Bob Avakian

American communist leader (1943-)

Robert Bruce Avakian (born March 7, 1943) is the founder and chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP). Avakian developed the organization's official ideology, a theoretical framework rooted in Maoism, called "the New Synthesis" or the "New Communism."


  • In today’s situation Leninism is the key link in upholding and applying Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought. To put it somewhat provocatively, Marxism without Leninism is Eurocentric social-chauvinism and social democracy. Maoism without Leninism is nationalism (and also, in certain contexts, social-chauvinism) and bourgeois democracy.
  • Fear nothing. Be down for the whole thing.
  • "Nice guys finish last" is a widely propagated piece of so-called "popular wisdom" in the U.S.-and this is really very revealing of the kind of society it is and the kind of society its rulers want-it is a willing self-exposure on their part. But we are out to do something very radical, to overturn all this. We are out for nothing less than to finish first and remain "nice guys" all the way through: to win victory for the proletariat, not just in the U.S. but worldwide, and bring into being a radically different world with radically different people-a world of freely and consciously cooperating human beings, without inequality, oppression, and class distinctions—a communist world.
  • The so-called "demise of communism" is really just revisionism becoming more openly bourgeois. This does not constitute a "crisis" for genuine communism and it is not a bad thing for us—for the international proletariat and the international communist movement... Strategically, it is a fine thing for us.
  • In taking up the revolutionary struggle against the system and taking up the most revolutionary ideology to guide that struggle, people can and do change themselves. In rising up and overthrowing the system, they begin to make themselves into new people.
  • We should instill in the victims of this system an attitude of despising this system and all it stands for—of recognizing that this system represents not the "wave of the future" but the dregs of the past—that it is the thing standing in the way of a much brighter future.
  • If you don't have a poetic spirit—or at least a poetic side—it is very dangerous for you to lead a Marxist movement or be the leader of a socialist state.
  • Socialist society should be the farthest thing from a stagnant and dreary place. But it will never be that if everything is "top down" and if people are told that the leadership always knows what's right, that it will take care of everything, that everybody must march precisely in step, and so on. How can we, when we're in power, despise and suppress the very kinds of things we welcome and promote now-nonconformity, critical thinking, the unwillingness to blindly follow authority, and so on?
  • In the present period and the present "global environment," the requirements of the capitalist economic and social system not only demand that the lords of capital be able to carry out their supreme commandment, "let us prey," in a more unrestrained and more "mobile" way, on a world scale. They also demand, within American society itself, a slashing of major social programs and a heightening of the repressive powers of government, along with the fostering of a repressive social atmosphere. They demand what the organization Refuse and Resist! has called the politics of cruelty, or the politics of poverty, punishment, and patriarchy.
  • There is a great irony here: the very "triumph" and "triumphalism" of capitalism in today's circumstances has produced effects and sentiments which tend to undermine, among significant sections of the U.S. population, the willingness to make personal sacrifices for "god and country"—that is, for the interests and requirements of the imperial ruling class, within the U.S. itself and in the world arena. In reaction to this, the "conservatives," with the Christian Right playing a decisive role, are attempting to revive and impose precisely "the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of Philistine sentimentalism"—to resurrect a situation where worldwide exploitation that is unsurpassed in its brutality is at the same time "veiled by religious and political illusions."
  • Based on a serious examination—not only of their approach to crime and punishment but their overall politics and ideology—our Party has identified the fundamentalist theocrats like Robertson as Christian fascists. Their ideology and program, without exaggeration, amount to NAZI-ism dressed in religious robes and tailored to contemporary American society in the present world context.
  • As to participation in the bourgeois electoral process, our Party has made clear our understanding that this process is an instrument of capitalist rule—an instrument of what is in fact bourgeois dictatorship. Which candidates are to be regarded as "serious contenders" and, more importantly, the terms of debate and contention and the "political alternatives" that are treated as legitimate and "realistic"—all this is determined within the ranks of the ruling class itself. Elections only offer the people the opportunity to choose among those alternatives.
  • People's political views will naturally be influenced by their ideological outlook. The essential question, with regard to all political programs, policies, and actions—and all beliefs and ideologies—is what is their content, what interests do they uphold and further, what effect do they have on society and the people?
  • Our goal is the radical transformation of society, and of the world, to eliminate all oppressive and exploitative relations among people and to abolish all class distinctions and national antagonisms and barriers, to bring about, as the final goal, a freely associating community of human beings, worldwide. The morals and ideology we uphold and strive to apply are in accordance with that objective and are, at any given point, an expression of the link between the current struggle and the final goal.
  • Standing up against the unspeakable crimes carried out by the ruling class of your own country and striving for a world in which such outrages would no longer exist, is something far, far greater than being cogs and instruments in the machinery of destruction and killing that enforces and adds to these crimes.
  • In a "free country" like the U.S. you are free to ask questions, but you are not really free to question.
  • If we're going to achieve our objectives in the most fundamental sense, if we're going to win in both senses—that is, if we're actually going to seize power and be able to carry out transformations and if we're going to do that guided by what our objectives are, to get to a whole different kind of world— winning in both those senses requires this kind of outlook and methodology, this kind of openness to the ideas, to the efforts, of others—and to their criticisms. Which doesn't mean we should tail people and doesn't mean we should agree with what we don't agree with. In other words, you can criticize me all day long, but if your criticism isn't valid to me, I'm not going to agree with it—and I shouldn't. Now, I may be wrong. Your criticism may be valid, but I'm like everybody else (everybody is this way, or should be): you have to be convinced. And it is true for everybody that, if you're not convinced, then eventually that's going to show up. You can be intimidated, or you can be overwhelmed, or you can be cajoled, but if you're not really won over, eventually the negative consequences of that are going to show up. So we shouldn't agree with people just because we want to be open. It's not a game we're playing; it's not a tactic; it's not a gimmick; it's not diplomacy. It's a question of fundamental methodology.
  • So this is another contradictory aspect of reality we have to understand: on the one hand, Marxism is the only world outlook and methodology that enables you to thoroughly and systematically and in a comprehensive way engage and learn more and more deeply about reality; but it isn't true that people who don't have the Marxist outlook and methodology, or are even opposed to it, cannot discover important truths. There's not only Darwin but Einstein and many other people throughout history, going back even before Marxism was brought into being. Obviously, such people have discovered many important truths, and that will continue to be the case, even in the socialist transition period—this is a very important point to understand or we'll make some very serious errors in the direction of bureaucratism, dogmatism, and some of the errors that we associate, for example, with Stalin.
  • When the proletariat is in power, however, in a certain sense "everything's on us." There's a problem in health care? We have to solve it. We can't say, "Those capitalists, what a bunch of assholes—look what they do with health care!" We have to solve the problem. If there's a problem in the educational sphere, we have to solve it. (Or we have to set things on the road to solving these things, because everything isn't immediately solvable—that's also one of the complexities of what we have to deal with.) But in a certain basic sense, it's on us. We don't get to pass the buck to anybody else or curse anybody else for not solving the problem. We have to solve it. And that's a tremendous thing. We want to have those problems. We're longing and striving to have precisely those problems, because we do have a solution—in socialist society and through the socialist transition to communism, those problems can and will be solved. But then that's the way it is, and it's on you.
  • No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that.
  • Now I can just hear these reactionary fools saying, “Well, Bob, answer me this. If this country is so terrible, why do people come here from all over the world? Why are so many people trying to get in, not get out?”...Why? I’ll tell you why. Because you have fucked up the rest of the world even worse than what you have done in this country. You have made it impossible for many people to live in their own countries as part of gaining your riches and power.
  • The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness.
  • This system and those who rule over it are not capable of carrying out economic development to meet the needs of the people now, while balancing that with the needs of future generations and requirements of safeguarding the environment. They care nothing for the rich diversity of the earth and its species, for the treasures this contains, except when and where they can turn this into profit for themselves....These people are not fit to be the caretakers of the earth.
  • Now let’s imagine, let’s step out of this world that they keep us chained in. And let’s imagine what this future can and will be like. When we finally get to the final goal of communism, there won’t be the relations of exploitation and oppression that are so commonplace and that mark all of society today and that we are told over and over again are just the natural order of things and the way things have to be. As Karl Marx pointed out, the communist revolution leads to what we Maoists call the “4 Alls”—that is, the abolition of all class differences among people. The abolition or the end to all the production or economic relations underlying these class differences and divisions among people. The ending of all the social relations that go along with these economic or production relations. Oppressive relations between men and women, between different nationalities, between people of different parts of the world, all that will be put an end to and moved beyond. And finally, the revolutionizing of all the ideas that go along with this whole way, this whole capitalist system, these whole social relations. In place of this, what will be the guiding principles in society consciously and voluntarily taken up by people...not forced on them, but consciously and voluntarily taken up as the basis for having abolished exploitation, oppression and inequality? In its place will be collective and cooperative principles aiming for the common good and at the same time, within that, individuals and individuality flourishing in a way that has never been possible before.
  • There is not one human nature. There is not some uniform and unchanging way that everybody is and how everybody sees the world. Human nature has different meanings in different times and for different classes and groups in society.
  • In advancing toward and in finally realizing communism, the objective and the approach is not, and must not be, to “flatten everything out”—it is to continue to advance toward overcoming social inequality and, beyond that, to move beyond calculations of equality and inequality by realizing and implementing the principle of “from each according to their ability to each according to their need.”
  • What are we communists? We are not, to refer to Eldridge Cleaver’s phrase, “the baddest motherfuckers on the planet earth”—at least not quite in the sense that he meant it. We are a reflection, we are the conscious expression, of this fundamental contradiction of capitalism—of how it is tending, and of the need for the world-historic struggle to resolve this contradiction in the interests of the masses of people through proletarian revolution and the advance to communism, worldwide. That is what we communists are. We are the conscious expression of that.
  • There cannot be a proletarian revolution if there are no class-conscious proletarians striving for that revolution.
  • We are not going to have, and there never will be, a proletarian revolution that is made with “pure proletarians,” especially as conceived of with an economist outlook and approach (reducing the workers and the scope of their struggle to merely the economic sphere, reducing the struggle of the working class to immediate concerns involving wages and related questions, or in any case limiting it to the economic sphere, with the highest expression of that being something like a general strike). Revolution is not going to be a general strike, as the Trotskyites and others with essentially the same viewpoint and approach think—if they even think about revolution. But, beyond that, it’s not going to be a neat unfolding of something where, in direct proportion and mechanical relation to how many proletarians there are, that much more powerful will be the revolutionary movement of the proletariat. It’s going to be much more contradictory and complex than that, in some ways acutely so.
  • The interests, objectives, and grand designs of the imperialists are not our interests—they are not the interests of the great majority of people in the U.S. nor of the overwhelming majority of people in the world as a whole. And the difficulties the imperialists have gotten themselves into in pursuit of these interests must be seen, and responded to, not from the point of view of the imperialists and their interests, but from the point of view of the great majority of humanity and the basic and urgent need of humanity for a different and better world, for another way.
  • Reality is like a fire, like a burning object, and if you want to pick up that burning object and move it, you have to have an instrument with which to do it. If you try to do it bare-handed, the result is not going to be good. That's another way of getting at the role of theory in relation to the larger world that needs to be transformed, in relation to practice, and in particular revolutionary practice, to change the world.
  • American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People's Lives
  • Here I want to bring up a formulation that I love, because it captures so much that is essential. Soon after September 11 someone said, or wrote somewhere, that living in the U.S. is a little bit like living in the house of Tony Soprano. You know, or you have a sense, that all the goodies that you've gotten have something to do with what the master of the house is doing out there in the world. Yet you don't want to look too deeply or too far at what that might be, because it might upset everything—not only what you have, all your possessions, but all the assumptions on which you base your life.
  • There is a place where epistemology and morality meet. There is a place where you have to stand and say: It is not acceptable to refuse to look at something—or to refuse to believe something—because it makes you uncomfortable. And: It is not acceptable to believe something just because it makes you feel comfortable.
  • There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.
  • Now, of course, slavery was not the only factor that played a significant part in the emergence of the U.S. as a world power, whose economic strength underlies its massive military force. A major historical factor in all this was the theft of land, on a massive scale, from Mexico as well as from native peoples. But, in turn, much of that conquest of land was, for a long period of time up until the Civil War, largely to expand the slave system. “Remember the Alamo,” we are always reminded. Well, many of the “heroes” of the Alamo were slave traders and slave chasers... And expanding the slave system was a major aim of the overall war with Mexico, although that war also led to the westward expansion of the developing capitalist system centered in the northern United States.
  • Not only did slavery play a major role in the historical development of the U.S., but the wealth and power of the U.S. rests today on a worldwide system of imperialist exploitation that ensnares hundreds of millions, and ultimately billions, of people in conditions hardly better than those of slaves. Now, if this seems like an extreme or extravagant claim, think about the tens of millions of children throughout the Third World who, from a very, very early age, are working nearly every day of the year—as the slaves on the southern plantations in the United States used to say, “from can’t see in the morning, till can’t see at night”—until they’ve been physically used up, with their lives literally passing, bit by bit, day after day, from them into the machinery on which they’re working (or which, in a real sense, is working on them, wearing their lives away) and into the products which they are producing through this labor. These are conditions very similar to outright slavery, and they often go along with superstructural expressions which are very close to slavery—ways in which, through customs and traditions, and sometimes even formal codes, the lives of these children, and others in these conditions, are controlled, confined and degraded. This includes overt sexual harassment of women, and many other degradations as well. All this is the foundation on which the imperialist system rests, with U.S. imperialism now sitting atop it all.
  • Look at all these beautiful children who are female in the world. And in addition to all the other outrages which I have referred to, in terms of children throughout the slums and shantytowns of the Third World, in addition to all the horrors that will be heaped on them—the actual living in garbage and human waste in the hundreds of millions as their fate, laid out before them, yes, even before they are born—there is, on top of this, for those children who are born female, the horror of everything that this will bring simply because they are female in a world of male domination. And this is true not only in the Third World. In "modern" countries like the U.S. as well, the statistics barely capture it: the millions who will be raped; the millions more who will be routinely demeaned, deceived, degraded, and all too often brutalized by those who are supposed to be their most intimate lovers; the way in which so many women will be shamed, hounded and harassed if they seek to exercise reproductive rights through abortion, or even birth control; the many who will be forced into prostitution and pornography; and all those who—if they do not have that particular fate, and even if they achieve some success in this "new world" where supposedly there are no barriers for women—will be surrounded on every side, and insulted at every moment, by a society and a culture which degrades women, on the streets, in the schools and workplaces, in the home, on a daily basis and in countless ways.
  • This takes us back to the very important point from "The End of a Stage—The Beginning of a New Stage" about unresolved contradictions under socialism. What is said there is another way of expressing the understanding that the struggle for the complete emancipation of women will be a crucial part of "the final revolution." In other words, it will be a crucial component in propelling and driving forward not only the revolutionary struggle to overthrow the rule of capitalism-imperialism but to continue the revolution, within the new, socialist society itself, in order to advance on the road toward the final aim of communism. The point is that, among the unresolved contradictions which will remain in socialist society, and which can be a driving force propelling that revolution forward, the continuing ways in which the emancipation of women will need to be fought for and fought through will be one of the most decisive aspects and expressions of that.
  • Even with very real changes in the situation of Black people, as part of the larger changes in the society (and the world) overall—including a growth of the "middle class" among Black people, an increase in college graduates and people in higher paying and prestigious professions, with a few holding powerful positions within the ruling political structures, even to the extent now of a "Black president"—the situation of Black people, and in particular that of millions and millions who are trapped in the oppressive and highly repressive conditions of the inner city ghettos, remains a very acute and profound contradiction for the American imperialist system as a whole and for its ruling class—something which has the potential to erupt totally out of the framework in which they can contain it. And something which, at the same time, is a point of very sharp contention and spur to mobilization, not only of potential revolutionary forces, but also now of reactionary and potential or actual fascist forces.
  • What is involved in "Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism" is sharply and scientifically exposing the system, bringing to light the causes and reasons for the oppression that different sections of the people suffer and the outrages that masses of people detest; showing, in a living way, how all this is rooted in and has as its source the system of capitalism-imperialism, which perpetuates and enforces this on a daily basis and in horrific dimensions; illustrating, through the application of a scientific, dialectical materialist method, how different sections of the people tend to respond to different events in society and the world, and how this relates to their position within the overall production and social relations; bringing forward and setting before all, and boldly struggling for, our revolutionary and communist orientation and convictions; and mobilizing people, yes, to fight back against oppression but to do so on the basis and with the orientation and aim of building a movement for revolution, toward the goal of sweeping aside the capitalist-imperialist system, bringing into being a new, socialist system and continuing to advance, together with people struggling throughout the world, toward the final goal of communism; and setting before the masses of people not only the goals of the revolution and the basic strategy for making revolution, as embodied in the line and policies of the party, but also the problems of making revolution, involving growing numbers of the masses in grappling with and helping to resolve these contradictions in the direction of revolution and communism.
  • In a world marked by exploitative and oppressive divisions—where one of the most profound, and most oppressive, of these divisions involves the subjugation and degradation of the female half of humanity—the assertion of "manhood," whatever the intent might be in doing so, can objectively only mean, and find expression as, active participation in that subjugation and degradation.
  • A genuinely radical, liberating revolt—as opposed to a reactionary "rebranding" and celebration of parasitism—must be fostered among the youth in today's conditions, a revolt within which the need is powerfully raised for a new society and a new world, which will move to eliminate the urban/suburban contradiction, and antagonism, in the context of the transformation of society, and the world, overall and the abolition of profound inequalities and divisions—opposing, overcoming and moving beyond the parasitism which is such an integral and indispensable part of the operation and dynamics of imperialism, and has reached such unprecedented heights in "late imperial America." In short, we need, in today's circumstances, a counter-culture that contributes to and is increasingly part of building a movement for revolution—in opposition to a counter-revolutionary culture. We need a culture of radical opposition to the essence of everything that is wrong with this society and system, and the many different manifestations of that; we need an active searching for a radically better world, within which revolution and communism is a powerful and continually growing pole of attraction.
  • The situation cannot be allowed to continue where the alternatives with major social impact within this society are self-indulgent individualism, on the one hand, or, on the other hand, religious fundamentalism and subordination and sacrifice of the self to the collective juggernaut of imperialist conquest and plunder, as for example in the U.S. military; and where, in one form or another, a culture and morality serving the interests of the most monstrous exploiters and oppressors—and a system which does indeed, without the slightest bit of exaggeration, crush lives and mangle spirits on a massive scale, throughout the world, while having the audacity to present itself as the best of all possible systems and a shining example for the world—has virtually unchallenged hegemony.
  • We also need to be aware of the positive—and in significant ways "subversive of the system"—potential of the assertion of gay "identity" and gay rights, even with the very real contradictions in this, including the narrowing tendencies of "identity politics" as well as conservatizing influences related to traditional marriage, and, for that matter, the campaign to be allowed to be part of the imperialist military while being openly gay. Even with all that, in its principal aspect this has, and can to an even greater degree have, a very positive, "subversive of the system" effect. This is a contradiction which, in the society overall, is "out of the closet." It could be forced back into the closet, and underground, with not only the stronger assertion of the kind of fascist movement that is being supported and fostered by powerful ruling class forces in this period, but with the actual assumption of a fascist form of bourgeois dictatorship. But the struggle against the oppression of gay people is not going to be easily suppressed.
  • In the way this country has been built, and for the powers that be in this country, the humanity of Black people has never counted for anything—they have never been valued as human beings, but only as things to be exploited, oppressed, and repressed.
  • In fundamental terms, we have two choices: either, live with all this—and condemn future generations to the same, or worse, if they have a future at all—or, make revolution!
  • White supremacy and capitalism—it is not possible to overcome and finally abolish the one without overthrowing and finally abolishing the other.
  • Only through the overthrow of this system, including in its greatest centers of power in the imperialist countries themselves—an overthrow carried out also with the aim of preventing these imperialists from launching an all-out war of annihilation—only in this way can we advance toward the goal of overcoming the divisions among human beings that embody exploitation and oppression, and lead to violent conflict, and finally make a reality of the aspirations of so many for a world without war.
  • While determined and massive struggle needs to be waged against these inhuman actions by the U.S. (and other oppressive governments), it should be clear that there can be no solution, under the system of capitalism-imperialism, to the situation involving masses of immigrants and refugees. The only solution lies in the revolution to overthrow this system—a revolution aiming not just to abolish oppression, exploitation, poverty, and misery in one country but having as its fundamental goal the abolition of all this throughout the world, and the elimination of all borders and boundaries that erect walls between different parts of humanity.
  • Obviously, we have only one Earth as a home for humanity, and this climate crisis can only be fundamentally and ultimately addressed on a world scale. But a first great step, or leap, can be taken by wresting power from the capitalist-imperialist system in its most powerful stronghold, and making this a source of inspiration and base of support for people around the world in rising up to overthrow and abolish all systems and relations of exploitation, oppression, plunder, and destruction, of the environment and of human beings who can only continue to exist, and to thrive, through a rational and planned interaction with the rest of nature.
  • The rulers of this system and their political operatives and media mouthpieces are forever pointing to the “success stories” of people who have “risen” from the ranks of the poor and oppressed to become rich and famous, or at least to realize the great “American dream” of becoming middle class! This is like going to a casino, where, by far, most people who play are played for suckers and sink deeper into a hole, while every time there is a winner it is loudly celebrated, often with bells, sirens, and so on—to make people believe that, if they just keep playing, they too can become “winners.”
  • The police, the armed forces, the “intelligence agencies,” the courts, and so on—all this represents the dictatorship of the capitalist-imperialist system.
  • This is not a revolution for revenge—the goal is not for exploited and oppressed humanity to have a chance to become exploiters and oppressors themselves—it is a communist revolution whose goal is nothing less than putting an end to all relations of exploitation and oppression, and all the degradation and destruction bound up with this, throughout the world.
  • Far too often, people who claim to be “woke” say that, since Black people have always been subjected to horrific oppression in this country, Trump is no different than other politicians, and there is no reason, and no need, to focus on opposing Trump and building mass mobilization to demand the removal of the Trump/Pence regime. This is like arguing that, since this country was founded in slavery, it makes no difference if slavery is brought back now! People need to understand that Trump is a genocidal racist.
  • “Black conservatives,” like Candace Owens, want to “get in on” the “spoils” that come from this system’s plunder of people, here and around the world, and they desperately want to be accepted in the “high society” of the monstrous oppressors like Trump. These “Black conservatives” basically agree with the crude racism of their white fascist counterparts. Like “house slaves” living in the master’s house in old times, they fear that they will be “dragged down” by being associated with “those” Black people—those who are not “well behaved” and rebel against their oppressed conditions, especially those who dare to rise up against the brutality and murder of Black people by police.

Quotes about Bob Avakian

  • Having gone and listened to a live, public Bob Avakian speech, as I have, is to be exposed to one of the most provocative, serious and controversial social thinkers of our time. He's an American original who should be heard, debated and critiqued for these dramatic and troubling times.
    • James Vrettos, Sociologist, Professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, March 10, 2013
  • Bob Avakian has made trenchant observations and brought insightful analyses to a host of problems confronting contemporary society. He is genuinely concerned about the plight of the masses and has given much critical thought regarding proposed solutions for their uplift.
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