by Bob Avakian
Revolutionary Worker #885, December 1, 1996
Let's talk about the dialectical relation between the two aspects of the strategy of the United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat. In other words, the aspect of the united front and the aspect of the leadership of the proletariat.
To begin with the aspect of LP (or the leadership of the proletariat), there is one point that is very important and fundamental. With all these technological and social changes, there is and will remain, in the U.S. and throughout the world, a real proletariat which embodies the potential to revolutionize society and the world. This is not just an article of faith--that there is and will remain a real proletariat, and that it is capable of carrying out its revolutionary mission and acting as the vanguard of a communist revolution--this is material reality. The more we do social investigation, the more this is borne out, both in the U.S. and in terms of the world situation, in countries throughout the world.
The proletariat is a material fact and a potentially material force with world-historic potential--the proletariat can and must still play its role as the leading force and backbone of the revolutionary struggle to transform society. Even if, in the new-democratic revolution (and also to a certain extent in the socialist transformation) in Third World countries the peasantry plays a major role, still in a strategic sense the proletariat can and will play the leading role--the role as the leading class, the class upon which these transformations depend, more than any other class, in order to carry out the world proletarian revolution and achieve communism.
Communism is not being converted into a "good idea" which however no longer has a material or social base. What is necessary for this "idea"--and it is a very good idea--to become a material force and a material reality, is that there has to be a section of society, powerfully and strategically placed, whose interests correspond to this revolution and which therefore can be rallied to it--and the fact is that there is such a force in the U.S. (as well as in other countries all over the world).
This is a decisive point, so I want to repeat it and (re)emphasize what is essential here: What is necessary for this "idea"--and it is a very good idea--to become a material force and a material reality, is that there has to be a section of society, powerfully and strategically placed, whose interests correspond to this revolution and which therefore can be rallied to it--and the fact is that there is such a force in the U.S. (as well as in other countries all over the world).
Now, at this point in the U.S. (and in a number of other countries), this contradiction is assuming acute expression: Objectively, there is this potential social force, there is this real proletariat, but on the other hand, in most countries right now this is not yet finding expression in a powerful way politically. It is still only finding expression in a beginning way in terms of a class-conscious, revolutionary movement. And this has its effect. There isn't yet a developed, class-conscious, proletarian-led, revolutionary movement on the stage in the U.S. And even on a world scale--while there are important and inspiring revolutionary struggles, including protracted people's wars led by Marxist-Leninist-Maoist forces affiliated with the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, notably in Peru and now also Nepal, and including the people's war in the Philippines--there is not yet a great powerful wave of proletarian-led revolution that is having great influence on the world situation. This is having its effect.
We are still re-grouping and coming back from the defeats we've suffered. We, the proletarians and oppressed masses of the world, and the International Communist Movement [ICM], are coming back. But we're still in a certain sense in the initial stages of coming back from those defeats we suffered--in particular the restoration of capitalism in China--even though there are some very important advances that are being made. And this fact has its effect on all different strata, including the basic proletarian masses: it has its effect among intellectuals in certain ways; it has its effect among the youth; among the basic masses and so on.
And speaking of the intellectuals in particular for a moment, I think we have a lot more work to do with the intellectuals. We have a lot more we can and should be doing, in terms of unity-struggle-unity, with intellectuals, in terms of having an influence on them and also in terms of learning from them. We can and should be operating on a much bigger level in terms of our impact on the intellectuals. That's an important point I want to stress.
This work is very important work and even indirectly will have a lot of important effects on the basic masses. But no matter how well we carry out this work with intellectuals, and our work overall, there's going to be a large degree to which what we represent is going to remain (or seem to remain) in the realm of a "good idea," until more of that class-conscious, revolutionary movement of the proletariat does come onto the stage as a material force.
The point is, there is a gap. There is a yawning gap between what needs to be done to resolve the contradictions in society on the one hand, and on the other hand, the way the contradictions are imposing themselves on people right now. And the bridge across that yawning gap is the class-conscious, proletarian, revolutionary movement and all of our work to bring that forward and lead it to its strategic objectives.
One way to look at this--if you remember in Reflections, Sketches, and Provocations, one of the pieces in that book is called "The Heartland...of Babylonian Madness." It was speaking to the phenomenon where some intellectuals and artists were trying, from their own viewpoint, to address some of the contradictions that are very sharply affecting the "heartland" and the "rustbelt" strata--farmers, blue-collar workers, and others who are suffering the effects of the changes in the economy, in the material base of society.
And one of the points which is made in that piece, which is a very important theme, is the question: where are your feet planted?
It's not wrong, in fact it's very important, to try to reach out to these strata, but where are your feet planted when you do this? If your feet are not planted in the right place, you're going to fall over, one way or another. If your feet are not planted--and this applies to our Party, both in terms of our work as a whole, as well as ideologically--if they're not firmly planted in the proletariat and its interests and outlook, you're not going to be able to correctly speak to these other strata. You're not even going to be able to address the contradictions they're experiencing and to move them in a direction to resolve these contradictions, let alone the more profound and central contradictions in society. One of the things that was brought out in that piece ("The Heartland...of Babylonian Madness") was the line from the Melle Mel rap "World War III."
This is a very striking, a very interesting rap from a lot of different angles--it was done in the '80s. (This is also interesting in terms of showing that we were not the only ones who were thinking about the real and immediate danger at that time of world war 3--this question was on the agenda, you know. This rap by itself doesn't prove the case, but it is indicative of something.) One of the lines in that rap was talking about when WW III hits: "Just one big boom and whaddya know/the world is a ghetto, high and low." And what was pointed out in the "Heartland of Babylonian Madness" is--not that we want the world to be reduced to just rubble--but if you're going to have a proletarian revolution, there has to be, and you have to base yourself among, that stratum of people for whom (to echo another song title), the world has always been a ghetto.
Now, within that, there's also the question of understanding the different strata and the stratification within the proletariat (which I have spoken to in previous writings). It's not simply the case that the people who are most desperate are, in a one-to-one sense, the most revolutionary. But there is something that was brought out in the Morality* essays, which is very important. It's also something that the comrades in Peru have emphasized: they call it the scientific organization of poverty. I think they may be referring to the statement by Marx in the "Poverty of Philosophy," where he makes the criticism of Proudhon that Proudhon didn't see the revolutionary destructive aspect in poverty. He only saw the misery. This is a problem, not surprisingly, for a lot of intellectuals, including some of the people who do some very good work--people like Jonathan Kozol, for example--they don't see the revolutionary destructive aspect in poverty. In other words, they don't see the revolutionary potential that arises from, and is bound up with, the impoverished condition of the proletarian masses. And this is what we have to see, scientifically--and, in fact, especially today, it can only be seen, at least in any kind of thorough and consistent way, by applying our science.
So there does have to be a class for whom the world is a ghetto, but also people whose material interests correspond in a general way--not some abstract, absolute "pure" way--to the outlook and the interests of the proletariat. And the point is, there IS such a force. With all the dislocations, upheavals, with all the disastrous consequences for the masses that they're being dragged through, and the disorientation and demoralization spontaneously arising in connection with this, there IS a class, a class whose objective interests and outlook--together with our work to give this class-conscious expression as a material force--represent the bridge across that yawning chasm between what's needed to resolve the contradictions, not only in a particular country, but on a world scale, and what, in fact, the conditions are today and how they are impinging upon the lives of the people, of the great majority of humanity.
* "Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones: The Reality Beneath William Bennett's `Virtues,' Or We Need Morality, But Not Traditional Morality" And "Putting An End to `Sin' Or We Need Morality, But Not Traditional Morality (Part 2). Excerpts from these essays--including a series on "What Is Communist Morality"--appeared in the RW from January 28, 1996 through May 12, 1996.