Issue No 2, Summer-Fall 2012
KJA: "Scientifically Comprehending, Firmly Upholding And Going Beyond Maoism for a New Stage of Communism—Polemical Reflections on 'What Is Maoism?' An Essay by Bernard D'Mello"
Bob Avakian: "The Cultural Revolution in China...Art and Culture...Dissent and Ferment...and Carrying Forward the Revolution Toward Communism"
Raymond Lotta: "Vilifying Communism and Accommodating Imperialism, The Sham and Shame of Slavoj Žižek's 'Honest Pessimism'"
"The Current Debate on the Socialist State System"—A Reply by the RCP, USA
Letter to the Editors and Reply
We thought that this would be of interest to readers of Demarcations:
Since the inaugural issue of Demarcations, the world has witnessed renewed upsurge, with mass social movements in Egypt and elsewhere capturing the imagination of and stirring defiance among broad sections of people who find the present order intolerable. This fresh wind of resistance and revolt has also been felt in the rebellions in London, in the Occupy and other youth and protest movements, while revolutionary struggles and resistance continue in various parts of the Third World.
Puncturing people's belief in, as Marx put it, "the permanent necessity of existing conditions", this renewal of upsurge has also brought fundamental questions to the fore: Of revolution – what is it? Of leadership – is it needed, and of what type? Of the state (and its armies and police) – should it be confronted, and can it be confronted? And what it means for the masses to make history. Most of all, the decisive question getting posed is what social change and what future are desirable and possible – and what constitutes freedom and emancipation.
Some of these crucial questions, posed by the Egypt upsurge and the Occupy movements, were addressed in the polemic against the political philosophy of Alain Badiou that appeared in the first issue of Demarcations: "Alain Badiou's 'Politics of Emancipation': A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World." That polemic takes on new relevance in light of recent developments in the world, and we encourage readers to (re)engage with and respond to it. We also call readers' attention to Bob Avakian's statements on the Egypt uprising [revcom.us/avakian/Egypt/Egypt2011-en.html] and the Occupy movements [revcom.us/a/250/avakian_on_the_occupy_movement-en.html].
What is achingly missing in these new crucibles of struggle is a vision of a radically different society, and how to get there – which focuses up the question of communist leadership. The fact is, a viable and liberatory alternative to this world of horrors – and the kind of leadership needed to bring a new world into being – is concentrated in Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism. This new synthesis needs to be much more widely known, engaged, and taken up.
Why Demarcations? Why Now?
Demarcations: A Journal of Communist Theory and Polemic seeks to set forth, defend, and further advance the theoretical framework for the beginning of a new stage of communist revolution in the contemporary world. This journal will promote the perspectives of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement. Without drawing sharp dividing lines between communism as a living, critical, and developing science serving the emancipation of humanity, on the one hand, and other perspectives, paths, and programs that cannot lead to emancipation, on the other – whether openly reformist or claiming the mantle or moniker of "communism"—without making such demarcations, it will not be possible to achieve the requisite understanding and clarity to radically change the world. Demarcations will contribute to achieving that clarity.
In the wrangling spirit of Marxism, Demarcations will also delve into questions and challenges posed by major changes in the world today. The last quarter-century has seen intensified globalization, growing urbanization and shantytown-ization in the Third World, the rise of religious fundamentalism, shifting alignments in the world imperialist system, and the acceleration of environmental degradation. Demarcations will examine such changes, the discourses that have grown up in connection with them, and the ideological, political, and strategic implications of such developments for communist revolution. Demarcations will also undertake theoretical explorations of issues of art, science, and culture.
Demarcations makes its appearance at a particular historical juncture in the communist project, one best characterized as the "end of a stage, the beginning of a new stage."
The first wave of socialist revolutions and societies began with the short-lived Paris Commune of 1871, the first attempt to overthrow and replace bourgeois rule. It took a leap with the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, and went further and took yet another leap with the Chinese revolution of 1949, in particular the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976. This first wave came to an end in 1976 with the overthrow of proletarian power and restoration of capitalist rule in China.
This first wave of socialist societies in the Soviet Union (1917-1956) and China (1949-1976) constituted an unprecedented and inspiring breakthrough in liberation for humanity. At the same time, and not surprisingly, this first wave was secondarily marked by shortcomings and mistakes; and while not the cause of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union and China, these shortcomings did nonetheless play a role in the defeats of these revolutions.
With the end of this first stage, communists have been confronted with the objective responsibility of scientifically summing up the lessons and legacy of these revolutions and the rich experience of exercising state power towards the transition to communism, in order to forge the theoretical framework for going forward.
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, has risen to that challenge and in the process qualitatively advanced communist theory. He has developed a theoretical framework for the new stage of communist revolutions, a new synthesis. This new synthesis is not a pasting-together of the "best of the previous experience" and the criticisms of these experiences. Rather, as Communism: The Beginning of A New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, puts it, the new synthesis "builds on all that has gone before, theoretically and practically, drawing the positive and negative lessons from this, and raising this to a new, higher level of synthesis."
In terms of philosophy and method, the new synthesis establishes communism even more fully and firmly on a scientific foundation. It deepens understanding of the material basis for internationalism and why, in an ultimate and overall sense, the world arena is most decisive, even in terms of revolution in a particular country. On the character of the dictatorship of the proletariat, Avakian has brought forward a model of socialism as a vibrant and dynamic society – characterized by great ferment, dissent, experimentation, and initiative – that is also a revolutionary transition to communism. The new synthesis also comprehends a breakthrough in the strategic approach to revolution in today's world, in particular an orientation for making revolution in the imperialist countries such as the U.S. For more, go to bobavakian.net.
As the Manifesto, Communism: The Beginning of A New Stage, points out, Bob Avakian's new synthesis objectively stands in opposition to two seemingly alternate but in fact mirror-opposite conceptions of communism that, among those who consider themselves, or at one time considered themselves, to be communists, have emerged in response to the defeat of the first wave.
In a nutshell, the first conception buys into the bourgeois verdict that the socialist societies in the Soviet Union and China in the 20th century were fundamentally flawed and oppressive – marked by the "totalitarian," "bureaucratic," and undemocratic "dictatorship of the party." Central to this conception is the rejection of what some of its adherents term the "party-state" framework, that is, the need to seize state power and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat as the transition to communism, and the need for the leadership of the vanguard party through this process.
Intertwined with this negative appraisal of the historical experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat is the supposition that revolution and the actual seizure of state power are no longer possible. This is accompanied by a rejection, sometimes expressly so and sometimes thinly lacquered with Marxist rhetoric, of the philosophy of dialectical materialism and of historical materialism (the scientific understanding of the development and transformation of human society based on the application of materialist dialectics). In their stead is the wholesale adoption of pragmatism and empiricism, the worship of bourgeois democracy, either explicitly or in the form of "new" thinking, that blunts the antagonistic contradiction of the masses with the capitalist-imperialist or dependent neocolonial state and affords the state "agency," unmoored and severed from the underlying production relations of society. This ends up, ultimately, in the advocacy of all manner of economism and reformism.
The second conception clings uncritically, in a quasi-religious way, to previous socialist experience – thus ranging itself against a scientific approach to historical summation of the communist project and to the further advance of the communist project in making revolution and emancipating humanity.
Starting in the 1970s, there has also been an ebbing worldwide of revolutionary and national liberation struggles that has given strength to these trends – as has a relentless imperialist-bourgeois ideological assault on the communist experience and the communist project in the wake of the defeat of socialism in China in 1976, and in some ways heightened with the fall of the revisionist (state-capitalist) Soviet Union in 1990-91.
As the Manifesto from the RCP, USA, further points out, both of these conceptions share significant features. These include pragmatism in place of science; a profound lack of engagement with and appreciation for "Mao Tsetung's path-breaking analysis concerning the danger of and basis for capitalist restoration in socialist society... [and] with what principles and objectives Mao initiated and led this Cultural Revolution." Further, both of these conceptions hold in common a retreat to the past, either to the previous stage of socialist revolution, or even further back to the era of bourgeois revolution and its principles, "to what are in essence 18th century theories of (bourgeois) democracy, in the guise, or in the name, of '21st-century communism...'"
The Manifesto concludes this discussion with the following call:
Demarcations is taking up this call and challenge to be part of the vanguard of the future.
To put it concisely, Demarcations is the polemical engagement of the new synthesis with other conceptions and approaches to the "problem" of the oppression and exploitation of world humanity...and its solution, to "what is to be done" to make revolution and emancipate humanity. Through articles and polemics, as well as through moderated debates and exchanges, Demarcations aims to assist those seeking a better world to compare and contrast various theoretical perspectives and programs and to draw a broader audience into a deeper understanding of and engagement with communism, as a living and developing science, and its most advanced expression in the new synthesis.
Demarcations takes to heart Bob Avakian's injunction that "transformation goes through a lot of different 'channels,' and is not tied in a positivist or reductionist or linear way to however the main social contradictions are posing themselves at a given time." He is underscoring the relative autonomy and initiative of the superstructure; and the journal plans over time, as mentioned earlier, to feature articles on art, debates on communist ethics and values, and science. In this spirit, Demarcations will interrogate various political and theoretical trends exerting influence in the current conjuncture.
We invite correspondence in response to articles in Demarcations and in connection with questions and controversies falling within the broad scope of this mission statement. We also encourage suggestions and proposals for future issues. We aim to reach tens of thousands across the globe, in movements, in colleges and universities, and at sites of struggle and resistance – while also forging the ways and means for growing cores to support the mission of this journal. We welcome your input, feedback, and participation.