Saturday, March 12, 2016

(An excerpt from a critique "The Promise of Communism, The 'Four Alls' ", and Bob Avakian's New Synthesis", written by Daunte Reed)

...“And I said, ‘aw, come on, now’ ”, RCP!—Can you Tell Us What Communism IS?
And of course, the other part of “lighting up the skies” is “the future we are fighting for”. And this is also what I’m trying to get at here. I think the vision of communism as understood and propagated by the RCP, (with notable exceptions!) is somewhat impoverished (maybe I really mean something like “diminished”, “lacking”). The same can be said about the worldwide communist movement historically. That’s a pretty strong characterization. I say “somewhat”, because there is so much richness and wealth in there as well. But, for me, the operative word is “impoverished”, because something (or maybe more than something) is lacking, missing, of vital importance, which must be there, spelled out, shouted from the highest heights—and isn’t— something vital to an understanding of what our cause should be all about. And BA’s [Bob Avakian's] new synthesis is a basic (yes, I will use the term) “revelation” in this regard—in all of its components.
[Avakian's] discussion of “epochal contrast” and how communist society will “[embody] a conception of freedom in a much greater dimension and, yes, a positive character, as well as encompassing aspects of negative freedom” captures it. It is well worth going back over that excerpt from BA, and pondering what is being said. And, again, this, in essence, is what has (in significant ways, if not totally) been missing from the portrayal of communism.
This can be brought to life in a powerful way. Indeed, in places, it has been. And, as I’ve suggested in previous writings—..., more than anything, what characterizes the “epochal contrast”, and at the heart of it all, is that humanity becomes a “conscious collectivity” of freely associating, mutually flourishing inhabitants of Earth. This is the freedom that communism opens up, and that we aspire to. And this is true as opposed to all the other major, vital, defining characteristics of that epochal contrast [such as the social ownership of the means of production, a new relationship between production and distribution (“from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs), etc.]. [This could be misleading or misinterpreted. I don't mean to belittle, or negate such characteristics by using the phrase “as opposed to”. But, I do want to, perhaps, elevate the concept of “conscious collectivity”, or “community of humanity” to a more overall and encompassing way in which communism might be envisioned and/or defined (DR, January 15, 2016)]
This is what the emancipation of humanity is fundamentally about. Once again:
    ...This freedom lies fundamentally and essentially in the ability of people to act together, and to struggle over how to act together, to radically transform society, in interrelation with transforming nature: to first of all uproot exploitation and oppression and social antagonism and move to a whole new era beyond all that, and then to interact with each other, and with nature, through non-antagonistic relations, to continue transforming the world and, yes, people, on an increasingly conscious and voluntary basis... This is a very powerful expression of positive freedom” ([Bob Avakian] from the quote from “Birds...Crocodiles...” referenced above)
I mean, you can go down the list of the Four Alls elucidated by Karl Marx:  
    ...the proletariat rallies more and more around revolutionary Socialism, around Communism... ... the declaration of the permanence of the revolution, the class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the [1] abolition of class distinctions generally, [2] to the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest, [3] to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, [4] to the revolutionizing of all the ideas that result from these social relations.” [the 4 Alls]
    from: Karl Marx, The Civil Wars in France, (Abstract of Chapter 3) Online Version: Marx/Engels Selected Works ( 1999
This has been the most concentrated expression of what we have referred to as communism. The operative word in our understanding of the “Four Alls” is (and has been) “abolished”. [I sometimes want to refer to the Four Alls as the “Three Abolitions and the one Revolutionization”, because that’s how they wind up(!)] Abolishing them is but half of the goal. The other half should embody a vision of a communist world.
    An Attempt to Flesh Out the Four Alls
1. An end to class distinctions—An entire epoch of human existence will have been transcended. As we have understood it, the emergence of classes among humans was preceded by various forms of communalism (and this historic fact alone—even in comprehending such early forms of society that persist, in pockets, today—can and should be understood as refutation of the notion of so-called “selfish human nature”!) These native, indigenous communal societies probably had/have some expressions of selfishness, but on the whole, it seems, that’s not what has characterized them. (And in some recent understandings of small pockets of such civilizations which have continued in this modern world, individuals in those societies who persisted in selfish motivations have been dealt with by resolute means so that they could not corrode the cooperative bases of their communities). People had to work in common, for the common good, because of scarcity, and this demanded general standards of cooperativeness, sharing, and, also, an approach to sustainability, often in brutal settings of unforgiving natural hardships.
True, these societies may not have been at the level of scientific understandings and approaches to life on earth, the cosmos, the whys and wherefores of things. But, they were applying consciousness, and collective ways to understand how to sustain life. They often grasped important ways that the forces of life were interconnected. And they lived according to these understandings, even if this was circumscribed by whatever worlds (ecosystems) various peoples found themselves in (and within which they had to carry on with life).
In addition, it’s worth noting that within their small worlds, many of these earlier societal formations were totally connected to the earth, and many (not all) of them practiced sustainable ways of living in nature. This can be held in stark contrast to our modern world which has all but severed any sustainable link between human beings and their habitat. Today, we can look to these earlier understandings and embrace them as “proof” of what humans are capable of! (And compare/contrast THIS with the ignorance and stupidity about such matters which characterized subsequent “more advanced” incarnations of societal development, up to, and certainly including the disastrous ugliness at the heart of modern human society. And I’m talking here of prevailing outlooks and ideologies. There have been, and are, standout, stand up, and passionate voices for righteousness, sanity and sustainability amid the horrors).
In that sense, by comparison, then, can there be any doubt about what level of social formation really has practiced and understood, in the sense of “conscious collectivity”, how humans SHOULD be, MUST be? On a certain very basic level, there is much to learn and there are indeed the shoots and seeds of what humans, in bringing the communist revolution to life, should look to. That basic link, which has been severed by modern society, must be restored. And this severed link has been skirted over and has not fundamentally been acknowledged by the communist revolution, historically speaking.
This should not mean that we fall into false notions that it’s all about “negation of the negation”, or that there is teleology involved. But “reality is (and has been) what it is (and has been)”! Just one obvious and somewhat better known example:
    "In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation... even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine." This is an often repeated saying, and most who use it claim that it comes from “The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations: The Great Binding Law.”
    In fact, the original language is as follows: In all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all your official acts, self interest shall be cast into oblivion. Cast not over your shoulder behind you the warnings of the nephews and nieces should they chide you for any error or wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law which is just and right. Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation.
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Where has ANY historically subsequent human society even touched the insight and scope (and poetic vision!) of “7 Generation Sustainability”? You will not find it! Anywhere! Even in the best, even in the “highest pinnacle”, the GPCR (the Cultural Revolution in China). Aside from the “Seven Generation Sustainability” tenet that “self interest shall be cast into oblivion, and its counterparts: “fight self, repudiate revisionism” and “serve the people” (important slogans from the GPCR), we will not find an overarching approach such as this simple and profound doctrine, this basic moral guidepost, this “GREAT BINDING LAW” in the guiding principles of the first socialist societies.
Nothing in the lexicon, the science, the history of the communist revolution, appreciates THIS fundamental approach to conscious collectivity/sustainability, save perhaps Marx’s thoughts on “usufructories” which was touched on in BA’s [Bob Avakian's] piece, “What a Look at a World Map is Good For):
    From the standpoint of a higher economic form of society, private ownership of the globe by single individuals will appear quite as absurd as private ownership of one man by another. Even a whole society, a nation, or even all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the globe. They are only its possessors, its usufructuaries, and, like boni patres familias, they must hand it down to succeeding generations in an improved condition.” (1967, III, p. 776)
I don’t have a copy of BA’s article available, and I couldn’t find it online, so I am going from a somewhat compromised recall of how BA looked at this. [I have since found this in Reflections, Sketches & Provocations by BA (“The Land Question in the Final Analysis is a Global Question, or, What a Look at a World Map is Good For”)]
[About this whole point—flesh it out! Also, refer to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China 1975 ( Compare it to the Constitution for a New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) , but as well, to see how the Iroquois Confederacy looked at some important matters; Also, in this regard, I suggest a Peking Review article on recycling/multi-purpose use from 1972 ]
This consideration also would have bearing on the discussion of various strands of “productive forces” lines, and “what level” of productive forces must be in place in order for the communist revolution to be successful. Abundance, too, is a prerequisite and is related to the level of productive forces. But, as well, who can say what level of abundance is necessary? By raising this question, I don’t mean to make light of the need for abundance. After all, for example, how can we get to communism if the overwhelming majority of humanity, however equalized this might become, spends the great bulk of its life laboring to produce life’s necessities (And a relative handful is left to “work with ideas”)? This problem is posed very richly and provocatively in Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossessed (Interestingly, LeGuin is a self-described anarchist.), and it is taken by the horns in important strands of Avakian’s new synthesis.

As well, in these earliest of societies, there were tribal wars, scarcity, and sometimes brutal paths to resolving contradictions among the people [or between various peoples, tribes, clans]. There was also a pronounced and deep division of labor between male and female for the obvious reasons we know today, and, which we also know, has very sharp ramifications in modern society...