Not Socialist, and Not Organizing for Revolution…
But There Is a Path to Emancipation
by Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution
To Those Attracted to the
You look at the world and
it’s a fucking horror.
Life is a living hell from
the slums of Mumbai to the favelas of Rio, from the brothels of Bangkok to the sweatshops of Shenzen, from the mines of South Africa to the prisons of the United States.
Global climate change; U.S. wars and aggression; global food crisis;
repression; attacks against gays and lesbians, against women, against Black
people, against immigrants, and against the poor; toxic social relations and a
world of alienation – all driven by the workings of this system of
Humanity needs revolution, communist
revolution. This is a revolution
that defeats and dismantles the whole repressive apparatus of the current
order. A revolution that establishes a new state power that enables people to
carry out the most thoroughgoing economic, social, and ideological
transformations towards a communist world: where people work and struggle
together for the common good…where everyone contributes whatever they can to
society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human
beings…where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over
and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but
also of knowledge and the means for really understanding, and acting to change,
But the ISO has nothing –
absolutely nothing – to do with real revolution. The ISO has nothing to do with communism or
forging a radically different world. As I will show, the ISO:
over the nature and workings of imperialism.
the instrumentalities needed for real emancipation: the dictatorship of the
proletariat as transition to communism and the leadership of a genuine vanguard
with the bourgeoisie in vilifying the most liberating revolutionary experience
in history – that of the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1956 and China from 1949
What is in contention here
are two utterly different projects. One is genuine communist
revolution, what Marx describes as the “two most radical ruptures”-- with
traditional property relations and with traditional ideas--and that ushers in a
new epoch of human emancipation and in which humanity can act as caretakers of
the planet. The other project is the ISO’s paltry and puny vision of a “worker's
democracy”-- which leaves the world fundamentally unchanged and which, in
the real world, can only amount to socializing the spoils of imperialist
Or as Bob Avakian, Chairman
of the Revolutionary Communist Party, succinctly put it, speaking to someone in
the forerunner to the ISO years ago, “The problem with you and your group is
hate communism much more than you hate capitalism.”
PAPERING OVER IMPERIALISM, A
“SOCIALISM” LOCKED WITHIN THE PRESENT ORDER
In their publication, Where We Stand: The Politics of the International Socialist Organization, the ISO
attempts to define capitalism and describe its negative effects – such as the
fact that, “In the United States, the top 1 percent of people own more wealth
than the bottom 90 percent combined.” However,
not once in this opening indictment do they mention imperialism,
in particular the great global divide between the handful of oppressor nations
and those they dominate!
By leaving out any real
scientific sense of imperialism, the ISO obscures the fact that the top 1% of
the U.S. did not gain their
wealth mainly through the exploitation of the 90% in the U.S., but through the plunder and
exploitation of oppressed humanity throughout the world. The stark reality is that even the bottom 90%
in the U.S.
have their standard of living subsidized by this world-wide exploitation.
This is not merely an
omission. When the ISO does finally get
around to discussing their version of “internationalism,” and naming
imperialism, they argue that production is increasingly internationalized, that
“interdependence is so deep-rooted that no nation is capable of economic life
cut off from the rest of the world without suffering severe dislocation,” and
they recount many horrific invasions and occupations waged by the U.S.
But imperialism is not just
that capitalism is more globally interdependent than ever before. Nor, is it simply the greater use of force,
military aggression, or the quest for being the number one power. Imperialism
is the highest stage of capitalism in which the competitive accumulation of
capital proceeds through huge monopolistic concentrations and blocs of finance
capital…through the division of the world into oppressor and oppressed
nations…and through rivalry between a handful of rich capitalist countries for
global supremacy. The ISO declares that colonies have disappeared; they do not speak about the no less brutal neocolonialism in the Third
The U.S. economy is
in fact the “home base” to a global network of exploitation, oppression, and
plunder. This reality shapes everything about the way the U.S. functions,
internationally and domestically. It underlies the vast wealth of this
country and conditions the huge middle class and layers of what Lenin called
“bourgeoisified” workers. And on the
basis of the international position of U.S.
imperialism, the ruling class relentlessly promotes U.S. chauvinism, which permeates
the thinking of people very broadly throughout this country.
The ISO softens all of this.
Why? Because their’s is a “socialism” locked within the confines of, and
acceptable to, the current imperialist order.
It is reformist and chauvinist.
WHAT WILL REPLACE THIS SYSTEM
– A NEW REVOLUTIONARY STATE POWER, OR THE ISO'S “WORKER'S DEMOCRACY”?
Let’s compare and contrast a
scientific understanding of socialism with that of ISO. Real socialism is three
things. It is a new economic system
based on socialist state ownership, socialist planning, and social
cooperation--where social production is carried out to meet social need, to
overcome all oppressive relations and divisions, to advance the world
revolution, and to safeguard the ecosystems of the planet. Socialism is a new form of class and political rule, the dictatorship of the
proletariat, in which the formerly exploited and oppressed, in alliance with
the great majority of society, have the right and ability to take
responsibility for the direction of society and to carry out the all-around
transformation of society. And socialism is a revolutionary transition, of continuing struggle,
experimentation, and transformation toward
communism, a society and world without classes.
Socialism requires digging up
and overcoming all vestiges of exploitation. It requires digging up and
overcoming all the inequalities and oppressive divisions generated by and
deeply embedded within class society: the division between mental and manual
labor, the domination of women by men, the oppression of whole nations and
peoples, enforced ignorance and superstition, and more.
But this is not what the ISO
is about. In place of the revolutionary overthrow of this imperialist overlord
of humanity, and the most radical transformation of society, the ISO offers
instead a paltry vision of workers seizing control of “the whole machinery of production
and distribution” and reorganizing production and distribution according to a
contentless “democratic plan.” They write:
“Socialism must involve the active seizure of
control over the workplaces by workers themselves, as well as the formation by workers
themselves of democratically elected institutions of struggle and control, in
order to socialize production and transform it into the property of the people
as a whole. Without this component, it
will not be possible to reverse the distorted priorities of capitalism and
replace them with the humane priorities of socialism.”
Here are a few questions that
those serious about emancipation should consider:
- Should it be left to a mass vote by “the
workers” to decide whether to undergo the tremendous sacrifice of building
an economy no longer grounded in exploitation around the world? No! Genuine internationalism must be a
foundational principle of the new revolutionary state – the
dictatorship of the proletariat – and the unparalleled democracy that
is practiced in socialist society is inspired by and aims to emancipate
all of humanity.
- What about the social relations within the
workplaces and throughout the rest of society? Should it be left to these “democratically
elected institutions of struggle and control” to decide whether society
should exert special efforts to overcome the legacy of the oppression of
Black, Chicano, and other oppressed nationalities, or to advance the
struggle for women’s emancipation, and to protect the rights of gays and lesbians?
No! These rights and priorities must be enshrined in the new state and
the vanguard party must lead in focusing attention and fostering struggle,
dissent, protest and rebellion until all the vestiges of oppression and
traditional thinking are uprooted.
- What of education and culture? Should it be left to a vote as to whether
evolution will be taught in the school? No! This must be mandated by
the revolutionary authority because people have a right and a need to
understand the foundations of science and the scientific method more
generally. Will people in the
new society still be bombarded by a culture that fosters ignorance and
selfishness, that degrades women and oppressed peoples, that elevates the
trivial and a gossip-culture? No! A radically liberating culture that
raises peoples sights to a whole new world and way of being and relating
must be promoted, at the same time that there must be space for diverging
It is a basic truth: the
oppressed must emancipate themselves. But this can only happen if there is the
leadership of a far-sighted, scientific communist vanguard which has a firm
grasp of the communist goal and a method of leading that unleashes conscious
and multi-channel struggle from among the people to radically change the world
and themselves. This can only happen if there is a state of a new kind, the
dictatorship of the proletariat: to defeat attempts to restore capitalism, to
ensure the rights of the people, and to provide conditions for the revolution
to continue to advance.
EVERYTHING YOU'VE BEEN TOLD
ABOUT COMMUNISM, INCLUDING BY THE ISO, IS WRONG!
The ISO rejects the
dictatorship of the proletariat. They
reject the seizure of state power. They
liquidate the need for a genuine communist vanguard party.
And they join with the
capitalist rulers and ideologues to heap lies and slander and scorn on the
first attempts in modern history to create societies free of exploitation and
oppression. They join the chorus condemning Mao and Stalin as power-hungry
tyrants who intentionally caused great suffering. They negate the experience of
hundreds of millions of slaves rising up and the most advanced revolutionary
leadership that had been forged through that time.
In the Soviet Union from 1917
to 1956 and going even further in China from 1949 to 1976, the masses
not only took great strides in overcoming chronic hunger, epidemic diseases and
staggering poverty. In these societies,
millions of formerly exploited and oppressed were led to lift their heads and
stormed the heavens – radically transforming social relations, casting off
ignorance and superstition, bringing forward new and liberating culture, and
inspiring people worldwide in the process.
All of this achieved its
greatest heights during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR). The anti-communist narrative is that this was
a violent and bloody power struggle led by Mao in order to retrench and
consolidate power for its own sake. This
could not be further from the truth. During the GPCR, the Maoist leadership brought
millions into the defense and wielding of revolutionary state power, led
millions to rise up to overthrow those in top authority dragging China back
down the road to capitalism, and to criticize and supervise leadership. The
Cultural Revolution, and the leadership given by Mao, raised the capacity of
the masses to take part increasingly in administering the ongoing
transformation of society towards complete liberation. Never before – and never since – has there
been such a flowering of liberating culture, of revolutionary energy and
enthusiasm, of the values of “serve the people,” or of massive and many-sided
society-wide debate and participation.
By vilifying this liberating
history, the ISO aids the bourgeoisie in closing the door on human emancipation. Further, because their anti-communism
masquerades as “socialism” it is all the more insidious, precisely among
those who are rising up, searching for answers, and who need this truth the
GENUINE COMMUNISM IS ALIVE IN
BOB AVAKIAN'S NEW SYNTHESIS AND LEADERSHIP
The Soviet and Chinese
revolutions opened whole new vistas for humanity. At the same time, they had
shortcomings and errors – even grievous errors. All of this must be learned from in order to
once again make revolution and to go even further this time.
Fortunately for humanity, Bob
Avakian has done this work.
Because of Bob Avakian and
the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative
experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range
of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been
brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically
new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership
that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal.
Based on Avakian’s new
synthesis communism, the Revolutionary Communist Party has published the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic of North America (Draft Proposal) which offers a visionary and
practical framework for a new economy and political system based on genuine
internationalism, care for the environment and meeting people’s material needs
and at the same time fostering unprecedented ferment and debate, dissent and
protest, and cultural and intellectual and artistic expressions that strike out
in many directions.
With their disdain for and repudiation of all things
genuinely communist, it should come as no surprise that many in and around the
ISO have an unprincipled history of discouraging students and others from
checking out Bob Avakian. It should come as no surprise that many in and around
the ISO traffic in the reactionary notion that the emphasis put on Bob Avakian
by genuine revolutionaries reflects the thinking of a “cult.”
THEY FEAR REVOLUTIONARY UPHEAVAL AND TRANSFORMATION
At its core, the ISO’s
politics and program represent the outlook of the petty bourgeoisie: the small
capitalists and intermediate strata who can at times be very militant in their
opposition to the extremes of imperialism (the increasing gap of wealth and
poverty, unjust wars, corporate power, etc.), but who even more deeply fear the
upheaval, dislocation, sacrifice and rupture required to transform this world
of horrors into something liberating.
While many with the outlook
of the petty bourgeoisie can be won to the side of the revolution, when this
outlook masquerades as “socialism,” as it does with the ISO, it is revisionism-reformism,
and can only do harm and lead people away from revolution. What the ISO
embodies and fights for is “socialism-lite” – the no-sweat, no-sacrifice, easy
way to not make revolution.
A CHALLENGE – AND A BASIC STANDARD – TO EVERYONE SERIOUS
ABOUT REAL LIBERATION
But for those of you who want to see humanity free of this
world of unending horror…
Do not tolerate – and do fight against – any suggestion
that these questions should be dismissed based on anti-communist prejudices
against leadership and the history of communism.
Too much is at stake for humanity to do anything less.
To find the main works in this letter:
COMMUNISM:THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE: A Manifesto from the RCP, USA
Labels: Bob Avakian, communism, dictatorship of the proletariat, imperialism, International Socialist Organization, internationalism, ISO, Marxism, RCP, revisionism, revolution, socialism, Trotskyism