If You're Thinking About Revolution

By Carl Dix, National Spokesperson for the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

Revolutionary Worker #963, June 28, 1998

The following paper by Carl Dix was circulated at the Black Radical Congress held in Chicago on June 19-21. Over 2,000 people attended this conference, discussing and debating important questions about the situation facing Black people, the experiences from various battlefronts, and the nature of radical revolutionary solutions to the oppression of Black people.

In doing up this paper, I was thinking about a young revolutionary who's really into the movie The Spook Who Sat by the Door. His eyes light up when he thinks of the hero of "Spook" taking people off the block and turning them into a revolutionary force with the determination to fight the oppressors to a standstill. I got a warm spot in my heart for anybody who wants to see the oppressed taking on our oppressors. That's why I like to check out that movie every now and then myself.

Some people got big problems with this movie. They say what they did in that movie was going too far. My only problem with "Spook" is they didn't go far enough--they didn't set out to wipe this rotten system off the face of the earth once and for all. They didn't base themselves on a strategy to WIN! Instead, they decided in advance that the best they could do was cause enough hell to force the system to give in to their demands for some Black control over where Black people were living. But we have to be about nothing short of getting rid of all oppression!

The Black Radical Congress (BRC) conference puts some important questions on the table about the situation facing Black people, the experiences from various battlefronts and just what it's going to take to end the oppression of Black people. We in the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP) welcome this opportunity for dialogue and debate on these crucial issues. This paper is part of our contribution to the exchange taking place this weekend over how the system is coming at us and, more importantly, how we need to, and can, step up coming back at them.

A Cold Hard Truth

Let's get right to the point. This is a time of downsizing and cutbacks, a time when welfare is being abolished and prisons are being built like crazy. The system of capitalism/imperialism is waging war on the people. People must wage war on the system. This is a cold hard truth.

The BRC Platform says "capitalism is the root cause of the major forms of social misery, hunger and exploitation in the U.S. and the world." It also says capitalism is "structurally incapable of addressing the basic economic needs of African-Americans, as well as the overwhelming majority of the U.S. working class and poor people."

For a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist like myself, this means capitalism must be overthrown through revolution. Through proletarian revolution--a revolution led by the have-nots in society, a revolution that aims to do away with all forms of exploitation and social inequality, and that changes society from top to bottom. Only this kind of revolution can end the oppression of Black people and other peoples of color...can end the subjugation of women...can put an end to a system that is based on worldwide exploitation and plunder.

If anything short of revolution could end all this brutality, misery, and degradation, it would've already been ended by now. If it was possible to vote this mess out of existence, to get rid of it by passing laws or even to end it through militant mass struggle, this would've already been done a long time ago. It would've been ended by the resistance waged by Black people and their allies after the U.S. Civil War, or by the mass struggle that rocked this system back on its heels in the 1960s. It would've been ended by the sympathetic politicians Black people helped put in office or by all the Black faces that got into high places since the 1960s. But still for the majority of the Black masses, this oppression continues unchecked and even intensified.

This is because inequality and discrimination are built into the foundation and functioning of this system. No, it will take all the way revolution to end the oppression of Black people and everything else foul this system perpetrates on the people once and for all.

Building a Revolutionary Movement

But how do we get from here to there, from the struggles of today to the mass armed overthrow of this system? Is the idea even thinkable? Could we go up against the system's massive military machine? Could we achieve the necessary unity among working people of different nationalities? Could we unite enough people of different classes to stand with those on the bottom of society? My answer is yes and yes.

One purpose of this conference is to analyze where we're at in our struggle. The potential for radical and even revolutionary resistance from among the masses is very real. Look at the resistance going on all across the U.S. The battle against the move to get rid of affirmative action. The battle against the war on immigrants. The resistance to police brutality. The fight to stop the execution of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. And more. Look at the power of the L.A. rebellion. Look at how this rising of Black and Latino proletarians and youth and the downpressed of other nationalities called forth rebellion and mass protests in cities across the U.S. Think of the power of that kind of spontaneous outburst of righteous rage connected with a revolutionary movement, revolutionary strategy, and revolutionary leadership.

Our enemies think about this quite a bit and it scares the shit out of them. They know that they're enforcing conditions in the ghettos and barrios that are creating much potential for explosions of resistance. And that at the same time, they're forced to undermine the stability of even many better-paid workers and middle class people who thought they had a stake in the system.

That's why the authorities are working overtime to impose brutal and repressive conditions on those they subject to the worst oppression and exploitation. And why they also work overtime to portray the oppressed as depraved, sub-human thugs and criminals who should be dealt with brutally. They want middle class people, especially white middle class people, to buy into this. In this way they hope to divide up those they rule over, win over sections of the middle class to support the terror they're unleashing on the oppressed, and strengthen their hand over us all.

In the face of all this, there's a burning need to rally the people living their lives, figuratively and increasingly literally, under the gun of the system to rise up in resistance. To seek to redirect the anger of those in the middle class away from the people locked on the bottom of society and in the right direction--at the imperialists who rule over us all. And to do all this as part of getting ready for revolution. This is a strategy that can radically change the way that classes line up politically in this society to help bring about a real chance to make revolution.

We in the RCP call this strategy the United Front Against Imperialism Under the Leadership of the Proletariat. It is a strategy to unite everybody who can be united to oppose and ultimately overthrow this system. The core of this broad united front is the revolutionary alliance between the movement of proletarians of all nationalities to end oppression and exploitation and the movements of Black people and other oppressed peoples to end their oppression. Uniting people of all races and nationalities to fight racism and national oppression is a key part of building this kind of revolutionary unity.

This is the kind of revolutionary unity the Revolutionary Communist Party is out to build, and we invite everybody who ain't down with the misery, brutality and degradation this system brings down and who wants to see it all ended to get on that tip with us. To check us out, to read our weekly newspaper, the Revolutionary Worker, to work with us, and to join and help build the RCP. This is one important way to get ready for revolution.

Experience from the Battlefront

Let me break down how we are applying this united front strategy and what I mean when I say building resistance to the system's attacks as part of getting ready for revolution. I was one of a handful of activists in different parts of the country who initiated the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation back in 1996. This coalition organizes the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality (NDP) and has brought together an ongoing, nationwide coalition working to build resistance to police brutality.

When I do work in this effort to build resistance to the nationwide epidemic of police brutality that's being unleashed in our communities, I'm accomplishing two important things. I'm uniting with people to build resistance to a very serious attack our enemies are launching at us. People's lives are on the line in this fight. The system is aiming to do nothing less than beat our people down, lock many of us, especially the youth, up and even kill many of us off. If we don't build the kind of resistance that can put some of this in check, we may not be able to do anything about anything else they're doing to the people.

At the same time, I'm helping people to get a sense of the strength they have when they resist together and of the enemy's weakness. I'm helping people get organized to fight back. I'm helping to develop unity between people from different backgrounds and different nationalities. I'm also doing everything I can to bring out to people that the system itself is the source of our problems and that the only way to solve these problems is through getting rid of the system through revolution.

This campaign is also an important way to build new alliances and to counter the ruling class's attempts to demonize and isolate those on the bottom of this society. The Stolen Lives Project, which documents the horror and magnitude of police murder, is being taken out to middle class people by the October 22nd Coalition to combat the ruling class's lie that the problem is crime and the cops are the solution to this problem. This kind of understanding, unity and organization will be very much needed when the time comes to launch the all-out revolutionary assault!

And we are trying to bring the strength and determination of the proletariat to bear on this movement. Last year in Los Angeles, a contingent of proletarians from Watts and other parts of South Central L.A. had a powerful effect on the NDP demonstration.

We invite people here to join us in this important work, whether you're on a revolutionary tip or not. If you hate the brutality the system is unleashing its cops to bring down on our communities, if you hate the other abuses this system brings down on the people, then join us to build a movement to help put a stop to it. And in the course of fighting back we can discuss further what it'll take to end all this oppression and misery once and for all.

Now I know that many activists, scholars, and others here this weekend are deeply concerned about what's happening to our youth. How they're being warehoused in the system's prisons. How jobs are drying up in the communities, while drugs are being flooded in. How a whole generation of youth are being criminalized. I know many of you are grappling with what it'll take to deal with all this, and to bring our youth into the movement to change things.

What our youth need is a vision of how this whole rotten set-up can be transformed, how people could live free of the misery and degradation of today. And a vision of how this kind of transformation could be brought about. This is what's needed to tap their energy and righteous rage and unleash it in a positive direction--up against the system of exploitation and oppression.

This points to the need for a powerful movement that can take on the attacks the system is raining down on the people. We need a movement that can build the places where we live and work into places teeming with resistance. We need to be organized so people can solve their own problems instead of calling on the repressive institutions of the system, which don't solve problems for the people anyway. We need a movement that can fight today and get people ready and in position to carry the fight all the way--to revolution.

To those in the arena of Black Studies here today. The ferment and debate in the field of Black Studies is a very positive development and an important arena for radicals and progressives. It can play an important part in helping to develop the kind of revolutionary movement I'm talking about.

It is important to resurrect and defend some basic lessons from the struggles of the past. It's also necessary to take on the lies of the reactionaries (e.g., "Bell Curve"-type books) and develop new scholarship and research on a range of questions--including the changing class structure in the Black community and the larger society, the truth about how a whole generation of youth are being criminalized and the effects this is having, the continued contemporary relevance of Marxism, the role of women in society and in the struggle, etc. We in the RCP are very interested in being a part of this dialogue and this very important work.

Can It Be Done?

Making revolution right here in the belly of this mighty imperialist beast won't be easy. It'll take some serious study of, and application of, revolutionary military theory to conditions like ours to develop a strategy that could lead to victory. And there would need to be a revolutionary upsurge of the people, a climate of mass resistance, experience in fighting back and solid organization to transform that revolutionary military theory into action.

The Chairman of the RCP, Bob Avakian, has done some important work on this question in his book Could We Really Win, Prospects for Revolution and in other works. If you're seriously considering what it's gonna take to bring this monstrous system down, you really need to check this out.

Right now is not the time to pick up the gun and go out to bring the system down through armed struggle. The system isn't deep enough in trouble, with the rulers divided up and fighting amongst themselves yet. Related to this, the people aren't ready to put it all on the line and fight for revolution, yet.

But these aren't prospects for the far off future. The Asian financial meltdown shows how quickly things can spin out of control for the imperialist system. There are flashpoints in the struggle between the people and the system that hold the potential to erupt into serious crises in the not-too-distant future. What impact would an uprising in Mexico followed by U.S. troops crossing the border to help put it down have on the situation in this country?

And let's not forget the L.A. rebellion, a rebellion which was started by Black people and drew the active support of Latino immigrants in particular and also some Asians and whites and the sympathy of much of the middle class. These kinds of developments, or some combination of them, could create a drastically different situation, seemingly overnight. In things like this, you can see the glimmer of an actual revolutionary situation.

But such crises by themselves won't defeat our enemy. That will require revolutionary leadership with deep roots among the masses able to seize the openings provided by such crises. This makes it very urgent to build the kind of movement I've been talking about.

I want to address those people who often come back at me by saying, "this ain't the '60s." To them I say, "you say that to say what?" If you're saying it to say that the capitalist economy is no longer expanding like it was back then, so the system will be less likely to grant concessions today, then I agree. This accounts for the extreme viciousness and cruelty of the system's attacks on the people today, and for the attention they put into sowing divisions among the people. In fact, this underscores my argument that nothing less than revolution can end the oppression of Black people and everything else foul the capitalist system brings down.

But if you're saying that the revolutionary edge of the movement of that period was wrong and led to defeat, then I ain't with you one bit. The movement of the late '60s and early '70s made revolution a living question for millions. The struggle then brought out into the open the fundamental injustice of the system, and it brought really broad forces together to struggle in unity against it. It identified with people struggling against imperialism around the world and fostered international solidarity in the struggle. It put the question of armed struggle and socialism on the agenda.

These were in fact the strengths of that period. Why this movement didn't succeed in getting rid of the system of exploitation and oppression is a bigger question than I can deal with in this paper. The point I want to make here is: we can't repeat the '60s, but it's important not to reject the best of that period. We need to sum up those days critically and apply their lessons to going farther on the project the '60s left undone--making revolution.

Our Cause Is an International One

This is what we must do, and we ain't alone in this. There are people all over the world fighting the system of imperialism. We in the RCP are clear that liberation is an international thing. Our goal is to eliminate classes and class distinctions on a world scale.

This internationalist view has led us to be a participating member of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, made up of Maoist parties and organizations in over a dozen countries all over the world, including the Communist Party of Peru and the Communist Party of Nepal, which are leading workers and peasants in waging People's War in their respective countries. Maoist People's War has also been raging in the Philippines for more than two decades. These national liberation struggles weaken U.S. imperialism. We here in the U.S. have a special responsibility to build support for them as we build a revolutionary movement.

Let me end on an intergenerational note. This weekend here at the BRC, we've got many veteran activists, as well as many people from the new generation. Veteran activists like myself who never gave up the goal of revolution have a huge responsibility. We went through a lot of struggle and we have to take the legacy and the lessons of that struggle and pass it along to the young generation. And we have a lot to learn from the youth.

Together the new generation and the veteran activists can rally the people being beaten down and robbed by this system to rise up in resistance. We can help them develop that resistance into a movement that aims, not to patch up this rotten system or to get a piece of the pie, but to overthrow the system through revolution and build a whole new world in its place. Let's do that together with our sisters and brothers all over the world who're struggling against the same imperialist enemy.

CARL DIX is a founding member of the RCP, USA and its national spokesperson. He was one of the "Ft. Lewis 6"--U.S. soldiers who refused orders to Vietnam in 1970--sentenced to two years in Leavenworth Military Prison. He was active in revolutionary organizations in the 1970s. Over the years, he has rallied activists to condemn the MOVE massacre, been in the swirl of debate about Black liberation and women's liberation, and promoted the People's War in Peru. The 1992 L.A. rebellion found him in the front lines before and after the Rodney King verdict. In 1996 he helped initiate the ongoing October 22nd National Day of Protest To Stop Police Brutality.

CONTACT CARL DIX THROUGH RCP PUBLICATIONS, BOX 3486, CHICAGO, IL 60654 and in New York at (212) 713-5084.

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