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On the Road Toward the Finalization of the Party Programme! During World Historic Times-We Need World Historic Answers

Revolutionary Worker #1214, October 5, 2003, posted at

On Supervising Leadership After Revolution

The following exchange between Concerned and Laddo Kecxoveli is excerpted from the website.

From Concerned:

I haven't quite finished reading the whole Draft Programme, but there is one thing so far that really jumps out at me. Based on your desire to have dissent, I have decided to send this comment to you.

The last paragraph on page 83 under "Supervising Leadership and Actively Engaging in Political Life" says:

"In supervising leadership, the masses will have the right--and it will be the policy of the Party and state to encourage and unleash them--to criticize their leaders, on any level. And more generally the masses will have the right to hold meetings, organize demonstrations, put up posters, go on strike, pass out leaflets, and so on--again, with the exception of actual attempts to promote and organize the counter- revolutionary overthrow of the rule of the proletariat."

Why do people go out on strike or demonstrate, etc.?

Generally, it's because there is a great injustice being done and all other attempts to correct it have failed.

So first of all, the fact that these forms of actions will still be necessary under the new socialist society is a pretty strong indication that there will indeed be leaders who still do not care about, listen to, or respond to the needs of the people.

Injustices will still be going on. So it's necessary, and important that these actions are allowed.

But, what bothers me about this paragraph, is not what it says, but what it DOESN'T say, which is: WHAT IS TO COME OF THESE PROTESTS BY THE PEOPLE.

I mean, I keep thinking, what's going to be any different than what we have today in this capitalist society?

Even though our rights are being cut back more and more, we do have the "democratic" right to demonstrate, strike etc., in this imperialist country. Big deal!!

For the overwhelming majority of the time it doesn't mean shit! It doesn't get us anywhere, not on matters of genuine importance anyway! So just saying we can still protest, doesn't mean much. What I think must be included here is that when the people protest, our protests will be heard and ACTED UPON, not by throwing everybody in jail, or ignoring them, but by correcting the grievances that we have. Otherwise, what's the point?

I understand not wanting to overthrow the genuine revolutionaries or revolutionary society, but when grievances are made, they should be responded to and corrected.

From Laddo Kecxoveli:

I'm glad to see such principled criticism.

First, if you read other RCP literature & sections of the DP (e.g., section "The Party Under Socialism," "Transition to Communism," etc.), you will see that the response to protest by the masses will be entirely different from the proletarian socialist state than it is by the bourgeois capitalist state. In fact, protest will not only be responded to positively, it will be encouraged!

Second, I do however think that you have an excellent point that your concerns are missing from this section. The paragraphs following your quote do address the role of the state & party in helping the revolutionary mass movement, in mediating between different mass movements (making sure it's always recognized that contradictions amongst the masses are non-antagonistic, as opposed to contradictions between the masses & the enemy), & in providing leadership to the mass movement overall so that it goes in a revolutionary direction, forward to communism (& doesn't veer off to the side somewhere because of unchecked spontaneity).

But I do think that a sentence or two should be added, addressing the point that protests, strikes, etc. under socialism will not be impotent cries for help nor isolated scenes of repression-waiting-to-happen. On the contrary, the masses will be the driving force of society, the state & party must always serve the interests of the people (especially & principally the proletariat) & real change will come about as the fruits of their action.

The RCP is a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party, & as Mao said: "To rebel is justified!"

On Questions of Artists and Dissent

The following is a comment from a RCP comrade.

From "Artists and the Masses," p. 111 of the Draft Programme: "With regard to works of art that reflect discontent with and opposition to the proletarian state, the orientation will not be to suppress them but to develop mass criticism of them.... (T)he basic approach will not be to suppress but to develop mass criticism and debate."

This point as written is simplistic, wrong, and is in conflict with much of the rest of the section "Artists and the Masses." It is also in conflict with page 24 of the DP: "The proletarian state must value dissent, even dissent coming from an oppositional point of view."

Two potentially different contradictions are combined into one in this sentence: a) contradictions among the people (and its state) and b) contradictions between the people (and its state) on the one hand, and the enemy on the other. These two contradictions must be addressed differently from each other.

The blanket policy of developing mass criticism of "works of art that reflect discontent with and opposition to the proletarian state" would be correct ONLY IF ALL parts of the proletarian state were correct. As we know from historical experience, including the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, this is not the case.

Not all "discontent with" the proletarian state is "opposition to" it. The proletarian state has both good and bad qualities to it, because class struggle not only continues under socialism, it is in fact concentrated in the Party and in the running of the state.

There can be "discontent with" or "opposition to" revisionist policies of the proletarian state, such as the discontent that began the GPCR. This discontent and opposition should be promoted and encouraged, not criticized. Such "discontent" or "opposition" could be by people/forces who are entirely in support of the proletarian state, and are trying to advance the revolution, such as women, oppressed nationalities or any youth who may be dissatisfied by the pace of change. Such discontent should be debated; if it is correct, it should be promoted, not criticized. The revisionists most likely will already be criticizing this "discontent"--why would the revolutionaries, too?

If it turns out to be "left in form, right in essence" or simply "rightist," its essence needs to be (mainly) determined before it is criticized.

Not all apparent opposition to the state is necessarily wrong. Opposition to wrong policies in command may take the form of opposition to the state, but in essence it may or may not equal opposition to socialism and communism. The contradiction between appearance and essence is extremely important in distinguishing between helpful and harmful criticism, friend and foe.

Even opposition to the state on principle needs to be examined for possibly correct particular criticisms of the state. While this opposition should primarily be criticized, any correct particular criticisms of the state should be embraced, in order to further advance the goal of communism.

Finally, as society moves closer to communism from socialism, the state will begin to "wither away." Wouldn't "opposition to the proletarian state" have to be examined using a somewhat different lens at that point? Opposition to the then-existing state might be exactly what's in order.

While both "criticism" and "debate" may be different from "suppression," mass criticism is not the same as mass debate, and proper distinctions need to be drawn between criticism and debate. "Criticism," particularly when distinguished from "debate", as it is in this paragraph, implies disapproval; "debate" does not imply judgement.

The proletarian state is strong enough to address appropriate criticisms of it. If a work of art deserves criticism, criticize it. But stating an a priori conclusion that criticism is in order for "works of art that reflect discontent with and opposition to the proletarian state" is one-sided and wrong.

To put this point another way, contrast the above statement with a paragraph on p. 118 (under "The Proletariat Takes Control of the Organization of Production"), which also addresses the two different types of contradictions, only here it's in the field of production:

"The Party must sort out actual sabotage and other counter-revolutionary acts from difficulties and differences among the people. This will require deep-going investigation that draws on the experience of the masses; and the Party must lead the masses to grasp the essence of and deal with these two different types of contradictions."

This section on production recognizes both that there are different types of contradictions, and that distinguishing between them is essential, and perhaps not easy.

My suggestion is that the paragraph on p. 111 be changed to:

"The orientation towards works of art that reflect discontent with and/or opposition to the proletarian state will be to investigate them based on the experience of the masses; develop mass debate to distinguish right from wrong and helpful from harmful from the point of view of advancing the world revolution and the emancipation of its people; and promote what's right and criticize what's wrong.

(separate paragraph, to help distinguish between critical works of art and "reactionary works")

"In the policies of the proletarian state there will even be a place for publishing and displaying some reactionary works of high artistic quality to assist the masses in raising their class consciousness, sharpening their ability to distinguish what serves the interests of the masses from what serves their oppressors, and developing their mastery of the whole arena of art and literature. Some reactionary works will have to be suppressed but again, the basic approach will not be to suppress but to distinguish the interests of the masses from the interests of the oppressors and develop mass debate and criticism as appropriate."

The Right to Dissent

The following exchange between Chang Zheng and Steve is from the website.

From Chang Zheng:

Steve writes: The question remains as to how you have the right to dissent [under socialism] when the dissenters [then] are people out to destroy revolutions?

Two approaches have evolved. The first is the Cuban model where dissent is squashed for the most part.

The second is the Nicaraguan model where they allowed bourgeois elections to prove that they were not totalitarian.

The U.S. came in and out-did the Sandinistas in the electoral realm. I think the answer is to create a truly participatory democracy, not based on big-money campaigns, but citizens committees that research subjects and come to consensus decision making that is not tainted by corporate money and greed. We need to develop economies based on self-sufficiency and local control, not huge organizations where greed can come into the picture.

I think Steve is getting at an important aspect and contradiction of the socialist revolution with this issue of dissent when he says that dissenters are(then)people out to destroy the revolution.

First, I think we need to agree that every dissenter is not out to "destroy the revolution". In fact, the vast majority absolutely do not fall into that category. And this is where it gets interesting because if the revolutionary Party and proletarian state treats every dissenter as being out to "destroy the revolution", they will force those who do dissent into the open arms of those who are hard core anti-revolutionaries out to overthrow proletarian rule. On the other hand, if they just say everybody's ideas are the same, let's have elections to decide whose program we are going to implement, they will be capitulating to the illusions of bourgeois democracy and betraying the trust of the proletariat and its allies in the united front who have given everything to overthrow imperialism and bring into being socialism.

Here's part of what the Draft Programme says about dissent:

"The Party will put great emphasis on fostering debate, dissent, and diversity in socialist society. It will certainly enter into and strive to lead the debate and struggle among the masses; at the same time it will take care to encourage an atmosphere where the masses freely express their ideas.

"Specifically, the expression of views and opinions by the masses that are contrary to those of the Party will not be discouraged and in fact will be valued for whatever they raise that helps the Party and the masses to better understand things. Only when it represents the attempts of actual counter- revolutionaries to bring about the overthrow of the proletariat's political power and restore capitalism will the expression of such views be suppressed. And in that case, too, the masses themselves will be relied on to struggle against, expose, and suppress such people and to distinguish through such struggle what are backward and mistaken ideas among the masses and what are actual attempts at fomenting counter- revolution." ("Debate, Dissent and Diversity in Socialist Society")

This is very different from either the Cuban model or the Nicaraguan model -- it is based on a dynamic and continual interplay between the Party (and the proletarian state) and the masses. Where dissent is "valued" because it helps the Party and the masses better understand things.

I think there has to be dissent that has to have an edge to it and which needs to be going on in every sphere of society; science, culture and art, economics, fundamental social relations like those between women and men, where the resolution is not a forgone conclusion, where there would be some serious stuff at stake and where some real risks are being taken in order to advance the cause of proletarian revolution. Where there is complexity and subtlety--not simplistic right and wrong, and where, quite honestly, consensus (in its literal meaning) can never be achieved -- because even as new advances are forged, new, often unexpected, contradictions will present themselves as we move closer to communism on a world scale. There has to be a climate in society as a whole where people feel able to say "I disagree." That's what revolutionizing all of society is all about.

At the same time, this all has to be done in the context of what Steve correctly states will be serious on-going efforts on the parts of counter-revolutionaries, in particular, those elements within the Party itself, to use this dissent (and how it is handled) to bring about the overthrow of the proletariat's political power and restore capitalism --all the while claiming to be the biggest supporters of the revolution.

This is exactly the reason you need a revolutionary vanguard party, armed with Marxism-Leninism- Maoism--to lead the masses in debate and struggle to determine the correct road forward, to determine who are the friends of the revolution and who are its real enemies and periodically leading struggle to expose and overthrow the "capitalist roaders"--those in leading positions inside the Party trying to drag the revolution back to capitalism.

And at certain points and junctures you will be putting it all on the line. This is what Mao was doing when he initiated the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and called on the masses to "Storm the Heavens." I'll bet he wasn't sure how it would turn out.

This is the Maoist model. And I think it is what is embodied in the new Draft Programme.

And while I agree what I take to be the spirit of Steve's own vision of the future--a society not based on greed whose goal is not ruthless accumulation and where there is more of a spirit of self-reliance (not parasitism), I think his models of consensus fall short on the issue of dissent for exactly the above reasons.

In unity, struggle and greater unity.

From Steven:

Chang, when I was speaking of dissent, what I meant specifically was those who are opposed to socialism, in other words counter-revolutionaries. Of course, I'm not opposed to dissent in terms of people having disagreements or seeing other solutions to problems. I think that the term "dissent" can have multiple meanings. The dissent I was speaking of in the previous post was referring to people who, after the revolution, will be dedicated to overturning it at any cost. I think that this will be a serious issue in any post-revolution setting. Especially in the U.S. where people have been so brainwashed as to look at communism as something evil.

I certainly would not want to see a society where there is no dissent allowed, but I think we should all be aware that there will be lots of people ready to violently overturn any revolution in this country. Then there will be many others who grew up programmed by capitalistic thinking who will push for neoliberal reforms until we eventually end up back under capitalism.

I think it is going to take something more than a vanguard educating the masses to counteract this. I'm NOT advocating totalitarianism, but rather an alternative method of keeping power from falling back into the hands of the bourgeoisie, the ruling classes and the counter-revolutionaries, while at the same time maintaining a free society where all can speak their opinion.

Think of the situation we currently have in the U.S., only in reverse. The capitalists were very clever in designing a society which gives the illusion of freedom, yet one is only free to maintain the current capitalist system and status quo. The only hope one has is to move up in the economic food chain through working for the system or winning a lottery. There is "free speech" and "democratic elections," but the catch is you must have large amounts of capital in order to reach a critical mass of people or even get your name on the ballot in some states. Those who want to change the system don't have the capital and therefore don't have the means to create change through the system. Only the capitalists have the capability to control the larger society, while in order to prove we are "free" under their system they allow us to have our tiny pieces of it (i.e. college classrooms, a few web sites, small circ. newspapers, occasional street actions).

It seems that communists could reverse this reliance on capital as the determining factor for power and institute a system where all people have an equal voice and opportunity to lead. In a truly classless society there would not be new power groups forming because all power would be distributed equally, therefore negating the need or the possibility to align oneself with groups seeking to take more than their share. There needs to be some type of mechanism put in place to prevent greed-based or reactionary groups from forming, while still leaving room for dissent. By mechanism I don't mean police suppression or anything like that, I mean the way we choose to organize society and resources. I think that any power group forming, even communist leadership would be a potential new upper class which will eventually revert to a capitalist power structure as we have seen in previous situations.

Therefore, dissent should be valued, even appreciated. But no group should be able to gather enough power to overthrow the revolution. The only way to guarantee this is to create a society where all power and wealth is distributed equally and some type of societal mechanism be established which would help the masses relate to each other in a non-exploitative/non-authoritarian manner. The eventual hope is that we could create a society so much better than the present one that no one would want to be a counter- revolutionary.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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