Grasp Revolution, Promote Production: Questions of Outlook and Method, Some Points on the New Situation
A series of excerpts from an important tape-recorded talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, in the first part of 2002, "GRASP REVOLUTION, PROMOTE PRODUCTION, Questions of Outlook and Method, Some Points on the New Situation." These excerpts have been edited for publication here. Footnotes have also been added.
Another important point to emphasize is the potential for unpredicted developments to arise, including and specifically in relation to this whole juggernaut... things often develop in unexpected ways, and no matter how comprehensive and systematic we are in applying our scientific outlook and methodology, even we are going to be surprised by many events. That's in the nature of reality (and it has to do with the contradiction between accident and necessity, which I'm going to touch on briefly in a minute). But, in any case, this is a feature of reality in general, and specifically it's going to pertain to and already has stood out very sharply in relation to September 11 and the whole juggernaut that has been unleashed since then and is ongoing.
So, on the one hand, there have been and will be many events that are unexpected, although on another level, if we dig deeper, we can see the basis from which these things arose. In other words, here again we have another unity of opposites--between accident and necessity, or another way to put that: between the unanticipated (and even the unanticipatable) in these developments, on the one hand, and on the other hand, underlying factors which, if we examine them, we can recognize as causal. These things didn't arise out of nowhere. There is a certain necessity, a certain reality in its motion and development, that gave rise to these things. And this, again, is an important principle--that there is a unity of opposites between accident and necessity.
This relates to the principle, which Mao spoke to, that what's universal in one context is particular in another, and vice versa. What's accident in one context is necessity in another--or has cause on another level, if you want to put it that way. Let's take an example I've spoken to before: when Columbus came to the Americas, he intended to go somewhere else [BA laughs], so in one sense, on that level, it was an accident that he arrived in the Americas. (We know of the atrocities and genocide carried out by Columbus, and in his wake, and the horrendous consequences for the indigenous peoples; but here I am speaking of the role of accident in his arrival in the Americas.) But was this totally random and without cause? No. There were reasons why he ended up in the Americas. And each reason (or cause) would, in turn, again divide into the contradictory aspects of accident and necessity (or contingency and cause). This is the way reality is, and again it's a matter of understanding different levels and the interpenetration of different levels (of matter in motion). I'm going into this point not only in terms of general understanding of philosophical questions, so to speak, but because it's important in terms of being able to deal with the unanticipated and at the same time to dig more deeply and to discover the underlying causes which are giving rise to this, to understand what the overall motion and development is, and is likely to be, at any given time, even while we have an orientation that gives us a certain "tenseness" toward--and enables us to be as prepared as possible for dealing with--the unanticipated (or even, in a certain sense, the "unanticipatable").
There are many things that illustrate this. For example, I mentioned Palestine, which is a very acute demonstration of the point that we have made about how things could get wildly out of control and have unanticipated results for the other side, as well as for the side of the people, broadly speaking. (Even though, up to this point, we could not say that Palestine itself has gotten completely out of the control of the imperialists, it has certainly embodied unexpected developments for them and has caused them significant problems.)...
And here again comes to the fore the importance of grasping that what is involved in this whole juggernaut is a "cauldron of contradictions" and of recognizing the potential volatility of this whole situation, and--you can put it in these terms--the certainty, in a certain sense, of unanticipated events (not only events unanticipated by us but also events unanticipated by the imperialists themselves). And what we are able to wrench out of all this has a tremendous amount to do with our ability to correctly analyze and then to engage and transform the objective conditions.
An important principle to stress in relation to the challenge of building resistance to this juggernaut is the difference between building the broadest possible unity in a static way, which means pitching things to the lowest common denominator, and doing this in a dynamic way, which means that you establish the dividing lines and the basis of unity in accordance with what the greatest number of people can be won to, not what they already think or are already prepared to move around. Now, of course, that's a dynamic thing itself and it changes as the struggle develops, but the point is this: if you conceived of building the broadest possible unity in a linear way, as opposed to a dialectical way, what you would do is go to the farthest point to the right that corresponded to where you wanted to, or thought you could, unite people, and then take up that position. That would be the way you would seek to unite all who could possibly be united. Well, that won't work.
When you pitch things to the lowest common denominator, you don't bring forward the advanced. You don't get that kind of dynamic going where the dialectic between action and education--between actually bringing forward an opposition and posing more sharply the challenges and questions to bring other people forward--gets going in a positive way. So what needs to be done is to make an analysis looking beyond the temporary and the superficial to see what it is that the broadest number of people can be united around through work and through developing struggle in a way that draws the dividing lines and builds the unity that actually directs the spearhead where it needs to be directed, against the juggernaut of the U.S. government, and directs it in the most powerful way--actually corresponds with the objective of derailing this juggernaut, and not just opposing it (although, obviously, opposing it is important [BA laughs] and is dialectically related to derailing it).
A fundamental and essential question poses itself: Is it actually possible to stop this whole juggernaut without carrying out proletarian revolution? Well, we'll learn that in the event, as things actually develop, but certainly we can't say at this point that it would be impossible to stop this juggernaut without achieving the actual overthrow of the whole system--that only through revolution, to put it simply, could this juggernaut be derailed. Now, that may turn out to be the case, but that's not something we can determine at this point. So when we put forward the objective of actually stopping this juggernaut, it's not a gimmick; it's not a way to get people on a train, an express train with no local stops that goes only to revolution. It's an orientation toward actually uniting with people with a real objective in mind. We're not promising people that this is going to happen one way or the other, or pretending that we know the whole outcome of this. What we are saying is that we must have this as an objective--to stop this juggernaut--and we're serious in seeking to stop it, even if it means that it gets derailed short of revolution, because that will contribute greatly to revolution in any case, besides the fact that in terms of the two 90/10s*, and particularly in terms of the interests of the people of the world and their revolutionary struggles, it's important to stop this juggernaut.
But, at the same time, if we're not bringing forward, through the course of all this, the need for
proletarian revolution, if we're not showing in a living way how this juggernaut is rooted in the very nature
of this system--that it's one particular, concentrated expression of the nature of the beast and why we need
to do in this beast--then we're not meeting what we need to be meeting in terms of the needs of the people
and in terms of our revolutionary objectives. So this is another contradiction we're going to have to handle,
once again, not in a linear or mechanical way but in a dialectical way, in accordance with the complexity of
how these contradictions play out.
* The "two 90/10s" refers to a formulation in the Draft Programme of the RCP, in the section on building a united front under the leadership of the proletariat (UFuLP), where it speaks to the importance of seeking to win over the great majority of people within the U.S. itself (the "90 percent") "while doing this in unity with the `90 percent' internationally , the great majority of the people of the world who suffer exploitation and oppression under the domination of imperialism and its allies and puppets."
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