The New Synthesis of Communism

The following excerpt is from THE NEW COMMUNISM: The science, the strategy, the leadership for an actual revolution, and a radically new society on the road to real emancipation by Bob Avakian

But let’s stop for a minute and speak to this: Who cares if communism has been further developed? At this point, a lot of people will say, “I’m not a communist, so I don’t care if communism has been further developed.” Well, first of all, if you’re not a communist, you should be. The fact is that, as spoken to earlier, communism represents the most consistent and systematic way of understanding and transforming the world, not just in some general and abstract sense, but toward a certain goal which the science of communism—not a religion, but the science of communism—reveals to be possible as well as desirable. You see, it’s not like, “Oh, we’d like to have a communist world without exploitation and oppression, so let’s find a science that will get us there.” No. The fact that there can be—not that there’s any guarantee of this, but through struggle there is a possibility to have—an entirely and radically different world, a communist world without exploitation and oppression, that fact itself is scientifically determined by examining the actual dynamics of human society throughout history, how it has changed, what that has led to, and what possibilities that now has opened up. So even the goal of communism, in the first place, is a scientifically determined goal, not something we just wish could be true. And then, in order to get to that goal, the means for achieving that goal also have to flow out of a scientific method and approach, because if you’re not being scientific, if you’re not actually examining the world the way it actually is, and as it is moving and changing through contradiction and the struggle between opposing forces, then you will not be able to achieve the kind of change that needs to be achieved, and you will constantly fall into being deceived and into self-deception.

So that’s why it’s important that the science of communism has been developed further, in a qualitative way, by building on what has gone before, in the main, but also casting off certain secondary aspects of the previous understanding of communism, which actually ran counter to, were in opposition to, its essentially scientific character. Since the time of Marx up through Mao, communism has been mainly scientific in its method and approach. But there have been elements in it that have run counter to that scientific method and approach, and the new synthesis is taking what is positive, is building on the essential parts that were positive, but is also rejecting, casting off or recasting in a more correct light some of the things from the earlier times in the development of communism that were not thoroughly scientific. Now, that doesn’t mean that everything about it is perfect, it doesn’t mean that a hundred years from now some other people won’t come along and say, “Well this thing here is not quite right.” That has to do with the nature of science, as opposed to religion. It’s something that’s constantly developing. I spoke to people one time about Mao’s statement, where he said that ten thousand years from now, we will all look rather foolish. This is undoubtedly true—and maybe it will be in even less time than that. What Mao meant was that for us communists, as well as people more generally, our understanding will be shown to be very undeveloped, relative to what people will learn in future generations, assuming people are still here in the world.

But the main aspect of communism is not that it’s foolish. It’s that it’s scientific and, at the same time, one of the essential qualities of a science is that it’s constantly developing, it’s constantly subjecting itself to criticism, as well as listening to and learning from the criticism of others. It’s constantly interrogating itself, to use that phrase, as well as investigating and interrogating reality, and constantly developing. But, like all science, it doesn’t go back to zero every time something new is learned. It builds on what has been shown to be true before, even while it’s open to the understanding that at least parts of what were known to be true, or thought to be true before, could be wrong. That’s the nature of science. Whether in biology or physics or chemistry or astronomy or any other field of science, that’s the way you proceed. You proceed on the basis of a certain core understanding that’s been shown, through the scientific method of investigating and synthesizing reality, to be true; and you go out and apply that to new problems, to new experience, always being open to the possibility that even parts of what you knew to be true at a given time may not be true, but not just going back to the drawing board and starting all over as if you don’t know anything every time you go out to investigate reality. You have to have a core of knowledge that’s been shown to be true through the scientific method, with which you go out to learn more, even as you’re open to considering that what you know at a given time may not be correct in certain aspects, or even a part of it may be entirely wrong and you have to throw that out—but you don’t throw out the whole core of accumulated knowledge.

So the significance of the new synthesis of communism is not that communism as a science, and its application in many different spheres, has been invented anew, but it has been further developed in many of these key areas, and this provides a qualitatively new basis for people, not just here, but throughout the world, to carry on the struggle to get beyond a world full of all the horrors that we’re now living under.