Down through the many thousands of years of our continuing
evolution as human beings, men and women have thought in many
different ways about themselves and about the world in which they
lived. Until a few hundred years ago, most people had no concept of
change as development, Principally because there was really very
little progress in their lives from which to derive such a concept.
Year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation,
they did the same things in the same way. They hunted the same
game or tilled the same soil, ate the same food, were born, gave birth,
and died in the same way as their ancestors had done. During their
lifetimes they were subject to the same kind of arbitrary rule by
tribal chiefs, feudal lords, or kings. Under these unchanging circum-
stances, their concept of change could only be based on their
perception of such phenomena as constant repetition of the seasons,
the agricultural cycle of sowing, planting, and harvesting, or the
human cycle of birth, growth, reproduction, and death. So their
concept of change was a cyclical concept: the more things change,
the more they return to the beginning and start all over again.
At a certain point in our evolution our ancestors developed the

122           James and Grace Lee Boggs

concept of gods, seeking to create some entities more Powerful and
more exalted than their human rulers, entities to whom they could
look for ethical and moral standards. They themselves were not yet
ready to accept the responsibility for creating and enforcing moral
and ethical standards. Since their rulers came and went, and most of
them were hardly representative of the standards which every
society needs to govern the relations between people, man/woman
created gods to embody and validate these values.
 These gods were mythical creatures. But having invested these
gods with such authority, man/woman began to look to them to fix
all kinds of earthly problems, to deliver them from pain and
suffering, from toil and misery, or to reward them in heaven for their
hardships on earth. This kind of thinking is idealism, i.e., it is the kind
of wishful or subjective thinking by which people create an ideal in
the form of a person or a state of being and then begin to believe in
its independent reality and rely on it to "fix" things up for them.
	 Idealistic thinking became very deeply entrenched in the thinking
of the great masses of the people because they did not believe that
they could change anything in reality. Only the chief, the lord, or the
king had the power to bring about changes in reality, and these
changes rarely benefited anybody except the chief, the lord, or the
king. Therefore the masses' only hope of change for the better was in
a mythical realm. In this way, until a few hundred years ago, the
great masses of people accepted their lot, their place, as subjects.
 About twenty-five hundred years ago philosophy began in both the
East and the West when a few men began to wonder about the
contradiction between what actually existed, the real, and what
should exist, the ideal. But these philosophers did not see any real
possibility of changing reality for the better. They had no idea that
the great masses of the people might be organized and mobilized into
a social force for progress. This very advanced idea or concept did
not emerge until after the French Revolution, two hundred years
ago. Therefore, the only progress that philosophers, particularly in
the West, could envisage was ideal progress, i.e., progress towards
the ideal in the minds of individual philosophers.
 It is important to realize that men and women thought this way for
many thousands and thousands of years if we are to appreciate the
great leap forward, the revolution in human thinking two hundred

             Dialectics and Revolution           123

years ago, and the even greater leap forward in thinking which we
have to make today.
 Some indication of the long historical process by which man/
womankind has developed can be obtained by watching the
development of the individual from infancy through childhood and
youth to adulthood and advanced years, since the historical develop-
ment of the species is to some degree recapitulated in the develop-
ment of the individual. However, we also know that simply
advancing in age does not mean a development in social thinking.
Many who reach chronological maturity still do not ask themselves
the kind of fundamental questions or are not Prepared for the kind of
critical thinking and struggles which are essential to the development
of the social thought process. Most People spend their whole lifetime
just being utilitarian or materialist, preoccupied only with questions
of physical survival and comforts. They do only what they have to do
in their own self-interest and/or what they are told to do. They
accept whatever occurs in society as beyond their control, as being
fixed by others.
 There are others who begin to wonder. But most of these are not
ready to go to the organized effort necessary to put their visions into
practice. Therefore, if any good comes out of what they think or
envisage, it is purely accidental. In this sense most People have a
philosophy or a set of assumptions and convictions by which they
live, but few become philosophers. A philosopher, believing that
ideas do matter, organizes his/her assumptions and convictions into a
body of ideas. Still, most philosophers only contemplate these ideas.
They do not progress to the next stage, the stage of politics. That is,
they do not try to find a way by which they can propagate their
convictions to People and especially to the masses of the people and
attempt to organize these people to struggle to make these con-
victions real. This is what revolutionists do, because revolutionists are
profoundly convinced that the society in which they live must be
changed, and that the ideas which they have developed are advanced
ideas, i.e., ideas for advancing society. They are profoundly con-
vinced that until the great masses of the people at the bottom of a
society acquire the motivation and the determination to change their
society, there can be at best some improvements or reforms in a
society, and more likely only an exchange of positions by those at the

124          James and Grace Lee Boggs

top. For a fundamental reorganization of any society to take place,
the eyes and hearts of those at the bottom must be opened to a new,
more advanced way of human beings living together. Only then will
they be able to exercise their previously unused initiative and
creativity to bring about those many changes in oppressive relations
which are visible only to those who see them from below. That is
why revolutionists devote so much effort first, to exploring and
creating advanced ideas, and then, to finding the ways by which
these advanced ideas can be grasped by the masses of the people and
thus transformed into a material force to change themselves and
society. It is in this very important sense that revolutionists are
neither idealists, i.e., concerned only with ideas or ideals, nor
materialists, i.e., concerned only with matters of economic survival.
On the contrary, their lives are devoted to the struggle to establish a
new unity between advanced ideas and the great masses of the
people, a unity which is neither idealism nor materialism, but the
truth uniting both.
 We are at the stage today where we are seeking to discover the
next step in the evolution of man/womankind. Therefore, what
matters to us is that, regardless of the differences which have
separated human beings from one another down through the ages
(differences of sex, of caste and class, of tribe or nation, of race or
religion), men and women in the course of our three thousand
generations of evolution have become more profoundly and uniquely
human insofar as they have sought more profound, more enlarged
concepts of what it means to be human. Because what makes men
and women distinctively human is not how well or how badly they
behave, how meek or aggressive their temperaments, how moderate
or militant their actions, or how skillful or clumsy their practices.
What distinguishes man/woman as human and differentiates us from
all other living things is our ability to reflect upon our past and
present experiences and to Project visions and programs for human
struggle to create a new future. It is in this sense that those
individuals who have assumed the responsibility for creating and
projecting to the great masses of people an enlarged vision of their
humanity play such an important role in the advancement of
 Less than two hundred years ago the poor of Paris, rising out of the
gutters, sewers, and cellars, created by their actions the basis for the

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new idea that oppressed people can change their lives. In the French
Revolution the masses, by their actions, created the concept of
citizenship for poor people where previously the world had only
known the relationship of ruler and subject. If today we can talk
about, wonder about, define a social revolution as a profoundly new
and profoundly original transformation in man/woman's concept of
self, in their conditions of life, and in their relations with other
classes, races, nations, and cultures, it is because the epoch of social
revolution was initiated by the poor people of Paris in the French
 The French Revolution brought onto the political stage great
masses of ordinary people, ready to clash with their oppressors in
order to transform reality in the name of reason and of the advanced
ideas of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity which the intellectuals had
been talking about. Through their actions the French masses
overthrew the feudal aristocracy, which had been acting as a fetter
or brake on the development of the productive forces, and made it
possible for the Industrial Revolution, already under way in England,
to get under way in France.
 The French Revolution opened the minds of the Western world to
the possibilities within existing reality for sudden and rapid develop-
ments toward an ideal. It thus weakened the concept of reality as
static and unchanging, and began to replace it with a concept of
reality as evolving and dynamic. The French Revolution also made
apparent the existence of opposing classes and interests both within
society and within a revolutionary movement that at the beginning
or on its surface had appeared as a unity. It thus weakened the idea
of reality as basically homogeneous and harmonious and suggested a
new idea of reality as inherently contradictory, or as containing
duality within unity.
 In the wake of the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution
began a rapid transformation of the physical environment of people
from one dependent on natural forces (weather, seasons, soil) to one
that was man-made (cities, factories, machines). Theoretically a
man-made environment should have increased human freedom, but
the money economy and increasingly oppressive relations within the
factory subjected growing numbers of people to new and terrible
bondage. Thus, what had been created in the name of human
freedom was in turn becoming a fetter on human freedom. The

128          James and Grace Lee Boggs

resolution of one set of contradictions had led to the creation of
 The French Revolution began in 1789 and kept Europe in turmoil
throughout most of the nineteenth century. The early years of the
century were years of evaluation much like our present period,
during which thinking people were striving to make some sense of
the world-shaking events through which they were living and which
they were aware had destroyed the old values and the old society.
 It was not difficult to see that what was happening had both a
positive and a negative side. On the one hand, the French Revolution
had obviously meant progress in human dignity and identity in the
sense that it had made Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity a part of the
normal outlook of millions. It had led to a much broader and deeper
participation of the population in the shaping of their destiny, and,
after the rebellion of the Parisian masses in 1792 and 1793, it had
even led to government acceptance of greater responsibility for
economic justice. On the other hand, the Reign of Terror under the
Jacobins and the Napoleonic dictatorship, both of which had been
supported by the masses, aroused widespread fear as to what would
happen if the masses really had their way.
 The same negative and positive features characterized the Indus-
trial Revolution. On the one hand, by destroying superstition and
promoting scientific thinking, the Industrial Revolution promised
miracles not only in production but in more reasonable relations
between people. On the other hand, it also brought about the
concentration of former peasants in city slums, where men, women,
and children were forced to sell their labor power as a commodity
simply in order to live. As a result, the traditional skills of the
craftsman were destroyed, as were all relations between people not
based on money.
 Confronted with this situation, most people didn't know what to
think. Some said that so many bad things had come out of the
Industrial and French Revolutions that society ought to go back to
the past. So there were constant attempts at restoration of the old
regime, attempts to Push the clock back. Others, and particularly the
new capitalist class, were very satisfied with the new situation and
made glowing promises of the abundant future it offered for
 The French and the Industrial revolutions had made clear that

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man/woman's consciousness does not only reflect the world; it also
creates, determines the world. But the negative consequences of the
French and Industrial revolutions also suggested that man/woman's
struggle to create a new human world was bound to be a protracted
one, involving the successive overcoming of ever deepening contra-
dictions. Thus, together, the French and the Industrial revolutions
created the need and the basis for a new way of thinking.
 It was within this historical situation that Hegel, a German
philosopher who as a student in Germany had hailed the beginning
of the French Revolution in 1789, began to formulate the philosophy
of dialectical thinking. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that
Hegel's philosophy arose out of a historical situation, a historical
need on the part of thinking people for a systematic way to reflect
about what was happening in relation to the past and the future.
Because we, too, are living in a period of great historical transition
and confusion, it should not be too difficult for us to understand the
importance of the three basic principles of dialectical thinking as
formulated by Hegel.
 In the first place, Hegel said, social reality, and indeed all reality, is
constantly developing, constantly evolving from a lower to a higher
 Second, the basic reason or cause for this continuing evolution is
internal, not external. It stems from the drive within everything to
achieve its highest potential, a drive which creates a continuing
contradiction within things and the internal necessity to negate what
they are in order to arrive at what they can be.
 Third, it is through conflict and contradiction that progress to a
new positive takes place. This is what is known as negation of the
 This dialectical concept of change as development was a sharp
break away from the old concept of change as cyclical, i.e., the idea
that things just continue to go around until they return to where they
started, or in its more modern formulation, "it has always been this
way and it will always be this way." The concept of change from
internal causes also differs sharply from the widespread concept of
change as dependent upon external causes which most social
scientists have borrowed from the physical sciences. The external
cause concept is a mechanical way of thinking which attributes
change only to others or to outside forces. Applied to human beings,

128           James and Grace Lee Boggs

it acts as a barrier to revolutionary thinking because it leads the
oppressed to depend on others or on changes in external conditions
to make changes in and for them. The dialectical thinker, on the
other hand, recognizes that external causes contribute to change but
they are not the primary cause. Temperature conditions help the egg
develop into a chicken, but temperature could not possibly bring
about the development of a chicken from a stone. Foxes don't act
like chickens nor do foxes come from chickens.
 Using the dialectical concept of internal causes, we can see how
the drive within anything to achieve its own potential creates a
conflict with its present state of reality which has become a fetter
upon its continuing evolution. In order to resolve this contradiction,
a struggle must take place. Out of the resolution comes a new unity.
But this new unity in turn is only temporary, since within it a new
duality or a new contradiction between the actual and the potential
is emerging, creating the basis for further struggle towards a still
higher form of existence. This concept, usually called the unity of
opposites, also makes clear why progress or development never takes
place in a straight line or just by quantitative increase or decrease. In
other words, progressive development is never just evolutionary; it
requires great and sudden leaps, drastic changes in direction. But
neither does it take place, as Hegel puts it, "like a shot out of a
pistol." Maturation through the overcoming of one contradiction
after another, or what Hegel calls "the labor, patience and suffering
of the negative" is continually necessary. There is no "final struggle,"
no ultimate unity, no "promised land" in which we just sit back and
reap the benefits of past struggles.
 The concept of negation of the negation makes clear that in every
struggle to change an existing reality, we must keep clearly in mind
the new positive or the new unity which we are trying to create.
Negating the present reality is never just to create chaos or
uncertainty; it is always to create a new positive· Negation is not just
for the sake of negation; it should always have definite goals.
 The dialectical method of thinking is in essence critical and
revolutionary. Using this method of thinking, an individual will
refuse to admit the authority or permanence of an existing state of
reality. He/she will be confident that within any particular reality
there are internal contradictions which are the basis for negating this
reality. He/she will constantly seek to find and hold fast the new

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Positive or the new and higher unity which can emerge out of the
resolution of these contradictions. The creation of this advanced way
of thinking was therefore an indispensable step on the road to
revolutionary thinking and practice.
 Revolutionists seek to change reality, to make it better. Therefore,
revolutionists not only need the revolutionary philosophy of dialec-
tics. They need a revolutionary ideology, i.e., a body of ideas based
on analyzing the main contradiction of the particular society which
they are trying to change, projecting a vision of a higher form of
reality in which this contradiction would be resolved, and relating
this resolution to a social force or forces responsible for and capable
of achieving it. It is only after you have arrived at a correct ideology
that it makes sense to develop your revolutionary politics, i.e., the
programs necessary to mobilize and organize the revolutionary social
forces. If your ideology is wrong, i.e., misdirected or limited, then all
the most brilliant programs for militant activity by the masses will be
of no avail. Every revolutionist must be absolutely clear about this
sequence--from revolutionary philosophy, to revolutionary ideology,
to revolutionary politics.
 Karl Marx, born in 1818, was the first Person in history to develop
a revolutionary ideology. While his fellow students were using the
ideas of Hegel for intellectual gymnastics (Marx ridiculed them as
"The Holy Family"), Marx set himself the task of changing the
Europe in which he was living, a Europe torn by struggles between
the aristocracy seeking to restore the feudal past and the capitalists
seeking to build their own power through exploitation of the new
freedoms created by the French Revolution. Looking beyond the
obvious struggle between the restorationists and the capitalists, Marx
saw the new antagonisms which were developing within the process
of production between the capitalists and the workers. This was the
main contradiction of bourgeois society, Marx said, and out of it
would inevitably grow an increasingly powerful social force to build
a new socialist society, the social force of the working class,
organized and disciplined by the process of production itself.
 Together with Friedrich Engels, who was to become his lifelong
collaborator, Marx created the foundations of an ideology for
European revolution in the Communist Manifesto, published in 1848,
a year of ferment in Western Europe much like the 1960s in the
United States. Since few people paid any attention to the bold new

130          James and Grace Lee Boggs

ideas which the youthful Marx was advancing, he devoted the major
part of his remaining years to theoretical work in the form of
systematic analyses of the contradictions in capitalist production and
historical interpretations of the class struggles and civil wars of his
time. Hence he did not make the transition to revolutionary politics,
which involves continuing contact with the revolutionary social
forces defined in your ideology.
 As we have seen, the first man to practice and in fact to create the
practice of revolutionary politics was Lenin. While a young man in
his twenties, Lenin had come to the conclusion, based on his studies
of Marx and Engels, that the chief task of the Russian people was to
get rid of the autocratic regime controlled by the landlords and the
capitalists; and that the Russian working class was the chief social
force to lead the great masses of the Russian people in this task. He
then devoted the remainder of his life to creating the disciplined
organization, called the vanguard party, which could lead the
working class to power.
 A vanguard party is the instrument by means of which the
militancy and the rebellion of the revolutionary social forces can be
transformed from purely reflexive, trial-and-error reactions into
purposeful, planned, and programmatic struggles for power. The
vanguard party thus increases not only the political awareness or
consciousness of the revolutionary social forces but also their
self-consciousness, i.e., their capacity to reflect upon and learn from
past experiences and practices and out of these reflections to develop
programs and plans for the future.
 Lenin's concept of the vanguard party was not created overnight
or easily "like a shot out of a Pistol." Just as Marx had arrived at his
revolutionary ideology out of his political determination to shape the
course of nineteenth-century Europe, Lenin arrived at his concept of
the vanguard party out of his political determination to make the
revolution in Russia. This led him into ideological struggle with other
socialists who also claimed to be Marxists but who insisted that
Marxism meant that socialism in Russia could be achieved through
the spontaneous rebellion of the workers (the Economists) or through
the gradual development of the contradictions within Russian
capitalism (the Mensheviks). In line with their evolutionary concept
of socialist development, the Mensheviks argued against a disciplined
vanguard party and for a mass party; thereby, in Lenin's words,

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leaving "the door wide open for every kind of opportunist and
stretching the boundaries of the party till they become quite
 In October 1917 the Russian workers and peasants, under the
leadership of the Bolshevik Party, seized power. To many revolution-
ists, from one end of the world to the other, the ideology and the
organization which had achieved the Russian Revolution appeared to
be the final solution to the contradiction between ideas and reality.
 Meanwhile, however, Lenin himself, at the head of the Bolshevik
Party and of the Workers' Government, was discovering the new
dualities within the new unity which had been established by the
 Lenin recognized, and struggled tirelessly to make his colleagues
and the Russian people understand, that only the first task of
negating or destroying feudalism and capitalism had been achieved
by the October Revolution. There still remained the much more
difficult and protracted task of creating the new positive of a new
social system. Such a social system would be superior to capitalism
only if it involved the great masses of the people in continuing,
creative, cooperative, self-critical, and self-disciplined practical and
productive activity, only if the people themselves were transformed
so that they would naturally and unhesitatingly assume responsibility
for decision-making and control over the economic and political
development of the country.
 In his efforts to lead the Russian people in this practical activity of
creating a new positive, Lenin, until his death in 1924, had to carry
on a fierce struggle against two sets of opponents. On the one hand,
there were those who idealized or romanticized the masses (Anar-
chists), denying the need for leadership and calling for the dictator-
ship of the masses against the dictatorship of the party. Lenin
accused these people of revolutionary rhetoric and of infantile
leftism because of their refusal to take into consideration the
individualism which the masses had inherited from the past.
 On the other hand, there were those who were concerned only
with rapid economic and industrial development, insisting that this
material development would automatically bring in its wake the
political development of the masses. Lenin accused these people of
Putting economics in command of politics and warned that their
policies would lead to state capitalism, to the domination of experts

132           James and Grace Lee Boggs

and technicians, and to the eventual isolation of the government and
the party from the people.
 Thus, out of the Russian Revolution, a new set of contradictions
had been born. This new set of contradictions centered chiefly
 1. the relation of leaders to masses (Is leadership necessary?);
 2. the relation of economic development to political development
(Does the improvement in material conditions necessarily bring
about the political development of the masses or does it sometimes
bring about the opposite?); and
 3. the contradiction between the "abruptness" of revolution (to
use Lenin's word) and the protracted period required for the cultural
revolutionizing of the masses.
 For the last fifty years Mao and the Chinese Communist Party, in
their determination to make a revolution in China, have also been
creating new answers to these questions which are critical to every
 The Chinese Communists have only been able to create these
answers because they have constantly borne in mind and constantly
deepened through practical struggles the dialectical conception of
reality as inherently and increasingly contradictory (one always
divides into two) and the revolutionists' goal of making the most
advanced ideas a practical part of the lives of the masses so that they
can transcend the limitations which have been imposed upon them
by class society. The great historical contribution of Mao is that he
has demystified the fundamental laws of dialectics to the point where
they can be consciously applied by hundreds of millions of peasants
and workers to the most elementary as well as the most complex
questions of production and politics.
 The Chinese Communists anticipate and utilize contradictions as a
powerful catalyst to further development. Thus, instead of rejecting
the concept of leadership altogether because of the obvious potential
within it for bureaucratic domination, the Chinese Communists
welcome the tensions implicit within the relations between leaders
and masses, or between central committees and local committees, as
a means of arriving at more correct, more vital, and richer ideas on
both sides. Only through a true dialogue between those who are
more developed, or who have more overall responsibility, and those
who are less developed, or who have more particular responsibilities,

              Dialectics and Revolution           133

can reciprocal education, and therefore change and development,
take place. This tension suffuses the famous passage defining the role
of leadership. Leadership must "take the ideas of the masses
(scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through
study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to
the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses
embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into
action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action. Then
once again concentrate ideas from the masses and once again go to
the masses so that the ideas are persevered in and carried through.
And so on, over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas
becoming more correct, more vital, and richer each time. Such is the
Marxist theory of knowledge."
 The same appreciation of the reality of contradiction underlies the
concept of criticism and self-criticism. Criticism and self-criticism is
the way in which individuals who are united by common goals can
consciously utilize their differences and their limitations, i.e., the
negative, in order to accelerate their positive advance. The popular
formulation for this process is "changing a bad thing into a good
thing." Hence the Chinese Communists emphasize, first, the need to
Prevent mistakes (through the most thorough discussion and prepara-
tion of all involved); second, the need to recognize, admit, and
correct (rather than cover up) mistakes; third, the need to pin down
exact responsibility for mistakes. This is not for the purpose of
placing blame on an individual but to enable the individual and
others to learn the appropriate lessons from the mistake and thus
avoid repetition. Failure to pin down responsibility (liberalism) for
fear of offending the individual or on the basis that "it's not their
fault" actually retards individual development because it leads
people to make fewer demands on themselves to develop. Often the
reason for a mistake is not just technical but social, e.g., stemming
from an attitude of individualism or Elitism, or of arrogance or
complacency, or from disregard of other's opinions, or from fear of
making mistakes. Self-criticism, as distinguished from criticism, stems
from the individual acknowledging that there is a continuing
contradiction within him/herself between a social or socialist outlook
and an individualist or bourgeois outlook, and therefore the continu-
ing need to remold his/her outlook.
From the Yenan days to the present, the Chinese have been

134           James and Grace Lee Boggs

conscious of the trap of vulgar materialism, or economism, which
gives priority to the development of productive forces and material
incentives. To avoid this trap they have insisted that the essential aim
of revolution is the most rapid possible development of the human
potential within the masses for political consciousness and social
responsibility. Mao launched the struggle against the vulgar mate-
rialist tendency within the party as early as 1937. To have built the
party on the basis of vulgar materialism would have meant certain
failure, since semi-colonial China was too undeveloped economically
to have produced a proletariat. In 1966, when liberated China was
undergoing rapid economic development, the economist tendency
again emerged in Liu Shao-ch'i, one of Mao's closest comrades. That
tendency posed such a threat to the Chinese Revolution that Mao
risked the turbulence of a revolutionary struggle within the party and
in the whole society in order to crush it. It is obvious therefore that
the economist or vulgar materialist concept of human development
as dependent upon economic development, is a tendency with deep
roots in the Marxist movement and in all industrializing or industrial-
ized societies. Lenin fought against it, Mao continues to fight against
it, the present conflict between China and the Soviet Union is based
on this duality within Marxist theory. In one form or another, every
vanguard party must carry on a continuing theoretical and practical
struggle against the vulgar materialist tendency in the pre-revolu-
tionary as well as the post-revolutionary period.
 The Chinese Cultural Revolution shows revolutionists everywhere
that dialectical materialism, as opposed to vulgar materialism and
idealism, means the continuing struggle to make the most advanced
ideas the property of the masses so that they can turn them into a
material force to change society and the world.
 With this enriched understanding of dialectical materialism, it
becomes possible to give a more meaningful answer to the third
question which we have been bequeathed by the Russian Revolution.
Beginning with the Chinese revolution, all the great revolutions of
our time have reversed the process by which Lenin and the
Bolsheviks came to Power in Russia. They have consciously and
deliberately postponed the confrontation with the regime and the
seizure of state power until after there has been a protracted struggle
to unite and transform the masses economically, politically, and
socially. Acutely aware of the bureaucratic degeneration and depol-

             Dialectics and Revolution           135

iticization of Soviet Russia, they have concentrated on a protracted
struggle to develop self-reliance and responsibility in the masses as
well as the basic social and political structures necessary for the
formation of a new government and a new society. Confident that
time will only deepen and widen the contradictions on the side of the
enemy, and taking seriously the post-revolutionary reflections of
Lenin, they have concluded that if the masses have not begun to
develop a sense of social responsibility before the seizure of power,
the new revolutionary government will, sooner rather than later, find
itself confronting disappointed and hostile masses who expect
miracles from the new government, and are much less patient with it
than they ever were with the gods.
 The practice of these advanced ideas in the Chinese, the
Guinea-Bissau, and the Vietnamese revolutions has disclosed political
consciousness and social responsibility to be a necessary ingredient of
human dignity and human identity.
 It must never be forgotten that the Chinese, the Vietnamese, and
the people of Guinea-Bissau could never have achieved this advance
in revolutionary politics had it not been for the leap made by Lenin
in the Russian Revolution, and the new contradictions which this
leap created. Analogously, Lenin's revolutionary politics, and the
Russian Revolution, developed from the revolutionary ideology
which Marx and Engels created. Finally, Marx and Engels could
never have created their revolutionary ideology had it not been for
the dialectical philosophy which Hegel formulated, and which, in
turn, came out of the French and Industrial revolutions.
 For revolutionists, it is much more important to appreciate the
successive struggles which have made possible this historical devel-
opment from dialectical philosophy to revolutionary ideology to
revolutionary politics than it is to know in detail the scenario of every
revolution, much less to get involved in second-guessing what should
have been done or should not have been done in each revolution. It
is obvious also that the ideas and the initial leadership in most
revolutions have come from intellectuals of petty-bourgeois origin.
Whether or not they remain petty-bourgeois intellectuals depends on
the depth of their conviction and their readiness to devote their lives
to a protracted struggle to make their advanced ideas the property of
the masses. Marx and Engels, his collaborator; Lenin; Mao; Castro;
Nkrumah; Ho--none of these was a poor peasant or worker.

136          James and Grace Lee Boggs

Toussaint L'Ouverture was what we would today call a "house
nigger." Cabral was an engineer. Each grappled with the contradic-
tions of his particular society at a Particular time in order to change
that society. Each had to transcend the limitations in the thinking of
his predecessors and contemporaries and boldly create a new set of
advanced ideas before that society could make a great leap forward
into the future.
 The most dangerous enemy of the revolutionary theoretician is not
the external enemy but the potential within all theory, and especially
the boldest theories, to become dogma. The more a revolutionary
thinker is isolated from systematic dialogue and practical interaction
with revolutionary social forces, the greater this danger.
 In the one hundred and twenty-five years since the Communist
Manifesto, we have witnessed the emergence of many new contra-
dictions: contradictions between rival imperialisms in two world
wars, between the socialist camp and the capitalist camp in the wake
of the Russian Revolution, between the imperialist powers and the
colonialized peoples, within the socialist camp between Russia and
China, as well as within individuals between the bourgeois and the
socialist outlook. The revolutionist utilizes all these contradictions
and anticipates that there will be even more in the future.
 Marx did not call for a separate Communist Party to lead the
workers. The Communists, he said explicitly in the Manifesto, do not
form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties. "They
do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape
and mould the proletarian movement."
 More than a generation later, Lenin, also an intellectual, created
the new idea of a party to lead the workers. It is important to realize
the very advanced stage of reflection and responsibility on the part of
human beings which the vanguard party represents. Most people use
the term "vanguard" today to apply to the most militant, the most
rebellious, the most oppressed, the most ready for confrontations
with the enemy, regardless of whether that person has a body of
ideas or is responsible to a body of people who have themselves
accepted continuing responsibility. Lenin created the vanguard party
precisely to combat that kind of reactive politics. He realized that
merely to react to this or that issue is to say, in essence, that the
people in power ought to change the way things are, whereas the aim
of a vanguard party is to replace those in power with a social force

138          James and Grace Lee Boggs

set themselves free from feudalism while fighting the new enemy of
imperialism. How important the dialectical way of thinking was to
Lenin's analysis of imperialism can be seen from his spirited
comments on Hegel's writings, which he studied, for the first time, in
 What has been taking place in China for the last few decades is
the result of Mao's reflections not only on the contradictions of
Chinese society but also on the problems that the Russian Revolution
raised and failed to resolve.
	Just as we can say that the Chinese revolution is the granddaddy of
revolutions today in the Third World, we can also say that the
United States is the granddaddy of advanced capitalism, the most
highly developed capitalism, with the most highly advanced technol-
ob~v that the world has ever known. We must pioneer in creating a
model of socialist revolution for the advanced capitalist countries.
 This fact alone presents us with the dilemma that there is not,
there cannot be any historical model for a revolution in this country.
There has never been a revolution in an advanced country from
which we can learn. We recommend that our readers compare the
Communist Manifesto with the Manifesto for a Black Revolutionary
Party, which we published in 1969. This will help them appreciate
what has happened in one hundred and twenty years. The working
class of the United States, whose development we have traced in Tile
American Revolution, is not the one Marx knew in nineteenth-
century England. A revolutionary ideology for the United States
must be based on the development of the revolutionary forces in this
country. All we can take from Marx is his method of dialectical
 The 1926 General Strike in England showed that the workers in an
advanced country can close down the country by striking all the
plants, but it takes more to make a revolution than the power of the
workers to paralyze production. A revolution requires a revolution-
ary political apparatus which will enable the great majority of the
people to defeat the power of the state and reorganize all its
institutions. France in 1788 came closer than any advanced country
has come to the transfer of power in the last hundred years. Yet with
power lying in the streets, there was no revolutionary organization in
France that wanted power or that was prepared for power, because

             Dialectics and Revolution           139

there was no revolutionary organization with any vision of what it
would do with that power.
 To conclude, let us state categorically some of the things that the
United States revolution in the twentieth century is not going to be
 1. The revolution to be made in the United States is not going to
be for Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, That was the goal of the
French Revolution, in order to get rid of feudalism.
 2. The revolution to be made in the United States cannot be for
socialism as defined by Marx. Capitalism has already developed
Productive forces to the point where material needs can be satisfied.
This is one of the great contradictions facing a Marxist movement
which has put economics rather than politics in command of its
 3. The revolution to be made in the United States is not for civil
rights. Civil rights are what any society gives to every individual in
that society if it treasures its legitimacy or its right to exist. The kind
of rights that will exist in a new society will be qualitatively different
from the rights in this society. The revolution to be made in the
United States is not to increase the freedom of individual choice.
Rather it is to increase the collective consciousness of how to choose,
how to grasp both ends in order to pull forward the middle.
 4. The revolution to be made in the United States is not for
majority rule. Our society is the final proof that majority rule is not
the most advanced form of human rule. Counting noses cannot be
the fundamental way for determining political direction or for
making political choices and political judgments.
 5. The revolution to be made in the United States is not just to give
to the poor the same rights and privileges that the rich have had. It is
not to spread the wealth, not to give the poor an equal right to be as
materialistic and as opportunistic as the rich. It is not just to end
poverty or to bring peace so that those in power can concentrate on
the reforms that will pacify the masses. The question to be answered
by a revolution in an advanced country like the United States is
whether man/woman's wants are going to be allowed to dominate
and define man/woman's needs as human beings.
 6. The revolution to he made in the United States is not just to
have population control. The Chinese have three times the popda-
tion of the United States in approximately the same area, and they

140          James and Grace Lee Boggs

are much healthier because they make socially conscious choices
between what people want and what people need.
 7. The revolution to be made in the United States is not for
"Peace, Bread, and Land" as it was in Russia in 1917. It is for total
political power to make decisions as to what should be done and
what should not be done with land.
 Only when we understand what the revolution to be made in the
United States will not be for, can we begin to reflect on what it will
be for. For if we approach an American revolution with the lack of
clarity with which the Civil War was fought, then we might wind up
with power--although that is doubtful--and then repeat the tragic
errors of the post-Civil-War period. At that time, in order to fit the
economic aspirations of some of the people, the black masses were
forced back into a state of servitude worse than that of slavery itself,
by the 1877 Compromise. Every successive generation has suffered
the social consequences of this failure to develop a clear idea of the
awesome responsibilities of power. Our generation has the opportu
nity to make a fresh start.
 The revolution to be made in the United States will be the first
revolution in history to require the masses to make material sacrifices
rather than to acquire more material things. We must give up many
of the things which this country has enjoyed at the expense of
damning over one-third of the world into a state of underdevelop-
ment, ignorance, disease, and early death. Until the revolutionary
forces come to power here, this country will not be safe for the world
and revolutionary warfare on an international scale against the
United States will remain the wave of the present--unless all of
humanity goes up in one big puff.
 It is obviously going to take a tremendous transformation to
prepare the people of the United States for these new social goals.
But potential revolutionaries can only become true revolutionaries if
they take the side of those who believe that humanity can be
transformed. Those who have already given up on America, those
who have condemned it as hopelessly racist and fascist, will never
make an American revolution. If this book, and particularly this
chapter, accomplishes its purpose, it will help readers to appreciate
that this country is only two hundred years old, and, by comparison
with most of the countries of the world, in its infancy. The people of
this country have lived together continuously a much shorter time

             Dialectics and Revolution           141

than any of the peoples whose revolutions we have studied. The
ancestors of most of us were not among those who founded this
country only two hundred years ago and established the political,
economic, and social patterns by which it has developed to its
Present state. The American people have never really engaged in the
revolutionary struggles by which any great nation is created. That
great humanizing experience still lies before them.
 Only with this sense of historical perspective, historical duration,
and historical proportion can we undertake the task before us of
revolutionizing this country. Objectively the task is colossal.
 The United States is the citadel of world capitalism. Capitalism in
the United States has gone a long way beyond the primitive
capitalism, the manufacturing capitalism, and the industrial capital-
ism of Marx's day, to embrace imperialism and colonialism, neocolo-
nialism, multinational capitalism, and the military-industrial complex
with its client states all over the world.
 Capitalism has developed to the point where money-lending itself
is an industry. The banking industry makes more profit, exploiting all
of us through its savings and lending mechanisms, than old private
capitalists exploiting the workers in production. Banks have become
as common as filling stations.
 U.S. capitalism has brought together an unholy alliance of the old
bourgeoisie, the new managers of industry, the ex-generals and the
existing generals, scientists and technicians from Germany and the
United States multi-university, war workers, mercenaries from all
classes, and particularly the "lumpen"--double agents and agents-
provocateurs, media manipulators, cost accountants, and petty
careerists from one end of the world to the other. All these are
supported and subsidized by the American taxpayer. So that when
we talk about the bourgeoisie today, we have to be very scientific.
Are we so naive as to think we are talking only about America's sixty
families--or are we ready to include millions of people, of divergent
social types and origins, whom we are all supporting and subsidizing
by our taxes without any kind of representation except that which is
achieved through a national or local lottery, called voting, every two
or three years?
 Many people recognize that technological man/woman has out-
stripped ethical or politically conscious and socially responsible
man/woman. This too is the result of dialectical development.

142           James and Grace Lee Boggs

Technological man/woman developed because human beings had to
discover how to keep warm, how to make fire, how to grow food,
how to build dams, how to dig wells. Therefore human beings were
compelled to manifest their humanity in their technological capacity,
to discover the power within them to invent tools and techniques
which would extend their material powers. We have concentrated
our powers on making things to the point that we have intensified
our greed for more things, and lost the understanding of why this
productivity was originally pursued. The result is that the mind of
man/woman is now totally out of balance, totally out of proportion.
 That is what production for the sake of production has done to
modern man/woman. That is the basic contradiction confronting
everyone who has lived and developed inside the United States. That
is the contradiction which neither the U.S. government nor any
social force in the United States up to now has been willing to face,
because the underlying philosophy of this country, from top to
bottom, remains the philosophy that economic development can and
will resolve all political and social problems.