Interview with a Former Prisoner, Part 1
Breaking with the Gang Life
Getting with the REAL Revolution
September 1, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
EDITORS' NOTE: This is an interview with a former prisoner, who through contact with Revolution newspaper and the writings of Bob Avakian and literature of the Revolutionary Communist Party, decided that being an emancipator of humanity was what his life is going to be about. It has been edited for publication. We will be posting it in three segments. This is Part I. Part 2 (Science, Revolutionary Theory, and Getting into Bob Avakian) was published on September 8, 2014 and Part 3 (Don't Risk Your Life Over Stupid Shit—Be Down for Revolution) on September 15.
Revolution: You became a revolutionary in prison doing an 11-year sentence. Can you talk about the process you went through of going from a gang mentality to a different way of thinking?
X: It was a lot of struggle, struggle with myself... it was a process of struggle that happened as I read more. I was stuck in the cell and would just be reading out of boredom. You just pick up a book and start reading shit. And then you think about it. You think about the role you’re playing and all this shit.
I started getting into radical literature and it appealed to me. Because on one level, I always hated cops. I hated the cops cause I saw their hypocrisy. So I had this dislike of authorities, dislike of the government. I saw it as bullshit. You look at TV and you see these fools that come up and these fake ass politicians and the way they would talk about the neighborhoods, you know, like what they were doing there. The fucking pigs would get up there and you recognize their hypocrisy when they would talk about “oh, we’re trying to serve these people, protect these people and these fucking thugs are the problem.” Well they don’t say it that way, they polish up the way they speak about people, I guess they go through some kind of training to talk about this shit. And then you hear these politicians, “such an upstanding officer of the law” and all this shit. And you feel like everybody is against you, the pigs are against you, these fucking reporters interviewing them are against you, the politicians are against you and you start to feel like the whole world is against you. So you want to fuck up, you just feel like fucking up.
But you’re also conscious of some things and then you start reading things. Like a lot of the radical literature I read was coming from people who sent literature to prisoners, the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) being my favorite one. They would send things and they would talk about prisoners. They didn’t think we were the scum of the earth. Realizing there were people out there who saw prisoners as a potential positive force had a big impact on me. And they actually had a better opinion of me than I did of myself. I really did think I was a piece of shit sometimes. “I’m no good. I do all this horrible shit.” And you embrace it as a way to cope with all of it. Then there’s people who don’t see me as an irredeemable monster, and they were trying to fight something that I was against, that I didn’t like from the time I was a child—I didn’t like the government, the system. I didn’t like none of that shit. And so it appealed to me and I started reading more and more and as I read more and more, I became more and more conscious.
Political resistance appealed to me. But it wasn’t life changing in the way revolution was. It changed the way I thought about a lot of things. I was struggling with the way I was feeling but I didn’t see a reason for me to be different. I would kinda lie to myself, that we could make revolution some day, one day. Because I had that sense that we’re not going to change shit unless we make a revolution. We need a revolution to change all this shit that these people are talking about. In a lot of this radical literature, they weren’t talking about revolution, not in a substantive way. They were just talking about gradual change or resistance—people uniting against this or that particular crime that stems from the system. They were saying we could change things, but weren’t really talking fundamentally about how. How would we overthrow the fucking government and what are we going to put in its place? What do we need to do to get to that point? Nobody was saying that. Nobody... all this shit was frustrating me so I didn’t see the possibility of it. Until my friend sent me the PRLF address in a kite. [Kites are small notes passed amongst prisoners.]
To be clear, I had read Marx, Lenin, Mao, Engels and they were clearly revolutionary—they were serious about making a REAL revolution. But when I read all these “modern day revolutionaries” I felt like they were watering down the content. But when I started reading Revolution newspaper, they were talking about actually making revolution in a serious way. “This is our strategy, this what we need to do. We need to build a movement. But it has to be a movement FOR revolution.” A lot of people talk about movement building but they didn’t talk about movement building for what? It was always real vague. Or some people talk about socialism but they didn’t say how we were going to get to socialism. Revolution newspaper was different. BA’s works were different. I started reading all this and then I was like “Oh shit!” it really inspired me, that was life changing. I started thinking about it more seriously and about all the things I had thought about before, then I started taking a serious look at what I was going to make my life about.
One thing I knew I wasn’t going to do—I wasn’t going to conform. Even when I was less conscious, I knew I wasn’t going to conform, that just wasn’t an option. But when I got into BA and Revolution newspaper then “I saw the light” but I also asked questions. I didn’t take anything up without questioning it. At the beginning, I wrote in with a lot of questions. And my questions were answered through reading more and more of BA’s works.
Communism definitely appealed to me. There were other people who called themselves communists but their line was bullshit. It was based on a lot of wishful thinking about resistance in the Third World spontaneously developing into the kind of consciousness needed for a revolution. On the flip side, they looked at difficulties of making revolution in the U.S. and concluded that you couldn’t make a revolution here. That wasn’t life changing. Nothing in there made me want to make my life about revolution, in the way they viewed it. If you’re going to be into wishful thinking or just... I don’t want to be part of no culture of resistance. “Oh I lived my life and I resisted so I could sleep better at night.” Fuck that! If I’m a change my life it’s gotta be because I think we’re actually gonna change shit. I’m actually gonna make contributions, actually changing it not just to feel good about myself. I wanna make a fucking revolution.
The more shit I read and the more I compared and contrasted to BA, I came to see, “Okay, if we’re really going to make revolution we gotta get into BA.” When I first read the paper and it talked about “we have this leader BA, we have this newspaper, we have this Party with these principles we could build.” It didn’t really get to me at that moment, it didn’t really hit me but the more I got into it, the more I read, at a certain point, it did hit me. One day I was just thinking, I was like “fuck! It’s such a precious thing.” I remember reading BA saying the Party is a precious thing, and I’m like “yeah, okay.” But I didn’t really get it until I thought about it. “Man, we do have this Party and all these people acting in support of this Party, to build this Party but for the purpose of making revolution. And there’s a Party leading this.” And I thought this is very powerful and then I looked into the strategy. That’s one of the things that really got to me, when I read “On the Strategy for Revolution.” The more I thought about it, the more I could see that this strategy conformed to objective reality.
Revolution: One of the first things you said was about hating the police. What was your experience with the police? And how did such a deep hatred for the pigs get shaped?
X: The pigs in my neighborhood were the bad guys. You grow up like a lot of us did and you see the pigs as the bad guys, but it’s really fucked up when you think about it because the people you end up looking up to are the gangbangers. The gangbangers are the only ones I saw in an open antagonistic relationship with the pigs. They didn’t seem to be just going along with the way shit is. I say, “don’t seem to be” because they still do. They’re not following the rules or going to work but they’re still caught up in all this other shit. They profit off the misery around them by selling dope and all this other shit but they’re feared or have money and under this system, that’s what counts. It’s no wonder a lot of kids think to themselves, “I want to be like that guy.” Then you see the pigs fuck with them and you think to yourself “fucken assholes.”
But also when I was young, my dad would point things out to me about the pigs. My dad came from Mexico in the early ‘70s and he got to see a little bit of the hippie culture, the radical times and he would speak good about those times, he’d say about the hippies “those guys were cool.” And he used to hate the pigs. My dad hated the pigs and he would point things out. “These fucking pigs are fucking with these people right here for no goddam reason.” Cuz you see the pigs fucking with street vendors. They fuck with everybody. And my dad would say, “Why are they fucking with that man for just trying to make a dollar or something?”
Then I had one experience when the pigs grabbed my brother by the throat when he was about 5 years old. He was throwing rocks at the neighbors’ kids and somebody called the pigs. They came and they took my brother to the back alley and my brother came back crying and went over and apologized to the neighbor. At first, he didn’t want to tell me what happened. Eventually he told me and he was crying as he told me. The fucking pig grabbed him by the neck and had him against the wall and was talking shit to him. My brother’s five years old. There was a neighbor who told me, “Hey man, that pig, he grabbed your little brother by the throat.”
Revolution: How old were you when that happened?
X: I was about 9 or 10 years old. But I was real protective of my brother. And it was one of those things that just fucked me up because I couldn’t do nothing about it. I’m a little kid but I’m just so angry. I’m like these fucking pigs; these muthafuckers and I can’t do anything.
But then as I got older I had more direct experience with the pigs. I saw what they were about and the way they treated you. If you’re Black or Brown and young, you’re going to have direct experience with the pigs. And we were always on the lookout for the pigs.
I had countless encounters with them and I would see them when they fucked with other people too. I was always having run-ins with the pigs because we were hanging out and just constantly on the street. You’re in the gang and they know that you’re up to no good. So they come and they want you to leave or they want you to disperse or whatever, they want to fuck with you and they constantly fuck with you. They would snatch you up from the street even though they knew they couldn’t get you for anything. But they would take us for whatever fucking excuse, like to update gang pictures or whatever. And then they’d leave us stranded in a rival gang neighborhood and then we’d have to walk back through all these other areas where all these other gangs were at so hopefully you get killed or something.
There was one thing I would think about as I got older and as I got more conscious about the shit that they used to do. They have the “gang unit” and they had this board where they list the most active gangs in the area, they would have lists of 1 through 10 of who were the most active gangs in that division. They would sit you in front of this board and you’d be looking at it, and if you’re a gangbanger and you look at it and don’t see your neighborhood up there, you’re like “fuck this.” Or you see your neighborhood but it’s not at the top of the list, or worse your rivals are ahead of you, you want to make it to the top of the list, and you want your rivals to see it. They would sit everybody in front of this board, all the gang members that they’d catch; they would sit them in front of this board before they went through the whole process. So you’d see it and these guys would come out wanting to compete for who’s doing the most stupid shit... killing each other and all this stupid shit that we do when we’re in gangs. Yeah, so basically I hated the pigs.
Revolution: You’ve made a point that you’ve come to understand the way the youth are fighting each other is meaningless, but you didn’t always see it that way. Can you talk about that?
X: Yeah. When you grow up and you see it’s your friends, the people you’re closest to, you end up coming together in the gang. You become the little G’s. You’re the young ones and you’re out there and you’re fucking up. You have a friend that you might know from school and then you get together, you’re still friends but this time you’re in the gang together and you want your other friends to come into the gang and then all of a sudden you’re all part of that local gang. It seems like all fun and games in the beginning, you join it because it provides some excitement in an otherwise purposeless, monotonous life, but then somebody gets killed and it becomes something very serious. These friends that you love get killed, you’re in the same gang and there’s something expected of you when that happens. Like, your friend just got killed and you hate the people who did it. You just want to kill ’em and it doesn’t really matter who it was. If you can, you would love to get the person who actually did it, but it doesn’t really matter if you get his friend. I remember one time, after one of my friends got killed, we went to his house and his dad tells us... he’s crying, his whole family is crying, and he tells us “I just want the other side to cry... I want you guys to make sure that there’s people crying on the other side too, just like my family’s crying.” You’re part of that life and you don’t understand that it’s the system causing all this shit. You don’t understand so you’re like, “of course, don’t worry. That’s what we’re here for, that’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna make sure that muthafucker’s are crying on that side too.” So it becomes a big part of your life, like all you’re about and all you care about. Everything you go out for is the gang, the hood—that you don’t really own or control. And the pigs come in there. You say it’s your hood but you can’t keep the pigs from coming in there.
Revolution: Why is that so attractive and why was there so much meaning bound up with the hood, despite the fact that you don’t own it or control it? You’ll have a situation where you might have three blocks and five gangs fighting each other literally over a street corner. But there is a coherence to that still. So what’s the logic and what’s the glue of that? Why did that have so much meaning?
X: There’s more to it than just fighting over territory, I would even say that that street corner is not even what people are really fighting for. There’s not much out there that you could really feel is yours but there’s also not much out there that can really make you feel better about yourself. When you’re in the gang, there is a certain level of control over the territory that you do have and there’s a certain amount of respect and fear that comes from exercising what little power you do get when you’re in the gang. People fear you, people respect you. You feel like you’re not just shit. In this society, what you have is what you’re worth and you have all these youth who don’t really have shit but what they do have is people fearing them because they do have some control over the territory that they call their hood. Drug dealers, armed or not, have to pay you rent if they’re not from your gang and want to sell in your hood. Nobody who actually lives there has a realistic chance of going up against you and that makes you feel pretty tough. This makes you feel like you’re not so worthless after all. But then you have the other gangs who you have run-ins with and you end up fighting. They’re going through the same thing you’re going through and they’re being shaped by the same forces and conditions you and your friends are being shaped by. You think you’re bad but they think they’re bad. The rival gang in the process of trying to prove that they’re, as BA says, the “baddest broke legged muthafuckers” around by riding through your hood threatens your mode of existence by in effect saying “you ain’t shit.”
From within this mentality, that is not something that you can allow, you have too much invested in this already; it’s where you get your whole sense of purpose and your whole sense of self-worth. If you don’ t have that what do you have? You don’t see where all this shit comes from. You don’t see that you could change it. You don’t see the possibility for you to play a different role other than this. So what else do you have and you hold on to that as much as you can and it becomes your whole life. You go to prison and a lot of people still feel that way. After they’re locked up in prison, they’re still representing. “I’ll represent my hood... while I’m in prison doing life.”
Revolution: What was the process of making you step back and pull the lens back on that? You talked about coming to see it was like they killed two birds with one stone.
X: Oh yeah. Let’s say you’re charged for killing someone. First, they don’t give a fuck about the victim because the victim is someone just like you. They don’t give a fuck about them. Now you’re facing life in prison. It’s like they just killed two birds with one stone. And they love for us to act that way. On top of that they could still say, this is why we need the police. “This is why we need to send more police down there” and have more fucking pigs patrolling these neighborhoods.
Revolution: How did that make you feel when you thought that?
X: Like I was getting played, I was letting these pigs use me. I was playing their game. I was making everything easier for them. I was helping them out. I was helping them out in the best way I could. [Laughs]
When you’re young somebody could tell you, “You know you guys are just killing each other and these pigs are taking you to prison.” A lot of people would recognize the reality of that, but their response is, “Yeah, it is kinda stupid, but that’s what we do. This is what we do for the hood and all this shit.” That’s all you really care about, that’s your world—the gang life. That’s all you really care about. So on one level you know you’re getting played but you really don’t care because you don’t see an alternative that offers you a sense of purpose and self-worth. A lot of it has to do with the fact that you don’t understand the system as being illegitimate. You think they’re the ones who rule and they could do all this fucked up shit—they’re the ones who launch wars and get us all fucked up but they’re the ones with the power so might makes right. [Laughs]
Revolution: What made you be able to, even on that level partially step back and step out of the situation. What made you come to that level of understanding?
X: Just thinking about the situation. I’ve never met anybody who I talked to who was involved in that who couldn’t realize it on one level—if they were willing to have a serious conversation about it. If you tell them, “okay, just stop and think about it for a minute,” they realize it on one level. All these guys have been dealing with this shit their whole lives, they’ve had numerous direct experiences with the pigs. They’ve been snatched up and thrown in jail by those self-righteous pigs, they’ve had their whole fates decided by the fucken courts, and they’re being held in these prisons for a great chunk of their lives, some of them never to see the outside of those walls again. That whole repressive tool is working against them, and for what? For taking up the values promoted under this system and mimicking on the street corner the crimes, and the way of thinking about those crimes, that those who rule over you commit on a mass scale throughout the globe. You just got to stop and think about it and the reality of it is hard to dismiss.
Revolution: So you could see it on one level that “we’re getting played” but like you said, a lot of people still accept it. So what made you come to the deeper ruptures with this way of thinking?
X: One of the things that had an impact in beginning to change my thinking on a deeper level is when I started paying attention to world events. I talked about the hypocrisy of the pigs, the politicians and media. The way they would look down on the people in my community. And then I would pay attention to world politics and events going on around the world and I’d recognize the same pattern, the same hypocrisy to the people in other parts of the world. They would use different terms, but it was that same essence. “This lack of democracy, these backward countries, we can’t force democracy on them. They wouldn’t know what to do with it,” all this bullshit. “Our men and women are doing the best job we can do with these backward people.” That’s pretty much what they say about us. “The pigs are doing the best job they can with these youth out here.”
But then I had to get into radical literature to really see it, for it to really piss me off. Cuz then I started blaming the death of my friends on the system. I had a lot of friends die behind all this gangbanging shit. I’d be raging against the system because what it’s doing to these youth—where they don’t have no sense of purpose. All they see is, you know like BA says on the REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! talk, it’s something that gets to me when I hear it... these kids, the only thing they feel, the only sense of purpose they have is on the fucking street corner that they don’t own or control. When I hear that, I have to fight back tears because I know exactly what he’s talking about. That’s me and that’s so many people that I know, my friends and that’s all they feel and they don’t understand where it's coming from. They think they know but they don’t know. So my hate for the system started becoming more personal, the more I realized where it was coming from and all my friends I lost and all the shit I’d done.
But it was also a process of redeeming my humanity, cuz at the time I thought I had lost it. I felt like I was heartless, like I didn’t give a fuck about people. Cuz I felt that people didn’t give a fuck about me. So I didn’t give a fuck about society and I recognized that things were fucked up, but I said as long as society is fucked up and the world we have to live in is fucked up, I’m a be a fuck up. I’m not gonna go by the rules.
Revolution: Can you identify certain turning points in your thinking in prison? We talked about pulling the lens back and being able to see how the masses were being played but then there were other ruptures along the way. Can you identify certain turning points?
X: Running into other prisoners that were also reading radical literature was definitely one of them. That was something that impacted me like, “Whoah, I’m not the only one.” I remember finding somebody who I agreed so much with and we talked about revolution but we didn’t really know how we could actually make a revolution or if there was really a possibility of revolution. We would tell ourselves that, but we didn’t really understand how that was true.
Also, when I read things that criticized capitalism. You come to understand, “Man, these people are just doing everything for profit.” And that seemed so obvious, so obviously true. How could you escape that fact that all this shit is done for profit? The connection was just so easy to make. Once you read it and somebody who explains it a little better than you, then you’re like, “yeah.” So I wanted to read more about it.
Even before I became a revolutionary, there was the LA Uprising. I remember thinking, “Man! We could do something.” Some people had the response like “aw, we just burned shit down and we don’t ever do nothing so that’s why you can’t change it.” It didn’t have that effect on me. To me, I saw it like “if this were more organized, we could do something better, we could really change something.” But I didn’t think about an actual revolution because I wasn’t really clear about what that would be. I’d be like, “throw out these motherfuckers and we’ll take over.” But I didn’t understand it; I didn’t understand how we would do it and what we would do if we had power. There were events like that that were inspiring. Or I would hear about other places resisting or I would find out about people actually rising up to fight the system like Vietnam. I was like, “Oh shit, the U.S. got defeated in Vietnam, this little ass island actually defeated the fucking U.S. military.” I would be inspired by that and feel like “shit, things can be done.”
Another turning point was when prisoners got together to politically struggle against unjust conditions; I would say, “okay there’s something there that could be tapped into.” One time, I ended up in the hole with a very like-minded friend of mine and we had this political protest against these fucked up conditions. In the hole you’re just stuck, you’re dependent on the pigs for everything. You can’t do shit, you’re just stuck in the cell all day. There’s not really shit you can do. But there were forms of political protest that prisoners could take up in unity. But if you did participate in solidarity actions that they didn’t like, the response would be severe and inhumane. For example, they have extraction teams who come in and pepper spray the shit out of your cell with big ass canisters and they empty them inside your cells. Then they took everything out of the cell that wasn’t welded down. By the end of it we didn’t have mattresses, we didn’t have shit, no toilet paper, we didn’t have nothing. All we had were boxers and we were barefoot, we didn’t have anything. They take away everything they can. And some even had their boxers taken away so they’re sitting next to each other butt ass naked and they had no choice but to sit next to each other. Then they blast the cold air through the vent while we had no clothes or blankets. The pigs were mad, but they realized we didn’t give a fuck and we were willing to put ourselves through this shit just to show them that we weren’t just gonna go along with their non-stop inhumane and illegal treatment of prisoners.
Revolution: What were you protesting?
X: We were protesting the illegal and arbitrary removal of people’s property. We had this response where “if you gonna do that to one, then you gonna do it to all of us. Okay then, leave us all without shit.” We knew that that’s how we were gonna end up. We knew they were gonna take all our property and they would leave us without nothing. But we wanted to show that we were willing to do it. If you keep randomly picking people out unjustly, we’re gonna stand together and you’re gonna have to do it to all of us. So we did that. So for a while they calmed down and stopped doing it. But I would tell people, “they’re gonna stop but they’re gonna start again.” So it’s something that we have to keep resisting. We can’t just be satisfied, like “Oh, we had this protest and feel all good about ourselves and okay that’s done.” Because we haven’t changed shit, we haven’t changed shit yet. But I saw that these guys are willing to do all this. Go through all this shit, for something that, on one level, was very minor.
I was starting to understand more about the system and capitalism and seeing the pigs as a repressive force, not just “oh, they’re doing their job” like some guy said, “pigs just doing his job, man.” Fuck that, his job is to repress people. So I saw that collectively, if we come together, we’re capable even inside these cells, we could fight back. We could start learning to fight back. I saw possibilities, I started seeing possibilities. Then I read things like George Jackson and I came to recognize the back and forth influence that it could have from prison and people out there because there were things going on on the streets when George Jackson became political. So there’s an influence there, it’s not just separate... it’s interrelated. And I saw how prisoners could have an influence and there could be this back and forth thing. We’re not totally isolated and there are things that we can do. Including that the more we resist, it could be part of a larger class struggle going on somewhere else, or outside the walls.
Revolution: So you were reading different political lines and trends and then how did you encounter Revolution newspaper?
X: It was a fortunate coincidence because the friend I’d been in the hole with—we had been talking about how we could come together, and how this kind of political resistance was related to opening people’s minds up to more radical ideas. We came to see that people are more open in the midst of a struggle to hear these ideas. When everything is passive and boring, people in prison would often just want a novel or some shit and they read anything. So we were talking about how struggling creates a more favorable situation.
We both got out of the hole around the same time and he got a subscription to Revolution. So he sent me a kite saying, “hey, write to this place and tell them to send you Revolution newspaper. You’re gonna like it.” So I wrote and got a subsidized subscription from the PRLF. I was beginning to check it out but I had a lot of questions.
Revolution: What kinds of questions?
X: All kinds of questions. Like how do we actually do it? How do we have a revolution? What is communism? Isn’t communism a bad thing? Because I had been influenced by the other people who hated communism more than they hated capitalism. So I wanted to read it. And they keep talking about objective reality and what’s objectively true and like, “okay, well let's find out what is objectively true.” So I had some disagreements because I had heard communism was bad and authoritarian and totalitarian and whatever. As I’m starting to dig into it, I get a neighbor who’s been reading Revolution for a while already and he has a bunch of literature that the PRLF sent him already.
So I started talking to this guy and he shows me the Constitution for the Party, he showed me the Party’s Manifesto. He had a copy of the Memoir [Avakian’s memoir: From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey From Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist]. I’m just reading through all this stuff that he has. “Okay, send me another one, send me another one.” It’s answering a lot of my questions. I would write to the PRLF and show him the letters I’m writing to show him what I’m going through and he would struggle with me, about what I was reading and where I was wrong. There were some things he couldn’t answer sometimes because he was struggling to learn too. That’s the thing about having no collectivity but we found it when we got connected.
I was also reading other radical literature that talked about capitalism. I started reading Che and all these different ideas of how to go about revolution. And I wasn’t really convinced of one or the other. But the more I got into Revolution newspaper the more I started thinking about it more seriously. One of the things was when I read “On the Strategy for Revolution.”
Revolution: Why did that have an impact, what about that?
X: Because it started from the point of looking honestly at the contradictions. It was looking to solve the contradictions of what do we do, what are we supposed to be doing when there’s not a revolutionary situation. A lot of things I read, a lot of the answers we’re coming up with was, “We have to go for revolution now.” For example, the Che Guevara line was you kick off the guerilla war and that will create the conditions for revolution. But if you think about that for a second in a country like this, that’s not gonna happen. What’s gonna happen is you’re gonna get isolated, you’re gonna get killed and there goes the revolution. And shit just continues to be the way it is. But with the Statement on Strategy, it recognized the fact that there is not a revolutionary situation at this point, but there’s all these contradictions that this system can’t resolve so there’s something that we can do—hastening while awaiting. We have to hasten while we await the crises that come about from the contradictions of the system itself. But what we can be doing is revolutionary work in a non-revolutionary situation and keep coming at those contradictions. There was something I got from What Is To Be Done? where Lenin said that every instance of even rudimentary protest, we have to be there and this is how we accumulate forces but it’s complicated and it’s not easy. And whenever I would read Revolution or BA’s works, he’s taking that into account. He wasn’t just ignoring those difficulties and just trying to look at the good side. “Oh we can do this, we can do that... the people will rise up one day.” It wasn’t no shit like that. It was like, “ok, look at the situation, what is the situation? This is what we’re facing, these are the obstacles.” I felt like, “Okay, it’s being taken seriously here.” Not like these other groups who claim to be talking about revolution but were ignoring a lot of the obstacles or they’re ignoring potential. When you get into BA’s works then you see this is more scientific. He is actually taking into account all the obstacles and wrangling with how do we get past those obstacles and what could we do. With the strategy, the more I thought about it, I came to see “okay there’s things we can do.” I still wasn’t very clear on how we actually do it. How do we overthrow it? We hasten while await, but what do we do when the revolutionary crisis comes up? But there was enough there for me to see the possibility for revolution.
Then when I read "On the Possibility of Revolution" in the pamphlet Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation, I was like, “man, these guys take revolution seriously. They really want a revolution, they’re really working for a revolution.” They’re clearly wrangling with the question of how we go for power and win, that was a big thing because if you’re serious, you’ll wrangle with that question. It will actually keep you up at night. You won’t dismiss the idea of wrangling with that, some people might say “it would be arrogant to do so.” No, we aim to seize power and we don’t hide that because it’s necessary.
In contrast to this, there were groups who just came off as being just real content with having a culture of resistance. “The best you can do is just resist.” Or we can talk about revolution but not seriously making the effort to make a revolution. I didn’t want to be part of that. I don’t want to dedicate my life to a dead-end. Fuck that. But if it’s an actual movement that’s actually conscious of the need to make revolution, taking it seriously, and working on how are we building the movement for revolution... but with that goal to make revolution... I became convinced just by reading a lot of the Party’s line and BA’s works. I was like, “This is really great if people are really taking this up. I hope that people are really taking this up and being serious about it.” I was planning as soon as I’m on parole, I’m going to Revolution Books, I’m gonna go meet these people. [Laughs]
This interview is posted in three segments. See also Part 2 (Science, Revolutionary Theory, and Getting into Bob Avakian) and Part 3 (Don't Risk Your Life Over Stupid Shit—Be Down for Revolution).
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