THE SUFFOCATION OF SEVEN BILLION
—AND THE PROFOUND NEED FOR A WORLD ON NEW FOUNDATIONS
by Bob Avakian
The rulers of this country, and those who represent their interests, are forever boasting about the supposed “freedom, initiative and creativity” that, according to them, the capitalist system (and only the capitalist system) makes possible, and the great wealth this has created for people in this country especially. And they continually slander communism as a repressive system where people have no freedom and their initiative and creativity is not encouraged and rewarded but stifled and suppressed. All this is fundamentally wrong and completely upside-down.
First of all, the wealth that these people boast about is extremely unevenly distributed, even within this country, where a very small percentage of the people control the great bulk of the wealth. But, beyond that and more essentially, this wealth rests on a foundation of unspeakable crimes against humanity, historically and right up to the present time. To begin with:
The USA is a country which established its territory and built the foundation of its wealth through the armed conquest of land, genocide, slavery, and ruthless exploitation of successive waves of immigrants to America.1
And today, “the wealth and power of the U.S. rests today on a worldwide system of imperialist exploitation”—an international network of sweatshops, mines and corporate-controlled farms—“that ensnares hundreds of millions, and ultimately billions, of people in conditions hardly better than those of slaves.”2
This system of capitalism-imperialism—a system resting on ruthless exploitation, and super-exploitation, of masses of people, and marked by the cut-throat competition between major capitalist enterprises and financial institutions, and rivalry between capitalist states—suffocates the freedom, initiative and creativity of billions of human beings (the great majority of the more than seven billion people on the earth) including the huge numbers of children who are slaving away at near-starvation wages, and the vast masses of people who have been uprooted from the countryside, throughout the Third World (of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia) and are crowded into swelling shantytown slums in rapidly expanding urban areas, where most can only survive by hustling in the “informal” economy, legal and illegal.
The freedom, creativity and initiative of literally billions of women is suffocated and suppressed, often with extreme brutality, under this system, with the patriarchal male supremacy that is built into it.
Tens of millions of people have died, and countries have been devastated, in wars directly waged by rival imperialists (such as World Wars 1 and 2), or wars in which they have backed contending local forces—all to gain (or maintain) control of strategic parts of the world, in the bloody pursuit of key natural resources, markets, and domination of populations whose desperation leaves them vulnerable to life-stealing exploitation.
Here is a “snapshot” of the ugly reality beneath all the grand talk about the “greatness” of this system of capitalism-imperialism:
we live in a world where large parts of humanity live in stark poverty, with 2.3 billion people lacking even rudimentary toilets or latrines and huge numbers suffering from preventable diseases, with millions of children dying every year from these diseases and from starvation, while 150 million children in the world are forced to engage in ruthlessly exploited child labor, and the whole world economy rests on a vast network of sweatshops, employing large numbers of women who are regularly subjected to sexual harassment and assault, a world where 65 million refugees have been displaced by war, poverty, persecution, and the effects of global warming.3
And the very future of humanity is seriously, and increasingly, endangered by this system with its accelerating destruction of the environment as well as its ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation.
Within the U.S. itself (this “richest of all countries”) tens of millions, especially in the inner cities, are living in conditions of severe deprivation, with many denied the opportunity to find work at a “living wage,” or denied the opportunity to be employed at all (in the regular “formal economy”) while they are also subjected to discrimination in education, housing, health care, and every other dimension of society—with all this enforced through continual police terror, punctuated repeatedly by outright murder.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has both highlighted and heightened the profound inequalities, in the world as a whole, and within this country, as people who were already bitterly oppressed and impoverished, and denied access to decent health care, have been hit hardest by this pandemic.
And, even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with its crushing effects on the livelihood of masses of people, tens of millions in this country who had been regularly employed were living paycheck-to-paycheck, striving to provide for loved ones and hoping to provide a better future for their children, with many saddled with huge debt and only a serious health crisis away from financial ruin, while their work created wealth for a capitalist (or capitalist corporation) dictating the conditions of work, treating people as cogs in a machine or in many cases the extension of a machine—whether on an assembly line or a computer—work that, in these conditions, can only be alienating and mind-numbing.
In these (and countless other) ways, this system crushes and deadens the human spirit as well as grinding away the life—or outright stealing the life—of billions of people in every part of the world.
Think of the tremendous waste—and outright destruction—of human potential that results from all this. All this is the consequence of the fact that the world, and the masses of humanity, are forced to live under the domination of this system of capitalism-imperialism.
All this is the basis on which a relatively small part of the people within this country, and a very small part of humanity as whole, has the conditions and the “freedom” to develop and apply their initiative and creativity—only to have this serve, under this system, to reinforce the “lopsided,” highly unequal and profoundly oppressive conditions in the world as a whole and for the masses of people in the world.
And all this is completely unnecessary.
Revolution, the New Communism and the Unleashing of Human Potential
Even under these conditions imposed by this outmoded, monstrous system of capitalism-imperialism, creativity bursts through repeatedly in many different ways—and notably in music, literature and other expressions of art and culture—from every part of society and every part of the world, including among those most downpressed and despised by this system and its rulers. Think of how much greater this creativity could be—and all the ways it could be unleashed to meet the needs of the masses of people, materially as well as culturally—if the ways in which billions are chained down and suffocated by this system were shattered and cast off through revolution.
Through the decades of work I have carried out, drawing crucial lessons from the previous experience (positive but also negative) of the communist movement and a wide range of human experience, I have developed a more consistently scientific communist theory, the new communism, which provides the basis for leading this revolution: the methods and principles, and the strategy for carrying out this revolution and, in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, a sweeping vision and concrete blueprint for a radically different and much better society, on an entirely new foundation—a radically different economic system (mode of production) based not on exploiting the masses of people but on unleashing their creativity and initiative to do away with exploitation and oppression of every kind.4 With this socialist mode of production the means of production (land, raw materials, machinery and other technology, factories and other physical structures, and so on) will be publicly owned (not privately owned by capitalist exploiters locked in chaotic and destructive competition and rivalry). This public ownership will make it possible to marshal and utilize the resources of society in a planned and flexible way, to meet people’s needs, both materially (for food, shelter, health care, and so on) and culturally and intellectually, in a continually expanding way, and to respond in a timely way to unforeseen developments and emergencies, while supporting the revolutionary struggle worldwide toward the goal of eliminating all exploitation and oppression everywhere with the achievement of communism throughout the world.
With this mode of production, people’s initiative and creativity will be encouraged and fostered, and there will be the basis for people to apply this initiative and creativity, in unprecedented ways, in the interests of the masses of people, and ultimately all of humanity: Everyone will be able to work and to acquire the basis for a decent life, while contributing to the development of society on the road to overcoming exploitation, inequality and oppression—contributing through their ideas as well as their work—without being forced into relentless competition with each other in order to survive, or striving to advance at the expense of others (a poisonous way of thinking that will be continually struggled against).
It is a fundamental understanding and principle of communism, which is given great emphasis in the new communism, that people are the most important productive force—not just as “producers” of the social wealth but also as conscious participants in the planning and overall development of the economy, not only for the benefit of the people in the particular country but most fundamentally to serve the revolutionary transformation of the entire world toward the goal of communism. And:
The development of the socialist economy has as its source and relies upon the initiative and work, intellectual as well as physical, of the masses of people, of the members of society broadly, in conditions which are increasingly freed from relations of exploitation, and with the aim of overcoming all vestiges and aspects of such relations, and the effects of such relations, not only in… [a particular socialist country] but everywhere on the earth.5
Along with, and fundamentally on the basis of, this radically different mode of production, there will be radically different political institutions and processes, and an ongoing struggle to transform the social relations which have embodied oppression, with the goal of abolishing and uprooting all relations of oppression as well as exploitation. There will be a radically different approach to education and culture—one which fosters and unleashes the scientific curiosity and artistic creativity of masses of people and “embraces” all this and enables it to contribute, “through many divergent paths, to the advance along a broad road toward the goal of communism.”6 There will be a radically different relation with the rest of the world—not exploiting and super-exploiting people around the world but supporting the struggle everywhere to throw off the rule of exploiters and oppressors and advance toward the goal of eliminating and uprooting all exploitation and oppression. And there will be a radically different relation with the environment—where human beings, instead of being chained to a system that plunders and destroys the rest of nature, are working together to be fit caretakers of the earth.
This will be a new society aiming for a whole new world, without the suffocation, suppression, and disfiguring of the potential for the masses of humanity to understand and change the world in accordance with what are in fact the fundamental interests of humanity—to live in a world where no part of humanity is subordinated to and dictated to by another part, and where all of humanity is no longer dictated to by the fundamental workings and dynamics of a system that requires antagonistic relations among people, enforced with the continual threat and use of massive violence, where the masses of humanity are no longer reduced to merely a means to make wealth for a small number who rule over them, or are cast off as “surplus” populations that can no longer be exploited in this way.
This new society and world will not be some kind of “utopia” where all problems and difficulties have “magically disappeared”—and it will not come as a “gift” from some non-existent god—but will be the result of the struggle of masses of people to cast off unbearable exploitation and oppression, and to transform themselves and their thinking in close inter-connection with this struggle to transform their conditions—struggle led by those who have taken up the scientific method and approach of the new communism and are winning growing numbers of people to themselves take up and apply this scientific method and approach to transforming the world in an increasingly conscious way on the basis of their voluntary initiative and cooperation.
All this will involve whole new dimensions of freedom, and unleashed initiative and creativity of the masses of humanity, on this whole new foundation, with radically different institutions and relations among people, and radically different ways of thinking that correspond to these emancipating relations among people.
1. From The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go! In The Name of Humanity We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America, A Better World IS Possible. Video of this speech by Bob Avakian is available at TheBobAvakianInstitute.org and revcom.us. [back]
2. BAsics 1:4 (Basics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian). This statement by Bob Avakian is originally from Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, which is available in BA’s Collected Works at revcom.us. [back]
3. This is from Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution. Video and the text of this speech by Bob Avakian are available at TheBobAvakianInstitute.org and revcom.us. [back]
4. The strategy for revolution is spoken to in depth in the speech by Bob Avakian Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution (video and the text of which are available at TheBobAvakianInstitute.org and revcom.us), and further thinking on this is contained in A Real Revolution—A Real Chance To Win, Further Developing the Strategy for Revolution (which is also available at TheBobAvakianInstitute.org and revcom.us). The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, authored by Bob Avakian, is also available at TheBobAvakianInstitute.org and revcom.us. [back]
5. From Article I, Section 2, sub-section A2, page 19 of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. The principles and guidelines for the development of the socialist economy are more fully laid out in Article IV of this Constitution. [back]