Demarcations Issue 3, Winter 2014
Egypt, Tunisia and the Arab Spring:
Egypt 2011: Millions Have Heroically Stood Up...The Future Remains To Be Written
Letter to Participating Parties and Organizations of the
The New Synthesis of Communism and the Residues of the Past
Reviewing the Differences Between Our Party and the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan
On the "Driving Force of Anarchy" and the Dynamics of Change
Editorial Issue 3At first glance, it appears that this third issue of Demarcations is straddling two different sets of questions: one the sharpening struggle in the ranks of those who consider themselves communists and revolutionaries internationally, and the other coming out of contemporary experience such as the upsurges of the Arab Spring, where very few sense a connection to the broader communist movement, historically or internationally.
Yet, underlying both, with their seeming complexities, is a simple question:
What is the solution to all this madness and horror in the world today? Is there one?
Yes. Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism provides a scientific and very concrete answer and approach to this very question.
Avakian’s new synthesis of communism represents and brings forward another way, breaking out of the deadly dynamic where the only choices for billions around the world are Islamic fundamentalism or "American-style democracy," all within the framework of this capitalist-imperialist system globally. As he put it in his statement "Egypt 2011: Millions have heroically stood up... the Future Remains to Be Written," what is needed and possible is: "Freedom from both the outmoded forces which would enslave women, and the people as a whole, in medieval darkness and oppression – and from the outmoded forces who would enslave people in the name of 'democracy'...'freedom'...and capitalist-imperialist exploitation marketed as 'progress.'"
The new synthesis of communism, a real and genuine liberating alternative to capitalism-imperialism and bourgeois democracy, stands out in stark relief at this historical moment. The need for it has been especially true since the restoration of capitalism in China in 1976, following the death of Mao. Since then, and heightened since the unraveling of the revisionist Soviet Union in the nineties (capitalism having been restored in the mid-1950s), the imperialists and bourgeoisie around the world have worked overtime and consistently to slander these initial socialist societies and experiences as "disasters," spreading disinformation and plain lies. Unfortunately this has become conventional wisdom far too much among sections of intellectuals, progressives and others who should know better.
In this context, we want to bring to people's attention and highly recommend the recent interview with Raymond Lotta in Revolution newspaper (revcom.us/revolution/current323-en.html), where he shows how these socialist societies, in the Soviet Union and China, contrary to conventional wisdom, were incredibly emancipatory and liberating, but also marked by errors and shortcomings in methodology and conception.
With the defeat of socialism in China, the whole first stage of communist revolutions has come to an end, and the question objectively posed is this: is communist revolution necessary, desirable and viable in today's world, and, if so, what is the framework for a new stage of communist revolution?
For the last three decades Bob Avakian has been working on this problem. Because of Avakian and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far and drawing on a broad range of human experience, a new synthesis of communism has been brought forward. There really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new and much better society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal.
It is hardly surprising that Avakian's new synthesis has proved a contended question, including among those who consider themselves communists. An increasing number of political parties, organizations and activists (both from the previous communist and Maoist movement and those coming forward in current battles) have been delving into the new synthesis, and some have already concluded that Avakian's body of work, method and approach does indeed chart an emancipatory future on a more scientific basis, providing a real basis for overcoming the crisis in the communist movement, attracting new revolutionary fighters and unleashing a new stage of communist revolution.
Others, however, are furiously flaying the new synthesis either because they have rejected communism wholesale, or because they have adopted a religious view of communism instead of a critical scientific approach to it. These constitute "mirror-opposites" in opposition to the new synthesis: on the one hand, those who return to the bourgeois democratic ideals of the 18th century for inspiration, forsaking communist revolution altogether on a thoroughly superficial, uncritical and unscientific basis – and on the other hand, those who reject both the basis and need for further development of communist theory, treating it essentially as a set of religious precepts, adopting a selective interpretation of the past revolutionary experiences and communist theory, often refracted through a prism of nationalism and bourgeois-democracy. Both mirror-opposites include those who claim to be "communists" and "Maoists," adopting the moniker but revising and undermining the content.
As a basic foundation for anyone genuinely seeking to understand and change the world – and for an overarching framing, texture and content on these themes, we recommend Communism, The Beginning of A New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), USA, and articles in this and previous issues of this journal. In this issue, Demarcations continues its mission of polemical engagement of the new synthesis with both of these "mirror-opposites."
Underlying this polemical engagement is a set of questions extremely relevant and urgent to those who seek to change the world: What are the dynamics that explain how the world operates? What is the method and approach for understanding reality and transforming it? What is the problem, the cause of this oppression, exploitation and needless suffering in the world today – what is the solution to all this? What is communism and what is a real revolution that leads to emancipation? How do we understand previous experiences of revolution and radically transforming society, especially in the Soviet Union and China? What is the way forward to emancipating humanity, and the framework for a new stage of communist revolution today?These are momentous and world-historic questions at this juncture, decisive for those who seek liberation and emancipation, a way out of this madness and horror – in the Middle East and Brazil, in the U.S. and India, and in countries around the world. This calls forth the need to collectively wrangle and struggle through them because there is an answer, an approach and a way out, concentrated in Avakian’s new synthesis of communism. – January 1, 2014
A long-brewing debate in the ranks of communists sharing a common history as part of the world Maoist movement has fully exploded into the open.
The debate is principally over whether communist revolution is viable and desirable in today's world, and what constitutes the framework for a new stage of communist revolution, with Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism as the central reference and focal point in this debate.
Several of the articles in this issue originally appeared as documents of this major two-line struggle, a term coined by Mao Tsetung to describe the periodic, fierce conflict between two diametrically opposed political and ideological positions and methodological approaches, ultimately demarcating between the roads of revolution, radically changing the world, and revisionism, leaving the world as is. These polemics are part of a discussion that began among parties and organizations making up the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM). We are publishing these contributed articles as a package because of their coherence and common themes. With this we seek to further Demarcations' above-mentioned mission of polemical engagement with the "mirror opposites" and helping bring forward and forge communists in the world today, the greatest need of the hour. Some of these articles have already appeared publicly in various languages.
The Open Letter issued by the RCP, USA was first written and addressed to the parties and organizations of the RIM. RIM was founded in 1984 after the defeat of the revolution in China following the death of Mao Tsetung and the coup d'etat directed against Mao's closest supporters. RIM defended and propagated "Marxism-Leninism-Maoism," as the science of revolutionary communism was called, and it sought to act as the "embryonic center of the world's Maoist forces." Because of this important historical experience it is natural and correct that important discussions focus on the emergence and development of the differences in RIM and understanding their political, ideological and material roots.
As noted above, a number of organizations and parties are substantively engaging with and standing up in defense of Avakian's new synthesis. This is a very important development which needs to be welcomed, carried forward and furthered. The articles by the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) and the Revolutionary Communist Organization, Mexico are important initial salvos in the two-line struggle. These efforts are far more than simply taking the right side in a vital dispute – these polemics are an important way in which the overall understanding of how to advance in making revolution, communist revolution, advances.
Raymond Lotta's article "On the 'Driving Force of Anarchy' and the Dynamics of Change" is a response to a particular debate in the communist movement over how to understand the motion of capitalism. The lessons of this debate, however, are crucial to anyone who wants to really understand how capitalism functions, whether it can be reformed, and whether it is necessary and possible to organize a different socio-economic system – all with high stakes for humanity. As he concludes the article, "What is at stake is a materialist understanding of the world, of what must be changed in people's thinking and society, and how. Anything other than a truly scientific approach is going to leave the world as it is. What is at stake is the communist revolution that humanity needs: to resolve the fundamental contradiction of the epoch and to emancipate humanity and safeguard the planet."
In future issues we hope to publish more contributions we receive from others in the international communist movement. These polemics will help many of those who have been part of the international communist movement make sense of current debates and shed new light on a common experience. But these polemics are no less important for the many other people who have not taken part in the communist movement previously. They also have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to learn from the experience and debates, compare and contrast opposing political and ideological lines, and strive to reach scientific and correct conclusions.
The Arab Spring: the Impasse and the Way Forward
The world keeps spinning and new possible pathways of revolutionary change emerge even while others seem to slam shut. The Arab Spring of 2011 with its continuing repercussions, like the social explosions in countries such as Greece, Turkey and Brazil, all present many new features and pose sharp challenges and questions about whither society and what constitutes freedom.
The momentous events in the Middle East and North Africa over the last few years have been a great laboratory in which some different political and ideological orientations have been amplified and tested. There have been ardent advocates and proponents of Western-style bourgeois democracy, reformists who have tried to confine the horizons to what is possible within and through the tutelage of the world imperialist system and the advocates of "political Islam."All of these programs and outlooks have failed to provide any way out for the masses of people, or anything remotely resembling genuine liberation.
Why are we in the situation we are in today, what do these different forces fundamentally represent, what is the role of the state and the army and their relation to the Western imperialist powers, what is real revolution, and most fundamentally, what will it take to get on the road to truly liberating the people. In short, what is the problem, what is the solution? Debated in Tahrir Square, across North Africa and the Middle East and around the world in different ways, all are questions of this historical moment.
The article "Egypt, Tunisia and the Arab Spring: How the Revolts Came to an Impasse and How to Get Out of It," largely crafted before the events of the later part of 2013, addresses some of these themes and questions, and points the way forward, highlighting the need for revolutionary communism and leadership on this basis, bringing into sharper relief the need and basis to forge communist organization and influence in the midst of a continuing turbulent situation. There is a real need for science, for communist theory to know and change the world.
Do not underestimate the difference that could be made by the emergence of even small groupings, collectives and organizations with a revolutionary communist orientation and a correspondingly scientific approach could make in the midst of and out of this turbulent situation.
All this makes the mass distribution of this article – to be translated into and available in Arabic on this website – a pressing and urgent task, on the Internet and in the public square, in homes and in tea-shops. The Manifesto referenced above, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, now available in Arabic (revcom.us/Manifesto/index.html), is critical for training and bringing forward a new generation of initiators of a new stage of communist revolution in the world today.
Those from other parts of the world, and people who in many cases may be coming from different political experiences and ideological landscapes, also need to pay serious attention to the lessons to be learned when revolutionary communist leadership, organization and influence is missing from a mighty upheaval of the masses.
Avakian's statement “Egypt 2011: Millions Have Heroically Stood Up...the Future Remains to Be Written” is reprinted in these pages, not only because of prescience in analyzing the political situation in Egypt, but fundamentally because this remains what needs to be done. It is also available in Arabic (revcom.us/avakian/Egypt/Egypt2011BAstatement-arabic.pdf)*. This is an example of the kind of bold, forthright, scientific revolutionary communist leadership needed in the world today, including the politics and orientation that needs to be taken into the most turbulent of mass movements.
Issue No 2, Summer-Fall 2012
KJA: "Scientifically Comprehending, Firmly
Upholding And Going Beyond Maoism for a New Stage of Communism—Polemical
Reflections on 'What Is Maoism?' An Essay by Bernard D'Mello"
Bob Avakian: "The Cultural Revolution in
China...Art and Culture...Dissent and Ferment...and Carrying Forward the
Revolution Toward Communism"
Raymond Lotta: "Vilifying Communism and Accommodating Imperialism, The Sham and Shame of Slavoj Žižek's 'Honest Pessimism'"
"The Current Debate on the Socialist State System"—A Reply by the RCP, USA
Letter to the Editors and Reply
Editorial Issue 2
Since the inaugural issue of Demarcations, the world has witnessed renewed upsurge, with mass social movements in Egypt and elsewhere capturing the imagination of and stirring defiance among broad sections of people who find the present order intolerable. This fresh wind of resistance and revolt has also been felt in the rebellions in London, in the Occupy and other youth and protest movements, while revolutionary struggles and resistance continue in various parts of the Third World.
Puncturing people's belief in, as Marx put it, "the permanent necessity of existing conditions", this renewal of upsurge has also brought fundamental questions to the fore: Of revolution – what is it? Of leadership – is it needed, and of what type? Of the state (and its armies and police) – should it be confronted, and can it be confronted? And what it means for the masses to make history. Most of all, the decisive question getting posed is what social change and what future are desirable and possible – and what constitutes freedom and emancipation.
Some of these crucial questions, posed by the Egypt upsurge and the Occupy movements, were addressed in the polemic against the political philosophy of Alain Badiou that appeared in the first issue of Demarcations: "Alain Badiou's 'Politics of Emancipation': A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World." That polemic takes on new relevance in light of recent developments in the world, and we encourage readers to (re)engage with and respond to it. We also call readers' attention to Bob Avakian's statements on the Egypt uprising [revcom.us/avakian/Egypt/Egypt2011-en.html] and the Occupy movements [revcom.us/a/250/avakian_on_the_occupy_movement-en.html].
What is achingly missing in these new crucibles of struggle is a vision of a radically different society, and how to get there – which focuses up the question of communist leadership. The fact is, a viable and liberatory alternative to this world of horrors – and the kind of leadership needed to bring a new world into being – is concentrated in Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism. This new synthesis needs to be much more widely known, engaged, and taken up.
Why Demarcations? Why Now?
Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic seeks to set forth, defend, and further advance the theoretical framework for the beginning of a new stage of communist revolution in the contemporary world. This journal will promote the perspectives of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement. Without drawing sharp dividing lines between communism as a living, critical, and developing science serving the emancipation of humanity, on the one hand, and other perspectives, paths, and programs that cannot lead to emancipation, on the other – whether openly reformist or claiming the mantle or moniker of "communism"—without making such demarcations, it will not be possible to achieve the requisite understanding and clarity to radically change the world. Demarcations will contribute to achieving that clarity.
In the wrangling spirit of Marxism, Demarcations will also delve into questions and challenges posed by major changes in the world today. The last quarter-century has seen intensified globalization, growing urbanization and shantytown-ization in the Third World, the rise of religious fundamentalism, shifting alignments in the world imperialist system, and the acceleration of environmental degradation. Demarcations will examine such changes, the discourses that have grown up in connection with them, and the ideological, political, and strategic implications of such developments for communist revolution. Demarcations will also undertake theoretical explorations of issues of art, science, and culture.
Demarcations makes its appearance at a particular historical juncture in the communist project, one best characterized as the "end of a stage, the beginning of a new stage."
The first wave of socialist revolutions and societies began with the short-lived Paris Commune of 1871, the first attempt to overthrow and replace bourgeois rule. It took a leap with the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, and went further and took yet another leap with the Chinese revolution of 1949, in particular the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976. This first wave came to an end in 1976 with the overthrow of proletarian power and restoration of capitalist rule in China.
This first wave of socialist societies in the Soviet Union (1917-1956) and China (1949-1976) constituted an unprecedented and inspiring breakthrough in liberation for humanity. At the same time, and not surprisingly, this first wave was secondarily marked by shortcomings and mistakes; and while not the cause of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union and China, these shortcomings did nonetheless play a role in the defeats of these revolutions.
With the end of this first stage, communists have been confronted with the objective responsibility of scientifically summing up the lessons and legacy of these revolutions and the rich experience of exercising state power towards the transition to communism, in order to forge the theoretical framework for going forward.
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, has risen to that challenge and in the process qualitatively advanced communist theory. He has developed a theoretical framework for the new stage of communist revolutions, a new synthesis. This new synthesis is not a pasting-together of the "best of the previous experience" and the criticisms of these experiences. Rather, as Communism: The Beginning of A New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, puts it, the new synthesis "builds on all that has gone before, theoretically and practically, drawing the positive and negative lessons from this, and raising this to a new, higher level of synthesis."
In terms of philosophy and method, the new synthesis establishes communism even more fully and firmly on a scientific foundation. It deepens understanding of the material basis for internationalism and why, in an ultimate and overall sense, the world arena is most decisive, even in terms of revolution in a particular country. On the character of the dictatorship of the proletariat, Avakian has brought forward a model of socialism as a vibrant and dynamic society – characterized by great ferment, dissent, experimentation, and initiative – that is also a revolutionary transition to communism. The new synthesis also comprehends a breakthrough in the strategic approach to revolution in today's world, in particular an orientation for making revolution in the imperialist countries such as the U.S. For more, go to bobavakian.net.
As the Manifesto, Communism: The Beginning of A New Stage, points out, Bob Avakian's new synthesis objectively stands in opposition to two seemingly alternate but in fact mirror-opposite conceptions of communism that, among those who consider themselves, or at one time considered themselves, to be communists, have emerged in response to the defeat of the first wave.
In a nutshell, the first conception buys into the bourgeois verdict that the socialist societies in the Soviet Union and China in the 20th century were fundamentally flawed and oppressive – marked by the "totalitarian," "bureaucratic," and undemocratic "dictatorship of the party." Central to this conception is the rejection of what some of its adherents term the "party-state" framework, that is, the need to seize state power and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat as the transition to communism, and the need for the leadership of the vanguard party through this process.
Intertwined with this negative appraisal of the historical experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat is the supposition that revolution and the actual seizure of state power are no longer possible. This is accompanied by a rejection, sometimes expressly so and sometimes thinly lacquered with Marxist rhetoric, of the philosophy of dialectical materialism and of historical materialism (the scientific understanding of the development and transformation of human society based on the application of materialist dialectics). In their stead is the wholesale adoption of pragmatism and empiricism, the worship of bourgeois democracy, either explicitly or in the form of "new" thinking, that blunts the antagonistic contradiction of the masses with the capitalist-imperialist or dependent neocolonial state and affords the state "agency," unmoored and severed from the underlying production relations of society. This ends up, ultimately, in the advocacy of all manner of economism and reformism.
The second conception clings uncritically, in a quasi-religious way, to previous socialist experience – thus ranging itself against a scientific approach to historical summation of the communist project and to the further advance of the communist project in making revolution and emancipating humanity.
Starting in the 1970s, there has also been an ebbing worldwide of revolutionary and national liberation struggles that has given strength to these trends – as has a relentless imperialist-bourgeois ideological assault on the communist experience and the communist project in the wake of the defeat of socialism in China in 1976, and in some ways heightened with the fall of the revisionist (state-capitalist) Soviet Union in 1990-91.
As the Manifesto from the RCP, USA, further points out, both of these conceptions share significant features. These include pragmatism in place of science; a profound lack of engagement with and appreciation for "Mao Tsetung's path-breaking analysis concerning the danger of and basis for capitalist restoration in socialist society... [and] with what principles and objectives Mao initiated and led this Cultural Revolution." Further, both of these conceptions hold in common a retreat to the past, either to the previous stage of socialist revolution, or even further back to the era of bourgeois revolution and its principles, "to what are in essence 18th century theories of (bourgeois) democracy, in the guise, or in the name, of '21st-century communism...'"
The Manifesto concludes this discussion with the following call:
Demarcations is taking up this call and challenge to be part of the vanguard of the future.
To put it concisely, Demarcations is the polemical engagement of the new synthesis with other conceptions and approaches to the "problem" of the oppression and exploitation of world humanity...and its solution, to "what is to be done" to make revolution and emancipate humanity. Through articles and polemics, as well as through moderated debates and exchanges, Demarcations aims to assist those seeking a better world to compare and contrast various theoretical perspectives and programs and to draw a broader audience into a deeper understanding of and engagement with communism, as a living and developing science, and its most advanced expression in the new synthesis.
Demarcations takes to heart Bob Avakian's injunction that "transformation goes through a lot of different 'channels,' and is not tied in a positivist or reductionist or linear way to however the main social contradictions are posing themselves at a given time." He is underscoring the relative autonomy and initiative of the superstructure; and the journal plans over time, as mentioned earlier, to feature articles on art, debates on communist ethics and values, and science. In this spirit, Demarcations will interrogate various political and theoretical trends exerting influence in the current conjuncture.
We invite correspondence in response to articles in Demarcations and in connection with questions and controversies falling within the broad scope of this mission statement. We also encourage suggestions and proposals for future issues. We aim to reach tens of thousands across the globe, in movements, in colleges and universities, and at sites of struggle and resistance – while also forging the ways and means for growing cores to support the mission of this journal. We welcome your input, feedback, and participation.