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Bob Avakian in a Discussion with Comrades on Epistemology

  1. Aug 29, 2005 #1
    Hey everyone,

    I am new to these forums and want to make it clear up-front that I am coming from a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist-Maoist perspective. The philosophy that I uphold is very much in line with the point that Karl Marx made that "the various philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways, the point, however, is to change it." In recent years, Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, has done a lot of writing about epistemology in particular, and looking at the history of the international communist movement, has made an epistemological rupture with opportunist ways that people in the communist movements worldwide have tried to manipulate the truth or deny it for reasons of expediency.

    I personally hope to get into some heavy philosophical discussion on this forum, to further both my own and other people's understanding of truth and knowledge, and ultimately the universe itself.

    I think that Bob Avakian's trailblazing works should be looked into, and I'd love to hear what people's opinions are on this particular article published last year in the Revolutionary Worker newspaper:

    http://rwor.org/a/1262/avakian-epistemology.htm [Broken]

    (Editors’ Note: The following is based on a discussion by Bob Avakian with some comrades on the subject of epistemology. Epistemology refers to a theory of knowledge, to an understanding of how people acquire knowledge, what is the nature of truth and how people come to know the truth. In what follows an effort has been made to retain the original character of what was said and how it was recorded: these were not prepared remarks by Chairman Avakian (or the other comrades) but are comments that were made in the course of a discussion, and what follows here is based on notes that were taken of that discussion. These were not verbatim (exact word-for-word) notes, but were typed up at the time and then gone over for sense and minor corrections by a participant of the meeting. Not every contribution by every comrade has been included; but there are parts which respond to or expand upon a point made by Chairman Avakian that are helpful and so we have included them. This has been further edited for publication here, and footnotes as well as notes in brackets within the text have been added.)
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  3. Sep 5, 2005 #2


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    I have read a large part, though not all, of Comrade Avakian's talk with great interest. He seems to want to take Communism in a positive direction, which is encouraging. I want to raise one issue that is more practical than philosophical. He says to consult with the masses in order to resolve contradicitons like the role of the intellectuals. But who are the masses in present day US?

    I think we have all seen the masses on TV during the last week. It was the half a million or so poor citizens of New Orleans who were left to "stew in their own juice" by the power elite responding to the Katrina catastrophe. If they weren't masses then no-one is. (BTW I am very sensitive to Avakian's prescription that the class of the masses is not just the set of individuals).

    Now I want to assert a piece of unwelcome reality that will be hard for many comrades to accept. Poor people, and yes, I am afraid especially poor black people, have lower IQ's as a population.This does not imply they should be be ignored or oppressed, as many bourgeois writers who accept these facts assert, but that they need help. You can not just issue an edict to evcuate and expect them to rationally plan and execute an evacuation strategy. We as people of good will, desiring a revolutionary transformation in society to benefit the masses must face up to the fact that for much of the dispossessed working class, benefit will entail ongoing help from above, I suppose from the party.

    Now my question. I devoutly concur in the dictum to consult the masses. But how in the light of what I just stated can this be done? How can we elicit a meaningful independent collective reply from people to whom the party expects to be in a permanent tutelary relationship?
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2005
  4. Sep 5, 2005 #3
    Yeah, the masses are the majority of society that isn't exploiting or dominating the rest. The working class (or proletariat in Marxist terminology), the various middle classes and strata of society like small shopkeepers, farmers and peasants, students and intellectuals.

    The IQ test in itself is not a measure of intelligence, but of how well you can take the IQ test, how much money you have spent on test preparation, what kind of school you went to (in the US, public schools are funded separately by taxes in each district and only partially augmented by federal funds, so richer school districts will have more money and better schools -- and with the No Child Left Behind act, the worse grades that students at an already-poor school receive, the less funding their school will get, worsening the cycle).
    The people are not stupid. If the government was run by the people, a truly socialist government, we would have had buses and trains evacuating people days before the storm hit, to towns that weren't going to be affected, and given them free housing and food and water. The levee system in New Orleans, if it wasn't for the fact that the Bush regime cut its funding to pay for the Iraq war, would have been improved by now to withstand the forces of a category five hurricane. This is why society can't be run with the logic of profit in command, but needs to be run with the people in command.
    People are not "too stupid" to understand the need to evacuate. The people who didn't simply couldn't -- didn't have cars, didn't have enough money to leave, or didn't know the intensity of the storm would be so dangerous in time to get out, since traffic was so backed up that the town was basically shut down anyway by the time the storm hit.

    Revolutionary change is going to be the result of a dialectical process between the leadership and the led. The vanguard will lead the masses, and the masses will teach the vanguard and some of them will become the vanguard.

    It's not a state of tutelage between the Party and the masses. The Party is the revolutionary leadership of the masses, it is part of the masses itself, and represents the interests of the proletariat. The party leads the masses and the masses teach the party, as I stated above.
  5. Sep 5, 2005 #4
    If you want Marxism to take hold in the good old USA, you will first have to defeat religion--the masses in the USA already have a "leader", and a "teacher", and it sure is not Karl Marx. Now, I do see an important role for your group in this country. Polls show that ~ 40% of the masses in the USA know that the sun moves around the earth because this is what their current "mass leader" tells them. If you could somehow at least get 50% of this 40% educated as to the physics of Marx it sure would go a long way improve the quality of scientific education in this country.
  6. Sep 5, 2005 #5
    And some of the masses that become the vanguard will become corrupt, and the masses will rise up against the corrupt vanguard, and the masses will take over the lead from the vanguard. And the vanguard will be taught by the masses the rules of leadership that they must follow that will be enforced by the masses by a system called the Law of the Masses. And some of the masses will become corrupt and the vanguard will punish the corrupt masses according to the Law of the Masses.
    And the government of the masses, by the masses, and for the masses shall not perish from the earth.
  7. Sep 6, 2005 #6
    "If you are not a socialist when you are 19 you have no heart. If you are still a socialist when you are 39 you have no brain." Bismark

    The problem with changing the world via communist revolution is:

    In order to change the world the people of the world must be changed.

    In order to change the people of the world they must be educated.

    In order to educate the people they have to be taught among other things economics, political science and sociology, human behavior.

    Once the people are educated they see how obviously flawed communistic doctrine and dogma is and have nothing to do with it. hence communism fails.

    The problem here in the United States is that there are no exploited masses. Yes there are the poor and under educated but they are not exploited for the have nothing to exploit. The middle class who pays the vast majority of the taxes in this country are not exploited and don't feel exploited. But upon, over taxed and over charged yes but not exploited. They, we, willingly and voluntarily pay our taxes as we realize it is necessary to have a free, safe, prosperous country. It is not perfect by any means, but then neither are we the people.
  8. Sep 6, 2005 #7
    To paraphrase a famous British writer, "socialism has not been tried and found wanting, it was found too difficult and left untried"

    You mean the Bismark who was idolized by the Nazis?
  9. Sep 6, 2005 #8
    I mean the Prussian military genius after whom the battleship was named.

    Say what you will about Nazis, they hated communist.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2005
  10. Sep 6, 2005 #9


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    Well the posts so far illustrate the dialectic in spades. :approve: Every statement, tendency, practice or social construct - every thesis in short, will necessarily evoke its contrary - its antithesis. Conflict is inevitable. The thread also illustrates whosiwhatsis's theorem that any conflicted thread will eventually get to a post that invokes the nazis. We did it in just 7 posts. :surprised

    Re the argument that IQ just shows how well prepared you are and is thus a surrogate for economic status, this is false. There is enormous varied research on IQ and the g-factor and it is NOT dependent on economic status and is stable. In fact it's the most stable measured sociological variable there is. This economic reflex is the way the left has denied the facts on the ground. If your Revolutionary Communist Party under Chairman Avakian is going to truly break with the closed mindedness of prior CP's, then here is a test and an opportunity for you. Analyze your own conflict over this data and see if it isn't just a knee-jerk avoidance of unwelcome ideas.
  11. Sep 6, 2005 #10
    I didn't say anything about the Nazis, only that they idolized Bismarck. I don't buy the anti-German propaganda so popular in the United States. But I think the fact that they hated communism is relevant; as far as I can tell, Nazism, not capitalism, is the true opposite of socialism.
  12. Sep 6, 2005 #11

    Education is the issue here. I wish there could be a scientific, universally based education system that took its information from scientifically proven facts.

    For instance, in my macro-economics class i am taught by an obviously right wing individual. Along with capitalist, American based economics, i am taught why i should invest, and various other aspects of investment that are all centrally located around American economics.
    What i would have learned in a soviet economics class would not be the same. The chinese are not taught the same, europeans, etc. What they will teach you is what to do with your money to benefit yourself but moreso the country; and by country i refer to enterprise. There is science behind economics, but not enough to keep it free from social engineering.

    Any subject that is not purely scientific, like physics or calculus, is subject to the scrutinization of the country in question. Therefore, every person on the planet is indoctrinated from birth; with variations in what they are taught based on what they are "meant" to know.

    In my political science classes, i was told what happened in history, what worked and what didnt; aside from a few AP classes this is basically what i was taught.

    As far as communism goes, it was taught as some outlandish idea that got a bunch of people killed and almost started a war, this could not be more untrue. It is only after taking the initiative to go and read the full spectrum of available information, that i learned that communism is not flawed. It has never been tried without being eclipsed by some pseudo-fascist shadow. It is a perfect theory, which has never (in my eyes) had a successful enough medium through which it could propogate.

    Everyone who is not a boss in the usa is exploited. Lets say i work in a factory and make tires, but my boss gets paid far more than i do for doing less work, or possibly no work at all; this is exploitation. The middle class makes more money, but exploitation is still there...software engineers for microsoft dont make an equal dividend of what Bill Gates does. Even the upper classes are somewhat exploited, though i wouldnt complain because they are mostly exploiting others.

    The key to a communist/socialist remodeling of the usa is to make people aware of what is fact. You cant blame anyone for accepting what they are force fed in school and bombarded with everyday by publicity.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2005
  13. Sep 6, 2005 #12
    Well since there has never been a pure true communist nation and the USA is turning ever more toward socialism it can't really be put to a test.

    BTW Nazi stood for the National Socialist Party. There is or at least was very little anti-German propaganda in the USA. It was all anti-Nazi. Of course after WW II it was hard to find any Nazis in Germany.

    Compared to Stalin, Hitler was a piker and compared to Mao Stalin was an amateur when it come to killing people especially their own citizens. We here in the USA are of course pearly white and innocent of all such infamy. There are none in the world who can afford to throw stones.

    I am a child of the Cold War so naturally I am anti-communist. I also have many problems with its philosophy and economics.
  14. Sep 6, 2005 #13
    There are no scientifically proven facts. There are supported theories and laws etc but no scientifically proven facts. If you run across one wait a few years and it will be shown to be in error.

    We, obviously, went to different schools together at different times. You must have run into a Reaganite advocate of the Trickle Down Theory. Calvin Coolidge said that the business of America is business. Both are true by the way in my opinion. If business, the economy is doing well so are the people and the government.

    Nothing is safe or free from social engineering not even science. See the creationist vs evolutionist threads here at PF and the news papers.

    Read Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged." You are correct in that it has never been really tried and it is a "perfect theory" in a perfect world with perfect people; but, unfortunately we live in the real imperfect world with imperfect people who will not work and sacrifice with out compensation so that others will prosper.

    Virtually none of this is true. Bosses usually work harder and longer hours than most laborers. Its true that they don't usually do manual labor. I have worked at a number of places where the workers often if not always took home more money than the foreman did and some more than the general foreman usually because they got paid over time where the "bosses" didn't.
    Also any and every job in the USA is a contract where we agree to work for the company for a certain wage and benefits. That is not exploitation. If we do a god job and are productive usually the company prospers and so then do we. It doesn't always happen that way; but then that's life too.

    Bill Gates stoled ms dos fair and square and built a huge and hugely profitable company by being smart and lucky where others were stupid and unlucky. Its the American way.

    The fact is, is that Communism is not an economic viable theory whereas capitalism is. Socialism is in the same boat and it is all because people are the way that they are.

    Capitalism is what made the industrial revolution possible and it was the prosperity of the rising middle class that financed it and kept it going. No invention or development can change the world unless there are consumers to buy the product and workers to do the work. Pay the workers and you create consumers. If you keep the workers desperately poor who will buy your product? You have only to look at Henry Ford to see real capitalism at work. His workers were the best paid in the country and they bought and could afford to buy Ford cars to put it very simply.
  15. Sep 6, 2005 #14
    Well, I won't get into American politics as I'm not American, but I do find the notion that the US is becoming socialist to be impossible to understand, especially in light of recent events in Louisiana.

    Thanks, I didn't know that. I thought it stood for Nazional Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (which would explain the 'z' in the middle). Everyday one learns a new thing...

    Until the day Hollywood portrays war-time Germans as frail humans rather than evil monsters, I won't believe there is no anti-Germanism in the US.

    Communism in the USSR and everywhere else is not what Marx and his followers had in mind. No one wants that.

    Philosophy is irrelevant. As Bismarck would say, philosophical issues can only be settled by guns, not by argumentation. As to economics, it won't be long before capitalism dies of glutony and self-indulgence. There must be something wrong with a system that requires waging war for the luxury of driving SUVs while 75% of the world starves. I just pray capitalism doesn't collapse during my children's lives.
  16. Sep 6, 2005 #15


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    Perhaps old pattern capitalism will be replaced by the China model - market communism!
  17. Sep 7, 2005 #16
    surely you saw my point

    what exactly is your point. if you took away the engineer, there would be no social engineering and you and i would have been taught what was fundamentally accepted as truth.

    it is a perfect theory which does not require perfect people nor a world of perfection. I always wonder how people are so certain that humanity would rather sit in gluttony than work for their survival. One couldnt liken the man of capitalist america to the man of communist/socialist america, it is a completely different mindset that without media/engineering/strata, would survive and prosper.

    who cares how hard the boss works, or if he sits on his butt all day; the company makes money on the exploitation of its workers- this would be the factory laborer and to a degree anyone else above or below who is not the capitalist in charge. Amount of pay is irrelavent, the collective earnings of the workers will not add up to the collective earnings of the enterprise-this is exploitation.

    If you prosper along with the company, then the company is doing well by your hard work, and by the money they made off exploiting your hard work.

    i dont see a fact here

    You see above you are stumbling over the very ways to make capitalism better, and there are none. who will buy the product if the consumer is poor...i dont know who, maybe thats why unemployment is rising. capitalism only develops further social stratification and eventually as johann pointed out, it will die from gluttony.
  18. Sep 7, 2005 #17
    We have a disagreement on fundamental beliefs. There is no point in discussing this any further. There never was and never will be any point upon which we can agree.
    I of course know that I am right just as you know that you are.
  19. Sep 7, 2005 #18
    My suspicion is that it will be replaced by anarchy, New Orleans-style. But I hope to be wrong.
  20. Sep 7, 2005 #19
    I don't disagree with many points you make about capitalism, but this is a seriously misinformed one. If people were so prosperous in the industrial revolution days, where did the threat of communism come from? (Nazis claimed it was a Jewish conspiracy to overtake the world; probably because they couldn't find a better argument)

    Then you have to meet my boss :rofl:
  21. Sep 7, 2005 #20
    Read up on your history, Johann. The industrial revolution started in England then spread to the U.S., Germany and France. It was spurred on by technical advances and inventions in all of these countries who all had a strong, large thriving middle class.

    The communist revolution started in Russia where there was no middle class, just a week ineffectual monarchy, a rich elite class and desperately poor peasant class.

    I may be Mistaken but wasn't Marx a German Jew? A lot of the communists in this country (and in Germany were) have been and are Jewish. No I am not anti-Semitic. Some of my best friends have been Jewish. No, really. I never understood why anyone would be anti-semitic.

    Mine too! I think that that's why they are bosses. The incompetent and lazy are often promoted to get them out of the work force and out of the way where they can and will do the least harm. Used to be in the good old days that they could be and would be fired unless of course they were related to the owner. Oh well, that just another reason why socialism and communism doesn't work.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2005
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