution (in the non-reified but fullest sense).
This is very important, because you find that people, constantly up against difficult objective reality—especially in those circumstances—people fall into “determinist realism,” they see only one part of reality, not the whole picture of reality (and I’ll get to that more). They also see reality only in a linear and undifferentiated way. In other words, not as full of contradiction, not as moving and changing as a result of the dynamics of those contradictions and the interaction of those contradictions as part of those overall dynamics.
So that’s one very important point: If you don’t look scientifically, if you don’t apply materialism, and if you don’t apply dialectical materialism in particular—don’t, in other words, grasp the contradictory nature of reality, of the necessity that you’re up against and the need to transform it, then you bow down to necessity. You see all that can be done as being what is already—you know, as Lenin put it, what is desirable is what is possible, and what is possible is what is already being done—that’s another way that Lenin very sharply posed this same kind of outlook.
And that’s what you fall into if you don’t recognize—if you don’t approach it as a materialist; if you approach this as an idealist, approach it as if (we’ve talked about this many times) this is just one set of precepts or narrative up against another, and it’s not really proceeding on the basis of objective reality, it’s just proceeding on the basis of the subjective, in the other sense, that is, prejudice, bias, inclinations that are not based on objective reality, but based just on wishes or prayers or whatever. If you approach things in that way, you don’t even have a prayer!—you don’t have a chance of actually transforming objective reality, certainly not in any fundamental sense, in terms of radically transforming society, in terms of overthrowing an existing system and bringing into being a radically different system. Because you’re just sort of—you’re just proceeding on the basis of ideas that you or other people have cooked up that are divorced from reality. It’s difficult enough to transform reality if you’re actually proceeding on the basis of actually looking at and digging into objective reality; but, if you aren’t, you cannot end up in a good place ultimately. But, at the same time, if you just look at objective reality as it is, and see it in this kind of linear way and not as moving and changing and, in particular, not in terms of its being full of and driven by contradiction, then you also can’t really recognize the possibility and basis for change, certainly not any fundamental change.
So this is how the point about where the basis for revolution lies, and what is the method and approach and epistemology for even being able to recognize that and correctly analyze it, meets up with the question of whether or not you can actually transform society and have an orientation toward transforming it, or whether you don’t see that possibility, or start out with that kind of orientation but as soon as you run into real obstacles you retreat from it and bow down before necessity. Or you flip into voluntarism and try by mere acts of will to change objective reality on a subjective basis without proceeding scientifically, in a way that it cannot be changed, and certainly not for the better, that is, not in a radically, emancipatory way toward the goal of communism.
All that is concentrated in these first two paragraphs, and in particular we’ve been looking at the second paragraph of (Part 2 of) “Making and Emancipating.” To use the parlance of the times, there’s a lot that’s packed into these six paragraphs. And this second paragraph is definitely one case where there’s a great deal concentrated in there. Terms are used which are on a high level of abstraction, terms and concepts are used which are on a high level of abstraction, because they are concentrating a tremendous amount. And the point is not to look at them and go: “Oh, I don’t understand that, so I guess I’ll look at something else.” Or, “Oh, that’s heavy, but I don’t know what it means.” The point is to dig into and really grapple with what is concentrated there and get into the fullness of what’s being concentrated.
“Nobody Can Say Exactly”—A Scientific, Not an Agnostic and Aimless Orientation and Approach
Now, moving down a little later in these six paragraphs. I want to focus on what’s said in the paragraph that begins, “It is true that we cannot, by our mere will, or even merely by our actions themselves, transform the objective conditions in a qualitative sense—into a revolutionary situation.” Toward the middle of that paragraph, the very important point is discussed, taking off from Lenin’s statement that he made with regard to the labor aristocracy, that nobody could say for certain where all of the labor aristocracy would line up in relationship to the proletarian revolution, in the event of such a revolution, when it actually came down to it. Nobody can say exactly how that would fall out, Lenin emphasized. And here that same kind of approach and same basic formulation is applied to the question as follows: “applying this same principle, we can say that nobody can say exactly what the conscious initiative of the revolutionaries might be capable of producing, in reacting upon the objective situation at any given time.” I’m going to stop there because this does hark back to what I was just discussing. Reacting back upon the objective situation is not simply reacting back on an undifferentiated monolithic objective situation, but reacting back upon a contradictory objective situation, and transforming it in the way that I was just speaking to, beginning with the point from Mao about how matter can be transformed into human consciousness and human consciousness, in turn, can be transformed into broader matter.
So I wanted to stop there to focus on what is meant by this phrase, and how should this phrase be correctly understood: “reacting upon the objective situation at any given time.” It doesn’t just mean doing what you do—what you think you can do—in relation to the objective situation. It means actively seeking to transform it, as is emphasized a little later, to the maximum degree possible at any given time, or in any given set of circumstances.
But, here again, I want to emphasize this: “nobody can say exactly”—”nobody can say exactly what the conscious initiative of the revolutionaries might be capable of producing, in reacting upon the objective situation at any given time—in part because nobody can predict all the other things that all the different forces in the world will be doing.” Now, I have heard that this phrase, or this formulation and how it’s discussed here, has been taken to mean—once again interpreted through frankly revisionist “determinist realism” as: “Well, nobody can say, so it doesn’t— the point is it doesn’t really matter what we do, because you can’t really know what result it’s gonna have, so it’s sort of aimless.” No, that’s not the point at all. The point is not that we should be carrying out aimless work—and I’ll get into that further as we go along. Quite the contrary—we should be carrying out purposeful work. But the point here is that there is a larger objective world out there that is, once again, full of and driven by contradictions and ongoing transformation of one kind or another all the time through the dynamics of the contradictions and the interaction of those contradictions.
There’s a much larger world, and whatever we’re doing at a given time, even if it’s along the correct lines in taking up the main contradictions that we can identify as what should be worked on—in other words, struggled over to transform at any given time—there’s still a much larger world, and there is the role of what in the framework of what we’re doing is accident, things that didn’t arise out of the dynamics on which we’re working and even the larger dynamics we can identify at a given time. Because all kinds of forces are operating. Forces of nature are operating. We can’t predict all the floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, you know. Science can have some—has some sense of how some of these things might come about—but not all that can be predicted by human beings at this time. And then there’s also all the social forces that are at work—different class forces, and their political and literary representatives, are all operating out there in the larger world. And all this is interacting with what we’re doing, in one way or another, on one level or another, or on many levels. So while we, in being scientific, have to—as those two paragraphs on “Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution” say, we have to work to identify at any given time the major concentrations of social contradictions and go to work on them. Other forces are working on them, and there’s a lot more happening in the world, including nature out there, and so on so forth—and sometimes not so “out there”—sometimes right inside where we are.
This is the larger dynamic world that we’re dealing with, and universe that we’re dealing with. So, even when we correctly are working on the basis of correctly identifying the major concentrations of social contradictions, all these other things are happening and they interpenetrate with, impinge upon, if you will, influence what we’re working on, and how people are seeing things, including the contradictions that we’re working on at a given time. So the meaning of this is not a constraining meaning: “Nobody can say...well, we do our best but you can’t know if it’ll come to anything good.” No, that’s not the point at all. The point is, we work to transform the objective situation in the direction in which it can and needs to go in terms of the emancipation of humanity—in other words, toward the goal of communism at any given time— maximizing transformations in that direction to the greatest degree possible at any given time, but also being alert to the fact that all these other things are happening out there. And even if you— here’s the point (which gets developed more fully a little later) here, in this part of this section of Part 2 of “Making and Emancipating”: Even if you could sit down and say, “Well, if we made the best analysis we could of the effect, the most positive possible effect, of all the work that we’re doing to transform things, particularly in relation to the major concentrations of social contradictions that we’ve identified, all that still at this point wouldn’t lead to revolution”—even if that were scientifically true, the point of “nobody can say” is, there might be a lot of other things happening out there which might, might at any given time, come together with what we’re doing to radically transform the situation, even possibly all the way to a revolutionary situation, when we had not at any given point anticipated that possibility. That’s the point of “nobody can say exactly,” as applied to this. It’s not to promote agnosticism—”Oh, who knows”—but it’s to promote science, including a scientific recognition of the interrelation of accident and causality, the interrelation of larger things happening out there through the motion and development of contradictions and those dynamics, and what we’re consciously approaching in terms of seeking to transform reality. So that’s a very important understanding that’s concentrated in this paragraph when it’s speaking about the principle of “nobody can say exactly.”
Now, this relates to another point toward the end of the same paragraph, where it says what I was just touching on. And this, I think, is very important: “And there is the fact that, although changes in what’s objective for us won’t come entirely, or perhaps not even mainly, through our `working on’ the objective conditions (in some direct, one-to-one sense), nevertheless our `working on’ them can bring about certain changes within a given framework of objective conditions and ”(the word and is emphasized here) “and—in conjunction with and as part of a ‘mix,’ together with many other elements, including other forces acting on the objective situation from their own viewpoints—this can, under certain circumstances, be part of the coming together of factors which does result in a qualitative change.” In other words, even possibly all the way to a revolutionary situation. “And, again”—the end of this paragraph goes on: “And, again, it is important to emphasize that nobody can know exactly how all that will work out.”
And here’s an irony, which is another way of saying a contradiction, not only for us but for all these other class forces out there. Look what it says here: That this—what we’re doing and the effects of it, in conjunction with and as part of a mix together with many other elements, including other forces acting on the objective situation from their own viewpoints—can come together and create a qualitative change, or make possible the bringing about of a qualitative change, even to a revolutionary situation. And the irony and contradiction, not only for us but for these other forces—here are all these other forces acting on the objective terrain, trying to take it in the direction other than where it needs to go in terms of the emancipation of the oppressed of the world and ultimately all of humanity, and yet, if we’re working correctly, with the correct orientation and the correct scientific method that’s concentrated in what’s said here and is based on dialectical materialism, the things that they are doing to influence things—these other class forces and social forces, the things they’re doing to influence the terrain, can be things that we in turn go to work on to make it move toward a revolutionary situation. So this should not be understood in linear terms: “Oh, these other class forces are contributing to the revolution, too, by what they’re doing.” No, they’re actually working against it, but then those are contradictions—what they’re doing and the effects of that are also contradictions that we go to work on.
So this is the living and dynamic way we have to understand the process of transforming the objective conditions—including the thinking of masses of people, which we’ll get to more directly a little later—in the direction toward the communist revolution that’s necessary, as opposed to either just idealist voluntarism—we just go out there and because what we’re saying is, you know, morally better, then it’ll just somehow prevail, which is another form of religion, if you will. Or, the much, much more common and much more powerful pull, this “determinist realism,” that there really isn’t much we can do until, as it’s said in another part of these six paragraphs, some deus ex machina—some almost supernatural external factor—intervenes and saves us, whether it’s objective changes, whether it’s god, whether it’s the masses who have replaced god, or whatever—intervenes to save us and makes possible the revolution, when before there was no basis for it anywhere. These views are completely wrong and have to be thoroughly broken with in order to actually carry out revolutionary work, in order to actually carry out the principles for building a movement for revolution.
And the last point I want to dig into in these six paragraphs—and it should be obvious in reading them, and also in what I’ve touched on here, how important it is to continually go back to these six paragraphs and really dig into and get inside of what it’s actually saying, and the method and approach that it embodies—but here what sums it up is where it’s...Oh, no, I’m sorry, there’s one other formulation I want to get to before I get to the end (of this part). And that’s this point that starts the paragraph which deals with the deus ex machina, where it starts out saying, “Revolution is not made by ‘formulas,’ or by acting in accordance with stereotypical notions and preconceptions—it is a much more living, rich, and complex process than that.” This is also important. You know, the revisionists always say—always are approaching things, again, in linear and undialectical ways, not seeing the contradictions and thinking that they can compress reality into something manageable for them. And then, “let’s have a recipe for how we’re going to accomplish things and maybe even how we’re going to accomplish somehow getting to socialism—let’s take a little of this and little of that, in other words, first we do this, then we do that, then we do this, then we do that, and eventually somehow all this will all add up, if we just do the formula right, it’ll all add up to some kind of change that would be good.” There’s a lot of that out there, broadly speaking, in what we loosely and somewhat charitably refer to as the “movement.” And it’s a characteristic of revisionism as well to try to approach things by formulae rather than by grasping the living dynamics in the way that I’ve been speaking to.
So I just want to underscore that point. Saying that revolution is not made by formulas doesn’t mean, once again, that the work is aimless, that you don’t have a strategic approach, that you don’t actually make very scientific analyses and syntheses as part of continually refining your strategic approach, and developing such a strategic approach in the first place. But science tells you precisely that the world is much more complex than this, that it is much more dynamic, that it can’t be wrapped up into a neat package, that you can’t have a formula for, “first we do this, then we do that, and this will lead to that... this will lead to that... this will lead to that... and eventually the end point will be socialism—if not now, maybe a hundred years from now.”
I still remember that revisionist who was working on the Bob Scheer campaign for Congress, back in the 1960s. He was running in the Democratic Party, but running on an anti-war and anti-racism platform. And he didn’t win, but he got quite a few votes, and this revisionist, as the votes were being announced, turned to all the rest of us sitting in the office and said, “Now I can go home and sleep well knowing we’re one centimeter closer to socialism.” NO! That’s not the way that you get closer to socialism, that’s not the way—and the point after all is not to get centimeter by centimeter by centimeter closer to some variation of some idea of socialism, but is actually to apply this living, scientific, dialectical materialist approach, recognizing that, yes, you do have to have things that you identify as contradictions that you’re putting concerted effort and concentrated effort on and working to transform at any given time, but you also, even as you’re doing that, have to look at the much broader world, how other social forces are acting, not just on the contradictions that you’re focusing on, but on the larger contradictions of society; what nature is doing, and how that’s impacting society, and what different effects it’s having on different sections of society and different parts of the world, and so on; and how all that sets in motion, or transforms the motion of, different contradictions—all of which you have be encompassing in a basic sense as part of your strategic approach to actually carrying forward the struggle to transform the objective world toward the goal, the ultimate goal of communism and the more immediate goal of overthrowing the existing system and establishing socialism with the dictatorship of the proletariat.
So that does get back to the very end, where it sort of sums it up, and says, “if you are looking at things...”—and this is at the end of the six paragraphs—”if you are looking at things only in a linear way, then you only see the possibilities that are straight ahead”—you don’t see the contradictions and you have blinders on, you only see what’s right in front of you: “you have a kind of blinders on,” as it says. But, “On the other hand, if you have a correct, dialectical materialist approach, you recognize that many things can happen that are unanticipated, and you have to be constantly tense to that possibility...”—and this is a very concentrated last part of the sentence, so I want to emphasize it, word by word almost: “if you have a correct, dialectical materialist approach, you recognize that many things can happen that are unanticipated, and you have to be constantly tense to that possibility while consistently working to transform necessity into freedom.” There’s so much concentrated in that last part: “you recognize that many things can happen that are unanticipated, and you have to be constantly tense to that possibility while consistently working to transform necessity into freedom.”
Here, again, is another contradiction: being constantly tense to the possibility of things that arise unexpectedly, to put it in a certain way, on the one hand, while on the other hand consistently working to transform necessity into freedom, particularly in light of what you can identify as the main contradictions we need to be working on at any given time or in any given period. That is a very important contradiction, and at times can be a very acute contradiction, because you can be burrowed into what you’re doing to try to transform what you see as the main things that need to be worked on, at any given time, to be transformed, and you can lose sight of these larger things—and you’re taken totally by surprise by unexpected developments, or you just ignore those developments because they don’t fit into your formula, your narrow agenda. So it is worth going back to that last sentence (or actually the next-to-last sentence) of these six paragraphs, in particular the last half of that sentence, and really digging into and discussing it and wrangling with it, individually but above all collectively, over and over again.
These six paragraphs rest on a certain material foundation. They’re not just talking about an approach of a subjective kind that proceeds out of the bright ideas of somebody, or out of the biases of people, or their inclinations of an idealist kind of how they’d like the world to be and what should be possible. All this is grounded in a scientific approach to analyzing material reality, basing ourselves in the actual contradictions of material reality and the possibilities for transformation that lie within all that, and how that relates to the goal of communism.
Now, let’s look at that. Is the goal of communism just a goal, and then you look at the contradictions of objective reality and see how it relates to that goal? No. The goal itself is based on analyzing material reality, and its contradictoriness, in a scientific way. As has been emphasized—but can’t be emphasized too many times, it seems—the actual understanding of both the possibility, necessity, and desirability (well, that’s three things, not both—but of all that: the possibility, the necessity, and the desirability) of communism is based on an analysis of material reality and its contradictoriness and the motion and dynamics and transformation that this gives rise to and the potential within that to realize this goal of a revolution ultimately leading to communism on a world scale.
This fundamental approach is what’s being applied, and applied in a very concentrated way, in these six paragraphs—and it’s not only in those six paragraphs, that’s not the only place it’s applied, but it is what’s being applied in a very concentrated way there. And that’s why I’ve also said these paragraphs are a very important, essential concentration of not only points of strategic approach in a general sense, but also of method and of epistemology—which, you know, is at the heart of that method—the scientific epistemology which leads to a scientific approach and method.
On that basis, let’s go forward and talk about the strategic approach of hastening while awaiting itself. Now, again, as I’ve been emphasizing, this is in opposition, on the one hand, to voluntarism. It’s not hastening like a speed-up of the assembly line, just moving faster and faster and faster, and digging ourselves a deeper, deeper hole going nowhere. It’s not running around frenetically on the basis of, “We gotta make revolution, the world’s terrible, you know, rrr... rrr...the people are suffering, we have to....” Yes, we should have that kind of passion, but not freneticism. There’s a very important distinction between passion and freneticism, because freneticism is opposed to and undermines a scientific approach. Hastening while awaiting is in opposition to a kind of a voluntarist approach—well, so many deeds, as Mao said very correctly, cry out to be done, so let’s just try to do everything at once without any materialist assessment of the objective reality and where we are in relation to that objective reality and what we can transform that will lead in the direction of where we need to go, on a scientific foundation, as opposed to just what we’d like to be able to do. I mean, if we just want to do that—just do what we’d like to do—we’d just try to have a revolution right now, and get crushed. Which would be very bad. To actually try to seize power now would be very bad, and would demoralize the masses and disorient them and set back the whole struggle, and not only in a particular country but in the world as a whole, for quite a while and very seriously.
So that kind of voluntarism, again, is no good. But as has been emphasized—and, once again, can’t be emphasized, it seems, too many times—there is a much stronger pull off the revolutionary road represented by determinism. And it actually links up with and has a fundamental unity with idealism, and voluntarism in particular, because it is actually a form of idealism—determinism is actually a form of idealism. It can be expressed as mechanical materialism, that is, you see objective reality but you see it only as uniform, without contradiction, unchanging, not moving and transforming, etc. So it can take form as and be an expression of mechanical materialism, but that mechanical materialism is also ultimately a form of idealism, because you’re not actually analyzing and synthesizing objective reality in a scientific way, and therefore you don’t recognize the contradictoriness of it, and therefore you don’t see the possibility of transforming the objective conditions, and you don’t see everything I was just talking about—not only the ways in which you can transform things, but the ways in which things are being transformed by other forces, social and even “natural” forces that are constantly at work, according to their own inner contradictions and dynamics and the interaction of these different contradictions.
So, once again, what’s concentrated in those first six paragraphs from Part 2 of “Making and Emancipating” has direct bearing on our strategic approach and concentrates some key things about that strategic approach.
Let’s talk a little bit about what is that strategic approach. Let’s get to that more directly. It has been concentrated—we’ve written about this in many places, it’s spoken to in works like “Making and Emancipating,” especially Part 2, and also in “Birds and Crocodiles,” Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon particularly, again, in Part 2 of that work—but it’s also very directly, and in a concentrated way, set forth in the statement “On the Strategy for Revolution,” which is also the supplement of the third chapter of BAsics on the question of revolution.
“Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution”
Let’s look at different elements of this—not as just isolated elements unto themselves, but as part of an overall strategic approach. One of the key elements of this approach, which is emphasized in the statement “On the Strategy for Revolution,” is encapsulated, or concentrated, in the slogan “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.” Now, in the interview that I did with A. Brooks, What Humanity Needs: Revolution and the New Synthesis of Communism, I talked about the relationship, or important aspects of the relationship, between fighting the power and transforming the people, and people transforming themselves, and the critical role that’s played by people standing up and fighting back against oppression. That, to put it negatively, if people do not stand up and fight back against oppression, then there is much less of a basis—certainly in an overall sense—for revolution, but also for people to grasp, and to be open to understanding and to be seeking to understand, the reality that they are caught up in and what is both necessary and possible in terms of transforming that reality. So that’s a point that’s emphasized in that interview, and it’s a very important point.
But what’s also given emphasis, and is even more important in an overall sense, is that all three parts, if you will, of this slogan are important, yes, in themselves as aspects of this, but most essentially they are important as a unified whole—in other words, in their interrelation and in the totality of this slogan, which is greater than any of its particular parts, or even greater than the sum of the parts, taken as such. To put it another way, there’s a dialectical interconnection between fighting the power, transforming the people, and the fact that this has to ultimately go for revolution—and, fundamentally in terms of where it needs to go, it has to be aiming for revolution, or else all the other aspects are going to be set back: the aspect of people standing up and resisting, fighting the power in that sense; the aspect of people seeking to understand the world more deeply and being open to and being, in fact, transformed in their thinking is going to be set back. Because the terms and the dynamics of the existing system are going to continue to operate on people and, if there’s not a rupture to an actual revolution, that’s going to reassert itself. We’ve seen that, and once again if you look through the whole experience of the ‘60s into the early ‘70s, and what’s happened since—things that some of us who were around then could not have imagined would ever happen in terms of how the social relations have been transformed, a reversal of some changes that were made, in terms of how the thinking of people has been transformed in a backward and reactionary way, on a very great scale since that time, because revolution—it didn’t go all the way, it didn’t break through all the way to revolution, didn’t break on through to the other side, to use that line from the song.
So, there’s an integral whole here, and all these different parts, the different components—“fight the power,” and “transform the people,” and “for revolution”—are interconnected. But for revolution is what gives it its ultimate decisive definition. So that’s one important point.
Now, again, it is important that people stand up and fight back, and the outrages that this system continually perpetrates against masses of people as well as against the environment—all over the world, not just in one country—do, in fact, provide a basis for people to stand up and fight back. But, in and of itself, just the fact that people are oppressed and that the system does horrific things, does not, in every instance, lead to people resisting, to people fighting the power, if you will; and it certainly doesn’t lead to that fight being sustained. So, on the one hand, these outrages of the system, these egregious abuses of the system, these injustices and oppression of the system and exploitation, do need to be fought. They are themselves real contradictions that need to be fought—that people need to develop struggle around. At the same time, if you are approaching all this with the science of dialectical materialism—not with the “narrative of communism,” but with the science of dialectical materialism—you know that all this has to be developed, in an overall and fundamental sense, toward the goal of revolution, aiming for the ultimate goal of communism on a world scale, even as—and this is very important, and I’ll talk about this more a little later—even as it’s very important to work to unite as many people as possible to fight against these outrages, who come at this from a diversity of viewpoints and many of whom are not, at any given time, won to or convinced that all this has to go toward revolution and the ultimate goal of communism. If we don’t seek to unite with everybody who is outraged, or can be won to see what an outrage it is that these injustices and exploitation and oppression go on, then we are going to be undermining in the fundamental sense our basic objectives of revolution, which is not just to get our “narrative” but is what is actually necessary to finally and fully eliminate all such outrages and injustices.
So that’s on the one side and very important. And I’ve emphasized this before and I want to emphasize it again: These outrages are real outrages, and if we, who claim to be revolutionaries and communists, are not in fact more outraged by this, or certainly not less outraged by these things, than other people who do not have a communist understanding and approach, then we are not deserving of the name of communist, not deserving of the name of revolutionary. If we don’t have a deep hatred and passion to eliminate these things and to fight against them, even before and all along the way in order to fully and finally eliminate them, then we are not revolutionaries and we are not communists. We should certainly have no less passion about this, no less outrage, than other people who do not have a communist understanding and a scientific dialectical materialist method and approach at any given time. So, I want to emphasize that—all that on the one side.
On the other side of the contradiction, if we only give expression to our hatred for these things, if we are only passionate in fighting them ourselves and mobilizing other people and bringing forward other people to fight them, but we don’t, in what we do—not what we expect others who are not communists to do, let’s be clear, but in what we do—if we do not actually bring forward the fact that all this has to go toward revolution and the ultimate goal of communism, then we are also betraying the masses of people and we are also leaving things ultimately to the not-so-tender mercies of the dynamics of this system and its state and its ruling class, and what this system will do in relation to these contradictions in seeking to resolve it on its terms.
So that’s, again, another contradiction that we have to correctly handle. And if we are wrong on either aspect of this, or on the synthesis of the two aspects, then we are not going to be doing what we need to do and we are actually ultimately going to be doing harm instead of what we need to be doing to actually lead people to stand up and fight more and more consciously to achieve, yes, their own emancipation through the revolution leading to the ultimate goal of communism. So, that’s one point I want to emphasize in terms of “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.”
The Pivotal Role of Transforming the Thinking of Masses of People
The other point I want to stress is that within this entire process of “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution,” and within the entire overall process of building the movement for revolution and building the Party as its leading core, what is most essential and pivotal is transforming the thinking of, not just this individual and that individual isolated by themselves—although struggling with individuals can be a part of this, and is a part of it—but the pivotal role of transforming the thinking of blocs of people, of whole groups of people, of masses of people ultimately. Now, what do I mean by saying it’s pivotal and most essential? Let’s be clear. That does not mean the solitary, the only element or aspect of this that’s important. People actually standing up and fighting, as I’ve been stressing, is important as well. But if we look at this as an overall process, we should be able to recognize—and we will recognize if we’re approaching it scientifically—that, even in order for people to stand up and fight, and certainly to sustain a fight as they run into different obstacles and twists and turns, and so on and so forth, people’s thinking has to be transformed. Now, in something I’ve written, I posed the question, to try to put things in very basic and concentrated, and in a certain sense simple, terms: Who should be involved, for example—I’ll talk about this more a little bit later—who should be involved in the mass initiatives that we’ve undertaken: on the one hand, to put it in short, concentrated terms, against the degradation of women; and, on the other hand, mass incarceration and everything bound up with that. Who should be involved in these mass initiatives? And the answer is everyone, the way I formulated it was: everyone who understands—or can be won to see—that these outrages that these mass initiatives are taking up are intolerable and must be fought. And this, it should be said—and, you know, it should be understood but apparently it needs to be said—should not be limited by any means to communists and a few people gathered around the communists. It should include growing numbers of people in the hundreds, very soon in the thousands and ultimately millions.
But let’s look at that formulation: who understand—or can be won to see. Now, what’s implied, particularly in the part within dashes there—”or can be won to see”—it implies that people have to be struggled with. People have to often be struggled with to recognize these outrages, even to see them sometimes, because of the way this system operates and how it blinds people, and how it encourages people in many ways to blind themselves, to many of these outrages. So people have to be struggled with in many instances, many cases, just to recognize these outrages, and then to recognize them as outrages, and then to recognize that they are not the fault of the people who are subjected to them. Even before they come to understand the whole thing scientifically, in terms of how all this flows from the system and is encompassed within the dynamics of the system, there’s still struggle with people that has to be—and everybody who’s gone out to do any of this kind of work knows this—struggle has to be waged to get people to see the necessity to fight these things, and to understand in basic terms that the people who are being oppressed in this way are not the ones responsible, and it’s not their fault, their “personal responsibility”—all these other kind of lines out there, the bullshit that leads people away from understanding correctly, in basic terms, even the fact that this is an injustice. You have to transform people’s thinking. And how do you transform people’s thinking? Through struggle (we’ll come back to that). Overwhelmingly, when you’re among the masses of people, this is non-antagonistic struggle, not struggle with the enemy, but it’s struggle, and sometimes very sharp struggle, and sometimes, and in many ways, relentless struggle.
So, even in order to get people moving—even with the people who are directly oppressed by, and are the victims, if you will, of this oppression, there often needs to be, and generally needs to be, a lot of struggle with them to get them to stand up and fight these things. I was reading something, I believe it was on our website, about people going out talking about mass incarceration with some of these basic youth—mass incarceration, police brutality, the criminalization of youth, all that—and some of the youth who are directly under the gun of this, literally, were asked, “Well, what do you think about this?” And one said, “I don’t have any thoughts about it.” Another one said, “Well, I don’t like it, but there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Now, in order to get people to stand up and fight the power, you’re going to have to struggle with that. And, again, as we’ve talked about previously, there’s the pull once people do get moving, in mass movements, in struggles that are unleashed around these contradictions, there’s this striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie. There’s the way in which the bourgeoisie, or its political representatives and literary representatives, throw up obstacles or entice people into traps, or make pretty-sounding phrases or respond to a contradiction around mass incarceration, and police murder and vigilante murder of Black and Latino youth, by saying, “The problem is that we have to get the males to stand up and be better patriarchs.” Thank you very much, President Obama, for a very insightful and new analysis that really will lead to people being liberated. To use that old phrase from a while back: NOT!!!
So, anyway, with this kind of thing, there’s going to be continual struggle for all these reasons. And this is dialectically related to fighting the power, to standing up and fighting back, to resisting. Think about it: If people do themselves stand up and fight back, and even see other people standing up and fighting back, that becomes another way in which (to go back to the point with which I started) matter gets transformed into consciousness. And this is a point of struggle, too, but people see that and they say, “Oh, maybe it is possible to do something about this. I thought nobody else cared; now I see other people do.” That is a change in their consciousness. Now, where it goes, and whether it goes right back into the bourgeois framework or whether there’s an actual movement to take it somewhere where it needs to go, is a matter of struggle. It’s a matter of transforming the thinking of people—again, not just an individual here and there, although that can be important in a certain context—but blocs of people, groups of people, masses of people. So, when people’s thinking changes, then they feel more compelled to act in certain ways.
This is an ongoing dialectic back and forth, through which, in an overall sense, if you will—sort of like a thread running through it, pivotal to all of it in an overall sense—is transforming the thinking of blocs of people. This doesn’t mean that we have to just go out and preach at people to change their thinking, like one of the reverends out there, or the priests, or whatever. You know, “let’s get people to change their thinking and to be in line with some grand design that we have.” No. It means struggling with people to see the world as it actually is, more and more deeply and in a more and more all-around way, comprehensive way, and to act accordingly, to transform their thinking even as they are acting. And certainly, in order for people to come to see the basis and the need for revolution and the desirability of revolution, if you will, there needs to be a tremendous amount of struggle carried out in an ongoing way. And, again, I want to emphasize this: on the one hand, and as most essential, struggling to transform the thinking of people in most fundamental terms toward recognizing the necessity and possibility and desirability of revolution leading to the ultimate goal of communism, while at every point, in dialectical relation to that, we are uniting and bringing forward people as broadly as possible to wage struggle around and against the outrages of the system, and particularly where that takes form as concentrations of major social contradictions. In that overall process, the struggle to transform the thinking of blocs of people is most essential and pivotal—but it is most essential and pivotal in that overall process and in the dialectics of that process. Neither as a thing unto itself, nor as something set aside just for special occasions, but as pivotal in this overall process. So that’s something I want to emphasize very strongly.
What We Are Doing Now and “On the Possibility of Revolution”
The next point I want to speak to is—and this is something that has been spoken to in the recent speech and film, REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, also in Part 2 of “Birds and Crocodiles”—and that is the relation between everything we are doing now and “On the Possibility of Revolution.” That is: how, when there are radically different objective conditions, such that things are on the precipice of, or actually being transformed into, a revolutionary situation and, as one key feature of that, there is a revolutionary-minded people at least—people who are at least revolutionary-minded, seeking out radical change in the millions and millions—how, at that time, the key task and the pivot of everything then becomes actually developing and waging the struggle for the seizure of power. That is not the direct goal, it is not the pivotal and immediate task now, in this period. But what is the relationship between what we are doing now, in this period, in carrying out the strategy for revolution, in carrying forward the dialectical process of “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution,” in transforming the thinking of blocs of people as pivotal within that overall dialectical process—what is the relationship between all that and what is set forth in the document “On the Possibility of Revolution,” speaking to the struggle for the seizure of power when the objective conditions have come into being for that, including a revolutionary people, or at least a revolutionary-minded people, actively seeking radical change in the millions and millions?
Well, obviously this could be a subject for a whole—not only one discussion, but an ongoing series of discussions, in its own right. But here I just want to touch on some key points. First of all, the fact that there is, and must be, a relation, a dialectical relation, between the two things—between everything we are doing in this period and what’s concentrated in the document “On the Possibility for Revolution,” speaking to the struggle for the seizure of power when that is the order of the day, when those are the conditions—which, again, are radically different from the conditions now. And I emphasize that it’s important just for people to correctly grasp the basic fact that there is an ongoing relationship, that it’s not a matter of somehow what we’re doing now is over here, in a self-contained bubble, so to speak, and over here, somehow completely separated from that, and something that is only for some abstract indefinite future, is the question of “On the Possibility of Revolution” and what it concentrates.
Yes, there is a qualitative change that has to come about. Yes, they are qualitatively different—there should not be any confusion about that—they are not just a continuum without a qualitative leap, both in the objective situation and in the nature of the tasks of the communists, of the challenges of the revolution, if you will. But they are related. Otherwise, what’s the point? If we’re not actually working to hasten while awaiting— to bring closer, and to help transform the conditions toward, a revolutionary situation and to be in the best possible position to seize on that situation when it is brought into being—then what’s the point of anything we’re doing? Once again, you go back to the polemic against Alain Badiou. If there isn’t a revolution, if there isn’t a defeat and dismantling of the exploitative, oppressive and repressive relations and institutions of this system, and their replacement by revolutionary relations and institutions and processes and dynamics, then all of this is going to continue, as that polemic says. You know, the world will go on as it is, with the machinery of imperialism humming in the background—of capitalism-imperialism humming in the background—crushing lives and destroying spirits (to paraphrase).
So all of this is aiming for something. It’s aiming for, not just a revolution in the way that term is thrown around sometimes these days, where there is a change in government—who’s in the government, or even a change in the form of the bourgeois existing oppressive and exploitative government and the system of capitalism-imperialism and related systems of exploitation that are enforced by that governing system. That’s not a revolution. A popular uprising, even millions in the street, sincerely calling for a change, does not itself constitute a revolution, and will not bring about a real revolution. Elsewhere, I’ve pointed out what a revolution is and isn’t. But it is an overturning of the existing system, a defeating and dismantling of its forces of repression and its concentrated forces of violence that are used to enforce the present system, and the replacement of all that with a radically different system—a radically different system economically, in terms of social relations, in terms of political institutions and processes, and in terms of the culture and thinking of the people. That’s what a revolution is. And if we are not preparing for that revolution, then we are doing worse than wasting our time, we’re also wasting the time of the masses of people, but we’re doing more and worse than that—we’re actually leading them into, once again, the killing embrace of the existing system and its apparatus and institutions of brutal and violent force and repression to maintain that system.
So what we’re doing, to go back to hastening while awaiting, is actively seeking, once again—as is concentrated in those six paragraphs that I was speaking to from the beginning of “Making and Emancipating” (Part 2), is we’re transforming the objective conditions to the greatest degree possible at any given time, while also being alert to changes that arise from larger factors, from the development of other contradictions, and other forces working on those contradictions from their own point of view and with their own objectives. We’re seeking to transform the conditions so that we are not just passively awaiting, but we’re actually changing the situation in ways that accelerate—on a materialist basis, and not through attempted application of voluntarism—but on a materialist basis to actually accelerate things toward the development of a revolutionary situation and the emergence of a revolutionary people in the millions and millions; and also prepare the masses of people, growing numbers of the masses, and their leadership, the vanguard party at the core of the movement for revolution, prepare them to seize on this revolutionary situation when in fact it does come into being, not just through our work but through this overall process that I was examining and which is presented in a concentrated way in the first six paragraphs of Part 2 of“Making and Emancipating.” That’s what it means to hasten while await.
We’re working with a purpose. It’s not aimless. It’s not purposeless. Again, it’s not by formulae, it’s not by some sort of recipe, it’s not by a linear approach—we do this, we do that, and we get one centimeter, then four centimeters—let’s even be a little bit more dialectical than that revisionist, so it’s not just one centimeter and then another centimeter, but WOW, one centimeter and then eight centimeters closer to socialism on the same straight line linear approach—No. It’s actually working to transform the conditions to ones more favorable for revolution in the context of all that’s spoken to in terms of the larger objective world that’s going on—all that’s spoken to in those six paragraphs (or in a concentrated way in the six paragraphs) that begin Part 2 of “Making and Emancipating.” It’s doing that, on the one hand, while also preparing growing numbers of the masses, and a growing party at the core leading the masses, in preparing the ground for revolution, so that when things do come together—when, through our work and these larger dynamics, there actually does emerge either the qualitative change or the possibility of our then working directly to transform the situation into a revolutionary one, then there is the strongest possible basis to actually seize on that and fight through and win.
And that gets back to the point that everything we’re doing is preparing for that. Everything we’re doing is preparing—we’re not preparing in a direct sense, we’re not organizing forces directly in the particular sphere of fighting all out for the seizure of power now. But we’re working in an all-around way to accumulate the forces for revolution in an accelerated way, not just in a slow, gradual and linear way, but in an all-around and an accelerated way.
So, if you look on the one hand—and this is important—there is a qualitative distinction between the objective conditions, including the mood of the masses and what the masses are prepared to do and what the party is actually prepared to lead them to do in this present period, on the one hand, and on the other hand a qualitatively different situation, a revolutionary situation and revolutionary-minded masses. Those two things are qualitatively different, and they’re not just a linear extension along the same continuum. They involve qualitative leaps along the way and a major qualitative leap to an actual revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people. On the other hand, they are not separated by an absolute wall. And what we are doing now is actively working, once again, to hasten developments in the objective situation and in terms of the consciousness and organization of masses of people and their vanguard party in preparation for, and at the same time as working to bring closer and to accelerate the development of contradictions toward, when such a qualitatively different situation would emerge and then the tasks of communists become qualitatively different in a very telescoped and concentrated way, even as, as has been stressed in “On the Possibility of Revolution,” the actual struggle for the seizure of power will be somewhat more protracted than had been previously understood and will not be simply a matter of simultaneous urban insurrections and then the establishment very quickly of a revolutionary regime.
And, again, it’s worth going back to the original article “On the Possibility of Revolution,” and to what’s said about this in REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! as well as in “Birds and Crocodiles,” and really study and dig into and grapple with what’s being said there. And then to grapple with the question that I’m now addressing of what that has to do with what we’re doing now, even though the situation and the tasks, to put it that way, are qualitatively different now than they would be then.
So that’s a point I want to give a lot of emphasis to, because if we are not—look, you can see in microcosm, this is a very important point, even though the situation is qualitatively different now, you can see in microcosm at least some of what the features of a revolutionary situation will be like, and what the life and death struggle will be like at that time, not only with the direct representatives and enforcers of the existing system, their politicians and all their whole state apparatus of violent repression, but also with all other forces in the field who, in a magnified way—just as we will be working on a magnified basis—will also be working on a magnified basis to try to transform the contradictions in the direction in which they want them to go—various political and literary representatives of various strata, the petite bourgeoisie, including the petite bourgeoisie and bourgeois strata among oppressed peoples and nations. They are in the field now in certain ways, many times directly and sometimes very viciously in opposition to what we’re seeking to do to bring forward the masses around an actual revolutionary understanding and program, and to accumulate forces for revolution in that way. But they’re also just more generally out in the field trying to win people to their program, which is objectively and sometimes very directly in opposition to how we’re seeking to lead people to recognize and act in their most fundamental interests. And just as that exists now, that will exist in a magnified way at the time of revolution. You know, Lenin made this point: a revolution is not something simple, like one army lines up one place and says, “we’re for imperialism,” and another army lines up somewhere else and says, “we’re for socialism,” and then they have at it. There’s all kinds of other forces in the field, some of which you’ll be able to win over, or at least unite with or win to friendly neutrality, and some of which will actually go over to the side of the bourgeoisie when it comes down to it—the side of the old system and the old ruling class. Again, that’s one of those things where Lenin’s statement applies, “nobody can say with certainty”—and it would be wrong to try to predict with certainty—but this we can say, to put it in very basic terms: We are in a contestation not only with the direct political, literary and, yes, repressive representatives and forces of the existing oppressive and exploitative system, but also with many other class forces which are not the ruling class, but which represent programs and interests which will end up capitulating to—when left to their own dynamics, to put it that way, will end up capitulating to and, even in some cases, becoming actively enlisted in the forces of counter-revolution along with the ruling class of the old system.
We are engaged in a struggle, obviously, with the representatives of the old system. It’s an antagonistic struggle. Even though the struggle now is not one for the seizure of power, the fundamental interests involved are antagonistic. We are also involved in all kinds of struggle—including particularly ideological struggle, but also struggle which comes down over practical policies and programs for all different kinds of immediate struggles—with different forces out there representing all different kinds of interests which fundamentally cannot break with, and will lead people back to within the killing confines of, the existing system. And there is not a linear connection, but there is a definite connection, between how that struggle is waged now, and all along the way while we’re hastening while awaiting, and then in a magnified and concentrated way—will take a concentrated and magnified form, will undergo a qualitative leap, when there actually would be the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people.
So it’s neither the case that the terms are exactly now as they will be then, and again Lenin’s point comes in, “nobody can say exactly” how these all different forces will fall out and line up—that’s also a matter of struggle and of pulls on them from different sides. So it’s not that there is just some straight line, on the one hand. On the other hand, it’s not that there is no connection; there is a definite connection. There is a definite connection in that dimension and overall between everything we are doing and whether or not a revolutionary situation even fully ripens and then can it actually be seized on by the vanguard forces of communist revolution to lead masses of people in an actual emancipatory breakthrough, one that ruptures out of and defeats the killing confines and repressive—violent repressive forces—of the existing order and the existing system and its institutions and apparatuses.
So we should be understanding this, not linearly—that would be wrong, on the one side—but an even greater danger is not to see the connection between everything we’re doing all along the way and what will happen and what will be possible when there would be a qualitative change to a revolutionary situation and the emergence of a revolutionary people. If you think that you’re just going to go along and be in a little corner somewhere, and then all of a sudden all of society is going to be convulsed in major upheavals, let alone a revolutionary situation, and then everybody is just going to come over to you because you have better ideas, you are betraying the masses of people, I’m sorry to say, in fundamental terms. If you are not actively working to transform the conditions, including the thinking of the people, and including what the people are actually—what growing numbers of people are actually organized around—then you are not preparing for revolution, and not only are you not preparing for that, you are actually preparing for a disaster if there is a major convulsion in society, even one that leads to a revolutionary situation.
Preparing Minds and Organizing Forces, Accumulating Forces for Revolution
We are actively working on the terrain to prepare, as Lenin put it—or actually Lenin said organize forces and prepare minds, and we reversed it to get the dialectic more correctly in an overall sense: preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution. That’s what we’re actively doing, working on transforming the objective conditions and working on transforming the subjective factor, namely the Party, both qualitatively and quantitatively, that is, transforming it to be more and more on the scientific foundation and as a real revolutionary communist vanguard that it needs to be, and bringing forward growing numbers of people into the ranks of the Party on that and no other basis. And also bringing forward growing numbers of masses and winning them more and more to move in a revolutionary direction and to be won to a revolutionary understanding and to act on that understanding.
This is what we’re doing—nothing else. It’s not a matter of okay, we got some assignments and we go out and we do this and we do that, totally disconnected from any kind of strategic approach. There’s way too much of that, but that’s not what needs to be done, that’s not what cries out to be done. What cries out to be done is preparing minds and organizing forces, just as we’re fighting the power and transforming the people for one thing: for revolution—even as many of the people we’re uniting with are not for that revolution at any given time, and that’s the dialectics, the nature of the contradictions that we’re dealing with and that’s the dialectical materialist method we have to have to correctly handle those contradictions. We’re preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution.
To put it another way, we’re accumulating forces for revolution. That’s very important. That is one of the major yardsticks by which we should measure what we’re doing. Are we actually accumulating forces? Not just accumulating forces for any old thing, but are we actually, in this overall process—not that everybody we’re involved with in any particular struggle or any particular mass initiative, not that all the people or maybe a majority of the people at any given time are for revolution—but are we actually, through this overall process, which I’ve spoken to in many dimensions, are we through this overall process actually accumulating forces who are more and more consciously seeing the need and basis for revolution and actively working to bring closer and then to carry out that actual revolution, when the time comes and the situation is qualitatively different: the actual defeat and dismantling of the old system and its forces of violent repression and the bringing about of a radically different system—are we accumulating forces who are actually more and more consciously working for that and are part of that process where they’re moving forward in a revolutionary direction, and making the leap to join the Party as part of that? Because after all—and this is something that’s not understood in the way it should be—after all, the most essential, important force that needs to be organized in all this—not the only, not the single, not to the neglect of everything else that needs to be organized, but in the midst of and at the core of this overall process, the most important force that needs to be organized is the vanguard force of the communist revolution, and in this country that means the Revolutionary Communist Party.
We ARE Building a Movement for Revolution, and Building the Party as Its Leading Core
Having now laid a certain foundation, I want to try to speak to, but move somewhat more quickly through, a number of points that flow from a number of important ramifications or aspects of this overall strategic approach.
First of all, I want to speak to the slogan, “We ARE Building a Movement for Revolution and Building the Party as Its Leading Core.” This is a slogan which, like everything else, can be turned into its opposite, turned into something meaningless and lifeless, which is not actually carrying out what’s concentrated in the slogan itself. In order to get at this, let’s look at the way the word “ARE” is presented in this slogan. You notice that it’s capitalized. In other words, the word is given emphasis. It’s not “We Are Building a Movement for Revolution,” it’s “We ARE Building a Movement for Revolution and Building the Party as Its Leading Core.” Why is it presented that way? Why is the “ARE” emphasized? Because it’s giving stress to an active orientation, that this is what we’re doing. We’re not asking permission to do it from anybody—certainly not from the ruling class, but not from any of the masses, either. We’re not taking a poll to see if people think it’s a good idea. We’re not going out and asking people if it would be alright with them if we do it. We’re not going out to see how many people say, “I’m with that,” and then determining whether it’s a good idea or not. None of that populist epistemology or other incorrect approaches is what’s concentrated in what this slogan is, and is supposed to be, all about. This is an orientation: This is what we’re doing.
Why are we doing it? Because this is “our thing,” or because in the 1960s some of us got inspired by the idea of revolution and we’re just too fucking stubborn to give up on it? You know, the old Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s soldiers who haven’t gotten the news that the war (World War 2) is over. We haven’t gotten the news that the revolution’s over and done? No! It’s because, once again, a scientific dialectical materialist method and approach tells us that this is what’s both necessary but also possible in order to bring about the emancipation of humanity, not only from the present conditions and relations of oppression and exploitation, but from thousands of years, as it’s put, of tradition’s chains.
So this is scientifically grounded, and on that scientific basis—once again back to the basic point, what is the basis for this, what basis are we proceeding on? On that scientific grounding, with that scientific method and approach, leading us to understand that this is both necessary and possible—not something preordained, not some religious thing that’s bound to be brought about by supernatural forces, or just by our good intentions or the strength of our will or our determination, but something that we can scientifically establish as both necessary and possible. This is the basis on which we’re proceeding; and this is why, when we go out to the masses of people—it’s not that we don’t, you know, BAsics 4:11, it’s not that what they think is unimportant, but it doesn’t determine reality. So when we go out to people, it’s not—we’re not asking their permission or seeing if they think it’s a good idea, we’re telling them: this is what we’re doing because this is both necessary and possible. This is what’s needed to get rid of all the horrors that people are subjected to.
This has to be our active—and, on a scientific foundation, enthusiastic—orientation. You know, we don’t care what a bunch of bourgeois representatives and a bunch of fucking opportunists and others say. We pay attention to this, because it’s part of the objective reality out there that we have to deal with. But that doesn’t determine what we’re doing or how we’re approaching this. This is determined scientifically, and our enthusiasm and our passion for this flows from that science, and from a recognition—which, again, is scientifically grounded—that the world is not only a horror but that it is totally unnecessary for this to be, and there could be a radically different and much better way.
So that’s the first point. Why emphasize the “we ARE?” Because we ARE—and, goddamn it, we better be. This is what we’re doing and, in a certain way, at any given time if somebody doesn’t like it, that’s their tough shit. Now, that doesn’t mean we write them off or treat them as an enemy if they’re not with it. But, I mean, that’s not—that doesn’t stop us from doing what we’re doing. It doesn’t even give us pause, even if a whole bunch of people don’t like it who should be with it at any given time. That doesn’t give us pause. We ARE building a movement for revolution, and you should get with it and here’s why. And then there are all the components that I’ve spoken to, and will speak to in some aspects further, that go into that. But this is the core: We ARE doing this, because this is what’s needed and that has a scientifically established foundation, it’s based on a scientific method and scientific analysis and synthesis. So that’s one point. We ARE Building a Movement for Revolution and Building the Party as Its Leading Core. Not, “We are thinking about it.” We are not just talking about it. It’s not, “We’ll talk to you about it, if you would deign to listen to us for a few minutes or come to our bookstore.” We ARE. So that’s point one. That’s a basic point of orientation.
Then there’s the fact that this slogan has been changed recently, that is, it’s been added to. The slogan that was out there for a number of years was “We ARE Building a Movement for Revolution.” But it’s been changed to say “We ARE Building a Movement for Revolution” with the addition of “and Building the Party as Its Leading Core.” Why? Because it goes back to the point that I was emphasizing just a little while ago—that, out of all the organized expressions of accumulating forces, the most important is the party itself—that without a party based on the science of communism as it’s been developed through the new synthesis of communism, without a party based on the scientific method and approach of dialectical materialism, none of this, none of the stirrings, none of the struggles, none of the questioning, none of the upheavals, none of even the convulsions in society can go where they need to go. And if the party is not being actively built all along the way, in dialectical relation with building the broader revolutionary movement, then even if a revolutionary situation should arise, or at least the immediate potential for one—even if society should be deeply convulsed in a crisis that the ruling class has no easy way out of and that every move the ruling class makes only makes the crisis worse for them—even if that should come about, there will be no chance of its getting resolved in a way that would be in the fundamental interests of the masses of people, not just in this country but in the world as a whole, and ultimately all of humanity.
So we are not just going out to build a movement—and, yes, not just a movement in general but a movement for revolution, “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution,” “Prepare Minds and Organize Forces, Accumulate Forces for Revolution”—we ARE building a movement, but we are not just building a movement, we ARE building a movement for revolution, and we ARE building the Party as its leading core. And all these are points of contention and struggle, that we should be very actively and positively and enthusiastically taking up. Why? Because our idea is better than somebody else’s? No. Because this, once again, is scientifically grounded. It is a correct reflection of reality and the contradictory motion and dynamics of reality and where this can be taken, through all the struggle that is involved, that would actually be in the fundamental interests of the masses of people and ultimately all of humanity.
Now, you can use that phrase, “the fundamental interests of humanity”—but, look, this translates into the tears of the mothers and fathers whose kids are shot down in the street. It translates into the horror of a young girl being betrayed and sold into sexual slavery and imprisoned in sexual slavery. It translates into the bodies being blown apart unnecessarily in the wars waged by these imperialists and other reactionaries. It translates into moving away from the destruction of the environment that goes on. This is what we’re talking about when we talk about the fundamental interests of the masses of people. It’s not some abstract formulation. It is a formulation, it is a scientific formulation, it is an abstraction in the correct sense, it is a theoretical abstraction that is a concentration of reality. But that reality is made up of all the suffering of the masses of people, and all the ways in which that suffering is perpetrated and perpetuated by this system, and the fact that all this is unnecessary. That’s what that statement, that theoretical abstraction—that the communist revolution is in the fundamental interests of the masses of oppressed people, and ultimately all of humanity—that’s what that means. That’s the living reality of that.
So we ARE, on that basis, that scientifically founded basis, we ARE, yes, we are building a movement for revolution and we are, yes, we are building the Party as its leading core.
Thousands and Millions
Now, next I want to speak to the formulation that’s in the statement, “On the Strategy for Revolution,” which can be posed as: the thousands and millions. This has everything to do—I mean, it’s speaking to the way that thousands now can be brought forward, oriented and trained in a revolutionary way while influencing millions—millions being influenced by the actions of those thousands, and millions being influenced by the overall work of a party at the core of all this—in dialectical relationship with, and in transforming, and struggling to transform, the larger objective world in the way that I was speaking to at the beginning (and once again as concentrated in those opening six paragraphs of Part 2 of “Making and Emancipating”).
This has everything to do, once again, with accumulating, or not accumulating, forces—for what? For revolution. Are we actually just trying to have a diffuse and diverse grouping? It’s not a diverse, amorphous grouping of people, without any form and substance, that we can call thousands because we got a strategy statement that says we should have thousands, so let’s find some vague way in which we can say there are thousands of people. No! This is thousands of people being won to the banner of revolution— but not just to the banner in the abstract, to the actual substance of that revolution, to what its scientific method reveals about the possibility and necessity, and the character as well, of the revolution—and to be won as well to that method itself, that scientific method of communism as it’s been developed further through the new synthesis of communism.
So thousands need to be brought forward who are more and more themselves taking up this banner of revolution in a figurative sense—but sometimes very directly, in a literal sense, manifesting that out into the world, and struggling with others to win them to it. This is an actual concrete objective: to, in this period, actually win thousands of people, to accumulate forces for revolution in the thousands now, while influencing millions in a revolutionary direction. This is a crucial expression and aspect of hastening while awaiting. It has everything to do with what I was saying earlier about the dialectical—not the linear, but the dialectical—relationship between everything we’re doing now and what’s concentrated in “On the Possibility,” dealing with when there is a qualitatively different, revolutionary situation and revolutionary masses.
So this is not just some vague, formless general idea: if we talk to several thousand people, that means we have thousands. No! It’s actually accumulating thousands now for revolution, through all the diverse streams and the interconnections, and the correct handling of all the contradictions involved in—in what? In what we ARE doing—building a movement for revolution and building the Party as its leading core.
So, once again, this has to do with accumulating forces for revolution. Once more, we should be measuring—as a very significant yardstick, we should be measuring what we’re doing and how we’re doing against that objective of actually accumulating forces for revolution. But not just in the abstract. Actually bringing forward and winning and organizing in the revolutionary movement, and moving forward many into the Party at any given time—thousands, while millions are being influenced.
And think about it concretely. Let’s go back to that dialectical relation and the struggle not only with the direct representatives and forces of the ruling class, but all these other forces out there in the field. What’s going to happen when—let’s posit, let’s theorize right now that such a revolutionary situation had emerged, and all these other forces are in the field contending. Does it make a difference whether, all along the way toward that, we’ve had a growing accumulation of, first hundreds, but then—not in some distant future, but more immediately—thousands, and growing thousands, who are actually moving in a revolutionary direction under the banner of revolutionary communism? Is that—whether or not that’s happened, is that having only minor or even totally insignificant influence on what would happen in a revolutionary situation? Or would it have tremendous bearing on whether that situation is not only squandered but much worse, is led into yet another horror for the masses of people in one form or another?
So this is an active goal. If we’re actually—and we ARE actually—building a movement for revolution and the Party at its core, then actually bringing forward, orienting and training in a revolutionary way, on the basis of communism and the new synthesis of communism, thousands in this period while influencing millions and preparing those thousands to lead, and to become, millions under the revolutionary banner with the emergence of a revolutionary situation—that has to be an active goal, something actively worked for, and an active and ongoing yardstick, a major yardstick against which to measure our work and whether in fact we ARE building a movement for revolution and building the Party as its leading core, or we are doing something else, which is not what we should be and need to be doing.
Bridging the Chasm—Bringing Alive the Revolutionary Potential of Basic Youth
Now, a particular aspect of this that I want to speak to is what could be called bridging the chasm, and it is a real chasm, between what we have recognized and what has been said about the potential role in this revolution of basic youth—basic youth and basic masses more broadly—and specifically what’s said about this in REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, how we should be approaching these youth—and, in fact, where things are now and what’s being done now, particularly with regard to these basic youth. It’s a fact that a lot of these basic youth—out of the dynamics of the contradictions of this system and how those are posing themselves and moving now, a lot of the youth are into some bad shit. Or they are completely disoriented—even if they are not actively caught up in some bad shit, they’re disoriented and don’t understand and don’t recognize even the need for radical change and certainly for a revolution.
But, once again, is our assessment that among these basic youth, as well as basic masses more broadly, there is tremendous potential for this revolution—is that based on some moral precept or some variation of identity politics? In other words, some kind of idealist notion that we can’t give up on? Or is it scientifically grounded? Is it, once again, based on a scientific analysis and synthesis, through the application of dialectical materialism, of the actual potential—and what that’s based on, the actual fundamental interests of these youth and where, therefore, through a tremendous amount of struggle, they can be led, unleashed and led again, to actually become a driving dynamic force for this revolution? And the answer is the latter.
This is not just, “Oh, you know, these youth are terribly oppressed, so they must be a major force for revolution.” This is actually based on a lot of scientific work that’s gone into analyzing the “social composition,” and its changingness, in the U.S. over a number of decades, reaching back into the early twentieth century and even before—the whole analysis of the separation of the labor movement from the communist movement that’s been discussed in a number of documents, talks of mine in particular. And an actual scientific analysis of what are the dynamics that these youth are caught up in, what effects does it actually have on their lives, and what is the way out of this for the masses of these youth. That’s what this is scientifically based on. And we need to keep deepening that scientific analysis and synthesis through the living application of dialectical materialism. But as we’re doing that, we need to be actively working on bridging this tremendous chasm between that scientifically established and grounded recognition of this real revolutionary potential, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, where the masses of these youth are at now and where they’re being pulled by the dynamics of the system.
And it is not going to—this chasm is not going to be bridged by any kind of tailism, by any kind of reification of these youth, as if somehow the revolution resides within them, in their “inner essence” in some sort of metaphysical and idealist sense. But only on the basis, once again, of science and what it tells us about the dynamics of society, its effects on them and where their fundamental interests actually do lie, and what, to put it that way, is the way out for them, and the role they can play in relation, not only to their own emancipation from all this, but the emancipation of all of humanity from all of the different horrific chains that are fastened on masses of people.
So, we’ve identified, on a scientific basis, what we’ve called “a backbone and driving force role” in this revolution for these basic youth, and basic masses generally. And that’s not to say they’re the only source of revolutionary forces, or the only grouping in society, or social force, that can be brought forward powerfully around this revolution. But they are a critical one. And we do have to find the means to forge across this chasm and bring forward these youth—and we have to do it now, not in some future far-off time, and not in some sort of utopian way, but by applying, and being rigorous in applying, our scientific method and approach. And we have to do it through a tremendous amount of struggle. We have to do it by applying, in the way that I’ve been discussing this, “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.” We have to do it by recognizing and carrying out the overall process of preparing minds and organizing forces—in which, in all of this, transforming the thinking of blocs of people is not the only, but is the pivotal thing that needs to be carried forward.
So there’s a lot of struggle to be waged with these youth, both in terms of transforming their thinking and in terms of finding the means and forms through which they can actually come forward and be a decisive force in what we ARE doing—building the movement for revolution and building the Party as its leading core. And we need to go to work on this, systematically and consistently, and in a real sense relentlessly. We need to find the ways to bring forward groups of these youth, and then we need to find the ways to work with them to bring forward others, and to have an impact broadly in society. Not just to bring forward others from among whom they come, so to speak, that is, other basic youth only, although that’s very important; but also to have an impact and influence—not through “bogarting,” not through posturing, but through carrying out revolutionary work and representing and actively working for this revolution—among all strata of the people.
Now, in my New Year’s message this year, 2014, there is a basic orientation and a basic approach set forth which follows up on what’s set forth in the talk and film REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! about how to go at the contradictions that are holding back these basic youth, how not to tail but how to struggle, how to directly address the basic questions and the basic contradictions that are holding them back and keeping them chained to what is, and even keeping them misdirected in the context of everything this system is putting them through. So that’s something also to look at and to study. How is this approached in REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, but also in a very concentrated way in that New Year’s message: how the contradictions are influencing things, and a lot of the way people’s thinking is being shaped by the contradictions now, in the absence of our systematic work and struggle for revolution, and how to go at carrying out that systematic work and struggle. This is something that we have to work on with a “pit bull” determination, relentlessly—how to break through and bring forward layer after layer of these youth and involve them in bringing forward others, not just among the basic masses and basic youth themselves, but from all strata of society, and to have a growing impact and influence on the mood and thinking of people—not, again, by posturing but by actively taking up and fighting for the movement for revolution and the Party as its leading core.
So we have to both carry out the struggle on the basis of the right orientation and the right scientific method and approach, and we have to work very hard and very scientifically, and involve youth in struggling together with us about how basic youth—about how to create and develop the means, or various means, for involving growing numbers of these youth, and other basic masses, as well as people from other strata, in the movement for revolution, and moving them forward through this movement for revolution to actually become part of the vanguard of this revolution, the Party at its core. And this involves many different components. It involves, obviously, fighting the power—standing up against the ways in which they’re oppressed, but also other sections of people and people in other countries and other parts of the world are oppressed, and battered and blown apart by this system. But it also involves all-around ideological work and struggle—transforming the people, transforming their thinking. For example, there have been embryonic efforts that have been made, which need to be further developed and carried through on and built on, to involve basic masses, including basic youth, in discussion and struggle over things like evolution and the broader questions that it touches on, or directly interconnects with, such as the question of religion and whether one is going to have a scientific or religious approach to reality.
And this is something that, by the way, I want to say I thought was very important in the article taking off from the upsurge in Egypt, the article in (Demarcations No. 3) by Sam Albert called “Impasse,” for short, where it said that many of these opportunist forces—I’m paraphrasing, but many of these opportunist forces only see religion in its role as an opiate for the people. You know, Marx said—and these forces, these opportunists, are always invoking Marx’s statement that religion is the opiate of the people in a way to say, in effect and after all, don’t people need this opiate? It is the heart of a heartless world. Don’t people need heart? They’ve taken Marx’s statement there and they’re perverting it into being a rationalization for not struggling with people around religion. But also, as is pointed out in that “Impasse” article—again I’m paraphrasing—these opportunists miss, or step right over, or push to the side, the recognition that religion is not just consolation, it’s not just an opiate, it’s not just a numbing, it’s not just some heart in a heartless world. It is also a worldview. It is also an ideology. It is also a way of attempting to interpret reality, and it’s one whose interpretation is fundamentally wrong and ultimately very harmful to masses of people, reinforcing the chains on them, mental chains and actual chains of all-around oppression and exploitation.
So, involving the basic youth is not just a matter of “let’s get together and fight,” although that’s part of it—Fight the Power—but it’s also the all-around work to enable them to transform their thinking, not just so they “like our `narrative’ better.” No. That’s not how we’re proceeding, or not how we should be proceeding. So that they actually come to a more and more scientific approach to and understanding of reality and on that basis see both the necessity and the possibility to radically transform that reality through revolution and guided by the new synthesis—communism and its development further through the new synthesis of communism. If we don’t carry out all-around work in which, yes, standing up and fighting back, fighting the power, is extremely important, but is only one part of the overall process that needs to involve—that these youth need to be part of—an overall process in which, in a pivotal sense, transforming the thinking of the people is what’s pivotally involved in this overall process of Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution, of preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution.
So in this way, in this overall sense in which transforming the thinking of blocs of people is pivotal—this is what I mean by saying we need to be working and struggling to bring forward growing numbers of basic youth and other basic masses and working and struggling, including together with them, on this basis to create and develop means for involving growing numbers of them, as well as people from other strata, in the movement for revolution and moving them forward through this to actually become part of the vanguard force, the Revolutionary Communist Party, at the core of this movement for revolution.
The “Two Maximizings”
Now, at the same time, we have to also look at this in the broader context of what we’ve described as the “two maximizings” (revolutionary work among the basic masses, and revolutionary work among the middle strata, and the dialectical inter-relation of all this) as a key part of our overall approach to building the movement for revolution. As important as it is, as crucial as it is, to actually fight through and bring forward growing waves—not just ones and twos, but growing waves—of these basic youth and other basic masses to the movement for revolution and through that movement, to the Party at the core of it, this cannot be done in a vacuum and it cannot be done just by carrying out even the best work to do this by itself and in and of itself. This has to be in the context of the overall building of the movement for revolution and the Party at its core, in all the different ways that this has to be carried out (some of the key ones I have touched on here). And the “two maximizings” means that we have to be working with the same line, with the same scientific method and approach, among all the different strata of the people, not just the basic masses, but all strata—among students, the intelligentsia and in academia, among other sections of the petite bourgeoisie, and through many broad and diverse streams, to actually build the movement for revolution, to correctly carry out the relationship between particular struggles uniting people broadly and the overall movement for revolution, to actually correctly prepare minds and organize forces, fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution in which, once again, transforming the thinking of blocs of people is a thread running through the entire thing and pivotal to the overall process.
But we really have to bear down on carrying out the work among all different strata and the dialectical back and forth influence of this in a positive way. For basic masses to see people from other strata stepping forward, even when they’re doing so around other banners in many cases—something like “Occupy,” for example, a couple of years ago, had a positive influence, at least in a beginning way, among basic masses, feeling there are other— they’re always told that they’re surrounded and that nobody cares; “yes, you’re being kicked in the face but nobody gives a damn.” And it’s all too true that not enough people give a damn now, and we have to go to work on that, part of which is taking on all this identity politics bullshit—”Well, yes, it’s terrible what’s happening to Black people, but I’m not Black so it has nothing to do with me”; or “I’m not Black and I can’t do anything about that.” Or Latino, or a woman, or whatever. “I’m not gay, so that’s not my thing.” We have to break through all that as one key pillar of the oppressive system that needs to be knocked down in people’s understanding and how they’re acting—or not acting—accordingly.
But this has to be part of an overall process, and at the same time we have to really bear down and make breakthroughs on this. We can’t just talk about it. We actually have to accumulate forces through all the different aspects—through the overall process and in all the ways that I’ve been speaking to, and others which have been spoken to more fully in other documents.
Re-ascend, or Break Our Bones—Vanguard of the Future, or Residue of the Past
So with that as backdrop, I want to turn to the question of the ensemble of revolutionary work now. This is our way of identifying what are key concentrations of social contradictions and key objectives that we need to go to work on—once again going back to what I said at the beginning—in the context of the larger dynamics flowing out of the basic contradictions of this system and the interpenetration of those contradictions. This is an identification of key concentrations of social contradictions and key objectives that we need to be working on in order to break through and make urgently needed advances in, yes, building the movement for revolution, which we ARE building, and building the party as its leading core, which we ARE building.
Now, the formulation has been used, and it’s a very real one, that the contradiction we’re facing immediately—looking at the actual situation in our Party, its dynamics, the contradictions of this Party, and that in the context of the larger society and world and the contradictions that are at play there, if you will—the formulation has been brought forward, and it’s very real, that we have to make breakthroughs and re-ascend on the path of revolution or, to paraphrase Mao, we will fall into a deep hole and break our bones. And this is very real. This is another way, a very particular and concentrated way, of posing the larger problem and the larger crossroads that the communist movement as a whole in the world is facing. As it’s put in the Manifesto from our Party, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, it’s either vanguard of the future or residue of the past. This is a contradiction that’s being posed for communist forces throughout the world, for the communist movement throughout the world and for the whole struggle for communism, even beyond the particular organized movement—the whole struggle for communism, even beyond, once again, organized forces that are genuinely communist, and organized forces which claim the banner of communism but are anything but, and are instead opportunists and, even in some cases, counter-revolutionary. But for the larger struggle for communism, this is what’s acutely being posed: vanguard of the future or residue of the past. And, as this takes shape in our Party, it is: re-ascend—make breakthroughs, actually begin ascending on the road of revolution in some qualitative ways—or break our bones, with all the consequences of that, not just in terms of our Party being broken apart, no longer able to do all the things that I’ve been talking about to transform the objective world in the direction of revolution, but actually setting back the struggle for communism in the world in very significant ways.
The Ensemble of Revolutionary Work Now
This is posed very immediately and very acutely, and it’s with this recognition, as well as in the broader context of what we need to be doing out in the world to build the movement for revolution and build the Party as its leading core, that we have formulated this ensemble of revolutionary work as, not the entire content of our work, but the main focus and concentration of our revolutionary work in this period. And I say not the entire content because, once again—going back to what was discussed at the beginning in relation to those six paragraphs from Part 2 of “Making and Emancipating”—there are other things happening in the world which we cannot ignore and which have a direct effect—or indirect effect, but nevertheless a significant effect—on the overall terrain and on the overall work that we need to be doing, and the challenges we need to be confronting in building the movement for revolution and the Party as its leading core.
So this ensemble is a concentration but not the entirety of everything we need—it is a concentrated focus of the revolutionary work we need to be carrying out now, but it is not the entirety of what we need to be doing to confront and transform contradictions in the direction of revolution and ultimately communism worldwide.
So, I want to begin by talking about why is BA Everywhere the “leading edge” of this overall ensemble. This has been talked about, and like many others this formulation has been used—and it has been misused and abused as much as it’s been used, or even more perhaps. Once again, it comes down to, are we being scientific or are we being essentially religious and idealist? This can be gotten at by looking at the acutely contradictory elements of the original editorial (in Revolution) on BA Everywhere . On the one hand, as has been pointed out, there were some serious errors, some seriously wrong formulations, in that original editorial which did tend in the direction of, and influence people toward, a religious rather than a scientific viewpoint—statements along the lines that without BA Everywhere revolution simply is not possible and, in essence, without BA, and the leadership of BA directly, revolution is not possible. That is not the line that needs to be guiding BA Everywhere and its role as a leading edge in the overall ensemble; that has been pointed out sharply, and there needs to be a deepening in the understanding of why that is so, what is wrong with that kind of orientation and how it is in contradiction to the correct understanding and what the correct understanding is about that.
On the other hand, there were some important correct formulations in that original editorial which, of course, have been retained in the editorial as it has been rewritten to correct what was seriously erroneous and formulations that were leading people and pointing people in the wrong direction. And in particular, in that editorial it makes the point that BA Everywhere is not just about the promotion of an individual in some abstract sense or in some way divorced from the role that that person plays in relation to what we do have to be all about, namely building the movement for revolution, building the Party at its core, and struggling to transform society and the world toward the goal of communism—first, through the overthrow of capitalism-imperialism, establishing socialism with the dictatorship of the proletariat, and then continuing to advance toward a communist world. That person (BA) and the work of that person—the body of work and the method and approach concentrated and brought forward in the new synthesis of communism associated with and brought forward by that person—is a concentration of what this is all about and what it all has to be aiming for. What we’re promoting when we are promoting BA Everywhere is the advance in the understanding of the necessity, the possibility, the character, the strategy and the means for revolution aiming for the final goal of communism. This is a continuation with further leaps—and, yes, some ruptures and breaks with secondary, but not insignificant, aspects of communism, which, as I have said previously, is the way that every science develops, every scientific approach to changing the world, which is what science is, after all. Science is not just an abstraction to understand the world, it is also an approach to changing the world, in any sphere of science, whether medicine or physics or biology or what have you.
So, what’s said in that editorial that is very correct and very important is that, correctly understood and correctly approached—not in a religious way, but in a scientific way, understanding this as a concentration and the most advanced expression of the strategic approach to and the scientific grounding for revolution aiming for communism—BA Everywhere provides the overall context and the underlying foundation for all the different elements of the work that we are doing. Not, again, because the point of everything we’re doing is to promote BA in some personal sense, divorced from what BA is all about and what BA is leading people toward. But precisely in the sense in which I was just speaking about it—as the method and approach, the new synthesis, the means, the understanding, the scientific approach to actually carrying forward the struggle toward the goal for which everything we’re about is aiming, namely revolution and ultimately communism in the world—that’s what we’re promoting with BA Everywhere. We’re promoting a further development of the scientific method and approach, and everything that flows from that approach in terms of the struggle to bring about revolution in the world and ultimately achieve the final goal of communism in the world as a whole.
And that provides, again, the framework and the context for all the other work we’re doing, to fight the power, and to transform the people, for revolution. Because otherwise, without that overall framework and context, it’s going to be pulled into something other than for revolution. Now let’s be clear, just carrying out BA Everywhere in the most correct way—once again, let’s not fall into metaphysics and religion and idealism—this is not some magic elixir which guarantees that our work won’t go off course and become non-revolutionary. That, again, would be unscientific. It’s not some sort of magic potion: “Well, if we sprinkle some BA Everywhere around, then when we carry out the two mass initiatives and when we do the website, and so on, then that will guarantee that it will all be for revolution.” No. It’s in correctly and actively carrying out BA Everywhere, in dialectical relation with all the other elements of this ensemble and the overall revolutionary work that we’re doing—it’s in that way that we have the foundation to carry forward the struggle to keep this on the revolutionary course, and to actually be building a movement for revolution and building the Party as its core. If we don’t have that, if we don’t have that foundation, if we’re not struggling to proceed on the basis of that foundation—and it is a struggle, it’s not a magic potion, it’s not a guarantee—but if we’re not struggling to carry things out on that foundation, then it’s guaranteed that the gravitational pull to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie will affect not only masses that we’re together with and waging struggles with, but ourselves, our Party itself.
So BA Everywhere is bringing to the fore and providing an all-around framework of what this is all for. But that, too, is a struggle. As we’ve seen, and as we should understand, this is a struggle also over whether or not BA Everywhere, as well as the overall ensemble and the entirety of our revolutionary work, is carried out on a revolutionary basis or transformed into something else by the gravitational pull of the influence of the larger society and world and what is still dominant in the world in terms of relations, economically, socially, politically, and in terms of culture and ideology, namely the dominance of the bourgeois system of capitalism-imperialism and other systems of exploitation and oppression.
BA Everywhere is a way of providing a leading edge to all of our work—to the ensemble, and our revolutionary work as a whole— and providing a revolutionary communist foundation for that work, even as, as I’ve been emphasizing, there needs to be ongoing struggle to forge the work of BA Everywhere itself on an actual basis of revolution and communism, and not have it be turned into something else. And this is another contradiction we have to handle correctly. Just because it’s true objectively that what’s concentrated in the new synthesis of communism and the leadership of BA is, in fact, the scientific foundation and strategic approach to revolution and communism, doesn’t mean that it can’t be transformed into something else in how it’s taken up and approached. Everything in the world is contradiction, and everything in the world can be turned into its opposite, through struggle. And, you know, we’ve seen that: the dictatorship of the proletariat could be turned into the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie without dropping the name “dictatorship of the proletariat”; or socialism can be turned into capitalism with or without—and often without—dropping the name “socialism.” And communism can be turned into its opposite without ever dropping the name “communism.” So it’s a matter of the substance of this. It’s a matter of the method and approach. It’s a matter of the science. It’s a matter of whether what is being brought forward when we’re carrying out BA Everywhere is actually what it represents and embodies—namely, the new synthesis of communism and leadership toward the goal of revolution and communism—or whether it’s fashioned into something else, transformed into its opposite, in effect.
At the same time—and as the other side of yet another important contradiction—this campaign of BA Everywhere is not and should not be understood and approached as a flat linear thing of just reaching out and involving people in whatever way they can be involved, at whatever level of unity they might seek to find and whatever way we can get them to contribute to BA Everywhere. But it’s a matter of correctly handling this very important contradiction between the leading aspect—and it does need to be the leading aspect—of what is represented by the leadership of BA and the new synthesis of communism, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, the fact that objectively there is a basis for many people to be involved in this campaign who do not agree, even with the goal of communism, let alone with everything that is represented in the new synthesis of communism and the leadership of BA.
So, on the one hand, another way this contradiction is posed or could be posed is that BA Everywhere is not just a campaign in some general sense, it’s not a flat linear thing, but in fact constitutes a form of class struggle in the ideological realm— understood, again, not in some sort of economist, narrow reified way, but struggle in the ideological realm over what is the problem and solution in the world, to put it that way, and what role does the new synthesis of communism and the leadership of BA play in relation to that. All that, on the one hand, being a form of ideological struggle, not just simply putting this out and seeing what people think about it, but engaging them in active ideological struggle about what’s true about this—all that, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, actually having the orientation and actively seeking the means to involve many people, and growing numbers of people, who at any given time are not won, or not fully won, to that but do think that it’s very important that the questions raised by what’s concentrated in BA Everywhere—whither humanity, if you will: what is the problem, what is the solution, what is going on in the world, why is it going on, does it have to go on, if there’s a solution to it, what is the solution, how do we bring about that solution—all those big questions that are very much at the heart of what the new synthesis of communism and the leadership of BA is all about, all those questions need to be out there in society having major impact. Everyone who recognizes that, with whatever disagreements they may have, we should be working to find the ways, and working with them to involve them in finding the ways, for them to contribute to this campaign, even while we carry forward and carry out the ideological struggle over all that with them, as well as more broadly.
Again, I spoke about the mass initiatives, and I referred to something I wrote recently about who should be involved in these mass initiatives, and on the other hand what is our approach to them, coming from where we need to be coming from. Well, the same applies to BA Everywhere. Who should be involved in BA Everywhere? Everyone who recognizes (or, once again, can be won—through struggle, let me emphasize—to see) that the questions raised by the new synthesis of communism and what is represented by BA as the concentration of the leadership around that new synthesis, that all that needs to be out in society in a big way, having a major impact in society, actively being discussed and debated, even while many such people may not agree with all or even perhaps much of the actual content of that new synthesis of communism and what is represented by the leadership of BA. But everyone who thinks it’s important for the questions that are raised by that, the big questions it raises, to be out in society in a major way—impacting society and the discourse in society, the debate and struggle in society in a major way—all such people are people who potentially can be and who need to be involved in BA Everywhere. Just as in the two mass initiatives, everyone who understands, or can be won to see, that the outrages these mass initiatives are taking up are intolerable and must be fought against needs to be involved, and potentially can be involved, in these mass initiatives, even while we are bringing forward our full understanding of not only what is represented by what these mass initiatives are taking up, but the overall context into which it fits in society and the world as a whole.
And it’s important to understand and approach this ensemble precisely as an ensemble, an overall process of carrying forward—not the entirety but a concentrated focus of—revolutionary work in this period; an ensemble, an overall process which is greater than just the sum of its parts, greater not only than any component including its leading edge—BA Everywhere—but greater than the sum of its parts. By which I mean that all the different parts of this, and the carrying out of this, should be seen as not only an overall process, but one in which there is a dialectical relation (a back-and-forth interplay and mutual influence) between these different things being actively developed and actively worked on to contribute to, yes, building that movement for revolution and building the Party as its leading core. That’s the way we need to be carrying this out. Not people who don’t agree with us about what this overall ensemble is about, but may agree on particular aspects of it—whether it’s BA Everywhere or one of the mass initiatives, or some of that but not all of it. Many such people need to be involved. But we need to be approaching this as an overall and concentrated focus of revolutionary work—not, again, the entirety, but an overall and a concentrated focus of revolutionary work whose parts are mutually influencing each other in a positive way, not spontaneously but through our work to make that happen.
Whatever part of that ensemble we might be particularly working on, in an overall division of labor, this is the approach we have to have: that it’s an overall process, an overall ensemble, whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and whose particular parts, and the work on the ensemble as a whole, are dialectically interconnected and mutually influencing each other in a way to build the whole movement for revolution and build the Party as its leading core. So that people who get involved out of particular concerns, for example, about what’s being taken up by one of the mass initiatives, will through our work become introduced to what’s being taken up by the other mass initiative, or will be influenced also by other things, such as what’s going on around the environment, and will become influenced by and interacting with what’s being done around BA Everywhere.
The Crucial Role of the Website/Newspaper
The way in which all this is brought together, and the way in which this is greater than the sum of its parts, gets expressed in a concentrated way through the pivotal role of the website/newspaper, which is after all one of our two mainstays. It is one of the ongoing, not only foundation stones but active elements of our ongoing revolutionary work. This means that the website in particular, but the newspaper as well in its own way, is a source for people to actively learn more about what is happening with the different components of this overall ensemble, but also a way that they learn more about the interconnectedness of all this, and how all this relates to the larger picture of the problem and the solution, to put it that way.
The website, and the newspaper in its own way, is also a way in which people learn about the larger world—once again going back to what was stressed at the very beginning here, relating to those six paragraphs from Part 2 of “Making and Emancipating”—the things that are going on, the contradictions that are taking shape and that are moving and changing things, and dynamics associated with all that in the larger world, beyond the concentrated focus that we have now through this ensemble of revolutionary work. The website, and the newspaper in its own way, is also the concentrated way in which people are brought to an understanding of that in an ongoing way, in a developing way, in a growing way. And in which all these different elements—both what we’re concentrating on, and other things beyond that—are synthesized for people. Not in one place, not in one single article, but through the overall process of what’s being done in an ongoing way by the website, and the newspaper in its own way, people are getting a synthesis of how all this fits together in the larger sense—not in a reductionist sense, a narrow mechanical sense, but in the overall sense of the playing out, if you will, the struggle, of different contradictions in the world and their interconnection, and how, at the same time as it has a life and dynamic of its own (or these different elements have life and dynamics of their own) at the same time all this is fundamentally rooted in, or encompassed within, the ongoing dynamics of this system and its fundamental contradiction, and the driving force of anarchy as the main expression of that fundamental contradiction.
All this, in a living way—through many articles which are short and pithy and popular, and some articles which are longer and more complex, through graphics, and in all the other elements that go into the website and the newspaper—this is what should be coming through to people, so that, as Lenin said, this is actually the greater part of preparation for revolution. It is here that people are introduced to the new synthesis of communism and the leadership of BA, as well as the other parts of the ensemble, as well as what is going on in the larger world, what’s happening with the environment, the different contestations that are going on in society, the different things that flare up, even the contradictions within the bourgeoisie itself and between the ruling class, the imperialist ruling class of the U.S., and other imperialist forces and other reactionary forces in the world, and what’s happening with the “two outmodeds” in the world (imperialism and Jihadist Islamic fundamentalism). All this is synthesized through not just one article, or one analysis, but through an ongoing analysis and synthesis that’s provided, in a living way and in a timely way, by the website and the newspaper. And this is how whole generations of people of different strata, including the basic masses, are being brought forward and trained—going back to that thousands and millions—people being oriented and organized and trained as revolutionaries, as communists, as active forces and fighters for the communist revolution; working, with that basic guidance, on the contradiction of hastening while awaiting the development and emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people.
There are a few more elements I want to speak to, in terms of building the movement for revolution and building the Party as its leading core. But, by the way, just one last thing on the website and the newspaper: We should be constantly evaluating the website and the newspaper against what I just said. How well is it doing at fulfilling that role? What is written and posted on the website and in the newspaper should be measured against that criterion or that basic orientation: how is it doing in contributing to the role of that website and that newspaper, of being the principal means through which the forces of the revolution are brought forward, oriented, trained and organized to be building the movement for revolution and building the Party as its leading core?
The Role and Importance of Ideological Struggle
Now, a few other key elements that need to be spoken to in terms of, yes, building this movement for revolution and this Party as its leading core—which we ARE building. I want to speak to the role of ideological struggle and fighting for the future. A couple of years ago I spoke to some questions which were then concentrated in some files (observations) I wrote, which were called “Boxing” and accompanying files on the “Mass Initiatives” and on “Freedom and Necessity,” which I definitely feel have not been sufficiently—people have not sufficiently gone back to them repeatedly, to ground themselves in them more deeply. And they still have great relevance and importance; they are something that people should be—individually, but perhaps at certain times collectively—going back to and grappling with what’s concentrated there.
And without going into everything there, but rather urging the importance of people going back and digging into this themselves, I do want to emphasize that what’s in that “Boxing” file is stressing, once again, that (as I said about BA Everywhere) it is a matter of building the movement for revolution, and pivotal to that is transforming the thinking of blocs of people. And transforming the thinking of blocs of people is not something that’s done in some sort of abstract way, or by finding some way to entice people to think better. It’s done by waging ideological struggle. Once again, overwhelmingly among the ranks of the people this is non-antagonistic struggle, struggle not with the enemy, although one of the main forms of it is exposure and refutation of what’s put forward by the actual enemy, the actual ruling class. But this ideological struggle is a key component of everything—it’s a lifeblood of everything we are doing and should be doing and have to be doing—waging active ideological struggle with substance, but at the same time in a compelling way and often sharply. But never shrilly. And there’s a difference between being sharp and being shrill. One we need to be, the other we should not be and cannot be, must not be.
But ideological struggle is crucial in everything we’re doing, including in building the ensemble and its different components, and in building the overall movement for revolution and, obviously, building the Party as its leading core. And “Boxing” refers to ideological struggle. As was said in that “Boxing” file, we should be getting up in the morning—I’m paraphrasing, I can’t remember the exact wording, but paraphrasing—we should be getting up in the morning hungry for ideological struggle, actively seeking out ideological struggle. Not to beat other people over the head—and not to “make `our narrative’ triumph over `their stupid narrative’”—but to actually fight with people in a good way about what is the correct, scientific way to understand reality, what is the implication of actually scientifically understanding reality, and how should people act accordingly.
This should be something we have a great hunger for, as opposed to seeking to avoid it. As pointed out in the “Boxing” file, often if you wage ideological struggle as you should, it does in fact temporarily disrupt the unity that’s been achieved with a certain person or group of people at a given time. And this is one of the reasons why people often shy away from it. The other, and perhaps even more fundamental, reason is that they’ve divorced this from what this is supposed to be all about—from actually building a movement for revolution and actually carrying out a revolution with the Party as its leading core—and so they just see things in immediate terms. They’ve lost sight of, and divorced this from, the larger objective of which it has to all be a part.
That’s the other reason why people shy away from ideological struggle—perhaps even a more fundamental reason. But an immediate reason is that it does often disrupt unity that’s been achieved. And, you know, that’s not inconsequential. Struggles do need to be built, people do need to be united with to carry out the struggle that needs to be carried out to achieve the things that need to be achieved. So it’s not inconsequential, it’s not a trivial matter, that unity gets disrupted. But how do you see this fitting into the larger process of actually building a movement for revolution and building the Party as its leading core, actually hastening while awaiting, actually preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution, actually doing this with the view of how this is leading to what will happen when there is a qualitative leap and a qualitative transformation in the objective situation so that there’s a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people. If you’re approaching it all in that sense, you understand that the temporary disruption of unity has to be evaluated against that larger picture and those larger objectives. And then you fight to win people to a more advanced understanding and to forge new unity based on, not their full agreement necessarily with what we’re all about, but a further advance in their understanding of reality and what needs to be done to transform it.
We shouldn’t be cavalier about disrupting unity that’s been forged. Unity with people, again, is important. We shouldn’t lightly disrupt that unity or undermine it. But, even more, we should not be afraid to carry out struggle, including sharp ideological struggle, if we are keeping in mind what this all needs to be for, in terms of our understanding of reality and how it can be and needs to be transformed. So ideological struggle is a crucial part of this—this is what’s being gotten at in the “Boxing” file, that we should be itching for ideological struggle in the correct sense and carried out in the correct way.
At the same time, here is another contradiction. This should be carried out in dialectical relation with what’s been characterized as “An Invitation” from BA: Let’s go on a crucial journey together in the fight against oppression. Follow your—I’m paraphrasing, obviously, but people should go back to this and look at it in dialectical relation with what I’m saying about ideological struggle and what’s in the “Boxing” file—follow your own principles and the things that you find intolerable, follow those out to their own logical conclusions, and don’t turn away, have an open mind, be openly searching out a deeper understanding of reality, and don’t turn away from that process or stop short on that process because it makes you uncomfortable and specifically don’t turn away from the understanding that all this is rooted in a system, the system that we now live under of capitalism-imperialism, and the answer to this is revolution and the ultimate goal of communism. Be willing to confront and grapple with that on the basis of whether it’s true, i.e., a correct reflection of reality, or not—not turning away because it challenges your prejudices or takes you out of your comfort zone. Again, I’m paraphrasing, and people should go back to the original statement which has been characterized as “An Invitation” from BA.
This exists in dialectical relation with what’s in the “Boxing” file about the importance of ideological struggle. And, in the overall sense, the ideological struggle is principal, because if people were already where they need to be in terms of their understanding of problem and solution, to put it in short form, then we wouldn’t need—then we’d be in a whole different place in the world. But, first of all that’s impossible—that everybody would understand this, at the stage where we’re at. And even under communism, for that matter, there will be a need for continuing ideological struggle over how to understand the contradictions in the world and what to do in relation to them. But at the same time as we’re carrying out that struggle, we should also, in dialectical relation with that, once again, be applying the orientation that’s in what’s been called the “Invitation” from BA.
Now, moving on, there’s another point I want to emphasize, which is the importance of continually regrounding ourselves in, but also actively wielding, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North American (Draft Proposal), as well as things like the special issue on the history of communist revolution and the experience of socialism in the Soviet Union and China and the new synthesis of communism—setting the record straight on the history of communist revolution and on the role of the new synthesis of communism . These are particulars, but they’re particularly important in relation to our own orientation, but also in terms of this element of waging the ideological struggle. Because, as we have a sense, and has been spoken to, there is a very important contradiction that even people who are very deeply disturbed by the state of the world and the conditions of the masses of humanity and what’s happening with the environment, and the wars, and on and on—even people who feel that way, if there is a lid put over their thinking by the notion that this is the only possible system, or the best possible system, even with all of its faults, and that every radical alternative to this system, and in particular the communist revolution, has been discredited, has been a negative experience, has been a disaster or a nightmare for those who lived under it, and for humanity in general: so long as that is the case, then people are not going to be able even to sustain struggles short of revolution—struggles which we can approach as part of building a movement for revolution, but they are not even going to be able to sustain those struggles past a certain point without striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, let alone be won to an understanding that there’s something much bigger and overall that needs to be struggled for, namely a radically different world achieved through revolution and communism.
So these are two concentrated expressions of the future. What’s in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) which, as we’ve pointed out, is at one and the same time very sweeping and very concrete. So that’s something we should be constantly regrounding ourselves in. But also this special issue, setting the record straight on the history of communist revolution and the role of the new synthesis. Because these embody an active vision of and an active fight for the future. And this is crucial in terms of people being able to carry forward with “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.” Not just for us to be able to carry that forward, but for other people to be able to sustain this and be able to advance and make leaps to actually come to see both the desirability, but also the possibility, as well as the necessity, for this revolution and for fighting through to achieve a communist world.
Internationalism, and the Strategic Approach to Revolution
The last thing I want to speak to—all this in terms of carrying forward our overall work to build a movement for revolution and the Party as its leading core, as a part of the overall struggle in the world as a whole toward the final goal of communism—in that context, the last thing I want to speak to is internationalism and the struggle in the international arena.
First of all, I want to return to the point that’s been emphasized, and is obviously a point of great contention among communists and professed communists, but something that’s been brought forward, especially since the time of Conquer the World? more than three decades ago now: That, in an overall sense, in fundamental and overall terms—even in terms of making revolution in a particular country, as well as the overall advance of the communist revolution toward the goal of the emancipation of all humanity and the establishment of communism in the world as a whole—the world arena is decisive.
Now, here I’m not going to try to rehearse, or go again more deeply and extensively into, all the analysis that’s gone into why that is so. But I do want to refer back to hastening while awaiting, and where we originally got this formulation from and then applied it to our own process of making revolution as part of the overall world revolution. We actually got this formulation from Mao, writing during the period of the war against the Japanese occupation of China, the anti-Japanese war, as they called it, in the larger context of World War 2. Significantly, Mao brought forward this formulation, hastening while awaiting. What he said is, we’re hastening while awaiting changes in the international situation. And what he was speaking to was, not that they were passively sitting around waiting for more favorable developments in the international situation—suspending their revolutionary activity and struggle until there were those more favorable conditions—but, on the contrary, he was recognizing two things. On the one hand, if you want to put it that way, the balance was not going to be immediately shifted qualitatively to where they could go after state power in the country as a whole, through the defeat of the Kuomintang and the imperialists behind it, namely U.S. and British imperialism in particular—that they were not in a position where those tasks were immediately on the order of the day, that the overall objective situation had not been transformed, and was not going to be immediately transformed, even through their own efforts, to where that became the thing that was immediately on the political agenda, so to speak. But, on the other hand, they were also never going to get to the situation where they could carry through even the new democratic revolution, and then advance to the socialist stage, if they sat by passively, awaiting external developments in the world as a whole—and by “external” I don’t just mean outside of China, but external to their own efforts to bring about changes in the situation. So, in opposition to both those wrong orientations and tendencies, he stressed that what we’re doing is actively hastening while awaiting larger changes in the overall international situation—and that applied both to the immediate focus of the struggle, which was to defeat Japanese imperialism, as well as to the larger revolutionary process of which that was, at that time, a decisive stage. What he meant was: We can’t even, at this point, go all out to try to drive Japan out, defeat its occupation of China. We’re not in a position to do that; more needs to happen in the world as a whole before we can go to that task immediately and directly, let alone carry forward the whole process of overthrowing all the reactionary forces in China and embarking on the socialist stage through the new democratic revolution. He was saying, we’re not in a position to do that, even with regard to Japanese occupation, but we are in a position to actively struggle and contribute to the process whereby Japanese imperialism will be defeated, and its occupation of China can be broken and the revolution can advance to yet another stage.
So this was the formulation actually—it’s ironic because we’re attacked in the name of Mao, in the name of Mao we’re attacked for saying the world arena is decisive, but here was Mao in fact recognizing that the international arena was decisive. And we’ve adopted and adapted this formulation of hastening while awaiting. We’ve adopted it, but we’ve also adapted it to the particularities of making revolution in a country like this, in the context of the overall world situation. But if you look at it—once again, you go back to that special issue (on the history of the communist movement and socialist society, and the new synthesis of communism) or you look in general at the history of the socialist revolution—revolution with the final goal of communism—you look at how it’s taken place in different countries, it is not accidental—there are two errors we could make here. One is not to recognize that the breakthroughs that were made with the two great socialist revolutions in the world—in what context were these made? One was made in the context of World War 1, the other was made in the context of World War 2. And that is not by any means accidental. Failing to recognize that that’s not an accidental or coincidental relation, but is for very real material reasons, and is in fact an illustration of how, in relation to both those revolutions, the international situation has been ultimately and fundamentally decisive—that it was in the context of the shifting of world contradictions that particular contradictions in those countries changed, and were changed by active struggle in such a way that it was possible to break through and actually embark on—overthrow the existing system and embark on the socialist road, with the different particularities in the two different countries (Russia and China). So not recognizing that, and the implications of that, is one serious error that could be made. On the other side, making an absolute out of that—treating it in a metaphysical kind of way, as if, because that’s been the case, that is the only way that revolutions could be made, in particular countries (if not today through a world war, because that might destroy the whole world, but through some sort of similar international concentration of contradictions), that only in that context could some sort of breakthrough be made on the path of socialist revolution toward the goal of communism—that would be equally wrong.
Once again, revolutions are not made by formulas—they’re not made by formulas either in the sense of recipes or formulas even in the sense of some grand analysis that nevertheless is formulaic. But the point is that there is an interconnection in any particular situation, in any time period in any particular country, between the situation in that country and the overall world situation—or, if you will, the overall interconnected web of contradictions within which that particular country and the contradictions particular to it (in a relative sense) is situated.
What is the way to correctly apply this understanding and what is the correct orientation for actively carrying out hastening while awaiting, in the way that Mao originally formulated it and in the way in which we have adopted and adapted it? This has actually been set forth in a very concentrated way in what is contained in BAsics 2:12. And I want to just briefly examine this, because we’re accused—it’s not just that I want to answer accusations—I do, at least if they touch on anything important, but more fundamentally it’s important to actually stress, in opposition to distortions of the correct understanding, what is the correct orientation and approach. This is originally from Phony Communism Is Dead...Long Live Real Communism!, back in the early 1990s, more than 20 years ago. Here’s what it says, and I want to read it and then speak briefly to some particular aspects of it and the overall thrust of it.
“The achievement of [the necessary conditions for communism] must take place on a world scale, through a long and tortuous process of revolutionary transformation in which there will be uneven development, the seizure of power in different countries at different times, and a complex dialectical interplay between the revolutionary struggles and the revolutionization of society in these different countries...[a dialectical relation] in which the world arena is fundamentally and ultimately decisive while the mutually interacting and mutually supporting struggles of the proletarians in different countries constitute the key link in fundamentally changing the world as a whole.”
Now this is worth thinking about and digging into in its entirety and overall, but I also want to just examine particular aspects of it and how they illustrate the overall, or how they fit into the overall.
Okay, it starts off with something that most people who are—or consider themselves or claim to be—communists would agree with: The achievement of the necessary conditions for communism must take place on a world scale. Now, this doesn’t mean all at once, as the statement next makes very clear. But ultimately communism has to be achieved on a world scale. Or else, as long as socialism, a radically different system, exists within the overall world situation, where there still is imperialism, then that’s going to have an effect in terms of the inability of those particular socialist countries to advance to communism. So you can’t have a bunch of different countries advancing to communism each on their own path, and then somehow it’ll all add up to a communist world. This has to be achieved in the world as a whole ultimately, even while, as the next part of the statement gets to, breakthroughs and advances also have to be made in order to achieve that overall world advance.
We’re accused of saying—oh, you know, it’s like we’re accused of being essentially Trotskyites who say that revolution has to be made in the world as a whole, or at least in a big part of the world, including especially the capitalist countries with the most developed productive forces, or else there can’t be any socialism anywhere. No, that’s not what we’re saying. We’re saying something sharply in contradiction to that. We’re saying something that is materialist and dialectical. Because what does it say? The achievement of the necessary conditions for communism—material and ideological (I’m adding that), but the achievement of the necessary conditions for communism must take place on a world scale, through a long and tortuous process of revolutionary transformation in which there will be uneven development. That means there will be breakthroughs, as there was in the Soviet Union or in China or different places. Uneven development, not all advancing in a uniform way throughout the world as a whole.
Lenin made this point very sharply at the time when the Soviet Union was being established and was fighting for its existence, with reactionaries and imperialist forces ganging up to try to overthrow it. And all these social democrats, Kautsky and all the rest of them, were hammering away at the Soviet Union—that it was a perversion of socialism, that it wasn’t democratic, and furthermore that it wasn’t an advanced country, it was a backward country, they should wait for the more advanced countries to gradually evolve to socialism and then the poor backward Russia could somehow be led along by these more advanced forces, and so on and so forth. And Lenin made sort of the “Alphonse-Gaston” point—like “after you, no after you.” You know, you come to a major entryway, and its “after you, no after you.” He said, look, the problem with this is, if everybody waits till everybody else makes revolution, we’ll all be suspended in midair and nobody will ever make a breakthrough. So no, it’s not going to be everybody together—or, in particular, everybody wait for the more advanced productive forces of the capitalist world, for the working class and its social democratic incarnation and reformist leadership there to gradually evolve into socialism and to pull all the backward people along with it.
This goes along with a story I heard about the Soviet Union. Some German so-called communists were visiting the Soviet Union in the 1930s and they went to some of the rural areas where there were still outhouses—which, by the way, were in rural areas and still are in some rural areas in even the “advanced” United States, productive-forces wise. But anyway, they went around and they saw all these outhouses in the countryside in the Soviet Union, and one of these so-called German communists turned to another and said, “Socialism is wasted in this country.” A classic expression of the “theory of productive forces.” Here they had all these advanced social relations they were struggling to bring into being, but because they still had outhouses and not modern plumbing, socialism was wasted there, you know. Well, this is the kind of outlook that says—the Trotskyite kind of social democratic outlook that everybody has to wait until the whole world can go together, or at least until the countries with the more developed, advanced productive forces in the capitalist world can break through or evolve to socialism, by reformist means, and then bring everybody else along.
That’s not what’s being said here. In opposition to that, what’s being said is, this is a “long and tortuous process of revolutionary transformation in which there will be uneven development”—in other words, breakthroughs made in different places, different times, “the seizure of power in different countries at different times, and a complex dialectical” (note, not a linear and reductionist process, but) “a complex dialectical interplay between the revolutionary struggles” (and note the wording) “and the revolutionization of society in these different countries.” In other words, the revolutionary struggles—but also places where that breaks through to actually seize power and begin revolutionizing society. So you have a patchwork, if you will, of socialist countries and other countries where the revolution hasn’t yet broken through and achieved socialism at any given time, and a “complex dialectical interplay between the revolutionary struggles and the revolutionization of society in these different countries.”
But, going further, a dialectical relation “in which the world arena is fundamentally and ultimately decisive”—that’s one side of the contradiction, that’s fundamental. What’s the other side? “[W]hile the mutually interacting and mutually supporting struggles of the proletarians in different countries constitute the key link in fundamentally changing the world as a whole.” What does that mean? It means: where does the freedom lie for the communists and the masses of people whom they lead? It lies in their waging the revolutionary struggle, in their doing all the things we’ve been talking about to hasten while awaiting, and to break through where they can.
And here we go right back to the beginning, where I began today, to the statement in those six paragraphs of “Making and Emancipating” Part 2: Nobody can say for sure, nobody can say with certainty. That principle also applies here. Just because the two revolutions of the Soviet Union and China were made in connection with world wars, and just because that was not fortuitous—or accidental or coincidental—does not mean that that’s the only way it could happen, and it does not mean that we can say with certainty that until some, again, external factor—external to a particular country, but also external to the work that any revolutionary force is doing—until that somehow brings about all the right conditions for revolution, that nothing can be done, or even that no breakthrough can be made qualitatively to overthrow the existing system and establish a new revolutionary state. Nobody can say with certainty—once again, this is a very important principle—nobody can say with certainty, in the context of the moving and transforming overall world situation, what might be possible in any given country.
The point is not to sit by passively awaiting. The point is to be actively hastening while awaiting, understanding all the things that are concentrated in what I spoke to earlier (without repeating them all), in terms of what’s in those six paragraphs that begin Part 2 of “Making and Emancipating.” Again, it’s a dialectical relation in which the world arena is fundamentally and ultimately decisive—not decisive necessarily at every moment in any particular country, but overall and fundamentally, ultimately and fundamentally decisive—while, as the other side of the contradiction, the mutually interacting and mutually supporting struggles of the proletarians in different countries constitute the key link—what we can grab hold of to seize freedom through those struggles in fundamentally changing the world as a whole. That’s the way it transforms. It doesn’t transform by sitting around waiting for the larger contradictions to plop revolution into the lap of the revolutionaries and the masses of people; and nobody can know with certainty what the work of revolutionaries and the struggle of masses of people might be capable of achieving in any given framework. It is not passively dependent on changes in the larger objective world and the larger world arena, even while in an ultimate and fundamental sense that world arena is decisive.
Correctly and scientifically understanding the materialism and dialectics of that is crucial to being able to apply internationalism in the most correct and powerful way, and also to being able to correctly apply the necessary method and approach to make revolution in general.
So I’ll end with this. Once again we’re back to vanguard of the future or residue of the past. We’re back to what’s stated very sharply in that regard in the Manifesto from our Party. We’re back to the need, once again, not to have a passive attitude but to actively wage struggle, including very sharp and compelling struggle, in the international arena, in dialectical relation with carrying out the work of, yes, building the movement for revolution and building the Party as its leading core in this country as our contribution, or as a major aspect of our contribution, to the overall world struggle for the final goal of communism, at the same time as we wage struggle in that arena for the new synthesis of communism and to bring forward forces—both among the existing forces and new forces which are not presently won to or organized around the banner of communism—to constitute and to fight as a vanguard of the future, and not be consigned to being a residue of the past.