by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Editors Note: The following are excerpts drawn from a talk given by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, to a group of Party members and supporters in 2005. This has been edited for publication here, and subheads and footnotes have been added.
Before moving on, I just want to review and recapitulate (but not capitulate) [laughter] on the Coming Civil War -- and repolarization for revolution. Understanding this in accordance with the way these things are shaping up, we can see that the divide in society -- on all levels of this society, and in the society as a whole -- is not the same as the divide that will be required, and must be brought into being, in order to achieve revolution. It overlaps with that, but it's not the same as that. To use that formulation from the Suskind New York Times article, there is a broad divide in society now between the "faith-based" community and the "reality-based" community. And that is part of the intense contestation and conflict that's going on in society, through whatever forms it assumes at a given time. But it's not the whole of it. Some people who epistemologically fall more to the faith-based side, especially if you're talking about the basic masses, have fundamental interests in line with the proletarian revolution and even have to be driving forces in it. So this is another contradiction we have to understand how to correctly handle.
There is a real -- though of course not yet fully developed -- aspect of civil war between two parts of society, from top to bottom, finding different expression in different sections of society. And there are preponderant factors right now which mean that, if left to its own devices and its own dynamic, this will turn out very negatively -- and may even reach the most negative kind of extreme without a tremendous amount of upheaval in society -- unless we "intervene" in this process, unless we do what we're supposed to do, which will bring to life the possibility of something different being ruptured out of this. And we are going to need to reconfigure, repolarize things on a grand scale -- the present political division provides some of the objective basis for what we have to do in preparing for revolution, but it doesn't provide the necessary alignment that would make the struggle for revolution favorable. Right now the alignment, in general and specifically in terms of the prospects for revolution, is very unfavorable. So we have to handle these different contradictions in their interpenetration: there are the contradictions in terms of how the divisions in society are expressing themselves differently on different levels, and throughout the society; and there's a contradiction taking shape around (or between) what presently exists and what we need to bring into being for revolution. These overlap and interpenetrate but they are different, and we shouldn't confuse them and "mush" them two-into-one, or we will not handle things correctly and we will not repolarize for revolution.
Next I want to talk directly about World Can't Wait and why we are ascribing so much importance to that and are putting so much effort into it. Some people, again by way of criticism, have raised: Why try to do this, why try to do something on such a great scale and something that seems to many so "extreme," in terms of what we're setting out to achieve and in terms of rupturing with the conventional and well-established political framework and terms of things?
This gets back to the point I was making earlier about how we are not setting the agenda,1 and we are not determining the pace of things -- and where things will go if we don't intervene on the level that's necessary. So I want to focus on some of the key questions that get concentrated in this, some fundamental political and ideological (and to some degree organizational) questions bound up with this.
The fundamental and essential questions, with regard to the objective of driving out the Bush regime, are: WHY IS IT THAT THIS MUST BE DONE?, AND HOW IS IT THAT THIS CAN BE DONE?
In very basic terms, the answer to the first -- and ultimately to both -- of these questions lies in the fact that this corresponds to both what is objectively needed and what is objectively possible in the face of the situation we are confronted with -- or, to put it in Marxist philosophical terms, the necessity with which we are confronted. Driving out the Bush regime -- creating the kind of political situation in which, primarily as a result of a massive political opposition "from below," to which all forces in society are compelled to respond, the Bush regime is forced out and its whole program and the direction in which it is dragging society and the world is massively repudiated -- is both a crucial goal and one that it is possible to achieve. Now, it is true and it is important to keep clearly in mind and to clearly put forward that, from the position of our Party, we are very serious about and very dedicated to achieving the objectives of World Can't Wait, at the same time as we see and approach this as part of building toward our goals of revolution, socialism, and ultimately a communist world -- just as many others who are involved, and who will become involved, in World Can't Wait see and approach this from the perspective of their more overall views and objectives. That is the nature of the kind of united front that World Can't Wait embodies -- and it is crucial to continually increase the breadth and diversity and the depth of this united front so as to strengthen the basis for actually achieving what is set forth in the Call of World Can't Wait, which establishes its basis of unity and key objectives.2
To put it in very basic terms: If the objectives of World Can't Wait are actually achieved, this will have a profound positive effect in terms of transforming the objective situation; and, at the same time, it will greatly intensify the contradictions and call forth whole new levels of necessity. And if we fail to achieve those objectives, it will have profound negative consequences all down the line -- in this society and the world as a whole.
Imagine, for a minute, what it will mean if the Call and the main slogans of World Can't Wait are, as we say, transformed into a material force that actually takes expression as a massive political outpouring of people throughout the country, in every corner of the country and among all strata of the people, making the streets and the walls of the buildings reverberate with the slogan: The World Can't Wait -- Drive Out the Bush Regime!3 (That is, by the way, a very powerful slogan, mainly and essentially because it captures the essence of key contradictions -- not the whole of what is going on and the contradictions driving things in society and the world, but some essential aspects of this.) But imagine also the process taking place around what is put forward in the Call as well -- the determination of people that this is the beginning of a continued and determined struggle to actually make that slogan a reality, to actually drive out the Bush regime through massive political mobilization. Imagine if that actually is brought into being, what effect that will have on the political and social relations in this country -- and all over the world, for that matter. It won't make things less intense -- quite the contrary. It will raise the stakes and the magnitude of things exponentially. But that is going to happen anyway -- the magnitude and the stakes of things are continually being raised, and will continue to be raised, by the other side in this political confrontation, in any case. That's the point of where the trajectory and the dynamic is going, left to itself and left to those in power to "muddle through" -- or, very likely, much, much worse.
Let's return again to a very fundamental point here, that we are not "setting the agenda," or the pace of things; the dynamic is not one that we have desired in this form, or that we have set in motion. And it is not one where people who are opposed to it can somehow hope to simply "adjust" or "modify" it. This dynamic, this necessity we confront, is something that must be ruptured into something radically different. As communists, we understand that freedom, in a fundamental sense, lies not in ignoring -- nor certainly in bowing down before -- the situation one is faced with, the necessity one confronts, at any given time, but rather in transforming that situation, that necessity, through struggle; or, as Mao so incisively put it, freedom lies not merely in the recognition of necessity but in the transformation of necessity, through struggle. The necessity we are facing today is determined in large measure, and in immediate terms, by the program that is prevailing and the direction in which things are being taken under the Bush regime; and the transformation of that necessity into something of a qualitatively different and positive nature, must be wrenched out of this necessity. And this requires working and struggling urgently to do this, to accelerate our own pace, to keep up with the pace of objective developments, to strive with everything we have to bring about repolarization in society, in line with the objectives of World Can't Wait -- and, with regard to our Party, the challenge is to do this and to strive at the same time to bring forward our larger revolutionary objectives, not confusing or "mushing" those together with the basis of unity of World Can't Wait but correctly distinguishing, and correctly handling the relation between, these two things.
So, based on that, it is important to turn directly to the question: How can freedom be wrenched out of this necessity to realize what is called for in the Call of World Can't Wait? And, first of all, what is the basis -- that is, the basis that exists particularly in the objective situation, including in the thinking, moods and sentiments of millions and millions of people (contradictory as they are) -- for achieving these objectives?
There is today a profound feeling of distress and outrage: of angst, agonizing and questioning-- not superficially but deeply questioning -- about the whole direction of society and the world, broadly among diverse strata in this society, involving tens of millions of people, in one form or another. And yet there is a tremendous gulf between that and not only what most of these people are presently doing, but what they are presently prepared to do about this situation.
So, although he was a political reactionary, it might be appropriate here to invoke a phrase from the poet T.S. Eliot: "between the idea and the reality falls the shadow." Or, reinterpreting that from a materialist standpoint: between what people are agonizing over and outraged over, on the one hand, and what they are called on objectively to do, in order to really address the causes of their anguish and anger, there looms a large "shadow," there is a tremendous gulf. This is a very acute contradiction. But it is important to recognize both sides of this contradiction. It is not simply that what people are doing, or are as yet prepared to do, still falls far short of what needs to be done; there is also the other side, which we have to grab hold of and build on, that they have very deep questions and are experiencing very profound anguish and agonizing. What is going on is not the ordinary questioning, or merely "philosophical ruminations" among a small stratum of society about what's going on in the world and "what's it all about." There is deep questioning, distress, outrage, and anger among broad sections of society, among every stratum of society, for that matter. What is needed, and urgently required, is to win masses of people to see the necessity and the possibility, and the concrete means, to actually bridge that gulf, to cross over that shadow, so to speak. That is at the heart of the work and struggle that is called for in order to realize the objectives of World Can't Wait.
This is not a matter of throwing out a fishing line in a pool stocked with trout -- all you have to do is put the bait out and everybody comes to it, to use an odious analogy. This is a matter of struggling with people, in a good way, to win them to rupture out of the killing confines of the dominant political framework and dynamics, and to take independent historical political action on a massive scale. This is not the same thing as calling on people to make revolution, now, let's be clear. What we're calling on people to do has a different basis of unity, as embodied in the Call of World Can't Wait. What is involved, what is urgently required now, is a matter of struggling to win people to rupture out of the killing confines of the established political framework by winning them to an understanding of the necessity and the possibility of doing so, and working together with them in a very concentrated and telescoped way to develop the concrete means for doing so. Once more, this will involve a lot of struggle, it will involve continually coming back to some of the bedrock questions that are bound up with all this.
And, yes, it involves a whole dimension of our bringing forward, in the appropriate ways, our full communist understanding of things in general and of how we see the relation of World Can't Wait, and its basis of unity and its objectives, to our full communist understanding and aims. Even while many people will continue to have differences with us over our communist viewpoint and our larger objectives of revolution, socialism, and ultimately a communist world -- and that is as it should be in the context of a broad united front like World Can't Wait -- at the same time the involvement of growing numbers of people, with a diversity of views, in wrangling over the big questions of what, in the largest sense, should be the character and the direction of society is a positive thing in itself that will help raise everyone's sights, and it will enable many more people, coming from many different viewpoints, to see both the need and the possibility of uniting together to take independent historical political action to achieve what is embodied in the Call and the main slogans of World Can't Wait.
So this gets us to the question of what are some of the keys, practically, but above all politically, and ideologically, to enabling the masses to get organized to make this a reality. Now without getting into here all the ins and outs of organizing the masses, and assisting the masses to organize themselves, around the objectives of World Can't Wait, it is important to recognize that the question of whether or not to do this itself involves, and in important ways concentrates, decisive questions of politics and ideology. It is important to identify, once again in a compressed and telescoped way, not only the general questions, politically and ideologically and in some aspects organizationally, that are presently a restraint, a fetter on masses of people, holding them back from coming forward, or coming forward more fully, in regard to World Can't Wait.
It is also important to continually, and in a very compressed way, identify the specific ways in which these questions are posing themselves at any given time, and address those questions and struggle with the masses over those questions. In other words, there's the broad general question of rupturing out of these killing confines, and why is it necessary to do that, and can we say it's possible to do that? But there's also the way that this poses itself at different times -- including the fact that, if you make advances in struggling over that, and as the world changes, it reasserts itself in somewhat different forms, which have particular expression, and it is necessary to address the particular expressions as well as the overall question.
This will repeatedly come up in relation to many specific things. It will come up, for example, in relation to the Supreme Court and Bush's recent nominations to that Court. What is the correct way to handle exposure around the Supreme Court nomination in relation to the objectives of the World Can't Wait? This is going to pose itself. So, too, will the question of the relation between building more powerful opposition to the war against Iraq and the movement to drive out the Bush regime. And events will keep posing new questions, and new ways in which the relation between particular events and struggles, on the one hand, and World Can't Wait, on the other hand, has to be approached. It is extremely important to handle these things -- the ways these questions continually get posed -- correctly, or else things will be set back all-around, and specifically with regard to World Can't Wait.
World Can't Wait, and in particular its website, needs to address, is addressing and will no doubt continue to be addressing these questions -- from the point of view of, and proceeding from the basis of unity of, World Can't Wait -- and that is very important. At the same time, there is also a need for our Party, proceeding from our full communist viewpoint and objectives, in particular through Revolution newspaper, to be doing compelling exposure and, yes, polemics around these questions, bringing to life for people why remaining within the confines of the dominant political framework is killing: recognizing the acute contradiction between what many people want the world to be like and, on the other hand, where it is actually heading, which is becoming a more and more acute contradiction for millions and tens of millions of people; bringing to life how that contradiction cannot be worked on in a positive way by staying within the killing confines of the established and dominant political framework. Once again, it will be necessary and important to continue to speak to that, from many different angles and in relation to many different concrete ways in which these contradictions get posed.
And there is an important organizational dimension to this -- actually assisting the masses to get organized and in turn to organize others to build World Can't Wait as an organized movement -- and that has to go on in an accelerated way. This involves both giving people a real sense of what it is possible for them to do, and assisting them in developing a fuller sense of how to go about doing those things and how to organize themselves and in turn organize others...to in turn organize others...to in turn organize others to take all this up.
Here I am speaking not only of high school students and the tremendously important role they can play in relation to the overall objectives of World Can't Wait (as well as, from our Party's perspective, their crucial role in relation to our full revolutionary objectives). But I am also speaking of college students, including those on campuses which have historically had and/or have today significant impact and influence on students and the development of a student movement.
There is a historic reason why people who work in the realm of ideas in a highly concentrated way have played a progressive role in history. Now, this is contradictory, and it differs in different periods, but nonetheless there is a definite and important phenomenon of students, including specifically students on college and university campuses, playing a key role in the development of movements of opposition and resistance -- and, yes, of revolutionary movements. This has been true historically in the U.S. and indeed throughout the world. And it is of great importance to recognize and build on this, while also recognizing the contradictions involved in this, and in particular the ways this finds expression in today's situation.
I remember when we had the Free Speech Movement and the anti-war movement in Berkeley, back in the '60s.4 We used to always be attacked as spoiled rich kids -- you know the whole line, you've heard it all. But what we were doing was extremely important, and it drew people from other parts of society, including basic masses who would come to the campus to see what was going on and often to join in. Now, in a certain sense, there was some reality that was being spoken to -- but, at the same time, being perversely turned into slander of the good things we were doing -- namely, we did have more opportunity than people who are weighed down so heavily by the daily grind of life and trying to survive and deal with all the madness. We did have more freedom relatively to pay attention to political and world affairs and to move politically around them. And we should recognize that as a strategically favorable factor for building a movement of mass resistance and, yes, ultimately for revolution -- and for the kind of revolution we should be striving for -- not a narrow and philistine one, frankly, but a lofty and liberating revolution.
Now, again, just to be clear, I'm certainly not saying we shouldn't go to the community colleges and, yes, on a massive scale, to high schools, and middle schools as well -- but there is also a tremendous potential for college and university students to get unleashed, and to unleash and organize others, and it is very important that this potential get realized, and maximized.
Now, at the same time, not only with strategic revolutionary considerations in mind, but more immediately and particularly with the objectives of World Can't Wait in mind, it's extremely important to bring forward a significant force of basic masses mobilized on a class-conscious revolutionary basis to be a backbone and driving force, even if it's in the thousands at this time, among literally millions who need to be mobilized around World Can't Wait. We have to bring to these basic masses the importance of this -- and we have to heighten their understanding of their own role in relation to the resistance of broader strata. This is important for strategic reasons, but it's also extremely important and takes concentrated expression now around World Can't Wait. Bringing this forward should be a significant element of the Revolutionary Communist Speaking Tour5, to cite one important aspect of things. And it should be a significant element of our all-around work among the basic masses: through Revolution newspaper and in other ways we should be calling on and leading these masses, and helping them to get organized, to take independent historical political action in a class-conscious way, in the context of World Can't Wait and also aiming toward strategic revolutionary objectives -- understanding class-consciousness in a broad and sweeping revolutionary sense, in the sense of being a motive force in revolutionizing the world and emancipating all of humanity, and not in a more narrow and reformist way.
Now, another important dimension of this is the need to pay consistent and systematic attention to what has been called " harvesting " -- reaping advances, not just in terms of broad and general political influence, but in terms of organization among the masses and organized ties with the masses -- harvesting, in that sense, in relation to every significant political movement, and every significant political event or action.
This has different particular application in different situations, and for different types of organizations, with their own particular identity and "integrity" as organizations and their own specific basis of unity. For example, this has particular application for World Can't Wait which is discrete and different from how it applies with regard to our Party. But, while it is very important to keep in mind and to act in accordance with these different particularities, there is also a more general principle that, in any political effort in which people need to not only be mobilized but also concretely organized, it is of great importance to pay consistent and systematic attention to this dimension of actually developing organized forms for people to be mobilized, and to mobilize others, to build an organized expression, at any given time, of the mass political mobilization.
And, once more, a key part of this is to find the ways for people who are coming forward in this movement at any given time to become part of that organization, in one form and on one level or another, in keeping with both the needs of the movement and the abilities and inclinations of different people, in terms of how they can best contribute to things overall. And an important part of that is enabling people to do specific and concrete things as part of the overall "division of labor." I mean this not in some narrow pragmatic sense of "giving people things to do," but in the sense of inspiring them with a sense of the objectives of the movement and what is required to achieve those objectives, and then helping them get organized and to organize others on that basis.
Now I want to come back to the basic question of what is the dialectical relation between World Can't Wait, with its basis of unity (as expressed in the Call), and our Party with our full-out communist viewpoint and objectives. Or, another way to put this is: what is our political objective with this whole World Can't Wait initiative, and how does this relate to our strategic revolutionary objectives?
Now, very much bound up with this is a question that repeatedly comes up, from what I've learned, among many people in relation to World Can't Wait -- this is something that we can expect to be repeatedly posed, something that we should want to be repeatedly posed, directly and explicitly as well as in more indirect ways -- and the question is: If we drive out this regime, what should replace it? What comes next?
Now, a definite tendency that I've observed from reports on our work is for comrades to do a whole "mush" around this, and in its worst expression to give a very dried-up, dogmatic, uninspiring version of what our whole strategic objectives are supposed to be -- of revolution for short -- which goes "left" and right at the same time. It goes "left" in the sense that it would push World Can't Wait, as such, too far in that direction, and then many people would say, "well, if that's what World Can't Wait is really all about, count me out." Let's be very clear: World Can't Wait is not a trick, it is not a means for maneuvering -- and what would amount to manipulating -- the masses into making revolution: you mobilize them behind something that you know can't be obtained, and then they find out it can't be obtained without revolution, so they say, "oh, I guess we need revolution." That is fundamentally wrong and unprincipled. And, besides being manipulative, it will backfire in any case, leaving many people feeling alienated and justifiably angry with so-called revolutionaries who would do that. It is a fundamental principle of revolution that people cannot be "tricked" into it -- or it is no revolution anyway -- but instead they must be won, they must become convinced themselves, on the basis of deeply grappling with reality, that revolution is necessary, is possible and is desirable. World Can't Wait, and our approach to World Can't Wait, is not some kind of trick, it is not a means of manipulating the masses. The objectives of World Can't Wait are real objectives around which masses, literally millions of people, can and must be united, and they have great importance in this sense. Once again, think of what it would mean if this actually did succeed in creating the kind of political situation in which the Bush regime actually were driven out, and its program massively repudiated. Think of what a tremendously positive impact that would have, even short of revolution. Think what the political situation would be like in the country and the world if that actually happened as a result of mass political upheaval and resistance, taking all kinds of political expressions. This is an actual political objective, and it has its own integrity, if you will, as such -- its own basis of unity. That's one thing. And then there's our Party's strategic revolutionary objective and how we, coming from that, see the relation between World Can't Wait, and its objectives, and our larger revolutionary objectives.
In basic terms, the question, "what comes next?" should be answered in this way: First of all, we do, and we must, take very seriously the objective of driving out this regime and massively repudiating its whole program and the whole direction in which it is dragging society and the world. It is not exaggeration or hyperbole to say that there will be no good outcome if a mass movement is not built that aims very seriously for this objective. And, on the positive side of things, we should pose to people: Think of how much more favorable the situation would be if everything this regime is doing and the whole direction in which it's taking things is repudiated in this massive way and it is forced to step down from its positions of power. Think of what a tremendous achievement that would be and what a great encouragement to people here and all over the world. And, as in all things, to invoke that line from Bob Dylan, we should not talk falsely but should talk honestly with people about how we understand things. It must be honestly said that it is not possible to determine now what exactly would come next, if we succeeded in driving out the Bush regime, just as it is not possible to indicate now the precise way, and through which particular combination of factors, the Bush regime could be forced out -- except to say that this can only happen through the mobilization of a truly massive political movement that succeeds in changing the whole terms of things, politically, in society and in compelling every force in society to respond to what it is doing politically and the demands it is raising. Many people involved in this effort will have many different views of the questions: how exactly can the Bush regime be driven out, and what should come next? That is something people involved in this movement are, and should be, engaging in discussion and struggle over, as they unite around the common objective of building massive political mobilization to drive out this regime and repudiate its program. And, as for our Party, we should both encourage others to bring forward their views on "what comes next" at the same time as we put forward our own views on that, while continuing to give emphasis as well to the fact that there are many people with many different views on this within World Can't Wait, but we are all united in understanding what a tremendous advance it would be, and how much more favorable the whole situation would be, if we actually achieved the objectives of World Can't Wait.
In the U.S. today, in the context of the attack on evolution that is a key part of an overall and concerted fascist agenda, even the very definition and the very character of science is being brought under attack. The notion that science should be "naturalistic and materialist" and deal with the material world and material explanations for the natural world -- this fundamental understanding is being brought under attack as narrow and suppressive of thinking -- and in opposition to this it is asserted that "we have to allow for theistic, religious explanations," in the realm of science.
This goes along with the many-sided attack on science: government reports being censored that say certain things about global warming that go against the agenda of the government; people being refused positions on scientific advisory boards on the basis of being explicitly asked whether they voted for Bush and not answering yes, and so on. Even the Scientific American, which is a very mainstream publication, came out with a major editorial within the last few months -- entitled "Bush League Lysenkoism," interestingly enough -- which talked about how the Bush regime is bending science to its purpose. So it is clear that there is a many- and all-sided attack on science. Now, they are going to let people do NASA and military research and other things that are necessary for the functioning of this system and the assertion of its dominance in the world, and they're not going to let everybody die of epidemic diseases -- although many people, particularly among those who are already poor and exploited, will increasingly be "allowed" to go without decent or even basic medical care -- but whether you can really do science in the way science needs to be done is a real and intensifying battle now. And when you're trying to change the definition of science -- if you smuggle in theistic and religious elements into the definition of science -- then science cannot really be practiced. "Well, maybe this epidemic is caused by a virus -- or maybe it's the devil. Those are two alternative explanations: which one do you want to deal with? We shouldn't suppress ideas, should we?" That's what can happen if you change the definition of science in this way. I'm not exaggerating. To invoke Richard Pryor's phrasing again, what is the logical conclusion of the logic here?
What is involved is a major battle in society over the question of epistemology. It is a political battle over a major ideological and, in particular, epistemological question. Somewhere recently I saw a bumper sticker, a Christian fundamentalist bumper sticker: "The Big Bang: God Said It and Bang, There It Was." This is not just some "crackpot" notion but represents a program, and a worldview, around which people -- people who have been denied an understanding of the principles of science and of the scientific method for investigating reality, and people who are being actively encouraged to grab hold of and cling ferociously to traditionalist absolutes -- are being mobilized to wage a determined political battle. And up to this point, the initiative in this battle has been way too much with the wrong side -- with the religious fundamentalist reactionaries and other fascists who are launching this all-around attack on science, in which evolution is a key battlefront and concentration point. The importance of this is something which people -- not only those involved in or particularly interested in the realm of science but people more broadly as well -- need to understand clearly.
And, yes, this does relate to the overall political battle to drive out the Bush regime. It adds a whole dimension to whether and how people conceive of the necessity of what is called for by World Can't Wait.
Another key arena of struggle in U.S. society now is the battle to defend dissent and critical thinking in academia. This is finding different expressions, but one of the most acute now is taking shape around Ward Churchill, a professor at the University of Colorado. He wrote an essay in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 which basically did say, "chickens come home to roost -- what do you expect, given what you've been doing in the world." And then he went further and, with regard to the people who were the functionaries of the corporations -- not everybody, but the people who were the functionaries of the corporations, the financial institutions in the World Trade Center -- he called them Little Eichmanns (referring to the Nazi Adolf Eichmann). And it is very interesting that nothing happened for a couple of years, and then he was invited to speak at a college in New York state, and all of a sudden there was an uproar; he ended up being "dis-invited," and, as I understand it, the whole department that invited him came under attack at that college. The governor of New York called for Churchill's head, said he should be fired, and the governor of Colorado, where Churchill teaches, called for his firing -- explicitly because of these statements Churchill made in relation to 9/11. But this was a bit complicated and problematical for these reactionaries because at the same time the governor of Colorado has been involved in a campaign, waged under the banner of "academic freedom" and "fairness in academia," to picture right-wing members and would-be members of university faculties as "victims" of some "left-wing dictatorship" in academia. This is a crusade in which David Horowitz is playing a front-line role. (Horowitz is a former self-described "left-wing radical" who has turned into a right-wing attack dog, with ties at the highest levels of the Republican Party and the fascist core within that Party.) Horowitz stepped into the picture and "redirected" the attack on Churchill, arguing that he shouldn't be fired for statements he made in relation to 9/11 -- since that would represent suppression of free speech and academic freedom!! -- but instead Churchill should be "investigated" and then fired for alleged academic fraud and violations of academic standards -- fire him because he has said that the U.S. gave smallpox-infested blankets to Indians and his footnote on that is supposedly not accurate, and he's claimed that he's so many sixteenths Native American, and that's open to question. And, lo and behold, the focus of the attack on Churchill has shifted along these lines. So it's kind of like, "wink-wink, we won't fire him for what he said, we'll fire him on some other fabricated basis -- things that have already been reviewed by academic committees as part of the normal academic process will be reviewed again, in a different way and a different context -- but everybody will know why we're really firing him."
So, this is now the way things are proceeding, with "investigations" of Churchill's academic performance and allegations of fraud and academic misconduct on his part -- and if they get away with this, that will be a major setback for critical thinking and dissent, in academia and in society overall. And it will be a major setback for everything we are about. So this represents a major battle that has to be taken up, it has become a concentrated focus of a larger battle to defend dissent and critical thinking in academia. The question is not simply one of "academic freedom" in some general sense. It involves, or overlaps with, the question of academic freedom, and in this regard it is crucial to uphold the principle of not only allowing but encouraging the pursuit of the truth and the engagement with many different ideas, in academia in particular as well as more generally in society, and to distinguish this from the phony banner of "fairness in academia" -- and the fabricated notion of "persecution of conservatives" in academia -- which is being hoisted by Horowitz and others as a cover for harassing and hounding people in academia who are on "the left" -- or who raise criticisms or even significant questions about the character of American society and America's role in the world. It is crucial to grasp the particularity of what is going on now -- that what is specifically under attack is precisely dissent and critical thinking in academia. What is under attack -- and, again, in waging this attack people like Horowitz have close ties and support right up to the highest levels of the current regime, including people like Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne, a prominent reactionary in her own right, who has also launched major attacks on progressive professors and others in academia -- what is under attack is the whole idea that the campus can be a place where you can raise fundamental questions, and there can be open discussion and debate, concerning the nature of this society and what this system and its government does in the world.
So we can see the great importance of this battle to defend critical thinking and dissent in academia, both in its own right and in how it relates to the society as a whole and to larger battles taking place in society. Earlier, I was speaking about the importance of colleges and universities in building mass movements of political resistance, including World Can't Wait. Well, imagine what it will mean if they succeed in transforming the sphere of academia into a place where you can't do that, and where there's no political atmosphere to do it, where the faculty are afraid to step out and support any of this and the students are intimidated from becoming involved in these kinds of movements. And, on the other side, think of what it will mean, and the powerful positive impact it will have, if this attack can be turned back, through political resistance in which both faculty and students take part, and in that way a major political defeat is handed to the forces who are seeking to suppress critical thinking and dissent in academia -- and who are doing that as part of a larger and overall move to chill and suppress critical thinking and dissent in society as a whole. Think of how this relates to the battle to defend science, how it connects up with the movement to drive out the Bush regime. And, yes, on another level, think of how all this relates to the strategic objectives of our Party: to abolish this whole system which has given rise to the monstrosity of the Bush regime and which has carried out, and continues to carry out, countless other crimes against humanity -- to abolish this system and replace it with a new system, new relations among people and a new world, in which the great majority of the people, and ultimately all of humanity, can truly flourish.
This brings me to the whole effort to Set the Record Straight with regard to the historical experience of socialist society and the goal of a communist world. I have heard that some people have raised whether our Party sees World Can't Wait as a means through which we can influence people to have a more favorable view of communism and to build up our Party. Well, the short answer to that is no -- that is not the basis and the orientation with which we have been very actively involved in World Can't Wait. I have already spoken to how we see the importance of World Can't Wait and of actually building a very broad and diverse movement of political resistance to achieve the objectives that are set forth in the Call of World Can't Wait. At the same time, we do of course think it is of decisive importance to influence people to have a more favorable view -- that is to say, to have a more correct and truthful understanding -- of what communism is all about and what the historical experience of socialist societies seeking to advance toward the goal of communism has been all about. And we work to do that openly, through our own efforts and through forms that are appropriate for that -- through our newspaper and other media of the Party, through the promotion and popularization of the body of work of our Chairman and the development of a culture of appreciation for his work and his role, and through the development of efforts like Setting the Record Straight.
Right now the focus of Setting the Record Straight is a speaking tour that Raymond Lotta has embarked on, which is focusing at this point on college campuses. The title of his talk -- "Socialism Is Much Better Than Capitalism, and Communism Will Be a Far Better World" -- clearly sets forth the basic theme, and the body of his talk gives substance to this provocative title. And while, again, this is definitely an effort with its own objectives, and is something altogether separate from things like World Can't Wait, it is true that it has an indirect relation, so to speak, to the political movement that is being built to drive out the Bush regime and massively repudiate its whole program. This relationship -- and the way in which this can make a contribution to this movement, even while being separate from it -- relates to the point that is made in the presentation by Raymond Lotta on Setting the Record Straight, where he speaks about how the concerted and all-sided effort to slander and discredit communism has as one of its main purposes, and effects, the placing of a ceiling above people's heads, in terms of their political vision and aspirations and their worldview. And that is not just a ceiling, it is also a weight pushing people down, lowering their sights, even about struggling for things short of revolution, let alone a whole different world. The more that people are conditioned to believe that there is no alternative to the present system -- and that it is a waste of time, or beyond the realm of reason, to even engage as a serious question and seek to scientifically evaluate the experience of the previous attempts at bringing forward a radical alternative, in the socialist societies that have existed so far -- the more they are shackled in their conception of what is possible and in their desire and determination to resist the current disastrous direction of things and to wrestle with the possibility of whether and how things could really be different.
And here a very important point needs to be underlined: Every attack and slander against communism helps to reinforce the notion that this world of capitalism and imperialism is the only possible world, and that the masses of people must learn to accept their lot under this system, and in this world, with all its horrors; or it helps to drive people under the sway of forces and programs that cannot lead to a way out of these horrors and to the emancipation of the oppressed and exploited, throughout the world (and ultimately the emancipation of humanity as a whole). It serves to perpetuate a dialectic (and a vicious cycle) in which dead-end and reactionary opposition to the dominant imperialist system, and that imperialist system itself, reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. This is what we sometimes capture in the slogan (it's the title of a book actually) Jihad vs. McWorld, which doesn't cover all of it but speaks to a significant expression of this phenomenon: masses of people are trapped in this dynamic where these two things reinforce each other, even while opposing each other; and, spontaneously and increasingly under the sway of these things -- and with the notion that the kind of better world that actually needs to be brought into being, a communist world, is impossible and undesirable -- the masses are not able to break out of the vicious cycle and are more and more drawn into it.
But on the positive side, there is a great potential for Setting the Record Straight to provoke and stimulate mass debate and wrangling over the question of whether this is the best of all possible worlds, after all, and is a radical alternative possible; to help raise the sights of growing numbers of people and inspire them with a radically different vision and sense of how another world actually could be possible, and what that world would be like. This is important, obviously, in relation to our Party's strategic revolutionary objectives; but, in the way I have spoken to here, it is also important in relation to taking this ceiling away, lifting this weight off people, so they can see not only the possibility of changing the world in the largest and most strategic sense, but also in terms of important things that are short of revolution -- while, from our point of view, they contribute to it -- in particular the movement to drive out the Bush regime. This is because the more that people have a sense of -- or at least are engaging the question of -- the possibility of change in a most fundamental way, the more they will see the possibility and, yes, the necessity to resist, even in ways short of that -- the more they will be motivated to resist the crimes and outrages of this system and the whole direction in which society and the world is being dragged. And, on the other side of this dialectic, the more they come forward and are mobilized in resistance, the more they will lift their heads and raise their sights and engage and wrangle with the questions: Is another world really possible, what should that world really be like, and how can we get there?
This underscores again the importance of our Party proceeding in accordance with the principle: resistance on the basis of revolution. Now that doesn't mean that we go out to organize and unite with people by saying: "We need revolution, so resist." Many people will come at this from a different perspective, not agreeing with or seeing the need or possibility or desirability of revolution at a given time. And, again, that is inevitably and necessarily a part of any broad united front -- and, in that sense, it is "as it should be." But what I am speaking to here is the question of what is our perspective, and how are we approaching this, from what strategic standpoint. We need to be approaching the movement to drive out the Bush regime -- and, for that matter, everything we do -- with the perspective of working to advance toward our strategic goals of revolution, socialism, and ultimately a communist world; and we should openly and honestly put this forward and talk with people about why we are approaching things from this perspective, and what that means, even as we are not only uniting broadly with many people and forces with many diverse views but are also encouraging them to put forward their viewpoints and engaging in lively and principled discussion and struggle with them over all kinds of questions, including the big question of what kind of world is desirable and possible and what is required to get to such a world.
1. This was discussed in the previous excerpt from this talk, "More on 'The Coming Civil War,'" Revolution 29 (January 8, 2006).
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2. This Call can be found online at worldcantwait.net.
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3. In the aftermath of the November 2 actions called by World Can't Wait, the focus of this movement has now become Bush's January 31 State of the Union speech and massive mobilization, in cities around the country on that day and in Washington D.C., on February 4, the Saturday after that, around not only the main slogan ("The World Can't Wait -- Drive Out the Bush Regime!") but also the specific demand: "Bush Step Down! And Take Your Program With You!"
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4. See Bob Avakian's memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist (Chicago: Insight Press, 2005). Avakian speaks about this experience of the Free Speech Movement and other movements of the '60s in Chapter Six, "Your Sons and Daughters..."
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5. The Revolutionary Communist Tour is a nationwide speaking tour of revolutionaries indicting the capitalist system for oppression of Black people and aiming to build a communist movement among the people at the bottom of society.
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