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February 07, 2006


friendly fire

The USA still isn't casting of it's despostism. Seems like the balance of democratic forms got checked.

Uncle Scam

Fake vote in Haiti today too.,,1703024,00.html?gusrc=rss

a comment

"Fake vote in Haiti today too."

no, this exactly misses the point and the reality of this situation.

Haiti is not having a "fake vote" but a very real one.

Our task is not to (somehow) "perfect" democracy or make it "real" -- in some classless formal way.

Electoral democracy (in the form commonly exercised -- in the U.S. and now in Haiti) is highly compatable with captialist class dictatorship.

BA's three sentences on democracy:

"In a world marked by profound class divisions and social inequality, to talk about 'democracy'—without talking about the class nature of that democracy and which class it serves—is meaningless, and worse. So long as society is divided into classes, there can be no 'democracy for all': one class or another will rule, and it will uphold and promote that kind of democracy which serves its interests and goals. The question is: which class will rule and whether its rule, and its system of democracy, will serve the continuation, or the eventual abolition, of class divisions and the corresponding relations of exploitation, oppression and inequality."

r graves

Yes, democracy is a real principle outside class rule. Democracy is government by the people. It is a good thing, especially considering the alternatives. We don't have enough of it. Extend it into the economic sphere and we'll have communism. Lenin's party, you'll recall, was the Social _Democrats_. They had no trouble discerning phony capitalist democracy from the real McCoy.

It seems pretty likely that it will require some interim non-democratic institutions to accomplish this mighty task of realizing democracy in all spheres of life. No democratic army ever won a war. But I get the heeby-jeebies when I hear radicals hold democracy up to such contempt. The examples of socialism without democracy from the last century, how ever you want to explain their failures, should stand as warning enough that democracy is a value that can easily slip away in revolutionary struggle.

Organizations of resistance should be as as authoritarian as they must be, but as democratic as they can be.

Christopher Day

I'm with R Graves on this one. Democracy matters. A lot. Even in its highly attenuated bourgeois form, it matters. A lot. To characterize it simply as a mask for bourgeois dictaorship is simplistic and ahistorical. The idea that liberal democracy is the "natural" political form of bourgeois rule is wrong. What history shows quite clearly is the left to its own devices the bourgeoisie is interested almost exclusively in establishing the legal conditions for the maximization of profit and has resisted the establishment and extension of even liberal political democracy at every step. It has been forced on them by the popular classes, often in the context of alliances against landed oligarchies in which the bourgeoisie was compelled to concede democratic rights as the price for having unleashed the popular classes in its struggle with the old regime.

Political democracy is a CONQUEST of the proletariat like the 8-hour day, the right to strike and meat inspection.

Does the bourgeoisie do everything in its power to use the mechanisms of political democracy to legitimize its own class rule? You bet it does. But to dismiss it in this manner is puerile.

Elections and the existence of spaces for the exercise of democratic rights certainly complicates the work of revolutionaries. I suppose things would be easier if all our enemies were like the Romanovs (or Batista or Somoza).

The hard truth is that the successful socialist revolutions of the 20th century all occurred at the weak links of world capitalism and that there are fewer links with those weaknesses today (Nepal being a counter-example). What that means for us is that the dynamics of those earlier revolutions are unlikely to repeat themselves and that we will have to navigate much more complex political processes in making revolutions in the 1st century. What the role of electoral struggles, like those taking place in Latin America now, will be in that dynamic we really don't know. And we should be cautious about overgeneralizing from previous experiences. There is no law of history that says the electoral path always leads to Pinochet (though this is definitely a powerful tendency).


Burningman -- You oppose "democracy" and yet you march with the World Can't Wait? Aren't they all about impeaching Bush? How is that supposed to happen without democracy? We all know that articles of impeachment are drafted by the House and tried in the Senate. There's no possibility of a draft if the House with a GOP majority. Will you and the WCW and the RCP campaign for Democrats this Fall so there is actually a chance of impeachment? Or is it all just more empty bullshit?

Christopher Day

WCW doesn't call for Bush's impeachment. It calls for him to "step down" or to be forced out in some unspecified manner. Of course the most probable way any of that will happen is if he is threatened with impeachment which is much less likely if the Dems don't regain control over Congress. But by leaving it open of course there is the suggestion that he will be driven out by a popular uprising or something similar. Which would be tres faboo of course.

But of course there is the question in all this if objectively WCW is acting as a pressure group on the left flank of the Dems just like some of the more narrowly anti-war forces they criticize. Like a lot of folks who support WCW I don't think this is such a terrible thing, but it seems like a fair question.


R Graves and Christopher Day both make good points in favor of democracy, however they don't take up the questions posed by burningman, and in fact, even mischaracterize his position.

At no point does BM belittle or dismiss democracy. If anything, he is intiating an important critical discourse about the tensions between democratic formalism and substance.

While the left, broadly speaking, advocates for democracy, the terms of debate are almost always about process, but never about what makes democracy meaningful.

What does it mean to say that democracy is the "rule of the people"? Who are "the people"? What if "the people" want to nuke another country to preserve our way of life? What about the unequal levels of intellectual and cultural development among the population? Some of us have greater communications skills or more experience with systematic intellectual activity than others. Can we simply pretend that there is a level playing field? Or that deep down we are really immune from imperialist conditioning? I am not suggesting any easy answers but any assertion that democracy simply has to be extended to all the people implies a sovereign individual who is inherently inclined towards sentiments of freedom, autonomy, community, etc., and simply needs the chains of oppression lifted in order to fully participate in social life. The ghost of John Locke continually haunts the left. Many leftists, particularly anarchists, subscribe to this idea. The possibility that people might also prefer stability,order and predictability over the other values does not even register.

I agree with Christoper Day that liberal democracy is not a choice the bourgeoisie would make on its own without popular struggle. At the same time the fact that capitalism can be liberalized to the degree that it has has also created illusions about its potential to be peacefully transformed into socialism. Marx underestimated capital's flexibility but that's no reason for us to overestimate it now.

I agonized over the question of what made WCW different from those who said that we should vote Democrat if only to create breathing space for social movements. If, and when, WCW attains critical mass, some people might attempt to leverage that into impeachment. If Bush is pushed out of office [whatever form that takes]the likely immediate result from an electoral standpoint is a Democrat. The crucial issue from WCW's standpoint is that building a movement powerful enough to drive a President from office means that we have created our own 'breating space' and momentum which we can continue building on our terms.

Christopher Day

I support the extension of democracy for much the same reasons I suppport WCW. The demands of WCW are only likely to be realized in the context of a mass independent movement that will transform the political landscape well beyond creating electoral openings for the Dems. Similarly the extension of democracy always involves the masses to some extent taking matters into their own hands, the most recent important example in US history being the civil rights movement's conquest of the vote for Black folks which was made possible by mass miliatant direct action.

The ghost of John Locke indeed haunts the left (especially anarchists), but I don't think he haunts my thinking here. I agree that all of the questions you raise are important to think about and grapple with, but I am still convinced that Avakian's rap on democracy (which Burningman is essentially repeating) is wrongheaded. I'd like to explain why, but its time to get the kid up.


First of all, I should apologize for a slight misunderstanding. The comment about the ghost of John Locke was meant for R Graves, not Christopher Day. It's difficult for me to edit my writing when I'm just coming off the top of my head. That's why some of the issues in my post are a bit jumbled and underdeveloped.

Secondly, I agree that mass participation is crucial to any understanding of democracy. I think burningman is bringing up more interesting questions: is democracy primarily a decision-making process? Participation for what? Much of the left reduces democracy to participation while ignoring the question of its goals. For instance, a largely white neighborhood that votes to evict all non-white residents is making a democratic decision in the formal sense but not in a qualitative one. The left, generally speaking, might call such decision racist but would be unable to call it undemocratic due to its heavy emphasis on procedure.

And yes, democracy does have a class nature. Some democratic processes might be class-neutral [after all, it is not the left's criticism of the Republican Party that it is not democratically run] but democratic goals have to be assessed in the context of class society. Is the 'one person one vote' always desirable? Shouldn't this question constantly be asked?

As far as burningman's replication of Avakian's positions, please elaborate when you get a chance.


hmmm. I took a few days to think about this.

RG writes: "Yes, democracy is a real principle outside class rule. Democracy is government by the people. It is a good thing, especially considering the alternatives."

This is an assertion. And it fairly clearly states one point of view on this.

Let's dig into it. What does it mean for a principle to exist outside class rule? What does it mean to have "government by the people"?

In fact all "government" rests on one form of productive and social relations or another -- and it inherently defends, reinforces and helps reproduce one form of society or another. So democracy (the forms of decision and legitimizatoin) aren't independent of class at all -- they can't be independent of capitalism or socialism.

To give an example: what happens if some government in the U.S. decides that food should be free for the poor. This immediately causes havoc in the economy -- it affects the labor markets, it affects the price of food in the stores (where it isn't free but sold). And it would fail -- because regardless of the demand of the "people" or even some decision of a government -- the whole framework rests on basic relations (relations of production, the social relations built on those production relations)

And in fact, in a capitalist class society, democratic forms don't mean "the people rule" at all -- not because the "elections are a fraud" (though they often are) but because the overall class society defines what can be chosen, and what the chosen leaders can do -- so that (inevitably and fundamentally) "the pepole" end up legitimizing political govenrments that ultimately and fundamentally serve their oppressions andtheir oppression.

As for the last sentence of the assertion "It is a good thing, especially considering the alternatives"

There are many things to point out: First, is "democracy" some one thing? Are you meaning parliamentary electoralism when you say "democracy"? Are you including the U.S. as a democracy (and including revolutionary societies like the Soviet Union and Maoist china as the discredited "alternatives"?

In that case let me point out

a) there is something very wrong, factually and historically with your verdict on what has proven positive and what has proven negative.

B) you made a journey from defending "rule by the people" to a place where you are defending the capitalist dictatorships of the west (which are anything but "rule by the people.")

And (without making cheezy accusations against RG) it is worth comparing this remark (by RG) with the very-similar remark by the arch-imperialist pig Churchill:

"Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

This is where you end up if you don't differentiate states by "which class and which future do they serve" -- if you don't differentiate "democracy" under capitalism (which is inherently capitalist dictatorship) from democratic forms under socialism (which is inherently and necessarily the dicatorship of the formerly oppressed, the proletariat).

I noted that no one really talked about the dictatorship of the proletariat -- as a necessary transition to the abolition of classes and states under communism. And i think that needs to be talked about, exlored and upheld in a discussion like this.
in other words,

RG says: "We don't have enough of democracy. Extend it into the economic sphere and we'll have communism."

This is not correct. First it is very vague, and such things have to be concrete.

How exactly would "the people rule" an economy? How would people decree prices, allocations of investment, foreign aid? How does socialist planning work (in a framework where vague democracy is posited as "a principle" and a process?) At best naive.

But really this approach negates some real contradictions: that the point of revoution is not just to reflect people's wants, but to reflect their highest and historic interests (which they often aren't deeply and clearly aware of). If you simply put everything to a vote, you often don't get people's own interests expressed (since they actually don't always or automatically know what they need.) Often what predominates is their most immediate interests and concerns -- which (if you think about it for ten minutes) often are in contradiction with their higher, long term and most important interests (and even their highest felt aspirations).

In other words, turning everything over to votes after a revolution is ultimately to turn life and society back over to the bourgeoisie (I know this insight is not obvious, and we can discuss more why this is.)

RG writes: "Lenin's party, you'll recall, was the Social _Democrats_. They had no trouble discerning phony capitalist democracy from the real McCoy."

I don't want to beat up over an obvious factual error -- but this could not be more mistaken.

First, the Social democrats of lenin's time were (as a world movement) deeply deeply confused about the difference between capitalist democracy and socialism. And (when push came to shove) most of that movement picked capitalism (and capitalist parliamentarism) OVER socialism. And Lenin's chunk of that movement dumped (precisely!) that muddled and confusing name "social democracy" -- in order to found a world COMMUNIST movement.

More the point: social democracy arose as the working clas wing of the fight against feudalism in europe -- as the workingclass wing of the fight for capitalist democracy (over feudalism) when that was a revolutionary task. But to stay with that framework (espeically as imperialism emerged) was ultimately and clearly to become counter-revolutionary (precisely when socialism and proletarian dictatorship became the order of the day!)

RG writes: "I get the heeby-jeebies when I hear radicals hold democracy up to such contempt. The examples of socialism without democracy from the last century, how ever you want to explain their failures, should stand as warning enough that democracy is a value that can easily slip away in revolutionary struggle."

I think this is a point and a debate that needs to be had. There is a summation of the experience of previous socialism that is rather widely promoted: that the problem with communism was that there "wasn't enough democracy." I think this is not true, that the issues are far more profound and complex. That this particular summation actually leads away from revolution (and toward all kinds of acceptance of the norms and assumptions of CAPITALIST democracy), and also (if actually applied to socialism) would lead to rather rapid failures.

Let's assume you mean and want "mass democratic forms" to rule under socialism (paris commune type, early soviet style) -- well, the lesson of those experiences is that those forms are too weak to defeat counterevolution (as you indicate with your remark on armies, but don't extend far enough in understanding).

There need to be forms for the masses to express their views and will, but more important to actually grapple with the profound questions and contradictions of rule. The masses can't rule "just by voting" if they are not actually grappling deeply with a materialist world view, with the dynamics of socialist transition, with the real lessons of a century of communist revolution, with the contradiction between the vanguard and the masses, between the state and the people, between the leaders and led, between mental and manual labor.

In other word there is not short cut to the process by which the masses actually become 'fit to rule" -- you can't just slap a a ballot box in front of people newly emerged from capitalism and have them vote on everythign (in politics and economics) becasue what you will get will be capitalism (sooner or later, and probably sooner) even despite their own subjective desires to be free!

This is not to say that people are not their own emanciaptors. It is not to say that the struggle to have people involved in the decisions and actual rule under socialism is not crucial. It is not to say that there should not be democratic forms in a new socialist state.

But it is to say that these rest on some real contradiction that require the leadership of a vanguard party, of ocmmunists, and a far more complex and real process and transition than your rather apriori approach of "democracy as a principle" recognizes.


reading this over, i felt i had to be clear:

What can't be "turned over to votes" after the victory of the revolution is the revolution itself, including the leadership of the heights of society by the core leading that revolution.

There will be space and need for various forms of contested election, at the local levels and other wise. There will be need for many mass forms of wrangling and implementation (at many levels in production and planning).

But none of this is upholding bourgeois electoral politics and just "extending it to economics".

I urge everyone to read the profound K. Venu polemic that was mentioned at the beginning of this thread -- since i think there is much of the nuance and profoundity of that discussion worth digginginto here:

If you haven't dug into this.... you aren't dealing with the meat of the issue of democracy in our epoch.


It's hard not to compare what cope2 (cope2?) has said here with the just-posted interview with Prachanda in the Kathmandu Post.

from Prachanda: "Let's form a parallel government of the parties and the Maoists. You restore the House, we will support you; invite us for dialogue, we will come; let's make the army common by including all; that will make for an official and legitimate government. That will represent the majority people - the government of the [seven] parties and a party that rebelled. After forming such a government, we can approach the United Nations and the international community, saying 'this is the legitimate government of Nepal'. Since we have this kind of a proposal, how can it be about bringing the parties into the "People's War"? Rather, it's about us going for the parties' politics. It's about us going for a constituent assembly and a democratic republic. [It's about] us going for bourgeois democracy. "
"The army will be formed according to the results of the election. This is what you should be clear about. We will accept it if the constituent assembly says we want monarchy. We are flexible even that far. We will accept it even if the people say we want an active monarch. If the people say 'republic', all should accept that. If the people go for, as has been said, a constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy, we are ready for that. We value people's votes, nobody else's. The army will be reformed as per the people's decision."
"We reviewed three years ago that the mechanism of running the state was not that democratic, was more mechanical, the people started to become monotonous in the 20th century communist movement, especially after the demise of Lenin. We passed a decision that we will go for a new people's democracy consistent with the 21st century."

Are these differences of opinion or just differences of situation? It seems to me that the CPN(M) are taking a very flexible route as they begin to confront the very real necessity of actually seizing nation-wide power -- which is obviously extremely complex. But still, there is obviosuly a discussion going on as far as an approach to democracy here.


"Are these differences of opinion or just differences of situation?"

what is your view?

"It seems to me that the CPN(M) are taking a very flexible route"

That is undeniable, but not really the question.


well, I have lots of thoughts on this. In the interest of space, I'll start with one. It seems only normal for the CPN(M) to accept the outcome of the constituent assembly, if one takes place. After all, they control 80% (or more) of the countryside, and as Prachanda says, Nepal now has the most politically conscious and advanced people anywhere on Earth. So the constituent assembly will likely take a step forward in the revolution.

But, and this is a big but, this is only the case because of ten years of people's war that have built up a revolutionary power that has helped create this revolutionary consciousness. So I can't understand why Prachanda phrases it in that interview as a matter of upholding democratic principles in the abstract. This strikes me as incorrect.

the good philistine

cope2 writes: "What can't be "turned over to votes" after the victory of the revolution is the revolution itself, including the leadership of the heights of society by the core leading that revolution."

Say it again, Fidel.

"Withing the revolution everything. Against the revolution nothing. Socialismo o muerte."

Nick Taper

I'm going to respond to a posting by Chris Day that appeared in another thread. I realize that can be a little confusing -- but I wanted to move it out of a thread on Nepal to make it clear that my comments are aimed at Chris's arguments.

Chris starts like this: "Democracy is the term we use for the political expression of popular agency. That there is much confusion and hypocrisy surrounding it should hardly be surprising given the stakes."

First, let me note that this argument starts from definitions, not from reality. This is a method very different from what I try to apply, for the obvious reason that you find (in such arguments) that the conclusion is often embedded in the apriori definitional assertion.

In fact, democracy is not simply a term for "popular agency" -- at least not when I use it. And that may explain why there is so much "talking past each other" in this particular cluster of issues.

In fact, I want to encourage people to look again on Avakian's "three sentences" on democracy which concentrate the different, opposing approach.

His first sentence says: "In a world marked by profound class divisions and social inequality, to talk about “democracy”—without talking about the class nature of that democracy and which class it serves—is meaningless, and worse."

Chris (and just about everyone else in these threads) is doing exactly this: posting democracy as a "principle" or a measure of "popular agency" -- without any discussion of class (including, obviously, the class nature of the society within which democracy is practiced.)

Let me put it loike this: under capitalism (with all the conditions that capitalism brings with it), rather elaborate forms of democracy are quite compatable with capitalist dictatorship -- in fact they have often been the PREFERRED form for capitalist dictatorship, developed and refined by the capitalists themselves (often in their rise against feudalism.) This is not (as some argue) because capitalism has "false democracy" (against which we supposedly should fight for "real democracy."

On the contrary -- democracy under capitalism is very "real" -- in the sense that it is quite concrete, specific, functioning. And also in the sense that (at times) the outcomes of the elections are actually what "the people voted for" and so on.

But there are reasons why that democracy does not lead to the carrying out of the interests of the broad masses of people (even if ironically, there may even be times when it IS "popular agency"!)

Avakian gives a rather detailed series of reasons, including that the whole political superstructure rests on the base of capitalist exploitation -- so that any state chosen (even if by the people) finds itself in that framework (unless that framework is ruptured, which can't be done through elections!) And also, he discusses the atomizing nature of voting -- where people are isolated, told to "vote their interests" in a process that does not bring them to any higher and larger sense of what those interests are. (So that themasses often find them selves expressing "their interests" as commodities in the labor market -- fighting for "their jobs" or "their cut of the pie" or whatever.)

In addition, the electoral choice of political leaders exists along side the existance of other bourgeois institutions that (more fundamentally) form the core of capitalist dictatorship -- i.e. the army, police, and prisons. And therefore, even if the masses "exercise popular agency" in democratic elections -- they can't really ever exercise the fundamental power needed to rupture with capitalist relations etc. (Confront the allende-confronts-pinochet problem!

And then finally there are the issues of class society under capitalism -- where the workers really have little time to learn politics or even to grasp politics and economics etc., and so other classes and representatives and movements have a whole different advantage (what class dominates the PTA in your neighborhood?)

All of these are an attempt to start from reality, not from definitions. In other words, democracy is not a definition of popular agency (which can be applied above classes to all societies.) It can't even be understood apart from the class nature of society.

Nick Taper

Part 2

Chris writes: "Without democracy socialism is deprived of its primary means of development and communism becomes a hollow slogan referring to an ever receding horizon."

Here again, this is done as if democracy is some seamless thing. What are you talking about here? Parliaments? National multiparty elections? Freedom of speech?

Do you understand that it matters?

Let me break some things down: Avakian has argued that there needs to be broad freedom of dissent (including freedom for reactionaries to speak) under socialism. He doesn't argue this on the basis that "democracy is good, so the more democracy the better." He says that society can't transition from socialism to communism unless there is a vibrant and complex climate of debate and struggle -- unless the masses themselves grapple with the cardinal questions. And he argues (quoting John Stuart Mills) that the masses need to be able to hear ideas (including reactionary ideas) argiculated by their defenders (not characterized by their opponents). This is not mainly because reactionaries have some transendental right to these liberties -- but because the SOCIALIST TRANSITION (including the defeat of reactionary ideas, and the making of the masses fit to rule) requires these conditions.

Avakian argues for the right to strike, for the right of reactionaries to publish books. But he also argues that this must be in the context of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In other words, there also will need to be objective limits. For example, he argues that if white racists are still free to openly call for the lynching and rape of black people -- then the black masses will not feel like the society has become liberated, or as if they have the power to rule (talk about "popular agency"). And so he argues that some things must be forbidden (including particularly forms of open violent racist calls, and the most egredious depictions of women.)

Avakian also argues for legal protection of certain defined frameworks of debate -- so that people KNOW what the rules are, and so the state (and the leading party) can't simply and arbitrarily "change the rules in the middle of the game." In other words, some kinds of constitutional framework that is also compulsory on those leading the state (and not just guidelines to be ignored at will.)

Avakian argues that it is also important to have contestation in the selection of people for posts -- which requires both the protection of people who rake the muck of the new revolutinoary government -- even when they themselves may be reactionaries or motivatede by reactionary intentions.

I say this because Chris (and not just Chris!) seem to assume that the RCP's critique of democracy is (essentially and inherently) an inflexible retro-defense of particular forms of "one party state" inherited from the past.

And I want to point out that if you think that, you are kinda missing the argument.

In fact, there need to be democratic forms under socialism (SOME of which I mentioned above). But again: they are fundamentally different than democratic forms under capitalism, because the whole context (and therefore the essence) of the process is different.

Now, let's get down to the nitty gritty of some things:

Avakian argues in the K. Venu polemic that while there needs to be this broad vibrancy, debate, turmoil, critiquing -- fundamentally, revolutionaries still have a responsibility to make sure that what emerges from it is new advances toward communism, NOT capitalist restoration. He says it would be a betrayal of the masses, to hand back power (whether in the name of a formal principle of democracy or for whatever lame excuse).

And for that reason, all these democratic forms and processes and turmoil we are discussing are still in the context of exercising the dictatorship of the proletariat. Reactionaries (who will contine and become even more determined, sly and bitter) who can express views can't be simply allowed to launch movements for power. And the question of OVERALL POWER (which is always an issue) must not be thrown up for grabs all the time -- in ways that invites and allows capitalist restoration. To go there would be a betrayal of the people, their sacrifice in the revolution, and their highest interests.

So that is the dynamic.

And he goes further: how do you go from revolutionary victory to communism? One thing you need is a leading core -- and you will need one all the way through. A leading core that helps define the framework within which changes, debates (and, yes, democratic processes) unfold. And that framework is the transition to communism.

This is very different from saying: "revolution is about popular agency, and so after the revolution we will simply leave it up to the people to decide what they want, and when they want it." If you strip that of its illusions, this is a program for betraying the revolution, and rather quickly.

Let me quote Avakians second two centences on democracy (that are entwined with the first one i quoted above):

"So long as society is divided into classes, there can be no 'democracy for all': one class or another will rule, and it will uphold and promote that kind of democracy which serves its interests and goals. The question is: which class will rule and whether its rule, and its system of democracy, will serve the continuation, or the eventual abolition, of class divisions and the corresponding relations of exploitation, oppression and inequality."

In short: this also means there will need to be revolutonary leadership ALL THE WAY THROUGH -- concentrated organizationally and politically in the vanguard core. It doesn't mean "a one party state" -- and (in fact) as Maoists know, the contradictions of socialism even mean that you had in China and the USSR multiple parties WITHIN the "ruling party."

Avakian sees the need for a genuine UFULP all the way through -- it's not like the revolution fights for middle class support before the seizure, and then afterwards gives the intellectuals "the bad news" that they will now be under the gun.

This view (which Avakian calls "the second model") is profoundly opposed to the "third model" that the RCP is now putting forward, more and more explicitly.

What forms will that take? No only will "we see," but we will be part of making all that happen. And (as we all know) reality, contingency and the creative power of the masses will all play their role.

Nick Taper

Part 3
Chris polemicizes against the notion that "in the imperialist metropoles... we have some sort of worked out model of socialist revolution in the rich countries that has been tested in practice. We don't."

Avakian's whole synthesis is a major departure/development from the assumptions and models of even the best of the past. (including not just the Soviet Union but also the GPCR.)

The issue is not just the particularity of the U.S. (and there is a great deal of particularity, since no revolution has ever been tried in a country like this). And the issue is not just that much has changed in the last century (though in fact much has, and needs to be summed up anew.) The issue is also that PREVIOUS verdicts and approaches need to be looked at creatively, anew, in light of experience (seen "from the mountaintop" in light of our "living link").

To put it this way: the RCP doesn't take ANY models as settled. And particularly, Avakian is in a rather remarkable burst of theoretical work that unsettles even more issues -- while proposing a new synthesis (that can be generally referred to under the name "solid core with a lot of elasticity."

Nick Taper

Finally, i want to deal with two remarks that came up:

Chris wrote: "The monumental arrogance of this denigration of the importance of democracy is only apparent when one considers what it would mean to dispense with it. Do you really think that the hard won advances in the conditions and consciousness of the the U.S. proletariat can be replaced with ... with what? Avakian Thought?"

And "an observor" chimed in: "

It does seem sometimes that Avakian wouldn't mind a little of his own 'benevolent despotism.' I've read some of his books. It's in there."

There is much to say here -- but first, it should be obvious from my previous posts that the issue is not "dispensing with democracy" (in a somewhat crudely anti-communist caricature coming from Chris.) The argument is (rather elaborately and explicitly) grasping the difference between capitalist dictatorship and proletariant dictatorship (and on that basis the diffe3rence between bourgeois democracy and all the forms of democracy that socialist revolution will bring into being.)

A note on this: there is a view that says "democracy under capitalism is the fruit of the people's struggle" -- with the assumption that if the capitalists had their way there would simply be fascism, so that all the bourgeois democratic forms were "FOUGHT FOR" by the people. This is a mistaken view. There were struggles (for sufferage of women and Black people in particular) -- but the forms through which those struggles were resolved, and the larger framework of bourgeois democracy is the creation of the bourgeoisie, and is quite compatable with their class society. There is not a permanent and fundamental "clash" between democracy (seen as a classless principle) and capitalism.

I won't fully respond to the cheap shot around "Avakian Thought" (and all its implications)-- Chris departs from the standards of discussion that he usually advocates. However two points: (a) the RCP does not formulate anything as "Avakian Thought" -- so what is your point in raising it accusatoraly? The fact that they don't is, in fact, part of Avakian's approach to "being scientific about the science". (b) I think it is important to acknowledge at the same time, that there is much that is very new, controviersial, and still little-understood about Avakian's synthesis. Accusing him of undigested worship of the Soviet model (under stalin) is so far from reality here, that you need to take a second look.

And I do think that it is not just "new" in the abstract -- he has dug into those questions and experiences that we NEED to have correct and new summations about IN ORDER TO DO BETTER THE NEXT TIME AROUND. These are not just a hodgepodge of random questions -- but precisely those questions that are most urgent, pressing and controversial.

As for "an observers" remark about benelvolent despotism -- let me just say that this goes beyond spleen to some real confusion. Avakian mentions "benevolent despotism" in one essay -- but his point is precisely that it is very dangerous to have this as a model! He points out that at the victory of a revolution, the leadership has great authority and could rule based on that (i.e. like a Castro caudillo did!) And he argues that it is important to fight to "expand the we" -- under socialism, doing those things to "expand the we" that are ONLY MADE POSSIBLE once victory has been won.

His point is exactly THE OPPOSITE from what "an observer," so unobservantly, implies.

To see how deeply distorting "an observors" remark is, you just have to read the essay for yourself:

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