Engaging Bob Avakian’s THE NEW COMMUNISM:
Voices from the October 8 Book Launch
October 31, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Watch the Launch of THE NEW COMMUNISM from Bob Avakian
Featuring: Cornel West/Carl Dix, Moderated by: Andy Zee
ORDER THE NEW COMMUNISM HERE.
At the book launch in Harlem, October 8:
Carl Dix gave a passionate talk on the new book and Bob Avakian himself. He gave the audience a sense of BA’s work over the decades—the content of that work (as concentrated in THE NEW COMMUNISM), and what motivated him to do that work.
Cornel West, coming from his point of view as a revolutionary Christian, spoke on the integrity and importance of BA’s leadership and its relation to the whole “profound commitment [of Black people] to trying to understand this capitalist civilization in profound decay and pervasive decline.”
(From left) Carl Dix and Cornel West focused particularly on questions of morality and leadership, including getting into the Cultural Revolution within the RCP. Andy Zee (right) moderated.
Sunsara Taylor and Noche Diaz read excerpts from THE NEW COMMUNISM.
Revolution conducted interviews with people who attended the October 8 launch of Bob Avakian’s new work, THE NEW COMMUNISM, at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York (“THE NEW COMMUNISM by Bob Avakian Launched at Great Program in Harlem”), and also with people who attended an event in Berkeley, California, where a broadcast of the book launch was aired. Below is Part 2 of edited excerpts from some of those interviews. (Please note: This is a revised version of an earlier posting on October 27.) Part 1 was published October 24.
Freshman from Southern California
What provoked you to come tonight?
Well, I’ve always been interested in communist ideals, and I’ve always felt that communism is a good way to change and have revolution, especially for things that interest me, like the environment, given that capitalism doesn’t emphasize environmental issues at all, or when it does, quote unquote, it puts a simple bandage over a cut-off arm, which is a gross analogy but it’s true.
What did you think of the readings from the book?
The readings were very impactful and very true, especially how they put it: Liberals will blind themselves, they will purposely blind themselves from seeing the issue, seeing the problem, they will just offer solutions to a small thing, not to the bigger issue, the catastrophe.
Anything else that stood out from the readings that you wanted to comment on?
There was a quote about the environment [in the readings from THE NEW COMMUNISM]. Environmentalists will give this huge description of the catastrophe, but they offer an extraneous solution that doesn’t solve the problem at all.
What are you gonna do as a result of this program? How did this motivate you?
I’m gonna buy the book, read more about it, try to be more influential, and get the word out there more, try to be more active and try to get more people to learn about the revolution and spread the word because it’s something that needs to be known.
A Black man who visits Revolution Books in Harlem
...the one aspect of Avakian that I found intriguing was the kind of optimism for a larger-scale revolutionary mind-set. I think there was a little optimism and a scale to which people have to measure in terms of what their expectations are. So I found that intriguing.
I believe that there’s a sincerity to what Avakian is promoting but I don’t believe the problem is the system as much as the problem is people. In other words, Funkadelics—they had a song out in the 1970s, “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow.” The issue in this country and globally is that people have to change the way they think and how they behave. You can only be subjugated if you allow yourself to. So it’s not so much the system as people have to be able to see themselves as free people and conduct themselves accordingly. And you can dismantle being subjugated.
A former teacher who follows revcom.us
One of the things that was most profound for me in this moment and highlighted right now is the first thing that came up which is the whole business about: Will you be there? How committed are you? It’s something I need to grapple with, that we all need to grapple with to see what that means. To really understand that we actually have to take this seriously and go through all the struggle that it takes to understand the necessity that we’re dealing with to actually create the freedom that we need.
On what they thought of the event:
I thought it was very good. I was just talking to Carl Dix about some of my concerns that had to do with some blurring of ... a combination of some of the strengths and weaknesses of some of the people around progressive movements in general. Particularly references to corporate greed as the problem and things like that which I don’t think is quite right on but it certainly reflects a lot of common perspective that people have who are progressive minded and coming into this movement now, trying to figure out how to make revolution. I think it’s real important to understand that there are people who call themselves socialists or communists, like maybe Bernie Sanders, who really don’t understand what that is and really are not. So the reality is that people might say what they want you to think but if they don’t really get down to what’s really true about it, you could be pulled into supporting them or not really understanding deeply what you need to understand to make a revolution. I think that’s a problem that we all have to be aware of. At the same time, I think we need to figure out—and this is what Carl was trying to help me understand—we have to understand how to unite as broadly as we can with as broad a perspective as possible and work with them over time to bring that in to a more correct understanding as we work with them about how to make revolution.
How they see their role, in relation to the movement for revolution:
There’s no question that there’s a moral responsibility to play a role, but the issue is—as I think it is for everyone but it certainly is for me, I’ll just speak for myself—has to do with understanding the relationships and the environment and commitments and responsibilities that I have and to figure out how to press forward with that and make the most of that so that I can play a role which is foundationally important.
A student at City College
I heard about this being a student at City College. I saw flyers and I follow Dr. West online, so I guess I saw it both online and in person. I live relatively close to here and to the school, so I see this in my community constantly. I know the new communist revolution, the Party, is out in the street more or less the last couple of weeks. So I was intrigued. There’s definitely some celebrity draw. I think Dr. West here today, in particular. This is my second time coming to see Carl Dix speak, though. I’m not well versed in Bob Avakian, but I’m interested enough to come out and see this.
...It was interesting that they were reading the book, but prior to that I had no real exposure—it was all new to me. I wasn’t particularly surprised, though, no. I had minimal to no expectations so I kind of just took it in. But nothing was particularly surprising. ... I thought that was fantastic. They both command the room when they speak, so I think the audience was engaged and I certainly was.
...I think it affects how I think. I think the climate of the country right now, especially given the political fervor that’s happening 30 days leading up to the election, I think it’s important for people to have more broad views and to go engage and find out about movements that are happening both in this country and abroad. What I’m taking away from this is just another perspective, not necessarily something I subscribe to, nor do I have a general direction for anything I subscribe to. I would say I’m open. It seems interesting and on course for a positive change.
...I most appreciated the point that Dr. West spoke to about ideology and people saying they’re one thing but they’re really not, kind of talking the talk when you should be walking the walk. I think that’s probably the most important thing that our system is devoid of right now and we need a more revolutionary, more active participation in our system. So that was the most important thing that I took from their talk.
A singer in a band called The Cornel West Theory
I am the throat, which is vocalist, for a band called The Cornel West Theory. ...Yes, and Dr. West is our seventh ghost member of the band. He’s been kind enough to allow us to use his namesake, and he’s been a collaborator as well as a mentor for the last 12years. So we have three albums that he’s all throughout the albums, speaking on them
On the event/readings/discussion:
I won’t say surprising because the other thing that led me here is the spirit that leads everybody who does work like this into the same sectors and circles. It’s refreshing to know that it’s still going on, but I won’t say shocking surprise, because I would like to believe that I’m a warrior of the light as well. So I’m kind of in the know. As far as the new approach, I think I liked the discussion the best because it’s one thing to hear one individual say how they feel about it, but to get across the patterns of different people’s views was good. And everybody’s here for the same, I guess, root cause, but everyone was different, as an individual and in their approach.
Going to get the book?
Yes, of course.
How they see their role, in relation to the movement for revolution:
...increase the intensity. Continue to connect with people who are like-minded who—again their approach may be different and there will be some disagreements, but that’s part of it. Dr. West talks about a thing called Socratic questioning, which means we have to bump heads a little bit and be willing to kind of—not kind of—but be willing to be totally honest so that we can find a true solution and not just something temporary or something surface.
...Well, me, my particular angle is I’m a musician, so I consider what I do sonic activism. So the same way Bob puts this information in a book, I put mine on a record. So if my record is connecting with people who are reading Bob’s books then there we go, that’s more push for what we all wish to see which is for suffering to end, which is for opportunities to be available to everybody. So that’s what I mean about connecting with like-minded people, being on the ground level, and not just someone who comes and shows up. You know, you eat the free food and get the T-shirt, but after that you’re back to your daily comfort.
Someone of the millennial generation, familiar with BA
On what struck them about the readings from the book:
The last thing I’m thinking about is what Cornel said and it’s about the book and that there is no, like... there’s such a mainstreaming and streamlining of revolutionary thoughts and ideas, like that people are thinking about things within the confines and the framework of this system. At the same time, there’s been like Ferguson that’s happening where people are going so sharply up against the system not because they’re trying to be, like, radical or political but because that’s their lives, that’s what they come up against every day and they’re like: Fuck this! We’re sick of this. And so I mean those two kinds of things co-existing, that contradiction co-existing at the same time...
And one theme in the readings that I’d be interested in what you thought about it, was not being a condescending social worker but actually taking the truth to people.
Exactly. I loved that. I think that’s in BAsics, too. And that always struck me because I went through college and everything like that, and they train you to think a certain way. They train you to be the next bourgeois leader and whatever, and so you’re thinking like: social workers, oh yeah, here they are doing their good things, but it can be that kind of like condescending...
Some reflections on what they have grappled with in their engagement with the revolution:
That’s a good question. I think I was just kind of like... at the time I think I was like: there can be a third party candidate that can solve the problem, not realizing that if they were to get into office they just get funneled into the whole system itself and become more like the system that they’re trying to “reform.” I was coming from it that way, like being really angry and upset but not being so engaged with the actual reality....
College student from the Bay Area
I like the language of it all. I feel like with all of this revolutionary type of vocabulary, there can be language that’s a little bit of a buffer to people who are new to it, but really listening to it and dissecting it, it gets more and more interesting. I really appreciate how some of the speakers, I don’t know if it was the speakers themselves or if they were quoting Bob Avakian, but they were talking about how a lot of mainstream politicians pretend to be for the people, and it’s sort of like an oedipal complex that the people have with these politicians in terms of always taking the poison, and it’s always bad. And how the media is so controlled by that, and what so many Americans think is progressive is not progressive. It’s still slavery, It’s still operating within a system of oppression. Yeah, I really liked it.
What are your thoughts on what you want to do, in relation to this revolution, going forward after watching this?
I definitely do wanna go and read more revolutionary materials, more things that I’m sure I can find on the internet, written by Bob Avakian. Cuz like I said, I feel like I’m really, really interested in all of what’s being talked about, but they do still have a very specific vocabulary and way of talking that I feel like I need to do a little bit more research to be able to more fully appreciate it, because I’m not like completely ignorant, I’m able to glean what they’re saying, but it’s like I’m able to glean enough that I can tell that if I educated myself a little bit more, there’s a lot more depth to it. So, that’s my honest answer, I still feel like I’m learning. A lot of people including myself, like the reason why I came to this event, or even why I’m interested in this bookstore and have gone to other events too, is because you don’t have to be exposed to revolutionary rhetoric to have a gut sense that there’s something wrong with the system, and I think there’s a lot of people out there who have that sensation but they don’t have the resources, or they don’t have the connections or opportunities with which they can discern what this gut feeling is, in terms of things not right with the system, with its 9 to 5 life that’s promoted.
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