Revolutionary Worker #1158, July 14, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
The Revolutionary Worker is very excited to present to our readers this interview and exchange between Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and Carl Dix, national spokesperson of the RCP.
In coming weeks, the many different subjects covered in this important and wide-ranging interview will be made available. This week is Part 3. In the future, the complete interview will also be published and made available online.
The transcript hats been slightly edited for publication.
In heavy times like these, the people require extraordinary things to help prepare them for the challenges we face. What follows is truly extraordinary, something that will help arm those who want to take on the U.S. rulers' juggernaut of war and repression with the kind of understanding they need to deal with these times -- the immediate challenges in front of us and a whole lot more involved in changing the world. TheRevolutionary Worker is publishing an important interview with Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
I had the honor of doing this interview with him in early 2002. Going into it, I knew there were burning questions many people would've wanted to put to him if they had the chance. They had been putting those kinds of questions to me when I went out there around the Party's Draft Programme or got down with people around the "war without limits" the U.S. imperialist ruling class has unleashed on the world. I was going to have the responsibility, and the opportunity, to put these questions to him for them.
Doing this was intense. It was hard, and it was fun. I hadn't had a chance to get into it with Bob Avakian like this for quite a while. He was the same "fired man" (to borrow a term from Peter Tosh) who had provided crucial leadership for the revolutionary movement at key junctures so many times in the past. He was right on top of what was going down in the U.S. and around the world. And he had the same boundless enthusiasm to dig into world historic questions concerning the process of proletarian revolution. We spent several days doing the interview, getting into everything from the current situation to the role of religion to what sustains him as a veteran revolutionary leader. And then, when we finished our work, we went deep into the night talking about basketball, movies and more.
I hope those who read this interview get as much out of it, and enjoy it as much, as I did in the process of doing it.
Carl Dix : Okay, I want to continue on these questions around revolution and the total transformation of society, but first I want to step back to some questions related to building this movement of resistance to the war and the repression--questions which are important in their own right but also bear on this question of revolution, how you got to go about it and things like that. An important section of this resistance are the youth who have been involved in the anti-globalization movement and, as you were saying, that was a movement that was a very important development leading into September 11 and many of those forces are actively taking up opposition to war as they continue to take on globalization. But among them there are some views that have some currency, that take a different approach to what it is that we're dealing with. And in particular--you've got a movement here that's been generated by the horrors that the system of imperialism has been perpetrating on the people around the world. But at the same time, the way that some of the forces involved in this movement view the situation is that they're confronting these multinational corporations but don't view it as an integrated system of imperialism. And I was wondering what implications you think that kind of approach, that kind of view, have--both for understanding what we're dealing with and how to take it on?
Bob Avakian : Well, of course, there are many different trends and political analyses and lines within the movement against capitalist globalization, and it wouldn't be possible for us to try to speak to all that, or I certainly don't feel in a position to try to characterize all these different lines and the essence of each one of them or something like that. But there are, as you pointed out, trends and tendencies within this movement, as well as theoretical positions more generally that do exactly what you said--which don't recognize, or deny , the existence of an integrated imperialist system and which, along with that, don't see the importance of the imperialist state, and different imperialist states in fact, but just see it as corporations operating globally, perhaps through international institutions or just creating their own institutions of power and enforcement or whatever. And, once again, two points--not recognizing, or denying,the nature and role of an integrated imperialist system and not seeing and recognizing the role of the state within all this. And I think these are very important questions to take up and these are analyses which don't actually conform to reality and don't really correctly identify the nature of the problem.
It is an integrated imperialist system we're dealing with, and the state plays a very important role in that. We can see that in the current events. What we're seeing now is not just different oil companies, for example, or different multinational corporations mobilizing their own private police forces or armies to go out to various parts of the world and enforce what they want or feel they need. We see the U.S. ruling class, represented through its state--its political apparatus, its bureaucracies and particularly its armed forces-- going out to act on behalf of and to enforce the interests of a class that, yes, includes many multinational corporations and in fact whose defining and leading edge are large-scale corporations which operate internationally, including banks, even insurance companies and other kinds of corporations, but who coalesce even while they operate internationally and even compete with each other internationally--at the same time, they coalesce politically and are represented politically through the political process of the ruling institutions and structures of U.S. society (and of other imperialist societies, whether France, Germany, Japan, Russia or whatever). And they find a concentration of their interests and the enforcement of their interests in their military forces, which we see being utilized right now in the interests not just of this or that corporation, of corporations acting disparately, but the integrated interest of this system and of its ruling class. That's precisely what we're seeing being carried out in a very concentrated and massive and destructive way right now with this whole imperialist juggernaut.
Now, of course, there are international institutions that concentrate global exploitation, like the IMF, the World Bank, and others, but it's important to understand that these institutions are, at one and the same time, focuses (or instruments) of imperialist domination and of imperialist contention, that is, contention among the imperialists themselves. They do not supersede or replace the various imperialist states and the rivalry between them and competition and contention between different imperialists which is concentrated in the contention between different imperialist states. And concretely the U.S. as well as others seek to dominate and control these institutions, but to a large degree at this point and essentially the U.S. imperialists are the dominant influence and force within things like the IMF and the World Bank. So, again, these are institutions and instruments of imperialist domination and of imperialist contention, that is, contention among the imperialists.
It's true that this system is increasingly a system of worldwide, of global exploitation and depends increasingly on its super-exploitation in large parts of the world, outside the imperialist countries themselves. At the same time, though, this is not like one even, undifferentiated global system, obviously. One of the most obvious things--in fact one of the things people are protesting against--is that the same standard of living and the same wage scales and so on do not apply uniformly throughout the world. In the imperialist countries the wages are vastly different and higher for doing the same kind of work as they are even in Mexico, let alone Haiti or Pakistan or whatever. So, this is a system that doesn't operate in a uniform and undifferentiated way on an international level, even though there are tendencies for it to become increasingly globalized. There are also differences through which it operates, distinctions through which it operates.
One of the key distinctions, or divides, is the division in the world between a handful of imperialist states which like to refer to themselves as technologically advanced or advanced capitalist states, but in fact are states carrying out international exploitation and domination--in other words, imperialist states. The divide between them, on the one hand, and the vast areas of the world which they plunder and exploit which are commonly referred to as the Third World, the nations oppressed by imperialism throughout vast parts of the world, where the standard of living and the conditions of the people, their wages and their livelihoods are on a much lower level and they are maintained on a much lower level by imperialism and must be maintained on that level by imperialism in order for it to function and thrive... And the other thing is--there's not only that great divide between the imperialist states and the vast oppressed nations of the world, but there is also the contention among and between the different imperialists, not only imperialist corporations but, in a concentrated way, contention between different imperialist states. And once again we see this in the juggernaut that's going on now. The U.S. is not only waging war on Afghanistan and sending its troops into other oppressed nations in the world. It's also at the same time and through the same vehicle and means trying to...seeking to fortify its position vis-a-vis other imperialists and put them in their place, so to speak, and establish the fact that, out of all the imperialists, the U.S. will remain supreme.
While that's the case now, there will continue to be contention among the imperialists, and different imperialist states will seek over time to rival and contend with the U.S. and even to oust it from its top-dog position. If you look at the history of the world and even the history of the last century, you can see that. For example, at one time England--British imperialism--was at the top of the imperialist heap, and through a series of wars it was eventually pushed aside by U.S. imperialism, which emerged as the top dog. And now British imperialism is, yes, imperialist in its own right but also, as I said, sort of a running dog alongside of U.S. imperialism at one and the same time--not the same way a regime in the Third World is but nevertheless it's been reduced to second-rate imperialist status at this point. But out of the very nature of the imperialist system, the contention among the imperialists and the operation of the system overall, there will be challenges to U.S. imperialism even from other imperialist powers. If you look at history-- again, in history you'll see that often these challenges can come from unexpected places or powers that seem to be down. Once world events evolve in a certain way, "lesser" powers have found an opening to make a bid for a much more dominant position, and this has in fact been what the world wars we've seen have been about.
So to just look at it as like a global system that's undifferentiated, or to think that...countries and nation states are no longer important--this not only doesn't conform to reality, but it is sharply refuted by present reality and I think there is a lot of analysis--I mean there's Lenin's Imperialism , which he wrote 100 years ago and there he described the essential features of the imperialist system, which are very much alive and active and exerting their force today. If people go back and read Lenin's Imperialism you can see how far-seeing his analysis was, because while some particular features may be different, the essential features that he identified of imperialism--including the dominance of monopolies within the economies of the advanced, developed imperialist capitalist states and their operation internationally and the heightened competition between different cartels of international capital, but even beyond that the contention leading to warfare among the imperialist states themselves and the ways in which that's a concentration of the conflict among different aggregations of capital--all those things that Lenin identified and other features of the imperialist system still apply and are in fact in force and making themselves felt in a very powerful way now. And, we've tried to continue some analysis of that, our party, through America in Decline and also through some Notes on Political Economy which we wrote a couple of years ago summing up developments through the 1980s and what's referred to often as the resolution of or the victory of the West in the cold war and what that has given rise to since then.
There's a need for continuing analysis of the workings of the imperialist system and of the struggle against it. But it's important at the same time to be grounding ourselves in a fundamental understanding of the nature of this system--what we're up against, the imperialist system as a system, and the way in which in fact this does take concentrated form through imperialist states and in the operation of these states, including in conflict with each other, and the kind of struggle this calls forth. It's very important for us to remain grounded in that even while we continue to deepen our concrete analysis of the ways this expresses itself and what it calls forth in the world at a particular time.
An essential thing that Lenin pointed out in his study of imperialism--he talked about imperialism as the highest and final stage of capitalism, not something different from capitalism but also not the same as capitalism at an earlier stage. And he showed precisely how it was an international system of exploitation, how it heightened the contradictions of capitalism and how it both brought forth the need for but also strengthened the tendency toward revolution and in particular a revolution leading to socialism and ultimately communism throughout the world. So this is a very important point to understand. It's still not only applicable in a general sense but very directly relevant to what's going on in the world today.
A Society, A World,Without Inequalities --"How Do You Get There?"
CD : Yeah, I think that brings us back around to the question of revolution and the transformation of society, and I think this is an important topic to get into, especially in view of the fact that the Party's been involved in doing quite a bit of work among a broad array of forces around our Draft Programme , and we've taken it out to people in a lot of different segments of society: to proletarians; we've taken it out to some of the youth who have newly come forward to take on the system and fighting back; we've taken it out to a lot of intellectuals who have been thinking about and writing exposures about different aspects of the way in which the system operates. And particularly among the youth who we've been taking this out to, I want to start out with some of the questions that have emerged among them. And there you're talking about some people who have really brought a new element onto the scene in terms of some of the resistance that sparked off around Seattle and since then. But among some of them a certain set of questions have been brought back to us when we take the Draft Programme out to them and they focus up a lot around this question of leadership and how we view that and whether that in fact is the way forward or part of the problem that they're grappling with now. A lot of it focuses up around the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. I wonder if you'd speak to some of that--why that in fact is the way we need to go in terms of not only overthrowing this exploitative and oppressive system but transforming all of society in the aftermath of overthrowing imperialism and eliminating oppression and exploitation on a world scale?
BA : I think here again the important thing is to understand, or the fundamental thing is to understand the nature of the beast we're up against. The anti-globalization struggles and other movements that have come forth largely among youth have been very powerful and positive, and they will be all the more powerful and positive the more that more and more people are won to a fuller understanding of the nature of the system they're actually up against and therefore how to fight against it and what's required to actually deal with what this system causes. Because we share--to put it in a certain way, we share the ultimate objective. Sometimes people talk about having a leaderless society. We share the ultimate objective of that in the sense that we want to and our objective is to achieve ultimately a society in which the conflict between--or the contradiction between--leaders and followers, or between administrators and people who carry out functions no longer exists and it's been superseded, where those kinds of divisions as well as even more profound inequalities such as those that mark the world today--between imperialists and oppressed nations, or between different nationalities, or between men and women, or between people who do mental work and people who do manual work--all these inequalities have been transformed and surpassed and eliminated and we have a world in which there aren't these divisions, and therefore there's no need for and no basis for some people leading and other people following. So we share that objective of eliminating all exploitation and oppression and all these unequal divisions. But the question is, "How do you get there?"
In order to begin to answer that question, you have to start with what's the nature of the enemy you're up against. And when you begin to analyze, as we've spoken to earlier, the nature of the enemy you're up against--that it's a powerful, integrated system whose power is concentrated in the power of the state, its repressive apparatus, its police, its courts, its bureaucracies and in the most concentrated way its armed forces--then you have a basis to understand what it is you have to do in order to deal with the system and ultimately upend it and sweep it off the stage of history and transform society in order to eliminate the basis for such systems and for relations of exploitation and oppression. And once you see that you're up against that kind of power and that this power is concentrated in the political leadership and in particular the institutions of power and most especially the military of the ruling class of this system, then you know that you have to go up and defeat that power. And if you have to go up and defeat that organized and highly concentrated power, you're going to need a force that's strong enough to do that, that has the strength.
Our strength doesn't lie primarily in technology, and certainly it doesn't lie in exploiting and oppressing people and amassing wealth and having technology and weapons on that basis. It depends on and it flows from mobilizing the people. As I said earlier, the key thing, or certainly one of the key things in a revolution, is having a revolutionary people--that's the key force in being able to overturn this system and transform society and ultimately the whole world. But this society not only brings into being but reinforces all kinds of divisions among the people, and so not only are we up against a powerful enemy, we're up against the fact that for the people--here's one of the sharpest contradictions we have to deal with- -for the people who have the most fundamental interest in making a revolution and upending and transforming all of society, the proletarians, the people on the bottom of society, the people whose exploitation is the foundation of this society, by the very nature of the way in which they are exploited and oppressed under this system, they are prevented from even having, in their masses, the opportunity, the ability to actually come to an understanding of the nature of the beast that is sucking their life-blood. And in order to make revolution they're going to need that kind of understanding and they're going to need people to organize them and lead them on the basis of that understanding.
And the unevenness that exists where some people--especially people who have more training and opportunity to deal in the realm of ideas, the unevenness between them and the masses of people--this is not something that we communists willed. It doesn't exist because we communists said, "We want a monopoly on ideas, we want to keep the masses ignorant so we can make a revolution and ride their backs." On the contrary, it arises because of the nature of the system and the question is for those who come--everybody who gets involved in a movement and stays with it comes to the need for revolutionary theory of one kind or another, even those who declare themselves anti-theoretical, paradoxically or ironically (or whatever you want to say) still develop theories, because you can't actually develop a serious movement to even significantly struggle against, let alone to overturn and transform, society without developing theory. So it's not a question of theory or no theory--people actually formulate these theories and try to win people to them--but what kind of theory, what kind of political and ideological line, as we say, what kind of program really corresponds to the interests of the masses of people, particularly the proletarians who have to be and will be the backbone of this revolution. How can they be brought forward to consciously take up and wield that line and program in their own interests and evermore unleash their own conscious activism? That's precisely the challenge.
So there are these divisions that the historical development of society has brought into being and which capitalism reinforces, not only spontaneously but also by the operation of the ruling class and the institutions of power. These divisions can only be overcome through the advanced forces who have a fundamental understanding of the nature of the problem, and the solution, uniting together as a vanguard force to go out among the masses and bring them forward around this line and programme. Without that, there may be other people who are capable of developing other theories but there will be no revolution, and whatever changes in society are in fact brought about, the masses of people will be left out of it. And you can speak in the name of the masses of people all day long and rail against leadership all day long in the name of the masses, or in the name of some other principle, but if you don't actually recognize the need for leadership, and the fact that it flows out of the very contradictions of the society you're seeking to overturn and transform, then you're going to leave the masses entirely out of the equation and there's not going to be a revolution and certainly not one that leads to the emancipation of the broad masses of people. So this is where the need for a vanguard comes. There are contradictions involved in this for sure, and they can become very sharp, but they don't arise out of the willfulness of people who call themselves the vanguard to try to ride the backs of the masses. They arise out of the very nature and contradictions of the system itself.
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